Part of my goals this year is to do more self-introspection regarding my submission and service. I feel that I’ve gotten a little lost in the weeds and it’s past time to recalibrate. My favorite things in the world are books so that’s what I’ve turned to first.
Conquer Me by Kacie Cunningham is a book that I’ve seen recommended many times over the years. It’s popped up in my Amazon suggested reads more than once. Most people seem to have heard of it if they’ve been involved in power exchange for more than ten minutes. So it’s the first book I’ve picked up this year on my path and I’m excited to share my thoughts about it with you.
Conquer Me is a smaller book at under 200 pages and broken up into 30 chapters. Some of these are just a page or two long while others are more substantial. Cunningham also mixes in a couple of parables or real-life experiences as both separate chapters or within the rest of the text. She’s also very clear from the beginning that she writes for female submissives because she is a female submissive and has no experience as anything else. I appreciate this note and found that most of the book was relatable being AFAB and socialized as a woman most of my life.
Like most books about power exchange and D/s, Cunningham starts with defining the common terms of bottom, submissive, and slave. I liked her definitions and thought they were fair. Cunningham also emphasizes through the course of the book that meeting your own personal expectations is more important than trying to line up with how other people may define a word. There’s also the exploration of service and obedience as a spectrum rather than a black and white set-up. I appreciate this particular framing since I think many of us focus on “either/or” when it comes to deciding what kind of submissive we are.
I don’t serve to feel submissive, I serve because I already do feel submissive.
Cunningham touches on topics that I expected her to – nature vs nurture, basic communication, and listening skills, the concept of “real life”, submission is a gift, punishment, abuse, negotiating skills, etc. As someone who’s been in the scene for a long time and in an established power exchange dynamic, the bulk of the book was a refresher course. Cunningham is fairly plain in her language but worded things in ways that I hadn’t considered before. It’s like having a conversation with a close friend who’s really good at framing things so you finally get it.
Other topics included exploring our own issues with shame and taboos, the concept of choice within a power dynamic, figuring out the building blocks for your own relationship, active dominance and submission, etc.
The bulk of the book is extremely thoughtful and it’s obvious that Cunningham has experience living in this kind of relationship but also cares about how she communicates to her audience. She doesn’t shy away from the more philosophical viewpoints of D/s but keeps everything grounded in the real world. Nothing about Cunningham’s book makes power exchange seem like an out of reach concept that I think it can come across as. It does, however, ask you to understand how much of this type of relationship requires internal reflection and work.
“Conquer me” is a need, and can be a powerful growth tool if used properly. It is the submissive’s internal demand for a show of strength.
The phrase “conquer me” is not just the title of the book but a concept that Cunningham believes that submissive’s have as a need. This chapter struck me the most out of the whole book and is the best example of Cunningham’s ability to put feelings that you didn’t realize you had into words.
The conquer me chapter also begins one of the few repetitive elements of the book – the inability for a submissive to communicate their needs leads to the dynamic breaking down. Dominants are just as responsible for communicating their needs but Cunningham is writing to and about submissives so that’s where much of the focus lay. While I don’t disagree with the concept (good communication is necessary for every relationship, maybe doubly so for power exchange), it tended to get reinforced multiple times through the chapters without much variation.
I think this is one of the flaws of reading Conquer Me as a more seasoned submissive. I know that if I don’t ask for what I want or need, I won’t get it. Cunningham does give very good scripts for each situation that may have caused this lack of communication (the submissive is picking up the slack and is frustrated, the submissive is worried about being needy, the submissive has “conquer me” feelings) so I can’t critique her on that. For newer folks, or people wanting to polish their communication skills, those chapters are great and helpful.
The last few chapters were also a bit repetitive for me but I wasn’t surprised they were included. Chapter 25 is all about negotiating, 27 is abuse, 28 and 29 about 24/7 and doing things in vanilla space. Expected topics to touch on but information I already knew.
Submission is a feeling, and an action. Surrender is a state.
Who Should Read This
Conquer Me isn’t a “how-to” book. It’s not one that I would recommend for a brand new person because it delves into many of the more philosophical and emotional work that goes into being a submissive.
This book is great for someone who has been in the scene for a little while, is drawn to the s-side of the slash, and wants to figure out more of the “why am I drawn to this” type of thing.
It’s great for someone who is feeling a little stuck in their relationship, is trying to figure out the patterns they may be experiencing, and needs some more tools to overcome them.
It’s good for a Dominant that is wanting to understand the internal workings of their submissive some more. Reading the book together would probably spark some wonderful conversations and deepen the power exchange.
If you’ve been in the scene for a long time or are very experienced with power exchange, you may find that most of the book is familiar territory. However, it’s refreshing to read a book that’s past the “how-to” and more about the internal heart of a submissive.
While there are some aspects that I wish were a little deeper and other aspects that I wish hadn’t been included at all, it’s a well-balanced book and covers a wide breadth of topics. I won’t hesitate to recommend it to newer submissives in the future.
Conquer Me was much more philosophical than I thought it was going to be and I suspect that I will reread it (and my notes) again in the future. It’s a book that will give you something a little different each time you read it. I’ve picked up a few things that I’ll be carrying forward with me this year (the “conquer me” concept absolutely blew me away) and I’ll be asking Daddy to read a few chapters too.