The Zen of Sexual Surrender; Or, How D/s is Saving My Soul

Only a few weeks in, my D/s experience with my husband is now hitting me with all the power of a religious conversion.  I have that ‘born again’ feeling of being a new person in thrall to a new understanding of God.  I lie over Michael’s lap for a spanking and it feels like a spiritual exercise.  I make myself vulnerable, allow him to whatever he wants to me, and somehow the more painful and invasive, the more my body feels opened and my soul feels saved.  This fascinates me.  Why is it impacting me this way?  Am I simply drunk on all the chemicals released from the intense sexual stimulation?  Or is it possible there is real salvation in sex?

Conventional wisdom says no.  In our puritanical culture, sexuality is relegated to the base urges of “the body,” the temporary house for the soul.  Judeo-Christian religion especially considers the sexual urges of the body to be a troublesome impediment to soulful concerns.  To have sex outside of procreation is to wallow in sin and forsake one’s soul.  This unnatural separation of body and spirit has caused all manner of misery and shame for centuries.

Fortunately, “sex is bad” has not been the view of many Eastern cultures.  Taoism boasts a millennia-old tradition of cultivating sexual energy for the good of the spirit.  I once attended a talk by Taoist teacher name Mantak Chia, and he described the importance of honoring one’s sexuality.  “Sexual energy is the commander in chief of all the cells of the body,” he said.  Blog23Quote1“All cells in body and brain respond to the energy of sex, the commands of sex.  It is our original pattern.  Sexual energy creates us.  When you forget sexual energy, you get crazy, you get sick, you get lost.”

Michael and I spent some time exploring the philosophy of Tantra, and learning how to heal the false divide between body and soul.  (The word Tantra literally means “woven together.”)   Traditional Tantra is not merely about sex, but how to get into a right relationship with all things material.  However, the popular version of modern Tantra that shows up in the New Age-y seminars these days focuses almost exclusively on sexual union as the path to God.  Workshop Tantra has introduced Americans to the idea that sex, undertaken consciously, can be a holy act which weaves together not just man and woman, but body and spirit, humanity to the divine.

So Tantra at least offers a way to embrace sex as a path to spiritual salvation.  But I have to say, the few Tantric workshops Michael and I attended, despite overtly inviting spirit into the sexual arena, did not give me any great bursts of either sexual energy or spiritual insight.  Mostly I felt uncomfortable with the loud histrionics of it.  Making noise is highly encouraged while doing Tantric exercises to “raise sexual energy.”  Pelvic tilting, and mirroring movements, with lots of loud breathing and moaning and, for me, giggling.  Of course, many attendees are empowered by such activities, but it struck me as inauthentic.  Each experience left me unsettled, like hearing people speak in tongues in church.

Looking back, perhaps another reason Tantric workshops didn’t open any spiritual-sexual doors for me is because of a heavy emphasis on elevating the power of the feminine.  The workshops are all very egalitarian, with women encouraged to go after their pleasure and voice their wants in what strikes me as a nice, respectful 50/50 way.  It all pointed to more of the same of what we were already doing – just slower.  And louder.

Now I know from our BDSM explorations that what seems to raise my sexual energy – make that explode my sexual energy – is to turn over my power to my husband.  To become to the opposite of noisy, to become still and quiet and yielding.  I gain my sexual power by relinquishing it.  Interestingly, David Deida’s theory on sexual polarity between the masculine and feminine – which has been so helpful to me in understanding the power of BDSM – is supposedly drawn from Tantric philosophy.

I wonder what Deida would make of workshop Tantra failing me, but the practice of D/s liberating me.  Would he be surprised?  Of course, Deida does not explicitly talk about D/s, although it seems to me he is speaking code for it when he uses terms like “ravishment.”  When he talks about a woman submitting to her lover, he explains that the woman is submitting to the force of love rather than the individual man.  He also talks about our drive to break out of 50/50 ways of relating, and “embrace the taboo.”

After living in a 50/50 relationship for awhile, Deida writes, one begins to “long for the next stage,” where you are no longer equal, no longer serving your own preferences, no longer even serving each other’s preferences.  “All you want is to let go and serve love’s preferences, do whatever love demands of you, go wherever it takes you.”  You no longer care about your self anymore, he says, or your self’s so-called needs, because you don’t even need a self at all anymore at all.  You are only interested in “being lived” by something bigger than you, only interested in dissolving into the ecstasy of big love.

