An excerpt from my upcoming book “Ways to Play With Power,” posted in response to someone in the Novices & Newbies group on Fetlife asking about pretty much exactly this situation.
Power relationships have their natural ebb and flow of focus on the dynamic, but sometimes we can fall into an ebb so deep that it feels like the dynamic has faded away entirely–and we’re not sure how to get it back. It can happen through a death spiral that isn’t stopped, after a serious fight or breach of trust, or through some life event that pulls your focus away from power exchange, like if one of you has an extended health crisis or a new baby or an exhausting new job.
Your power exchange agreements are still technically in place, but both you and your partner have empty batteries. Maybe you’re still going through the motions of some rules and rituals, but you’re not really feeling your power exchange any more. Your partner still technically has the right to order you around, but they’ve done it less and less. Or your partner still wears your collar, but it’s been a long time since they’ve seemed eager to submit. Your power relationship still officially exists, but feels like it has gone hollow.
Whatever the cause, recovering from a place where you feel like you’ve lost your dynamic can be really difficult. When you’re first building your power dynamic you have the thrill of a new relationship to drive you forward and your hearts are full of the wondrous possibilities ahead. That exciting newness isn’t available the second time around, and you may be burdened by doubts arising from whatever caused the breakdown in the first place. Serious fallings out tend to make it harder to trust one another long after you’ve shook hands and settled the original disagreement. A dynamic that has gradually withered away can leave both partners with stubborn doubts about one another’s true investment in their power relationship.
Beginning again once your dynamic has gone cold requires all the same things that go into reversing a death spiral: mutual investment, persistence and understanding from both partners. You have to give plenty of time and attention to your power exchange while you’re getting it going again and give one another abundant proof that it’s important to you, you have to keep at it even if it feels awkward and vulnerable at first, and you have to have patience with one another while finding your groove again.
There are also a few additional tricks for successfully restarting from zero. Continue reading
“How can I find a real dominant?” is one of the most common and most urgent questions asked in kink communities all over the world.
We’ve wrestled with our submissive yearnings. Maybe we wasted years denying them. Now that we’re finally ready give ourselves permission to make them real, the need to find someone to whom to submit can feel overwhelming.
But we’ve also heard the warnings: there are lots of fakes, predators and scammers out there. Maybe we’ve tried submitting to a few and have had bad experiences.
Where do we look for the real thing? And how do we know it when we find it?
Nobody Here But Us Humans
The very first thing we need to understand to improve our chances of finding a real dominant, is there is no such animal as a Real Dominant. There are only people who want to dominate. And they are people. They are regular human beings with moods, failings, insecurities, and finite amounts of time and energy and attention. These regular human beings can’t read our mind to know our needs without being told. They make mistakes. They have problems. Just like everybody else.
When we mythologize people who dominate as superhuman sexy monsters, it both encourages us to set our standards unrealistically high and also leads us to put too much faith in someone way too fast simply because they’ve advertised themselves as being “a Dominant.”
Able to get to the San Francisco Bay Area? This fall you have two opportunities to learn about the ins & outs of consensual power exchange with the author of The Heart of Dominance.
In October I’ll be leading a workshop on long term power exchange at the San Francisco Citadel. Come to Power Exchange for the Long Haul and learn what it takes to make power exchange last.
Then in November I’m excited to be teaching as part of Dark Odyssey: Surrender in San Francisco. For the conference I’ll be focusing on how to begin a power dynamic. Join me of Inviting Surrender to learn how to navigate the transition from equal individuals to dominant and submissive, whether for a lifetime or just for an evening.
Resistance, as I’m using the word here, is the frustrating experience of wanting to submit but having a hard time actually letting go and doing it in the moment. It is fundamentally an internal conflict in the mind the submitting partner, but it often becomes a conflict between partners when frustration leads to blaming one another.
There can be many reasons for resistance. It can come from unconscious self-judgments about submission being weak or bad. It can come from doubts about the competence or trustworthiness of our partner. It can come from being tired and cranky, or having other concerns weighing on our minds. It can come from not getting the kind of treatment from our partner that we need to inspire our submission. It can come from agreeing to some kind of submission that we don’t actually want, because we think it’s what we’re supposed to do or just to please our partner. It can come from any number of other root causes.
Often the root cause of our resistance is not immediately apparent to us. Sometimes we just feel resistant and we don’t know why. Sometimes we think we know why we’re resistant, but the reason we can see is actually a cover over something deeper—kind of like feeling hungry when what we really are is bored, or angry when what we really are is scared. It can take time, reflection and sometimes trial and error to figure out what’s really holding us back. Continue reading
So you have a dominant who you feel lucky to get to submit to. You trust them. You respect their judgment. You’re comfortable following their lead, and you get a little thrill every time you get to say “yes” to them. Still, there are those occasional times when they say something that you’re pretty much certain just isn’t true. Or they make a decision you’re sure they’re going to regret later on. Or you have an idea or a plan that you think will work better than theirs.
