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Am I Submissive?

I Don't Like Pain and Punishment

By Lord Colm & jade


Confusing Terms

· BD - Bondage and Discipline - There's not much of a mystery here. One of the most common things a new submissive has questions about is the "pain and punishment" category. Most of this confusion stems from the combining of the various groups found in the lifestyle into one large group called BDSM. Within the term BDSM we have at least three major factions, all with different needs and motivations. Perhaps breaking it down into BD, D/s and SM will make things a bit clearer.

The Deviant's Dictionary defines it as: Sometimes B/D, B&D. Bondage and Discipline. Sometimes used interchangeably with SM but more strictly referring to practices involving bondage and role-playing or humiliation but little or no pain. Sometimes thought to stand for Bondage and

Domination, but see also DS. See also BDSM.

BD does not require its participants to be dominant or submissive by nature, but only that they assume that role for the duration of the activity. Many people who enjoy bondage have little or no interest in submission in other aspects of their lives. Discipline can involve submissive behavior on a more elevated level and requires a deeper understanding of the power exchange between top and bottom, but again, it can exist without the inclusion of any other area of existence. The people who enjoy BD often have no need or desire to go beyond what it takes for immediate gratification of their physical or mental need during sessions.

· Motivations: Need for physical bondage and/or physical punishment, or to be the one administering this action. Simple enough. The bottom likes to be tied up and disciplined. The top likes to do the bondage and/or administer corporal punishment. A lot of the appeal is visual and sensual as well as arousing feelings of helplessness or power. There is a power exchange that takes place and meets the requirements of the participants but there is an implication that the power exchange is forced. The bottom may feel very submissive when bound or during punishment but have no need to submit once this activity has ended. Basically, this is a scene-dependent activity and not a lifestyle.

D/S - Dominant and Submissive or Domination and Submission - A combination of terms that describe the participants or activities that are found in a power exchange. A dominant is the person in charge: the "top," the recipient of the power surrendered by another person. A submissive is the person who surrenders: the "bottom," the one being controlled in a power exchange.

Slakker describes this in these words: A D/s relationship can be described as a relationship in which the exchange of power is a major dynamic. Unlike abusive relationships, however, D/s relationships are negotiated arrangements which meet the psychological, sexual, and social needs of all participants. The nature of each D/s relationship is unique, because the manner in which the power relationship is understood and practiced is a very personal matter. This can make such a relationship more difficult to understand, but it also allows those persons involved in a D/s relationship the flexibility to design a relationship that is tailored to fit their specific needs and desires.

D/S is not dependent on pain, implements or physical activities, although those things sometimes are incorporated into the individual relationships. Dominant and submissive characteristics are natural in some individuals and follow the guidelines of many other species in the animal kingdom, wolves and primates being examples. The power exchange takes place on an intellectual or psychological level, with the submissive deferring to the dominant in the decision making process. How far this goes is dependent on the individuals' level of trust and need.

Motivations: The motivation in the relationship is totally based on a power exchange between the dominant one and the submissive one. It can exist without pain, scenes or specified activities. The willing surrender of personal power by the submissive is the key here. There is no need to force it or offer sexual gratification in order to stimulate those feelings of submission. The dominant is motivated by the desire to control and accept the surrender of power from the submissive. The submissive is motivated by a desire to please and surrender to the dominant. This relationship is based on a psychological interaction far more than a physical one. It is not dependent on physical activities or scenes and is best defined as a lifestyle rather than something you do.


· SM - Sadomasochism or Sadist and Masochist - Another complex issue that involves a power exchange between people who are tops and bottoms or dominants and submissives. The characteristic that defines them is their need to inflict or receive pain. While other groups may use erotic pain as part of their interpersonal relations, the true S and M-ers go beyond using it as an enhancement and it becomes the basis for foreplay and sexual gratification. Sadomasochism is a highly physical exchange of power and it could be considered abusive by some if it were not for the consensuality of the activities.


Sadists and masochists are not necessarily submissive or dominant. Often they hold equal power within a relationship but are dependent on pain-- receiving or inflicting-- for stimulation or satisfaction. Only during a session might one assume a position of power while the other submits to his or her partner's lead. Once gratification has been achieved, they will likely resume their roles as equal partners and share in decision making.

On the other hand, some of the most severe and demanding relationships are those between sadist and masochist. Piercings, brandings, extreme humiliation and frequent corporal punishment are part and parcel to this group. The lifestyles depicted in fiction works such as The Story of O or the Beauty series more closely resemble these types of SM relationships. Masochists frequently wear their marks as a testament to their status. While it can be a very intense existence, for the right couple it offers its own rewards.

Motivations: The motivating factor here is pain that leads to sexual arousal and gratification. Whether it is on the giving or receiving end, pain and sexual gratification are the center of this complex relationship. There are SM partnerships that do not go beyond fulfilling this requirement and are quite satisfied with the arrangement. Once the need to give or receive pain has ended, the power exchange ends and they find little or no need for the more defined roles as top and bottom or dominant and submissive. Again, this tends to be scene-dependent or activity-dependent and not so much a lifestyle.

