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26 July 1997

This essay is written assuming a male Master and a female submissive. I expect, though, that it applies fairly well to any gender combination.


Sometimes you hear submissives talking about feelings of freedom which they they feel while they are participating in BDSM activities. Often this is when they are bound, sometimes so tightly that they cannot move at all. Yet they still feel suddenly free or liberated.

It doesn't just happen when a submissive is restrained physically, either. It also happens when a submissive is restrained, by her Master, by command. For example, when the Master instructs his sub that she may not do ANYTHING, even move, without permission.

How can this be?

There are a few of things involved here, some of which overlap.

Freedom from responsibility

One of the elements of this feeling of freedom can come from removing responsibility. A submissive, restrained by her Master, is implicitly relieved of some or all responsibility. Once the Master has actively started controlling the submissive, the submissive is off the hook to some extent and can let (and must let) the Master take responsibility for much of what then happens.

For many subs, after a hard day in a job with lots of responsibility, it is good to be able to go home and leave their responsibilities, with their coat, hanging next to the door, knowing that their Master will take care of them from then on.

Note that although a submissive may come home to an environment where she has less responsibility and is required to make fewer decisions, she may work much harder than in her outside-world life satisfying the needs and demands of her Master.

Freedom to enjoy

Another element in BDSM freedom is the freedom to enjoy. A submissive will often have a deep or desperate craving to please her Master. The sub will work hard to satisfy her Master, often neglecting her own needs and desires.

The Master, by restraining the sub (physically or otherwise), releases her from this internal obligation or need to please and allows her to enjoy the situation or the experiences/feelings that the Master gives her.

Freedom by permission

We are all brought up learning standards of behaviour and learning how to "conform" within the society in which we live. In fact, society implicitly and explicitly gives us permission to behave in some ways, and "discourages" us from behaving in others.

There are many things that we do learn from society that go against BDSM practices. For example, we never learn in school, or anywhere else for that matter, that whipping your partner can be "a good thing", or that chaining your partner to the bed, or dripping hot candle wax on their nipples can be "a good thing". Viewed from a "vanilla" (ie. determined by society in general) perspective these activities look, at best, dubious, and, at worst, abusive. But these are the things that our partners often need to feel happy and satisfied.

Within the BDSM world there are two way we can get the permission to do these activities, and thus feel comfortable (and free from guilt) that we are not doing anything that we shouldn't be.

The first was is that we are part of a social group, a sort of mini-society, ie. the BDSM world, where such behaviour is not only accepted but is also encouraged. So we look at our own mini-society, accept its approval and ignore the larger society.

The second way is for subs. A submissive, by taking a Master, also recognises the Master's authority over her. Thus the Master is in a position to use that authority to give the submissive permission to be involved in BDSM activities. This can come from a direct statement to that effect from the Master or by the Master simply ordering the submissive to do them.

This is permission (or freedom) to enjoy from a figure in authority, ie. the Master.

Freedom to experience what they need

This last freedom is a simple one.

Many BDSMers find their emotional, physical, sexual or intellectual needs are not met in the "vanilla" world. By accepting BDSM and being involved with other BDSMers, they place themselves where they can find and experience what they need--be it dominance, submission, bondage, pain or whatever--to satisfy themselves.

They find, in the BDSM world, the freedom to be what they need to be, behave how they need to behave, and be their real selves without having to hide behind curtains of conformity.


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