My Submissive Icons Are … Strong?!

Stained-glass window: Angel with four naked boys
Image from Pixabay (CC 0)
This is the first post in the Submissive Power series.

Famed kink educator Midori has a brilliant exercise for identifying your style of feminine dominance.

First, she says to list all the powerful women you admire – from fiction, film, history, myth, your family, everywhere, anywhere. She had Brunnhilde, RuPaul and her grandmother, among others.

Then she says to go down the list and identify the qualities that make them so powerful for you, both light and dark. That’s your inner dom.

This is genius. But why just femme dominants? Why not everyone?

I don’t know what Midori’s answer would be. But here’s my guess. Midori is a dominant woman in a world that’s tough for dominant women. Most of our models for powerful people are male, so it’s easy to assume that in order to enact dominance, you have to act masculine. The only obvious alternative is the leather-clad dominatrix in corset and heels. This stereotype is of even less assistance in finding one’s individuality as a dominant woman. Midori is solving the problem she knows best.

But the nature of brilliant solutions is that they have applications beyond their original design. So I thought I’d try it for myself as a female sub.

The results floored me.

Submissive Femme icon Submissive Femme Attributes
Eva Ibbotson’s heroines Unaffected, open, helpful, enthusiastic
Teresa Teng, singer Sweetness, appeal, desire to please
Noraniza Idris, singer Decorous seductiveness, grace
Monsoon Wedding maid Modest, decorous, passive
Comic female impersonator Coy, artificial, demure, flattering
King and Clown: female impersonator Abject, shy sub smile, doesn’t expect, timid but takes bold action in extremis
One of my friends (when crossdressing) Vulnerable, embarrassed, endearing
Kurosawa women Terrifying power from superhuman restraint
Daughter of the Samurai Strength in subordination
Gone with the Wind: Ellen 贤妻良母 (wise wife, kind mother), unselfish, velvet strength, serenity amidst turbulence
A mother I met once Constant benevolence, not confrontational
A Little Princess Grave propriety with superiors, kindness to inferiors
A moment with one of my teachers (a nun) Terrifying authority from humility
Pauline Réage Unassuming confidence and clear-sightedness, devotion without bitterness

Executive summary: Quiet strength, demure seductiveness, and appealing vulnerability.

Yes. So much yes. Which stuns me because I would never have said it that way without Midori’s help.

And my icons! I knew they were important to me. But I never sat down and looked at the whole list together.

Surprise the first: Asian. The first names that leapt to mind were like a tour of Asia. I have spent my life immersed in Anglophone culture, high and low, and somehow I rejected all of this when constructing my core sense of submission.

I had no idea. But I should have known. I have a real thing for kowtowing. And the first safeword I chose wasn’t just Chinese, it was an archaic term of respect for one’s husband that might best be translated as “my lord”.

Did I imprint, or am I fetishising my heritage?

Surprise the second: No one from my family. Practically no one from real life. Or even my country. In fact, barely anything I encountered in my childhood, or even before university. But I knew it when I saw it.

My God, I really do live in my head. In some other century.

Last and greatest surprise: Good grief, why are all my submissive icons so strong?

At first I thought it was just pre-selection bias. No one becomes a film star without personality; no one writes a novel about a weak heroine.

But. I have a heap of female icons who weren’t on my list because they’re not submissive: Gong Li, Julie Andrews, Aung San Suu Kyi. And my list does include women in bit parts, because that’s where servants usually go in someone else’s drama. No, these really are my submissive icons.

And then there are all the women I didn’t even think of. The heroine of the seminal rape romance The Flame and the Flower. Every single slavegirl of Gor. All tears and rage – wilful, but not strong. They weren’t submissive, they were powerless.

In contrast, look at my icons, steering their loved ones with a look or a smile. Declining even to notice the sword at their necks. Total mastery of their submission.

Who wouldn’t want to be them?

And I’m not. In submissive mode I am a quaking puddle. Authority, grace, decorum? Nope. Laughable confusion. Argh.

But some of my icons are vulnerable. And the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated them – and myself. Because it was a hard road to abject submission. To take off my hard-earned poise along with my clothes, that took me years. So that’s what I want. The power to make myself powerless. And I’m partway there.

I think it is this incredibly fragile middle ground between strength and vulnerability that this exercise is great for uncovering. Not the stereotype handed to you on a platter, but the elusive flavour of your own aspirations. Because I never thought about it, but this really is my dynamic. When I play, it’s always about forcing myself to submit. Never being forced, never fighting. I guess my kink is about mastering myself to meet someone else’s wishes.

God knows I’m not there yet. But thank you, Midori, for helping me to see what I want to become!

Teresa Teng, “When Will You Return?” (no English subtitles)

Noraniza Idris, “Dikir Puteri” (no English subtitles)

Gong-gil from The King and the Clown (subtitled)

Lady Kaede from Kurosawa’s Ran (subtitled)

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