BDSM relationships often contain some form of dominance and submission. But what some see as submission, doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as what others mean by it. When someone says “I want to be your slave” it might as well mean that that person wants to be tied up for a change and likes to get some slaps on the buttocks. For someone else it could mean that that person wants to be fully available for the dominant 24/7. Different people have tried to describe the different levels of submission.
Submission: What is it?
Submission is a term used in BDSM that says something like being in piece with someone else having control over you. Therefore, submission has everything to do with discipline, constraint, servitude, obedience, subordination, and surrender. Someone who is submissive is obedient and perhaps even slavish. It is a person that made a consious choice to give up control for a short or longer period of time to a dominant. That dominant may determine during that time what happens to your body and how you should behave, within agreed limits – sometimes agreed upon in a BDSM contract.
Submission is not a form of weakness or passiveness. A submissive is not doormat. Many submissives are intelligent and strong personalities, that sometimes have responsible day jobs, but feel the desire every now and then to give up control. For a dominant,it is a much greater challenge to dominate a strong person, rather than a passive one.
Someone who is submissive or has submissive feelings, may have the need to pleasure the dominant by doing what it is he or she desires of the submissive. This could be both sexual as non-sexual activities. So it doesn’t necessarily need to be only about bondage, spanking, flogging, or sex. A submissive might just as well perform chores or escorting the dominant during a getaway.
9 levels of submission
Not everyone means the same when they use the word submission. In ‘Lesbian S/M safety manual’ by Diane Vera (1988), she describes 9 levels of submission. Others sometimes use 8 or even 10 different levels. The number is not very important. Mainly, you need to understand that there are differences in the way different persons experience submission.
1. The Kinky Sensualist
The first, least strict level, is the one where the person has no need to be subservient, or being humiliated. People who are into this level of submission, often love rough sex and the less ordinary sexual acts like spanking, (light) bondage, blind folds, (mild) pain for instance caused by nipple clams, etc.. They do so without giving up control. The focus is on their own (physical) needs and not so much that of the other.
2. Pseudo submissive role player
This person will never be slavish, but can enjoy a role playing game, like ‘teacher – student’, age play, (forced) cross dressing, etc.. This person would have nothing to do with being subservient, but can enjoy (played) humiliation. Often, these persons are totally in control.
3. Slave play
Someone in this level enjoys playing slave or submissive. The feeling of ‘being used’ and surrender to the sadistic traits of the partner is a huge turn on for these persons. This may involve serving the dominant, but completely to their own conditions. Often these persons have some kind of fetish (for example a foot fetish).
4. The true submissive
This is someone who dares to give control out of hands, even if it is ‘just’ temporarily or within certain limitations. The arousal comes from more than just being subservient or being used. Usually the turn on comes from the tension, vulnerability, or giving up responsibilities. They only determine the broad lines of what is or what is not allowed to happen, but are basically out for their own (physical) satisfaction.
5. The true slave
The true submissive slave goes a step further in submission. They completely give up control, but only on a temporary basis, during a ‘scene’ and within predetermined limits. The most important satisfaction comes from serving the dominant or being used. But only for pleasure and erotic games. Pain may be a part of that, but not necessarily.
6. The not-devoted short term slave
This is the type of slave that nows how to give up control, but still within certain limits. They want to serve the dominant, both with erotic and practical services, but only when it suits the submissive. Sometimes, someone of this level may be a slave for a couple of days in a row, but they can stop at any time. There may be a long term relationship between the submissive and the dominant, but the ‘slave’ determines when he or she will be slavish.
7. Part-time slave
This slave has a long term dedication to the dominant and considers to be owned by the dominant. This slave wants to obey and please in every way, both erotic and practical. This slave first is dedicated to other commitments (work), but the dominant/owner can determine what happens in the spare time.
8. Full-time slave life
With just a few limits, this type of slave considers his/her only raison d’être serving the dominant. The slave expects to be seen as an important and valuable possession. This situation can be compared to some extend with the traditional values, with the main difference that the slave in this BDSM relationship voluntary chooses for this division of roles. Because both parties choose for these roles, there is much importance in giving up power by one of the parties. Much more than for instance in a traditional marriage.
9. Slave without boundaries
This form of submission will most likely never occur in practice (few cults excepted, where there is no consent but brainwashing), but it might be a fantasy of numerous submissive or dominant. Some BDSM purists say you are not a true submissive when you do not consider putting everything aside for your dominant without any boundaries. Still, every person has their limits, if not due to practical reasons. That is why this level is unfeasible, unachievable and not realistic.