Jun 282012
Stages of Submissive “Sorry”
A Case Study in Understanding Male Submissive Behaviors

Submitted by Dumb Domme
June 28, 2012


After a year-long observation of a submissive male in his natural environment, I’m pleased to present my findings regarding the various stages of submissive “sorry.”

As a participant/observer in this admittedly biased pseudo-ethnography, I had the opportunity to study the submissive’s courtship rituals, mating habits, and social behaviors. In particular, my primary interest was in the male submissive’s conflict-management strategies, which he employed several times throughout the observation period.

The reader should take note that these findings are not intended to represent every submissive male or every situation. However, we might use this research to make useful generalizations about how to guide submissives through the stages of “sorry” and help both parties in the D/s relationship progress towards a satisfactory resolution.

Ultimately, it is my hope the findings of this case study will contribute much to our larger understanding of the submissive male.


The subject, a male submissive in his late 30s, was observed in a variety of communication situations in a number of virtual and material environments. Not surprisingly, when the subject’s disobedience was brought to his attention, the male submissive demonstrated a typical pattern of behaviors and actions intended to express emotion, demonstrate sincerity, and ultimately, to indicate remorse for his conduct.


Shown below are the typical stages that comprise the subject’s expression of “sorry” after demonstrating disobedient behaviors or actions. While I observed some variance in the stages and some degree of recursiveness in his passage through the phases, the findings below represent the typical progression.

Stage 1: Shock

During this initial phase of submissive “sorry,” immediately following the realization of his disobedience, the subject is observed in a state of shock as indicated by such statements as:

I can’t believe I did this! It’s completely out of character for me to disobey such a clear command. I know better than this. It’s ridiculous and I can’t understand how I allowed this to happen. This is so unlike me!”

While not a primary objective of this study, I hypothesize the duration of the “shock” stage is directly proportional to the time it takes the submissive to figure out what action to take next. Ironically, since the subsequent phase is nearly always self-flagellation, this particular phase serves no meaningful purpose.

Stage 2: Self-Flagellation

During this secondary phrase, the submissive engages in a sort of self-punishment as demonstrated by statements such as:

“I’m so stupid. I’m worthless if I can’t even obey a simple command, especially one intended to benefit me. I don’t deserve my dominant. She’s far too good for someone as worthless and stupid as I am.”

It is interesting to note that self-flagellation may be counterproductive and ultimately detrimental to the submissive male, as the female dominant wants to flagellate him herself. As such, the purpose of this phase is unclear.

Stage 3: Melodramatic Apology

In the tertiary stage, the male submissive is observed making mountains out of mole hills. In cases of more serious infractions, the submissive is observed making apocalypses out of mountains. This stage is indicated by dramatic statements that inflate the seriousness of the error, and often simultaneously exaggerate the possible consequence of such action. Statements indicative of the submissive’s engagement in this phase include:

“OMG I’m so sorry! I’ve never been so sorry for anything ever in my whole life and I can’t imagine anyone ever doing anything worse to anyone at any time! My behavior must make you feel like an ineffectual dominant, an unloved, uncared for, unappreciated sad-sack of ‘bad domme.” I assume you’re going to punish me by encasing my genitals in ice, throwing me off a cliff, and vowing never to see me again. It’s okay. I deserve worse than that.”

Ironically, this type of unnecessary drama only serves to make the dominant feel worse. First-hand data suggests the dominant didn’t actually feel like an ineffective, unloved, under-appreciated Domme… until the submissive mentioned it. Additionally, this stage often leads the dominant to question the submissive’s personal assessment of actual serious issues.

It is unclear whether this melodramatic phase is a reflection of the submissive’s actual mindset, whether it’s meant to guilt the dominant into letting go of the issue, or whether it’s meant to encourage the dominant to give comfort and reassurance to the submissive.

Stage 4: Unnecessary and/or Unwanted Protocol

In the penultimate stage of submissive “sorry,” the submissive is observed following unnecessary and unwanted protocol, including dropping to his knees on sight of the dominant in a public place before the commencement of a courtship ritual (such as in a restaurant parking lot before dinner), and spontaneous employment of D/s style capitalization in emails and text messages (such as capitalizing the “Y” in “You” in email messages when referring to the dominant). The penultimate phase is indicated by written messages that often represent all previous stages of sorry while simultaneously rejecting standard capitalization in favor of D/s capitalization. Such statements include:

“i really need You to know that i’m sorry for what i’ve done to You. my disobedience undermines Your Dominance and my submission.”

