Words. Vocabulary. Definitions and connotations. I’m a huge fan of words, of language, of communication.
As such, I love all the terminology involved in kink. I like organizing things and grouping and categorizing, because I’m one of those analytical types whose brain is soothed by orderliness. I like knowing that if I use a certain word, you’ll have a general idea of what I’m talking about. Because that’s the point of language, right? It’s a means of communication. But communication only works if all parties are on the same page as to what the words mean.
Take, for example, “submission” and “bottoming.” I have gathered that most people define submission as a subset of bottoming, with submission usually involving a stronger bond and/or a higher level of emotional involvement. Great, I also share that common understanding. But the overlap between those terms can lead to trouble if you’re not clear about what those words mean to you.
See, for me there is a very big difference between submission and bottoming. In any sexual/playful/kinky relationship, I will naturally play the bottom, because I like to be acted upon. But that’s the extent of what you’ll get from me: I’ll let you fuck me or tie me up or suspend me or run flames across my skin, but I’m not giving myself to you. I’m trusting you enough to not be a dick and I hope you’ll refrain from seriously injuring me, but don’t expect our exchange to go any deeper than that. During our interaction, my thoughts will sway between acute, cerebral body awareness and out-of-context miscellany. One moment I’ll be thinking, “This is a new sensation, do I like it?” then in the next I’ll be planning what to eat for dinner. I’ll focus on breathing through an uncomfortable position, then I’ll divert my thinking to something I’m dealing with at work. It’s not that I’m bored or uninterested, it’s just that I only want to put so much of my energy into the exchange. Still, I have had wonderful experiences within this restricted space.
Submission, on the other hand, is a different thing entirely. It starts with bottoming, with my desire to have something done to me, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Submission garners 100% of my attention. When I’m really deep in it, I forget what day it is, where I am, what I was doing before and what I’m supposed to do afterwards–I’ve written before that nothing else exists except for Sir. In contrast to when I’m just bottoming, I will skip thinking almost entirely. I will run purely on feeling and instinct. I’m a very reflective person, but I’ll save my rumination until I’m out of subspace and I can effectively re-enable my intellect. To me, submission means giving in completely. And obviously I’ve had wonderful experiences in doing so.
So the fundamental difference is my headspace. When I’m bottoming my thoughts are very logical and strategic, almost scientific in a sense. When something feels good I immediately start figuring out WHY it feels good. That’s a sensitive spot, he did the temperature change thing, maybe I was teased and surprised, etc. I become very aware of my anatomy. I realize when I’ve started to release endorphins and I almost get a secondary rush from thinking, “my body is doing the thing!” I get the same kind of nerdy buzz when I’m meditating. I can feel when I’ve reached those slower wavelengths and I get really excited over what’s happening to me. (Yeah, I know, I said it was nerdy.) Conversely, when an experience isn’t particularly pleasurable I’ll start running through reasons why I might not be enjoying myself. Is he talking too much? Is this the kind of sex that feels good but kinda makes me want to fall asleep? Could it be the pheromone thing that I’m really sensitive to?
But in submission I can’t process things like that at all. Something feels good and all I know is that it’s good and I want more. Even thinking about it now I find it really hard to describe what goes on in my mind. Like I said it’s almost like I bypass thinking entirely. And it’s incredibly peaceful to be able to turn that off for a while.
I wanted to write this to maybe help clarify what type of relationships I’m willing to engage in with people. I’m quite open to exchanges where I am bottoming in the way I’ve described. I met a local rope top a while back who said, “sometimes you tie ON someone, and sometimes you tie WITH someone.” That really sunk in for me. I’m the type of person who would like to be tied ON. I am fully willing and capable of having a worthwhile experience like this, but I don’t need or want to have a connection with you, I probably won’t need much in terms of aftercare and I probably won’t give you much thought afterwards, until we decide to meet again.
If you’re interested in getting me into that submissive headspace though, it’s simply not going to happen. Even just the word “submission” conjures images of Sir and I start thinking of him and not of what I could get out of you. I’m not interested in pursuing that type of deep relationship with anyone else.
So to wrap up, words are important. It’s important to not only understand the general definitions of the words we use when we communicate, but we also need to be cognizant of our personal interpretations and experiences with these words. My bottoming might not be your bottoming; my submission might not be your submission. It’s crucial to clarify these things, because in the end, we’re all just looking to get pleasure and please our partners. And the best way to do that is proper communication.