Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why Submissives Take So Much Time

by Eloise Pasteur

NOTE: I'm writing in the singular throughout this, because that's my experience. The same principles seem to apply if there are multiple dominants in a long term relationship with the submissive, or several submissives, or several of both. Similarly I'm writing with female pronouns throughout, but it applies to men too to the best of my knowledge.

It's a truism of the D/s world and the BDSM world that a submissive always wants more time with her dominant. It doesn't matter whether she is a slave, a pain slut, a bondage babe, a maid, a pampered pet, or whatever other labels for types of submissives you know, they all (and certainly including me) want as much time with their dominant as possible. You might be able to find one or two out there who don't follow this general rule, but if you're a dominant you're going to need to seriously think about your time, and how much your submissive will take. It seemingly applies to anyone with the submissive attitude - if you know a masochistic top who likes controlling their pain, it might not apply to them, but they're not submissive.

Although I've known about this for some time, I've recently started wondering why. It is such a universal feature that I tend to think it's tied up with the submissive make-up - it's part of the package that goes with making us submissive. That package includes the desire, some would say the need, to give control to another as it's defining feature - giving up control like that is what makes a submissive after all. It isn't immediately obvious why this leads to desire for time, but I think, with a little effort on your part, I can explain to you why and how it does. This will lead to some suggestions for ways you could, whether you're the dominant or the submissive, change things so both parties are happy with each other in the long term.

In an attempt to explain what the time and attention of my dominant feels like, I came up with the metaphor of taking a drink. We all have drinks, tea, coffee, water, juice, whatever. We take those drinks because we want, and at some level, need them. (The survial adage of 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food might be a simplification, but it's a clear indication of just how much we do need those drinks.) But think of those hot days when, for whatever reason, you don't get a drink for a few hours. Remember how good it feels when you finally get a drink, even if it's just water? That's the closest thing I can think of to how it feels when there's time with my Mistress after some time apart - it's that essential, that visceral and that good and it neatly encapsulates the idea of needing time frequently, just like we need a drink every few hours.

The first place we need to look is not at time and submissives however. It is, rather, at a different, strong, human need: the need for attention. You see attention seeking behaviour everywhere: from a baby crying, to the pretty young things dressing to impress, to the desire to be a star, to the drive to succeed, to the stereotypical old biddies sharing gossip about their neighbours - gaining attention because they've got juicy news. We all have this to a greater or less extent. Being an exhibitionist at heart, I have some aspects of it quite strongly and expressed that way, even if in many other roles such as organising events, I'm more than happy to do the work quietly in the background. Writing is another way in which I express my desire for attention - you're paying attention to my ideas and how I think if you're reading this after all.

There can be passive ways to achieve attention too. I'm showing both my age and my musical tastes if I talk about Dave Vanian and The Damned. They were a British punk band of the 70's and 80's in the main, although still touring in the 90's and around into the noughties, although with a different line up. Dave Vanian is the lead singer. Unusually for a lead singer he didn't really want to be in the spotlight - the guitar player Captain Sensible took and still takes that. But, Vanian quite routinely appears in pubic in a gimp mask, hardly behaviour to make you fade into the background even as you hide your face. If you are into pony play or fornophillia (the fetish of being furniture) you might recognise this passive attention seeking behaviour.

I'm not saying that we all have the same degree of drive for attention, nor even that it's a single clear-cut drive: we can want attention for our minds rather than our bodies - Germaine Greer might be a good example; or we can claim we want attention for our singing rather than our bodies whilst acting in a way that makes the rest of the world think it's more about the body - Britney Spears (like her or loathe her) springs irresistibly to mind!

So, let's take as given that submissives in general, like everyone else, have some desire for attention. But, they're often not really forceful about reaching out for it - in fact they're often downright shy and reluctant to take the spotlight even when deserving. However, submissives in a D/s relationship do have at least one person with whom they can have their needs met, even those needs they're sometimes reluctant to express, or in extreme cases those needs they're incapable of expressing. That person would be their dominant. Stop and think about it a moment - whichever side of the D/s divide you're on, one thing that is strongly expressed in the relationship, however short term it may be, is attention to the other.

