What Does It Mean To Be Submissive?

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?

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46 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Be Submissive?

  1. Great post. I’ve also seen the geographic division of responsibilities where the wife what’s in the home and the husband runs what’s out of the home. Perhaps just a different perspective.

    We could also interpret the ideal traditional arrangement as an evolutionary adaptation as the male being responsible for the physical safety of the female. Survival of the species, and all that.

    Also, submission does not mean slavery. Even in (healthy) traditional marriages, I suspect a “submissive” wife has a fair influence on decisions.

  2. “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.”

    Female hypergamy enforces masculinity. A man that is under a woman in terms of hierarchy will have a wife whose sexual attraction and respect for her man will wane. Hence causing misery.

  3. While I’m sure this is true in some cases, there are others where this doesn’t happen. For example, if I was to change my mind about getting married and actively sought out a mate, I’d make it very clear from the beginning that I’d be perfectly fine with him being a househusband if that’s what he desired. If he is a good man and I love him, I don’t care if he works full time…part time…or not at all, so long as he wouldn’t try to pressure me into living beyond our means.

  4. You are the exception not the rule. Like the chaos of quantum physics when atoms are closely examined are individuals. But when however you look back at the big picture the universe follows sure rules like the laws of gravity.

  5. I’d agree with that, but there are other women like myself. The 3 househusbands I mentioned in my post are constantly going on about how lucky they feel, and how they’re happy their wives make enough as a breadwinner for them to stay home with the kids. Even if only 5% of marriages can carry on as such happily, I’m glad for those marriages.

  6. What is a “frivorce”? A frivolous divorce? I’m sure they may be the cause of some, but I think most of them deal less with “I make more than my husband” and more with “I deserve better, and shouldn’t have to work on fixing the marriage I’m already in”.

    In other words, couples can get along with reversed gender roles fine…but throw in dissatisfaction, narcissistic tendencies, unwillingness to listen to your spouse, and selfishness? Yup, sounds like the ingredients for a divorce to me.

    I’ve noticed that people of recent times are not as willing to compromise or be sympathetic to other points of view in general. Whether our culture is breeding this into people, or it’s just the result of poor parenting, narcissism is turning into a big problem. Navigator actually has some good info on this topic, maybe he will share it.

  7. Lol. Well, they are customers of mine, not friends. They don’t go into *that* much detail with me. But they seem very happy, and their wives are pleasant enough. In fact, the ladies often come in during the holidays to ask for appropriate gaming gifts for their guys. They aren’t into gaming themselves, but the fact that they support their husbands hobbies and buy gifts they’re sure to like bodes well, I think.

    They are not the type of women who sometimes come into my store, tapping their feet, huffing and puffing, complaining about their boyfriend’s/husband’s purchases or why he’s “wasting time” in a hobby shop.

  8. It sounds like you’re assuming that women who are bitchy to their men in public AND women who are friendly with their men in public BOTH act bitchy in private. If a woman’s good actions in public + her man’s insistence of her continued goodness at home isn’t enough to convince you that they have a nice relationship…well, it sounds like you just won’t be able to accept that some people have enjoyable marriages.

  9. Oh, it totally is. My stepfather pretended to be a loving husband, caring father, and upstanding worker. Yet he constantly screamed at my mother, sexually abused me for years, made my younger siblings cry numerous times a month by threatening to burn their most loved toys, and was caught with the secretary at his job. Yet he was fairly good looking, clean shaven, a member of the town board, and an active churchgoer. If you saw him in his crisp suits and shined shoes, you could pass by him on the street and not even realize the type of man you were walking near.

    Believe me, infowarrior…I understand the “public face” only too well. But I do try to give the benefit of the doubt until it’s proven otherwise. I do think the majority of people are fairly good folks, or at least they try to be.

  10. Its seeing them under stress that you can really see if they are good or not. Likewise the extremely high divorce rate made me conclude that many marriages are unhappy and the unhappiness of the wife is what causes marital dissolution.

    And secondly. I am sorry that had to happen to you. I wonder where your biological father had been. If this is reopening old wounds you could tell me and I will press you no further.