I think of where Michael and I were a few months ago, wandering from one Tantric workshop to another, seeking a doorway to transcendental sex, and not finding it.  Then we stumble into D/s, almost by accident, and whoosh!  We catch fire, serious fire, and boundaries are dropping away.  Blog23Quote2I am being ravished, he is being worshipped and adored, and we are being lived by this wild force, just as Deida describes.

I am convinced there was no other way for us to get to where we are now, get to unguarded all-consuming and life-transforming love without D/s.  Without embracing that taboo.  What a surprise to discover that BDSM in general, and D/s in particular, is the doorway, providing us entry to the dynamic of sexual polarity.  The abstract idea of surrender to love becomes a concrete action I can experience viscerally.  And it gives me the feeling of a Tantric-like joining of body and spirit like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

I imagine most people look at BDSM a curious fetish, or odd perversion.  So I suppose it sounds a little crazy to assert that sexual submission to my husband is a spiritual path.  But I don’t feel that Michael and I indulge in this only in order to get off (although it clearly leads to more and deeper getting off).  I believe it is our way of getting past the normal 50/50 barriers that have been instilled in us, a way of opening to the mysterious power exchange of love.  By serving him, I am serving love.  True, it often feels all about him.  Each day I am becoming more and more unguarded with him, more and more trusting of him.  But in the process, I feel more and more open to love, trusting of love.  I am offering up my will to him, but it is the love rushing so madly between us that is consuming my will, taking me out of myself.

I do, however, remember my Buddhist lessons not to confuse the “finger that points at the moon with the moon.”  I will endeavor not to confuse the means with the end, not confuse the doorway to getting there (D/s) with the actual there (the love).  But I also think it right to acknowledge that the doorway – the way in – is important and necessary and marvelous.

How This Feminist Became a Sexually Submissive Wife

I consider myself a feminist, proudly so, passionately so.  I am liberal, far into mid-life, I believe in equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunity.  I have my own career, I earn my own money, keep it in my own bank account, and I certainly make my own life decisions.  I have written dramatic defenses (literally dramatic, as in TV movies) about treating people, especially girls and women, with respect and dignity.  Which is why it took me many nervous months to decide to write the words in this blog, to feel right about publicly advocating for female sexual submission within marriage.

Wait, I cannot say I feel completely “right” about it.  I have been writing this during the months before the 2016 election, when Donald Trump’s hostile sexism and open disdain for women has been making news each day.  His Access Hollywood audio-heard-round-the-world of bragging about his sexual assaults on women, grabbing them “by the pussy” without their consent, has made headlines and started a national conversation about how women are frequently traumatized by a male sense of sexual entitlement to their bodies.  Many anguished accounts from sexual assault victims have popped up all over the media, while on the flip side, many unapologetic men started the hashtag, #repealthe19th, expressing their desire to take away a woman’s right to vote.

So, of course, I feel conflicted about what I am writing here, especially since Trump won, leaving women to feel, yet again, that our society is just fine with sexual harassment.  I am needled with fears of how my words might be interpreted. I know how hard women have fought in our culture – and are still fighting today – against being seen as sexual objects.  I do not want to present any kind of word or idea that can be interpreted as justifying rape culture or viewing women as second class citizens.

But, because I am a feminist, I feel the need to stand up for my truth, and my truth is this:  I submit to my husband sexually.  Whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, he gets it, no hesitation, no choice in my mind.  I am not talking about the pop culture version of Dominance and submission (D/s), with it’s 50 Shades of Grey trendiness and elaborate protocols – although I do believe the 50 Shades phenomenon tapped into a true feminine longing for erotic surrender.  Nor am I talking about the thriving BDSM subculture one sees on Fetlife and other sites, a fetish community that celebrates implements of pain, extreme images of female subjugation, and ways of thinking that do not speak to me and my desires (I am not a dirty little cumslut whore).

My form of sexual submission is much more quiet and deep and, I hope, more evolved than the pornographic stereotypes.  It does not involve “scenes” or props or costumes or safe-words. (Not that props and costumes aren’t fun once in awhile.)  This power exchange dynamic evolved spontaneously between my husband and I, arising from our instincts and desires of the moment.  It was only later that we began to use Dominance and submission language as a way of framing what was happening to us, and discussing it with each other.  The basic D/s model has proven useful to us, creating a symbolic doorway or path that allowed us to work our way beyond the egalitarian 50/50 style of sexually relating that we previously understood as an “enlightened.”  We still use D/s language, for lack of anything better, and still use the D/s framework as a symbolic container for the way we conduct our sexual life.  So, I will continue to write these words from a D/s standpoint.

