Submission or…?

I often hear people describe behaviours that they consider to be indicative of a great submissive, but when I think about it for a moment, they often aren’t.  What they are describing is often the behaviour of a wonderful, quality man. Perhaps a man in love, or in lust, or infatuated, or one who is trying to impress a date or one who is simply one of those lovely creatures who likes doing things for a woman he enjoys and respects.

How is it that ‘doing things for someone to make them happy’ is suddenly submission and not the pretty normal behaviour of someone in a relationship (or on the way there)?  Where is that line anyway?

Since learning about BDSM and looking back, I coined the term ‘vanilla submissives’ to describe those vanilla men I was in relationships with who would go out of their way to make me happy, not because they identified as submissive, but because they genuinely wanted me to be happy. I had relationships with those men without us ever discussing any ‘rules of behaviour’ or ‘authority’ or ‘obedience’ or any of that D/s stuff. They were vanilla, but in many ways their behaviour *looked* very much like that of the very best of submissives… consideration, anticipatory service, making my life easier, deferring to my decisions, loving my lead in the bedroom. In many ways, my ‘vanilla submissives’ would put many actual self identified submissives to shame.

I recently went away for a long weekend with my last vanilla ex, who has remained a wonderful friend and who is the very definition of awesome vanilla submissive.

The way he is with me, and was with me throughout our relationship, makes me wonder where the line is between love and submission. He is an incredibly giving and considerate man, the kind of vanilla man I have managed to find and fall in love with more than once, and he is that way with genuine sincerity, because it gives him pleasure to see me happy.

To illustrate, for our few days away, he:

  • did the research, planned the details and booked accommodation and wineries
  • offered to drive both ways (eight hours in total)
  • insisted that I choose the bedroom I wanted in the house we stayed at
  • brought my favourite champagne
  • brought food that I like so that he could cook meals if I didn’t want to go out
  • brought snacks that he knows I enjoy
  • was the designated driver the entire time we were there despite my offers (wineries, people, *wineries*!)
  • researched restaurants and then asked which I preferred for dinner
  • rented Spartacus series 1 to watch, even though he had already seen it, because I had said I loved the second series
  • offered to let me start the fire every night, even though I know he really loves doing that also
  • offered foot massages
  • served me champagne, snacks, wine etc., and consistently checked to make sure I had what I wanted

In short, he knows what I like and he delivered it with grace and charm and no expectations. I would add (for the cynical!) that he does not behave this way in order to ‘win me back’, this is what he is like with all of the women in his life who he enjoys and respects.

This is pretty much how I expect men in my relationships to behave, submissive or not. This is not just what submissive men look like, this is what wonderful men look like, isn’t it?

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46 Comments

  1. Sounds like it's just a matter of the terms you use to define yourself and your relationship with your partners. If you self-identify as kinky and think of your relationship in those terms, you will call it “dominance and submission” or some such. If you self-identify as vanilla you will call it “love” or “mutual respect” or some such.

    Same thing, different words depending on how people view themselves and their relationship, which could largely be a matter of the context with which they chose to surround themselves. People with kinky friends and scenes around will get kinky words, people with vanilla friends and scenes will get vanilla words. Really, is it so much different than telling a kinky friend your partner is a “submissive” and telling your employer or strangers they are a “spouse” or “partner?”

    -Vague

  2. littlesubmissions: “Sounds like it's just a matter of the terms you use to define yourself and your relationship with your partners. If you self-identify as kinky and think of your relationship in those terms, you will call it “dominance and submission” or some such. If you self-identify as vanilla you will call it “love” or “mutual respect” or some such.”

    It could be, yes, it's a good point. But I do get the impression that people consider these 'submissive qualities'. I ponder whether it is experience: that a (large?) number of women do not see these qualities or behaviours in vanilla men, so label them 'submissive qualities'.

    I saw a discussion recently that was the catalyst for this post. Someone asked for dominant women's 'top 5' things they look for in submissives so that they could 'train' some newbie. The vast majority of responses were completely vanilla: communication, honesty, consideration etc., which makes sense to me at a relationship level, and yet it seemed to be accepted that these were 'submissive qualities' that needed to be 'trained'. I found it exceedingly odd.

    To me, and obviously to you, these are not submissive qualities (even though I use the term 'vanilla submissives' for those who have them), so the next logical thought is 'ok, then so what ARE the qualities that I look for in a submissive (vs a vanilla man)?' I have an answer for that (quelle surpris!), but am interested in this thought first.

    Ferns

  3. I don't consider what you describe vanilla behavior, Miss. Vanilla behavior I would see as 50/50, rather than arranging things according to your preferences alone.

    Whether or not it's 'submissive' behavior depends on what one means by the word. In the sense that he's making sure you get what you want, you're calling the shots and he's submitting to your will. However, I don't think it necessarily means he's interested in explicit BDSM.

