12 Things to Do With Your Submissive – Even if They’re Far Away

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.

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Control

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…”

Give some thought to how frequent and how urgent the requests will be. Permission to get into bed happens once a day, at a relatively predictable time, and probably isn’t a crisis if you don’t respond for an hour. Permission to pee requires more consistent availability and a faster response time from you. One simplifying option is to make the rule fail-open: tell them that if they ask and don’t get a response from you in some set amount of time, they may consider themselves to have permission.

2. Teach Them a Position

Attracted to the idea of training your partner? Want a way for them to put their discipline and devotion on display? Choose one or more precise postures to train them to adopt on command. There are lots of position guides available online if you want inspiration.

Having each posture be precise is important. Even if there’s no practical reason why you care exactly where they place their hands when they kneel, picking one option and enforcing it gives them an opportunity to show their devotion through their willingness to pay attention and learn how to do it right. Once they have learned it, it gives them a more intense feeling of control, by getting to arrange their body exactly according to your instructions with little room for interpretation or judgment on their part.

So think about each body part and decide exactly how it should go–the feet must be exactly so far apart, the head must be facing like so, the back arched or straight or bowed. Write it down so you don’t forget, and then make them practice until they can put every part of their body under your control with a single word from you.

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Nurture

3. Help Them Change a Habit

Want to watch your partner improve themselves under your guidance? Ask them about habits they’d like to change or improve. Pick one to work on, have them come up with a plan to change it, and then help hold them accountable to their plan.

Accountability could mean a system of rewards and punishments, or could be as simple as their just being required to report their progress to you every week. Knowing that you’re going to have to account for yourself to your dominant later can be a powerful motivator to resist temptation and do what you know you ought to do.

If it fits within the scope of your relationship it is, of course, possible to pick the goal or make the plan yourself, rather than letting your partner make those decisions. I said I was going to keep these ideas simple, though, and being the enforcer for a goal and plan that your partner chose is definitely the simplest approach. It tends to minimize resistance, and make it more likely that the plan is something that’s realistic for your partner to achieve.

4. Require Them to Practice Affirmations

Maybe there isn’t a particular habit that you want to change, but you’d like for them to feel your dominance as a generally uplifting presence in their life. Choose or create an affirmation (“I possess the qualities I need to succeed,” “I overcome my fears,” “I love and approve of myself”) and require them to repeat it out loud as part of their morning routine.

The theory with affirmations is that saying positive things aloud will help remind someone to think more positively. Having an affirmation that comes from you will also remind them that you think positively of them, and are rooting for their success.

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Service

5. Make Them Your Personal Shopper

Want to have your partner be practically useful to you even when you can’t be together? Give them a budget and a shopping list and let them do the tedious parts of reading reviews, comparing options and placing orders.

This service becomes more valuable the better they get to know your preferences, and it can be wonderfully satisfying for both of you to watch them get better and better at fulfilling your needs with less and less direction from you.

Depending on your dynamic, you could use them just to shop for sexy, kinky purchases or for your regular everyday needs. Having them handle shopping for the toys, barriers, lube, etc, that you’re going to use on them can create a special anticipation. Having them shop for supplies you’re going to use for dates with someone else can be a juicy exercise in objectification.

6. Make Them Your Event/Vacation Planner

Most of us assume that making plans is the dominating partner’s job, but it doesn’t always have to be. If you have an upcoming night on the town together, a vacation, or just a free weekend day, you can give your partner some guidelines (“I want to be outside while it’s light out,” “Sushi,” “Somewhere I haven’t been before”) and tell them to plan something you’ll enjoy.

Planning the details of kinky playtime usually is best kept in your own hands, but you can just give them a time to block out for that (“have us back to the hotel by seven so that I can enjoy you in private”).

Even if you aren’t going to have an opportunity to enjoy time together, they can still plan a trip or a day of pampering just for you, researching things they know you’ll enjoy and handling the bookings and reservations.

