On Being a Dominant

I am finding lots of interesting things over at A Bi-Submissive’s Adventures in the Vanilla World, among them is a post titled “Thankful for My Dom”. The author of the post was at the hospital for a CT scan, and she was comforted by her Dom. Not by him coddling her, but by him providing the strength she needed in the moment.

I point this out because it goes back to what I was talking about the other day. Being a Dominant is not just kinky sex. Any schmuck can play Dom while it seems fun and ends when the time is up or the fun stops. But to actually be a Dominant requires being there when things are not so fun. If you think you are a Dominant or think you want to get into a D/s relationship as a Dominant, then you need to ask yourself, if the sub has to go to the hospital for a serious medial issue, what are you as the Domiant going to do. Your submissive will freak out. You have to be strong. You cannot run. You cannot also freak out. You cannot become timid or fearful. At least, you cannot do those things and remain a Dominant. When your sub leans on you, literally or figuratively, she has to be able to know you will support her.

But then, I would argue too that this is simply what a man should do. Men these days seem to increasingly turn away from cultivating that kind of internal strength. More and more (and maybe this is just my perception), I see guys being what some call a man-boy. They just play and goof and treat their significant others like mother surrogates. And I do not understand that any more than I understand why people get scared on roller coaster rides. Which is to say, I do not understand it at all (if the ride was not completely safe, it would not be open).

Anyway, a Dominant providing this kind of stabilizing strength is one reason why, in my opinion, a healthy D/s relationship is always going to be stronger than a healthy non-D/s relationship. Because those moments when the submissive leans on the Dominant from need help to create a a mental and emotional bond of trust on a level that a non-D/s relationship simply does not reach.

I am not saying a Dominant has to be a muscled hulk of a man. Some Dominants are fat. It is not the outward sign of physical strength that makes one a Dominant. Being a Dominant comes from within. I am not saying a Dominant has to be stoic or forever serious. I am saying a Dominant should be strong enough and aware enough and stable enough to be ready to step in with the calm words of strength a submissive needs from time to time. Being a Dominant is not about how hard you can spank or how well you can tie bondage knots. Being a Dominant is about knowing yourself and knowing your submissive and being there to hold her close and to hold her up.

Some people think D/s relationships are all about the submissive serving the Dominant. That is not it at all. In a healthy D/s relationship, the submissive will serve the Dominant, but the Dominant will also, in his own way, serve the submissive. The Dominant is in the position of leadership and authority in the D/s relationship, and to be a good leader means being a good servant. And I know this sounds counterintuitive, but is also true. I do not mean to say, as some often do, that the submissive is the one in charge. I find that silly. That is called topping from the bottom, and I have not seen such a relationship yet that seems healthy to me. But what I am saying is that part of the responsibility of the Dominant is to see what are the needs of the submissive and to take care of her and to care for her. A healthy D/s relationship, like any healthy relationship, is two-way relationship.

Do not think I am trying to say a Dominant should have no flaws. Flaws are unavoidable. We are, after all, only human. I am saying that sometimes being a Dominant means comforting the submissive. If all you want is to tell people what to do and to have no responsibilities, then you are not a Dominant. In that case, you are just an asshole. Being a Dominant means helping the submissive and helping to shoulder her burdens, just as she will help you shoulder yours. Because the goal of any healthy D/s relationship is the betterment of both parties.

Despite what some may believe about D/s relationships, they are not celebrations of selfishness. Just the opposite in fact. To be in a D/s relationship, either as a submissive or as a Dominant, requires a high level of selfless giving. When the submissive needs the Dominant, the Dominant gives what the submissive needs. It may not always be what the submissive wants, but a good Dominant should know the difference. Being a good Dominant requires selflessly spending the time to learn all about the submissive. It requires learning about her needs and her desires and her limits. It requires caring for the submissive even in the difficult times. It requires putting self aside when necessary to be the strength and help the submissive needs.

