My personal experiences with chivalry in submission have been exclusively with cis-male submissives, thus this article will deal primarily with FemDom/malesub D/s dynamics. This is not intended to exclude transfolk from using chivalry to enhance submission; any gender, in and beyond the gender binary, can use stereotypical feminine or masculine archetypes in D/s play as they wish. However, be warned that this essay will be written with the assumption that the submissive is male, and the dominant, female, just for simplicity’s sake.
Within and outside of the kink community, there exist a plethora of negative stereotypes surrounding male submissives. In contrast, archetypes of healthy submissive male figures are few and far between. However, history has granted us a beautiful and positive model of male submission; the chivalrous knight in servitude to his Lady fair.
Now, I must cede that historians hotly debate the power dynamics and mentality behind chivalry. For our purposes, however, we will focus on the romanticized (and not necessarily historically accurate) perspective of chivalry as it is applicable to FemDom/malesub D/s dynamics.
In this romanticized vision, I view chivalry as a code of conduct for a knight to follow in order to honor and serve his Lady. The Lady of this vision is a superior feminine figure; a model of the many feminine virtues, whose enchanting perfection has inspired the servitude of the knight. The knight, in a contrasting compliment to the Lady, is a masculine figure who has vowed to protect and cherish the Lady by upholding the feminine virtues with his masculine strength. In fact, the point of chivalry is for the knight to honor the Lady by not just protecting and exalting her, but by emulating some of her greatest virtues.
When one analyzes the behavioral code of romanticized chivalry from historical literary evidence, multitudes of chivalrous virtues become apparent. From those virtues, one can build a model of chivalrous behavior for the submissive male by considering how each virtue can be used to enhance his submission and servitude. Personally, I modeled my ideals for a chivalrous submissive male from the stories of Galahad and Tristram. I read those stories as a child, so the archetypes described therein are deeply imprinted in my psyche as models of masculine perfection. After evaluating my personal vision of the perfect knight, I have identified ten chivalrous virtues that I expect out of any submissive male who serves me. The ten virtues are as follows: Honor, conscientiousness, unselfish love, deference, dignity, courage, even temperament, endurance of suffering, chastity and loyalty.
Let’s start with the virtue that is the central concept of chivalry, yet the most vague and intangible of ideas: Honor. According to the romanticized history of chivalry, knights would bring honor to their Lady by winning battles (and land) in her name. Today, if a submissive provoked fistfights in his Lady’s name, she would only be dishonored by his actions, for she would be depicted as a weak FemDom who does not have adequate control over her unruly submissive. The way for a submissive knight to bring honor to the Lady in today’s world is to help foster the respect that others have for her in the local D/s community. After all, the regard that a community has for each FemDom is a reflection of the regard that her submissive has of her. How much the submissive knight honors and respects his Lady will affect how others view her. If the knight acts with respect at all times, that respect will be reflected upon the Lady, because the community will recognize his proper behavior as a result of her training and efforts. Ultimately, the submissive knight should respect his Lady with as much value as she places on his submission, and share that respect with the entire community.
Due to the fact that the honor the Lady receives from the community is a reflection of her submissive knight’s behavior, the knight must always act with conscientiousness. In other words, he should always act with the best interests of his Lady in mind, consistently giving consideration to the Lady’s needs and desires. One way to help remind the submissive knight to be conscientious is to have him wear a constant reminder of this Lady. In medieval times, knights would often showcase a symbol of their Lady in battle, whether by carrying her flag, bearing her coat of arms, or wearing a simple band of her colored cloth in his gauntlet. In our D/s world, instead the submissive can be granted a collar to remind him that he is a constant representation of his Lady, and that he must be continually aware that his servitude is focused around her needs.
Beyond the fact that the submissive knight should be conscientious of his representation of and servitude toward his Lady, he must also serve her out of unselfish love. Submission, at its core, is an act of love; some might say it is the ultimate act of love. This unselfish love is best demonstrated by loving unconditionally, without expectation of reward and if need be, through personal sacrifice. Supposedly, in romanticized medieval history, knights would sacrifice their lives to defend their Lady if need be. In our D/s world, submissive knights sacrifice the control they have over their lives by willfully, consensually offering that power to their Lady. It is impossible to teach love; it is a feeling that is inspired! But submission without unselfish love is not consensual submission at all in my book.
The personal sacrifice that arises from unselfish love is often demonstrated through deference to the Lady. The submissive knight must be able to bend his will to the benefit of his Lady, by following her orders obediently and to the best of his ability. Deference can be proved through the knight’s order-abiding actions, or in a particular case, with a special symbolic action. Historically, knights would pay homage and give obeisance to the superior Lady by reverently kneeling to kiss her hand. This symbolic action demonstrates one’s humility and status of subservience in relation to the Lady. Today, FemDoms can take this symbolic action one step further, by ordering the submissive knight to kiss her foot, extending the metaphor of power imbalance even further in the submissive knight’s deferential action.
