Submissive by Veronica An
As an avowed feminist and adamantly self-sufficient young woman, I found myself in a bit of a bind one night. The literal bind was a black Japanese silk rope, used for shibari, wound deliciously around my wrists and secured to my bed frame. The figurative bind was how I felt about this.
Up until this time, I’d made it a point in my life to be self-reliant, or to quote the poem, “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley, “the master of my fate and the captain of my soul,” no one would come between me and my dreams. In previous relationships, I was on top. I paid the bills – due to a complicated arrangement where I justified supporting someone I loved – and when it came to sex, it was usually reverse cowgirl, or some variation thereof.
Still, it was undeniable – I relished being tied to my bed, spread-eagle, in complete surrender. After a few months, it became clear this wasn’t just a one-time thing. When I picked out my clothes in the morning, I lingered over my scarves and belts; toying with the ways they could be used as restraints. I browsed online for vegan leather wrist cuffs and practiced tying single column cuffs in my spare time.
At night, I would whisper to my lover, “tie me up", "put your hands around my neck,” “spank me…harder,” and present him with ropes, bits of ribbon, even an expensive set of black metal handcuffs. The world of BDSM was opening up to me and I was secretly thrilled.
By day, I would rule the world – supporting local women’s rights organizations, asking tough questions about municipal laws, covering advocacy events and trying to make myself as indispensable to as many people as I possibly could. I strutted down city streets, fearlessly pitched ideas to my superiors, and set ambitious goals.
Yet, in my “double life”, I wanted nothing more than to be told what to do and how to do it. I worried about how I could reconcile what felt like two distinct parts of myself. It’s not that I wanted to be bound and gagged in public but I wanted to be able to accept all facets of myself at all times.
What kind of self-respecting woman wants to be tied up? Don’t I work too hard fighting for respect to want to be submissive? I would ask myself even while anticipating the fun I would be having the following night. I was embarrassed to share my personal sexual revolution with even my closest girlfriends for fear that it would somehow diminish my image as an entrepreneur, a go-getter, a strong woman.
It all started under the utterly unsexy, fluorescent lights of a camera supply store. I was looking for a camera strap that would ease my shoulder pain and began trying on different harnesses and slings. I enjoyed the way the harnesses fit my body, accentuating my breasts, hugging my waist and crisscrossing my back. This unexpected burst of excitement encouraged me to begin my tentative exploration into bondage-inspired fashion.
The internet satiated my desire to learn about bondage-inspired clothing and eventually shibari. While in this initial exploration phase, I kept my burgeoning interests from my partner. It’s not that I was embarrassed – I wanted to come to him from a position of strength, now that I had made up my mind that I definitely liked the idea of bondage.
Porn, of course, played a big role in discovering my new kinks. I prefer to read rather than to watch and found myself drawn to BDSM stories rather than my previous topics of choice. I also sought out feminist articles and sex positive stories written by women to provide further proof that I shouldn’t be ashamed of choosing to be submissive. Slowly, I came to understand that asking for what I want in bed was not that different for demanding fair compensation at work, standing up for my artistic integrity or offering my opinions on current events. I wasn’t asking for approval, I was using my voice to express myself.
After a few months of research, I decided to visit a sex shop. In my opinion, these experiences can make or break a woman who is tentatively exploring her desires. I browsed the aisles slowly, not wanting to go directly to the ropes and restraints. It was thrilling to see the array of accessories in stock and to be able to take my time choosing exactly what I wanted. When it came the dreaded moment to pay, I held my breath – waiting for a mean look from the cashier or some other nonverbal indicator that what I wanted was not OK – but the transaction was completed with utter discretion and respect.
Overall, the experience made me feel firmer in my desire – obviously I wasn’t the only one that enjoyed this – so why should I miss out on the thrill? Armed with soft silk ties and my first rope, it was time to make my desires known. I was very thankful to have a willing and open-minded partner at the time but still felt a little shy to disclose my new requests. I wish it had been a grand presentation but, instead, I slipped some silk ties around my wrists and asked, “How would you like to tie me up?” What followed was a necessary but not very thrilling conversation about boundaries and the declaration of a safe word. We progressed gradually as I became more comfortable with exploring and voicing my desires.
Submission is a facet of myself that I disclose to my lovers and few others. Although I wear a bondage-inspired chain link anklet and have an affinity for strappy dresses, lace-up sandals and long, knotted necklaces, I don’t advertise what I enjoy. It’s an exhilarating secret that I share with people close to me. I enjoy the exclusiveness of keeping this desire between lovers and friends.
The self-acceptance came gradually. I realized that just because I want to be submissive in bed doesn’t mean that I’ll take any shit from people in my daily life. I was attracted to the rules of BDSM play and the trust it requires. Choosing to relinquish control is entirely different than being forced into a prescribed gender role by societal expectations. Acknowledging that I find something sexy, and even a bit daring, my willingness surrender was liberating.
For me, bondage is a game to play. We, willing participants, are safe to express darker thoughts and it’s incredibly satisfying to be able to act on these desires. No, my kinks don’t make me any less of a feminist. If anything, by accepting them, I’m more of a feminist.
Now grab that rope and shut the door…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Veronica tells stories through words and images. She also enjoys good food, good company, and good music. She is a writer and photographer for international and Los Angeles-based publications with an emphasis in arts reporting and op-ed social commentary. She enjoys shooting food, beverages, jewelry and intersting people. Her favorite place to be is under the California sunshine.