There’s a huge difference between identity and experience, but it can still be difficult to reconcile emotionally. What happens a lot is that people assume individual experiences are going to instantly change their identity. Look at “100% straight” homophobia: the thought is that their identity has very strict requirements and anything contrary to those guidelines invalidates that part of their identity. When dealing with more specific sexual interests, this is still true; a “100% Dom” guy may neglect to disclose he subs for specific guys for fear of diminishing his image as a Dom, but that doesn’t invalidate the dynamics in which he is a sub. A good litmus test as to whether an activity is a part of someone’s identity or solely experiential might be “Would they flag that color regularly?” Claiming something in that way has certain implications, stigmas, expectations, and assumptions that come with it which is why some are hesitant to do so. I’ve been participating in kink for over a decade and still have issues with letting my concepts of identity interfere with play, so I wanted to share how some of these conflicts can manifest.
Submission has always been difficult for me because I’m a very strong-willed person. A lot of what enables me to feel confident enough to be so strong-willed is my affinity for words. Words are powerful. Words, to me, are a source of power: I’ve changed minds with words, I’ve consoled with words, I’ve repaired relationships with words, and I’ve undoubtedly crushed some spirits with words. One might argue that it’s really the ideas behind words that have power, but an idea that can’t be communicated is powerless when measured by its potential to impact others. As such it’s words that give ideas power, not the inverse. This is part of why one of the most significant contributors to being in a sub headspace for me is having my words taken from me. Even when I’m in a social setting and not expressly in a scene, if someone elicits so much as a slight submissive response from me I’m apt to go silent. Not “less chatty,” silent, and almost compulsively. When this began to appeal to me it came from a place of genuinely wanting to lose control to the fullest extent possible: by essentially losing any ability to vocalize objection. What I’ve noticed recently is that it’s easy for silence to become an excuse to keep my sub experiences and my identity separate. Instead of enhancing submission, silence has served to compartmentalize identity and experience; after all, I wasn’t doing or requesting these humiliating things at the time, they were just being done to me. How can your unwilling or coerced action possibly impact your identity?
It took me a very long time to notice but silence had degraded from a tool aiding submission to a copout that enabled avoiding humiliation. Some time ago there was a party at Johnny Gear’s in which he somehow wound up having me hooked up to a shock collar - not that I objected in the slightest. Naturally this made me pretty malleable, to the tune of having to worship someone’s feet despite almost never doing so in public (even to this day). Eventually what broke me out of headspace was being instructed to ask permission to continue licking the same feet I had just been enjoying lapping at. From my viewpoint at the time the only reason I had interest in feet was how degrading servicing them was; having to ask for something I expressly felt was degrading was humiliating and I couldn’t process it quickly enough. I knew why I was frustrated at the time, but it still took me a while to unravel what that meant for my growth (or lack thereof) as a sub.
For a little over a year, I’ve been chatting extensively with someone who is very interested in forced puppification. By no means have I been discreet about this dynamic, but there are aspects of it that I’ve kept fairly private; I posted a handful of photos, but never quite detailed how it went. The whole scene was a huge mindfuck since I have/had no direct interest in being pupped out, only in seeing how far He could push the limits of what I was willing or able to do. In this scene, I happened upon another crutch: eye contact aversion. I definitely think deliberate, forced eye contact aversion can be degrading and hot but, as with speech, I tend to see eye contact as something that is too linked to my identity instead of the experience I am involved in. Making eye contact is difficult since it feels like someone is seeing me when I’m in that state instead of just the submissive aspect of myself. Based on the extensive discussions we’d had and His innate ability to predict my response to things, He knew this would be too much for me to handle and, of course, capitalized on it. Having to stare at Him in the eye while taking on the pup postures He demanded was easily one of the most humiliating things I’ve ever had to endure. I would never demean what it is to be a pup for those who identify as one, but I don’t which means instead of expressing my identity I was having it erased, meticulously, piece by piece.
Over the course of our discussions, I’ve progressively been broken down to the point where I value pleasing Him more than being myself in any particular moment. This has manifested in some interesting ways as it relates to pup play - some of which I’ll likely write about later - but most recently it was His assertion that next time He trains me He’ll be requiring me to bark .. with enthusiasm. That I bark, and mean it. Barking is by all accounts the final nail in the coffin for me and the cherry on top of the cake for Him. Because of how silence empowers me to avoid humiliation, I couldn’t really call it “speech bondage;” it’s not so much limiting my speech as letting me try to be a distinctly different person. Exclusively barking, however? Not only does it require communicating very real emotions like excitement or apprehension, it can be used as a command to demand an eagerness which can be punished if found lacking. One hell of a mindfuck if you ask me.
I realize that these specific internal conflicts may only pertain to me, but I wanted to write this as someone who has had exposure to pup play for nearly a decade and only recently understood its appeal, regardless of context. Keep in mind as you consider experimenting with certain ideas, that they may come back to you in unanticipated ways (in this case, pup play as a means of humiliation instead of as a willing headspace). Additionally, I really hope that some of the examples here will demonstrate how paramount it is to constantly assess the real reasons and motivations for your interests. As you grow and develop as a sub, the things that helped you take that first step towards expressing submission may end up being something that can hold you back from a new level of play. Who knows, you might just end up being forced to bark eagerly for your Sir while your cheeks are beet red from embarrassment and your cock is throbbing in its chastity both confusing and humiliating you further.