Towards a submissives’ “Bill of Rights”




I had a submissive once, a very sharp and insightful woman and a very good girl. I challenged her with a question: “What are your rights in this dynamic of ours?” She answered, “The right to have my safe word respected.” A standard response. I invited her to engage in a thought experiment with me, to see if she could think of any other rights she might have. It proved to be genuinely difficult for her, because the D/s culture seems grimly determined to program submissives to believe that their safe word is their only right.

A bit of correction seems in order.

First, we need to distinguish between rights and privileges. This can often get muddy and confusing, so a bit of clarity will help. A privilege is something that the Dominant gives to the submissive in an area where she has (explicitly or implicitly) transferred power to the Dominant. Some examples would be having an orgasm; what to eat at meals; what outfit to wear; even something as non-intuitive as calling him Master/Sir/Daddy (a lot of submissives in my experience have a hard time grasping that this last is a privilege that is earned). A right is innate, immutable, and non-negotiable. A right isn’t something the Dominant “grants,” and it isn’t something the submissive “earns.” It is something the submissive has. Period.

What follows is a first pass at drawing up a “bill of rights” for all submissives, regardless of the “flavor” of D/s dynamic in which they find themselves. I would invite the reader to let me know if you think of any others (while being mindful of the distinction between rights and privileges) and I’ll modify this “bill of rights” to incorporate them. So, let’s begin …

The right to have your safe word respected. This is one that pretty much every submissive “gets.” Sadly, some Dominants treat the safe word as a sort of “no means yes” game, while others seem to take some ego-driven satisfaction in pushing their submissive to the point of being forced to use her safe word. Let’s be clear, boys: you don’t get to cut a notch on your bedpost when you force the safe word out of your submissive. Nor do you get to decide whether to respect it or not. If you do not immediately acknowledge the safe word, stop what you’re doing, and engage with your submissive in a supportive and loving way, then you are a shit Dom and your submissive should fire your ass at once.

The right to express your wants. But here’s the thing: there’s an important distinction between the right to express them and the right to have your every want met by your Dominant. In many cases, what you want can be toxic to the dynamic and inimical to your full flourishing as a submissive and as a person. Which brings us to the next right …

The right to have your needs met. Your Dominant’s responsibility is to give you what you need, which in many cases has absolutely nothing to do with what you want. A silly (or, for some, not so silly) example: you want to sit around eating pizza and watching porn all day (who doesn’t, right?)  but you need to eat healthy food and exercise. Where do you think your Dominant’s responsibility lies? Exactly. Sometimes a submissive may not even know what her deepest and most important needs are, and it is the Dominant’s responsibility to explore her inner landscape and find those needs. It can get tricky because sometimes the things a submissive needs most are things she absolutely hates. Being still, externally but especially internally. Focusing. Position training, maintenance discipline, Corner Time. Sticking to a schedule and a routine. Treating her Dominant’s property (i.e., her body) with the proper respect. Being held fully accountable. Some submissives hate this — but they need it desperately. You’ll know your needs are being met when you come, over time, to feel a fundamental “rightness” about doing those things you hate.

The right to loyalty and fidelity. I’ve long had an ironclad rule for my submissives: if they are approached by another Dominant, they are to say “I’m taken.” Period. Full stop. Failure to respect this rule is a firing offense. But here’s the thing that every submissive needs to realize: this works both ways. Your Dominant does not get to demand your fidelity and loyalty while he’s off playing the man-whore. If he tells you that it’s his “prerogative” as a Dominant to fuck other submissives, dump him; he’s not a Dominant, he’s just a garden variety kinkster, and an asshole to boot. You can do better.

The right to cry. This may seem a bit non-intuitive, but I’ll tell you what my experience has been. Submissives are among the strongest women I have ever met. In every other aspect of their lives, they are likely to be tough, strong, the “fixer,” the “Alpha.” In their vanilla lives, they are all too often the ones that the other people in their lives turn to for strength. You can’t be strong all the time, and you have a right not to be strong in this most intimate of relationships. I believe that submissives, for a number of reasons, need the cleansing, healing catharsis of tears more than other people. This is the one corner of your life where you are allowed to let go, knowing that your Dominant will hold you and be present for you without judgment as you sob and let the tears flow.

The right to have a bad day. We are all of us human beings. And we cannot always be on-point and flawless. We have lives, we have jobs, we have children, we have responsibilities. We’re all going to fuck up once in awhile. This does not make you a “bad” submissive, it simply makes you a submissive who is trying to juggle this very important aspect of your life with all the other, sometimes conflicting, aspects of your life. That being said, if your dynamic is such that you have agreed to have your Dominant hold you fully accountable, you can — and should — expect punishment if you let things slip on a bad day. But if the dynamic is solid, the two of you deal with the punishment and then get on with it.

The right to respect. It amazes me that this one even needs to be stated, but here we are. You have a voice, and in any healthy D/s dynamic, it’s a voice that matters, a voice that has a right to be heard. When you and your input are respected, you are able to be a fully engaged co-creator in the wonderful collaboration that is your dynamic.

Above all else: you have the right to be embraced for who and what you are. There is nothing I despise more than what I call the “I love you, you’re perfect, now change” tendency among some Dominants. Is it good and right for your Dominant to challenge you, to always raise the bar, to help you become the best submissive and the best person you can be? Of course; that’s a big part of why you have him in your life. But the goal should be the best you that you can be, not some “ideal woman” that your Dominant has constructed in his onanistic dream-world. Are you a tomboy, a game nerd, a rough and tumble girl with a mouth that would make a sailor blush? Good! That is who you are. Embrace it. Does your Dominant also embrace that essence of you? Good! You are a lucky submissive, and your Dominant is a good man. Or does he try to transform you into one of those Suzy Homemaker submissives in a frilly dress and heels and French manicure, who speaks only when spoken to and drinks tea with her pinkie out? This is absurd, unsustainable, and unacceptable. I’ve seen too many Dominants try to go the “Pygmalion” route, and transform their submissive the way Henry Higgins tried to transform Eliza Doolittle. What they tend to forget is that, at the end of Pygmalion, Eliza leaves Higgins.

Subsmissives: you will know you are with a Dominant who understands and respects your inalienable rights if he echoes Nietzsche’s joyous, affirming dictum: “Become who you are!“

A couple of Addenda, from a Follower:

The right to be heard and listened to. Your Dominant should not only be open to your thoughts and concerns, he needs to really hear them. If he agrees, then he should act on it. If he disagrees, he owes you a compelling explanation of why he disagrees. “Because I’m the Dom and I say so” is not sufficient.

The right to speak your mind after a scene. I call this a “debrief.” How are you feeling (in your head,heart, and body)? What are your
thoughts on the experience? If we tried anything new, or upped the
intensity on something we’ve done before, your thoughts and feelings? I
find it a lovely way to keep the connection alive during aftercare.

I would agree with all of these, although I’d note that in a polyamorous relationship “loyalty and fidelity” may mean something different than they do in a monogamous one. This does not mean that they are any less important, only that there’s room for more than one definition so long as everyone is operating under the same terms.