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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.