  4. Étienne: “I don't consider what you describe vanilla behavior, Miss. Vanilla behavior I would see as 50/50, rather than arranging things according to your preferences alone.”

    Ahhh… interesting. I guess I don't think of vanilla as 50/50 necessarily. I don't think there is *ever* equality in vanilla relationships. Even if it's not explicit, someone always holds more power, they just never talk about it.

    Either way, I am not convinced that 'wanting to make your partner happy' is submission even if it's wildly skewed in one direction, but I do like your take on it (and it justifies my 'vanilla submissive' label).

    “Whether or not it's 'submissive' behavior depends on what one means by the word. In the sense that he's making sure you get what you want, you're calling the shots and he's submitting to your will.”

    Certainly he was making sure I got what I liked, though the difference, as a vanilla relationship, is that I was not calling the shots or exerting my will (that is, there was no expectation on my part and no active dominance). Had he not done any of those things, I would not have said a word, nor would I have been annoyed or put out. None of them were expected or asked for.

    “However, I don't think it necessarily means he's interested in explicit BDSM.”

    *nod nod* I agree. I'm really talking about behaviours vs interest in D/s.

    Ferns

  5. I've always had a terrible time fitting into boxes. The more I learn about people in general, I find that's a commonality. I relish it, honestly! We find labels because they are handy and they are there and it saves us the trouble of explaining the details. When in fact, it's the details that make people grand.

    While reading your description, your ex sounds completely lovely and certainly someone I would enjoy time with as well. I found myself wondering how he would be in some of the rope pictures you shared. I guess submission in my mind is that line… the one in the sand or drawn on with chalk… it can be moved or even washed away. It's the “oh, will you do this for me also? Yes, I saw the rest that you did, but I want THIS… this here, can you do this for me? Would you do it for no other?” *sighs* For me, it's someone who craves my pushing that line. I definitely would appreciate anyone doing any of the things you listed and with NO assumptions. I could very easily enjoy people in my life with these qualities. But it's the ones with the sand or chalk line that draw me in, make me giggle n tingle.

    My thoughts on what Étienne said, the 50/50 thing… but I'm guessing that your weekend and your relationship with this friend is not in full with a few inches of text. There are moments in my life where the beast and I are 50/50 with all his awesome qualities, I do things for him because I enjoy it too, so does that not restore balance? It doesn't change how we've arranged our relationship. He does many things for me, but I'm not just sitting on my ass soaking it all in. We are not equals, we are separate parts of a whole… and those parts are constantly in motion. Any relationship takes work from both sides to maintain.

    By the way… sounds like you had a great weekend!! Yay for great weekends with dear friends!!!

  6. “This is pretty much how I expect men in my relationships to behave, submissive or not. This is not just what submissive men look like, this is what wonderful men look like, isn't it?”

    Yes and yes. I agree that a man does not have to be submissive to be a lovely human being. But I also think that men who fit the above description get cast as 'too nice' or indeed submissive and therefore 'unmanly'.

    I have on occasion watched decent men be treated like utter crap by women and men who seemed to believe that consideration and thoughtfulness were somehow flaws when they appeared in men. Fortunately, this seems to be something people grow out of and these guys eventually found partners who appreciated them for being themselves, but it's always annoyed me that they should have had to wait so long for their peers to see the gender binary we've been force fed for the rubbish it is.

  7. When I think of submissiveness, in addition to being physically able and willing to serve another, there is also the matter of vulnerability. What I mean here is having the ability to open up completely and allow my partner to see the innermost self. It is that fearful turning over of the heart and mind to the safe keeping of a another that takes a relationship to a deeply personal and fulfilling level.

    I can be service oriented and go above and beyond for friends, family, and even strangers without ever really letting down that wall that keeps them out. It makes me happy to see others happy. To submit however, means having the trust and strength to allow someone to get into my head and leave myself open and vulnerable.

  8. “However, I don't think it necessarily means he's interested in explicit BDSM.”

    You know, there really *are* a lot of guys who are just nice that way. It's not a submissive thing, nor is it a service thing. It's just a thing.

    I'm probably pretty much like your ex, and it's certainly not because I think that any/all women are inherently superior, or that I'm thinking in sexual/BDSM-ish terms, or anything like that. It's simply because over the years I've found that it doesn't really take much more effort to be nice. Oh, and that people seem to enjoy being around other nice people more often.

  9. slapshot “To submit however, means having the trust and strength to allow someone to get into my head and leave myself open and vulnerable.”