The submissive listens for orders, strains to use her ears whilst blindfolded to try and work out what is going to happen next, dresses according to the orders of the dominant and so on. She pays attention to every whim of the dominant. At the same time the dominant pays attention to the submissive. Has she changed her clothes as instructed? Has she knelt in the right way in the right place? When in bondage, are her extremities still warm so blood is circulating? If you play in a sexual fashion, the dominant will often play the submissive's body like an instrument - whether that's bringing her to orgasm after orgasm after orgasm in an uncontrollable succession or bringing her to the edge and keeping her there, then bringing them down, then back to the edge and down and so on there is an incredible amount of attention being paid to the submissive at this time. There is also an incredible amount of attention being paid by the submissive to the dominant, at least until the release makes paying attention impossible.

The sex-related times are, at least if the sex is good, not unique to the D/s crowd of course. But the attention the rest of the time by and large is unique to the D/s crowd, at least in the long term.

Think about your last long-term vanilla partner. At first you would notice everything about her, and her about you. As time goes by, that changes - you still notice sometimes of course, like when you're dressing up to go out, or you're planning to seduce her, or she's seducing you, but when you're in a rush to get out to work, do you stop to notice what she's wearing? You might sometimes, you might tomorrow after reading this, but it becomes a routine and you don't really notice: you don't entirely stop paying attention, but you stop paying attention every minute of every day.

That reduction of attention from every minute of every day happens in D/s relationships too, but here the power imbalance can keep the attention levels much higher than in a vanilla relationship. For example, there have been times Mistress has to work, but has tied me to the bed. She has sat next to me working, to some extent leaving me there to stew, or shiver if her pleasure today is more towards ice cubes. But these times occur when the work is lots of short bursts - reading RSS feeds, answering emails or similar; and in between emails she will turn to me and pay attention to me. It might be a pat, a tug on a nipple, a drink of water, slipping another ice cube into me, a quick chat or similar. Although it's not continuous attention as the pressures of everyday life and work interfere with that, it's more attention than I would expect to get in a vanilla relationship after over a year - rather than being tied there at Mistress' convenience I'd be reading, answering my own emails or similar, and whilst we might be in bed together, our attention would be apart despite our physical closeness.

Does this desire for attention entirely explain the situation? Nearly, but not quite. A dominant is in a wonderful place to, amongst everything else, satisfy much or all of her submissive's need for attention. She gets, in return, a different but complimentary return to her own need for attention. But that doesn't quite explain why a submissive craves so much of her dominant's time. There is, even when the submissive is involved in a range of other activities and gets reward and even attention from those activities, some very powerful way in which only her dominant will do.

Why might this be? Here a slightly different process comes into effect. Whilst to some extent you could argue that anyone's attention should do, that's not really true. This is borne out by the experience of longing for the dominant and only the dominant that is so often seen in D/s relationships, but is not unique to D/s relationships. In fact most of us, submissives or otherwise, don't crave random attention, that is attention from strangers (actors and pop-stars being obvious exceptions), we prefer attention from those we know, and more particularly those we respect, love and trust. In a healthy long-term D/s relationship the dominant will occupy a prominent place of respect, love and trust from her submissive. This is the crux of the situation - the dominant is almost certainly one of the strongest if not far and away the strongest embodiments of each of respect, love and trust for the submissive - it's certainly hard to submit if you don't respect and trust your dominant, even if you can submit to those you don't love. Because of this the dominant is almost always the person whose time and attention is held in the highest regard by the submissive, and when combined with the unwillingness to overtly seek attention from others thanks to the submissive nature - possibly her dominant is the sole person who can give satisfying time and attention to the submissive - and so the submissive wants this as much as possible.

So now you have some idea why your submissive might come to expect a lot of your time. There really isn't that much they can do about it either. We are talking very powerful drives of human nature here. There are more powerful drives - to breathe, to eat, to drink - but the drive for human company, for attention is very strong. If you are going to have a successful long term relationship with your sub, you will have to learn how to cope with this.

There are, of course, some simple steps for the D/s couple.

