“I’m what you would call a masochist. I love pain. Any time I was strapped to a cross, being flogged, I would disappear to subspace. I remember my 21st birthday being brought in with paddles, whips, floggers, and I believe I turned 300 that night before I had to call my safe word out!” – MJ
New Orleans. Mardi Gras, beads, and floats. A place to find fantastic gumbo, and to hear people argue over who makes the best gumbo. And the music and movie-making, man, we’ve got it. But for some, it’s about kink. New Orleans has a wide variety of kink groups and subcultures: from titillating burlesque shows, to sex clubs like Colette; from pet play to vampires. New Orleans is a city that lives by its own terms, playing by its own rules, whatever those may be at the moment.
An earlier article covered the dominance side of BDSM, but many of you out there have an interest in the S, so let’s talk submissives. These women, men, and the rest, are people who play a pivotal role in the “S” of BDSM, providing a (hopefully) safe and healthy outlet for people who like to surrender some of their control for vast swaths of pleasure.
Allow me to introduce you to MJ, Good Girl, Kaitlyn Andrews, Tiny, and an old friend of mine, Dom Dark.
First, What is a Submissive?
Dom Dark is a private guy, late 30s, and a fellow writer. The simplest way to describe Dom Dark is tired. Sometimes in good humor, occasionally fun, but always, on all levels, tired, and as pale as a sheet of paper. The “dark” is reflected in a side of his personality, and getting him to talk about it is like pulling teeth. He’s seen it all, and his expression says he has done, and is done with, most of it. But when I ask him about subs, his face lights up a little bit.
“I think my favorite subs, or at least the ones I end up with most, are the bratty ones. They like to push you. And they like punishment, good and bad. They aren’t usually bratty by accident. It’s part of the lifestyle. They want you to take charge, but you have to earn it. You have to be worthy of them, not just them being worthy of you. And if you’ve got a bratty sub, you’re going to be proving your worth to them constantly. Which is sometimes part of the fun.” He sighs, “And sometimes it’s just a fucking headache. But what isn’t?”
He continues, “I guess the best answer is simply someone who seemingly gives up a piece of their control to experience heightened pleasure and satisfaction. This isn’t all sexual, mind you. There are different types of subs: there are slaves, who give up basically everything to their masters. There are the bedroom-only subs; the 24/7/365 subs; pets; service subs who perform particular tasks, which may not really have much to do with sex.”
Becoming a Submissive
Kaitlyn Andrews is a 24/7/365 sub. In other words, she has no off days from her submissive duties. Kaitlyn is a friend of mine. She’s a smart woman and a talented, prolific writer. Describing herself, she says, “The most important parts of my personality I would say are my creativity, my ability to go with the flow, and my loyalty to friends and family.”
Everyone’s journey is different. About becoming a submissive, Kaitlyn says, “It’s kind of something that evolved over time. I’ve been married for almost 18 years, but I’ve only been a submissive for the last five or so. Like a lot of women, I learned about BDSM from reading a specific insanely popular book series [50 Shades of Grey]. However, while I was excited about the idea, I didn’t like how it was portrayed in those books. I started asking questions, doing research, and stumbled across an online group for married submissives.
After some time talking with those women over a few months, I broached the subject with my husband and discovered he also had an interest, and we decided to give it a shot. The rest is, as they say, history.” Now, she regularly and proudly wears a chain collar around her neck out and about.
On being a full-time submissive Andrews says, “For me, it means things like having my clothes chosen in the morning. Having specific tasks to do each day or, yes, chores sometimes, and yes, even rules to follow. And I know that for a lot of women that will sound very constraining or even anti-feminist. A few will find it offensive. But, I work in a very fast-paced career. Having my clothes chosen for me means I don’t have to expend mental energy in that. The tasks are usually either fun, or for my benefit. The chores, as well, are often something I’ve been neglecting that needs to get done. Having my Dom assign it is a gentle reminder.
“And, in terms of my relationship, it means that we communicate more openly, and have a greater intimacy than I would have otherwise.”
Like others I’ve spoken to, she says becoming a submissive has improved her life. “Things are definitely more intimate now. Before I was a submissive, I was less open about my needs or wants in the bedroom. But a D/s relationship doesn’t work without entirely open, honest communication, including regular, frank discussions about sex with my husband/Dominant. But it’s not just greater sexual intimacy. Because both my hus/Dom and I are free to be ourselves, we have more personal and romantic intimacy, as well. There are none of the games that couples often play with each other because that would wreck the dynamic.