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Objectification

7. Prescribe Their Grooming and Appearance

Want to keep your partner reminded that their body is your possession? Dictate how they make it look. Make their hairstyle and shaving choices for them. Dictate their hygiene and beauty products, or their what kind of clothes they wear. Instruct them on which and how much of each they are to use for different circumstances.

The more specific and ritualistic your requirements, the more they’ll feel like your doll every time they get ready to leave the house.

8. Take Away Their “I”

Do you have a partner who’s really more of a plaything than a person? Want to rub it in? Forbid it from using “I,” “me,” or its own name in private communications with you. Have it refer to itself as something like “your property” or “this fuckdoll,” and use the pronoun “it.”

Adopting and remembering to use a new form of self-address can take some practice, so this can also provide a fine excuse for discipline as you train your property to speak correctly.

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Devaluation

9. Make Them Write Degrading Things on Their Body

Want to keep your partner squirming throughout the day? Have them use permanent marker (red Sharpie is my favorite) to write messages they’ll find degrading on their own flesh. For an extra edge, have them place the writing where it will be just barely covered by their clothing; so they walk through the world knowing that plain evidence of what a “filthy pig” or piece of “cheap trash” they are is hidden just below the collar of their shirt.

For many people it’s especially intense to have to choose the exact wording themselves, rather than having it dictated by you. “Write the wretched truth about yourself across your chest before you come see me tonight,” can be a powerful head trip for your partner, and both entertaining and enlightening for you.

10. Make Their Masturbation Dirty

Have a partner who’s hot for the dirty and disgusting sort of devaluation? Want to make them dirty even when you aren’t with them? Tell them that they’re only allowed to masturbate when sitting on the toilet, or with a pair of your dirty underwear stuffed in their mouth, or with a paper bag over their ugly head. For harsher and more restrictive control, tell them they have to be in a gas station bathroom.

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Conquest

11. Challenge Them

Want to capture the feeling of wrestling for dominance, even when you’re far out of grappling distance? Create dares or challenges between the two of you, with the loser having to pay a forfeit of submission. Who can hold their hand over a candle flame the longest? Who can get the best time or most steps on their fitness tracking app this week? Who can hold off cumming the longest while you talk dirty with one another over the phone?

If you have the kind of conquest dynamic where one party is always the conqueror, stack the challenges in their favor. If you love the uncertainty and the genuine competition of really fighting for control, make the odds more even and let the spoils go to the victor.

12. Blackmail Them

With this one I feel like I need to emphasize that we’re still talking about consensual power exchange. Nonconsensual, criminal blackmail is a ubiquitous threat, primarily for women whose shitty-excuse-for-a-human-being exes threaten to publicize compromising pictures of them. This is the lowest kind of behavior and must be condemned whenever it rears its noisome and misshapen head.

For that reason, this is a kind of play that requires explicit, specific and unquestionably enthusiastic consent, with clearly shared boundaries about exactly what blackmail material might possibly be shared and how and with whom.

All that said, there are some folks (mostly men, in my experience) who will practically cream their jeans over the idea of being “forced” to obey by someone threatening to reveal humiliating things about them.

Consensual blackmail is usually calibrated to be embarrassing without being life-ruining. “I’ll show these ridiculous baby pictures of you to your other partners” might be plenty. “I’ll post this picture of you wearing frumpy panties to FetLife” could be appropriate for some folks. Unless your partner has an exceptionally kink-friendly workplace, “I’ll send X-rated pictures to your boss” is too much.

~***~

So there you go. Twelve possibilities for things to do with the control that someone has given you over their life. Not all of the ideas will appeal to everyone, of course, and you’re certainly under no obligation to use them exactly in the way that I’ve described. Take anything here that strikes a chord, make it your own, and enjoy the pleasures of dominance.

Slave or Submissive?

“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?

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I’m looking for a partner, and I want to know whether I should say that what I am (or what I’m seeking) is a submissive or a slave.

