This is a response to one of the questions I have been recently asked. Writ small, the question was about submission and identity - are they separate things and is my submission a performed act: something I "do" rather than something I "am".
I would say that I am a submissive, that would be how I identify myself, however, I don’t feel the desire to submit to just anyone, or indeed the majority of people. It is part of who I am and an important part of my sexual make-up (I don't like vanilla sex). I enjoy topping, but prefer to submit. For me, it is topping that is the act of “doing” rather than the "being" which is one of the reasons I very rarely use the word “Domme” to describe myself when I’m topping, because that’s not how I feel. It feels more like a the game, an action-orientated activity around the physical sensations that I’m giving to someone else and a mindset that I am playfully experiencing, putting on like a new dress and swanning around in it for a bit, before returning to normal.
I don’t like to use words such as “natural” when describing these sorts of activities but I do feel more comfortable when submitting. It’s a state I’m more likely to seek out and to enjoy doing for longer and in a variety of contexts. Submitting is the “real deal” (obviously all these tags and labels are flexible, I think that as we go on and learn new things about ourselves and others we change and develop but for the moment it’s a useful way of talking about how I feel). It is “me” that submits, I give myself over physically, emotionally and intellectually. If it was just a physical transactional based activity in which I derived masochistic pleasure from being hit, then yes, I would view it as an action or gesture. Sometimes it can be like that, especially when I am playing with people I don’t especially know – then it is the pure thrill of being tied up, or the endorphin rush of being hit. But when I play with my partner (we have a D/s relationship) it is more than that. I’m emotionally connected to him for a start, and we play in more psychological areas – so my brain and my feelings are engaged.
I’m not sure that you can really view this in isolation, however, facets of one's identity can be pulled apart in that manner. We change as we grow, different points come to prominence. Which is a positive thing overall, but does mean that sometimes it can be difficult to think about submission as an identity in isolation, it interlinks with a lot of other parts of my personality and is a reflection of them: .for example, in my vanilla life I am reasonably head strong, very independent minded and have a career that relies upon initiative, personal responsibility and being able to order and manage others. I think that the part of me that enjoys submitting does so as a way of letting go of these cares. However, the desire to submit has been with me for a long time, and I would count it as being part of me and a very definite part of me at that, not just a mirror image of “how I am at work” or anything as plain as that, but an ingrained and extremely pleasant part of my view of myself.