Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Submissive versus Equal?

Self Spanker recently posed three challenging questions. These are the kind of queries for which there can be no single right response. So much depends upon context – the individuals involved and the dynamics of their relationship. In answering, the best I can hope to accomplish is to share my perspective. Nonetheless, these are interesting topics worthy of our consideration.

  1. Is it possible to be submissive and equal simultaneously?

  2. At first glance, these two states seem clearly irreconcilable. If one chooses to be submissive, they are, by definition, placing themselves below their dom(me).

    But that needn’t be the end of the story. In practice, these two concepts are considerably more malleable than their dictionary definitions might suggest. Submission can mean a 24/7 total power exchange master/slave relationship where one partner is in full control at all times. The same term can be used just as correctly to describe a lover’s occasional desire to lend some of her control to her partner during a lovemaking session.

    Mathematics teaches us that many different formulas can yield the same numerical result. Equal does not mean identical. In a relationship, partners routinely take the lead in areas where they have a stronger interest or aptitude. If these responsibilities roughly even out, we can say that the two roles are generally equal overall. This can be true even if one partner exercises complete control in one aspect of life.

    Randy and I are approximately equal. Spankings are clearly his domain. He leads and I like it that way. But counterbalancing this facet of our lives is a separate set of responsibilities that I handle independently. So, the technical answer to the question is “no,” because I am not simultaneously submissive and equal. However, when viewed from a broader perspective, I can indeed be both.

  3. Does the fact that you submit to spanking negatively impact your standing in your relationship?

  4. I don’t believe so. If anything, it’s quite the opposite. Spankings bring us closer and increase our mutual appreciation.

  5. Do you or your partner view you as the lesser member of the relationship, or are you equal in all things other than spanking?

  6. I would say the answer to both parts is “no.” I am a full member of the relationship. I have the right and the responsibility to help guide our direction.

    At the same time, I am not equal in all things other than spanking. We each have our own unique skills and we divide up work and responsibility along those lines.

I recognize that this answer is not nearly so satisfying as a simple yes or no. But in the world of human interactions, nuances are everything!


Anonymous said...

Tricky question Bonnie, and as you say, it all depends on context.

It may be that we are wrestling with a purely semantic difference here, as equality is something to be experienced, not enumerated.

Does my clipping of the edges of the lawn (which she can't do) equal her pushing of the mower (which I don't want to do)? Does this matter if we perceive ourselves as a team?

Submission in a the sexual area of life may not by definition mean a lack of equality, as where there is a stable sub/dom relationship, each partner is getting something out of this power forfeiture, it's something they by necessity have to do together, and the submission is inherent in the enjoyment of both parties. I suppose they wouldn't do it otherwise.

Where the relationship is more M/s then I expect there is the tendency over time for the partners to internalise their roles, and to regard the sub as of inherently less value.

If the sub is however perceived by both partners as being truly equal then all activities could be stopped at a word from the sub.

Whether real life people adhere to this theoretical ideal is moot, as the concept of sub power is exactly the point which is being excluded by the constitution of such relationships. For this reason I come to the conclusion that the answer to your question is "It all depends".

I would stress, having spouted all this off that my experience in this area of life is negligible, I speak only from study of what others have written, and my own reflections on it, so I may be wildly off the mark.


Grizzly Bear said...

Quite a set of questions you got there.
It is entirely possible to be both a submissive and an equal simultaneouslty. In fact, I believe this balance should be what any D/s couple strives for. My good girl and I are working towards a TPE relationship, but she is still an equal. She is still a person and she still has a choice, the only difference is that she chooses to let me choose for her.
I believe the same is true for spanking. She chooses to submit to spanking. And we enjoy the spanking together.
I view my girl as an equal in all things, she is just as important as I am. And she is always allowed to voice her concerns and oppinions. In the end she chooses to abide by my decissions.

I would say submissive but equal is not only possible but in most relationships necissary for the relationship to thrive.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure my answer 'counts', since I don't consider myself submissive.

I definitely see myself as his full equal, although we do tend to specialize when breaking up household tasks. He takes care of the cars, for instance, but don't ask him what size shoes our kids wear. Is one of more value than the other? We don't see it that way.

The only time I submit to him is during a spanking. Given that we don't do discipline spankings, it's not much of a submission - I know I'm going to enjoy it.

Still, he picks the implements, determines intensity and duration, and expects me to submit gracefully to that. He has no qualms about pinning me down and spanking harder when I don't. It's his time to be in control, and we both enjoy that.

Still, when the spanking is over, we're back to normal. Might seem odd to others, but it works for us.

Interesting question. :)

Paige Tyler said...

Great answers, Bonnie! And I agree totally with what you said!

Paige (Tigger)

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to be submissive and equal simultaneously?

