What It Means To Be A TRUE Dominant (And Not Just Another D*ck)

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What It Means To Be A TRUE Dominant In A BDSM Relationship With A Submissive
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There's SO much more to it than spanking some ass.

By Lily Black and Lex Winters

The first time I ever found myself in a bedroom, surrounded by rope and in the presence of a willing girl, I will confess I let the moment go to my head. I was 20 years old, she was eager to please, and I had absolutely zero experience with either rope play or acting like someone who was supposed to be "in control" of a kinky situation.

As such, we spent very little time talking about scenes and expectations and plenty of time getting hot and bothered by the prospect of playing master and slave. Or in the case of my mind, kidnapper and victim.

It took all of five minutes into what should have been a satisfying scene before she got a flat look on her face, stopped squirming and sort of sighed. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, "This isn't how I pictured it. I wanted ..." followed by a short description of a fantasy she had been dreaming about since she was a teenager.

As it turned out, my fantasy, which I had held for just as long, was the opposite.

Overcome with awkwardness, we just sat there — her restrained by some pretty terrible knots and me feeling like the jerk in the room because I hadn't stopped to ask her what she wanted. It ended up destroying the relationship, all because nobody thought to speak up. We just blushed and giggled and launched into something far beyond what our emotional comprehension could handle.

The lesson here? Communication.

 

 

One of the "traps" associated with being dominant in a BDSM relationship (which is also a common pitfall for many a novice Dom or Domme) is placing far too much emphasis on expectations and fantasies without stopping to consult or confer or even pay attention to those of the other person.

We think "Dominant" and immediately fantasize about power and control and exercising those desires, without acknowledging the reality that we are not the only person here. Somehow that can get lost and we assume that "Dominant" means just that, and the other person is just a replaceable prop we are playing with.

Then, to make matters worse, we have the potential to get angry when said person voices an objection — in this case, a perfectly reasonable, nay, important gesture — and we react as such.

Here are three key factors a Dominant must keep in mind at all times when embarking on a BDSM relationship with a submissive.

1. The Dominant is not (really) in charge.

It doesn't need to be this way. Not at all, not ever, and especially not with someone who trusts you enough to be "in charge" of a scene or fantasy. Because it must be emphasized repeatedly: as a Dominant you are not in charge. At best, you are a co-author in this story and as such, you need to be aware of your partner as much as you are of yourself.

Do not be a dick.

 

 

By all means, use one, but do not abase yourself by acting like a slender watercraft trying to go through a vast sea of genital emissions. (In other words, "don't be a douche-canoe." Seriously.) We say this because it's easy to power trip as a Dominant during a scene, and there are altered states that may happen to you (known variously as dom-space, top-space, other various terms).

The power dynamic is important here. As a dominant, you are deriving your sensual experience and potency from being in that role, but being a Dominant isn't just calling yourself Master or Mistress and flogging someone. In fact, being a dominant might not include any traditional elements of dominant play at all; it can reside in a look, a facial expression, a heavy breath or a selection of choice words that evoke a sense of power, strength and authority.

By and large, communication is the priority.

A good dominant knows when to listen, when to take action, and when to step back. This is just as important to you as it is to whoever you are within the scene, if not more so. The Dominant is the one who has to be in control not only of the scene but of themselves, at least for the duration of the scene. Your play partner is the one who is trusting you to be a safe person and to create a safe space for them to express their own pleasures, their own pain, their own desires and their own shadows.

They are trusting your sense of control over yourself.

 

Related: Why Forced Orgasm Play Is SEXY AF (And 4 Ways To Give It A Try!)

 

2. Dominants must practice safety and self-control.

The first part of this consideration is safety.

There's the obvious side of safety in kink and in sex in general. The submissive partner — whether known as a bottom, a sub or some other term — is trusting you with their physical safety. And believe me, there's a whole associated cluster of both power-triggered arousal, euphoria and fear that comes packaged in with it. Even as a Dominant you can, and likely will, experience fear, anxiety, concern, and awkwardness. This is normal. Trust me. It will happen to you eventually.

Has contraception and safer sex been discussed? What tools will you be employing for this specific scene and how can the scene be as physically safe as possible within those boundaries and within that context?

While both partners are responsible for ensuring the scene proceeds faithfully and properly, the Dominant needs to be the one to remember to check in regularly during the scene using the agreed upon safewords and other methods of communication that should be established before the rope is even taken out of its bag.

 

Seriously, before you even try to set a scene, you need to know how to end it. Communication is key, even if a ball gag is in use. 

Once the scene begins and emotions are flying around, endorphins start pumping through the blood and both of you become lost in your respective roles, so things can sour pretty quickly if both parties forget what they are doing.

As the Dominant, you must be fully aware of your actions and your partner's reactions. Always.

There should also be safety scissors if necessary, such as if you are doing any sort of bondage play, just in case either partner start feeling a lack of circulation in their limbs — or need to be cut/untied immediately.