    *ding ding ding*
    JACKPOT

    that's yummy stuff right there!
    /me wipes her chin…

  10. I agree with you above comment that even in vanilla relationships, someone always takes the lead a little more.

    I also agree that there is a fine line between what are “act of service” (which, I've read, is considered to be one of the “Love Languages” for some,) which are done out of love, and what I submission.

    I would also add that many things could be considered either service submission or nurturing/care-taking Dominance. For example, if I cook for my Daddy Dom, it's an act of service. If he cooks for me (which is almost every day,) then it's him taking care of me. If my submissive drives me around, he's eng my chauffeur, but if I drive, it's because I'm in charge. The difference between Dom-ly fucking and what is service-fucking also seems minor to me. It's all about perspective and intent. I think there's nothing wrong with that.

    On another note, when I wrote this (https://fetlife.com/users/47965/posts/679704), many pointed out that the advice I wrote could just as easily describe any gentleman'sexpected behavior, Dom, sub, or vanilla.

  11. Ferns,

    Quote (Ferns): This is not just what submissive men look like, this is what wonderful men look like, isn't it?

    Yep.

    Quote (Ferns): The vast majority of responses were completely vanilla: communication, honesty, consideration etc., which makes sense to me at a relationship level, and yet it seemed to be accepted that these were 'submissive qualities' that needed to be 'trained'. I found it exceedingly odd.

    I find it odd too. Those are qualities of generally competent people when it comes to relationship savvy. It's not just a “man treating woman” thing and rather is a “partners treating each other” thing. This is never 50/50 as life frequently doesn't allow for this, but it applies as called for and switches back for forth. I'm assuming (though I may be incorrect) that you've done things for your ex when he needed them or just because you knew these would make his life easier, less stressful, please him, and so on. Does this make you less dominant? In my opinion, no. Rather, it shows, as I've already alluded, that you have relationship competence.

    So what is the difference between a man pampering a woman simply because he has the skills, empathy, grace, concern, and common sense to do so and a D/s dynamic? For me, Slapshot has provided part of the answer, but only a small part.

    Quote (slapshot): “To submit however, means having the trust and strength to allow someone to get into my head and leave myself open and vulnerable.”

    Both partners (D and s) make themselves vulnerable because each opens and shares a part of their core, and places trust in the other while doing so. To me, the key difference between general attentiveness and D/s attentiveness is that in D/s the roles and expectations are outlined and agreed to. And, each partner has a responsibility to fulfil the tenets of the D/s dynamics. Within this, there is likely a great deal of “attentiveness” on both sides, but it is clear where certain responsibilities lay (examples: ultimate decision making, specific protocols, preferences to be honoured, etc.). Thus, it's possible in “vanilla submission” that the attentive partner does the same actions as “D/s submission”, but in D/s these actions are very much part of the agreed dynamics. Indeed, in the D/s variety, though the submissive may be performing an attentive act, the dominant is likely simultaneously attending to the submissive's needs because the submissive needs to serve and pamper, and looks to the dominant for this and for leadership and structure. I can attest that it's relaxing not to have to make decisions or, at times, when decision making is handed to me by a dominant, to know that it's okay to run with that decision because my dominant has told me so.

    Is either variant of attentiveness better/more authentic/more altruistic than the other? Personally, I don't think so. It all comes down to partners communicating and addressing each other's needs. The structure in place (vanilla, D/s, something else) is just that… a structure for interaction, but I believe the intent of the parties (to build a mutually rewarding relationship) is the same. Attentiveness, responsiveness, communication skills, ability to compromise, and a myriad other skills apply to both partners, with or without D/s in place. True enough, in D/s, the dominant may have leadership authority, but if the dominant abuses this, mutiny is the result and an effective dominant knows this and governs themselves by it.

    E.

  12. Honestly, I see it as both a depth and the perspective it's in.
    For example, I plan a nice dinner, I make sure it's what she likes to eat, how she likes it cooked, etc. Food gets cooked up while making small talk, etc, we both eat, then settle to the couch for snuggling and TV.
    It's romantic and sweet, obviously, but the extent of the planning, ensuring that it's all but completely about HER is what turns it submissive, in my humble opinion. But, without the perspective of kink, it's simply a sweet kind gesture. Can it be labelled as kink, possibly. YET, there's still an expectation of getting something in return for the amount of effort put into said dinner and whatnot.

    Take the same scenario again, but in a D/s relationship. The act is still as sweet and caring as before, but it's now in a subtext of submission. So, while the act has the same amount of caring and love and adoration within it, but without that subtext of kink, it's simply a sweet and kind *act* that's been done. Yet, with the context of submission, it's not an *act* but a normal thing. By being kinky and realizing that you enjoy playing with a power dynamic, it allows things like a simple dinner to highlight the power dynamic and become something more then just a sweet and kind act.