Observation of this behavior is surprising–the submissive had never demonstrated such behavior previously, nor had the dominant ever asked the subject to practice such protocols.

The reader should note that the effect on the dominant was negligible, resulting only in sarcasm: “Nothing says respect like hitting the shift key while typing ‘y.’ No, really. Dominant bitches love the shift key. Nothing makes a Domme feel loved, appreciated, and respected like the fucking shift key.”

Stage 5: Sincere Apology and Resolution

The final stage of submissive sorry suggests the subject’s acknowledgement of his disobediant behavior, a realistic assessment of its effect on the dominant and on the relationship, and situationally-appropriate remorse. More importantly, this phase indicates the submissive’s willingness to learn from his mistake in such a way that decreases his likeliness of engaging future disobedient behavior. Additionally, the subject may offer to make it up to the dominant in some meaningful way. Engagement in this phase is indicated by such statements as:

“I’m sorry. I fucked up and I know it hurt your feelings. I’m going to do ____ to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”

The ultimate stage of sorry, sincere apology and resolution, is vital to the continuation of the relationship, the maintenance of the dynamic, and to the health and safety of the submissive’s genitals.


The findings above provide an overview of the submissive subject’s progression through five stages of sorry immediately following an instance of disobedience. While the results are by no means conclusive, it is the hope of this researcher that future possibilities for the study of submissive sorry can be avoided entirely.

  30 Responses to “Case Study: Stages of Submissive “Sorry””

  1. I love this!

    Thanks for posting.

    Are you on fetlife, if yes you should post it there but send me a link to it on that site.

    If you are not on fetlife, may I repost it, give you full credit and a link back to this site?

    • Hedone: Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I had fun writing it, even though it came out of a frustrating situation. :)

      I’m on FetLife as DumbDomme. I’m not sure I understand where this would be appropriate, but if you think people would get a kick out of it, go ahead and post it!

      Thanks again!

  2. This is hysterical, please tell me that this is a hyperbolic representation.

    I can see stage one, as some stalling, but also genuine shock that the sub in question had forgotten that they like the dynamic better than whatever petty reason they had for disobeying.

    I see stage two as being a (semi) subconscious attempt to mitigate the consequences they are about to encounter.

    But stages three and four seem preposterous to me, like putting out a house fire with your valuables.

    • It’s hyperbolic, but as with any hyperbole, it’s got significant grounding in reality.

      I really like your thoughts about shock–I think sometimes the hypothetical submissive does forget he prefers being owned. Sometimes it’s easy to forget when you’re separated from your partner by time and distance.

      “like putting out a house fire with your valuables.”

      Actually, the events that loosely inspired this were more like putting out a votive candle with your valuables. :)

      • Actually, the events that loosely inspired this were more like putting out a votive candle with your valuables.

        That’s even stupider than I thought, at least the house fire can inspire panic and urgency, putting out a house fire obviously is a high priority task, it’s understandable to loose sight of the preciousness of your framed picture of Levar Burton when you could loose everything, but you’d never use Geordi to put out a candle.

        • Did you hear the latest Levar Burton news?

          EDIT: Motherfuck why can’t I get this to link?

          EDIT 2: Because I’m an idiot.

          • That link doesn’t work, but I grabbed the address from my email and read it. That’s super exciting, the man is a real treasure.

  3. A truly fascinating field study if ever there was one. Although for me, step three sounds a bit like a feeble attempt at using the old “guilt trip” so as to make the Dominant feel like she was partially responsible for the submissive’s disobedience. Of course, that’s just me.

    • @slapshot:“Although for me, step three sounds a bit like a feeble attempt at using the old “guilt trip” so as to make the Dominant feel like she was partially responsible for the submissive’s disobedience.”

      I agree it does make the Domme feel guilty, but I’m not sure if it’s purposeful or a byproduct of carelessness?

      You bring up an interesting point in mentioning responsibility.

      I think the Domme (the hypothetical Domme, of course!) is partially responsible. Perhaps she isn’t responsible for an individual incident of disobedience, but she is generally responsible.

      Let’s say the Domme in the study had been with her submissive for over a year (hypothetically), and say this wasn’t the first incident of this kind. Perhaps she had tried to punish and/or communicate. Perhaps she was unwilling or unable to punish. It doesn’t really matter. If the behavior continues, at some point, she’s got a choice to either 1) continue trying to correct the behavior, 2) accept it, or 3) end the relationship.

