In a broad social context, kneeling (and also bowing), is associated with submission and obeisance, the kneeling position renders a person defenseless and unable to flee. For this reason, in some religions, in particular by Christians and Muslims, kneeling is used as a position for prayer, as a position of submission to God. Kowtow (a Chinese term), is a more extreme varient of the position where the act of kneeling and bowing is so low as to touch the head to the ground.
Kneeling and BDSM
In the context of BDSM, kneeling is a fairly standard position for many submissives and is a common theme in BDSM imagery and practice. Within a BDSM encounter kneeling may be employed in the scene for any number of reasons:
- As an act that shows deference by the submissive to their dominant.
- The posture is one that many submissive feel at ease in and naturally want to adopt.
- In a public environment such as a fetish club or play party it is a very public demonstration of submission. It can be adopted voluntarily by the sub as an act of submission or imposed on them by the master or mistress as an act of control.
- It can be used at the start of a scene as an aid to getting into the right headspace. Before the start of a scene the sub is sent to kneel in the room or space that the scene will take place in and await their Master/Mistress. The act of submission will give them time to contemplate what is to take place and to provide separation between the emotions of the real world and those of the scene.
- In BDSM play the act of kneeling can also used to objectify the submissive and to reduce their status to that of an item of furniture such as a footstool or seat for the dominant. This application of kneeling shares elements that are common to forniphilia.
There are practical issues about kneeling for any length of time as pressure on the knee and foot joins can become painful after even a short period. The time a sub can remain on their knees can be extended by kneeling on a soft surface or using aids such as Knee pads. As well as being a voluntary act the submissive may be forced to remain in a kneeling position by use of bondage (e.g. using a hogtying). A male submissive can also be forced to remain in a kneeling position by the use of a humbler.
- Main article: Gorean slave positions
Nadu - kneel with thighs spread wide, back held straight or arched slightly, breasts thrust forward, head held high with eyes lowered, sitting back on heels, hands resting by default on the thighs with palms down (though there are variations).
Tower - The slave kneels with her knees modestly together, back straight, eyes lowered. When the hands are not occupied with some task, they generally rest loosely in front, with wrists crossed.
Gorean Bow - the girl kneels in nadu position, and then bends her body backwards, her head to the floor, while placing her hands by her head, and pulling her torso up into a back bend (this position is very painful to maintain for longer than a few minutes, and so is generally used as a position of punishment). Note that this is actually a slight elaboration on the Gor books by fans -- in the books themselves, the term "bow" (or "Gorean love bow" in full) seems to refer to arched-back positions in general (without specifying any one exact position), and kajirae are generally placed into such positions by a master.