The Joys of Sexual Polarity

To me, my submission is not a kink (not that there’s anything wrong with getting kinky), but a natural expression of my true sexual nature. I ran across a study (Jozifkova, 2012) that states sexual arousal in response to dominance might be hardwired into women as a way to ensure the survival of the species.  Apparently, cavewomen understood that having babies with the dominant male of the clan improved the odds of her children making it to adulthood.  I certainly believe myself to be hardwired for it.  When I submit my body to my husband I can feel myself in alignment with a potent energy that flows the more it yields, a phenomenon which the Tantric philosopher David Deida helped me understand with his theories about the masculine and feminine and sexual polarity.

It was also Deida who helped me understand the important difference between what he calls “Stage One” Dominance, which is fueled by a male self-centered control of the female, and what he calls the more enlightened “Stage Three” masculine dominance that serves the fulfillment of the feminine.  In fact, it was reading his book, Intimate Communion, in the early months of our power dynamic exploration, with his gorgeous language about the joys of being “ravished,” that gave me the intellectual grounding I needed to let myself go into my first true experiences of sexual ecstasy.

Beyond all that, submission turned out to be an expression of love for my husband that has created deep intimacy and built great trust between us, creating a more peaceful and satisfying union. I would even go so far as to say that I experience D/s as a spiritual devotion, maybe even a spiritual path, which teaches me how to deal with a self-important ego, and how to surrender to the rhythms of physical life.

Because of these surprisingly positive and profound impacts on me and my marriage, I do not want to keep my submission hidden, or hold it within me like a shameful secret.  I very much wish someone had told me about the joys of sexual power exchange decades ago.  I think I would have had fewer relationship issues, happier marriages and a much happier life. Perhaps there are other women who might not have considered submission beyond naughty fantasy, but who might be as transformed by the strange magic of D/s as I have been.  It is for those women I am sharing my experience.  As Clarissa Thorn writes in the S&M Feminist, “Openly acknowledging, owning, and discussing your sexual preferences can help others respect those preferences – and can help others who share those preferences respect themselves.”

A Woman’s Right to Submit

Still, the worry that my words will be misunderstood and misinterpreted – or worse, used by men to justify rape or other ways of abusing the rights of women – has been almost paralyzing at times, making me stop work on these pages for long stretches at a time.  I finally realized that it is not up to me to manage how this is received.  No matter how carefully I try to phrase my thoughts, the history and cultural landscape of “women as sexual objects” is vast, and laden with mines.  I have decided to keep going, and hope that by setting down my one unique experience, nothing will explode in my face.

The irony is that I believe sexual submission would not be such a powerful experience if it was not firmly rooted in a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body.  The gift of my submission, this unconditional “yes” to my husband, would be meaningless if I did not first have the right to say no.  Feminism has worked hard for me and all women, and it won for me the right to express my sexuality in whatever way I choose – and I believe the choice to submit sexually to my husband is as valid as any other, and as empowering to me as a woman as any other choice.

Another irony of D/s is that the power ultimately flows from the submissive.  The dominant can only dominate through the permission of the submissive, otherwise he risks going to jail (thank you feminists).  I feel strongly that D/s, at least as my husband and I practice it, is a post-feminism phenomenon, and could not exist without a clear understanding of a woman’s right to her own body, and thus her right to surrender her body to her husband’s use.  The result for me has been a paradoxical increase in the amount of respect and care I receive from my husband. He feels responsible for me and my body, and while he may sometimes “selfishly” use me for his own pleasure (though it never feels that way to me), he more often spends his time and effort pouring pleasure into me.  I am a thousand times more sexually fulfilled and pleasured as a sexual submissive than I ever was with a 50/50 partner.

Of course, I do acknowledge that might have less to do with D/s as it does to the quality of the man I married.  Which is why I want to make clear that I am not advocating sexual submission in a casual way, the way it is described on BDSM sites as “playing” with others. I don’t judge those who choose to explore in that arena; it thrills many.  But I can only personally advocate submission within the safe boundaries of a committed relationship, to a mature and trustworthy person who respects women as equals, and who takes up dominance with a feeling of great responsibility and care.  So please read the words in this blog knowing they are anchored firmly in the context of real love, real commitment.