Great reason! Being able to clearly describe what we’re looking for in the big, crazy world of kink is super helpful for actually finding it.

The trick is that there aren’t actually just two kinds of follower-type people. The kinky desires of all us kinky folk vary in tons of highly individual ways. We can use labels like “submissive” or “slave” (or “masochist” or “romantic” or “edge player,” etc) to try and roughly sketch out what we seek and what we have to offer, but those categories are always subject to different interpretations by different people, and the more precisely we try to define them the harder they are to agree on.

So, broadly, if we say “slave” most people will think that means things like a greater commitment to power exchange, having power exchange suffuse more of our life, and having a longer term power exchange. It’s associated with ideas like “24/7” (power exchange that is constantly in effect), “Total Power Exchange,” collaring and “no limits.” And it’s also associated with long term, live-in, deeply committed relationships.

If you advertise yourself as being (or looking for) a slave, the majority of people in our communities are going to think you mean something along those lines. They may disagree about the details, but that’s the general impression you’re conveying.

“Submissive” has much broader connotations. To most people in our communities it just means that someone desires to cede control or power or authority in some kind of way: might mean 24/7 long term Total Power Exchange, or might mean only surrendering control of the details of a sexual encounter.

If you advertise with the word “submissive,” most people are going to take it very generally, and need further description in order to form an impression of how submissive and in what ways. Some people, who think of submissives and slaves as being disjoint sets, will assume that since you didn’t say “slave” you mean something on the lighter end of submission. You could counter that impression, if you desire, by including more specifics like “long term,” “full time,” “no limits,” etc.

If you’re unsatisfied with all my talk about “general impressions” and what things “might mean,” and want to be able to indicate precisely what you are and have everyone understand precisely what you mean… I’m sorry. It doesn’t work that way. Human desire is a gloriously complicated, finicky mess, and impossible to put into tidy boxes. Thoughtful use of labels can narrow down your search, but to find out whether a potential partner is really a good fit for your vision of power exchange, you’re going to have to talk to them–and probably go on a few dates and actually try out creating a power exchange with them, to find out how it really flows.

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I’m looking for books, resources or community, and I want to know which ones are for me.

The same answers about the broad connotations of “submissive” and “slave” in partner seeking apply to seeking friends, groups, books, classes, online forums and any other kind of resource.

The difference is that with a partner we have to take the whole partner, and so we’re looking for someone who is a close fit for our vision of power exchange in all the ways that are important to us. With books and groups and classes, we can much more easily take the parts that work for us and leave the rest. And once we stop focusing on the differences and look for the similarities, there’s usually a lot that we have in common across different styles of power exchange.

Regardless of whether you more closely identify with the label “submissive” or the label “slave,” you can probably find something of value in resources that have the other one on the cover. Just look for the parts that speak to you and don’t get hung up on the parts that don’t. Talk with people who call themselves slaves and people who call themselves submissives; hear their stories and their wisdom for surrendering control, pleasing their partners, communicating their needs and maintaining their boundaries. Much of it will be valuable no matter what they call themselves.

If a community designates themselves as being only for slaves and not submissives (I have yet to encounter a group that accepted submissives and excluded slaves), find out what they mean by that label and decide whether or not their meaning includes you. If it doesn’t, then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere for community. Trying to change our desires to fit someone else’s definitions tends to take us farther from fulfillment in power exchange, not bring us closer.

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Being a slave seems more desirable than being a submissive, and I want to know what I have to do in order to count as a slave.

One of the biggest, and least often admitted, reasons why the slave vs. submissive debate is so intractable is the role of status. In many of our communities “slave” is a higher status label than “submissive.”

People are quick with disclaimers like “there’s nothing wrong with just being a submissive,” but notice where the “just” is placed. In all my years in kinky communities, I have never seen someone get accused of being just a slave who’s making an invalid claim to be a submissive. It is always the other way around.

