Submissive, but not YOUR submissive

It gets stated a lot and it’s perfectly true: dominants should not expect random submissives to submit to them right out of the gate simply because they’ve slapped a label on themselves. When a dominant oversteps, a common form of pushback sounds like “I may be submissive, but I’m not YOUR submissive”, and fair enough.

When I am corresponding with a submissive man, I don’t expect him to submit to me.

But…

I’m a strong opinionated woman and I want things done my way. Even in the early stages. And if he can’t or won’t go along, I’m not interested in arguing about it. I’m done.

Why?

Because he’s showing me that he doesn’t care what I want at a point where he is allegedly interested in me and is presumably on his best behaviour. If he doesn’t care what I want at THAT point, then the idea that he will suddenly care later doesn’t ring true to me.

I know it sounds contradictory to say ‘I don’t expect him to submit, but I do expect him to do what I want’, but to me, it’s not.

Being interested in doing what I want, making sure I’m comfortable, taking things I say on board are not submissive behaviours. They are the behaviours of a man being courteous, considerate, and wanting to impress. In my experience, vanilla men will fall over themselves to accommodate me, and I expect no less from a submissive man.

I know the line is blurry, but the fact is that if a man is not doing those things BEFORE he’s ‘my submissive’, then I don’t see how he’s going to be comfortable doing them AFTER because it’s clearly not how he naturally relates to the woman he’s interested in. And my D/s relationship HAS to be based on the organic way that we relate or it’s going to become hard work for one or both of us.

In the early stages, I WILL say things like ‘don’t overuse emoticons’ or ‘I’m not ready to meet just yet, I’ll tell you when’ or ‘call me Ferns’ or ’email me in the morning’. Small things. And I AM watching to see how he reacts to these requests because I want to see what the foundation of our relationship is going to look like.

If he won’t do simple things because “I’m not YOUR submissive”, if he argues with me or ignores my preferences, then he’s clearly showing me how he’s going to treat me in a relationship, and obviously that doesn’t work for me.

I would go so far as to say that my experience is that submissive men digging in their heels and going out of their way to NOT do what I ask (because “I’m not YOUR submissive”) is much more common than the average vanilla man doing the same. Baffling.

I totally agree that nobody should expect submission from strangers, but by the same token we are each showing potential partners how we will behave in a relationship long before we ever get that far. It’s not like there’s an on/off switch between ‘don’t care about your preferences’ and ‘okay caring starts… NOW’. That’s not how people operate.

It makes no sense to me that someone will argue with me over my preferences right up to the point where we agree that they won’t any more. That’s not how personal interactions work, and the idea that someone is going to suddenly change their natural behaviour once they agree to ‘be my submissive’ doesn’t hold true.

So yeah, I don’t expect his submission in the early stages, but if he is interested in me, I DO expect him to behave like a man who wants to make me happy. Perhaps the line is blurry to some, but I see it clear as day.

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29 Comments

  1. To me, it’s just good manners and being considerate of others. I have also noticed that there seems to be a connection between the behaviour which you describe, and ‘do me’ or selfish/demanding submissives (once in a relationship). As hesitant as I am to use the word ‘entitled’, it certainly seems to fit that type of person.

    1. “To me, it’s just good manners and being considerate of others.”

      Ahh, but if that were true then we should be equally deferring to each OTHER’S preferences, no?

      I had some trouble articulating all of this because I think if anything *I* am being ‘entitled’ in asking for things and expecting him to go along.

      I was a bit uncomfortable with my own position: concerned that my expectation was based on gender or that I WAS expecting ‘submission’.

      But it really just boils down to compatibility and the knowledge that if he doesn’t naturally consider my preferences a priority, we aren’t going to be a good fit.

      Ferns

      1. Not so much – more “if you’re interested in submitting to me, then your preference would be to prioritise my preferences.” I don’t think it comes under submission, but is more like respect for you as a person rather than just a fetish dispenser.

  2. I think the phrase “I’m a submissive, but not YOUR submissive” is generally used in the case when a dominant (most often male) is expecting submission from a sub (most often female) who ISN’T interested in a relationship, but just happens to be occupying the same room (at a party, perhaps). It’s not entitlement to expect some deference from a person who’s expressed interest in a relationship with you. It is (or would be) gross entitlement to expect deference from someone who has not expressed interest in a relationship with you, simply because of the role they occupy in their relationship with someone else or would like to occupy in theory with someone, but not you specifically.