Perhaps the most obvious, but in some ways the least useful: the dominant can just tell the submissive that she is unavailable at certain times. Whilst this is an option, bear in mind that for many D/s relationships the only real punishment is denial of contact so here, if not for anything else, it is worth explaining why you are doing this. If your submissive understands what is going on, she will accept it much more happily, at least most of the time, than if you just tell her, at least for this sort of issue. I am not suggesting you explain every order - speaking as a submissive there is joy in just obeying and there is certainly joy in not knowing what is happening in a scene. But this isn't about a scene, this is about the long-term health of your relationship and that is worth an explanation even if your power-dynamic is such that you don't have to explain. Although I think this is probably the least useful option it is, however, still good for short term, occasional things - remembering to give that explanation. If you tell your submissive that you're doing a demonstration to your boss at work about working in Second Life, the submissive should understand and happily leave you in peace without feeling neglected.

You can also consider ways your submissive can be present, but not interfering. For example, if you work in Second Life in a situation that is not really D/s friendly you could introduce a "best behaviour" rule where your submissive must be decently dressed, not wearing any bondage wear beyond collar and cuffs, and she must stand and chat with you by name rather than kneeling and talking by title. This may not work in your relationship and doesn't in many, but can work well in some of them. It can particularly work in relationships with a strong real life element - because living and working in the real world requires these kinds of compromises anyway - it may not be unknown, but it's uncommon to see a couple at work where one continuously kneels to the other and calls her Mistress after all. The submissive, even if not overtly submitting, is still with you and getting some of your time and company which makes her happy. In Second Life you can, of course, IM them and keep a side channel in which she acts properly respectfully to you, unless your boss is leaning over your shoulder in real life!

Alternatively when you are working on something where you want peace and quiet you can do things like set reading or allow your submissive to attend but stay silent. If you set reading, consider setting a quiz at the end and reward her if she does well. She will quickly strive to learn for you and to gain the reward which, depending on your relationship, could be as little as a kiss. You might also consider things like letting her choose her own clothes for a day, or the choice of the piece of bondage equipment you will tie her to tonight, or reward her with the knowledge that the next time you play you will let her orgasm.

Consider too how you can build time into the day for your submissive. It doesn't have to be much, remember the sips of water metaphor from above. Five minutes here, ten minutes there can help quite a lot. Log in and if you have control of her clothing tell them to change and what to change into. Get her to do a slow strip for you and then you dress her, or chain her or bind her in a yoke or whatever until the next time you can be with her. It's attention, and you can tell her what you're going to be up to. Then, on a day when you're not at work, you can go and spend all the time you like, and she needs, with her.

Remember too, that although you may not have the time and energy for a scene, you can do other things. For example, taking your submissive shopping can be a lot easier on the mind and body than running a scene with them. Most submissives, at least if you allow them to get dressed, enjoy shopping for clothes, and most of them enjoy shopping for new toys too - and even get a thrill from seeing toys for fetishes that they don't like and being asked to hop on them in the store. This gives them that little thrill of "OMG will she really make me do this at home" mixed in with breaking taboos in public, plus the belief that you probably won't start a scene in a shop but it is attention as well as some form of active submission which is just the ticket, even if only for a couple of minutes in the shop.

If you do go shopping, and you have the time, there is always the ritual of showing what you've just bought her too. Depending on where you shop, even one outfit may take some time - I recently bought an outfit with about 35 different items (and not just the same items on different layers) - demonstrating all the combinations of that to find the way Mistress liked it best took over an hour in which all her attention was on me, but she was just sitting back, watching me change clothes and discussing which bits she liked the best. I'm fairly sure this is lower effort on her part than an intense scene, but it made me feel great and gave me lots and lots of attention. If this had been mixed with play, and it can often lead that way for us, it could have taken hours if not days.

Another alternative would be to set her tasks. For example, say you'd like her to find certain types of places, and then spend the time required to go to the places she's found. Want to display your submissive in public, in bondage? Have her search for places that allow or even encourage this. Want to train her as a pony girl? Have her search out a few schools. If you keep your submissive in a kennel or cage routinely, letting her have a day free to explore like this can be a reward in its own right of course. Exploring half a dozen new sims or clubs to find one that you like can easily take quite some time, but it's time where you're not constantly as focussed as you would be in a normal scene so it is less draining on you, but your submissive will love you for it.

