The Virgin Mary has been a source of controversy throughout the history of Christianity. She’s not only found herself being thrown out with the Christ Child’s bath water at the Reformation by overzealous evangelicals but also suffered attacks by feminists as being the setter of unattainable standards for women and the foundation of the repressive idea that all women should be quiet, obedient, good as she.
Mary’s story begins with her being visited by an angle and asked to bare the Saviour of the World in her womb. Her “let it be” has been read as the ultimate submissive act and has since been championed by purveyors of the patriarchy as the model for all women to follow and the ultimate tool for female oppression. As a result her saving act of submission to the will of God has been derided by radical feminists and swept under the carpet by those who wish to ignore it.
Can Mary’s submissive “yes” be saved and transformed by the BDSM understanding of what it means to be a bottom and truly submit?
To outsiders the world of Dominance and submission seems to be morally corrupt, twisted and oppressive. But those who inhabit this world (including myself) will tell you nothing could be further from the truth. To submit to another is seen as a very honourable thing to do. When my dominant accepted my submission she said that I was giving her one of the most precious things in the world and that she would treasure and honour it. This for me really spoke about what my submission was worth; it’s not something to be taken, it is a gift for me to give. If we look at the story of the annunciation again God chooses Mary and ASKS for her to accept, God does not force, or coerce it out of her, she gives it freely.
Any practitioner worth their salt in the fetish scene will say that someone HAS to give their submission, it can never be forced or taken. Under the “submission” entry in The ABC’s of BDSM it claims “The submissive is the one that states what they are willing to give up for the Dominant to control”. Echoing that, one of the most popular books in the scene, The New Bottoming Book, spends its entirety affirming that it is the submissive who gives away control and that in order to be truly submissive you must not only know yourself, but what you want to give and receive as well.
There is a hint of irony here in that, if the submissive dictates how much control they are willing to give is it not they who are really in control? Whilst that is an unhelpful area of debate it does shed some light on a fresh understanding of Mary’s submission to God. If we take the BDSM, rather than vanilla, understanding of submission it turns the whole act on it’s head.
Mary offered her submission to God freely, “let it be with me according to your word”. There were no threats or persuasion, Mary was given the option to say no but instead chose to accept God’s will and bare the Saviour. Mary also gave her consent and so the relationship with God MUST be seen as a mutual one. Consent makes the relationship fair.
By giving her submission freely Mary was empowered. Mary’s giving of herself to God bucked the cultural practices of the time. Rather than being married off early and made to bare children through sexual intercourse with an older man Mary gave her virginity and womb willingly thus over turning the usual power structures in her society.
Through giving her submission she took for herself the title of Theotokos – God Barer, and all subsequent generations have called her blessed. Her submission has given her status and a place in humanity above almost all others. It was through her submission that she was given this status, without her submissive yes she would never have been granted it. So much for the argument that submission = oppression.
So what does a BDSM understanding of submission teach us about Mary the mother of Christ? It paints her submission not as a meek and mild bowing down to superior (male) authority but rather as a strong independent woman who chose to give herself to Someone who deserved her submission. Through choosing who to submit to Mary reject the usual patriarchal narratives of her time and consensually entered a relationship that will in turn help overturn oppressive, non-consensual domination everywhere.
Who wouldn’t want her as a role model?
 De Noche, Dama, The ABC’s of BDSM, (Ohio: Phaze Books, 2012), 135
 Easton, Dossie & Hardy, Janet W., The New Bottoming Book, (Greenery Press, 2011)