“I see Pride, I see Power…” – Meet my Submissive Icons

(Title quote comes from the movie “Cool Runnings”, and might continue, in the context of this post, “…I see a badass Subbie who takes good care of somebody!”)

After thinking about my Dom Icons last week, I felt my work would be incomplete if I did not also address the fact that I love to play the Sub role too, and look at what icons I might find for that role. While my “natural” D/s orientation is Dominant, submitting has its rewards and thrills, and when I do it I can sink very deeply into a sub state of mind. It seems unfair to ignore the sense of self I have that encompasses such a role.

The question of how to choose icons is important. As with the Dom icons, there is a question of gender. While I roleplay as female online, in both Dominant and Submissive roles, when it comes to my real life submission, I find it hard to connect with presenting feminine submission. This is entirely down to a flaw in the culture around the Scene, and particularly male submissives, whereby crossdressing, feminisation and female roles are typically cast as humiliation and “forced” or “lowering”. That’s not my style at all, and as I wrote before, If you think less of me for enjoying this, then I don’t think much of you.” – humiliation is a turn-off.

But ultimately, when I started to think of people I admired in their submission, I knew that I had to include everyone, regardless of gender. Because I don’t identify fully with maleness, any submission I give has a female component. The people I think of are not going to be restricted to one or the other.

It is, without a doubt, much more in the radical framework of Midori’s original construction (Yingtai writes, in connection with this, “Most of our models for powerful people are male, so it’s easy to assume that in order to enact dominance, you have to act masculine.”) to look at specifically male submissive icons. Nevertheless, I need to use both.

Then I need to think about what makes an icon submissive, in my understanding.

Yingtai writes, of the women she didn’t choose, “All tears and rage – wilful, but not strong. They weren’t submissive, they were powerless.” And her ultimate choices were summed up as, “Authority, grace, decorum”. But if I set such criteria beforehand, am I simply stacking the deck? It’s the same problem I had with choosing Dom icons: “The next challenge I faced was choosing honestly. I already have an image of myself as a Dominant, and it was ridiculously easy to start thinking, ‘Yes, he’s got that element of me, she’s got this element, I’ll include those'”

So, again, I had to think of “Whose submission do I admire?” without thinking about what that means in too much detail, instead using the detail only for each individual on the list.

  • J.F. (ex-partner) – Eager, Confident, Self-aware, Thoughtful
  • J.P. (ex-partner) – Eager, Self-questioning, Learning
  • The Doctor (Doctor Who – 5,11 especially) – Anxious, Protective, Giving
  • Ruth (Book of Ruth, Old Testament) – Devotion, Dedication to duty, Pride
  • Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings) – Devotion, Honesty, Simple needs, Service
  • Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars ep. I-III especially) – Accepting wisdom, Following instruction, Questioning, Alert, Attentive
  • Jackie Chan’s characters (e.g. Rumble in the Bronx etc) – Self-restrained, Humble, Principled, Strong, Serving others
  • Benton Fraser (Due South) – Capable, Sense of duty, Courteous, “Proper”, Concerned about rules, Cares about others
  • Charlie Young (The West Wing) – Devotion, Fierceness, Pride, Capable


Thoughtful of others;
Capable/strong (physically);

Thoughts and Analysis:

The first thing I wanted to mention is that this is a much shorter list than either Yingtai’s Submissive or my Dominant exercise. One thing I ran into very quickly was that a picture or concept of an icon would come into my head as something that I recalled admiring, and then I would search my memory fruitlessly for where that icon came from, only to find that I had in fact constructed them myself. Possibly from ideas gleaned from culture, but the sources that I used to create them are lost in the mists of time and my brain. This worked for both male and female submission.

The second thing, following on from this, is that there are almost no female icons here. Two ex-partners from r/l and one mythic/cultural figure. Several women almost made the list: Zoe from “Firefly” seems like a good match, but for some reason didn’t feel right. Donnatella Moss (The West Wing) felt like a good match also, but she was too often the butt of jokes in The West Wing, so that didn’t sit right with me.

Some other notable names not on the list, who for one reason or another did not feel right. Wash from “Firefly” nearly made the list, but I felt uncomfortable with it. I wanted to include Jesus, but while my Christian faith certainly informs all my D/s, the Gospels don’t really give me a clear icon for either Dominance or Submission.

