The spirit, for lack of a better word for the energetic manifestation of my existence and selfhood, houses parts of my identity. So when I say that I identify as submissive please understand that I am saying that it is not a choice. It is who I am, not what I am. More than that I am also saying that language is rather limiting and these are the closest words I can find to communicate my self-knowledge with you. The ways in which I express who I am tend to fall into more than the conventionally accepted labels and definitions commonly exemplified by both the subculture of BDSM and the larger often prejudiced, stigmatizing and criminalizing culture of Non-BDSM that it rests within. Usually, when I try to speak of submission or even power exchange as an identity and spirituality I am met with compartmentalizing language designed to place me into a more easily understood and palatable box. And usually it is a rather human attempt to create an “us” and a “them” paradigm of which I most often am a “them.”
Elements and tools which I choose and allow me to express my submission exist in most spiritualities, philosophies, social sciences, and even theologies so it is often when I start to speak about my path and how these things are being carefully cultivated by myself or by those whom I have yielded to previously I am treated with a great deal of suspicion and skepticism which leads to me growing more quiet and eventually walking away from that which does not serve my path or my growth. Naturally this is isolating and as such I suppose I am what Christina Abernathy refers to in her book Erotic Slavehood as a “ronin.” A subcultural (and obviously appropriated) term which identifies a submissive or slave who is without or has lost their Master and continues on their path and journey regardless of their absence.
Indeed, I do walk this path alone. And like many spiritual paths there are moments where I doubt, lose faith, deal with internal and external struggles and judgments, or altogether find myself lost and feeling helpless. Trying to shove all of my experiences into the conventionally accepted forms of expression both magical and mundane I began to silently self-destruct and, dare I say, self-mutilate my own spirit in order to find a place with the people I thought were where I belonged. Belonging is a strong feeling driven by the desire to be unified. In fact I would say that it is one of those elements that lives in the core of my submission. To belong is to be given validation and acceptance of who I am. To belong is also to have purpose and there is nothing that brings more joy to my submission than to have a role, a place of belonging where I serve a purpose and I am useful. But many people will hear these words I just typed out and think to themselves, “well you don’t have to be submissive to feel that way.” Of course not. That is my point after all. The ways in which we identify with ourselves and the world around us are myriad. Just as belief structures and the cultures, societies, organizations, and rituals that form them are myriad. I am simply one of those ways and this is simply how my path orients itself.
When people think of Power Exchange, submission, or Dominance they think about sex and sexuality. It has been an exceedingly rare occurrence, at least in my experience, where there is not a culture of gratification and an inherent allosexual and heteronormative assumption about my identity. Despite efforts to find ways to learn and grow, according to my studies I was supposed to learn by gaining experience through submitting myself within relationships and sexually engaging with others at clubs or dungeons (aka ‘Communities’). In truth, the idea of submitting to someone casually repels me. And not just because I am very much on the ace spectrum of sexuality. It repels me because it ignores the presence of my spirituality. Dominance and submission is spiritual to me. To kneel before someone for the sake of simply achieving sexual gratification or even for the sake of gaining experience makes something within me cringe and flinch away. Why would I do something that would, to my eyes, not only be a contradiction of the spirit of submission through the desire to please myself and gratify my wishes, but also demean and devalue the Dominant and Dominance of the person I would be submitting to. My spirit and heart simply wouldn’t be in it and I would, essentially, be destroying the very spirit of submission, Dominance, and Power Exchange. The thought makes my heart twist painfully and the urge to cry in fear and mourning for the parts that might have been lost if I had followed through with it often overwhelms me.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t people who can and do express the spiritual aspects of their submission or Power Exchange in such a way, there are many who do and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, there are a great many theologies and spiritualities that are expressed through the varied mediums of BDSM, some without actually going by that name. Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny are two well known authors who not only practice power exchange but also have a belief system which they have fully incorporated into it. Others, such as a friend of mine, practice the tantric arts and view sadomasochism as a form of energy work and power exchange as a way to do their shadow work. However, I am saying that for myself personally, and because sex and sexuality tends to be the poster child for anything related to BDSM, Kink, and Fetish up to and including Power Exchange, It is easier to develop your submission and therefore your spirituality as a submissive if you are wired to express those things sexually. I am not and so there is seemingly no place for me to learn and grow without destroying the spirit of who I am or the path I follow.
Which is why I find myself here in Temple. If the emphasis on spirituality is what I need then perhaps this is the best place to cultivate it. Not within the realm of BDSM but rather within a place where cultivation of the spirit and personal growth is accepted, validated, encouraged, and thrives every single day. People who aren’t just walking a spiritual path but are aware, awakening, and awakened to those paths. So when I speak of worship and submission here, it is not automatically assumed to be the worship of the body or objects such as boots but rather placed within the contexts of things like divinity. The conceptualizations and personifications of things such as Balance, Power, Knowledge, Love, Family, Home, Hearth and so on and so forth take precedence over the shape of a carefully labeled box of “kink.”
When I try to describe what submissive ‘being’ means to me. In the end it offers examples but struggles to truly bring forth the spirituality of what I mean to say. There are practices spiritual, cultural, philosophical and psychological which aid me in cultivating my spiritual path as a whole. Not only is my submission only a portion of my identity, my spirit, but it is also something that interconnects with other parts of my identity and oftentimes expresses itself in ways that seem like they aren’t really about being submissive at all. Which is why in the BDSM culture my path is viewed as less acceptable and in spiritual groups it is seen as unrelated or an irrelevant tangent to the path that most spiritualities take. Yet, it is interconnected and I find myself often at a loss for how to discuss my path to the benefit of my own self understanding and to the benefit of others who walk similarly but have not found their way yet.