Whether it’s bondage, impact play, spanking, or a combination of these and more, Dom/sub relationships are at the core of BDSM. This power dynamic can be a wonderful thing.
Non-sexual dominant behavior can include things like telling a sub what to wear or even reading their diary to understand them better. Empathy is essential in this role.
The Dom is the more dominant partner in a BDSM relationship. They make the lion’s share of decisions during consensual scenes and in their daily life, from where they eat to what they wear. They may also have power over the sub’s body with fetish toys or kink-related punishments like spanking and flogging.
Some Doms prefer a less sexual role, such as giving their sub a back rub or letting them sit on their lap and be stroked. Others are not as strict in their rules, but still enjoy being the “master” in a way that feels natural to them. Regardless of how they play their roles, both the Dom and the sub have to agree on the rules for their relationship.
Doms may choose to punish their sub if they feel they are misbehaving or breaking the rules set out in the agreement. They should also take time for aftercare with their sub, like cuddling or talking. “This helps them to re-center and return to their natural state of equilibrium,” says Moali.
Another important rule for a Dom to keep in mind is that the sub should not have any other sexual partners while they are in a BDSM relationship. This lets the Dom know that they have their full attention and makes them feel secure that the sub is completely committed to their Dom.
Dominant-submissive dynamics are a major part of many kink scenarios. In BDSM, Dom/sub dynamics take on even more explicit roles that can include bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism, among others.
The role of the sub is to follow the Dom and please them in a variety of ways, and this can involve pain (like with flogging or spanking), caretaking scenes, and even non-sexual play like with rope. The specifics depend on the participants’ interests and level of kink experience.
It’s important for the Dom to keep their sub safe during any kind of kink scene, whether it’s sexual or not. They do this by listening to the sub’s responses, making sure that all boundaries are respected, and using a safe word to indicate when they have reached their limits.
The safe word is a non-sexual code word or set of words that is agreed upon by the Dom and sub to signal when a physical or emotional boundary has been crossed. The safe word can bring a scene to an outright stop or simply indicate that both parties are uncomfortable continuing.
The sub also may agree to wear a collar in public to show their commitment to the relationship and their willingness to accept a higher hierarchical position. This could be a more traditional leather collar or a neck tie that the sub can remove in a moment’s notice if they feel they need to.
In BDSM play, the most important thing is that both parties be open-minded about their values and perspectives. Doms and subs come in a million forms, from cash pigs who want to be rinsed, to “adult babies” who want their dom to act as their daddy or mommy, to those who simply enjoy the psychological and physical pleasure of relinquishing control.
The one thing that all BDSM players agree on is consent. Whether a person is a Dom, a sub or a switch (one who can take both roles), the entire dynamic of dom/sub relationships revolves around explicit consent.
A key element of this is the “safe word” – a code word or set of words that tells the dominant partner to stop the scene if things get uncomfortable or dangerous. A safe word may be used at any time during a scene, but it is most often invoked after the Dom has crossed a physical or emotional boundary that the sub doesn’t feel comfortable with.
Many BDSM participants also agree on rules and guidelines that help the relationship work well. For example, some Doms require their subs to treat them with a high level of respect. This may include addressing them with titles like “Master,” “Sir” or “Miss” and demonstrating deference through gestures such as bowing and curtseying. In addition, a sub may be required to wear a collar as a symbolic mark of their submission to their Dom.
The Safe Word
The safe word is a way to let your partner know that you aren’t OK with what they’re doing. Many people in BDSM have a system, like a green/yellow/red signal, to use during play. This can help prevent the situation from going too far—and could save a lot of pain and suffering if it does escalate beyond where you’re comfortable.
It’s also the Dom’s job to keep their sub safe throughout any scene. “They should be tuning in to their sub’s responses, making sure that boundaries are respected and the rules aren’t being broken,” explains pleasure expert Javay Frye-Nekrasova of Lovehoney.
Dom/sub dynamics can take place outside of a sexual scene, as well. Some people enjoy their kink relationships in more of a daily-life context, where they can play out roles like the Dom and sub all day, every day. This type of D/s is called a lifestyle and can involve anything from the physical to emotional and even mental.
For those who are interested in exploring dominance and power play, it’s always best to do it with a mentor. That’s because the dominant roles in BDSM can be complex, and it can be easy to misstep. Plus, if the experience isn’t a good fit, you’ll want to be sure that your safety and the safety of your partner are protected.