Of how becoming a submissive has changed other parts of her life, she says, “I became a better communicator overall which, of course, improved friendships, family relationships, and even my work. I’m less stressed. And, I’m more confident.”
Tiny is also a writer, creative and extroverted, easy to talk to. “I’ve always been ‘taken care of’ and ‘protected.’” Tiny is not married or in a mostly monogamous relationship. She feels this gives her room to be adventurous. “I was recently at the ‘dungeon.’ I was naked, except for panties. I was up against a cross, and a Dom used different floggers, paddles, and his hand to spank me. It was both exciting, because others were there, but also kind of weird and embarrassing. I realized another couple was watching us in our scene and they were turned on. It was the first time I ever did something in public, so it was so different and fun and scary and… just every feeling I could have.”
And the embarrassment? “Actually, the embarrassment vanished when I saw the other couple watching me. Up to then, it was embarrassing, but then it was freeing and powerful. I felt like I was pleasing them, too, not just the Dom I was having a scene with.”
Tiny understood her kinks early on. “I was kind of an early bloomer. I had a partner when I was in high school who enjoyed the idea of tying me up, and I realized it made him happy and that I enjoyed it and that started my wanting to learn more.”
Like Kaitlyn, Tiny gained her knowledge initially, she says, from books. “My first book was called ‘Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns’ – it opened my mind and led me to other books. That was probably my fave. There are so many different books depending on what you are interested in. Plus now there is the new 50 Shades which, in my opinion, has hurt the BDSM lifestyle.
“It was written by a person who has no idea what can cause real injuries, and making some people think that a “Dom” can just treat a sub like shit. I’ve heard through friends that people are showing up at emergency rooms with injuries from rough sex. I will only be with someone who takes the time to learn what is safe within play.”
MJ is a legal assistant. Like several submissive wives I’ve spoken to, she’s a submissive 24/7. Yet there are different dynamics in each relationship.
As I look at the various pictures she’s posted, almost every picture of her includes her husband. “I’m a 24/7 sub with my husband. We have more of a Daddy/baby girl dynamic with ours.”
She continues, “It started with a slip up during sex, honestly. My husband was pretty vanilla when we met, but he knew about me being a lifestyle submissive. We started a light D/s relationship once we started living together a year and a half ago.
“We were having sex one night, and he referred to himself as Daddy. We finished, and I asked him why he said that. He asked me if I liked it, and I said yes. That was the beginning of our new dynamic.
“With our dynamic, he is my protector. I feel safe, and my little side is free to come out and be vulnerable. I am independent and work a full-time job, but when I come home, I can grab my blanket curl up on his lap, and he takes over caring for me, and I can turn it off, so to speak.
“He disciplines me when I am bratty and mouth off to him. Oftentimes, there are spankings, but other times I get my ‘shiny,’ aka collar, taken away.
“I also clean house, cook, etc. Other mundane duties to make his life easier. We are equals outside of the house and when we make decisions, such as finances, home issues, etc. But inside our home, he is in charge and makes the rules.”
Becoming a submissive, discovering who you are in this area, is different for different people. In MJ’s case, she says, “I knew when I was young. Like, very young. I realized that there was an actual lifestyle for people like me through Gaia Online and other role-playing forums.”
Gaia Online has been around since 2004, and it’s still up and running. With a staff of 25 people, it still has thousands of people every day on the strange little social media service that won’t die.
“I started my first searching experience on CollarMe,” MJ says. “It was…interesting. I did some pretty dangerous stuff when I was meeting people. I was 18 and didn’t know any better. I actually had a phone stalker for a few years, but he finally stopped after I changed my number and blocked his info from email, etc. I say that so no one else makes those mistakes. It was scary.”
CollarMe is a dead link, but from what I understand, it’s now CollarSpace, which is like a personals site for kinksters. To say it’s interesting would be an understatement. Asking Dark about it, he says, “You can research all you want, but it’s like anything else, you’ll discover that someone knows a shit ton more than you ever will.”
There’s just something about Good Girl that yells, “I’m fun!” A 35-year-old resident of New Orleans since 2001, Good Girl attended Tulane and is now a clinical social worker, a mom, comedian, and burlesque performer. She’s super excited about her divorce from an alcoholic white supremacist. “My divorce will be final at the end of April, so yay!” She is also the devoted owner of a cat named Ghost Rider. And she wants you to know, she’s a Gemini. “When I tell that to people who think it’s important, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that makes sense.’ So if you’re the sort of person for whom that is important, apparently, that makes a lot of sense.”
