Until a few years ago, unless you were part of the BDSM community, submissive was just a word.
You’d probably have thought that submissive meant meek, respectful, compliant and passive. And then 50 Shades of Grey arrived and the word took on a whole new meaning.
These days, the sexual side of the word ‘submissive’ means something else. It’s a descriptive word for a role that some people like to take during sex, role play or within their kinky relationship.
The submissive partner can be either the male or the female. It’s also possible for people to take it in turns to be the submissive one, which is known as ‘switching’.
Being submissive can be limited to during sex, when the submissive partner might be on the receiving end of masochism, bondage or other forms of domination. However, some submissive don’t limit their submission to within the bedroom, and will be a ‘lifestyle’ submissive.
Lifestyle submissive have sets of rules between themselves and their partners which govern their relationship. It might be small things such as calling your partner a term like ‘sir’ or ‘master’, it could be doing domestic labour, or it could involve spending large amounts of time naked in a cage.
Every submissive and dominant relationship is different and has different levels of intensity and different rules. It is more common to keep the dominant and submissive roles to the bedroom (or to specific periods of time) rather than living the lifestyle 24/7, as it can be difficult to sustain a relationship with an inherent imbalance, especially if you have a family.
It can be hard to understand why another person wants to be submissive if that’s not something you’re personally interested in. It’s important to try to understand and not to judge. As we have written before, there is a real difference between kinky and abusive. That difference is active consent.
Submissive relationships only work when they are based around consent. If you’re worried that a relationship has become toxic or dangerous, you should contact Relate or the National Domestic Violence hotline.
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