Of course, some of us associate the word “slave” with its horrific nonconsensual meaning and want nothing to do with it. But to those of us who are worried about the distinction between slaves and submissives, the word has generally positive, romantic, impressive associations. “Slave” was the title used in the battered copy of Story of O that we kept under our mattress when we were teenagers, and the word that echoed in our deepest and hottest fantasies. By most people’s definitions, slaves sound like they’re somehow more than submissives. More devoted, more serious, more intense, more real. Who wouldn’t want to be more real?

So when we hear that, for one example, a slave must have no limits, it’s tempting to decide that we must have no limits–not because that feels right for us but because it’s what a slave would do.

This is a mistake.

The deepest, most stable and most fulfilling power exchange available to us comes from connecting with our genuine, personal desire to follow (serve, submit, obey, whatever word works best for you). When we’re in tune with what really feeds us, power exchange flows. Trying to fit other people’s definitions tends to disconnect us from the power of our desire. Power exchange gets harder, has to be forced, dries up.

If you want to be a slave, look for someone who is happy to take you and call you “slave.” Don’t look for a universal definition of slave and try to make yourself into that.

~*~

Someone else is calling themselves a slave, and I think they’re wrong.

Mind your own business. Seriously. You’ll be a happier person if you do.

Reality Check

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.

Power exchange practice is chock full of this kind of contradiction, and it provokes some fascinating and important questions about what is real in the realm of beliefs, emotions and desires.

I wasn’t just pretending to care for my partner to flatter or placate her. I really had great affection for her and felt that warm glow that we get from seeing someone we love be happy, successful or fulfilled. If she didn’t derive deep satisfaction from pleasing me and being degraded by me, I wouldn’t have enjoyed using her the way I did.

But it also wouldn’t be right to say that I was just playacting when I used her as my dumpster. It really was the core of our sexual connection, and if she’d suddenly stopped wanting to be mine in that way we’d have had some hard negotiation to do about how our erotic relationship was going to continue. I really did use her body in ways that had nothing to do with her pleasure, and I delighted in the terrible one-sidedness of it. So there’s a lot of honest truth in saying that she really was my cum dumpster.

~*~

There lies a broad and multi-dimensional range of realities in between feeling or believing something with 100% unqualified conviction 100% of the time, and just playacting feelings and beliefs that we absolutely don’t mean ever at all. And different peoples’ different kinky passions, fantasies and urges fall all over that map–including one person being at different places for different kinks, or at different times in their lives. Even the same same relationship at the same time can have pieces or aspects that are at wildly different places within that vast territory.

Imagine a couple who like to whisper dripping dark fantasies during play, about how the dominant is getting bored of playing with the submissive, so she’s going to have his balls cut off and keep him around purely as menial slave labor. And that’s hot playacting for both of them, that they wouldn’t be interested in any part of in reality.

They also do cuckolding play, and the dominant really does bring home dates to fuck in front of the submissive, and really does enjoy having the freedom to have sex with other people and during a date really, hugely, gets off on giving the submissive barely any attention or consideration. But it’s also true that on a bigger scale she cares deeply about the submissive’s happiness, listens to his feedback about how much cuckolding feels deliciously awful and when it starts to feel just plain shitty, and limits the frequency of dates to stay on the right side of that line. And if he broke down in the middle of a date the dominant would end it, and would really want to end it, and focus on taking care of him.

And also the dominant is training the submissive to be punctual, and they are 100% real about it. She feels genuinely disrespected by his habitual tardiness, really isn’t going to accept it, and really intends to change his behavior–and he is really committed to submit himself to that training, and there are zero excuses or “I don’t feel like playing this time.” And if he didn’t make progress on improving his behavior it would be a genuine problem for their relationship.

Three points spread widely across the map of degrees and flavors of reality, and all occupied simultaneously by one relationship.

