As a devoted Dominatrix, I think about and practice Dominant/submissive relationships. The conflux of dominance and submission is ambiguous at best: how about control and surrender? Indeed, all relationships involve power exchange, usually implicit or ignored. D/s relationships represent power exchange with a twist: explicitness. They are intentional in that they acknowledge the intrinsic elements of power dynamics of an established rapport with another.They are service driven. They develop further exploration of said dynamics usually in the form of ritual. Some “D/s” relationships have been “forced” on us through the years, eg…parents, bosses, etc…and some, we actively seek out and/or at some point in our lives wish to analyze and develop. The main reasons I am drawn to D/s as a Dominant is that I am service driven, curious how power dynamics in relationships work, and hold a great desire to see them perform more harmoniously.
A crucial aspect to any relationship, but particularly in D/s is to know yourself; your wants and your needs, and to be able to articulate those wants and needs in a thoughtful manner. It also requires that you understand yourself as a human being in that you err. What I mean by this is to say that only after ample life experience and self-exploration does one get to the point of understanding better one’s self and consequently others. There are many avenues to self-exploration and understanding and not any one of them is the only way. We all have our paths in this life, and ideally when our paths cross we can understand how each of us have gotten there and have the wherewithal to follow through the relationship in a meaningful way. I would also suggest an ability to accept the type of relationship for “what it is” instead of trying to make it something it is not.
I, for example was raised very poor in less than optimal familial circumstances. I am also an amateur astrologer, massuese/tantrika, and experience/study psychotherapy and neo-pagan Buddhist practices. Further, I have a master’s degree in French and English Literatures with a Gender studies concentration and have studied and physical theater, body piercing, human sexuality, hypnosis and dialectical behavioral therapy. All of these explorations brought me to where I am right now, but not one of them has given me the only answer for myself and everyone else. What these avenues have taught me is how to understand and accept myself and various ways in order to, ideally, move through the world with more comfort and self acceptance – key elements to self actualization. As far as my current self explorations and ongoing D/s training goes, I have come to terms with the fact that I am a dominant person who enjoys and appreciates rigorous self exploration, consequently I attract submissives who value self exploration, wish to share their expertise in some matters, (no doormats please) , and wish to defer to a more experienced person when needed, (appreciate knowledge).
What I have determined since I began practicing serious D/s training is that I am a tenacious, yet flexible dominant. I have very specific ways that I like things done, yet I cannot and will not reprimand irresponsibly. One of the main ingredients to a good submissive for me is flexibility and humor. This is not to say that they should be a flake and a smart-ass, but that they can accommodate my ever-changing schedule and needs with a sense of dignity and charm.
Although difficult, if I were to try to break down what makes a healthy D/s relationship work it would look something like this:
- This is perhaps the most vital question in order to move through the rest. Never forget why you were drawn to this person in the first place. Are you still growing together? Questioning is healthy. Energy and enthusiasm can wane in a relationship, but desire to participate in the relationship should always be intact – even if it is simply being questioned. It is perfectly healthy to question many facets of the relationship, but if the desire to be in the relationship is gone, then other complications arise. Ask yourself, do you really have commitment?
- Parity: Do you share enough similar interests to satisfy your needs and inspire each other outside of D/s? Are you suited? Ie, I am dominant, you are submissive, you require a dominant, I require a submissive. Do you need more from a relationship? Where and how are you inspired and where and how are you inspirational?
- An ability of each participant to articulate their wants and needs.
- An ability of each participant to compromise and negotiate their wants, (needs are less negotiable)
- A commitment to honest speaking. I highly recommend learning and practicing non violent communication techniques.
- Compassion for the other person’s position. Even if you are the dominant it does not mean that the submissive has no right to their feelings and emotions. Having a sense of compassion and empathy will help you grow together.
- Compassion for yourself when you err, and you will. Learning self acceptance while growing is amazing for everyone. Here is a resource on radical self acceptance.
Some other criteria:
- Service. I believe this is reciprocal. The Dominant is in service to the relationship as much as the submissive is in service to the Dominant and hence, relationship.
- Flexibility. Each party has an ability and desire to move for the other. The most obvious understatement to this may be that the submissive will probably defer by and large more often than the Dominant. I am quite keen on deferring to the expertise of my submissives and I expect no less from them to me.
- Do not seek intimacy outside the relationship if it is lacking within the relationship. Set aside time to talk and play. If communication is not working and play is not happening, agree to not play with others until it is resolved. Talk it out!
- Remind each other of your desire to continue to be together. This can be done through ritual, play, ceremony, and discussion…. mix it up, and keep it real.
- Give each other enough space to work out individual quirks, but not too much that you no longer have any commonalities.
- Breathe….whether you are breathing for yourself or doing breathing exercises together, this will help keep things calm.
On a final note Dominance and submission is really about honesty on both sides. To what extent you can be honest with yourself – your beauty, power, and grandeur, with all of its foibles, imperfections and inconsistencies? Honesty is not written in stone. It’s about being able to see your truth; and to relay it in a thoughtful and thorough manner, subsequently being able to listen to your partner. To sum it up in the words of a former student at the Cleo Dubois Academy of S/M Arts “find out what your partner wants (and I would say here, needs), and give it to them.”
Originally written in 2004, revised 2o11, 2014, and 2o17