There is a problem that is more common within online submission that I refer to as shelf-sitting. I have experienced it and am slowly seeing it happen to others that I know of online communities. It is sad that this is occurring but perhaps I could shed some light on what it is and perhaps some of the causes. Shelf-sitting is a very real problem for many and it is hurtful to those it occurs to.

What is shelf-sitting?

I think perhaps that is where I should start so that other real-life and online submissives can recognize this phenomenon. I personally have seen this happen more within the online communities, but it can, also, happen with a real life submissive. Shelf-sitting is when you are expected to “turn off” being a submissive and only be the submissive when the Dominant asks for it.

Many submissives have referred to it as being a doll that literally sits on a shelf, and is only taken down when something is being asked of them. For many, this creates confusion in their self-identity. It can make them feel as their worth and contributions to the relationship mean less than they are. Often the submissive will feel neglected and will do things simply to attract the attention of their Dominant.

Why do people shelf sit?

That perhaps is even harder to explain with any certainty, but I think I can shed some light on it from the perspective of a victim of this. I think that sometimes the other person in the equation gets so wrapped in their everyday lives they forget the other person’s needs and wants. Communication between the two parties hits a snag that ultimately creates this situation where the submissive feels like they are literally sitting on a shelf.

A submissive really doesn’t have the ability to “turn off” being what they are. It is up to the submissive to keep the lines of communication open and to be subtle to clue in the Dominant into what is occurring. Sometimes the other party appears to be clueless that they are doing this, but it is indeed something that happens. It is sad because this doesn’t have to be.

Things that a submissive can do to help themselves in these situations:

  • Communicate your thoughts and feelings directly to the Dominant through email, journal, instant message, or perhaps even a phone call. I don’t suggest a text message though because it is too limiting.
  • Create a list of what you feel is going on in the relationship and present it in a non-hostile way.
  • Talk often about the direction the relationship is going in. Remember that this is a time to stay calm and actively participate in the conversation. No relationship is one-sided.
  • Talk to other submissives about what is going on. Sometimes they might have a suggestion to try to reopen the lines of communication you had not thought of.
  • Write in your journal daily so that both parties can see what is going on in the relationship. Journals aren’t just about feelings. They should include what is going on in the relationship.
  • Keep in mind that sometimes the other party may just not see what you are seeing. That is the time to evaluate if the relationship is really one that is compatible and if it truly is what both want.

The most important thing in all of this is not to point fingers. We are all human. We make mistakes. Sometimes due to our lives, we need to be clued into what is going on around us.

I know it is hard when you are feeling like the other doesn’t understand you and isn’t seeing what you are. You are not alone though. You do have someone you can turn to. I think this is why it is so important to be a part of a community – be it virtual or real.

In closing keep in mind that without open lines of communication no relationship can withstand the tests everyday life can put upon it. It is key and crucial to that both parties be open to talking. If one isn’t then it really is time to evaluate where things are and perhaps say goodbye to the journey. Keep your head held high because you are worthy and your submission is given to those you deem worthy of its preciousness.