  11. Yes, that would pan out. After all, most American divorces are initiated by the female half. Some are undoubtedly for good reasons, but I unfortunately think many are done for the reasons we spoke of before…Unwillingness to accept that the marriage needs fixing, that both partners have to work at it, and selfishness has to be thrown out the window.

    I knew my biological father, too. In fact, I still do though I feel safer not visiting him in private. He and my mother divorced when I was about 1 year old, but I didn’t meet him till I was 6. He is a manic bipolar, was an unrepentant alcoholic, and physically abusive to my mother while she was carrying me. I was born 4 weeks early because of him.

    He behaved himself most of the time during visitation every weekend, though he would sometimes throw things and twice he broke our front door. I stopped seeing him when I was 13 due to his increased drinking and random suicide attempt. I have started seeing him in public in the past 3 years, but only because he’s my father.

    As for my stepfather, I wrote a little about this in my posts “Why my favorite comic made me cry” and “Unloving Kiss” (has an outgoing link). You don’t have to be sorry, you didn’t do anything. I don’t blame men for the horrors of my childhood…I only blame the 2 men who are responsible for their actions.

    I’m actually going to do a post after the holidays about coping with thoughts of suicide and self mutilation that are brought on by abuse. Maybe it’ll help others to see that there is hope, if you can stay safe enough to leave.

  12. @infowarrior

    Sorry, did I burst your bubble of my biological father being a good guy? I’ve met quite a few MRAs who get upset that *both* my male parents were abusive. There seems to be a pervasive myth that mothers divorce from good, caring fathers only to marry “thugs” or abusers…Unfortunately, sometimes she leaves one bad husband for another. Admittedly, my stepfather didn’t start abusing me til I was 10, and she married him when I was 7, so I understand how she didn’t know he was a monster. I mean, I thought he was an okay parent up to that point too.

  13. Aren’t you reading too much into the “bubble” about the biological father being a good guy? If anything can be said in good faith about biological fathers in general, it’s that they are the least likely to be sexually attracted to their offspring, compared to any other adult man that happens to be around. And even if so, they are unlikely to act on it. How often does one encounter monsters like Josef Fritzl?

    Have you ever wondered, why your mother chose to marry a confirmed bipolar alcoholic basket-case? Were it not obvious at some point before the marriage? After a year or two of dating, what would be still a mystery about him to her?

  14. It’s not my business to know any of the above. It’s just another angle to see the issue from.

    Another rhetorical question – was it submissiveness that the Fritzl’s wife has shown during all those years raising three of her daughters’ children? If not submissiveness, then what? Misplaced trust, or willful ignorance born out of cowardice?

  15. @Exfernal

    No, I don’t think I’m reading too much into it. Many mascularists *do* believe that the biological father is always the hurt one, and usually use such examples to promote an idea of “female hypergamy”…namely, that the woman cut ties with her first husband due only to greed, rather than entertaining the idea that she did so to save herself/the children from abuse. I’m not saying the former doesn’t happen, just that the latter happens too.

    In my own case, I should have said “separated” instead of “divorced”, as my mother and father were never married. She had me when she was 18 and he was 24. Luckily, my mom’s mother and grandmother were around to help raise me while my mom worked full-time to keep me clothed and fed. Some kids with only 1 parent in their formative years aren’t so well off.

    As for the wife of Fritzl…I think she is just as much to blame. Whether she didn’t go to the police or help her daughter out of cowardice or jealousy, I don’t know. I just know that the only way evil can flourish is if good people do nothing, or worse, act as though they’re not in a position to help.

  16. In that case, conceiving a child in such ambiguous circumstances as you have described seems a tad irresponsible.

    I’d leave this – the Cinderella effect – as a food for thought. Does it add any credibility to “masculinist” (more like MRA, from my perspective) claims?

  17. By the way, I am curious what are your impressions of this manga. We, as a species, are prone to anthropomorphising, as a side effect how empathy works. Knowing that male perspective usually differs slightly from the female one, that often leads to confusion as both parties project their own thinking processes on the other one. So, I think, you are in a quite unique position – less affected by “gender blinders” than fully normative people.