~*~

One regrettably common response to this wide open space is to start trying to draw lines across it to separate it into arbitrarily binary notions of “real” and “fake”, sometimes with an additional category of “unhealthy” (whatever the line-drawer considers to be too real) thrown in for good measure. Sometimes the purpose of the line drawing is to manufacture status, like “You should look up to me as a real Master because I want to control someone’s life with no limits.” Sometimes it’s to manipulate consent, like “A real slave would be happy to procure other women for her Master.” And often it’s coming from a totally understandable desire for things to be simple and easy to categorize.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone’s kinky desires, including our own, were consistently and straightforwardly real? If they didn’t have any internal contradictions and were never dependent on our moods and weren’t ever in competition with any other parts of our whole selves and we all felt the same ways about the things we wanted to do?

It would make finding partners easier, that’s for sure. We could look up everybody on Fet who was into “bathroom control” and know that they all wanted it in the same way and took it just as seriously as we did. Instead of having to sort through the people who seriously think that if the top is out of contact the bottom just has to hold it `till they wet themselves, even if that’s in the middle of a family dinner. And the people who really just want to pretend to exercise control for a few hours of sexytimes each week and lose interest as soon as they cum. And the people for whom it is a nurturing parental kind of feeling vs. a structure and discipline thing vs. a disgustingly humiliating experience.

But reality isn’t going to do us the favor of actually being simple and binary, so it’s to our benefit to wrap our brains around the complexities of our own desires with as much insight as we can muster, and to be able to communicate them to our with our partners and potential partners with clarity and integrity. Being able to coherently explain how real we want our power exchange to be is a huge advantage in finding the kind of relationship we want and taking it as deep as we want.

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The first part–getting clear on our own reality–can take some time, introspection and experimentation. It’s hard to know how much we’ll like the reality of something we’ve always fantasized about until we’ve tried it a few different times, a few different ways, and with a few different people. And even then it’s a moving target; many of us have our desires shift and flow over time, so we have to keep re-exploring and redrawing our maps.

Here are a few tips and tactics for the internal explorer.

When you’re trying something new, be ready for the reality of it to be different from how you’d imagined it would be. Especially if it’s something you have big, long-cherished fantasies about! So approach it as an exploration where you’re gonna discover the parameters of how you like it, rather than coming in set on how real it should be and how it should feel and then feeling like you (or your partner) have failed if it doesn’t match your expectations.

Learn to recognize pressures to err either on the side of more real or less real. Some folks carry a lot of shame around the perverted things they want to do or have done to them, and can waste a lot of their life hiding behind “it’s just roleplaying I don’t really mean it” as a way to distance themselves from what they really, truly, badly want.

On the other side, some of our kinky communities place a lot of status on being sufficiently real, and many people feel pressured to be or to seem somehow “realer” than they actually enjoy. Like maybe you really only enjoy acting like a cruel, hardassed control freak as foreplay before sex, but you want everyone to look up to you and respect you as a True Master so you put on an act that you really are that hardass all the time.

Either way you end up not doing what you really want to be doing, and that gets draining and embittering over time.

Notice the difference between “turned-on you” and “baseline you”. Many, many of us have different priorities when we’re on the edge of orgasm than we do when we’re driving to work. And it’s common to have fantasies that, when we are turned on, we think we want to be real forever and always. But that do not feel worthwhile when we aren’t turned on.

So if you’re all hot and bothered and get the fantastic idea to make it a rule that your submissive is never allowed to choose their own clothing and must always wait for you to dress them–it’d be wise to give some serious thought to whether you’re going to feel the same way about it every damn weekday morning when you haven’t had your coffee yet and you’re scrambling to get out the door for an AM meeting.

Sometimes it can actually be pretty fun to let turned-on you write a check for baseline you to cash. It’s a good tactic for stretching your comfort zone, for sure. But do it thoughtfully and maybe make the commitment for a week or a few days rather than forever and always.

Watch for approach/avoidance behavior. That’s psychology-speak for repeated seeking something out and then running away right before you get it. And it’s a strong sign of conflict in what level of reality you’re seeking.

Sometimes it means you’re struggling with some kind of inhibition or fear that’s getting between you and something that you really want.

