complicit submissive

while watching “the taming of the shrew” an anecdote of dominance came to mind. petruchio has an innate attention to kate’s need to have real boundaries, to have rules set upon her lovingly. though his rules are arbitrary, they set order to her universe. previously she had lashed out at everything, tested every rule, every surface around her. in petruchio’s words she finds a certain comfort. my understanding of a lot of animal training is that often the wild dog, wild horse, has an inherent undertanding of that powerplay. and it has subverted my understanding of powerplay in general.

i had always thought of power as something that was asserted to make the dominant person feel bigger. in this it almost seemed to be done out of weakness, for reasons of insecurity. but dominance is so much more complex. it is a taking on of responsibility. the submissive must then trust the dom will be caring, will take the sub’s best interest to heart (i know i’m using s&m terminology, and know little of it. but i will learn in time i guess). and no dominance can be asserted without some level of consent. even if it looks like dominance is being exerted, until the dominated submits, there is much squish (ah yes, that’s the technical term).

what i’m trying to get at is the complicated tension between the push-down of dominance, and the push up of dominat-ed, versus the weakening of push-down once push-up becomes trusting release. does that make sense? the pushing down will crush if it keeps pushing once dominat-ed becomes submissive. and the crush is puerile, destructive. i am talking about a dominance where the hand sits atop, not crushing, but merely reinforcing a consentual role. it ceases to push once the dominated submits, and reinforces trust.

when someone is walking a dog we wouldn’t say they are “dominating their dog.” but a role is implied in holding that leash. you will not let your bitch walk into the road, or onto the lawn covered with insecticide (thankfully no longer an issue in toronto!). and the dog doesn’t pull because it knows the leash is there. training a dog to walk with a slack leash is reminding it through practice that pulling gets no result. not that pulling gets a negative result–you don’t want your dog to be in constant fear–but that the result is of no advantage, and not worthwhile.

my father was telling me yesterday about a famous “dog whisperer” he’d seen a documentary about. i remember speaking to a woman who had done training as a horse whisperer. she had always trained horses, but when she attended a short demonstration of “horse whispering” it rang so true to all the understanding she’d never been able to articulate. the way she had always engaged with horses, but never been able to fully express. according to the dog-whisperer documentary, this trainer had a natural understanding of the power dynamic with animals. and within minutes could get tame behaviour out of previously violent feral animals. i know talking about animals’ “consent” may be a bit silly, but i see a trusting complicity in this quickly-established dominance. “oh yeah, he’s not going to hurt me, but i want to cooperate. we are speaking the same language.”

in part i think it’s the communication of dominance that i find so intriguing and engaging. when there is that unspoken understand. and when it’s dancerly, you have movement-communication. which is just so my bag.


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