Tons of leatherfolk talk about submission being a gift. As if the bottom had wrapped his willingness to sexually submit into a freshly laundered set of boxers and deposited it reverently on the doorstep of his top.
Hell, I myself have echoed the gift-giving sentiment, thinking with a damp-pantied romanticism about some scene so hot that it wiped my mind clean like a shaken Etch-a-Sketch.
But we should all think twice about using the term “gift”.
See, calling something a gift simply implies that you didn’t have to buy it or rent it or borrow it or steal it. It doesn’t speak to the value of that thing in the eyes of the receiver.
A gift can be a responsibility-even a liability.
Sure, once in a while you’re presented with the thing that resides at the very top of your own personal wish list, but sometimes-let’s face it-getting an unexpected gift of submission can be like receiving a Christmas fruitcake of uncertain ancestry.
“Here. Take this. And remember, this fruitcake represents my fragile, oft-broken trust. I know you’re the top I’ve always wanted. Go ahead. Admire the gift. Rock my world. I’m waiting.”
Perhaps, taking the Christmas analogy to desperate lengths, submission can be seen as part of that time-honoured social process, the exchange of gifts.
Because if submission is a gift, then dominance is a gift. And ageplay is a gift, and sadism is a gift, and masochism, well, that’s certainly the gift that keeps on giving.
But I’m going to skip the gift concept entirely, take this theorizing a step farther, and talk about bartering.
Barter means to trade by exchanging one commodity or service for another. I’d call it an exchange of goodies and services. You get something you want, I get something I want, we negotiate about how to make the exchange and what we get out of it. Sound familiar?
A bottom might bring to the exchange her willing submission, her suspension of disbelief and her trust. A top may offer her attention, her skill, her domination and probably a great deal of heartfelt admiration.
Both may throw in a good chunk of lust to seal the deal.
And although we’re not used to thinking of our sex scenes in terms of, um, dickering, hopefully after we play we have a sense of having received good measure for what we’ve put out.