There is a long, ignominious history of quibbling over terminology on the Internet. In the 90’s there was a year long debate on what to call a female dominant. The consensus ended up with “domme”. I never particularly cared for either “dom” or “domme” but quibbling over the labels entertained some folks for a long time.
My vocal opposition to all this online debate embarrasses me a bit because I have a quibble of my own. In recent months various bloggers in the enforced chastity and FLR communities have been referring to the male partners as “submissives”. Aside from the fact that submissive is an adjective and not a noun, I think it incorrectly characterizes us.
First, the term “sub” and “submissive” are products of the Internet. Before online chat rooms and forums became popular, real life leather organizations referred to “tops” and “bottoms” to define the roles people assumed in a given scene. In the theater of the online mind, these terms were too wishy washy. I won’t delve further in this rant. It’s one of my favorites.
Anyway, in the internet lexicon a “submissive” or “sub” defines a particular type of person who subsumes free will to a “dom”. I suppose that it’s possible to hang that label on guys who allow their keyholders to lock up their penises and control if and when they get orgasms. Many of us also accept control and discipline in other areas of our lives. Submissive? Yes, it applies.
But the more I think about that word and its questionable derivation, I think another word more correctly describes my behavior. That word is “docile”. Merriam Webster defines docile as:
“Easily taught, led, or controlled”
This seems more precise to me. After all, submission is something that can be attained by brutality and mental coercion.You are made to submit. Docile refers to collaboration with the leader. It doesn’t say that there is no need for correction, but that there is no struggle over who is in charge.
The real world meaning of submission has more to do with the sort of overt interplay between members of a society over who is in charge. Submission doesn’t imply agreement, it implies yielding to power.
I’m not submissive by nature. I am learning to be more docile under the firm hand of my lioness. I don’t have to be tied down (though I like it when I am) to accept painful correction. I have been taught to docilely accept edging and then make no attempt to have an orgasm no matter how frustrated I am. That is docile behavior.
I willingly wear a collar. I am naked whenever we are alone. I defer to Mrs.Lion’s choices and do anything she wishes. That is docile. I am fully able to overpower her, use my emergency key to get out of my cage, and get myself off. But I don’t. I won’t.
It’s hard for me to accept the fact that I am docile. I love the fantasy in which I am “forced” to wear the chastity device and punished to bend me to the will of my strict owner. This is a fairly typical male fantasy scenario. I can be a strong lion who just happens to fall into a situation where attempts are made to break me. That’s hot.
The reality is nothing like that. I docilely accept punishment, edging, being put in a diaper and anything else Mrs. Lion wishes to do. The fact that I willingly accept things I don’t like demonstrates that I am, indeed, docile. It would be much easier to accept the “submissive” label since that implies coercion. But it is inaccurate. I may show some resistance, but never enough to stop the proceedings.
Let’s face it, enforced chastity and FLR are consensual power exchanges. I agree to accept Mrs. Lion’s control in any areas she chooses. I agree to help her in any way she wants to control me. Like the word or not, I am a docile lion.
Interesting idea, I struggle with “Submissive” too because of my learned definitions for it. But I’ve come to think of it as submitting to her authority and control, rather than descriptive of me as a person. I am not submissive in other areas, but in the things we hold in common, Charmer is in charge and I submit to her control, so I have come to be ok (or at least *more* ok) with the submissive label.
I have to say, for me, docile is an even stronger term (setting aside your definition snippet which does work in context) for me. Docile is a physical thing in my mind. Interestingly, when I looked it up for more info, I get:
“Ready to accept control or instruction; submissive.”
So even docile points back to submissive. Ironically, “submissive” lists docile as similar as well.
But the difference in synonyms is interesting. For submissive:
compliant, yielding, acquiescent, unassertive, passive, obedient, biddable, dutiful, docile, pliant
compliant, obedient, pliant, dutiful, submissive, deferential, unassertive, cooperative, amenable, accommodating, biddable, malleable
So, really, they’re the same from what I can read. Just very subtle differences. But I have a different gut-level reaction to each. Even with my struggles with submissive, if I can think of it as an identifier rather than descriptive –
“Hi, I’m Snake, I’m Charmer’s sub” – this works for me ok. I’m ONLY her sub. Everything else in life I’m undeniably not submissive.
“Hi, I’m Snake, I’m Charmer’s docile companion.” – it just sits weird with me and I don’t think it works in context, or intent. In my opinion (and we all know about opinions), it’s a more far-reaching descriptor – honestly, and it’s just me, but it feels more judgy or something – like a more generalized box, vs. a choice to submit to a specific top/dom/domme. This could all come from just having experience with one word over the other, too.
