I admitted I’m not sure what it means to “break” a submissive — my ignorance is equal parts inexperience and lexical ambiguity. While my inexperience (and sometimes-ignorance) is well-documented here, the ambiguity isn’t my fault.
“Breaking” is figurative, not literal. It’s a metaphor (or hyperbole, idiom, symbolism, synecdoche, or some messy combination). The intended meaning is dependent on the speaker and the received meaning is dependent on the audience.
For that reason, the ambiguity isn’t surprising — the range of interpretations is wide, and includes everything from inconsequential, isolated “breaking” to severe, irreparable “breaking” (and all points in between).
On the lighter end of the spectrum, “breaking” can mean getting a submissive to consent to something she or he doesn’t enjoy, perhaps something on the submissive’s list of soft limits. For example, a sub might consent to wearing a blindfold even though it really freaks him out.
On the heavy end of the spectrum, “breaking” can mean emotionally diminishing a sub to such a degree it changes his personality, goals, and sense of self-worth. While “change” leaves room for positive shifts, more often, the connotations of this sort of “breaking” are decidedly negative. Accompanying descriptions often include mentions of “breaking the spirit,” “removing free will,” tabula rasa, and similarly Gorean-sounding language that more appropriately describe the aftereffects of significant trauma, PTSD, or Stockholm syndrome than describe something you’d do to someone you care about.
My last post sparked a Twitter conversation about “breaking,” and the general consensus is that it’s somewhere between extremes. (Of course, it’s a personal thing, so there’s no real consensus.) Ferns interprets breaking as when a sub gives up resistance, and Lilyana’s interpretation is a combination of catharsis and deep subspace.
Part of the problem, too, is the uncritical exchange of romanticized ideas about what things are, how they happen, and what they mean. If we take our cues from what’s “out there” in culture — what’s represented in pornography, erotica, and some personal accounts — “breaking” is powerful, deeply-moving, and damn-near mystical.
We’re all romanticism’s unknowing participants and it’s unwitting victims, but perhaps kinky people are to a greater degree. People in BDSM communities tend towards the dramatic (as evidenced by honorifics, protocols, costumes, rituals, dungeons, slave registries, etc.). Of course, drama and symbolism are meaningful, but they’re also silly. I can admit that even as I enjoy it. (I enjoy it up until it makes me feel silly: when I feel like more like a character than a person, when I can’t take one more step in 6 inch stilettos, when I can’t breathe in my corset, or when the leather makes me itch.)
While a bit of drama is hot, I’m not interested in breaking J’s spirit (as if I could). I like the boy, I respect him, and I appreciate his free will (as long as his will is for me…). But I’m curious about the lighter stuff — the less consequential sort of breaking. On one hand, imagining J losing his resistance, plunging into subspace, or breaking down emotionally is fucking hot. But on the other, forcing/persuading(?) a person to do something they aren’t into can cause resentment, extreme subspace can blur boundaries, and emotional breakdowns can have a host of negative consequences, particularly if they aren’t handled correctly. There might be negative consequences even if they are handled correctly.
It was interesting to read people’s responses to the last post (thank you for those!) and hear their thoughts on “breaking.” Now I’m asking for more. :)
What say you, dominants, submissives, and switches? (and kinksters of all types) What does “breaking” mean to you?
- What is it? Is it deeper subspace? Is it the destruction of resistance? Is it catharsis?
- Is it isolated and in the context of a scene? Is it something more significant? Can it change you?
- Is breaking something you’ve experienced?
- Is it something you want? Why do you want it?
- What happens after? How do you put someone back together? What happens if you can’t?