Sometimes it means that you don’t actually want the reality of this thing, but it’s super duper hot to convince yourself that you want it. Your real favorite place on the reality-fantasy map isn’t actually reality, it’s the alllllmost there spot just shy of reality.

The big problem with approach/avoidance is that you end up dicking other people around. Ask any pro domme how much time they waste corresponding with incredibly enthusiastic potential clients who are 100% sure that they totally want a session and yes let’s do it Tuesday at three and it’ll be the most amazing experience they’ve ever had and then they don’t show up.

If you find yourself repeatedly setting up play that you then back out of, consider letting potential partners know that this kind of play is complex for you and that you haven’t quite figured out how real you want it to be yet. Then they can decide either to support you through figuring it out or that they don’t want to hang with the uncertainty.

And if you’re on the other side of approach/avoidance behavior, remember that actions speak louder than words. No matter how fervently your partner talks about wanting to be gangbanged, how many gangbang groups they’re part of on Fet, or how huge their orgasms are when you’re whispering gangbang fantasies in their ear–if there always seems to be some kind of excuse why they can’t be in a gangbang exactly right now, then this is not a person who really wants, or is really ready, to try gangbangs with you. Decide what is right for you accordingly.

Accept that the answer doesn’t always resolve to something neat & tidy. Maybe sometimes you absolutely need your partner to treat you cruelly and you’ll be utterly unsatisfied if you aren’t 100% convinced that they really don’t ever care how much they hurt you. But at other times you really need to know that your partner cares deeply about your well-being.

What can you do with that?

Well, you can be aware of the contradiction at least, and refrain from blaming your partner for not being able to be two mutually contradictory things. That’ll go a long way toward being able to have smoother relationships. And you can make a conscious choice (though also a hard one) about which side of the paradox to favor. Seek a partner who’s caring when you need it and accept having to suspend disbelief a bit when you’re wanting cruelty? Or seek a genuine bastard and get your caring support elsewhere? Maybe seeking different partners to fill your contradictory needs would be a good solution.

~*~

Then there’s the second piece: communicating with our partner. It can be powerfully beneficial, while we’re negotiating the things we’re going to do and say together, to also negotiate how we’re going to mean and believe and feel about those things. It means taking what understanding we’ve gained about ourselves and getting it out in words, and also asking after and paying attention to our partner’s meanings and realities.

Like: I want you to call me a “dumb slut” while you fuck me, and I want you to say it like it’s bad, degrading thing, but I don’t want you to mean it at all. I’ll feel safest expressing that fantasy if I know we’re both on the same page that it’s totally just superficial playacting and you’d never think that I was promiscuous or unintelligent.

or

I want you to kind of mean it, but only while we’re fucking. I really want to be fucked with contempt, and know that my partner is getting off on treating me like a brainless piece of meat, but when we’re done I want my intelligence respected.

or

I want the “stupid” part to be just playacting, but I really do identify as a slut and I want you to see me that way too–and love me for it. I want hear affection, not contempt, when you call me your dumb slut, and I want you to prize my unfettered and insatiable sexuality. If you don’t actually offer me to your friends occasionally I’ll be disappointed.

or

I need a partner who genuinely thinks of me as a brainless piece of fuckmeat. I really do not want to have to think in our relationship, and I do not want to be respected. And if you’re just playacting calling me dumb to get into my pants, I will notice and I will dump you like month-old milk.

The more clarity we can muster in describing when and how we want our power exchange to be real, the more likely we are to get what works for us.

There are a few different reasons why it might be powerfully tempting to not be clear.

Maybe we’re in the flirting and seducing phase of getting intimate with a prospective partner and it’s juicy and sexy and so exciting to talk as though we want to take all of the sexy kinky games we’re talking about to the 100% real extreme. It can feel like a drag to break into that flow for a serious checkin about what part of that is serious planning and what part is exaggeration, fantasy and pillow talk.

