A View from the Top: A Dominant's Perspective on what it is to be a Dominant
(Original article by Lord Colm on http://kinktoychest.com/index.php/castle-realm-archives/92)
If you haven't already guessed, I'll let you in on the obvious:
I am a Dominant, whether by nature or nurture; it is a question I shall leave to the psychologists to decide. I have my own views on the matter with which I won't bore you. I will, however, if you will bear with me, tell you what it means to me to be a Dominant. This is my opinion, my own views, based on my personal experiences and how it is incorporated into my life.
The D/s Credo"Safe, sane, and consensual." It is the philosophical core of our lifestyle. Opinions may differ on the applicability and interpretation, but I find that the words of Gloria Brame et al in Different Loving reflect my views very well:
Safe - Safe Sex: AIDS awareness and adherence to safer sex guidelines.Protection of Vital Organs: no activity which injures vital organs. No Meaningful Damage: no irreversible damage of any kind, nor any kind or degree of pain that the submissive did not request or knowledgeably consent to.
Sane "...in this context...generally means, first, that any given D&S activity is done for the pleasure of everyone involved. Erotic play should not cause emotional anguish; it should not abuse the submissive's vulnerability or subject a submissive to unreasonable risk. And a submissive should not have to worry that the dominant will exceed his or her personal limits."
Consensual "Consensuality is really the first law of the D&S communities--and with good reason...Dominants, and especially novice dominants, are often confused or distressed by comparisons with violent criminals."
"Submissives, meanwhile, struggle against comparisons with battered spouses or pathological victims."
"Clear, informed, and verbalized consent is the moral dividing line between brutality and D&S; Partners must voluntarily and knowingly give full consent to D&S activity before it begins...Abuses are rarely tolerated:
Dominants who mistreat submissives will be openly criticized or ostracized." Different Loving, pp 49-53
Fantasy vs. Reality
Daily, I encounter what I consider to be misconceptions about what Domination/submission (D/s) is and what dominants and submissives are. I see it in literature and the media, online and in real-life acquaintances. For most, I suppose, Bondage/discipline Domination/submission Sadism/Masochism (BDSM) is something which is fairly confined to the bedroom. For them, it is about sex. A way to spice up otherwise dull relationships. I often hear references to "playing" and "players." They are convenient terms used to describe activities and others in the Scene, but, to me, these words are telling. In my life, D/s isn't a game at which I play. It is something I am. My dominant nature pervades every aspect of my life and it exists within me every moment of every day. It's intensity may wax and wane with my and my partner's mood and needs, but it is always there.
I am what some refer to as a "natural dominant." I've always felt most comfortable in control, both in everyday life and my sexual one.
What about this concept of "control?" Ask any two people involved in the lifestyle and you'll likely get different answers. Is D/s about control? Fundamentally, in order for any D/s relationship to exist, there must be an exchange of power.
The dominant must assume control of those aspects mutually agreed upon. The submissive yearns to relinquish some of her personal power to the dominant; the depth and degree depends on a multitude of factors, including the level of trust developed between the parties, their experience in this type of relationship, and what each needs and desires in order to be fulfilled.
There is a paradox in this, however.
"The dominant gives the orders that the submissive must follow. Sounds simple, right? Any good Republican might say, 'power flows down from the top.' Actually, it works the other way around in SM. The submissive obeys only because she chooses to. There is nothing compelling her obedience except her resolve. The submissive is, therefore, empowering the dominant by her decision. We call a consensual empowerment of the dominant by the submissive a power exchange. Just as she gave her consent, she can take it away at any time. Power in SM flows from the bottom up.
"Screw the Roses, Send Me The ThornsMiller & Devon (1995)Mystic Rose Books
No dominant, no matter how persuasive, can control their submissive unless the submissive surrenders his or her personal power to the dominant. All of the discussions of the power exchange in the leading literature point to one very clear thing:
Dominants do not take control, they encourage their submissive to surrender it and they accept it. That one little word, "take," has led to more than one misunderstanding with my peers. Perhaps it is only a matter of semantics, but for me it is a crucial point. I desire to be in control and my submissive has surrendered a great deal of her personal power to me which I maintain and protect. I didn't take it from her. I could have done so, but then, I happen to believe firmly in the "consensuality" portion of the D/s Credo. Like it or not, without the submissive's consent, you are left with only two possibilities: no relationship or one of abuse whereby submission is coerced against her will, a concept I find abhorrent. While discussing this issue of control, jade likened it to taking control of the steering wheel of a car. As long as she is in the driver's seat and has her hands on the wheel, any effort on my part to take control of the vehicle would more than likely lead to disaster. On the other hand, if she trusts that I know what I am doing and won't plow us into an oncoming truck, she can release the wheel, move from the driver's seat, and take comfort in my control of the drive.
