Your Inability to Submit is Nothing to Brag About

“I’m 100% dominant.”

“I don’t have a submissive bone in my body.”

“I couldn’t be submissive if I tried.”

It’s the favorite humblebrag of folks who dominate but could never-ever not me no-siree possibly submit.

It’s a humblebrag because while it’s phrased as an admission of inability, it’s almost always really meant to be a boast. The implied meaning is that they could never submit because they’re soooo dominant. Naturally dominant. 100% dominant. So gosh darned stuffed full of dominance that there’s no room for even a speck of submission. It’s a claim intended to bolster someone’s status and to melt the pants off subbies for whom more dominant = more attractive.

And I imagine it’s pretty often effective, because lots of people think of dominance and submission as opposite ends of a spectrum. The implicit model in their heads is as though everyone has 100 points to divide between dominance and submission. So someone with 80 dominance points and 20 submission points is pretty dominant, but the only way you can have a full 100 dominance points is if you have zero submission points.

That’s an understandable thing to believe—it’s the way I thought about D/s myself, before I got a lot of experience and did a whole lot of thinking about the subject—because dominance and submission sure can look like opposites.

That appearance is deceiving, however. The “divide your points” model is not how dominance and submission really work, and being incapable of submission is nothing for a dominant to brag about.

I love partner dancing as a metaphor for D/s. Partner dances have a lead and a follow, and in ways you can look at them as opposite roles, but they’re more like complements. Being able to follow well certainly doesn’t make you less of a lead. Being good at following—personally understanding what it’s like and how it works—makes someone a better lead. Enjoying following doesn’t detract from someone’s passion for and enjoyment of leading. Someone who loves to lead and someone who loves to follow aren’t opposite kinds of people. They’re both people who love to dance, and by virtue of that they have more in common than they do dividing them.

For a more macho metaphor, look to the military. Do we assume that the best general would be someone who not only has never been a lieutenant, but who goes around telling anyone who’ll listen that they would be constitutionally incapable of ever holding a rank where they had to follow orders? No. We give the most respect to commanders who have worked their way up and understand military discipline from both sides. Knowing what it’s like to follow orders helps them to be better at issuing orders.

So it is with dominance and submission. Desiring to dominate and desiring to submit aren’t opposing desires—they’re both expressions of the same love for the dance of power. Being delighted by both of them doesn’t make you less of either one. If anything, people who have a stronger inclination toward D/s, a more intense obsession with power, are more invested in creating deep power exchange relationships in their lives, are probably more likely to feel drawn to explore both sides of the coin.

I’m not saying that everyone ought to want to submit, or that anyone should submit unless they really want to. Certainly there are some people with a powerful drive to dominate who just don’t get much out of submission, and that’s fine. But notice the difference between “I tried submitting and it wasn’t my thing,” and “It’s absurd to even imagine me submitting; I’m far too dominant for that!”

When you tell someone that you don’t submit, ask yourself why you felt the need to tell them that. Do you feel pressure to assert your non-submissiveness in order to make sure everyone knows how dominant you are? Are you afraid of what they’ll think of you if you don’t?

Are you just not interested in submission, or are you proud of your inability to submit? If being incapable of submission is something to be proud of, what does that imply about your beliefs and attitudes toward people who do submit?

How does it feel to imagine yourself submitting? Is it just not interesting to you, or do you feel yourself forcefully recoiling from the very idea? Is it really that you have no capacity for submission, or is that you’re afraid you do?

Those are the kinds of questions that go through my head when I hear someone loudly proclaiming how it would be literally physically impossible for even the slightest glimmer of submissive sentiment to ever even approach the inviolate Fortress of Domliness that girds their soul.

So go ahead and dominate without ever submitting if that feels right for you, but you might not want to brag about it.