What are the signs of a great submissive? There are none. There are things that you consider important in a submissive, just like there are things that submissives consider important in the Doms they look for. But there is no one true way to be a sub, which means there is no handy list of what makes a good submissive, only what makes a submissive good for you!
I found this meme a while back on social media and I saved it because…it’s awful. I mean the intention is nice. I get what they are going for, but the way it comes out is not helpful at all.
I’m going to share it here with you now, just be aware that I didn’t write it. No name was attached to it, and it’s been shared thousands of times so tracking it down is impossible at this point to give credit.
On the surface this is a nice message and some of it is valid although very little of it discusses actual submissive attributes. But these kinds of memes worry me because they get passed around and shared, people read them and then think… “Wow, I suck. I’m not all of these things so I’m a terrible sub.”
Often they resonate with the person who posts them, which is great! But there are a lot of people who then see it and get hit right in the insecurities.
My main issue is not that the things in it are all wrong, or bad. It’s that it’s presented as a shopping list for a good submissive. It doesn’t say ‘These are some goals to work towards,’ or ‘Signs of a healthy D/s dynamic’. The latter I think would be most accurate.
Most of these aren’t even specifically related to submission they are things you would want in any relationship partner and things I would encourage in a healthy dynamic. But many of them are things you grow towards in a relationship—not things you check off on a shopping list when picking a sub.
Instead of saying that these things are signs of a fantastic sub, I would have said that these are the signs of a submissive in a healthy relationship. Many of the items listed aren’t about a person at all, they are about how secure the person feels in the relationship they are in.
So, I just thought I’d go down the list, maybe expand on them a bit, and mention any problems there might be with each item.
They want to openly discuss things with you—They want to talk about things in and out of the BDSM lifestyle, they want to discuss limits, they want to discuss safety problems.
Okay, so, clearly these are relationship goals for the person who wrote this, and most of it is pretty reasonable, but the first one doesn’t actually work for every relationship. There are some D/s couples who don’t discuss things outside the scene because they aren’t together outside of the scene.
It’s perfectly acceptable to be scene partners without connecting the other parts of your life. Obviously, this is going to depend on your dynamic, but if you only serve your Dom on Friday night at the club then it’s possible neither of you will be interested in discussing non BDSM topics and that’s fine.
As for wanting to discuss safety problems and limits… well, these things should be discussed but I know plenty of subs who don’t want to discuss them so I would not have phrased it like that. Also, I don’t think you should be judging a submissive by what you think they want, because you might be wrong.
They do their best to do what you ask of them—life happens but they still do their best to meet their Dom’s needs and wants as well as agreed upon “Chores” that have been outlined before the relationship started.
This one is reasonable on the surface though right off the bat there are assumptions here that all subs and slaves are in a relationship where they do chores. Remember that not all D/s dynamics incorporate that kind of thing. Additionally, I think it’s pretty standard in any relationship to try and meet your partner’s needs and this isn’t really something that needs to be dropped only on the submissive.
They actually help take care of you— A submissive/slave knows that sometimes they need to “step up” and take on a more paternal/maternal type role with their Dom, in particular on days when their Dom isn’t feeling well because of acute or chronic illness.
Oh wow, so… no. I mean I get the sentiment, but it’s phrased terribly. This one went so far off the rails that I can only assume they’ve decided this based on their own particular relationship dynamic where they sometimes switch roles, but this isn’t the norm. The first part “They actually help take care of you,” is good, for most. As a service sub I certainly believe in taking care of your Dom as much as they will allow.
But I can’t help thinking if you try to mother or father your Dom because they aren’t feeling well, you’re going to get smacked. Speaking as a sub with two disabled Doms there is only so much ‘mothering’ they will allow. And acting maternal/paternal with your Dom isn’t the same thing as helping them or giving them extra attention—it implies bossing them around which most Doms simply won’t stand for.
You’re likely to get accused of taking advantage of their illness to be in charge if you try it. But here’s G’s opinion on this one – “You would not enjoy the consequences.” So, there you have it straight from a Dominant with chronic pain issues.
You know, not everything has to be about your dynamic, and it’s okay to not be in your role 24/7. If your partner has chronic pain and isn’t in the space to Dom at the moment, that’s perfectly fine, but it doesn’t follow that the sub automatically needs to jump into that role and be in charge. It’s perfectly fine to just set aside the power exchange and take care of them, as a friend, lover, or partner.
G added that listening to what the Dominant says they need is really important. It’s actually ableism to assume that someone who is disabled or sick has to be parented. Most people with chronic pain don’t want you to rush in and take over, and they will be offended if you try, but if you listen they will probably tell you what you can do that will help them—and that might be leaving to entertain yourself for a while, or maybe they want to be fussed over a little.
Everyone is different and needs different things so it’s important to ask them what they need and then listen when they tell you.
They aren’t afraid to use their safety system—They aren’t afraid to use safewords or use the traffic light system when in the middle of a scene, this is of vital importance to keep everyone safe.
Again, this doesn’t fit every dynamic since not everyone uses safewords or the traffic light system. If you do use them then this is the ideal goal, but the biggest reason for a submissive to be afraid to use those things is directly related to how their current or former Dominants have reacted to them using them in the past.
I’ve seen Doms get mad when they think a sub used them for an insufficient reason. I’ve seen Doms go into a Top drop and mope around because the sub used them. I’ve seen Doms yell at subs for being a baby because they used them so…
You get the occasional sub who is just stubborn but for the most part they are afraid to use them for a reason. A submissive who is nervous about it needs to be coaxed and helped to learn that it’s okay, but I’m never going to say that they aren’t a good sub because of fears that their Doms gave them in the first place.