    1. “I think the phrase “I’m a submissive, but not YOUR submissive” is generally used in the case when a dominant (most often male) is expecting submission from a sub (most often female) who ISN’T interested in a relationship, but just happens to be occupying the same room (at a party, perhaps).”

      It IS used then also (and make no mistake, often female dominants feel even MORE entitled in public spaces than maledoms because (wrongly!) the rules are often much more lightly enforced for them (that is, if they smack some dude on the arse as he passes, it is much MORE likely to be considered ‘all in good fun’ than if a maledom does it to a femsub even though it’s EXACTLY the same non-consensual touching that shouldn’t be done or tolerated by anyone)).

      But even if that was its origin, it’s now used much more widely, and I think for some it’s a serious defence mechanism because they are scared of ‘being taken advantage of’.

      “It’s not entitlement to expect some deference from a person who’s expressed interest in a relationship with you.”

      I agree, though I also think it depends (and the nuance of it is why I find it interesting).

      There is a line and I see it clearly, but others may not.

      For example, if I told a malesub I didn’t know to get nude on cam for me simply because he expressed an interest in me, that’s WAAAYYY over the line of ‘reasonable compliance’ (as I say that, IF both parties want to do that and think it’s fun, that’s very different from me just ‘expecting’ he’ll do it just because ‘I’m the Domme’).

      So there is a level of ‘appropriate for where we are in our communication’ in it, and the disconnect for me is submissive men for whom it’s “I will not do ANYTHING you say or suggest UNTIL we have agreed and negotiated a D/s relationship”. If their line is there, then THAT doesn’t work for me.

      Ferns

    2. Yes, the “…i’m not your, etc.” was invented originally as a defense for submissive females exactly as you say. And, as Ferns points out, while it should be gender-neutral the reality is that male submissives usually weren’t much worried about being taken advantage of (“She’s going to…gasp…dominate me..oh, no, please don’t throw me in the briar patch!”) If it is used more now my guess is that it’s a function of internet meetings. When interacting in person with others in the lifestyle it would never have occurred to me someone other than my owner would or could take advantage of me, it was a given that I was to be deferential to and comply with reasonable requests from Ladies in our lifestyle, and never met a Lady who was unreasonable.

  3. I think it’s simple manners nothing more, I make a request and they either comply or not. Where it goes from there is depended on that.
    As for deference that depends on the circumstances at an informal munch I am fine with first names etc. In more formal settings I expect Miss or Madam purely as a courtesy

    1. But if it’s ‘simple manners’, then shouldn’t dominant women ALSO show those manners? The fact that it’s one way belies the idea that it’s just manners.

      I can see an argument for ‘traditional social gender norms’ in terms of manners, with the man ‘courting’ the woman and therefore behaving in that way. I was uncomfortable framing it that way because it doesn’t feel like that to me. But I’d be lying to say that I wasn’t influenced by it.

      Ahh, yes: I wasn’t really drawing a distinction between ‘deference’ in general and ‘compliance’ in the specific, but there IS a difference.

      Ferns

  4. Good point, but surprising to me that it needs to be made. I guess I don’t get out enough.

    To me your examples do not get in any grey area that I see. Saying ‘don’t overuse emoticons’ or ‘I’m not ready to meet just yet, I’ll tell you when’ or ‘call me Ferns’ or ’email me in the morning’ all seem perfectly normal vanilla relationship things.

    And, I agree that anyone who is wanting to build a relationship would, in my mind, be paying attention and doing those types of things.

    Interesting that it does not happen enough to warrant making this point.

    1. *laugh* I suspect even if you got out more you wouldn’t see it. And I also find it surprising when it comes from someone who is clearly intelligent and self aware (though to be fair, it’s more of a compatibility marker than anything inherently ‘wrong’).

      I was prompted to write this after an exchange with a perfectly nice, polite, and smart local submissive who asked me out for coffee in his first email. I declined, explained why, but said I was happy to talk to him some more.

      In a few subsequent emails, he asked to move to chat, then asked to meet for coffee again.

      I declined again and explained in more detail what my approach was and why, and I told him to stop asking, that I would tell him when I was ready to move forward. He came back and explained to me why he disagreed and wanted to meet sooner.

      And then I was done.

      I had explained my position and reasoning to him twice, and he clearly demonstrated that he didn’t care about my preferences and wanted to convince me that I was wrong and should do what he wanted instead.

      He was not impolite about it, and I suspect he thought we were having a perfectly reasonable discussion.

      On the one hand, he did nothing wrong.