    What do you think of the mother of Hinako? How likely is her behavior to be replicated by another woman in similar circumstances?

  18. And, as words go, “deference” has a nicer ring to it than submissiveness, being a practice, and not a personal trait.

  19. That subsequent partners of his divorced wife might abuse their position in regard to children’ well-being. Generalization of infowarrior’s question:

    And secondly. I am sorry that had to happen to you. I wonder where your biological father had been.

    The father not present, and the mother not protective enough to prevent abuse. Not as uncommon as we’d like it to be. One of Manosphere’s pet-peeves.

  20. @Exfernal True, but in my case the biological father wasn’t around for good reason…he was just as abusive, only in a different way. He also never pursued his visitation rights until I was 6, so I’m unsure if he worried at all. He didn’t even pay any child support during my formative years…you’d think that if he was worried about his offspring, he’d at least want to make sure she was financially provided for. I sometimes wonder if I had told my mother sooner if she would have believed me the first time, rather than needing to see proof with her own eyes. Remember, it had been going on since I was 10, and it only happened when she was at work…at least until right before I moved out, and my stepfather started to get sloppy about making sure she was gone.

  21. @Exfernal

    Sorry, forgot to reply to your “Cinderella” question.

    1. Yes, I agree. Conceiving a child when/if you know that the father is dangerous is an irresponsible thing to do. Now that I’m older, I often wondered why my mother didn’t abort me. It’s not usually something you ask though, so I doubt I’ll ever know. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she did, under the circumstances.

    2. I read your link, and did some further research myself…little did I know that this was an observed trait in stepparents! I’d always believed my stepfather was just a jerk, and I’m sad to now know that many stepparents act in a similar fashion. It actually brings to mind an example from my childhood;

    At the time, my mother and stepfather had a son and daughter together. My mother had just had a miscarriage of another son, and was heartbroken that she didn’t now have 2 daughters and 2 sons…what she believed to be the perfect ratio. We were eating dinner, and she asked my stepfather if he’d consider adopting a baby boy so my current brother could be guaranteed a younger brother.

    His reply was immediate: No, there would be no adoptions in his household. He would never be able to love a child that wasn’t his in the same way as one that was. My mother gave him a dirty look, and they had a fight after putting us kids to bed that night. But it only confirmed for me what I already knew…this is why I was constantly treated more harshly and could never do anything right in his eyes.

    This “Cinderella effect” actually explains something else I’d found in my later research of sexually abused children. Often I’d read about boys and girls who were used by their parents/relatives being given special treatment…favors, extra gifts, more leniency when they did wrong, etc. I had been very surprised by these accounts, as my own experience was completely opposite. Not only was I being abused, but I was held to far higher standards, was constantly berated for my “failings”, and was expected to do double the chores of my step siblings, even as we grew older. Perhaps now it makes more sense, as I was not his child…though this doesn’t make his actions forgivable.

  22. Again, it’s not my business how you should treat anyone else. My own perspective is that the easiest way to avoid displaying questionable behaviors is to avoid the circumstances that might bring them out of me (Don’t want to become a meth-head? Don’t try meth, ever). It’s as simple as that. In this case don’t take the role of a stepfather, ever.

  23. So do you mean you’d never be a stepfather, for fear of becoming someone who loves his biological children more than his adopted ones? I guess I can understand that in a way…But if you’re already conscious of a negative behavior, shouldn’t you be able, as an adult, to take precautions?

    For example, alcoholism runs on both sides of my family to a disturbing amount. My mother combats this by doing as you would aka never drinking alcohol, ever. I, on the other hand, do drink but with precautions aka never have more than 2 drinks, don’t go to bars, don’t keep alcohol at home, never get drunk.

  24. If your biological father didn’t have the opportunity to bind emotionally with you right from the start, then there was little internal motivation to contribute to your upbringing in any form.

    As for me, “for fear”? I’m not morally obliged to do so, unless I take this burden voluntarily. I’m old enough (late thirties) to not feel the need to prove myself “better” than anyone else in this regard. And lastly, why should I desire my life to be more difficult than already is?