They are still self-sustaining in the “Real world” – As much as some couples want to use a 24/7 TPE, the reality is, life happens. In incidents when this happens (work, family problems, medical issues, etc.) the subs/slaves are still able to function on their own without needing to “hold onto” their Dom for every action they do.
Obviously this is ideal yes. However, this is another time when submissives who can’t function on their own usually got there because they had a Dom who insisted on micro-managing every single thing until the submissive no longer knew how to function on their own. This is especially common for people who identify as slaves. Often in a Master/slave dynamic total control is taken away and it can be difficult to function after too long in that role.
This sign is also kind of vague. I mean, are we saying that the sub can’t get out of bed without the Dom telling them to? Or is it more like they have trouble following their rules when their Dom ghosts on them for a week, because I’ve been told I should have been able to deal with that, and I definitely couldn’t.
You can’t demand full control over someone’s life and then get mad when they actually need you to be in control, which means you need to be really careful when you decide how much authority you want to wield over someone because yes, life does happen and you might not always be there.
They aren’t afraid to tell you “This is a bad idea” –error is human, everyone is bound to mess up on something (Whether you’re a Dom, sub/slave, or switch). Subs/slaves aren’t afraid to say “Hey, stop this” or “Maybe we should learn more about this first” because they see some red flags in a situation that’s about to happen.
Yes, okay, this is pretty good advice for any submissive in the scene to follow. You should be able to speak up and say no—but that doesn’t change the fact that some submissives won’t be able to do that until they feel safe and comfortable in their dynamic so this is another sign of a healthy relationship more than it’s a sign of a good sub.
They don’t resort to blackmail or threaten when upset—reasonable communication is absolutely vital for any type of relationship (vanilla or otherwise) to be successful and work. If “too far” things are said, apologies are given.
I…can’t imagine that apologizing for trying to blackmail your D/s partner is going to work? If you have blackmail happening in your relationship, then you need to get out. This has nothing to do with being a submissive and everything to do with recognizing an abusive partner. As for threats unless they are punishment threats like, for spanking, that’s also abusive.
They know they still deserve basic human rights, regardless of their BDSM title—A sub/slave still has enough “common sense” to be aware that BDSM is just a fantasy and because of that, still deserve to be treated with decency and respect.
This last one comes off so patronizing it had me gritting my teeth. First of all …common sense has nothing to do with knowing you deserve basic human rights and everything to do with how many people have abused you throughout your life and told you that you were trash.
If you have a submissive who doesn’t think they have those rights then there will be reasons why they feel that way. I certainly believe in not taking on more than you can handle, but if you aren’t ready to deal with a submissive who has any emotional needs and past baggage then you probably aren’t ready for a submissive.
Someone who doesn’t think they deserve to be treated well needs kindness and compassion and some work on their self-esteem, not to be judged as a bad sub because they’ve been crushed down. Obviously, they deserve to be treated with decency and respect as any partner in any relationship would deserve.
As for BDSM being just a fantasy, that’s only the case if your dynamic makes it that way. And this last one seems a complete contradiction to the first one which talks about doing your assigned chores. If your D/s relationship is affecting your real life and having you do things or behave in certain ways outside of a scene or the bedroom then… it’s not fantasy it’s a dynamic.
To be honest anyone who would dismiss our dynamic as ‘fantasy’ would not have a relationship with me. I take my relationships and my role of submissive seriously.
I didn’t save this meme to critique it because I wanted to embarrass or show up whoever wrote it originally. I saved it because I cringed thinking how many people would read this list and try to judge future subs based on it. And how many subs would read it and feel like they were a failure who shouldn’t even try to submit.
This meme has a bunch of decent general relationship goals, mixed in with a ton of judgments and assumptions. But then it’s tied to submission specifically, which I honestly don’t get. Only a few of those actually pertain to submission. Maybe it was written for a certain situation and so we’re getting it without context, but there are a lot of things floating around out there like this.
What I’d like you to take away from this is that you shouldn’t judge yourself harshly by things you find online. They are often written from a very narrow perspective. Sometimes by people who have only ever been in one type of dynamic so they can’t help but expect everyone to conform to it.
Don’t pick your partners based on someone else’s needs, pick them based on your own. What works for you is more important than some arbitrary list you find online. If this resonates with some people because it’s what they think they want in a submissive, then again I’m going to emphasize that you won’t get most of this until you are already in a relationship and have learned to trust each other.
And lastly, just in general be careful how much belief you put in a random meme without a source. When you read an article, you get the whole picture, and you have some idea of the experience of the person writing it as well. When you see a meme go by on Facebook you have no idea of its origin. That’s just some general good advice for dealing with any meme no matter the topic.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home if you can.
2 Replies to “What Are the Signs of a Great Submissive?”
Great riposte, Kessily. While I think a lot of these things are fine, they’re just so prescriptive and seem to assume that all successful D/s relationships have to be the same. In my case, the looking after the other person when they’re not well is true for my relationship, but my Dom is also my boyfriend and we’re in an exclusive relationship so there’s different stuff going on than just our D/s dynamic. If we opened our relationship up and I had other Doms, I can’t imagine that my relationships with them would all be the same.
And, oof, to the bit about there being no blackmail or threats. As you rightly point out that’s basically saying that a good partner isn’t abusive. Kinda seems at odds with the rest of the meme which seems to be setting the bar somewhat higher than Not Abusive.
Also, I think it’s good that you pointed out that toxicity of saying “A good [anything really] shouldn’t be scared.” Being scared doesn’t make you ‘bad’. It means you have some shit going on that made you that way.
Lots of food for thought, here. Thank you.
Thank you, so glad you found it interesting. Memes like this really grate on my nerves because so often what should be a goal in a healthy partnership is phrased like a reason not to even start a relationship. Many submissives have baggage and insecurities in the beginning. That’s not a reason to ignore them IMO.