Sometimes being a Dominant means feeding soup to the submissive when she is sick. Sometimes it means stopping whatever the Dominant is doing to focus on the submissive. Sometimes it means putting all else aside and being there for the submissive even when she does not know what she needs or wants. Being Dominant means being Dominant in good times and bad. Being Dominant means being aware of and knowing and/or discovering what the submissive needs, whether that is pain or pleasure, comfort or scolding, reward or punishment. Because if your submissive is truly submissive by nature, if she feels that burning desire to submit, she does not feel it just sometimes. She does not feel it only in the good times. It is always with her. Even if right now she is only comfortable submitting in the bedroom, if she feels the need all the time, she needs a Dominant all the time.

Being a Dominant is not light thing. It is a heavy thing with responsibilities. Do not take it lightly. When you plant your feet and take up that burden, you will begin to become a better man. And if you are lucky enough to find a willing submissive, you will help her become a better woman.* And together you will make each other better, and your non-D/s friends will wonder what your secret is.

*While I suppose this post may come off as somewhat chauvinistically heterosexual, this advice applies for female dominated D/s and same sex D/s too. Or bisexual or transgender or polygamist. I write the way I do because this is the way I think and the way I learned to write. I am aware, somewhat, of how my writing sometimes comes across. So why don’t I change it? I am stubborn and slow to change. I am, after all, a Dominant. If you don’t like it, tough cookies.

25 Responses to “On Being a Dominant”

  1. I completely agree with your post, thank you for writing it.

  2. A piece that is, to me, just fucking obvious but sadly much of what you touch on goes ignored. I too firmly believe that D/s has absolutely nothing to do with sex. That said, human nature often dictates that is where it most often manifests itself. So be it if the submissive finds the agreed upon relationship boundaries arousing.

    A few things, as a practicing Dom in a monogamous D/s relationship:

    1) Did I miss it, or was the word “trust” not mentioned or cited once in your diatribe? If so, why?

    2) Much of what you cite sounds like a husband-wife relationship minus the “I do’s”. Thoughts?

    3) While topping from the bottom is not, as you cite, appropriate within the D/s dynamic, I do firmly believe that the submissive does & always will have all the power in the relationship. Regardless of what a Dom can do to all of their sadistic or perverted extremes, a submissive can utter one little word…..and its all over. Scene ends NOW. Thats power, and it must be respected at all times by the Dominant, which by default places the Dominant in a constant state of never having total power, while the submissive always has it.


    • 1) Yes, you did miss it. “Because those moments when the submissive leans on the Dominant from need help to create a a mental and emotional bond of trust on a level that a non-D/s relationship simply does not reach.” But also, I talked about trust in a previous post. Yes, trust is extremely important in any relationship, but especially in D/s.

      2) A married couple can have a D/s relationship certainly. And certainly a long-term D/s relationship requires a certain level of commitment. But I think my advice would also apply to a relationship that for one reason or another ends up being short term. Sometimes a submissive or a Dominant is not not the right fit.

      3) I do not agree that the submissive has all the power. I’m not saying the submissive has no power. But if the submissive has all the power, then the the submissive is the one in control, and that is hardly being submissive. If the Dominant is always at the mercy of the whims of the submissive, that is topping from the bottom. Obviously the Dominant has to pay attention to the submissive. And I’m not suggesting that the Dominant has total control. I’m not talking about a Master/slave relationship, although some people do have those. There is no way to maintain discipline if the submissive is the one with all the power, because then any punishment she does not want she just refuses. And if the Dominant has to spend all his time pleasing the submissive, that is topping from the bottom. I know some people say it must be that way, but I do not agree. The Dominant does not have license to do anything he wants, and he has to respect hard limits of the submissive, and there may even bee a need for a safeword, but a healthy D/s relationship involves two-way give and take, not a submissive who always has total control. A true Master/slave relationship is a very different dynamic, and if the submissive always has total control then she is the Master (or Mistress) and the Dominant is the slave. And I am not convinced that would be a healthy, sustainable relationship.

      • My apologies for missing the trust references.