      On the other hand, when I carefully explain what I want and why (and I don’t mind doing that), and he goes ‘yeah but…’, then I’ve seen enough. He was probably surprised when I wished him luck and closed it down: I was hearing mutterings of ‘wha?! I’m not YOUR submissive!’ in my burning ears, hence this post :P.

      Ferns

      1. Interesting. Thanks for the additional insight. At least he was relatively easy to identify as someone not worth spending time on…

        It strikes me that with this additional information, you basically have a very teachable moment about how one can discern that things are not going to work out. It illustrates what you have often said, that one needs to learn about the person by interacting with them over time.

        Great advice! But advice that it often seems people do not use in the heat of finding someone that excites them. If you ever compile your writings into tips or a how to of some sort, this would be a good case study I think.

        Best

  5. What you are asking for doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to me. Even in the earliest stages of a relationship, I would want to do my best to see what a potential Dominant likes; what makes her happy, and find out if there is there any basis for a foundation upon which to build something that will last.

    As far as the “I’m not YOUR submissive” thing goes, unless a complete stranger was asking for something unreasonable, (like “tribute”) I have never had reason to say that to any Dominant. Even if I don’t belong to someone, I see no problem with doing things that will make her happy, or make life a little better for her.

    Naturally, there are limits to what I can /would do, in a non-committed relationship, but if given the chance to assist, or bring a smile to someone’s face, I say; “why not?”

    1. That’s because you are a sweetheart *smile*.

      For me, how he responds to my requests gives me a glimpse to how he is going to react to my dominance in a wider sense. And if his natural response is to NOT do it, or he wants me to argue him into compliance even on small things (because ‘rawwwwrrr, me dominant!’), then ‘meh’.

      Ferns

    2. I must confess that when I started reading this post, I had some unconscious feeling that this time I was not going to agree with what I was about to read.

      I have known quite a few people with leadership roles in their professional lives, or just with bossy personalities, that are used to and expect some kind of “obedience” from other people who are not necessarily meant to comply with their wishes, even if they might share some features with others that are in that position. I mean, that boss who expects lower rank employees in other departments to treat he/she as his/her own boss, or that opinionated person who expects mostly everyone to agree with everything he/she says. I think I have developed some habit of resilience towards those attitudes!

      But once I read further into the post, I realized the message was a very different one. It is remarkable how potentially similar things can be absolutely different in distinct environments. And so dangerous to try to reach conclusions using this kind of shortcuts.

      I can’t see any need at all to confront a woman who is showing us her preferences, or just taking decisions. Much better to adopt slapshot’s attitude, instead!

  6. For me, it is less about seeing where the foundation of a relationship will be, and more about how it’s sexy as hell to throw an order out early on and see what he’ll do with it, or if I’m totally wasting my time! Show me how you’re going to respond to my dominance, because hey, whether you’re “A submissive, but not my submissive” or not, at the end of the day, isn’t that what you’re looking for? If he has that attitude, we just don’t fit.

    I don’t expect (and honestly do hate when submission is attempted to be “forced” on me,) but if I make the call, especially in something SO simple, show me a glimpse or go home.

    So, in using your example, if I tell a boy to stop using so many emoticons, and he gives me the whole, “I’m a submissive, but not your submissive,” garbage, he just blew it. Does that sound harsh? Yep. But, again, at the end of the day, I’m looking for a submissive, not a battle of wills. Far too exhausting.

    1. Ha! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little frisson if he responds well to it (the ones who fit with me will feel it as a ‘yay, she’s telling me her preference, here’s a chance to do what she wants :)!’ kind of thing).

      I don’t mind explaining my preference, but yeah, if he wants to keep labouring the point after I’ve done so: nope.

      It occurred to me after CF’s comment below that maybe that’s HIS way of testing ME to see if I’ll step up to the plate. Nah. Sorry bud.

      Ferns

  7. It’s clear you approach this as a kind of test, and I too find it baffling that men with some dating experience who presumably are open to “submitting” to you at some point don’t see that immediately, and behave accordingly.

    Maybe it’s related to the “agreement mentality” that pervades online discussions of d/s: believing d-s is what the agreement says, once it kicks in, and that it absolves people from exercising common sense. No agreement—no d/s (and no dating sensitivity either).

    When I run the hypothetical movie in my head: I think I’d play along up to a point, as long as the requests didn’t seem too arbitrary. The reason being that until I meet someone I can’t know if there will be enough mutual interest to go on, so my commitment to pleasing would be bounded.