  13. There is a lot of truth in all, that was said so far. But for me the difference is, yes, there is a 50/50 and i can see it in every long term-working relationship. only the 50% are given in different ways. And exactly there is also the distinguishing between D/s and a sweet partner (no matter if male or female). The things that come back in a D/s relationship from the dominant part i think are different than in a vanilla relationship with caring partners. The responsibilities are differently divided. also i think, what was said about opening up completely to the other person, this is something essential for me in relationships anyway. if that is not the case, how could i live my life with that person? Thats what i do in a serious relationship. But that also means, i don't jump easily into relationships. (Just to clarify: i don't and wouldn't want to live in a D/s relationship). Also, although i'm completely aware that in a D/s relationship there is the consent from the submissive part, in the D/s relationship things are demanded and eventually also limits pushed to get them. They are expected. Expected to get by the Dom/me, and expected to be demanded by the submissive (not necessarily in a verbal way, of course). in a really good vanilla relationship (or “in the bedroom” BDSM-relationship) they are given hopefully without being demanded. they are my decision at every time point if i am in the position to want to give them now or not. and of course that counts for both partners.

    ok, that was longer than planned, but i hope i was able to make my point clear ;)

    M.

  14. 'doing things for someone to make them happy

    Yes that’s my ideal. And in my ideal it should be 50-50. My woman should care for me. I should care for her. I don’t mean as a duty. I mean from the heart. If my woman wants me to be her play slave that is a game. It is one more way to please her and me too. She can still care for me. And she can still find her ways to help me to stay happy. It can still be (near enough) fair. It can still be ideal.

    I can’t stand a woman who is mean and won’t change. I know that some men and some women do want their thrills from a real mean partner. Not me.

    Is anyone here mean? I don’t know. If you are mean I do not dislike you for that. But still, if you are mean why not find it in your heart to be more kind.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwXai-sgM-s

    Satan

  15. This might be one of those things where there's a gender bias as well. Men think of submission in terms of sex, women in terms of relationships.

    *shrug* Heck if I know, I don't identify as a submissive, I just write about it.

  16. Sweets: ” We find labels because they are handy and they are there and it saves us the trouble of explaining the details. When in fact, it's the details that make people grand. “

    I always think of labels as the starting point for understanding, that's all. Saying I am heterosexual doesn't actually tell you anything about how I relate, how I see romance, how I love, how I have sex… it just means I am in this huge ball park, so we might have something to talk about.

    “I guess submission in my mind is that line… the one in the sand or drawn on with chalk… it can be moved or even washed away.”

    *nod* I see what you mean. I'm tempted to expand on the difference I see between submission and vanilla submissives, but it's a little long, so I think I will save it for a post.

    “I'm guessing that your weekend and your relationship with this friend is not in full with a few inches of text. There are moments in my life where the beast and I are 50/50 with all his awesome qualities”

    No, it is not our entire relationship, but that weekend does illustrate a clear disparity, and this is what all of my vanilla relationships have been like. They get enough from me, clearly, because they have been happy to be with me, but it has in no way been equal. Ever. I will absolutely do the 'whisk him away for the weekend' thing, but I am (frankly) too lazy to be taking care of the detail like my partners do for me. It's a very different and quite amazing mindset. It is part of the reason I choose these men.

    ” By the way… sounds like you had a great weekend!! Yay for great weekends with dear friends!!!”

    I did!! Yay!!!

    Ferns

  17. araliya: “I also think that men who fit the above description get cast as 'too nice' or indeed submissive and therefore 'unmanly'.”

    Interesting. I do know what you mean about the 'nice guy', but I consider that basket of behaviours that get the 'nice guy' handle to be quite different. I think of 'nice' and 'pleasant' as the words that sound the death knell for a man's sexiness because they are often used to mean 'boring'. There is nothing less sexy than 'boring'. But thoughtful, considerate, pays attention, reliable etc… oh my!

    “this seems to be something people grow out of”

    *nod nod* Yes, thank goodness! I think in youth, the 'bad man' has some edgy appeal for those women (girls?) who want the emotional excitement of a roller coaster and who believe they can be the one who 'tames him' or some such. Ugh.

    Ferns

  18. slapshot: “To submit however, means having the trust and strength to allow someone to get into my head and leave myself open and vulnerable.”

    I'm not going to question how you define your own submission (that would be folly!), but you can do that in a perfectly good vanilla relationship, can't you? Or can you (personally) only do get to that within some kind of D/s relationship and you were assuming that context?

    I am really looking forward to writing a post about my idea of vanilla vs submission now… !! Fun!

    Ferns

  19. Tom Allen: “You know, there really *are* a lot of guys who are just nice that way. It's not a submissive thing, nor is it a service thing. It's just a thing.”

    I agree, it's not a submissive thing… it is awesome loveliness, and *all* men are capable of it… whether they are willing and able to deliver is another thing.