You may have heard the phrase "safe, sane, and consensual" when hearing about kink. That's a good one, but I'd like to off the guiding phrase we use as a subsititue: RACK.

RACK stands for risk-aware consensual kink and is often used to describe situations in which some risk is known. Perhaps your play partner is autistic or under treatment for depression. Perhaps they get panic attacks every now and then, and while they are eager to play, want to talk about what you can do if they start a panic attack in the middle of playtime. Or perhaps you have back pain or an old ankle injury you need to adjust for.

Other aspects of risk are included as well; with things like flogging or hot wax or rope. When pain and pleasure blend together, it's always possible to forget you are in fact causing harm for the sake of ecstasy. There's a line there can be crossed easily if you don't always keep that in mind.

Any possible risk factor, including prescription medications, STIs, and/or pregnancy, must be discussed and mitigated. How you discuss this and what you decide to do about it is up to you and your partner. Sometimes it only takes a few words. Sometimes a longer conversation takes place. And sometimes there is a continuing dialogue. This ties into the second point.

The second part of this conversation is personal. The prospective Dominant must be self-aware.

Skills and limitation awareness may seem like a no-brainer, but in my partner Lily's early days as a Dominant, she handled her tools awkwardly because she was afraid of them due to personal baggage surrounding bondage and gender roles. Once she unpacked her feelings about WHY she was handling her tools awkwardly, she became a much more capable Dominant.

It also helped that she makes certain to handle her tools herself first — feeling how the rope holds knots when tied to her arm or wrists first, for example, before applying untested rope to her partner during play.

We've seen prospective Dominants who think that all they need to do to be dominant is to shout at or threaten your partner and have gear like chains or rope or a gag.

We all have read about a certain trashy novel that suggested that chains and cable ties are a good thing. No, they're not. And an experienced Dom will know this. They will be familiar and comfortable with their toys and tools. They will observe their subs and act according to what makes them feel comfortable. Dominants may shout at their partners, certainly, but only within the boundaries the partners set together in advance.

This goes for being aware of their own individual shortcomings and faults as well. Know thyself, the saying goes, and a Dominant should at least be on a journey to know themselves and what they want in order to best nurture their submissives.

If you're interested in becoming a Dominant, you don't need to have all the answers, but you do need to be willing to explore where your baggage comes from and what you can do about it. You need to take responsibility for your own actions. Will you make mistakes? Yes, you're a human.

People are going to make some mistakes along the way, sooner or later. That's part of gaining experience and leveling up.

This also means that if there are risk factors or hard limits YOU have, you must discuss them with your prospective partners as well. Just because you are the Dominant in the relationship that doesn't mean your partner has no agency or power of their own.

Do you want your partner to be able to look you in the eye and tell you something is wrong or that something you did or said bothers them?

Does the submissive partner — if the D/s dynamic is maintained outside of the bedroom — have a choice (or an expectation) to call you after?

Are there other protocols that might help you and your partner feel secure? 

 

Related: What It Means If You CRAVE Pain And Rough, Hard Sex

 

3. Remember that all people practice D/s a bit differently.

The third key thing to keep in mind as a Dominant is to be aware that people are all different.

Even if there are two Dominants using similar tools (say, both use flogging) who come from similar backgrounds, they are still two distinct people. There are many types of dominance and submission play, and Dominants also have different flavors, even if the tools they use are the same. What bothers one may not bother another. One person's hard limit may be a non-issue for someone else, and so on.

What this means is that you need to start at ground zero with communication and introspection with each and every new partner.

One example of variation is what the Dominant is called and what language they might use. Some Dominants prefer the use of particular terminology to address them and the terminology itself may have a particular meaning.

For example, a Dominant partner may insist on being called "Sir," with the first letter capitalized to symbolically represent the power dynamic when in a scene or discussing a scene.

 

 

Another Dominant may be simply "Jane," while another Dominant may not use their given name at all during a scene but instead a title. Some Dominants pay close attention to how titles can be loaded with gender norms and expectations, and/or with racial supremacy undertones. "Master" can carry very different connotations than "Mistress" and unpacking those titles and feelings about them may be useful.

Feel "Sir" is too masculine for you and want to go by "Ser" instead? Sure.

Really like how being called "Your Majesty" makes you feel? Go right ahead.

Don't want to use an honorific at all? Sure. Be your awesome self.

This goes for tools too. Just because a Dominant might use one particular tool does not mean every dominant who uses that tool takes the same approach.

For example, both of us (Lily and Alexis) use rope. When Lily dominates, she prefers to use more aesthetically pleasing ties and act stern, but loving and gentle. When I dominate, well, let's just say that there's something more primal there. The key thing is, we're both on the same page, we've communicated about what works for each of us and we've learned how to treat each other in scenes.

Most importantly, remember that being a Dominant is an evolving thing.

It involves ongoing communication, reflection and adjustment.

 

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This article was originally published at Kinkly. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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