    Addressing alcohol, I have similar background from the maternal side of my family. I do keep liquor at home, for visitors. I have no special reservations to drinking, yet it’s almost a year since I tasted anything stronger than beer. And for being drunk, well, it was more than 12 years ago…

    I’d prefer a less personal subject. What do you think of manga in general, compared to Western style comic books? I have noticed that Japanese authors don’t shy from difficult subjects, even if writing for teen demographic. Read “Shibatora” someday, for example. Not a feel-good fairy tale by any metric. The same could be said about Korean manhwa. On the other hand, sometimes the amount of violence, erotic themes and disturbed personalities in a randomly chosen title could be overwhelming for a novice reader.

    It’s a pity that your access to the Internet is so restrictive. There is so much free content to keep me entertained here… Well, perhaps it’s for the best for you. I assume that you lead a quite sedentary lifestyle already. More time spent surfing would have some obvious downsides.

  25. I suppose I look at it differently, since I did eventually get to know him. Judging from how he acted when I visited him every weekend, it was probably much better for me that he didn’t have a chance to “emotionally bond with me”, as I may very well have been the recipient of his fists.

    Ah, I misunderstood then. It initially sounded as though you might be tempted to marry/date a woman with children, and the sole reason for not doing so was the threat of becoming a stepfather. I don’t know how this would prove you “better” anyway…At any rate, you already know from my posts on singlehood that I also feel no need to make my life more difficult or restrictive with either marriage or children. Being single and free is preferable to me. 🙂

    I personally enjoy light liquors and red wine, but will have a single beer if it is of German origin…those seem to be the only ones I can stand, lol.

    I love both manga and comic books, so I really can’t make a judgment on that. I will say that Indy comics from Vertigo, Dark Horse, and IDW are superior at covering difficult/mature topics when compared to DC or Marvel though. Probably why I’m such an Indy fan, honestly. 🙂

    Why do you assume I have a “sedentary lifestyle”? I’m on my feet 60 hours a week, and I walk one mile every morning before work…The only “downside” to me sitting down to play around online would be that I’d probably fall asleep, lol.

  26. “Better” as in “morally superior”. The whole “man-up!” mantra.

    Free content to read, watch, listen to and sometimes play. Not online multiplayer stuff though. Too much grinding necessary to get anywhere, knowing that there are more productive/amusing/interesting ways of spending leisure time.

    Sorry for misjudging you. 😉 It was because you admitted somewhere to carrying around several pounds too much. I’m not paid to sit on my ass either. Makes easier to keep in shape.

    Have you read recently anything especially memorable? If so, then what it was?

  27. Yeah, I thought afterwards that you might have been thinking that…needless to say, I don’t believe in the idiocy of “man up”/”woman up” or any such crap.

    I do use my 5gb each month to watch documentaries, usually about ancient history, theology, and modern day science. I also have music downloaded on my phone, and my blog of course, which I sometimes need to do research for. In my free time, I play D&D, sketch, read, spend time with my pets, or hang out with my friends.

    That’s okay…I was just confused because it sounded like you thought I was really heavy or something, lol. I am 5’7″ and 150 lbs…and as my lover says, my weight is in “all the right places”. I could lose weight if I tried, but don’t really care enough to. If my FwB said he found me unattractive I’d consider it, but as he’s 55 lbs overweight himself…he wouldn’t have much of a leg to stand on. 😉

    Hm, right now I’m reading an old textbook about altruistic tendencies in other animals, the manga Blood Alone, the newest issue of Scientific American, and the Giants Trilogy by Hogan.

  28. “Blood Alone” is interesting, a little too slow-paced, and, I daresay, cute. Not very expressive drawing style, though. I’d also prefer shorter waiting times between new releases. Half a year is too tiresome.

  29. My wife is the head of our family and I happily follow her lead. Instead of a dominant/submissive relationship, I prefer to think of our family as being matriarchal.

    My wife is wise, strong, and nurturing. I’m proud to be her helpmate.

  30. That’s wonderful, Uxorious. I am glad that you and your wife have a relationship that works for both of you. It shouldn’t matter if the family is male-led, female-led, or 100% equal…so long as everyone is respected and loved, who cares! 🙂

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