Spanking Artemis: DD & the Virgin Goddess

"Before the inner feminine can safely emerge within the unconscious, she needs a strong, discerning masculine partner, who can maintain the boundaries, create a sacred space where feelings can emerge and be listened to. The intuitive wisdom that arises from the body, the creative matrix, needs a focused masculine that can release the creativity of the soul." -- Marion Woodman, Dancing in the Flames

Very few concepts in archetype and myth seem to be more misunderstood than the concept of virginity.

Recently, I've come to see that this concept as it's classically used in mythology may be one of the keys to unraveling the paradox that is DD (domestic discipline) and the related concept of feminine submission and power. The concept of virginity as it's classically defined may also be one of the key concepts required for making DD relationships work long-term.

In our modern society, a virgin is widely interpreted to be a woman who has never had sex. For example, when most people hear archetypal goddess figures like the Greek moon goddess Artemis described as a virgin goddess, they assume that means that Artemis rejected sex and the company of men.

Those of you familiar with archetypal studies know, of course, that the term "virgin" in Jungian psychology means something quite different and much richer and more intriguing than a intact hymen. Loosely translated, "virgin" in the mythological sense means "complete unto oneself."

A virgin goddess, therefore, is, generally speaking, interpreted to be a model for femininity that does not require the presence or energy of a separate, external individual, male or female, to make her whole. A virgin in this more classical sense is, by herself, a complete, whole, healthy and integrated individual - whether she's had sex or not.

Many years ago, when I first considered the idea of the virgin goddess as a model for healthy womanhood, I admit I was more than a little skeptical. Being a virgin "complete unto oneself" and needing no one else, seemed lonely and sad - the very embodiment of the "I hate men and I don't need anyone's help" hardened "feminist" who ultimately turns into the old lady living in the house on the corner with all the cats because she never found her true love and pretends stoically that she likes living alone. Sounded pretty pathetic to me. More like sour grapes than true psychological growth.

And indeed, our culture seems to reinforce the idea that a woman being "complete unto herself" is not a good goal to strive for.

One of the most prevalent (and perhaps dangerous) examples of this dismissal of the virgin archetype is in the movie Jerry Maguire, where, in the most famous scene, the Tom Cruise character famously tells his love interest that "you complete me." Cue big music swell and requisite screen kiss and roll credits -- we're left with the clear message: to be a complete person requires finding an external "someone else" to live happily ever after with -- which in turn suggests fairly explicitly that no one, male or female, can be complete without another person.

This speech, by itself, suggests that the concept of the virgin goddess (or god) is socially unacceptable in our culture -- something to be avoided and "fixed," not something to strive for.

Jerry Maguire is, of course, only one particularly explicit example of a widespread cultural expectation that we need someone outside of ourselves to "complete" us or our lives won't be worth living. Many of the most powerful illustrations of this cultural expectation come from fairy tales. Virtually every well-known fairytale ends with the princess marrying the prince and living "happily ever after."

Feminists rightly criticize these fairy tales for putting forward the idea that a woman needs a man to be complete -- and indeed, as these stories are popularly interpreted in our culture, they do seem to send the message that if we want to "live happily ever after," we better get busy and find us a prince (or princess). Otherwise, well, our future as the old lady with the cats awaits...

I believe that a big part of the reason why building a DD relationship is so challenging is precisely because women in particular often come to the relationship expecting that the other person, through assuming the dominant role in a DD relationship, will "complete us."

Many of us want the "strong, discerning masculine partner" referenced in the introductory quote to come from our real-life partner, rather than from our own psyches. As submissive woman, many of us plan to act out the one-dimensional feminine energy of submission, and expect our partners to act out the one-dimensional masculine role of dominance. Together, we complete each other (or so goes our brilliant plan!).

Of course, everyone who falls into this trap, male or female, has their own reasons for wanting an external person to provide the other half of the masculine/feminine dynamic. I'm certainly no exception.

For me, I suspect the appeal of the "Jerry Maguire"/happy-ever-after model is, at least in part, that it feels like a way to avoid facing my fear of being seen as overly masculine. Pushing my masculine impulses off onto my partner by asking him to dominate me in such a dramatic way seemed like a clever way to avoid admitting how afraid I was of exploring those masculine impulses, and thereby becoming too much of a "man" (by that, read sexually undesirable/repulsive to my partner).

But of course, what we really do when we put the responsibility for expressing our masculine side onto a partner is avoid responsibility for exploring our own psyches. In my case, I was asking someone else to express a part of myself that I've been afraid to express and explore on my own -- an act of cowardice, avoidance and entitlement that almost destroyed the relationship.