        As for the power issue, 2 more questions:

        1) You mention “..and there may even be a need for a safe word.” May even? You do use a safe word as a part of your D/s relationship in every scene, right?

        2) You’re missing the point in regards to the power and who has it. What does a Dominant have in their repertoire/arsenal/etc that can equal, counteract or trump the safe word?

        Its not about topping from the bottom. You mention this frequently. Its about which of the two has the one trump card that the other cannot beat. Its the role of the Dominant to make Trust & Doubt collide in the head, heart, soul & spirit of the submissive where they hear whispers of “Maybe…” but don’t ever heed that inner advice from their flight or fight response.

        • 1) So far, I have not had a need for a safeword to exist, but then I am not one who is constantly pushing physical or mental limits. So far, I have been able to pay attention and take a pause when needed. I listen and learn when “no” means “don’t stop” and when “no” means “STOP!” When there is any doubt, I will pause and be sure. But this may in part due to the nature of my submissive and the way we interact. In a more extreme scenario, I might make sure a safeword is established.

          2) “What does a Dominant have in their repertoire/arsenal/etc that can equal, counteract or trump the safe word?” A gag.

          I’m not saying a Dominant should completely ignore the submissive. Never, never, never do that. Pretend sometimes, but never actually. And I am not saying a safeword automatically or inherently makes a submissive a bottom-topper. I am saying that I do not agree the submissive has all the power. Again, I think if submissive has all the power, then the Dominant is a slave. And that turns the D/s relationship on its head. And I do not agree it should work that way.

          You speak of the role of the Dominant. I think the role of the Dominant is to lead. If the Dominant is following, doing what the submissive wants, then the roles have been reversed.

          Feel free to explain why I’m wrong. I am enjoying this exchange.

          • I too am enjoying the exchange and, based on the follow up you provided, agree that we are not all that different in our views.

            I would argue that safe words should always be a part of any BDSM play. Its possible that here in lies one of the issues that we find disagreement. D/s, as we both agree, has nothing to do with sex. That said it very often manifests itself that way. When one person hands controls of their sexuality over to another (or at least provides the opportunity for one to Dominate all aspects of theirs) I do firmly believe they should always be safe words.

            Many people view the use of these as purely for emergency situations, say with aspects of bondage play, breath play, extreme physical situations. I would argue that the physical is not the main reason for use of this words. This is why many in the lifestyle use the “traffic light” system of “YELLOW” meaning “Slow down, that is dangerously close to a hard limit” or “RED” meaning “Stop everything immediately”.

            Many times you can’t use safe words when gagging a submissive. This is why Leigh & I will have a hand signal to say the same things. This allows me to do as I please and allows her to be able to communicate to me sans voice.

            You mention listening for fluctuations in the word “no”. This is a prime example of why you should always use safe words. Not for safety but for giving your submissive the opportunity to really embrace the physical, mental & spiritual torment they crave by the gift of pleading. Allowing them to beg, scream, cry “NO!!” “STOP!” “PLEASE NO MORE!” gives them a wonderful added level of release of power – via the form of communication most common to them. It also allows you as their Dominant to fucking ignore those pitiful pleas. Of course you are 100% focused on them and in tune with their current level of duress, but unless you hear “Yellow” you know they are safe, regardless of what they may be saying.

            It adds a level of intensity that is delicious.

            I would agree that synonyms of the word “lead” are most appropriate. As Leigh’s Sir I know what she is capable of. She often begs to stop well short of where she can go. Recently we have pushed her boundaries. Recently she has had the most intense orgasms of her life. Recently she has been so far inside herself on occasion is almost terrifying in its reality. She has me to thank for that, and she does….profusely. But if she did not trust me to lead/guide/coach/push her there, she would still only know the edges of subspace, not its recesses.

            So my role is to force Doubt & Trust to train wreck inside her and place her in such a state of emotional, physical & spiritual assault that “she” must go deep into her soul and start to toss other aspects of her persona overboard for simple survival. In short, she lets go of the tethers that keep her in this world as recognizably socialized and simply “is”.