There aren’t really any surprises here. Maybe because Submission is something unusual for me, it means I am more aware of what I’m doing and what I value about it when I do; or maybe because I found submissive icon to be a more complex term for me to unravel than powerful icon. Or maybe for some other reason I haven’t thought of.

The startling point was just how strongly “devotion”, or themes associated to it, came up. The parallel term from my r/l (ex) partners is “eager”; I’m not sure I have the right to assume I inspired devotion in the short-ish relationships we had. Ruth, Sam and Charlie all have this as the very first thing I think of in association with them, and the main reason I chose them as an example of submission to which I look up. That’s why it’s not a surprise. It’s an important note because my own D/s Submission is temporary (though deep), since I always have the call back to being Dominant as my “resting point”. So to define submission by devotion, or devoted, committed service, puts me at odds with what I feel I can offer as a Sub. I knew this, but to find it clearly marked in my icons is important. I included things like Charlie’s fierceness and the Doctor’s protectiveness. Devotion inspires action, and powerful emotion.

Also, it didn’t surprise me to realise that many of the themes in my Submissive icons overlap with my Dominant icons. It was something I suspected might happen, but it’s pleasing to find it marked out so neatly. Where the Dominant “Thinking/Deliberate” is passive, the Submissive “Intelligent/Learning/Self-aware” is an active form of the same concept. Similarly, the “Capable/Strong” part of Submission is equivalent to “Potent” in the Dominant list, but very much includes “Controlled/waiting” as well. All this does is confirm that I am not playing a part when I choose to adopt a Submissive role, but am still being honest and true to myself. The main thing that’s missing is a reference to looks. My Dom icons had style, my Sub icons – while some of them certainly looked good – appearances didn’t come into it the way they did for Dominance. I don’t know what conclusions to draw from that.

My conception of Submission is quite serious. While I can point to Charlie, and Sam, especially on that list to suggest the cheerful side of submission (and of course, my exes on the list were joyfully Submissive), when it came to picking out why I admired their submission, it’s that they take what they do seriously. Pride is a common theme, and I meant it both pride in one’s person, and pride in one’s endeavours: my Submissive icons want to get it right, and do the best they possibly can at whatever their duties are. Perhaps cheerfulness comes under my conception of devotion: all my icons threw themselves with gusto into their roles: to serve, and show devotion.

If there is a genuine surprise, it’s that “trust” didn’t come up. Now, I have written before about my trust issues: “The decision to trust is not made lightly, but equally I am never confident of it.” It’s a problem particularly with exploring rope bondage (or any other bondage from which escape without help is impossible, such as locks). I would say that faith is a common theme in the icons I’ve chosen and that obedience is from a position of believing in the person whom they serve. (Yes, that includes my exes.) But it’s something I struggle with, and which never even occurred to me when I listed them.

But again, the themes I picked out are a combination of what I already feel, and what I want to achieve when I submit. And perhaps there is one way I do live up to my “devotion” ideal: I always eagerly, wholeheartedly and with gusto throw myself into trying to fulfil these aims:

Thoughtful of others;
Capable/strong (physically);


About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
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4 Responses to “I see Pride, I see Power…” – Meet my Submissive Icons

  1. Yingtai says:

    I am struck by the overlap between your sub and dom icons. On the one occasion when I had to take the dom role for hands-on practice during a class, I felt like I was enacting all that calm and compassionate poise of my sub icons (but with amusement and awe thrown in). As you say, our kinks as revealed by this exercise are simply part of our real selves.

    The other thing that struck a chord was that the list for your primary identity was much longer. I haven’t tried to make a list for my dominant side because that’s all vanilla for me, but I did try to do it for dominant men. It was ridiculously short. I can’t decide if that’s because I’m self-centred, or if nobody else likes what I like, or if a fish can’t see water.

    Food for thought!

    • ValeryNorth says:

      The list length thing was intriguing for me – it’s not that big a difference (9 for sub, 13 for dom) but it feels big proportionally. And as I said, a lot of the reason is that I found that I had invented sub icons for myself that I can’t recall where they came from.

      It might be an interesting exercise to think about “partner icons”. The “fish can’t see water” question is always a challenge, and I referenced it with why I was so much more surprised by Dom results than Sub. I am pretty sure that if I did a list of sub icons for whom I’d like to Dom, only the top two names would be the same (and that’s because they are (former) partners!) But maybe the traits would be consistent.

  2. Pingback: Doms and Subs and Emotional Vulnerability | Valery North - Writer

  3. Pingback: The non-binary of D/s | Valery North - Writer

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