Growing up in a conservative Christian community in Atlantic Canada, I’ve lost track of the number of times I was warned I could not serve two masters. We sang songs about “surrendering all” to Jesus and listened to teachings about dying to ourselves so that we could live with Christ. The message was clear: we’re only intended to submit to God.
Yet, jumping ahead a few decades, a key part of my spiritual formation has been just that — submitting to another. I have been a “kinkster” for many years, and last fall I began practising a power-exchange relationship with a professional domme.
In the kink community, this is what’s called a dominance-submission dynamic. Neither of us use the term “master.” Instead, I call her Mxtress; she is my dominant and I submit to her. We have negotiated this space — usually a one-hour window about once a month when I am home alone — ahead of time. It can include restraints, flogging, kneeling, acts of service and tenderness.
It may sound strange, but this practice has made me a better minister, parent and partner. I had already known I was a submissive before my relationship with Mxtress — now, when I go without it I can feel the effects on my mood, emotional bandwidth and spiritual centre. You see, in submitting to someone else, I am able to be at rest. I live with anxiety-depression, and like many clergy, I am also a workaholic. In a career where folks ask so much of you, it is rare to find relationships wherein you are the one being cared for.
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Dominant-submissive relationships often involve a component of service, but Mxtress only asks as much of me as I am able and willing to give. This is a key part of the consent required to play together in this way. Surrendering, then, is a radically vulnerable act based on trust and boundaries. Because of this, it is an act I find soul-healing.
As a person who rarely feels the dynamic God-experiences my charismatic siblings in Christ do, allowing my domme to nurture me is an embodied expression of my loving God. It is something I am reticent to talk about outside of the kink community, but I am frequently in conversation with other submissives. They, too, sometimes feel the soul-healing power of a dominant’s care.
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I kneel at Mxtress’s feet and she touches my face tenderly. I imagine Peter felt similarly sitting by Jesus as he taught on the mountainside, sharing a message of God’s inclusive love. In her eyes I am acceptable, and I allow myself to internalize those words, believing in that moment that I am a child of God.
Rev. Ty Knott is the pseudonym of the author.
This piece first appeared in Broadview’s June 2023 issue with the title “Freedom in Submission.”
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