The Roles We Are: Complexity in Kink Identities

My submission towards a certain sort of woman has been present since I was twelve or so—by that, I mean the desire to make life a bit easier by doing chores and errands and so on for women I admire and respect has been present since that time.

Once I had the words ‘submissive’, ‘Dominant’ and ‘service-oriented’ in my vocabulary, the world made much more sense. It explained why I reacted the way I did to the women I did, when other people in my peer group were reacting very differently to radically different sorts of people. They were interested in people our own age and seemed keen to do things with their genitals for two examples. Whereas my attention has always been more towards women a decade (or three) older, who showed their appreciation for all of my help by patting me on the head and allowing me to sit at their feet.

After I had the language to describe the entire way I related to the world, I thought that was it. I was a service-oriented submissive—frabjous day! Having a name not only meant there were others out there, but also that there was a chance I could have the sort of relationship that would work best for me—that would meet needs I hadn’t realised I had because I didn’t have a name for them.

Labels: It was the Best of Times; It was the Worst of Times

We live in a label-obsessed culture, for the good and ill. Binary labels are particularly popular and nefarious.

And we all know a person can’t be two things at once. Because humans are very simple organisms. [/sarcasm]

For example—a person can’t be submissive and want to top people. Submissives are only allowed to top someone if it’s in service or to entertain their Dominant.

‘Real’ submissives aren’t tops, though.

So it took awhile to work out I wanted to top men. In one of those ‘Well, that was obvious the entire time’ moments I realised I’d probably excel as a sadistic top to men. Women don’t inspire that in me. (Or I haven’t met one that has yet, anyway.)

Let Me Vanilla-It For You

Everyone inhabits several roles: sibling, parent, child, teacher, writer, spouse, etc. Your parent says your first and middle names and you’re instantly twelve again. But your significant other wears that thing you like and you’re anything but twelve. The roles you are lie quietly inside you until something triggers them. Your child crying, your boss moving your deadline—whatever it is.

Kink-related roles work similarly. It’s not a role like a theatre role—you’re not pretending—they’re always part of you. Different roles are brought to the fore by certain circumstances or people. Or, sometimes, inanimate objects.

There are people who think you can’t be a submissive and a top, but that’s like saying, ‘Well, you can’t be a sister and a mother.’ They’re two different things. A person always has the capacity to be the roles that make up who they are and being one role doesn’t make you less of any other role. Becoming an aunt doesn’t make you less of a CEO.

‘Real’ landscape gardeners aren’t brothers, though. (See how ridiculous that sounds?)

Being One Thing Would Be So HARD

It’s not about being a switch for me—I don’t vacillate from submissive to Dominant depending upon the circumstances. I just want to do stuff to dudes who are okay with me doing stuff to them. (Non-sexual stuff. I’m still an asexual lesbian.) What interests me is the trust and communication and creativity involved.

What draws me to women (and what I want from those women) is quite different to what I’d look for in a guy to play with, which is one of the best things about BDSM—being allowed, and even encouraged—to learn about yourself and explore the manifold ways there are to connect with others. Rather than being forced to choose the one role that is most who you are (as though everyone isn’t a number of things simultaneously all the time) and only being permitted to change that title if you’re prepared to only be that new thing now, like serial monogamy will roles in life. Humans are complicated enough to be several things at once.

Thank pete for that—I’d hate to have to decide which one specific role I wanted to inhabit in life. If I only wanted to be a writer I supposed I’d have to divorce my husband and murder my entire family, because there are far too many ways to relate to people happening there.

Then I’d be a murderer, too, though. So that would be my new role forever—no more writing for me!

It’d be more difficult trying to be one role than it would allowing yourself to occupy the various roles natural to you.

Not to mention that being one thing is a fast train to crazytown. Ask any stay-at-home parent who hasn’t had a conversation with an actual adult in months. They may love being a parent, but other parts of the mind need to be exercised or they’ll turn to mush.

The desire to watch something other than cartoons, eat grown up food in a restaurant and talk about current events doesn’t make a person a terrible parent or mean they dislike their child. Being allowed to have some time away—to step into other roles for awhile—gives a person a fresh appreciation for the more primary roles in their lives, as well as renewed energy that can be used in approaching them.

[This writing was adapted and expanded from the My Submissive Life section of episode twenty-three.]

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