The dominant partner is usually a man, but could also be another woman, or more than one person. The term "female submission" most commonly refers to a woman who derives sexual pleasure from the act of submission to men.
Submission can take the form of passivity or obedience in relation to any aspect of conduct and behavior. Submission can be to a partner in an interpersonal relationship, such as allowing the sex partner to initiate all sexual activity as well as setting the time and place and sex positions. It can also be in relation to the type of sexual activity that the partners will engage in, including non-conventional sex such as anal sex, or BDSM or sexual role play.
Some sex positions, such as doggy style, require a woman to be passive while an active sex partner performs sex acts on her, and this may be seen as a form of submission. Obedience may be a part of a sexual role play or activity, and can also be in the relation to the style of dress, if any, or behavior or any other manner. In fact, any act that is performed on a passive woman, such as undressing her, may be regarded as submissive behavior on the part of the woman.
A 1985 study suggests that about 30% of participants in BDSM activities are females. A 1995 study indicates that 89% of females active in BDSM, expressed a preference for a submissive-recipient role in sexual bondage, suggesting also a preference for a dominant male, and 71% of males preferred a dominant-initiator role.
Submission may be manifested in a multitude of ways whereby a woman relinquishes sexual or personal control to another, such as acts of servitude, submission to humiliation or punishment such as erotic spanking, or other activities, at times in association with bondage. The level and type of submission can vary from person to person, and from one time to another.
Some women choose to include occasional sexual submission in an otherwise conventional sex life. For example, a woman may adopt a submissive role during a sexual activity to overcome a sexual inhibition she may have. A woman may choose to submit full-time, becoming a lifestyle slave.
Some people derive erotic pleasure from the submissiveness of a sex partner, which they may regard as a turn-on; and some people regard obvious passivity as a form of feminine flirting or seduction. Some women sexually submit to the sexual wishes of their partner for the pleasure of the partner, which may itself result in sexual pleasure for the submissive woman.
Some feminist writers argue that female sexual submission can amount to sexual objectification. Others who practice female submission, claim that the act of submitting is a conscious, freeing event which has no impact or correlation to sexual objectification, as it is voluntary and requires significant self-actualization to accomplish.
When female subservience occurs as a consequence of a social system in which males, either as fathers or husbands, hold legal or de facto authority and power over related women, children, and household property, the arrangement is generally known as patriarchy and has historically been the norm in nearly all human cultures. This is not the same as voluntary submissive behavior in the bedroom by willing, sexually aroused women in healthy relationships.