Submission – The fine art of surrender

Author: Kitteh
A to Z | Basics

What does submission mean?

As submission can have several meanings such as application or registration, in BDSM we mean a kind of subjugation, subordination or surrender. Along with “sadism,” “submission” is behind the “S” in BDSM and is the overarching term for relinquishing control, entrusting oneself to someone else, and/or submitting to one or more individuals.

Submission comes from the Latin “sub”, the word for “under” and the verb “mittere”, which means “to throw” or “send” and “let go”. Devotion is a synonym for submission.

Who is submissive and why?

As the term suggests, submissive individuals in the BDSM scene are referred to as Subs. “Bottom” is also a common term. The type and reason why someone finds pleasure in submission are highly subjective. For some, it’s the act of surrendering to another person and the resulting unique intimacy. For others, it’s the exchange of power, while some enjoy the physical inferiority and even the associated pain. Therefore, there are a variety of roles dedicated to submission. Examples include Serfs, Rope Bottoms, or Littles.

A Sub on a mission – What types of submission are there?

Subjugating another person can happen both physically and mentally. Obedience and discipline, begging and enduring can demonstrate devotion. Likewise physical practices, such as restricted freedom of movement, for example through shackles. Restricting vocal expression, be it through gagging or simply prohibiting speaking, can also symbolize submission. Every submissive person has their own preferences, fantasies and limits.

Like the other BDSM sub-areas, “submission” is an umbrella term for a variety of types of play, which are practiced on different playing fields, with different participants and each with a unique dynamic.

Devotion, not self-sacrifice – when does submission become dangerous?

If you submit to another person, like everything in BDSM, it should always happen safely, sane and consensually. Responsibility plays a big role, including towards yourself. Indulging arbitrarily without first communicating limits and the specific framework of the power exchange is not only reckless, but can even be dangerous. Especially when submission is part of a relationship not only within a temporary game situation, but also beyond. There is a risk of being taken advantage of, falling victim to a so-called Wannabe-Dom, or being physically/mentally injured.

Submission does not mean self-sacrifice or letting someone else carry you because you have forgotten how to walk. Or don’t want to walk yourself. Quite the opposite: devotion should be seen as a gift, not as a burden that you hand over. That’s why it’s important to first take responsibility for yourself before handing it over to another person. The top’s job is not to simply accept submission blindly, but to determine whether one can and wants to accept the submission presented. Only then can a secure relationship be created for both sides.

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