      If she stays in the relationship and continues trying, failing, and being disappointed, then she is partially responsible, and in that sense, she’s failed as a Domme. If she stays and accepts the behavior (depending on the severity and a whole bunch of other factors), she’s failed as a Domme, but perhaps she succeeded at something else (a relationship with a different dynamic maybe). If she takes option 1 or 2 and continues to be disappointed, then she is to blame.

      The only way to be a “good Domme” is to find a way to correct the behavior or end the relationship.

      Um… I realize what I just wrote sounds like I value being a “good Domme” over anything else. That isn’t the case. I value my happiness–I’m just not sure if being a Domme is something I need to be happy or whether I’m willing to accept more than I thought I would… I don’t know yet… hypothetically. :)

  4. The only way to be a “good Domme” is to find a way to correct the behavior or end the relationship.

    I understand where you are coming from but consider that even if a Domme might bear some responsibility for how her submissive behaves, (perhaps by letting him “get away” with certain things) it is ultimately he who must take responsibility for his actions. Perhaps it is the submissive who is failing.

    After open exchange with the submissive has taken place, an understanding of what is to be expected is reached, and the behavior continues, it is then time to reevaluate the relationship. That the Domme was unable to make a grown adult choose to uphold his part in the relationship can hardly be laid at her feet as a failure.

    • @slapshot: I think I get what you’re saying.

      I’d probably meld what we’ve both said to something like this: the submissive is responsible for his actions, the dominant is responsible for hers, and taken together, their both responsible for the success or failure of the dynamic and the relationship.

      I guess my larger point is that I’m ultimately responsible for my own happiness, whether that means readjusting my expectations or moving on.

      As of now, I’m readjusting. It feels like I’m giving up on little things to save the bigger things.

      Meh… now that I’ve officially complained… I’ll be done now. :)

  5. “Dominant bitches love the shift key. Nothing makes a Domme feel loved, appreciated, and respected like the fucking shift key.” I laughed so hard at this that coffee shot out my nose. OMG! I want to say that as a slave, I never do that shit…*cough* OK, sometimes I do. Slipping into protocol when I know I’ve fucked up mostly. I remember sending a contrite email to Master full of You and i and he replied something to the effect of, “is this sarcastic protocol? Because I will take a cane to those fingers.” At one point in our relationship when I was acting defiant and only half-apologizing, M remarked that our dynamic would only work if, at the end of the day, I truly wanted to submit to him. That question is now my gut-check question. Did I make an honest mistake? Did I interpret something he said incorrectly? Am I being a SmartAssSlave because I need attention? Or am I choosing not to submit because I don’t want to be his slave anymore? Thank you for writing this. I love reading about “the other side.” Kisses!

    • @Heather: It’s true. Dominant bitches LOVE the shift key. I’m not sure about male Doms though… I’ll have to do some research.

      I wonder if slipping in to protocol isn’t a sort of self-check and/or safety net after there’s been some sort of problem? Maybe it’s kinda like getting back to familiar basics for a little while you figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

      Plus, protocol is a really visible way to “see” the dynamic that might have been damaged a little.

      Interesting stuff to think about!

      Oh and “I will take a cane to those fingers…” <– I love this. I’m too hot-headed to pull off something this cool and collected, and if I do, it takes me days. I’ve learned from experience that waiting a week and then saying “Oh remember that thing you did a while ago? Here’s my calm, cool, collected response…” It just doesn’t have the same effect weeks later. :)

  6. “and to the health and safety of the submissive’s genitals”

    Keyboard warning! Jeez! ::snort giggle::


  7. I like this! I am not a very experienced submissive (1 year sub to my Princess with whom I’ve been married for over 15 years) but this article more-or-less fits my reactions. I guess I should change my ways! lol

    • @Ted: Congratulations–both on 15 years of marriage and on 1 year in submission to your Princess!

      I think most of us (sub, dom or otherwise) often fuck up apologies. It seems anticlimactic to simply say “sorry,” and move on. At least from my perspective, it feels like I should do more or say more to “prove” I’m sorry and prove I won’t do whatever-it-is again.

      I’m sure my sub goes through the same thing (if history is any indication, he does). I just wish he would skip the unnecessary formalism and self-punishment… I don’t care much for formal rules and honestly, I’d prefer to punish him myself! :)

      • @DombDomme: Thank you!