    “I'm probably pretty much like your ex…”

    Well then, you are welcome to visit anytime!

    Ferns

  20. Well then, you are welcome to visit anytime!

    … although I'm not sure if I'd consent to be the designated driver the *entire* time in your wine country. I mean, even we nice guys have some hard limits, you know :-)

  21. Princess Elisabeth : “I also agree that there is a fine line between what are “act of service” (which, I've read, is considered to be one of the “Love Languages” for some,) which are done out of love, and what I submission.”

    I haven't read that book, though I have heard a few people mention it in different contexts, and yes 'service as an act of love' does make sense to me. In that sense it works for both vanilla and D/s relationships.

    “I would also add that many things could be considered either service submission or nurturing/care-taking Dominance… It's all about perspective and intent.”

    True, or it could be considered good old vanilla awesomeness!

    “On another note, when I wrote this (https://fetlife.com/users/47965/posts/679704), many pointed out that the advice I wrote could just as easily describe any gentleman's expected behavior, Dom, sub, or vanilla.”

    *nod nod* They were right, most of your advice there is more widely applicable.

    I am starting to lean towards Vague's view above that we put our own filter on behaviour and label perfectly vanilla behaviour as 'submissive' or 'dominant' or whatever *because we want to*.

    Personally, I am thinking of my ex as showing the sort of behaviour I expect from my submissive, hence the label 'vanilla submissive', but really, I expect it of vanilla partners also.

    Ferns

  22. E: “I'm assuming (though I may be incorrect) that you've done things for your ex when he needed them or just because you knew these would make his life easier, less stressful, please him, and so on.”

    Yes, but not like that *points above at the awesomeness*.

    ” To me, the key difference between general attentiveness and D/s attentiveness is that in D/s the roles and expectations are outlined and agreed to.”

    I agree, and will talk about this more in a separate post, though I think you have covered it really well. I guess it's difficult (if not impossible) to answer the question 'How is it that 'doing things for someone to make them happy' is suddenly submission and not the pretty normal behaviour of someone in a relationship' without discussing what you think the differences between vanilla and D/s submission actually are.

    ” Thus, it's possible in “vanilla submission” that the attentive partner does the same actions as “D/s submission””, but in D/s these actions are very much part of the agreed dynamics.”

    *nod* It's the difference between 'because he feels like it' vs 'because it's what we agreed'.

    “It all comes down to partners communicating and addressing each other's needs. The structure in place (vanilla, D/s, something else) is just that… a structure for interaction, but I believe the intent of the parties (to build a mutually rewarding relationship) is the same.”

    Quoted for truth.

    Ferns

  23. I've never been able to achieve what slapshot describes in a vanilla relationship. But that may just be me and has nothing to do with the submissive side of it. Letting part of my own guard down to someone who 'gets' that side of me. Who isn't tolerating it, but embracing it.

    BTW I almost feel guilty when I respond to these long post. Please don't feel obligated to respond to any of my ramblings… that seems like a lot of work to go through and respond to everyone. I won't be offended if ya skip me!

  24. simplyjake: “For example, I plan a nice dinner, I make sure it's what she likes to eat, how she likes it cooked, etc. Food gets cooked up while making small talk, etc, we both eat, then settle to the couch for snuggling and TV.”

    *smile* Oh, that's a sweet thing, yes!

    I read your comment a few times and was unclear on what you were saying here. That if it's in a vanilla context, there's an expectation of getting something in return, but if it's in a d/s context there's not because service is its own reward?

    My experience has not been like that, but that's more of a function of the men I choose, I think. I *do* understand what you mean (if I have understood you correctly). I don't think it's unusual in a vanilla relationship to get the 'well, I did x and y for you yesterday, your turn!' direct reciprocal expectation. This falls into the idea of equality as a very direct quid pro quo exchange vs each partner giving equal *effort* in completely different ways to the relationship which is more D/s-ey.

    Ferns

  25. M: “There is a lot of truth in all, that was said so far. But for me the difference is, yes, there is a 50/50 and i can see it in every long term-working relationship. only the 50% are given in different ways.”

    Yes, this.

    “And exactly there is also the distinguishing between D/s and a sweet partner (no matter if male or female). The things that come back in a D/s relationship from the dominant part i think are different than in a vanilla relationship with caring partners.”

    Often this is true, and certainly for me it is, but on reflection, I have to say that it was the same with vanilla partners. I think I just choose men who give more than I do in 'visible' ways, and they choose me, and somehow that works. Maybe *that's* why I use the term 'vanilla submissives', I *do* feel as if they give more in the 'traditional' ways.

    “in the D/s relationship things are demanded and eventually also limits pushed to get them. They are expected.”

