In the world of D/s, there is a phrase that is bandied about, sometimes without much consideration, that always makes me pause to consider the importance of intention and not just the execution of Domination and submission. That phrase is: Submission is a gift. Certainly the focus, loyalty and devotion that comes with submission, be it full time or situational, that exquisite letting go and giving over to another person, is a gift – a huge transfer of trust. To the Dominant, this is an honour and a privilege and should be treated as such. I don’t take any issue with that. What I find troubling about the phrase “Submission is a gift” is that it only tells half the story. To give a gift is to share something and step back without expectation of reciprocation. But that’s not how D/s works. To simplify the sacrament of submission to a one way expression of devotion is to completely ignore and undersell the inherently dualistic and shared nature of this dynamic. My fear, in the wide and often diluted world of internet information on such subjects and practices, is that submissives, particularly those who are new to this universe, will take as gospel that they should, and in fact must, simply hand their submission away. Worse yet, that a certain sorts of unsavoury Dominants will use this seemingly banal language to lever their hold over vulnerable people as they explore and gain footing within their D/s community, particularly if that community is online only.
There is no reciprocal phrase about the “gift” of Domination, and certainly to many submissives, their Dom(me)’s direction and affection feels very much like a gift. The closest you’ll hear is “Submission is earned.” This is equally off balance, implying that the Dom(me) must toil to remain worthy of the gift of submission. This is why the choice of language around the topic is important. If submission is a gift, then Domination is a responsibility to honour that gift and not take it for granted. That sounds more balanced and reasonable, doesn’t it? But is it enough? Perhaps what needs more recognition and discourse is the responsibility that is imbued upon both partners, hopefully at the onset of the negotiations of their dynamic. Both must work in tandem, and separately, to uphold and manage the dynamic. Neither can sit back and simply rake in the spoils of the other’s effort. Like any relationship, it is a give and take, a collaboration, albeit with very specific and highly defined roles, a big part of what seems to attract people to it.