She discovered the submissive part of herself in 2002, in college. “My partner at the time…my first serious college relationship, he was into it, and after doing some stuff with him, I was like, ‘oh, this is fun for me, too. And with him, I was a ‘switch’ which means I could do top or bottom because we were evenly matched, and I was still trying to figure things out for myself.
“I honestly feel very put upon when I have to be dominant. I feel like it’s a chore. I’m like, ‘I’m doing this for you, but I prefer not to.’
“I like being tied up, I like core bondage, I like being restrained. I like being told that I’m good, and that I do a good job of things. So I like moving and succeeding at physical challenges. And then being told I did a good job. So like with a spanking session if it’s intense, I like being told that I did a good job handling it.
“What else do I like? I like threesomes. I like breath play. I also like physical and mental restraints, and then being told what a good job I did. Validation is my primary kink.”
Asking her about lifestyle misconceptions she says, “I think first that people think it’s abusive, and I think that there is the capacity for abuse within this lifestyle, but that’s true with every time people get together. I think people probably think it’s a lot more intense than it is.
“For me, it’s primarily a sexual thing. I’m fairly independent, after all this (marital abuse) nonsense, I prefer to be by myself.” She adds, “I am not a 24/7 sub. Which means like in a romantic relationship, I prefer to be equal.”
One of the surprising things I hear time and again, is how empowering being a sub can actually be. Like Andrews, Tiny says, “Being a sub actually taught me to be stronger, less scared of speaking my mind, standing up for myself, probably because I know I can with a Dom say ‘STOP’ … I am the one truly in control, with my hard limits, saying stop if things go too far and a person who is a real Dom understands the sub is the one with the true power.
“And it’s honestly just a different way to show your love/caring for your partner. Some people need chocolate and roses to be romantic, while I enjoy a sour ass and the feeling of a flogger against my skin.”
Good Girl is more casual about being a submissive. “For me personally, I’m a sub ‘cuz,’and I would refer to it as such because I feel like I’m a little bit more casual in the lifestyle, because I don’t have the time. I’ve also got a lot of other things going on.”
She says, “I also thought of calling myself a sublet, and that was because before I like had a regular dom, I would see doms that were coming into town for different things, you know, so it was like subletting.” I respond that it’s kind of clever. “Kind of clever? You wound me sir.”
For Andrews, “A big part of being a good submissive is about attentiveness. When we are together, I make it a point to be attentive. If he’s talking to me about his day, I’m not half-listening while scrolling through my phone. I’m paying attention. If I’m leaving the room to do something, I’ll check to see if he needs anything while I’m up. And of course, following any rules he’s set or completing tasks he’s asked of me are ways to ensure he feels special as well.”
Asking her about some of the things involved with being her husband’s submissive, she says, “Well, having someone choose my underwear every day can be pretty sexy. Especially if he includes something extra like ben wa balls or the WeVibe (a vibrator he can control remotely from his phone). We work opposite schedules (him on the night shift, me on days) and one rule is that when he texts me that he is on break, I have to stop what I’m doing and send him a sexy picture of myself.”
Andrews has a specific set of rules she and her dom agree to, reviewing them semi-regularly, most of them not even directly related to sex. Some of them include: “I wear the clothes he selects, unless I have good reason not to. No phone at meals or during other conversations/couple activities unless absolutely necessary. I must spend 1 hour per day on a fun, non-work related activity every day. (My choice what).”
These rules are not arbitrary, and there are punishments for not following them: “If I do something disrespectful, like interrupting while he is talking, I might be asked to spend an hour being quiet and listening, as well as writing a paragraph on how it feels to be interrupted.”
While that’s interesting, what grabs me is “funishments.” Andrews says, “Sometimes, during play, a Dominant will give their submissive an impossible task, just for the purposes of ‘punishing’ them. Those punishments are usually sexual and fun, and not really a punishment at all.
“They might require a sub to try to stay completely still, and then tease or tickle them. When the sub inevitably moves, they might get restrained. Or spanked. Or…well, you get the point.”
MJ didn’t do a lot in college, but later on, she says, “I dated many doms and had a few experiences with total power exchange as a slave briefly. I realized that slavery wasn’t for me, as I wanted to maintain some sort of control over my own life. I also dabbled in topping with a few select friends, but I didn’t really get any satisfaction out of it like I did submitting.”
MJ adds, “Submission has always been a part of me. I dreamed of serving someone from a very young age. It’s just been part of my wiring, to be honest.”