    I think of it more as expectations than demands, but yes, this is absolutely true. Interestingly, I have similar expectations of my vanilla partners as I do of my submissives, the main difference is that while I can communicate those expectations, I am really only *hoping* he will deliver in a vanilla relationship, and if he doesn't, I don't get to say a thing about it.

    “in a really good vanilla relationship (or “in the bedroom” BDSM-relationship) they are given hopefully without being demanded. they are my decision at every time point if i am in the position to want to give them now or not. and of course that counts for both partners.”

    *nod nod* And this falls very well into my idea of what constitutes submission. It's not submission to me if he *chooses* when he will and when he won't do something.

    “ok, that was longer than planned, but i hope i was able to make my point clear”

    *smile* Yes, it was very clear, and I agree with the majority of it, so you must be right!

    Ferns

  26. …Or can you (personally) only do get to that within some kind of D/s relationship and you were assuming that context?

    Yes, I was assuming a D/s type relationship here. I guard my mind a lot more closely in vanilla relationships as they are more “quid pro quo” and vulnerability, in my experience, is often seen as weakness.

  27. Vanilla or not vanilla what is the difference?

    You say they are the same in some ways. They are. The vanilla couple tries to build a beautiful relationship. So too does the couple that is not vanilla. That is the same. Vanilla or not they both try to build the same thing. So they can look much the same.

    What is the difference?

    The couple that is not vanilla feels freer to try things like kinky sex. There’s the difference. The line is where ever the vanilla couple say no that is a kink too far.

    Satan

  28. Satan: “And in my ideal it should be 50-50.”

    “My woman should care for me. I should care for her.”

    *nod* And you should, of course aim for your ideal (shouldn't we all?!), though for me those two things are not the same… what '50-50' means in practice is unclear. There is 50-50 in *acts* and 50-50 in *caring (i.e. relationship contribution)*. To me, they are not the same thing.

    I think when most people talk about 50-50 in most vanilla relationships, it is almost like 'tit-for-tat'. “I did the washing last week, you have to do it this week; I gave you three massages, now you owe me three foot rubs” etc. I guess for me it never went like that, which is really why I coined the 'vanilla submissive' term, but I do think that's the most common view of 50-50 vanilla.

    I think contributing equally to a D/s relationship looks very different from that. For me, it's more like I contribute my dominance and he contributes his submission (that's 50-50), but in *acts* his submission means that he might give me three massages and I enjoy it immensely, say “good boy” and give him pats and we are both happy.

    I'd note here, that I am not saying 'Oh goodness, as the Domme, I would *never* give my boy a massage', or anything like that, that's not the point. I am merely illustrating how I see the difference. For me, it is *not* quid pro quo in acts; in terms of *acts*, it is not at all equal.

    “Is anyone here mean?”

    No, of course not! We are all perfectly lovely!! Anyone who says otherwise is lying… LYING I tell you!!

    Ferns

  29. littlesubmissions: “This might be one of those things where there's a gender bias as well. Men think of submission in terms of sex, women in terms of relationships.”

    I agree with the first, but have no idea how you made the leap to the second… Your comment is the first time sex has come into this discussion.

    Re the gender bias, I can only speak from my (gender biased) perspective. I have expectations of my partner that many people would find unreasonable in the vanilla world (see my ex's behaviour above as an example above and beyond of wonderful thoughtful manly man), but I really didn't have that much trouble finding it. I would say there is gender bias there because I am not sure that *men* could have the same expectations of vanilla women and expect them to be met.

    I would go a step further down the 'gender bias' trail (sexism accusations expected at this…) and say that the man *may* be able to have those expectations in the vanilla world IF he is the breadwinner and the woman is the homemaker (I am thinking 50s housewife style which still exists in 2011 vanilla world). That's still a tit-for-tat arrangement… financial support in exchange for being 'cared for' or pampered at home.

    “*shrug* Heck if I know, I don't identify as a submissive, I just write about it.”

    *smile* I think you know plenty, Vague.

    Ferns

  30. Tom Allen: “… although I'm not sure if I'd consent to be the designated driver the *entire* time in your wine country. I mean, even we nice guys have some hard limits, you know”

    *waves hand dismissively* Pfffttt… You'll drive and *you'll like it!*

    Ferns

  31. Sweets: “I've never been able to achieve what slapshot describes in a vanilla relationship. But that may just be me and has nothing to do with the submissive side of it. Letting part of my own guard down to someone who 'gets' that side of me. Who isn't tolerating it, but embracing it.”

    I can understand this, yes. If you are hiding part of who you are, you can't completely open up.

