A lovely friend in the far snowlands of upstate New York told me once that having a lovely, bright, clever Young Companion as a sexual submissive would be very like trying to own a cat. I had to laugh at that. After all, long ago a very lovely girl in a plaid uniform kilt looked at me over her glasses and dryly told me that she was complaisant rather than submissive--- a perfect line, and of course she won my heart by knowing the word complaisant. I do have to agree with my friend out there above Rochester somewhere. "Owning a cat" makes perfect sense as a metaphor here.
It's always worth remembering that any bright, clever, bookish Young Companion who plays the submissive is far more likely to simply be complaisant, and that it's inevitable that she'll be topping from below. After all, as a clever and bookish girl she's almost certainly chosen to be there with her wrists tied and a blindfold fitted as part of her sentimental education, as a knowing and very self-aware part of an exchange of youth and beauty for experience. Letting herself experience everything--- ice cubes and candle wax, blindfolds and riding whips ---is something she wants, but every girl I've known in that situation has done more that just letting herself fall headlong into raw experience. They've been willing to offer themselves up to the experience, but they've never not wanted to have a clear voice in how the experience is played out. Not something that I can ever really imagine minding, of course. I'm not someone who finds topping from below in a girl to be a problem. Of course, remember, too, that I find the idea of being addressed as "Sir" or "Master" to be boring. I don't mind being addressed by my academic title (I did earn it, after all), but my preference is always for either my first name or "darling". I am reasonably skilled with a riding whip and with ice cubes and candle wax, but my role is always to provide experience, to offer up my part of a sentimental education.
Remember the girl--- the heroine in the erotic romance I talked about writing? That key moment on the steps of the hero's brownstone, when she stands up and takes his hand and pulls him to the door. Show me, she says. Show me. That's always the key moment. Someone like my hero understands his role, of course. A beautiful, much-younger girl is giving herself to him because he's an opening into a new world. I'm not denying or minimizing any romantic connection, any passion--- don't think that. But for a bright and bookish and clever girl having an affair with someone older, one of his attractions is always that he represents a gateway to things she'd like to know--- things she'd like to have done. She's been topping from below from the first moment of the affair, and of course the hero knows it. How could he not? His own pleasure will be bound up not in asserting power or dominance, but in providing her (and himself, yes) with well-crafted, very formal scenes. She's very much seeking pleasure in having the experiences, in knowing all the literary and film sources, in knowing that she can be part of the kinds of experiences her older lover can provide.
Someone in the London exurbs reminded me not so very long ago that she was tired of having to defend herself and her choices--- that she liked being slapped around a bit in bed, that she liked very rough, intense sex with much older lovers. What you like in bed, she said, doesn't say anything about your value as a person. Not at all. Not what you like, not how many people you do it with. Not whether you're a dom or a sub. That's just in bed. People assume far too much about her from what she likes in bed, and they never see that she's collecting stories and experiences, that what she likes in bed isn't about her essence or her value.
I like the London girl rather a lot. Having her in my bed with her hands tied with silk would be a major delight. But I'd expect her to be shaping what happens every step of the way. I can't imagine it any other way.
This may all be the long way round of saying that what I like about the idea of s/m has very little to do with the fact of dominance and submission, and a great deal to with a exchange of stories, with creating very formal scenes. And that, I think, requires seeing dominance and submission as simply self-conscious poses, as abstract concepts that are just part of the decor. It requires that a lovely Young Companion be complaisant, that she be willing to let me create stories she can walk into, but it only requires that her submission be purely formal and notional. I suppose it might mean that she regard herself just for the night as a kind of canvas or screen, but that's not quite right, is it? She understands that she's there to accept experience, to be the recipient of experience. But if she's aware of that, then she'll always be part of shaping how those experiences are offered and delivered. My Young Companions are a bookish lot, and they know what they want in terms of scenes and crafting and literary references. Which is why I like them, after all.
Owning cats? Maybe...or just maybe a bit more like being a director and working with a skilled actress--- that may be a better dynamic.