But, for me, it just “feels” different and less like the intended goal. I would not want to be referred to as docile. It’s just me though.
Of course looking at definitions and synonyms, it’s clear that they are extremely close in actual, textbook definitions, so I suppose it comes down to personal history and how the word reflects on your own perceptions.
I agree that the words are very close. What I wrestled with is in my mind submission is something that can be involuntary. You can beat someone into submission. You can’t beat them into docile. The net outcome of both terms is very close. I decided that for me, docile means willingly doing what I a told. I am Mrs. Lion’s docile husband. But I don’t think anyone imagines that anyone else gets to experience my docility. It all comes down to how we think of words.
Your thoughtful reply got me thinking more about this subject. Thank you.
You have an interesting perspective, Lion. But where you lose me every single time is that you forget it’s only YOUR perspective.
YOU are not submissive. YOU are docile. YOU get to decide what to call yourself in your fantasyland.
You do NOT get to say there is no such thing as a submissive. You do NOT have the ultimate say in language, relationships, fantasies or dynamics.
It’s a huge slap in the face to everyone. Doms, Dommes, subs, slaves, tops, bottoms, everyone. You’re essentially telling all of us that you and only you practice the “One Twue Way.”
Whether you intend to or not, you come across in your posts as the end all be all authority. You’re response to Snake’s comment was much less so, so perhaps it’s just the tone you take when you’re writing versus having a conversation.
Like I said, you have an interesting perspective, but personally I’d enjoy reading your posts more if you weren’t constantly telling me that I was wrong in my dynamic or that my dear friends are wrong in theirs.
Thanks for your comment. You are right that my style tends to be definite. I don’t think of myself as an authority on anything. Like you, I know some stuff. As a writer, I prefer to stay active voice and state things I believe in a declarative way. I certainly didn’t intend to say you and your friends are wrong. And nothing in the post referred to anyone’s dynamic; just how the Internet affects the semantic value of words. One of the things that has always bothered me about Internet power exchange conversations is the strong polarization of roles. That’s why I don’t like “dom” and “sub” used in reference to the nature of a person. I’m sure you’ve seen the conversations about “true doms” and all that stuff. My point is that we are much more complex than that. I have a long history as a top (dom) yet I am living in a bottom (sub) role. What am I? I think that the point I am having trouble articulating in a way that isn’t offensive is that I am all of those things and none at the same time.
I think that power exchange is situational, not organic. I agree to submit (bottom) to Mrs. Lion. I have not become a sub. I assume that role in our relationship. It doesn’t invalidate the importance of such a surrender. But it does make it clear that it isn’t who I am, it is what I do in relation to my lioness. I could very easily be topping someone else at the same time.
That’s why I rant about these terms. I don’t argue with how you identify yourself. You have every right to use any label you wish. But when we are talking to the world at large; people interested in power exchange but lacking real life experience or knowledge, terminology can set very difficult challenges as these people try to live up to some perceived role.
I think there is a vast difference between a post or article and a conversation. My post will live a long time completely out of context with everything else I’ve ever said. Search engines will take people here and they will read this one post and nothing else. They will probably read ten others that completely disagree with em. I really want people to think about the fact that these words do not say who they are, but instead what they are doing in a specific context. I respect you and your dynamic. I have no intention of offending you or anyone else.
I know you aren’t intentionally saying those that use different labels or with different dynamics are wrong. What I’m trying to explain (and obviously not doing well) is that is exactly what your words are doing. My intention was simply to offer feedback that your meaning comes across differently than you probably realize. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I’m struggling with this post…I have to be completely honest. I get that you don’t like the word submissive. At all. You’ve said it in several posts and that is completely your right to choose how you refer to yourself. But it bothers me a lot that the fact that you would prefer other terms seems to extend to other people choosing how they want to refer to themselves.
It feels like jumping through hoops to work this hard to avoid the word submissive. It, to me, feels like you are saying that it is a bad word because it *could* be used in a particular way. Language isn’t absolute. You submit a form. Snake submits to me. Not the same thing. How I choose to use any number of words might be different from how you do but that doesn’t make either of us wrong.
To me–and this is completely my opinion and experience–submission is offered. It is a gift that one person gives to another. It really bothers me a great deal that you seem to want to paint it with a bad meaning. I hope that isn’t really what you mean.
Each of us in this community have our own terms that we use for people in our life. I just think that we should respect them and accept that we are all different and that the people are more important that choosing a perfect word.
I agree with you that this is my interpretation based on my experience. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what we call things. It’s what we do. In that respect we each have our own approach. That’s one of the things I really like about your blog. I learn a lot reading about what you and Snake are doing and how it affects your relationship. I appreciate your comment and I agree that we should respect each others words as well as actions.
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