Or consider having her do things for you. Want to have a new bed and have a submissive who can build, or who can design textures for when you build? Set her to it. When it's done examining, and then testing, the bed can be a great spark for some play too - you're asking her questions about design decisions, functionality etc. and you're paying attention to her creative work which is always a great place to give her attention if she's inclined that way, and it can give you fun ways to praise, mock punish and otherwise lavish attention on your submissive. Be warned though: if you have a submissive who hates building, this isn't such a good thing to do, but you can almost certainly find something that they will like doing that it useful for both of you.

Being in the presence of the dominant is not quite the same as having their attention. You could be lying on your bed reading, with your submissive kneeling quietly in the corner, watching you carefully from her lowered eyes. You pay no attention to her, at least until you are done with your reading or you need a drink or whatever. This doesn't do the same thing as paying attention, but can be still be deeply satisfying in a passive way for the submissive.

Why? Well some of it is tied up in being with the one she loves of course. Some of it is that she is actively submitting and demonstrating her submission - you have told her to kneel in that corner and keep quiet and even if you're not paying attention in particular you're aware that she hasn't moved away and she's doing what they're told, and she will know that. Some of it is that hope that you will comment and give attention at the end of the time. Some of it is that hope that you will finish what you're doing and lead directly into a scene. But even when you don't, you started with some direct attention - you gave the order, she has carried out your wishes in a way that she knows you've noticed at some level, and you give her another order at the end, that she can go, at a minimum. If I'm with Mistress, she might or might not focus her attention on me - but if I'm not with her she can't so being with her is always better.

From the perspective of a submissive, you can also make intelligent choices about you and how you get what you want in terms of time and attention. This isn't always in your control, as your dominant may change things on you of course, but in general you can have some input.

First, and this is going to sound like a really odd one especially coming from another submissive, put yourself first for a little while. Think seriously about what you need from your relationship to keep you happy. Consider how, in the boundaries of the relationship, you can express that need. If you or your dominant work outside of Second Life, and most of us do, will an email on work days do? Do you want to give your dominant control over your clothes and dress they way they choose every day - which only takes a few minutes on their part after all, but which can be a continuous reminder to you of your submission and can also display it to others depending on your Mistress' choices. If your Mistress can get into Second Life for that time, you can strip out of today's clothes and dress in tomorrow's clothes with her: a short, but incredibly satisfying way of spending time together if you play that way. If you use the Restrained Life Viewer your dominant can even be reasonably sure that you're staying dressed, or undressed, as they chose.

Consider the dominant next. If your dominant works 14 hour days, she may well not have five minutes for you. Most of us don't work 14 hours days on a regular basis, but recently I had to travel for work on two days in succession and the days were actually 16 hours long. If Mistress had been around that evening I would have tried to be there for her, but I would have been really tired - if it was Mistress doing the long working day, realising that she wouldn't be there for me and accepting that would have been only reasonable.

Remember too, there is always going to be a tension between your life needs - work, shopping, etc. and your emotional needs - time with your dominant, love, attention, sex, etc. Whilst as a submissive you are, to a larger than normal extent about giving up power and control, you are still an adult. Sometimes as adults we have to take responsibility for ourselves. Even if you're in a total power exchange relationship you will have an opinion and will probably be allowed to express it about the balance of your life and career. Talking about these things with your dominant makes sense: they probably know your situation better than anyone else after all. But in most relationships, certainly those solely or predominantly in Second Life, the decision to go for that promotion or that new job is up to you. Or, to return to a shopping context, you know that you're running out of coffee and need to go shopping tomorrow. Your dominant has those same tensions of course, but won't necessarily find it any easier to make them than you do and if you're in Second Life only they can't send you to buy the coffee for them. But, because you are the one making the choices, you should be making choices where you are prepared to live with the consequences.

It may sound odd to switch from talking about huge decisions like changing jobs to talking about the time you spend with your dominant, but we're talking about something that could be long term and have a direct impact on your happiness, and through your happiness on your health. This is a big decision with the potential for real consequences. You should be able to expect your relationship to increase your happiness, and to some extent that will always mean you wanting more time and attention - although after a particularly intense scene or series of scenes you may temporarily feel the need to recover outweighing that!

