The first half of 2017 is not an auspicious time to start a blog on sexual submission. Maybe a few years ago, thanks to the success of the 50 Shades of Grey series of books and movies, my story of sexually submitting to my husband would have fit the cultural moment. But since Donald Trump exploded on the national scene and traumatized American womankind with his unapologetic pussy-grabbing ways, there has been a mass cultural outcry against any kind of suggestion that women be treated as sexual objects.
Since Trump’s winning campaign, I have run across story after story online written by women describing their histories of sexual abuse by men who feel themselves entitled to their bodies. And since his election, women have been knitting themselves pink “pussy hats,” and marching in city after city to protect their rights. Meanwhile, one of the most buzzed about shows that have premiered on TV lately is The Handmaid’s Tale in which society literally takes ownership of women’s bodies for the sexual/procreative use of the most powerful men in the community. And last month, conservative blowhard Bill O’Reilly followed Roger Ailes out the door at Fox News due to his serial sexual harassment of female coworkers.
I look at this cultural landscape and wonder what has possessed me to publicly write about my decision to become sexually submissive to my husband. I often feel my own mother’s ghost – proud sex-positive woman that she was – rolling over in her symbolic grave that I am so idiotic as to hand my sexual agency over to a man and then brag about it. And I frequently squirm from the waves of disapproval I imagine coming at me from countless feminists – past, present and future – not to mention the appalled feminist in my own head.
I know the treatment of girls women as sexual objects is very real, and very harmful, not just in America, but especially other countries where such views are sometimes enshrined into actual law. But perhaps it is because I am experiencing the joys of submission at the worst possible time in Western culture that it is important to write about it. What is happening in the news sets the best possible stage to make a distinction between the abusive and dehumanizing sexual domination of women, and a loving kind of sexual domination that elevates a woman, and creates a path for deeper union. Michael and I have strongly felt the distinction since embarking on our spontaneous D/s journey, but it took reading the work of David Deida for us to fully understand it.
In his books, Deida describes three stages of how men and women relate to each other.
Stage One is the “Dependent” Stage, where each person needs something from the other, the “traditional” relationship in which the man is dominant in all things and trades his protection of a woman for sexual favors and the care of his children. In a Stage One relationship, the man is king of his castle, and may keep his woman under control with threats of violence or financial deprivation. In a Stage One relationship, a woman’s right to sexual consent is meaningless as she is in no way a man’s equal, nor even really a whole person to him. This is old school sexual domination, and that is what Trump and O’Reilly embody with their reigns of sexual intimidation, and what The Handmaid’s Tale portrays.
A Stage Two relationship is 50/50, and this is the kind of equal relationship most “enlightened” people strive for today. Each partner is independent, respected, with equal voice in all matters including sexual. This kind of relationship is the goal of feminist efforts, and is now the model for the way we understand relationships “should” be. But while this is a vast improvement over a Stage One relationship (and a necessary step along the way), there is an inherent flaw in the 50/50 relationship. All that equality mutes sexual polarity. Without two partners fully inhabiting the masculine and feminine poles, there is no more magnetic force, no more pull, and passion fades.
“Second stage men,” Deida writes, “are so devoted to their inner balance they are afraid to sweep a woman off her feet with the kind of uncompromising love that could fill her deepest desire for intimacy. Meanwhile, a second stage woman is afraid to give a man the kind of devotional love that wants to overflow from her heart. Both are cautious not to let go of their own boundaries or to trespass beyond the emotional boundaries of their partner.”
True, both partners in Stage Two are safe, but a feeling of flatness can pervade the relationship – and eventually, dissatisfaction. “A second stage woman may come to realize her heart is still yearning,” Deida continues. “A second stage man is safe but not sufficient to pierce the deepest caverns of her heart – at the very center of her life, something is missing.”
So, what is a woman to do to become fulfilled in a relationship? Move beyond such stringent equality. Or, at least that’s how I interpret what Deida writes next. “She must be sucked through the black hole of her need before she can emerge like a butterfly with wings of love. The third stage woman no longer searches for love, but rather breathes love, relaxes in love and radiates love.”
The third stage woman doesn’t feel the need to be adamant about maintaining her personal identity, he adds. Since she already knows that she is love, she simply practices giving love, moment to moment, in the ecstasy of surrender. Her identity is not derived from her man (first stage dependence), nor from herself (second stage equality). “Her need for self-identity is virtually gone, so bright is the shine of her love.”
Oh yes, I think as I read these words in Intimate Communion. My identity has indeed been swallowed up these last days of D/s discovery, surrendered along with my body to my husband’s masculine will. And I do feel myself shining brightly with love. I feel incandescent with it.
Of course, Deida does not once mention the phrase “dominance and submission” in his book. He speaks more coyly, in terms of a man “taking” or “ravishing” his woman, without saying what that might look like. And I doubt that the practices of many in the BDSM community would fit his description of a transcendent Stage Three Relationship. Clearly, many BDSM relationships sit somewhere between Stage One, with its literal master/slave relationships, or Stage Two, with its more consensual framework of negotiated boundaries and safewords.
Naturally, I like to think that Michael and I are practicing the more evolved version of D/s. I know I’ve found my inner experience of what is happening with us reflected in Deida’s book. And although it will be months before I fully understand that the practice of D/s is not the destination, but a vehicle for a journey, I already have an inkling that my preoccupation with things like training and triggers and maintaining subspace is beside the point. The point is intimate communion with each other, and the opening to love.
But understanding the distinction between Deida’s Stage One male dominance which dehumanizes women and creates an ugly rape culture and Stage Three masculine dominance that celebrates women and creates shining love is a huge gift to me. It is a salve to the shame and guilt stirred up by the feminist chatter in my head that I am breaking the rules by sexually submitting to my husband. After all, the feminist rules were designed to take women into Stage Two 50/50 relationships, which is a vital evolutionary leap in the way men and women relate to each other. Unfortunately, Stage Two 50/50 is also the stage where passion goes to die.
Michael and I, we are being driven to find our way to ecstatic Stage Three, and I am grateful to Deida for describing it for us. I no longer have to feel that I am somehow going “backwards” when I allow my husband to do what he wills to my body. Now, I can feel that we are moving together into a more evolved sexuality, where my alignment with my feminine nature calls forth his masculine self to ravish me. Oh, and what heaven it is to be ravished by him …