So you think you’re a dominant?

Yeah, I know, it’s a bit of a rant. Some ideas that have been around in my head for a while.

So you think you’re a dominant?

I sometimes hear a view expressed that dominants (doms, dommes) are ‘alpha’ people who have a commanding presence, dominate others by force of will, assume they will be obeyed, know what they want and are able to get it without effort.

If that description fits you, then your name is Christian Grey, you’re a multi-billionaire and will have your pick of submissives from among those queuing up for your attentions. You’ll whisk them off by helicopter to your private island with its custom-made dungeon and play with them while your minions work hard at taking over yet another world-leading company to add to your fortune. You’re also, incidentally, likely to be an unbalanced and manipulative person, driven by well-hidden insecurities. And from time to time your sexual behaviour may get you into trouble.

Most dominants aren’t like that. They aren’t the kind of people who try to dominate the world. They’re dominant in a particular relationship, and the submissive wants it that way. Of course, meeting new potential subs, they’ll see what kind of response they get from alpha behaviour. But it will be something they can turn on and off at will.

On the whole, dominants need to be keen observers of character, of body language, of the nuances of behaviour. They need to be well-adjusted people who know their own insecurities (we all have them) and are good communicators.

They need to know their responsibilities. These include keeping your sub safe, because you’re going to put them in positions where they can’t ensure their own safety. These include, potentially, playing in clubs and such where there are other people around but also private play.

They’ll be aware of the implications of what they’re doing, both in terms of any health issues of their subs (you know the stuff: diabetes, athsma, etc. – you don’t want to tie anyone up and not have any essential medication to hand) and in terms of the dangers of the play they engage in. There’s a litany of inquests where police forces (who should know better) have caused the deaths of people they’re arrested through positional asphyxiation, in other words restraining them in positions where they can’t breathe and not noticing their breathing problems. Gags are another example. With gags, often the sub drooling is considered a sexy thing: but a sub who doesn’t (or can’t) drool is typically getting saliva in their mouth that in some positions, they won’t be able to clear by swallowing. If you gag a sub, leaving them tied down and flat on their back is generally not a good plan for this reason. You need to think about what you’re doing in at least the same level of detail that, for example, you’d think about your own safety if you were a rock climber.

The same goes for other tools of domination. Do you actually know what the whip, flogger or cane you’re using feels like? Are you confident in using ropes for bondage? You really don’t want to be experimenting on your sub, only to find that the bullwhip you picked up on a whim is capable of ripping an inch or two into muscle. It’s too late then to say ‘oops’. On a side note, I once did a club demo in which I ripped through a telephone directory with a bullwhip…

Where doms and subs have a 24/7 relationship, of course, dominants have other responsibilities as well. These might include issues such as whether, how and where the sub works; what arrangements are in place for pensions, health insurance and other mundane but important matters. And while it’s all very well to have an agreement or slave contract between the two of you that the sub is under your control, that isn’t going to wash in any matters that involve officialdom.

Dominants, like everyone else, need to recognise that people change. And their desires change too. I can think of a couple that when I first met them, the man was the dom and the woman the sub. They went through an on-off relationship for a while, and when I met them again a couple of years later the man was the sub and the woman the domme. I’m not suggesting your dominant tendencies will change in time, but if they do, so be it. If your sub’s orientation changes over time, so be it. These are things to talk about and work out between you.

A myriad of more minor issues will almost certainly crop up from time to time – health problems, emotional problems, sometimes emotional triggers from the past that have some resonance in the present. Talk. Be patient. And I’m not just talking about the submissive. It’s equally possible that as a dominant you plan something that, when you take it into practice, turns out to trigger something you hadn’t anticipated in you. It could potentially be something really simple, like thinking pet play would be cool and then halfway through it, having flashbacks to being bitten by a dog when you were a child.

Being a dominant can involve a great deal of time, energy and emotion (and money, sometimes). This ranges from time spent planning play sessions and gathering the necessary materials, to time spent dealing with the emotions they can release, and in being the trustworthy, practical person at a day-to-day level that your sub needs you to be. Both in a play session and out of it, a sub needs to know you’re someone who can be trusted – and what happens in everyday life can impact on whether or not your sub sees you as trustworthy.

A good dominant doesn’t start with the assumption they know everything. They treat domination as a craft. It’s something they continue to learn through self-help, personal exploration, reflection, reading, discussion – and through their subs as much as anyone else.

And consider this parallel. Most professional comics, off-stage or off-screen, aren’t permanently, incredibly funny. Their comedy persona comes at a cost. Recognise, and make sure your sub recognises, that no one is dominant 365/24/7. You have down days. You have days when you’re exhausted and can’t be that wonderfully assured, confident, energetic and sparkling dominant. Your sub is going to have to live with that.

There’s a reason in BDSM why we talk about ‘dominants and submissives’, because each needs the other and strangely enough (because we don’t often think about it this way) submissives have their role to play in supporting dominants as well as vice versa. Communicate your own needs, including the need for downtime.

Above all, the dominant/submissive relationship in BDSM is one that involves a lot of effort and emotional work as well as anything else, and we make those efforts and put in that work, as dominants and as submissives, because it brings huge emotional rewards. It’s fun. There are many times, after a session, I’ve spend the next three days smiling about it and feeling an extraordinary closeness with my submissive. That’s why I do it, and that’s why she does it. So have fun and enjoy what you do!

Anyone want to add additional thoughts here or engage with any of these comments?

– F

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