Not a Doormat: Why We Need to Change Our Assumptions About Submission

by Dee Rene

When I told a friend I fully intended to submit to my future partner, he dismissed the idea as a sign of weakness. I soon came to realize it’s because he, like many other people in communities of color, hold on to antiquated assumptions about submission.

I can’t remember the Twitter user’s name, but I remember he was a Black male and the impact of this statement, in which he inferred that when Black women are told that they should be submissive, they “fly off the handle.” Another Twitter user replied saying that a lack of submission is why most black women are single or in relationships that don't last.

Although the conversation started as an ill-informed discussion on dominance and submission in the realm of BDSM, it spiraled into an even more ridiculous discussion that “black women don’t submit,” period, even in non-BDSM relationships. Submission, which is not exclusive to BDSM, involves yielding your will to someone else’s leadership, has a negative connotation. Here are a few reasons why we need to examine and dismantle our previous notions on submission.

Saying black women don’t submit is problematic. The idea that Black women are more aggressive and strong-willed than other races is nothing less than a deep seeded ideology of patriarchy. Men assume that women of other races are somehow easier to “control.” Some men not only make that assumption but they also turn women of different races into a monolith, assuming that they ALL subscribe to the same set of behaviors and beliefs simply based on race.

All women, regardless of race, have the ability to be strong willed and aggressive. Singling out Black women to be the bullies of all races is another example of men idealizing the strength of the woman that raised him and dismissing the same traits in the woman they intend to marry. It enforces the stereotype that we cannot participate in healthy, heterosexual relationships, with men because we desire to “be men” and take the lead.

Before putting other races of women on a pedestal because they appear more docile and thus, more controllable, it’s best to understand what submission really is in the first place.

Submission is not about control. Submitting to your partner is not about letting your partner control you or throwing your desires, wants and needs to the wayside. Submitting is a conscious choice and only given with your consent. Someone forcing you to follow their lead is abuse, not submission. Although the concept of submission has a negative connotation, for many women it is a healthy and happy reality. Submission is an agreement between two parties that one will lead and one will support the leadership.

Women also contribute to giving submission a bad connotation. There is no need to bash other women who choose to submit by calling them weak or saying that they lack independence. Submission does not mean you become a doormat. When you submit to your partner, you are yielding to their leadership and trusting in their direction but you are not a doormat. Women who choose to submit do so out of strength and trust. It takes a great amount of strength to yield your will to someone else’s and trust that person to take guide your relationship in the right direction. It also takes courage to be a supporter, his biggest confidant and wise counsel. Women who do submit understand that submission is not given to everyone.

Ultimately, submission is only given to those who can lead. Men who believe that Black women don’t submit, have likely never met a Black woman willing to submit to them, which may say more about the person expecting submission than the person expected to submit. In order to take off your Black woman superhero cape, you must trust in that person’s leadership ability and guidance. Men who subscribe to this ideology should probably start inspecting their own qualifications before incorrectly generalizing an entire race of women.

Men who believe that Black women cannot subscribe to this lifestyle because of stereotypes and assumptions are perpetuating negative views of Black women. Some women also oppose submission. However, vehemently discouraging it because you may not subscribe to the ideology only enforces the negative stereotypes. Being submissive does not strip a woman of her independence. Submission is another way to love in a healthy and whole way, with one leader and one strong supporter.

Photo: Shuttertsock

Dee Rene is a connoisseur of snacks and brunch. Her focus is holding onto faith in all the things that make us laugh, cry and cuss. Follow her on Twitter @deerene_.

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