What I really want to know though, is if it makes a difference whether the relationship is part of a marriage or not.
MJ’s answer is, “Yes. I previously dated and was owned by people who had been in the scene and lived the lifestyle I wanted. Those individuals already had established mindsets of expectations and didn’t necessarily grow or explore with me.
“My husband has never been in the scene. He was friends with someone who actually knew who I was by my association with NOBLE (New Orleans Bondage and Leather Enthusiasts). He had warned my husband to be cautious of me when we first started talking. He didn’t know me personally, just rumors. The scene is pretty clique-ish.
“My husband knew I was kinky and submissive, but he wasn’t really into it I pursued the relationship regardless, because I really liked him and hadn’t had luck with lifestyle Dominants. Over the years, we explored and experimented in the bedroom. He started revealing his kinks to me and that wall slowly crumbled away as he realized he liked my kinks.
“My husband wasn’t really into collars when we first began exploring. He came me last year and asked me about them and what I would prefer should he get me one. I showed him the Eternity Collars because they’re steel and sturdy. I didn’t pay any mind to it after that conversation. A few weeks later, he told me he had a “just because” gift for me. He told me to close my eyes and he put the box in my hand.
“I had butterflies and he asked if I wanted to wear his collar. I said yes and from that moment on, he has been much more confident in his role and I feel even safer and secure under his lock and key.
“We have been growing together ever since that wall came down. We built our initial relationship on who we are as people, as opposed to who we identify as in the kink world.”
Dark says, “I think the Internet, pornography, and bad movies and TV shows, give a very skewed impression of what it is to be a dom. They confuse these qualities with being a sociopath. A good dominant isn’t someone who wants to do nothing but inflict cruel and endless pain. They are a guide and a leader. A lover and a protector. Almost every sub has had a bad experience, but it isn’t because the person they were with was a bad dom. No, they were with a bad person. That’s what people get wrong. A dom doesn’t use their position of power for abuse with no objective of gratification for their partner. And it’s not fair to the rest of these people. Subs put their trust in the dom to fulfill their needs.
“Consent is continuous, and so you are checking in occasionally. Even if you have consent and no one is revoking it, it’s good to check in, asking whether they like something, making sure they’re okay. You do not want to be someone else’s PTSD, at least if you’re a decent person.
“And I think, when we’re young, we’re not as good at listening, and we’re not as good at stopping. So being a good dom isn’t just about controlling the sub. The most important person you need to control is yourself.”
Good Girl, explaining one of her previous relationships, touches on consent, “He wouldn’t look at the safe words, he would like just keep going past, when I would be like, ‘Hey, stop.’ Nothing dangerous ever happened, because when I first start playing with somebody, especially somebody who is not familiar with kink, I’ll do kind of like a soft, you know ‘yellow’ or ‘red’ to say like slow down or stop. And if they don’t listen to me immediately than I don’t play with them anymore like that.
“I will ask them to define consent. And I will ask them, what is a sub to them.” After marrying the white supremacist, that she’s divorcing, Good Girl says, “Now I will ask them who did you vote for in 2016?
“I will also ask what’s their favorite animal and name three reasons why. Because it is a personality test. Cause what people like in nature, they tend to admire in themselves. So if someone is like ‘bears because they’re squishy and they protect their young and they’ll eat anything,’ I will go with that person. But if somebody says, “I really like bears because they’re vicious, and really dominant and mean and they’ll kill campers,’ I will not go with that person.
“Some doms are just new to it, or they don’t realize this is a game that we’re playing and I’m not just agreeing to be in an abusive situation with you.”
She continues, “So consent is an ongoing thing, it is a thing of unfolding levels of intimacy, and it can be revoked at any second. You know it’s basically checking in with your partner to make sure they are still enthusiastically into what you are doing, and that can be through verbal and nonverbal communication. So say, for instance, a sub will tense up for no apparent reason. That’s when you need to check on them and see if they need to re-consent to what’s going on.
“In terms of a scene, I will negotiate a scene before we do it. And at that point the whole scene has my implied consent. I, of course, have the freedom to stop it or slow it down if I want to. And I expect my partners to listen to me if they want to continue to be my partners. You know, again, because I’m not about being in an abusive relationship.”
Tiny agrees. “Plus when you really look deep into the world of BDSM, you learn the sub is one in complete control, and it is usually a more trustworthy relationship than others. In a Dom/sub relationship you have already outlined everything that is allowed and what is a hard limit. Anything from the type of toys to whether or not you can play with others and to what level.”
