“Who’s In Charge Here?”

Several days back, a blog I follow reposted an article about some BDSM myths. And for the most part I am in general agreement with the article. However, there is one point with which I take issue. It has to do with the question of who is in control of a BDSM relationship. I have written about this before, and I am going to write about it again. Know that none of what I say here is intended as criticism of the author of the article or the person who reposted it. What I am about to say is my own opinion on the matter.

To begin, let us see the offending passage from the article:

Myth 2: the Dominant is in Control. FICTION!

A dominant’s job is to fulfill the submissive’s needs — that’s what brings the dominant pleasure. “Every good dominant knows that the submissive is really the partner in control,” says Jennifer Hunter. “All a submissive woman has to do is relax and enjoy the ride while delicious sexual acts are visited upon her. She’s the star of the proceedings. Someone is ministering to her needs for a change. Master is choreographing all the action.”

BDSM couples can also decide to abide by the Safe, Sane and Consensual credo, a carefully crafted set of rules for BDSM sexual engagement. The couple negotiates before they begin any BDSM play, so nothing happens unless it’s been agreed upon in advance. In short, the person who controls the show is always the submissive, never the dominant!

I know most of the BDSM world agrees with that, but I very much do not. It is, in my opinion, almost entirely wrong.

One thing I have noticed is that when women are the Dominatrixes and men are the submissives, I almost never hear about how the submissive is always the one in control. In my experience, almost exclusively this idea is presented when women are the submissive ones. And so, in my opinion, this idea that the submissive is always in charge stems largely from a need to reconcile the submissive female with the modern ideas of feminism. Do not misunderstand. I have no problem with feminism as such. I am all for the equality of women and men. And I do not claim all women must or should be submissive. And I do definitely believe that the Dominant has a responsibility to respect the submissive and, in long-term relationships, to encourage, uplift and empower the submissive. But that does not mean the submissive is or has to be in control.

So let us break down what is, in my opinion, wrong with the quoted passage above.

One, the Dominant’s job is not to fulfill the submissive’s needs. The Dominant’s job is to lead. In other words, the Dominant’s job is, in fact, to be in control. That said, serving the submissive and getting her what she needs is part of the Dominant’s job as leader. Yes, serving the submissive can indeed bring the Dominant pleasure. But let us be very clear about this: being served by the submissive also brings the Dominant pleasure. To overlook this is to misrepresent D/s as something other than what it is.

Two, no, “relax and enjoy the ride while delicious sexual acts are visited upon her” is not all that “a submissive woman has to do”. I do not say that within BDSM that the submissive never has this opportunity. Of course that will happen. But the idea that this is all a submissive woman has to do once again misrepresents what D/s is. It is a corruption of what the submission is. If all one does is get one’s sexual desires met, then one is not in submission. Do not mistake bondage for submission. Do not mistake role playing for actual submission. A woman may pretend to submit in a time of sexual play, but that does not make her a submissive woman.

Three, the “Master” is not a Master if he is not in control. If the submissive is the one entirely in control, then the situation little more than role play, people pretending roles to which they give titles that are contrary to what the titles actually describe. If the “submissive” is the one in full control then the “submissive” is not submitting but dominating. And if the “Dominant” is the one who is submitting to the control of the “submissive” then the “Dominant” is not dominating. This, quite obviously makes the “submissive” the actual Dominant and makes the “Dominant” the actual submissive. And so even in that situation the Dominant, the actual Dominant, is the one in control. This is not semantics. This is an important distinction.

Four, that a couple may negotiate before a time of BDSM sexual play does not mean the submissive is in control. Forgotten here is that the Dominant should also be negotiating to have his own desires and/or needs met. The Dominant may indeed agree ahead of time to do or not do certain things. But the notion that somehow that is all one needs negotiate in a Safe, Sane and Consensual agreement ignores the Dominant. This is not a one sided situation, despite the apparent assertion that the submissive is there solely to have her needs met as she desires and demands. So, no, an agreement does not mean that “the person who controls the show is always the submissive, never the dominant”.