Even while a submissive knight has his lips firmly planted on his Lady’s foot, he still must do his best to act with dignity. After all, it is an honor to serve a Lady of such standing. The submissive knight should act with a modest, subtle pride through his servitude, knowing that he is a valued servant and asset to his divine Lady. The knight must not let shame deter him from putting every ounce of effort into his submission, even when others make faulty claims that male submission is a sign of weakness or an act of emasculation. The submissive knight must rise above such insults with his confidant air of dignity, and that behavior itself will prove the naysayers wrong. Medieval knights carried themselves with dignity for they knew they could be proud of their honorable servitude towards their Lady. A knight could even demonstrate his pride in his servitude by dedicating the victory of his battles to the Lady, recognizing the inspiration that she gave him. Today, a submissive knight could dedicate his accomplishments towards his Lady, demonstrating how she inspires him to better himself. Such dedications can be enacted through toasts at dinner, promises in love letters, or simply with an affirmation each morning by stating what he will accomplish for his Lady that day.
In order to successfully accomplish the promises that a submissive knight dedicates to his lady, he must always act with courage. Even if fearful, the knight must face every challenge presented by the Lady with unwavering resolve. Historically, medieval knights demonstrated their bravery by risking life and limb in battle. Today, a submissive knight can display his bravery through the most courageous action: Trust. The submissive typically trusts his Lady with his body in sadomasochistic play, perhaps even with play that involves his intimate fears. In a profound act of courage and trust, the knight can present his vulnerabilities to the Lady without hesitation, knowing that this act will only deepen his submission.
It is important that the submissive knight bears a challenging act of courage with even temperament. This is no excuse to give in to rage and to boast a display of testosterone-laden aggression. A submissive knight should be able to keep as calm and collected as possible, even when faced with difficult situations, such as corporal punishment. This is not to say that the knight may not express any emotion, quite the contrary. The submissive knight should strive to react to punishment, not with anger, but with surrender and acceptance, which may be expressed by all sorts of emotional behaviors.
This act of expressing an even temperament by bearing punishment and pain with quiet acceptance illustrates my personal definition of another highly valued virtue: endurance of suffering. Entire sagas of medieval knights focus on the self-sacrifice and suffering they endure in order to protect and honor their Lady. In D/s, I view enduring pain for another’s benefit as an incredible expression of submission and love. The submissive knight can and will bear the pain his Lady sadistically inflicts upon him, thinking on the fact that his suffering showcases his love for her and using that knowledge as motive to fuel his endurance.
Another virtue, which I consider to be a perfect example of suffering, is withstanding the challenge of chastity. In romanticized medieval history, knights would undergo voluntary chastity to remain pure and honorable in the eyes of their society and faith. In modern D/s, the parallel is enforced chastity, where the submissive knight surrenders full control of his sexual release to the Lady. Here, the submissive restricts his desires in deference to the Lady’s desires, by giving her command over his ability to experience sexual pleasure. While the Lady may choose to make it impossible for him to disobey with a chastity device, she may also choose to challenge the submissive knight’s self discipline by expecting him to deny himself from temptation.
This brings us to the last virtue, Loyalty, the act of being faithful and consistent in one’s servitude. There were no “double agents” in medieval times; when a knight vowed his obeisance to a King or Lady, his loyalty was unquestioned. That is not to say it was unproven. Knights showed their loyalty through all their bravery and servitude, just as today’s submissive knight can demonstrate his devotion to his Lady by always serving her with love and without hesitation. Every virtue that we have considered, when authentically demonstrated by the submissive knight, is an expression of his loyalty to his Lady.
There are further virtues that exist in medieval codes of chivalry, such as courtesy, hospitality and charity, however they are not highly emphasized in my personal model of chivalrous submission. However, any Lady or submissive knight may deem those or other virtues as important to their model of chivalrous behavior. The model described above works for my personal D/s relationships, and is not the end-all and be-all of submissive behavior models. You have the power to pick and choose, emphasize or exclude, any virtue that you observe from the medieval knight archetypes to use in your own personal model of submission!
It would also be wise to mention that this model of chivalrous behavior is an example of perfection. If you find it pleasing, then strive to its ideal, but realize the difference between fantasy and reality. For example, while a submissive knight’s service is usually focused on the needs of the Dominant, the submissive cannot serve the Dominant if he is not taking proper care of himself first. Submissive knights, be certain that you serve a Lady who values you and your submission. Fair Ladies, as the knight serves you, you must extend your efforts towards their training and well being.
Ultimately, I hope that this description of my personal model of chivalrous submission will help inspire others to explore healthy, positive archetypes of submissive male behavior. Even if the medieval knight doesn’t suit you, with a little creativity and research, I’m sure that every submissive male can find an archetype that is motivating and pleasing to both their own personal image and their dominant’s desires.
Chivalry: A medieval code of conduct for knights that can be adapted and “perverted” into an ideal for male submissives to follow in order to honor and serve their Dominant.
Many thanks to my friend and play partner, TheDapperGent, for his contribution in brainstorming and formulating the model of chivalry with me. I must also express my eternal gratitude to my collared partner and love of my life, Cowboy Bill, for inspiring me to write this post with his beautiful example of submission. I would also like to extend my thanks to the many friends who edited and proofread this article for me. Their advice was indispensable and highly appreciated.
About the Author:
Schadenfreude is a young, but experienced dominant sadomasochist with a passion for pain and teaching others about BDSM. A contradictive mixture of sweet and sadistic, she revels in bringing men to their knees with her unique take on the feminine mystique. After all, she considers herself to be a lovely Lady fair, who helps build submssive men up to their incredible potential by challenging them in ways that showcase their own impressive virtues.
For more information about Schadenfreude, please visit: herrinschadenfreude.blogspot.com
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