Having done all this thinking, and planning on a grand scale, let's think about the day-to-day. It's OK to want more time and attention, it's certainly OK to indicate, however you can within your relationship, when you are feeling neglected. However, you need to consider this carefully. Are you being neglected, or are you wanting more of a good thing? There is no harm in wanting more of a good thing but if you seek more attention at a time when your dominant doesn't have the capacity to readily give it to you simply because you want more, you aren't really considering her and her situation. Although you may have to be selfish at times, you should normally expect to put the dominant first. If, on the other hand, you wait to indicate your need until you are feeling so neglected you have become miserable, depressed or angry, you have waited too long and you are risking damaging the relationship which is also not good for your dominant. You may like to consider code words, like safe words, that you can use to indicate how this is going. "Longing for time with you," could be the first warning that you're starting to feel neglected. "Yearning for you," could be the second warning, and "desperate for time with you," becomes the emergency signal that things are really bad - a bit like green, amber and red if you use the traffic light signals in a scene. You can, of course, choose words and phrases that suit you - but make sure your dominant understands them too. And, when considering this, think carefully about your need - you may want time today, time tomorrow, time every day, but if you accelerate from "love you" to "longing for you" to "yearning for you" to "desperate for you" in a matter or hours or a couple of days on a regular basis, I wouldn't believe you and your dominant probably won't either. You're in a situation a bit like the boy that cried fire from the poem - he did it so often when there was a fire, the people walking by simple mutter "little liar" and so he burnt to death.

It may be you, rather than the dominant that has the time issues thanks to Real Life - or both of you of course. It can be very hard, particularly if you are a slave rather than a sub, to negotiate ways to spend not so much time with your dominant. This would be a time to step out of role and honestly, but respectfully, discuss what you can do and what you can't do for her. Can you find 20 minutes a day to spend with your dominant? Can you find an hour a couple of times a week? This is probably not ideal for both of you, but maintaining the relationship takes some time and effort. When you do have time, you should expect to be wholly at your dominant's mercy, even more than usual, because she will have indulged you around your work time. If you really don't have time to give to the relationship, you should consider leaving it or changing the nature of your relationship to cope. It's not always the dominant that can't give the time - and the dominant may well not be too impressed if the only time she sees you, you are totally desperate for her attention even above her desire to control you.

It is almost certain given how universal this desire for more time and attention is that you can't, whether you are the dominant or the submissive, get rid of it. Hopefully the thoughts, ideas and experiences above have at least indicated if not convinced you this desire for time and attention is probably incredibly intimately tied to being a submissive and the nature of the D/s relationship - so if you work hard on removing this element of the submissive character traits you might well destroy what makes them submissive too - which is not really the goal of anyone who is likely to be reading this. You might be a submissive who doesn't want to be, but dominants tend to need submissives to let them express their dominant nature as much as submissives need dominants to submit to.

Given that you seriously need, in any relationship you are in that is going to last more than a scene, to consider how much time you have to give as a dominant, and how much time you need (as opposed to want) to have as a submissive. If there is a bad mismatch here, just as much as if there is a bad mismatch in the limits and interests of the partners, you might consider this a bad sign for the long term stability of the relationship.

As a submissive, you should consider how you can change to accommodate your dominant, and be understanding of the fact that she has other demands on their time. As a dominant you may wish to consider how you can change your activities in a way that doesn't significantly inconvenience you, but lets you give your submissive more time with you - remember simply being in your presence may help - and how to give her the attention that she needs in a way that you can afford personally and professionally.

If you can't change, either of you, then you may well find that the relationship falls apart. Whilst relationships have a natural life span which may well be shorter than a lifetime if your relationship is good in other ways, small changes like this may well be worth considering for the sake of the happiness of all concerned, don't you think?

1 comment:

San Mauvaise said...

Once again I would like to thank Eloise for this insightful and well-thought-out piece. It has given me some new insights, ideas and things to think about!

San Mauvaise