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Archive for the ‘Submission’ Category

So, I was idly thinking about the unexpected hotness of my friend kneeling in church, and thus about men kneeling in general, and then I suddenly remembered Tenchu.

Tenchu is a game where you play a ninja and sneak around killing people. I looooved it. I’m not a shoot-em-up fan, so creeping round and trying not to get caught was much more up my alley.

Anyway, in the first mission you have to make your way through a town to meet your master, Lord Gohda. Only of course the town is crawling with bad guys, and you have to have to carefully make your way through, picking them off one at a time. If you play the guy ninja, Rikumaru, you get a cut scene at the end of the level where he arrives at the meeting place, falls straight to his knees before his lord, and begs his forgiveness for being late.

He fights his way through crowds of enemies, risking his life every step of the way, then falls to his knees and apologies for being late.

And I was like, ‘Yeah! That’s how it’s done!’

The Japanese feudal paradigm involves total submission – but it’s the least wimpy thing ever. Every samurai owes total loyalty and obedience to his lord, and expects complete perfection of himself. Not only is he prepared to die in battle for his lord at any point, he is also prepared to offer his own sepukku for failing to complete a task satisfactorily, or just to save his lord embarrassment. And we’re not just talking about the big tough killing machines, here – theoretically women and children are also prepared to commit seppuku if their lord requires it.

Total submission. The opposite of wimpy.

The European feudal paradigm isn’t exactly wimpy either, even though it’s not quite as hardcore. Sure, we don’t have seppuku. But the point about knights is that they owe total allegiance to their lord, and every man in the system owes allegiance to someone, right up to the dukes. Like a kind of d/s pyramid scheme. And we really, really don’t think of medieval warriors as wimpy.

So, historical models of submission = practically the definition of brave and admirable.

So why does the world think mansubs are wimpy?

The answer is pretty obvious. Samurai and knights submit to other men. Mansubs submit to women.

Which is levels of sexism that make me want to hand in my humanity membership card.

But it’s true. Any suggestion that a man is governed by a woman is considered emasculating. And yet a man’s submission to another man is the pinnacle of courage and virtue.

You know, there were samurai who wouldn’t even have sex with women because they considered even that contact emasculating – they shagged men instead.

And how about the knights? Well, let’s look at our model for knights serving women – the concept of courtly love. Eleanor of Aquitaine invented the game of courtly love as a means of stopping all those hormone-ridden young knights from harrassing her ladies. She modelled it on the relationship between a knight and his lord, in that the knight was supposed to make himself a servant of the lady, she was supposed to be in total control. But he was supposed to worship her from a distance. There was no sex involved, oh no – in fact that’s practically the point. Instead, he adores her from afar, puts her on a pedestal, sees her not as a human being, but as an icon, a goddess, and his dearest wish is to endeavour to deserve the smallest glance from her.

See, this ‘kiss my boots but don’t fuck me’ bullshit started a really long time ago.

(As I’m sure you’ll have noticed, I’ve used ‘mansub’ throughout to mean ‘straight mansub’ – for which, apologies, but it was snappier. Of course, it would prove my theory quite neatly if we found that gay mansubs suffer less prejudice than straight ones. Anyone know whether this is the case?)

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From a certain view point, I kind of get the submission thing. I toyed with it in my youth. I can understand the appeal of devoting yourself entirely to someone you wholly revere. I’ve always loved the archetype of an apprentice entirely devoted to his or her master, devoted to the point of self-negation. There’s a mixture of a completely unselfish passion – a passion so pure that it doesn’t care if it’s returned – and a certain masochistic pleasure in being unsure of them.

Then there’s the appeal of someone’s desire for you being so all-consuming that they will simply take you if need be. I got that in my youth. Now it makes me feel icky. I far prefer the idea of someone’s desire for you being so all-consuming that they let everything around them go to wrack and ruin. Someone utterly destroyed by their desire. Their desire resulting in a loss of power, not in taking power. Heard Sting’s ‘Mad About You’? Epic. I love epic.

Then there’s a deliciousness in the alternation of tenderness and cruelty. Like salt and sweet, each refreshes and enhances the taste of the other. Throws them into sharp relief. Throw contradictions at someone till they’re so confused they don’t know which way is up, and everything feels more… more. Every tiny thing has huge significance.

In my early twenties I read The Captive Flesh. Good old Cleo Cordell. I’d always had a bit of a harem thing – I think most girls do, the result of a culture which quietly insists that we all want nothing more than to be consumed by a powerful man. But the Captive Flesh approach only works if the sheik/master/whoever is someone whose attention you come to really crave. Submission worked for me, a little, in my youth, because when you’re roleplaying there can be such a person, a person so radiant, so brilliant, so admirable, or so darkly fascinating, that the idea of giving yourself over to them entirely, just for sheer devotion, is buyable. Because it’s not a real person, it’s a character. It’s not a real situation, it’s a larger than life imaginary world. It didn’t last five minutes for me in the real world, and as I got older it became less and less appealing. The problem is, you see, that in the real world, people are just people. As I lost my little-girl desire to be validated by a man’s attention, I lost any interest I ever had in submitting to a man. (Subs, please don’t take offense – I’m describing my own mental processes.)

I don’t want blind devotion in a man, either. I don’t want a guy who’ll just do what I tell him. I’d rather have a man who fights for his sovereignty. Conflict, masochism, but no surrender.  I want a guy who’ll fight and curse and resist but be unable to help responding. At least to begin with. Maybe he could surrender at the end.

And then get up and fight again tomorrow.

Or, contradictions. A man who knows how to keep the flame alive in his heart, even while obeying. So that there’s always the danger he might suddenly stop obeying and start rebelling. A man who is hard-won. A man who can adore you with one half of his soul and fight you with the other.

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