    I have a little niggle when I hear people (mostly those with no experience) wax lyrical about D/s, who expect that D/s will suddenly open up some door to intense intimacy and 'deeper relationships' than they ever had before like it's a magic wand. The expectation is often unrealistically skewed in a “oh, I had crappy relationships before, but my D/s one will be magical, with rainbows and unicorns, because it's D/s!!” sort of way. I tend to ask 'why' a lot for that reason.

    “BTW I almost feel guilty when I respond to these long post. Please don't feel obligated to respond to any of my ramblings… that seems like a lot of work to go through and respond to everyone.”

    *laugh* Thank you, I will not feel obligated, I *like* responding to the comments here. I will be sad if I ever get so many comments that I just can't respond to them all, I shall pout and I will have to get minions to do it on my behalf…

    Ferns

  32. Satan: “You say they are the same in some ways. They are. The vanilla couple tries to build a beautiful relationship. So too does the couple that is not vanilla. That is the same.”

    Yes, I agree.

    “The couple that is not vanilla feels freer to try things like kinky sex. There’s the difference.”

    Well, kinky sex is a different discussion from this one about submission, and I am not sure what you mean by 'things like kinky sex'. I guess if you are saying that non vanilla folks tend to *communicate* more openly about these things, then I would tend to agree.

    Ferns

  33. slapshot: “Yes, I was assuming a D/s type relationship here. I guard my mind a lot more closely in vanilla relationships as they are more “quid pro quo” and vulnerability, in my experience, is often seen as weakness.”

    *nod* I understand. Thank you for coming back to clarify, slapshot.

    Ferns

  34. *sighs… shakes head sadly*

    I'm imagining a police report describing an almost incoherent couple wrestling in the front seat of a car, with shiraz and chardonnay bottles filling the back seat.

  35. For me no one has to be all perfect and ideal, just good hearted. I am real easy to please. But some good women want a man to be submissive aside from sex. That is submissive all of the time. I can’t see myself as submissive all of the time.

    Your ex would not. He is a fine friend, and no slave. As you say he is vanilla.

    See I only mention sex twice this time.

    Satan

  36. This is one of the most insightful posts I've ever read on the whole D/s thing. I identify with it completely.

    When I started my current relationship with a dominant (the first non-vanilla one) I didn't suddenly become a new person. We don't do rules or rituals, and in many ways I behave with her as I always have in the brief periods I've been in love with someone. There are a few differences; for instance, I'm naturally a very critical person, and this would make her unhappy, so I suppress it.

    My question is–why is a line necessary? Why does anyone need to characterize a relationship as “D/s”? To brag about it on FL? To belong to a subculture? I certainly don't run through my head the words “I'm her submissive, therefore I should do X at this point”. It is all intuitive, natural. I am “submissive” because I don't know any other way to be–indeed my male “models” and close friends are pretty much the same way, and I'd be hard-pressed to describe what a “male dominant” is (if not a prehistoric creature).

    So yes, I think you could say–I'm a vanilla submissive pain slut, in love with a vanilla dominant sadist. Works for us, and that's all I care about.

  37. Anonymous: “My question is–why is a line necessary? Why does anyone need to characterize a relationship as “D/s”? To brag about it on FL? To belong to a subculture?”

    It's a good question, and any answer is really personal, BUT if I had to generalise, I'd say it's more important for people *looking* for a relationship to be able to define what they want. If you are in a happy relationship, who cares if you call yourself 'purple monkey boy', but if you are *seeking* a relationship, calling yourself 'purple monkey boy' limits your options.

    For me, it's important to talk about all this because people will struggle to find happiness if they have skewed ideas of what things are. A woman who goes looking for 'a submissive' has to have some idea of the wide range of behaviours that people call 'submissive' in order to not head into disappointment after disappointment in seeking a relationship. Skewed ideas of what labels mean simply make things more difficult than they need to be *even if people can't agree on a single label's definition*. It's at least a starting point.

    My point with this post was really that if what I described is what a woman wants, she doesn't need 'a submissive' to get it. She needs a wonderful man who loves her. If he identifies as submissive, that's great, but her pool is much bigger if she doesn't confine herself to the D/s realm.

    For me, if I could find what I wanted in a vanilla submissive, I would take it in a heartbeat, but what I want is extreme by vanilla standards.

    “So yes, I think you could say–I'm a vanilla submissive pain slut, in love with a vanilla dominant sadist. Works for us, and that's all I care about.”

    *smile* And that's all you *should* care about! Congratulations to you both!

    Ferns

  38. Thanks. A lot of people looking for a relationship of this type are newcomers to BDSM, hence can't possibly know what expressions of D/s they'd be happy with, and will need to find out by trial-and-error. But even the more experienced “lifestylers” who are searching would be shooting themselves in the foot by defining their “D/s parameters” too narrowly. In reality most characteristics that make someone a desirable target of friendship, affection and lust will be unrelated to do their BDSM role (for me, at least), and expectations regarding the latter can be adjusted (or evolve as things develop). Else you end up looking at a really small pool. As you said.