        I am a rather low-key person in general so I don’t do all of the grandiose stuff, but I can internally identify with each of the stages here. It hasn’t taken me much time to learn what my Princess wants in terms of an apology, and being married for over 15 years has helped with that anyway. Despite the stages probably registering on my face I tend to just admit my guilt, say I am sorry, do what I can to fix the issue, and try to briefly point out that I will endeavor not to make the mistake again.

        I think with newer relationships of any type it’s just a matter of communicating the best ways to communicate. Different people communicate very differently, and it can take time to find a good approach.

  8. @Ted: I can imagine 15 years of marriage might help! That’s the wonderful thing about long term relationships.

    “I think with newer relationships of any type it’s just a matter of communicating the best ways to communicate.”

    I think you’re right. With that said, even communicating about communicating is difficult!

    • “With that said, even communicating about communicating is difficult!”

      Lol yes and that was a big shock to me in our first year of marriage. And now with D/s in our lives for the past year or so, we are learning how to communicate with each other within that context because we each have our own needs and desires, which are mostly aligned but not perfectly. It’s very confusing at times lol.

  9. This made me laugh out loud, totally reminds me of my sub when I first got him. :)

    • Glad to hear it gave you a laugh, Remi. :)

      Mine still flips into newbie-melodramatic-sub mode on occasion, but when that happens, now I just think of this and laugh (he hates that!)

  10. I would like to chime in with my own feelings from the sub’s perspective, and I’ll admit, this is probably a little more emotional of a response than would be typical of me. Maybe it’s because I see a bit of similarity between what you describe in this post and my own reactions when I screw something up, but for me, nothing makes me more ashamed than disobeying my Lady. There are no words that cut deeper than “I’m disappointed in you.” Maybe it’s because I’m so service oriented, I don’t know, but when that does happen, I can attest that the Shock and Self-flagellation, at least for me, are completely genuine. There’s no “purpose” behind either of these, they’re not calculated maneuvers to affect some specific response. When my Lady shows me that I’ve messed up, the first reaction is genuine shock, purely because I’m putting so much into doing everything I can to please her. And yeah, after that sets in, it feels like shit, and the “example statements” you wrote for that stage are pretty true to life. There’s no intention of making the dominant feel guilty, and I’d shudder to think being honest about your feelings would be seen as “carelessness.” As for making over-the-top apologies and protocol demonstrations, for me that’s borne out of the desire to do something, anything to make up for the disobedience. If an apology is good, a bigger apology is better. If kneeling is good, prostrating oneself is better.

    All that said, I know this article was meant to be light-hearted, sarcastic, funny and silly. And judging by most of the responses, that’s how it came across for most people! :) I’m not trying to attack or criticize, this article just hit me in a very different place than it seems it did for most readers, and I wanted to chime in to say that sometimes, responses like these may be totally sincere. I know my relationship is more touchy-feely than most, and I may just be going all bleeding-heart, but I figured it was still worth saying.

    In general, thank you for all of the writing you’ve done on this blog! It is a joy to read, really, so thank you for giving the Internet a little view into an intimate piece of your life.

    • Hi, HerKitten. Sorry for the short delay in my response (7 months? Eek! Sorry!)

      Thank you so much for the comment! I think you’re absolutely right in your suggestion — certainly, these reactions can be genuine, and I have no doubt they usually are (reactions from people in general, I don’t doubt your individual sincerity in the least).

      First, you’re right that this post was meant to be purposefully exaggerated, lighthearted, and silly.

      But it came from a real response to the way my submissive handled himself when he made a mistake. His response to his mistakes was far more about him than about me — in being shocked, self-flagellating, and self-punishing, he was doing nothing to make it better, make me feel better, or ensure it wouldn’t happen again. His response felt self-centered and selfish to me. We talked about it, of course, but after I noticed patterns, I was angry enough to rant about it in writing (I was so angry I never posted it in its original form), and that rant evolved into this satire (is it satire? hyperbole? I’m not sure).

      I figured it was still worth saying.

      Absolutely. :) I’m glad you did.

      In general, thank you for all of the writing you’ve done on this blog! It is a joy to read, really, so thank you for giving the Internet a little view into an intimate piece of your life.

      Thank you for the kind words, HerKitten. :)

  11. Ouchas! The protocol one was too close to home for me! Ingrained habit now. Sorry! Or is that too self-serving? ;o)

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