OK…so I’ve given my view on the making of a “good” dominant. What about the other side of the coin: what makes a “good” submissive?
Well, rather unsurprisingly, I’d say those qualities I outlined for Dominants apply here as well: kindness, consideration, politeness, empathy, sympathy, a strong sense of ethics & honesty, and a respectful attitude towards others regardless of their position in life. All are character traits one finds desirable in others no matter who they are or what they do – or whatever label they choose to take.
At the end of the day, we are defined by our actions, and our actions are defined by our nature, and all of these traits have their place in the “good” submissive. Also, like a “good” Dominant, a “good” submissive is one who is willing to learn – either through direct instruction or through the support and nurturing of their peers (or indeed in an ideal world, both); where appropriate, they are also willing to assist, guide and even advise others – both submissives and Dominants – who are less well-versed in the scene.
Beyond these announcements from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious (to which I confess to being a fully paid-up member), what makes a “good” submissive is perhaps somewhat more subjective than defining a “good” Dominant; by their very natures and desires, Dominants seek different things in their submissives, and how these wants and needs are shared between Dominant and submissive take many different forms. Because of this, the rest of this piece may read as more subjective than my post on “good” Dominants – and for that I make no apology. What follows is influenced by my own perceptions and preferences – but I’ve little doubt that they are attributes many a Dominant will agree with.
Observation and Response
Near the top of the list of traits one would anticipate from a “good” submissive, I would place an ability to pay attention and a willingness to demonstrate empathy.
By “pay attention” I do not mean the submissive should be hanging on the Dominant’s every word, ever-ready to scamper to obey every order or request made. I’m referring to the more subtle actions of observation and response; as the submissive talks and interacts with their Dominant, they should take note of those things that clearly have brought pleasure – and equally what has caused upset – and seek the means to enhance the former in both actions and words, in and out of scene, while striving to avoid a repeat of the latter.
For example, if the Dominant expresses a love of ballroom dancing within SL, the “good” submissive will do more than simply respond, “well, let’s go!” (or worse, respond negatively to the idea of spending time doing the same). Rather, they’ll take time to discover which places the Dominant particularly enjoys when dancing – and what other venues are out on the grid that might bring new, and shared memories of happiness, offering them as places the two might then visit and explore.
Taking time to learn what acts as a positive trigger for the Dominant can be vastly rewarding for both sides of the relationship. For the Dominant, it is a clear demonstration that the submissive is attentive; for the submissive it can lead to new and unexpected avenues of scening as a result of their efforts. For both it contributes to the deepening of the relationship. However, gaining such insights and understanding may not always be obvious, and a further mark of a good submissive can be seen in their willingness to engage with their Dominant and discover those intimate nuggets that can enrich the relationship.
In this, “not knowing” or “not being told” these things is not a valid excuse for a submissive. “Being told” is not the point. The act of discovery on the part of the submissive (through gentle / subtle enquiry, for example) is; using conversations and quiet times to discover these nuances about a Dominant. To simply wait for all such information to be handed to the submissive on a gilded platter is, perhaps one of the quickest ways to flatline a relationship, as “you didn’t tell me,” moves from excuse to complaint to accusation, either intentionally, or in the ears of the Dominant.
A good submissive is supportive of their Dominant’s dreams and ideas – but not necessarily blindly so. Going along with every half-considered idea that pops into the Dominant’s head is not the aim. Be prepared to ask questions, especially where notions and ideas may well impact on the relationship in terms of time and ability to nurture one another. Setting-up an in-world business may well sound like a lot of fun; it might even help offset the cost of being in SL – but has the Dominant really considered everything, the state of the market, the effort involved, the likelihood of success. All such questions need to be addressed by anyone about to embark on such a venture, and the good Dominant is not going to begrudge their submissive asking them, even if they have been considering them already.
Of course, this is not to say that they should be fired machine-gun like at the Dominant; but by the same token, they should not be ignored because it is not “the place” for the submissive to ask them. Often, they may well be the kind of question the Dominant is ruminating over – but having them asked by a loved one can frequently be a powerful aid in putting things in perspective, and the shared concerns help deepen the relationship as a whole.
Empathy plays an important role within the life of a submissive for obvious reasons; many of which filter through into Second Life from real life. It is very easy to log into SL after a crappy day in real life with the expectation of finding release for tensions and disappointments – and to look to a Dominant as being the means by which that release can be achieved. But Dominants can have crappy days as well, and the good submissive will be sensitive to this and respond accordingly – and preferably without thinly veiled disappointment or outright petulance, as can so often be the case.
So what about the rest, you ask: the obedience, the act of submission itself, the handing over of control, the attitude of respect, the forms of address to be employed by a submissive, etc? Clearly, they are part of the submissive’s character; but it is how they are presented that is the key. Are they given in the expectation of something of equal (or greater) measure in return? Or are they presented out of a genuine desire to submit to the Dominant, to openly accept their authority, their care and their nurturing? Most Dominants will respond much more positively to the latter than the former.
On a very personal level, blind obedience is not something I find desirable in a submissive; others may. I like submissives who are – within the framework of respect and understanding – inquisitive, humorous, engaging in conversation, mischievous, playful and willing to push things at times. Occasionally taking it upon themselves to initiate a scene, for example, rather than placing the emphasis on everything squarely on the Dominant’s shoulders all the time simply because the submissive doesn’t want to “lose spontaneity” – how about the Dominant’s ability to enjoy something spontaneous once in a while? Again, “initiating a scene” does not mean taking charge – it simply means taking the responsibility for setting the ball rolling – such as through a playful act of “disobedience”, or by gently teasing the Dominant.
Desire and Care
The “good” submissive is perhaps most readily identified by two words: desire and care. They have a genuine desire to submit and have another to take control; by the same token, they care enough about the relationship to ensure it doesn’t become totally one-sided, with Give” and “receive” seen as a one-way flow of energy from Dominant to submissive, without any reciprocal dynamic.
Thus the “good” submissive is one willing to submit and accept the control of another in their life while also growing into someone who can intelligently fulfil the accepted desires and hopes of the Dominant to the satisfaction and enjoyment of both.
Note: first published on: 11th September, 2008