The deeper I immerse myself in the writings of psychologist, Otto Rank, the greater an affinity I develop for both the thinker and the man. Although, to be sure, the most interesting portrait of the doctor I’ve found comes not from his own writings, but from the diary of Anaïs Nin, with whom he had both a therapeutic and an intimate relationship. If Rank were alive today, I would want to meet him. I would probably ask him to be my mentor. And, I would have no shortage of questions for him regarding the creative power of will, the value of constructing a lush inner world, and using creativity to overcome denial and guilt. Indeed, I’ve spent the greater part of the last 24 hours poring over Truth and Reality, a book whose arrival via Amazon I had been anticipating for days. While I haven’t quite finished it, I have, I believe, gained sufficient insight to apply some of his ideas to the current project of fashioning my own femininity (itself an enormous exercise of creative will). Particularly, to grapple with a facet of the feminine experience I have been struggling to frame a discussion around for a few weeks now: the desire that many women have to be submissive.
When I first published On the Art of Femininity, I was uncertain how the section titled, “Make Me Want…” (which culminates in the declaration, “Make me want to be submissive.”) would be received. I was surprised not only by the number of comments I received on that segment of the post, but also on the many voices that passionately and volubly echoed that sentiment. Yes! Make me want to be submissive! I have, in fact, been making notes sporadically over the last two weeks on what it means to want to be submissive, hoping to arrive at an “aha” moment of meaning and cohesion. It was Truth and Reality that gave me that framework. Indeed, while most of my previous posts on femininity and female eroticism represent a creative recasting, or reformulation, of an emotional state or experience, I find that my interest in on wanting to be submissive is not about submission itself. It is, rather, about alchemizing the desire. It is the wanting that is most in need of a facelift.
Here are some thoughts on wanting to be submissive:
The power is in the wanting.
As I consider what it means to me to want to be submissive, I feel as though I am in the process of elevating what I have historically viewed as one of the lowliest parts of myself. As in On Feeling Like a Woman, On Feeling Pretty, and On Wanting to Be Wanted, my aim is to dignify those aspects of my experience that I have, for as long as I can remember, been taught to view as childlike, banal, even disempowering. As if, to grow more vibrantly and powerfully within myself, I must become something other than myself. To distort my inner world to conform to external demands. How many of us, if we are to be entirely honest with ourselves, can verbalize desires, like “I need to feel pretty”—or attempt to articulate them with pride—without feeling the teensiest twinge of guilt or embarrassment?
For me, to suggest that I have an innate desire to be submissive is to say that I take pleasure in being made to want to submit. Don’t ever make me submissive. Make me want to be submissive. It is a decision. It is the intentional yielding of power that is so intensely gratifying, so wonderfully sexy. So distinctly feminine and seductive. It is a kind of lust.
Indeed, a girlfriend recently remarked to me, during a rather interesting conversation about male body types, that she prefers men of a certain build because she needs to feel like she’s “being overpowered.” I know exactly what she means. It is the feeling of being taken. Or, pleasurably over-taken. And a craving for the moments that create that kind of longing. For those of us who are in tune with the pervasive sensitivity of our bodies, the nuanced aspects of our sensuality, and the building of sexual pleasure, to submit can be a conscious choice to be gratified. To awaken. To open oneself to the fullness of mutual satisfaction. We sometimes forget that. To be receptive can be a decisive action.
To submit is a gesture of intimacy.
Outside the realm of the sexual, I find that wanting to be submissive goes hand-in-hand with feeling like a woman. It is part of a relationship dynamic that feels, to me, natural, fulfilling, and intimate. After a day’s work, there is nothing that makes me feel more content, or more like myself, than going home to quietly be. To be soft, tender, creative, and very much like a woman, preferably to a man who makes me happy to give myself over to him for a time. It is in those moments that I want a man to take the reigns, that I desire to be overpowered, subsumed, and can experience the serenity—not of being dependent or subservient—but of being complimented.
Wanting to give oneself is an attitude.
I agree wholly with Rank’s argument that we shape our external reality by altering our inner world. I like to think that as I write these words, they are helping me to construct a reality in which I am free to be open, to be at ease, and to submit to life as unfettered as possible (to the degree that is possible for each one of us). I ask myself if, in dignifying this desire to yield, to give myself over to a power greater than me, I am also shaping a broader, more harmonious attitude toward other aspects of my reality. I also wonder if I am not creating greater accord within myself—if I am not giving myself permission to be more myself—as I give voice to a feeling that might otherwise remain trivialized and tucked away.
I sometimes think this project of mine is helping me to evolve. To create a firm center. I find that exercising the power to create my own reality—to be at once, actor, observer, and creator—feels right. I know no other way to measure the success of an experiment such as this one. If only by the absence of discord. I know that none of the visions of femininity, womanhood, and female sexuality that the world has offered to me are in sync with what lies within me. That inner sense is, perhaps, too strong. It threatens me if I refuse to honor it. And in order to feel freer and more peaceful, I must fashion myself for myself, mold my own reality, and live by its rules. The moment I realized that I am fully capable of that kind of creativity, certain limits began disappearing. I must now make others disappear. It is necessary that my life move to rhythms of my own invention.