Asking someone else to do what I wasn't willing to do myself is never a recipe for a healthy dynamic between two people. And ultimately, I resented my own attempts to squelch a vital part of myself, and my partner resented being asked to carry a burden that he should never have been asked to carry.

The reality is that we are wrong to expect someone external to ourselves-- no matter how much he loves us-- to balance our internal psychic scales by providing masculine energy that we need to provide for ourselves. By dishonoring the "virgin goddess," we dishonor the relationship -- and more importantly, we dishonor ourselves.

Women aren't the only ones subject to this potential pitfall. We have probably all seen or experienced examples of hyper-alpha males who want to dominate women largely to avoid facing their own insecurities about exploring their inner feminine natures (read so-called "weaknesses"). These are the men that seem like perfect DD partners at first because they take to it so naturally, and only later are revealed to be the ones who abuse the power that we give them.

By expecting another person to provide the masculine (or feminine) energy in our lives, we risk dooming ourselves and the relationship to being fundamentally unsatisfying and incomplete, and potentially driving away our partner with unrealistic expectations and demands that no one outside of ourselves can or should be expected to fill.

By relying on an external person to articulate our inner masculine (or feminine) we are looking for psychological wholeness and integration outside of ourselves -- which is the very definition of co-dependence and dysfunction. We are walking around half a person, completely reliant on someone else to provide what we need to provide for ourselves to feel completed, healthy and whole. And feeling angry, resentful and betrayed when our partner isn't able to do for us what we ought to be doing for ourselves.

I suspect that for a DD relationship to really thrive and become the rich, archetypally fulfilling experience that many of us sense on a gut level it can be, both parties must release their expectation that the other person will fill in the missing piece of their psyche and "balance" their internal psyches with external actions.

Getting (or giving) a good spanking is a powerful, spiritual experience -- but if it's our way of getting our partner to express our inner masculine (feminine) for us and avoiding our responsibility to find this balance internally, it's fundamentally dysfunctional no matter how good it feels in the moment.

I suggest, therefore, that a healthy, sustainable DD relationship requires that women who long for submission with their mates may also need to actively work on exploring their masculine side (ideally outside of the relationship in a career or a hobby -- see "Going to Extremes"). And equally, that men who truly seek to explore the spiritual power of fulfilling their masculine side in a relationship with a submissive woman may find they're more able to get in touch with their true, healthy masculine by exploring their feminine side as well (again, perhaps outside of the relationship through volunteer work or other nurturing activities).

And so we come back to the idea of the virgin goddess, fairy tales and Jerry Maguire. I would suggest, then, that these stories are great models for teaching us how to become "complete" -- if we read them differently from the way popular culture often suggests that we read them.

Jungian mythological interpretation tells us that every character in a fairytale is a part of ourselves. (See Iron John, Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth, the writing of Marion Woodman and Bruno Bettelheim, to name some famous examples of this very powerful approach.)

This more self-contained way of interpreting fairy tales suggests that the union of male and female that happens at the end of stories like Cinderella and and Jerry Maguire (which is, of course, a contemporary fairy tale) isn't about an external male hero coming to rescue and "complete" the female. It's dangerous, misleading and dis-empowering to read these stories literally.

Instead, the true healing power of these stories lies in reading them as examples of how the woman (or man) whose various parts are represented in the story might go about finding the internal balance and union of the masculine and feminine parts of their psyche.

When Jerry Maguire and Cinderella are both read this way, they become very healthy models of psychological integration. The male/female characters do in fact "complete" each other in the sense that, just as in the opening quote, our internal feminine requires a healthy internal masculine to be completed and vice a versa.

Our mission as "DD women" then, is to become virgin goddesses by finding our inner Prince Charming and honoring him by "marrying" him (read: integrate him into our psyches), before we attempt to partner with another person in the real world.

Using this model, the dynamic of a DD relationship becomes far more complex than it initially seems when we envision it in our child-like fantasies. Instead of seeing the relationship simplistically as a scale in which she stands on one side as the feminine and he stands on the other side as the masculine, a fully realized DD relationship may require each person to balance their internal masculine and feminine on their own first -- resulting in two balanced people coming together to create a second, richer and more complex kind of secondary balance -- a masculine/feminine balancing a masculine/feminine in whatever combination works for each unique relationship.

In short, I suspect that a long-term healthy DD relationship (and more broadly, perhaps any relationship) requires that a woman (or man) recognize the importance of becoming a virgin goddess (or god) -- complete unto herself (or himself) balancing and honoring her/his own internal masculine and feminine, before stepping into this complex and emotionally fragile dynamic with another person.