          • You make an interesting point about the usefulness of a safeword. It is something I will definitely consider. I enjoyed this exchange. Perhaps we can talk more in the future. I will definitely be reading your blog.

        • After reading over my reply, I think perhaps our disagreement may rest on how we are using the terms involved. Philosophically, I will not agree that the submissive has all the power, but I doubt that you and I are far apart in the basic concept of the need for trust and respect from both parties within the D/s dynamic.

    • Also, I should add, while I was talking about being Dominant in relation to a D/s relationship, I was talking about being Dominant more than trying to discuss D/s relationships. Though this does give me an idea for a future post. And when I talk more specifically about D/s relationships, I will definitely talk about trust, among other things. Certainly I would never want to downplay the importance of trust in any relationship.

      • Agreed 100%. Trust is the bedrock. Everything else grows in & on it, either trees yielding the most delicious fruit or just weeds of indifference and ignorance. I invite you to peruse my blog for some musing on this and other related aspects of D/s.

        • I will certainly be reading at your blog. It looks quite interesting.

          • Just to chime in on this conversation from a submissive’s point of view:

            Regarding the safeword thing– if I’m with a very trusted dominant, there is no way in hell I would safeword unless he was about to accidentally break my arm or injure me unintentionally. Safewords have their place, for sure– but they don’t eliminate the power that the dominant has. I’ve been in scenes that I truly wanted to be over and I don’t think it even occurred to me to use my safeword.

            For some submissives, safewords aren’t a way to get out of the powerplay; they’re just a tool to be used in case of a potential accident.

            Yes, the submissive can always end scene. That’s power, sure, but it’s power that a lot of subs would never choose to use.

            And Xajow, nice post. 🙂 Made me tear up a bit.

          • Thank you. I like the idea of the safeword as a safety valve. That is very good. And after a quick glance, I think I am going to enjoy perusing your blog as well.

  3. I am flagging this post for future reference. I’m an author who has an interest in D/s relationships, though I’ve not personally experienced a true D/s bonding. More just a little dabbling. I am currently writing a novel where the two main characters are D/s and having not completely walked in the appropriate shoes (I’d be the s part of D/s if it were my reality), I’m running into some difficulty getting into my Dom’s head to write his dialogue.

    What I’m gratified to see is that the characterization I’ve given my Dom fits exactly with what you’ve said here, so I’m on the right track, and that I’m also getting the power exchange right. Because it is an exchange, not the sub always giving and the Dom always taking. The flow of consideration goes both ways.

    Thank you for writing this.

  4. Sadey – Safe words are like fire extinguishers. Odds are you will never use them or ever need them, but if & when you do need one you’re really fucking glad you have one. 🙂

    And I would, again, offer that safe words are not just for physical danger. A flesh wound will heal in time, the same cannot be said as far as wounds to that which cannot break, cut, bruise or bleed.

    A classis case of TETO.

  5. All I can say….is Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! Fantastic post and while I am just now committing myself to the lifestyle, this is what I envision being as a Dom.

  6. Awww,see what my little words can inspire *blushing*…lol

  7. missysubmits Says:

    Well said.

    When a man stays with you through fifteen hours of labor with epidurals that don’t work and cause insane allergic reactions–when he sticks it out with you through that and counts you down to ten every time a another wave of pain seizes you that takes all your focus to muscle through…Well that is quite the man. There was also that time I landed in the hospital for a week needing unexpected surgery and he sat by my side sneaking hitting the morphine button for me every seven minutes so I could finally sleep for a few hours. I had not slept or ate or other very important bodily functions in days waiting for that emergency surgery. Right after the surgery, I lost control of my bowels twice on myself and he cleaned me up and made me better. That kind of love is unbelievable how deeply it impacts you when someone shows that to you. It is so hard living through those moments, much less having the man you love see you like that. But when he the one that holds your hand through it and pulls you back together after it is over with–that love is overwhelming.

  8. […] On Being a Dominant (liberateone.wordpress.com) […]

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