The dominant will, however, encounter times when the submissive may desire to surrender some aspect of her power, but is reluctant to do so. Here we have to call upon our skills and understanding, to gently lead them to that barrier and help them overcome it. You need to assess the reason for the difficulty. Have you earned the level of trust you are asking for? Is there something in her past which is acting as a barrier? Yes, we could grab their hand and merely drag them along, but that runs the risk of emotional trauma. The delicate balance of maintaining your control of the relationship depends on your ability to prove that you are worthy of the next level of trust. Once that confidence is lost, all your delusions of how much control you actually have meet head-on with reality. If she doesn't submit, you control nothing but yourself. It's pretty tough to have a D/s relationship without a partner. In my relationship with my submissive, our roles were established long ago. We don't struggle for control. I don't have to "take" control from her. I've earned her trust and she willingly surrenders, knowing that I would do nothing intentionally to harm her or our relationship. Clear, open channels of communication allow us to resolve differences of opinion. She is not some mindless sex slave who exists only to serve me, who has no will of her own. The stuff of pulp fiction, but grossly lacking in any hint of reality. Because we have these issues settled, we've moved beyond the "learning to submit" phase. Firmly in control by mutual consent, what I seek now from my partner goes beyond "bottoming" and "submission." And that is "surrender." Anyone can "bottom," that is, play a sexually submissive role during a scene.
Visit your local kink club and you'll see a plethora of vanilla kinksters lined up to have their backsides flogged by some dominant they've never even met. If that is all I wanted or needed, there you would find me. And the manners and acceptable behaviors for submissives are a relatively simple matter of training. These jade learned from the year she spent in formal training and I've refined them to suit our needs. But neither of these imply in any way that the submissive has truly surrendered personal power of any significance. A sub may kneel to greet the dominant as instructed, all the while harboring within an unspoken resentment or even worse, ulterior motives.
The line of reasoning goes something like this: "If I do what I'm supposed to do, I will get what I want. So I'll kneel and call him 'Sir,' because I know that if I do, he will [insert your favorite erotic activity here]." It is little more than naked manipulation and self-centeredness. A common-enough phenomenon, but in a 24/7 D/s relationship such as ours, wholly unsuitable.
This type of behavior is especially noticeable online in the so-called "D/s" and "BDSM" channels on Internet Relay Chat (IRC): Submissives intentionally misbehaving and lavishly describing their supposed acts of submission, emphasizing just how far apart their thighs are spread, in order to attract attention.
There is a qualitative difference between "submission" and "surrender." For me, surrender is something that takes place in the heart and the mind, not under the sting of a flogger. Remember, too, that I am speaking from the point of view of a long-term, loving, monogamous D/s relationship, which may vary significantly from those who utilize D/s, B&D, SM, or LMNOP as a sort of "marital aid" to spice up the bedroom. In surrender, the submissive offers the dominant her most precious treasure: not her body, but personal power.
The thought processes no longer revolve around the personal pronouns "I" and "me." Motivation shifts from self-gratification to deriving joy from pleasing the dominant, with no thoughts of receiving anything in return, save the approval of their dominant. The idea of displeasing or disappointing sends a wave of dread through them, and they would rather face physical punishment than words of disapproval or castigation.This is Power Exchange Level Four: The Covenant of Domination and Submission, as described in Screw the Roses, Send Me The Thorns. It is characterized by deep emotional involvement and mutual devotion. Our daily life retains many aspects of our D/s relationship.
There is a strong bond between us, with feelings of belonging and responsibility to each other. We love and understand each other and work on many things which are for the long-term good of our relationship, not limiting our growth to our immediate sexual needs. I hold deep respect for her and desire to protect, help, and care for her. She has a strong desire to please me and often defers to my judgment, has internalized my style and respects my desires and opinions.
This level of surrender is not something which a dominant can expect overnight. This is a fundamental mistake I see made often; that somehow, the mere fact that someone calls themselves a "dom" or "domme" should somehow immediately trigger complete surrender.
It is a fantasy in no way based in reality. The reality is that for the submissive to surrender, there must be a profound level of trust and love. Despite assertions to the contrary, it takes time to build trust. It can take a very long time. Past experiences, fears and old scars have to be dealt with. The dominant must establish an environment where the submissive can learn to trust, to offer more, little by little.
jade has expressed that concept most eloquently when she speaks of the trust of a child, climbing to some high place and leaping into the arms of a parent waiting below. The child implicitly trusts that no harm will come, that mom or dad will not fail to catch them. They can soar to new heights, secure in the knowledge that they are safe. Were that parent to fail them, that trust would be irreparably lost.
Such is my role. To offer her that surety, gently encouraging her to climb ever-higher, to expand that trust. I also must realize that there are certain heights from which she could never safely leap. And while I may push those limits, taking her to the very edge, I must not exceed them.
To do so could forever inhibit her ability to place her faith in me.
And without trust there can be no D/s relationship.