Last update Sun Oct 21, 2012

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So you want to be a Dom.

You've thought about it, you've fantasized about it, and you've decided that it's for you. All well and good. Now to take the theory into practice. There's a distance between wanting to be a dom and being a dom, though, and it pays to be aware that there's more involved than you might think.

How hard can it be?

Trickier than it sounds. There's more to being a dom than telling people what to do. There's a lot more to it than telling people what to do. Anyone can do that; it no more makes you a dom than owning a border collie makes you a shepherd.

Nonsense. Doms tell people what to do; that's the definition!

Actually, no. It's more complicated than that. Context is important; being a dom is not about being bossy, and nobody gets to tell everyone what to do all the time. In fact, it's not even about telling all the subs what to do all the time.

The very first mistake novice doms are likely to make is in believing that D/s relationship dynamics are simple. You're a dom; you see someone who is a sub; as a dom, your rightful place is telling that sub what to do, and as a sub, that person owes you respect, right?

Wrong. For starters, if you want respect, you have to do more than say "I'm a dom, worship me!" In fact, saying "I'm a dom, worship me!" is a good way to get ridiculed and laughed at by anyone who has any experience in real D/s relationships.

What many novice doms miss is that a D/s relationship is a relationship. Even if it's temporary, even if it happens only at something like a play party, a relationship exists between the dominant and the submissive because both people have made that choice. Believing that you can tell a submissive what to do before you have established some sort of relationship which gives you that authority is a bit like believing that any man can tell any woman to have sex with him, because, after all, men have sex with women, right?

Men have sex with women, and doms tell subs what to do--but not all the time, and not by default. Do not assume for even half a second that simply being a dom grants you any authority or presumption of power over someone who is a submissive; this is as foolish and misguided as assuming that being a man grants you any presumption of sex over someone who is a woman.

Now, hang on a minute, here. Submissives are submissive because they want to submit to a dom!

Perhaps. But that does not mean that any particular submissive wants to submit to you. Assuming that someone wants to submit to you simply because that person is "submissive" is exactly like assuming that a heterosexual woman would want to have sex with you simply because you're a heterosexual man (or vice versa).

But all submissives owe dominants respect.

No. Respect is earned. Believing that you're entitled to it simply by virtue of the fact that you call yourself a "dom" is a sure-fire way to be labelled a wannabe.

You do not earn respect by walking up to every submissive you see and saying "Worship me!"

Submissives, like all people, are human beings. Whenever you deal with human beings, before you've established any kind of context or relationship, you will find that you have the best success if you treat them as people. Funny thing, that; people like being treated as people, especially by strangers--launching straight into a D/s relationship with someone you've only just met is premature, and assuming that anyone who self-identifies as "submissive" owes anything to every person who self-identifies as "dominant" is offensive.

And a big turn-off. The people you see who have all the subs, the ones you run into in the BDSM community and at play parties who are successful at finding and keeping partners, the ones who other people naturally seem to defer to? They have those partners and they have that respect because they understand that you treat everyone--including submissives--with respect until you've established a relationship that lets you assume the dominant role.

I don't get it. If someone didn't want to be dominated, why would that person be a submissive?

Again, it's about context. That person might very well want to be dominated, and might even want to be dominated by you, maybe--but until you find out what that person wants, don't make assumptions. And especially, don't make assumptions about what that person wants or needs, or how that person "should" interact with you.

When someone discovers an interest in BDSM, it can be easy to slip into a fantasy-fulfillment mindset. You have ideas about how you would like to be and what kinds of things you'd like to explore, you have fantasies, you have things you really want to do--so it may be tempting to slot every submissive you encounter into your own fantasies. When you stop relating to people as people and start relating to them as fantasy-fulfillment objects, you can expect to have problems.

How so? When I meet people online and tell them what to do, there's no problem!

Online forums are very different from real-life forums. Online forums are more fantasy-oriented; in many cases, the submissive you're talking to is seeing you as nothing more than a fantasy-fulfillment object, you're seeing that submissive as a fantasy-fulfillment object, and you get along fine.

But even in online forums it can be very presumptuous to assume a power relationship that has not been established. Start a conversation with someone who identifies as "submissive" with "On your knees and worship me!" and you might just come across as an insensitive poseur, or worse.

Power exchange relationships are relationships. Don't assume that someone has granted you power just because you're a dominant and that person is a submissive.

What are you talking about? I'm a Dom. That person is a sub. Of course there's a power exchange relationship!

Nope, that does not necessarily follow. You do not automatically get power by being a dom; a submissive gives you that power. It's not yours by right. This is one of the basic cornerstones of consent--a submissive grants you power by consent, not by the simple virtue of being a submissive.

Not every submissive wants the same things. Not every submissive interacts with a dominant in the same way. A wise and psychologically healthy submissive does not submit indescriminately to everyone who calls himself or herself a "dom." It is up to someone to choose to give you power, not up to you to take it.

And you're not likely to get it if you walk around demanding that every submissive you see worships you. Nobody is entitled to automatic submission, Your Worshipfulness!

First, get to know that person, even if briefly. Then, mutually decide whether and what kind of power relationship you have. Then, and only then, can you start with the giving orders.

Seriously. You don't get to call the shots to every submissive who talks to you, and you don't get to assume that every submissive who talks to you is submissive to you.

Okay, okay, I get the point. Now what?

The next part to understand is that, as a dominant, it's not your job to do whatever you want. It's your job to do whatever you want within the bounds of basic common sense and the limits negotiated with your partner.

Now, "basic common sense" is subjective and contextual, and changes with your degree of acceptable risk, your experience, and so on, but regardless of all that, a lot of the stuff you read about in bad S&M fiction? Way outside anyone's definition of "basic common sense." Ordering your newfound submissive to have unprotected sex with a pub full of strangers? Not basic common sense. Digging that eight-foot bullwhip you've never actually used from the back of your closet, and trying it out on a person who's never experienced any form of pain play before? Not basic common sense. Dragging your new partner home and leaving your new partner tied to your bed for three days? Not basic common sense.

Even within the realm of basic common sense, it's important to understand that it isn't all about you.

Of course it is! I'm the Dom! The Dom does whatever he or she wants!

Um...no. At least, not if you want to keep a submissive. The relationship works for both of you, or it works for nobody. You see, submissives are submissive because they get something from the experience, too--and they have things they want to do, things they want to explore. Ignore the fact that you need to create a positive experience for the submissive, and don't be surprised when the submissive leaves and finds a different dominant. Ignore a submissive's limits, and carelessly or maliciously cause permanent damage, and don't be surprised when the submissive files charges.

Any D/s relationship between two (or more) people is a relationship first and a D/s relationship second. As with all relationships, there is a need for mutual reciprocity in the relationship; everyone involved must feel that the relationship meets their needs.

And if you do start a D/s relationship with a submissive, remember that it's your responsibility to pay close attention to the submissive. When you're engaged in some BDSM activity, make a point of being conscious at all times about how your submissive is responding to what you're doing. Don't get so carried away that you stop paying attention to the experience from the submissive's point of view; remember, you only get to play again if you do a good job the first time around!


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