    I wonder what you mean by “extreme”. Even “vanilla submissives” might come around to it, if they find it hot. Personally, much of what I see described as D/s is present in vanilla relationships, too (=those without kinky play); being gender-reversed relative to the majority doesn't make it BDSM. So I do wonder how a “non-vanilla submissive” differs from the vanilla kind, other than the enjoyment of BDSM play. (Ritualized service counts as play in my book.)

    So again, thanks for this post. High time somebody put it out there, and we'll never see anything like this *there*.

  39. Anonymous:

    Last thing first:

    “Personally, much of what I see described as D/s is present in vanilla relationships, too (=those without kinky play)”

    True, yes, though I wonder if you are conflating D/s and BDSM, which clouds the discussion a little (and is the post I was going to write!… grrr!). D/s is not about play, it's about an agreed authority or control dynamic. BDSM is about kinky play. You can have either one without the other, and I am really talking about D/s, not BDSM.

    “In reality most characteristics that make someone a desirable target of friendship, affection and lust will be unrelated to do their BDSM role (for me, at least), and expectations regarding the latter can be adjusted (or evolve as things develop).”

    I agree with the first and the second is an 'it depends'. Like you, I also see there being two parts. The first is connection and fit and lust and zingzing and fabulous kissy face stuff that leads you to fall in love with the person. The *other* side is how you need a relationship to work in order to be happy. For me, I need to marry the two (I think everyone does, but I am not going to attempt to speak for everyone).

    If I have the first and not the second, I cannot be happy past the flush of infatuated lust because things that we will 'let go' in the flush will become the relationship killers.

    “I wonder what you mean by “extreme”. Even “vanilla submissives” might come around to it, if they find it hot.”

    Yeah, I'm not talking about stuff that's hot. Play is easy, I can get a vanilla man to do pretty much anything if they think it's hot, but if I have to try and make normal every day relationship expectations 'hot' to get him to do it, that doesn't work for me.

    When I say 'extreme', I'm not talking about extreme in the sense that I want to hang him from the ceiling via hooks in his chest, I am talking about pretty normal day to day interactions and how I need them to work.

    I wrote a whole heap more, and it got ungodly long! I promised I would write a post about this, so I will address your questions there.

    I am liking your questions very much, by the way. Thank you for them.

    Ferns

  40. To clarify: I'm using D/s in the same sense as you: an agreed authority and control dynamic. Isn't that present in vanilla relationships, too? (=those without kinky play). For instance, if a couple decides she will manage the finances, decide where they live and make career decisions for him–with the sexes reversed, to me that just sounds like a very traditional marriage, probably still practiced in many cultures around the world. That is to say, considerations pertaining to relationship structure strike me as vanilla; it's just that this word is stigmatized.

    So I'm wondering what control dynamic so “extreme” it would be outside the scope of a vanilla relationship, yet not so extreme as to be unendurable for more than a brief period (without nullifying an individual's personality.)

    I look forward to your new post; I'm enjoying this exchange myself.

    (Also: I'm very fond of the concept of “operational definition”–Wiki has a good description. In the present context, this means defining words in terms of behavior observable externally.)

  41. Anonymous: “To clarify: I'm using D/s in the same sense as you: an agreed authority and control dynamic.”

    Ok, thank you for clarifying, it seemed to be blurring there a bit.

    “Isn't that present in vanilla relationships, too? (=those without kinky play).”

    It is, yes. Power is a part of all relationships, and there are different types of power/authority.

    “That is to say, considerations pertaining to relationship structure strike me as vanilla; it's just that this word is stigmatized.”

    If that's true, then what you are saying is that there is no such thing as D/s? It's all vanilla?

    “So I'm wondering what control dynamic so “extreme” it would be outside the scope of a vanilla relationship, yet not so extreme as to be unendurable for more than a brief period”

    'Extreme' gives the wrong impression, as if I am talking about something very exciting, but I'm not. I just want what I want when I want it, and it's very 'unfair', and in a long term relationship, it looks and feels very one sided. Constant giving is 'extreme', and D/s is a context where that is balanced out by the value of 'taking' (it's a bad analogy – the giving/taking thing, but I think you will get what I mean), so it works. Even the most amazing vanilla submissive cannot sustain that without starting to feel like 'hooollldd on, when is it my turn?!' His motivation is different from someone who actively *enjoys* having authority exercised and who sees my exercising it as an expression of love.

    A bad rambling post is under construction, by the way. I will publish it in it's draft state since NaNo starts tomorrow and I suspect any random words that trip off my fingertips will be added to the most awesome novel the world has ever seen!!

    Ferns

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