When I was new to kink, I spent months poring over the consent practices I found on this site. I formulated opinions about SSC and RACK. I developed theories about CNC and learned from a hundred consent violations. I’ve played with rope and pain, toys and degradation. I’ve had profound D/s relationships and shallow ones. None of it taught me what I needed to stay safe.
Absolute protection has never been about learning for me. It’s not even been about doing because all the tools I was reading about had to be used. I can name a screwdriver, but if I don’t know how to use it to change a plug, the light will never come on.
I’ve always been awful at using our consent tools.
In a way, you could say that I wasn’t born with opposable thumbs. I’ve always been a “yes” person, and a sub is only as safe to their dominant as their ability to say “no.” I grew up in a household where that two letter word was an invitation for unholy parental rage, and I took that weakness into my kink relationships. I’m not alone. Safewording is often hard for subs, and we masochists have our own equivalent to junkie pride: we want to take on an impressive amount of pain, as though suffering is a badge we wear to prove we’re supremely valuable.
And we aren’t.
We’re valuable if we quit when we hit our limits; if we’re good at expressing how we feel and where we are on our coping scale. We’re valuable when we’re quick to safeword and in touch with our bodies enough to stop when we’re nudging our limits.
My upbringing taught me to fit into any cookie cutter I saw. The experienced submissives on Fetlife seemed to have a clear picture of their identities, and all I had was fog, so I wanted to mould myself to their standards. It took me years to learn that every one of those “exceptional” subs felt as lost as I did. We were all just ordinary people navigating love and sex by the compass of our own confusion. Nobody is so gifted at relationships that they feel they’re steering by a talking map. We can learn how to be good rope bottoms. We can learn about our kinks, but when it comes to the profound and untechnical side of D/s, we’re all equally baffled.
The only way to change that is to return to quiet things: self-knowledge, self-respect, and self-care. We’ve got to navigate kink by listening carefully to what wewant and need. Learning BDSM means learning our own minds.
Years back, Fetlife old-timers used to speak about how beautiful submission was in the old days when all subs obeyed their every whim. I thought I had to earn dominance by moulding my submission into impossible shapes, as though obedience was my greatest treasure. Now I believe my desire to obey is my greatest hurdle. Many of us s-types desperately want to please, to submit, to be easy. But in pushing for such things, we forget to be human.
Flaws are beautiful. Our humanity is exquisite. We are allowed to exhibit both, not despite the fact that we are subs, but because of it.