The scenario I have in mind is a partnership between X and Y. X has strengths and weaknesses, as does Y. X is an excellent cook but hates cleaning the house. Y cannot cook as well as X but enjoys housework. X handles the female offspring better than Y and Y does a better job with the male offspring than X. X makes more money than Y and Y is better than X with the finances. And so it continues throughout the relationship. X does what X does best and Y does what Y does best, a partnership of equals in all respects.

However, Y desires to go over X’s knee. X loves Y and satisfies that desire. Is Y’s standing in the partnership of equals diminished?

Paul said...

Bonnie, the life of a Dom and a sub are a series of choices. The sub constantly makes the choice to submit to the decisions of the Dom and the Dom always renews the choice to accept that role.
Either may walk away from their role should they wish to.
It suits our mental image image to see a Dom as stronger than a sub, especially if the sub is female, this is a cultural attitude. In my experience female subs are strong and even more so for female slaves.
So my answer would be yes they are equal, but you have to know the dynamics of the relationship.
Thought provoking post Bonnie, the sort that I enjoy.
Warm hugs,

Anonymous said...

Really like your answers, Bonnie. Spanking is a domain Randy controls... but that one thing doesn't make you any less of an equal. That's very much how we view our relationship. And even for those in a relationship in which one "controls" almost everything... those relationships were entered into willingly, and can be excited at any time (and if that's not the case, we have a problem with that relationship).

With those kind of choices, it's clear that things really are equal. Not equal means... you get this or that, and have no choice in the matter.

~Todd & Suzy

dwcmike said...

Wonderful answers Bonnie, and which Lynn and I both agree with. We are definitely equals. I do certain things, Lynn does other things she is better at, and we both have independent activities from each other also.
Spanking is only a very small part of our reality, something that can be playful, stress relief, or problem solving, and this role i gladly give to Lynn to decide.
bottoms up

Bonnie said...

OPB - At the end of the day, as you say, "It all depends."

Griz - Great take! Thanks, Griz.

Pagan - Of course your answer counts. I, for one, look forward to what you have to add.

Our formulation is similar to your description.

Paige - Thanks!

Self - In the scenario you describe, I believe there is a natural equilibrium, a balance if you will. If the relationship changes, as an organic system, it will try to re-establish a new equilibrium. So long as this too is a stable formulation, both parties are satisfied and life goes on.

If the resulting arrangement is not stable and one party feels cheated, trouble ensues - a disagreement, an argument, or perhaps even a break-up.

This is the scenario we all want to avoid. Some avoid it by trying to freeze their relationship and change nothing. Unfortunately, without friction, there can be no fire.

A better choice is to build trust and understanding that are strong enough to withstand the tests a long term relationship must surely face. In this setting, a new stable understanding can and will be found.

Paul - That's an interesting perspective. I hadn't thought about the question in that way. Thank you.

Todd and Suzy - Available choices equate to freedom and control. That makes a great deal of sense. Thanks for joining in!

Mike - Well said! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Very thought provoking. I love your fawless logic Bonnie. Things can definitely be approximately equal and not be exactly equal. We also split responsibilities up according to our strengths. But for many years I felt the resposibilities tipped a little to far to my side which caused resentment. Now with spanking which he does for me things are more balanced from my perspective and I am a happier mate in more ways than one.

Hugs, Sally

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how much I can add to this -- the answers are already great. But never let it be said that stopped me!

This is something that's been discussed quite a bit over the years on soc.sexuality.spanking, especially as directed toward those of us that do real punishments. That is, if Pab has the power to punish me, how can we have equal status in the relationship?

The answer is that it's only a problem if the word "equal" is taken to mean "same."

In reality, Pab's "right" or "power" to punish me in our relationship only exists because I want it to be there -- there's nothing in our societies laws that gives one adult that sort of authority over the other. However much I may have consented to nonconsensuality, the consent *is* there and we're both aware of that.

I hope that's clear -- I'm still on my first cup of coffee!

Bonnie said...

Sally - I don't think things can ever be absolutely equal. Fortunately, they don't have to be. I think they need only be close enough that neither party feels neglected.

Bravo to you for finding that stable balance!

Mija - Thank you for adding your wisdom to our discussion, both here and in extended format over at The Punishment Book.

The consent argument is an excellent one. I like to think in terms of loaning my control to Randy. It is never taken from me, but given voluntarily as a loan. I retain full ownership and the right to recall the loan should circumstances change in a major way.

I find it interesting how we each settle upon slightly different formulations that allow our relationships to thrive. The lesson I take away is that there are many paths to success.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the "loan of control" concept Bonnie. It's a good idea that will help me much in my ongoing musings.


x0xTamarax0x said...

Just a thought....

I don't think of myself as a "lesser" part of the relationship. I believe that submitting to spanking or anything else only nurtures our relationship.

But I don't see myself as an equal. I find comfort in his authority and control and find freedom in our unequalness. I do think that my position doesn't tarnish my value but probably increases my value to my him. But equal I am not. Just different.

All the comments are interesting it's great to be able to see other views on spanking, D/s, BDSM etc.

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