You are confusing love and obedience (2021)

You can listen to this musing here, or read it below.

You are confusing love and obedience. You’ll obey me without loving me and without me loving you.

Sir Stephan, in The Story of O

When I write about submission, I write about dedicating oneself entirely to another—compared to surrender, which is a journey into oneself. But what is the source of this drive to submit?

I was in a 24/7 master-slave relationship many years ago, with contracts, rituals and protocols, the whole shebang. It is probably one of the most common BDSM fantasies, just like in the book The Story of O. Previously, my partner had entrusted herself to an older mentor to guide her into her submission. And when we fell in love, he handed over that responsibility to me, together with a word of warning.

“One day, you will find yourself having to choose between love and obedience. It’s a hard choice that will test you. But, I hope you chose obedience.”

I didn’t understand his warning, but many years later, when our relationship started to fall apart, it would come back haunting me. 

Submission is easy when you are in love because there is a hormonal rush wanting to please the beloved in any way possible. So whatever the partner demands, there will be an instinctual will to obey without experiencing effort. But this period of being madly in love runs on a timer, roughly two years, or the time it takes to make a kid. So after that, we need to depend on commitment. The will to stay together even when things get complicated and painful.

Our 24/7 master-slave relationship carried on, and we experienced many amazing things together. Nonetheless, the two-year marker passed us by, and more and more often, my partner found herself not wanting to obey my will. So we started to fall back on the contracts, rituals and protocols, to help with obedience. But it hurts forcing someone against their will. 

Intellectually, we both believed in it, but emotionally things became harder and harder. We often talk about it with our friends and community, but nothing helped. Actually, I believe that one can only enforce something for so long before one will rebel in revolution or die empathically. It’s true in both the micro and the macro. And therefore, the submission must come out of love, just as the dominance.

So eventually, the day came that her old mentor warned me about when we had to decide between love and obedience. She had broken a rule in her contract, and I didn’t want to punish her for it. Because I understood the state of our relationship, and I felt for her. But by not punishing her, I was undermining the master-slave dynamic. So what is it going to be, love or obedience? I’m glad that we chose love and separated. Actually, I think most people would choose love in my situation because the total ownership is usually more of a fantasy and less of a reality. So when Sir Stephan says that line in the Story of O, it marks the first steps of O’s rebellion from her enslavement.

So what is the source of submission? Love? And is it, really, submission if you want exactly what your partner wants?