    1. “It’s clear you approach this as a kind of test, and I too find it baffling that men with some dating experience who presumably are open to “submitting” to you at some point don’t see that immediately, and behave accordingly.”

      *laugh* Language is such a funny thing. My first instinct was to rankle at the idea that I ‘approach this as a kind of test’, to hiss a bit at it, but it’s essentially true.

      Well, to the same extent that every conversation and interaction you have is a test, no? For both sides. With each exchange you are learning more and each time you do, you make a decision of ‘yes continue’ or ‘no stop’ (essentially ‘pass’ or ‘fail’).

      So in THAT sense, yes it’s a test. But I don’t ‘set it up as one’ as if I’m trying to somehow catch him out: I express my preference and see how he reacts and that reaction influences my perception of whether we will be compatible or not. Just like every other conversation.

      “Maybe it’s related to the “agreement mentality” that pervades online discussions of d/s: believing d-s is what the agreement says, once it kicks in, and that it absolves people from exercising common sense. No agreement—no d/s (and no dating sensitivity either).”

      *smile* Maybe yes. And from what I have seen, I think quite a few dominant women would agree with that approach. But for me, that’s not how my personal romantic relationships start, develop, or work.

      “I think I’d play along up to a point, as long as the requests didn’t seem too arbitrary. The reason being that until I meet someone I can’t know if there will be enough mutual interest to go on, so my commitment to pleasing would be bounded.”

      Right. The tricky bit is that people’s boundaries are different and in my experience some submissive men’s boundaries are so tight and they defend them so hard that they will not take ANY of my preferences on board because ‘not YOUR submissive’ (and for the record, they don’t have to SAY that (I’ve never had anyone say it), but it’s still the same concept).

      I expect reasonable compliance and honestly, if he won’t give me at least as much as I’d expect from a vanilla man who is interested in me, then what are we even doing?

      Ferns

      1. Well, I wouldn’t say *every* interaction is a pass/fail test. That’s a particular style (not mine), when the interaction is known to be part of a chain that will at some point lead to a relationship (or not).

        But if I’m just interacting with someone casually, getting to know them in a friendly way with no particular goal in mind, then I’m happy to cut them some slack (if they’re interesting enough); and I’m not going to be “on my toes” constantly, so I’d hope the same is true from their side.

        1. This entire post is about sussing someone out for a potential relationship. I guess I wasn’t as clear about that as I thought.

          If you are talking about some random friendly email exchanges, that’s an entirely different thing to me.

          Then either the conversation is interesting enough to continue or it’s not and I’m unlikely to ask for anything from him EVER.

          Ferns

  8. I’ve had times where it was clear that I was being challenged on issues just so the submissive could see if I’d “force them.”. That’s an instant loss of interest from me. I have better ways to spend my time than engaging in a pissing match with someone who supposedly is interested in submitting to me if things go well. Either you want to submit to ME, or you don’t. That’s the end of that. Preferences like what you’re expressing work the same way for me. Either you wish to please me or you don’t. Provided what I am asking neither harms you nor demands something painful, step up. Now if I inadvertently ask for something unreasonable due to circumstances I’m unaware of, I need to be rational enough to step back and rethink my requests. It’s a two way dance but it’s one that only works if the other person doesn’t spend the entire time on the sideline arguing over who should lead.

    1. You’d think I’d have figured out that it was possible that sometimes they are challenging me to see if I’ll step up in a way that works for them, but I really didn’t think of it.

      IF they were, then the fact that I won’t is just as clear an incompatibility signal for them as it is for me. Which works out pretty well for both of us in figuring that out. Win-win, I guess.

      Ferns

  9. Love this post. It gets into the subtleties of interaction between a D type and an s type, which is the FUN part, isn’t it?? Honestly, if you’re naturally submissive, you spend your whole life trying to not go-along with people automatically, that when you do have a chance to interact with a D type, even if just in a friendly fashion. It’s a real treat to be able to get a little bit of a dynamic going. I don’t know why a submissive would fight that. Love the comments! People’s points of view never fail to surprise.

    1. Dating in a vanilla context is a kind of audition.

      I was thinking about Asher’s comments. It occurred to me that a bit of friendly D/s dynamic might be part of Femdom dating.

  10. This was a really difficult blog entry for me to understand, and as you said in the main text I know it sounds contradictory…. So yeah, confusing for me.

    However, with the additional clarification provided in your responses to so many of the comments, I’m fairly certain that I “get it” a lot more now. Merely saying “Thank you” for doing that at the time doesn’t seem sufficient.

    But thank you nonetheless.

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