Dom Dark gets where the submissives are coming from. It’s about what makes each person happy. “I never felt like I had control in a lot of aspects of my life, but when it came to love and sex, I felt like that was something I HAD to take control of if I ever wanted to be happy. I enjoyed pushing people’s boundaries, but never crossing them. And I felt happiest when I took care of others, it made me want to work that much harder to take care of myself. I got a strong sense of satisfaction, knowing that I was someone to be trusted, that I was a source of protection.”
A recurring theme with submissives is being taken care of and protected.
Tiny explains it this way. “Since my family, doctors, teachers, etc, always made sure I was taken care of, I began to think I do need to be taken care of/protected. I learned in a sexual way, pleasing someone made them want to take care of me. It was a give and take type of thing. I enjoyed being the one taking care of someone since I was always being ‘taken care of’ by others. It actually gave me some power, if that makes any sense.”
Part of being taken care of is aftercare. As Andrews explains, “Aftercare is something doms do following play scenes, especially very intense ones. What each sub needs will vary depending on the scene content, intensity, and sub. For example, following an intense impact play scene, my Dom will spend time holding me, putting lotion on my skin, telling me I did well, etc.
“Scene play can release a lot of pent-up emotion, or endorphins, and aftercare is essential to ensuring a positive experience. Aftercare can also include staying extra attentive for a day or two, watching for signs of a temporary emotional dip known as sub drop.”
Sub drop is a term I’ve never heard before. Andrews explains, “During scene play, particularly intense play like impact play, the sub will release a lot of endorphins, creating a temporary emotional high. As the body/brain comes off that high, the sub sometimes will experience an almost depression-like state. They might feel emotionally conflicted, feel unusually tired, or just generally “down.” This can happen even a day or so after the scene, so it’s important for doms to check in with their partners. Proper aftercare can help prevent sub drop from happening, or lessen its effects.”
Tiny says, “For me, aftercare usually includes snuggles, water, quiet talking, and if needed, due to play, a shower or bath. For me just being near the person in a caring way is what I need. I know others who need way more and others who need way less.”
Good Girl has a very efficient form of aftercare. “And sometimes accidents do happen. Sometimes people are caught up in the moment, and things go on slightly longer than they should, and you know sometimes people feel uncomfortable, and that’s where aftercare comes in. You know, you check in with your partner before, during and after a scene and you practice good aftercare, whatever that means for you and your partner. For me, it’s usually some cuddling and some water, and then it’s like “let’s look at YouTube videos together. Or let’s look at Instagram together, or something dumb, or you know talk about movies or books.”
MJ says, “So, aftercare is, to me, a special time of bonding. It helps me re-center my thoughts and come back to reality. Riding that high of subspace can be pretty jarring when it ends.
“Feeling his arms wrapped around me, hearing him tell me what a good girl I am and how much he loves me helps to ease me back into reality.”
Exploration for the Interested:
Good Girl recommends starting with a book as a good source of information: “BDSM 101” by Rev Jen is a classic on the subject and is available on Amazon.
Different people have different answers on where to begin their journey. MJ says, “Join Fetlife and start joining the local groups online. Go out to a munch (a casual gather of people in the community, taking its name from “burger munch”) and meet the people in the community in a safe, vanilla environment. Most importantly, set boundaries for yourself and respect the boundaries of others. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right, and there are plenty of people who will help you.”
Good Girl finds people, she says, on Tinder and OK Cupid, describing Tinder as, “basically sex Uber.”
For anyone interested in learning more, Andrews suggests, “Connect with your local BDSM community. Sex shops can be a good place to start. Find your local group on Fetlife. Don’t rely on fiction books (although the Brie/Submissive Academy series by Red Phoenix is considered to be something of a primer for subs/couples and was written by a respected member of the community).”
Being a sub or being a dom, or even being a switch isn’t for everyone. Not every kink, or even most kinks, are for most people. It really goes back to a conversation with Dark, “Different people do this for different reasons. If you’re interested in being a part of this lifestyle, do the homework, and seek out knowledgeable people. Read a book. I know the pornography looks fun, but most of it is garbage aimed at the lowest common denominator. Talk to real people about real playspaces. And remember, as long as it’s two consenting adults, it’s okay. If it doesn’t meet that most basic of criteria, don’t do it. I believe that it should be healthy and fun. So fuck, friend, and love.”
To find out more, a couple of resources that were suggested, and some of which I used, included:
Michael David Raso has worked as a writer, editor, and journalist for several different publications since graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Be sure to visit the other two parts of his Sex in the Big Easy series: