Tonight I was at a party with a bunch of consciousness high-vibe kinda folks, and I got into a conversation with a woman about conscious relating. We were sharing our stories of spiritually awakening, healing from trauma, and repatterning our former toxic relationship habits, and I told her about how I had once used BDSM and the identity of being a submissive as a means of enabling my inability to set personal boundaries and/or identify my needs.
She shared with me that although she doesn’t want to invite toxicity or abuse into her relationships, sometimes as a woman she still craves feeling submissive to a male partner.
“Yes, me too,” I replied, “and I think that can absolutely be okay, as long as we’re intentional about creating something healthy. I’ve learned over the past few years what I believe really makes the difference.”
As I was sitting there listing to her the things I recommend looking for, I realized this would probably be a useful list to share on Facebook in the spirit of repatterning.
So here you go:
HOW TO BE SMART WHEN YOU SURRENDER TO THE MASCULINE
(Note: I’m speaking mainly to hetero relationships between men and women here due to the specifically gendered social conditioning that men and women receive, and specifically the conditioning that cishet men and women receive about what their relationships should look like, but these dynamics are possible in relationships of any and all orientations and I invite everyone to notice if/where they might recognize something familiar.)
1. BE MINDFUL OF WHAT YOU’RE CREATING.
The difference between passion and toxicity is whether people are happy. As Maia Szalavitz says in Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction, “The same thing that distinguishes addiction from passionate interest also divides unhealthy love from that which is the highest experience of humanity. That is, love is real when it expands and enhances your life – and troubling and problematic when it contracts or impairs it. Whether you love a person, a drug, or an intellectual interest, if it is spurring creativity, connection, and kindness, it’s not an addiction – but if it’s making you isolated, dull, and mean, it is.” Sure, it may be difficult to admit to yourself when you’re creating something that’s making you unhappy, but ultimately only you can be the one who is honest with yourself about your own feelings, and your growth will be directly proportional to the amount of uncomfortable truth you’re able to handle, so keep noticing your feelings as much as possible and if something is awry, allow yourself to feel it. This is true of all relationships but with power exchange it’s especially helpful to be aware of whether we are allowing our kinks to justify dysfunctional patterns and what the results are on our emotional bodies, given how much turn-on some of us find in “suffering.”
2. BE DISCERNING ABOUT WHETHER YOU CAN TRUST A MAN’S LEADERSHIP.
Do you see this man acting in his integrity, keeping his word, exploring self-awareness, and doing his part to create and foster healthy connections in his life? Do you see him listening when social justice issues are brought up to him? Does he have a growth mindset that jives with yours? Would you trust him if he were hypothetically in charge of your life for a little while? Because as much as we like to think we can divide the bedroom from the rest of our lives, the way we do one thing is the way we do everything, and you’re going to be trusting this man with your physical and sexual well-being when you are in an altered state of consciousness. You’re going to have to trust that he genuinely cares about both of yall’s sexual health and emotional wellness, and not just his orgasm. Plus, archetype is powerful, and I really don’t think we all can separate the bedroom from the other spaces the way we think we can. So it’s best to pick someone you actually would trust to steer your ship if your fantasy accidentally turned into reality, because often it does, and you’ll want someone who’s aware of where his domain is appropriate and where he needs to use his leadership to encourage your own voice in the relationship.
3. PICK HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP POWER EXCHANGE ARCHETYPES.
A couple years ago when I was just at the beginning of my spiritual awakening and I still wanted to find a way to keep BDSM, I started thinking up potential conscious power exchange tropes – Emperor/Oracle, Royalty/Vizier, Warrior/Priestess, or even just King/Queen. I like these roles specifically because they still hand over decision-making power to the dominant partner but it is implicit to the story that the submissive partner is valued and protected. I still don’t really like making decisions, but it’s important to me that my voice is heard, that my gifts are trusted, and that I’m valued and therefore protected. You can’t trust a Master/slave or Owner/doll narrative to hold this integrity in place for you; in fact, those fantasies can actively work against you. So make sure you are not chained up naked in a dungeon, physically or metaphysically; make sure you are valued and protected. Which leads me to:
4. MAKE SURE YOUR VOICE IS HEARD, YOUR GIFTS ARE TRUSTED, AND THAT YOU ARE VALUED AND PROTECTED.
If you express a concern to your partner, does he pause, listen, integrate your perspective, and then suggest a solution that’s beneficial to both of you and the relationship? Or does he get defensive, invalidate your feelings, tell you that you’re overreacting, threaten abandonment, or otherwise shame you into feeling like your needs are stupid or burdensome? I was submissive because I was using it to justify a choice I was making to pretend I had no needs, but when you pretend you have no needs, you tend to attract people who agree with you. Women have been collectively gaslit into believing their desirability directly correlates with how few needs they have. This core belief is a hall pass for irresponsibly conditioned men to keep you editing yourself down into a sliver in order to earn their approval and affection. When you bring up a concern, make sure your man actively listens. (Hint: it is really helpful if you get good at expressing those concerns in cooperatively constructive ways. Remember you are in your archetype of Queen or Oracle or Priestess and you need to be in your mastery too.)
5. REMEMBER THAT TRUE SERVICE IS BEING IN SERVICE TO BOTH OF YOUR HIGHEST GOOD.
If you think your most desirable quality is that you blindly obey someone’s orders even when they’re against your own better judgment because that’s how hard you’re capable of surrendering, you are deeply disconnected from your power, and you have no idea what it means to truly be in service to someone. When I was submissive in relationship, I obeyed my partner to the point of enabling him to cause harm in the relationship. I allowed myself to receive abuse because I thought that was part of committing to the fantasy. (No, it wasn’t my fault that I received abuse, but specifically I did not allow myself to say no to behavior that was harming me because I thought that’s what the rules of the relationship were, and I had a hand in choosing those rules.) I now know that to truly serve someone is to do whatever possible to hold them to their integrity in what we are creating together, and to allow them to do the same for me, and to be willing to walk away if I see harm happening that we can’t solve. I wasn’t serving anyone by allowing them to hurt themselves and me in the process. I’m serving someone when I’m doing my part to co-create something that makes both our lives better and more fun.
6. CARE FOR YOUR BODY EVEN IF YOU FETISHIZE PAIN.
As a submissive female masochist it was easy for me to eroticize pain during sex in accordance with the narrative of my suffering for a partner’s pleasure. At some point I had to realize that the well-being of my body had to take priority over my partner’s pleasure in order for sex to be adaptive. This means it is actually healthy for me to speak up if I need to stop or slow down in order to take care of my body. (Spoiler alert you guys, it is also actually healthy for me to speak up if I just WANT to stop or slow down because that’s what feels good, but my body still feels things kinda on a delay, so I’m working on that one!) This new behavior pattern often has to override a fuckton of people-pleasing patterning AND the strong pull of a deep erotic narrative around suffering, but fuck it, we’re in a goddamn ascension and we need our bodies to be in good shape.
. . . . .
So yes, it’s totally fine if you still want to feel submissive to a man in your life.
And I don’t think that pretending there’s a divide between your sex life and the rest of your relationship is the optimal way of keeping those boundaries healthy – although I suppose it’s anyone’s right to try out and discern for themselves – and I think we owe ourselves some better strategies for achieving this kind of surrender in a healthy form at this point in time of the ascension. We’re clearing these grids with a fine-toothed comb. We need to understand the mechanics of energetic functionality instead of just throwing out any/all desires that don’t fit the current wokeness trends, because those lines are inevitably going to keep shifting (yall were so stoked on 50 Shades just like 6 years ago, remember?), and the only constant is the emotional self-mastery of discernment.
The way we do one thing is the way we do everything. If you’re gonna let someone steer the ship, choose someone you trust to steer the ship.
It’s that simple. And it’s that difficult.
Like everything else.