A Clouded Issue

I have no doubt that the majority of SM-ers are far from what the truest definition of their title indicates. In order for SM to become acceptable or to include it as an activity within a power exchange relationship or encounter, there had to be a restructuring of the terms that defined it. This restructuring demanded that any pain administered must be consensual and not damaging to the mind, body or emotions of the recipient. If you like pain, on either end of the spectrum, there is no reason that you should not feel free to pursue a lifestyle that uses it to fulfill your needs as long as it falls in the boundaries of the SS&C creed and does not land you in the local jail, a hospital or psychiatric clinic.In the work of the late 19th century psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who defined "sexual anomalies" in his Psychopathia Sexualis of 1885, we find sadism defined as: "the experience of sexual pleasurable sensations (including orgasm) produced by acts of cruelty, bodily punishment inflicted on one's own person or when witnessed by others, be they animals or human beings...It may also consist of an innate desire to humiliate, hurt, wound or even destroy others in order thereby to create sexual pleasure in oneself."The inclusion of SM into the realm of BDSM has clouded many issues in the community as a whole. One of our basic codes of ethics is the Safe, Sane and Consensual Creed and yet by its very definition, sadism is not necessarily consensual. John Warren, author of The Loving Dominant, offers this standard for the meaning of sadism: An individual who enjoys causing pain in a non-consensual manner, or regardless of the presence or absence of consent. Like many other things in our lifestyle, we have allowed the glorification of the written word and literary offerings to become ingrained as "fact" in a lifestyle that did not originally begin in this fashion. An example of this is the way some have accepted fictional works such as The Story of O and the Sleeping Beauty trilogy as reality and tried to base their relationships on the activities found in these books.

Does it Have to Hurt?

The answer is a resounding NO. Can I be a submissive if I don't like pain and physical punishment? YES, without a question. Submission can have little or nothing to do with a need for pain or receiving it. Punishment does not have to be physical or administered harshly or without reason. All of the activities found within the realm of the D/s lifestyle are dependent on the needs and negotiations of the people involved. If as a submissive you do not need or want pain to be a part of your relationship, then it is imperative that you form a relationship with someone who shares the same ideals. If you become the submissive of a dominant who has sadistic needs, then you are in for some painful realities. Either you will adapt and become masochistic or you will live a miserable life. The same is true in reverse. If you are a masochist and become the submissive of a dominant who abhors pain and punishment, you will never find happiness and fulfillment of your needs with that dominant.

Knowing the needs and motivations of a potential partner is crucial. This is reason enough for taking your time before jumping onto or into the rack or buckling on a collar. Make sure you have clearly communicated your motivations and needs as well. Sitting there giggling when a dominant tells you about her or his need for scenes that involve punishment or pain does not give a clear message that you do not want to have this kind of thing as a regular part of your relationship. Yes, I know this may cause you to lose that dreamboat dom who has an interest in you, but Mr. Dreamboat's plans are going to leave you hurting more than will his goodbye. You need to find a partner who shares your interests and can be satisfied to live within the limits you have set.

Some Help from Lord Colm 

While there is a lot to be said for having a sense of community amongst those of us in the kinky lifestyle, one of the side-effects of lumping everyone together has been an assumption that all who claim to be into the BDSM scene share the same interests. It frequently confuses novices terribly and has scared off more than a few. When the SM-ers use the same terms to describe themselves as do the D/s-ers, people may assume that D/s also must involve intense physical pain. This is far from the truth. It also sets up these silly comparisons--the "My dom's better 'n your dom, cause he's so cruel" and the "You must not be a sub if you're not a painslut" discussions we see so often.

The truth of the matter is that, while some aspects of the various groups do overlap, the differences are substantial enough to warrant a clear understanding of each other. A sub who desires gentle surrender of power to a dominant without any need for intense pain isn't any less or more a submissive than is the masochist who is pierced, tattooed, scarred, and can tolerate the most severe beating.

.A dominant has the right to understand your limits and accept or refuse a relationship based on them. A dominant with a need to administer harsh punishment does not want to hear your safe word every time such activity begins. Dominants have needs and expectations that are just as real as yours. Don't be deceptive. If you don't like something that is a primary motivator for a potential dominant, then he or she needs to know this before other emotions come into play and a relationship is established based on a mistaken belief that you share the same interests. Remember, after you have willingly surrendered yourself to a dominant, the dominant is the one in control. You will be expected to submit to that control and follow her or his lead.

You are the one responsible for making sure that you have found a compatible partner before you offer your gift of submission to that person. You do not have to expect pain or physical punishment to be a part of all D/s relationships. You do have to expect it in one based on BD or SM. Make sure you understand the differences in the groups and terms. This is essential in finding the right partner and it is totally on your shoulders to make sure you hitch the right horse to your wagon.

Using the Some Tools.

We cannot stress often enough the need for communication in this lifestyle. While it may be difficult for some submissives to approach his or her dominant and bring up questions about deep thoughts and desires, it must be done before getting into a committed relationship. There are a few tools that can make it easier for you to settle a few issues without too much embarrassment or stress. One of these tools is the BDSM Activity Checklist. On that page you will find many activities common to the various groups. It can be a wonderful way to get your limits out into the open and down on paper. Here is list of pages that can be used to increase your understanding and negotiating skills as well as show some of the differences between scening and living a lifestyle:

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