I am kinky and I have someone I would like to play with. On paper we seem good, but there’s a but (of course there’s a but, or I wouldn’t be writing): in the past he just wanted me to bottom, but now he wants me to be submissive and to be honest, I don’t know if I can do that. Right now, in my admittedly ignorant state, to me submission means being forced to do what someone else wants, while my wants and needs go unmet; it means being subservient and inferior. I don’t feel like I can tell him all this without feeling like I’m disappointing him or having him think that I’ve failed him somehow. I doubt he’d actually be disappointed or think I’m a failure, but being honest about this seems so scary and threatening. How can I be fully honest (telling him that I don’t think I can be submissive, or at least, not yet), while still getting what I want (fun play time with a sexy, kinky guy)? How can I begin to bust my stereotype of what being submissive entails?
Dominance and submission are all about imbuing the things we do with symbolism. This stuff is an elaborate engagement with meaning-making. Sometimes it’s in the realm of pure fantasy—playing roles, embodying characters, or performing acts we wouldn’t do “in real life.” Sometimes it’s making dominance and submission as real as humanly possible—suffusing even the tiniest everyday acts with fresh meaning. Sex and SM play are easy places to do this, but by no means are they the only ones.
Regardless, the whole point of this is to do something you actually want. If submission doesn’t get your needs or wants met, then it isn’t for you. That’d just be boring, right? And then why bother?
John, here’s the thing: I sense not outright rejection or boredom in your note, but rather, curiosity and trepidation. I suggest reading up a bit on dominant/submissive relationships—try Jack Rinella’s book Partners In Power—to see if anything piques your interest. See if you can expand your idea of what submission looks like, and find your own turn-on in there.
Then, tell your guy you’ve been doing some research, and ask him some questions about what his particular preferred symbols and acts look like. There is no universal list. I can’t tell from your note what precisely he’s asking you to do, or how he wants to frame things. Does he want to call you names? Have you take specific bodily positions or perform certain sex acts? Make you ask permission to come? Watch you wash the dishes? Once you know some specifics, you can investigate your feelings and then agree, disagree or propose alternate ideas.
Remember, you’re allowed to try things and decide you don’t like them. You may find out that submission just isn’t your bag, with this guy or otherwise. This is always your call to make.