There has always been much talk about dominance vs submissiveness. Whether it’s the interactions between a customer and a salesperson, an employee and their boss, or a professor and their students, there are many situations where society expects one to take on either a dominant or submissive role (however subtle it may be). Today, I’m going to talk about dominance and submission in regards to relationships, and male-female ones in particular. Hopefully it will rouse some good talking points, and get this subject out in the open away from Judeo-Christian lines.
What is submissive anyway?
Most dictionaries define it as ‘ready to conform to the authority or will of others; meekly obedient or passive’, or something similar. On the face of it, this doesn’t sound too bad. After all, children should submit to their parents in most cases…they are inexperienced and unlearned in life experiences and benefit from having parents to teach them right from wrong. An employee should submit to their employer in most cases…they are not as knowledgeable about the company and have different tasks to perform. Hopefully, the parents/employers in the majority of situations are good people who care about those who are ‘under’ them.
But what if the person in the authoritative position does not have the submissive’s best interests at heart? Parents can be abusive to their children. Employers can be cruel or mean-spirited to their employees. My own observations of relationships that were submissive follow this trend as well. From a comment I left on another blog;
“I recall times when adult women were told to shut up, interrupted in the middle of their sentences, told that the food they’d spent 5 hours making wasn’t good enough, being reprimanded for talking longer than 10 minutes on the phone. Women who had children in high school…but were forbidden from getting a part time job, or joining a local book club. Husbands who *always* had to be right, whether it was in the best interest of the family or not. One man even went so far as to order a meal for his wife that he knew she hated…because he thought that she should eat it anyway, like a naughty child who refuses a certain vegetable. So, no. Submissive to me brings to mind not a necessarily abusive life, but one where a woman’s opinions will be constantly shunned, her individual tastes will be forgotten, and she won’t be respected at all. I could never live like that.”
Now, I’ve been informed by Traditionalists that my examples above were perversions of what a authoritative/submissive relationship should be like. The vast majority of them (so I’m told), is a relationship where the husband is kind, loving, is always thinking of ways to support his family, and never degrades his wife. In fact, I have had both men and women tell me that my examples aren’t even indicative of a Traditionalist marriage…that these things I saw and heard should be put under a different name altogether.
To me, this smacks heavily of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. Instead, I believe that these were authoritative/submissive marriages, but that they were taken to a horrible extreme. I personally don’t believe that when people talk of these types of relationships, that *this* is what they mean. However, they are the only ones I have personal experience seeing.
Is There Any Secular Reason For A Woman To Be Submissive?
Okay, I may lose some readers for saying this, but I believe there is.
For one, our hypothetical woman may be in a culture/society that would literally kill her if she wasn’t. Is this fair? Of course not! But it *is* a fact of reality in some areas of our world, and until change can happen, I’d say it is generally better to live than to die.
Secondly, she may actually be happy in a Captain/First Mate marriage. I know some of you are crying out “What? How could she be?!”, but hear me out. I haven’t met any in real life, but I have very good online sources that tell me there are at least some women who feel fulfilled and happy taking a submissive role in their relationship. Apparently, for many couples they are able to make it work the way it ‘should’. The wife is fully in charge of minor family decisions like daily shopping, what to make for dinner, when to feed/bathe the kids, how long they should be allowed to play videogames, and so on. The only difference between this type of marriage and an egalitarian one, that I can immediately see, is that on major decisions like whether to buy a new car, where to go on vacation, what the family budget needs to be, etc…the husband always has the final say.
From an intellectual standpoint, I can see that this would appeal to some women. As a careerist, I can definitely say that it would be easier if I could just leave all major household decisions up to someone else. If I didn’t have to work full-time (or at all), I would be able to do a LOT more community volunteering than I ever have time for now. My home would always remain utterly spotless and tidy, rather than how it looks a week after my one day off I get. Hey, when you work 10 hour shifts 6 days a week, sometimes the dishes pile up a bit…So yes, I see the benefit of being the First Mate rather than the Captain.
Does this mean I am rethinking my stance on singlehood? Nope, not at all. But I think it is good to understand and appreciate different ways of living, even if they’re not for me personally.
Can Men Be Submissive?
I’m unsure why this is even a question on some forums, but apparently in some circles it is considered taboo for a man to be happily submissive. This is incredibly sexist, and people who believe that men have no right to be the *supportive* rather than *supporting* spouse should check their prejudices. If we are willing to accept trait X for a woman, shouldn’t we be just as willing to accept that same trait in a man…*without* trying to dilute his masculinity?
I have only met 3 to date, but I do know some househusbands who are thrilled that their wife makes enough for them to stay home with their children. They are wonderful fathers who keep the home clean, bring their kids to school, help with homework, go to sporting events and school plays, and get to tuck their babies into bed every night. What typical father wouldn’t want to do that even ONE night a week, yet is unable to because of long hours at work? Maybe some people are uncomfortable with this idea, but think of it this way, especially if you are a male reader: Aren’t you tired of men being portrayed as incapable of changing a diaper, making a bag lunch, or being able to cuddle with their newborn infant? Seriously, just think about where your prejudices are coming from before you actively mock men who take a submissive role, and find pleasure in doing so.
What Can We Take From This?
Honestly, all I’d like for my readers to do is just be more understanding of couples who enjoy living in an Authoritative/Submissive way, regardless of which direction the roles go. If it works for an individual couple to be Husband = supporter, Wife = supporter…that should be fine if it’s agreed upon by both partners. if it works best in reverse…that should be fine as well if it’s agreed upon by both partners. Live and let live, right?