Let us be perfectly clear. If the Dominant’s job is only to serve the submissive and the submissive is the one with full control of the situation, then the situation is not one based in reality. It is a pretending, a pretense. I do not say that to mean such a situation cannot or should not be had. But if we are debunking myths about BDSM, then let us be honest about what is happening. To submit is, by definition, to yield to the authority of someone else. A truly submissive woman is not one who, in a D/s situation, is taking control of a Dominant. A truly submissive woman is one who, in a D/s situation, is giving control to the Dominant. And there is nothing wrong with that.

And there is nothing wrong with a woman pretending to submit while having someone obediently “minister to her needs”. This post is not about a right way or wrong way to indulge in BDSM. This post is about being honest about what a Dominance/submission situation actually is.

Do not get me wrong. I am not saying  a Dominant has or should have full blanket authority to do anything he wants to a submissive. There is a significant difference, however, between respecting the other person and confusing what is and is not Dominance and submission.

The Dominant controls the show, even if that Dominant is pretending to be submissive. The submissive submits even if that submissive is pretending to be a Dominant. If the Dominant does not pretend to submit and if the submissive does not pretend to be dominant, that does not make the involved parties twisted or bad or “wired wrong”. And a submissive who does not pretend to be dominant is not any less strong or have less self-esteem than the submissive who does pretend to be dominant. There is no good reason to create unnecessary pretense to justify being truly submissive or truly dominant. But we have every reason to be honest and clear about this.

Bondage is not submission. Many people in the world are forcibly put in bondage without being submissive. Submission is choosing to yield to the authority of someone else. D/s, and more broadly BDSM, is not done any favors by confusing this issue by claiming the submissive is the one in charge. We need to be honest about this.

Confusing the matter can only be detrimental. We have confused human rights with privileges granted by a government. We have confused prostitution with human trafficking. We have confused drug use with drug abuse. What we need, if we are to treat this matter seriously and responsibly, is to be honest about what the D/s part of BDSM actually and truly is. And we are not being honest if we are claiming that “the person who controls the show is always the submissive, never the dominant”.

So please, can we just be honest about D/s? Why must we pretend? I know the people who say these things about submissives being in control have good intentions. I certainly do not fault anyone wanting to keep submissives safe and out of abusive situations. I have no tolerance for genuinely abusive behavior. But there is no reason we cannot be honest about D/s and promote safe BDSM too. And if we want safe, sane and consensual BDSM, don’t we owe it to ourselves to be as honest as possible about it?

5 Responses to ““Who’s In Charge Here?””

  1. I read that post about BDSM myths or at least part of it. Once I got to the part about the submissive being in control, the article lost my interest. There is so much misinformation out there about BDSM and I try not to waste my time on what I know to be incorrect or at least not right for me.

    Of course the Dominant should be in control. It’s easier said, than done.

    • Yes, easier said than done, but if it were easy, there would not be much reward in it.

      • I have had many conversations with my submissive about easier and reward. One of those conversations lead to her comment, ” I think you like a challenge”. I simply smiled and agreed.

  2. Once upon a time when I was first exploring D/s and my interests in it I beleived that the sub was ultimately always the one in control. She always has a final say in what and how far ect. As I have explored my own submission over the years and what it means to me my view has changed drastically. I no longer believe that, I do after all always have the chose in who I submit to and the level that I submit. However, my ultimate desire is to find a dominant that I can give all of my control to. I want him to be completely in control of me and in return I in complete trust of him. I will gladly and willingly give that power over to him. With that being said I have a loud and forceful voice and always will but to the right One I can learn to bite my tongue and accept obedience.
    I just wanted to say I agree with and appreciate your article.

    • Thank you, Carlie. You brought up a point that may serve as inspiration for a future post. Which point? Well, you’ll just have wait and find out.

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