As sexy as it is to pretend that people who dominate are infallible, let’s remember that they really aren’t. Sometimes those of us in the dominant role really are wrong. Sometimes we do wish someone had pointed out our bad decision in time to make a different one. Sometimes our plan really isn’t the best one.
But disagreeing from the submissive position can be a delicate thing.
There are a lot of folks around our communities who are eager to be trained as s-types. They want to be appealing to the D-types they lust over. They have hot, juicy Marketplace-inspired fantasies about the training process itself. And just maybe, they have a sincere desire to be good: to be as useful and pleasing to their partner as they can be. The idea of training holds out the promise of all three.
There are also a lot of folks ready to tell them that there is no such thing, and those folks have a good point. There certainly is no universal standard of best submissive behavior. There isn’t a right way to kneel; there is only the way that your particular partner prefers for you to kneel. So if “training” means learning positions, forms of address, rituals and protocols and such then it mostly only applies to the person doing the training. Switch to a different partner and you’d have to be trained all over again. (Which might be fun, really.)
But there are other kinds of training, including some that I believe really are transferable to submitting to most if not all dominant partners, and really can make you fundamentally better at submission. Be warned though, those kinds of training tend to involve real effort and focus less on kneeling, posing and getting spanked.
Four Kinds of Training in Power Exchange
1. Play Training
Like play punishment, play training is a fantasy roleplay exercise. The real goal is to have a hot fun time, and you aren’t actually expected to learn anything.
“The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.”
— Bum Phillips
“Discipline” is a very popular, very sexy concept for those of us who love power exchange, but what is discipline, really, and how does it work?
Discipline is responding with a crisp “Yes, Sir!” every time we receive an order. Discipline is noticing and correcting every time our partner slips up and meets our eyes after we’ve told them that is not allowed. Discipline is immediate, unhesitating obedience. Discipline is kneeling and waiting for permission to enter the bed every night, even when we’re tired or cranky. Discipline is both partners treating the rules like they’re important because they are the rules.
For a definition: discipline is the art of maintaining a high standard of behavior or achieving strict obedience to a set of rules. The word can refer to both the process of establishing and enforcing that kind of high standard, and also to the end result–a state of smoothly flowing, habitual obedience to an established structure. Continue reading
Pretty often I see people ask for ideas of things they could do with their submissive, and usually most of the responses they get are super dismissive. But I think it’s a fair question. We can all run short on inspiration sometimes.
So here are twelve relatively simple ideas for regular dominance in a relationship, sorted by what flavor of dominance they’re best suited for. All of them are designed to be able to work at a distance, so they can apply to LDR dominance just as well as to an in-person relationship.
1. Require Them to Ask Permission
Want to foster a sense of subordination in your partner and give them a regular reminder of your control over them? Pick some simple thing that they do often, and require them to get your permission before they’re allowed to do it. Classic choices include permission to get into bed for the night, permission to masturbate, or permission to use the bathroom.
They’ll feel your control in a very present way every time they ask, and it creates regular points in your day-to-day routine at which it’s convenient to insert more dominance if you so choose: “Before you get into bed, I want you to…” Continue reading
“There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.”
— Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker
If you ever want to start a fruitless argument among any group of power exchange enthusiasts, just ask them “What’s the difference between a submissive and a slave?”
I’ve been involved in power exchange communities for over twenty years, and across all those years I’ve seen this same question asked, answered and argued over and over again, with no sign of progress toward a broad consensus. It is one of the Great Intractables of kink, destined to spur endless disagreement until end of the world, or at least the end of the Internet.
A big part of the reason why it is intractable is that different people have different reasons for wanting to draw the distinction in different ways. So instead of trying to give you a single definitive answer, I’m going to give you a question: why do you want to know? Continue reading
I once had a partner who I loved and whose happiness was super important to me. As her lover and her top I was particularly invested in her sexual satisfaction; I wanted to know all about her passions and her fantasies, and to be part of realizing the ones she wanted to see made real. I delighted in getting to support her in squeezing as much sexy juice out of life as possible, whether that was exploring new kinky territory together or supporting her in seeking and enjoying other partners.
I once had a partner who I trained to be nothing but a cum dumpster, and the hottest thing about owning her was how I could use her without any consideration for her pleasure at all. I’d make her lube herself up and wait silently on her hands and knees for me to decide to come and get off in her, without allowing her any of the kind of touch that’d make the sex pleasurable for her. Sometimes I’d have a romantic, sexy time with a real woman, and then make my dumpster eat the cum when I was finished.
As you may have already guessed, both partners are the same person. Continue reading