Easier to just not think about it, pretending that reality will be just like fantasy, or assuming that our partner just intuitively knows that when we say “I’m going to keep you on your knees like a dog, you dirty bitch” that we mean we’re going to keep them like a dog two or four nights per month, but want to be coequal primary partners with them most of the time. And that we’d love to have a circle of kinky friends who know them and think of them as our dog, but also have them come meet our family as our respectable, vanilla-seeming fiancee.

But there’s a damn good chance that their assumptions are not exactly the same as ours. That they are so excited about our budding relationship because they’re hearing that they get to be our dog almost all the time! Or that they’re assuming that being our dog is something that will be real only in the private confines of our bedroom and that we’d never treat them that way in front of any other person.

Or maybe we’re afraid that no one could possibly accept the full reality of our desires. So it’s easier to pretend that we’re pretending: to say (or let our partner assume) that when we call them worthless or ugly, or say that they are nothing but a dog to us, that we don’t really mean it at all even though we kind of (or completely) do.

But not only is that being dishonest with the person we’re playing with, it’ll tend to blunt our own satisfaction as well. Because we’ll always know, in the back of our mind, that it’s a fraud. And because at some point we’re probably going to get called on it. Like when we’ve been playing with that “nothing but a dog” for a year or so and one day they propose to us–because we’ve let them assume that really underneath it all we were headed along a traditional relationship trajectory and now they’re ready to move in together, start raising babies and do all those traditional couple things that we have no real interest in doing with them.

On the listening side, it can be really, really hard to hear what our partner is actually saying about their meanings over the din of what we wish they were saying. Having finally found someone who’s excited to be the dumb slut we’ve always dreamed of having, it’s powerfully tempting to take that dream slut of ours that we’ve been masturbating over for the last decade, and superimpose them over the real person who’s actually standing in front of us. Instead of recognizing that, while our dream slut is always happy to have sex with us but only theoretically promiscuous, this person won’t be happy unless they’re really having sex with different people every week.

Ignoring or trying to brush aside those differences in meaning or level of reality rarely works. But if we can be conscious enough to recognize them, compromises sometimes can work. Even if we and our partner aren’t fed by exactly the same things, perhaps we can find ways to feed one another. Or perhaps we can’t, but at least we’ll know early on.

~*~

Thinking seriously about the reality of our kinky feelings, desires and beliefs–not just in binary “real” or “fake” terms, but in all the messy of detail of how and when and in what way they are real for us, can be tremendously valuable for being able to seek and find fulfillment around those things.

And finding the words and the courage to be as honest as we can with our partners about those realities, while it might be awkward or vulnerable, can save us from much greater awkwardness, heartbreak and wasted time farther down the line, and help us to find deeper satisfaction in relationships that are what we’re really really looking for.

Consensualy Masterful

There’s this seeming paradox in what’s expected of those of us who aspire to dominate.

On the one hand, we’re supposed to be masterful. We’re supposed to be the kind of people who always have to have things their own way, and who bend others to their will.

On the other hand, we’re supposed to be scrupulously consensual. We’re expected to get permission for every little thing we do, and to stop doing it the moment our partner stops being enthusiastically into it.

We’re expected to be darkly mysterious and also to negotiate every detail of what we’re going to do in advance.

We’re expected to be merciless taskmasters, and also to never pressure our partners into anything they don’t want to do.

We’re expected to enforce unyielding discipline, and also to yield the moment that our partner isn’t into it anymore.

Sometimes sometimes it’s the same damn voice (the same person, community, book, etc.) that’s pushing both sides. “A dominant must always be true to their own desires but really it’s all about giving your submissive what they want but if you’re just doing what your submissive wants you’re not a real dominant but if you do anything they don’t want you’re a rapist. Any questions?”

It can make your head spin, and it leaves a lot of us feeling like we have to pick a side. Are we going to be a scrupulous but kind of tame Consensual Dominant, or a thrilling but kind of sketchy Masterful Dominant?

I’m here to tell you that that’s a false choice. It’s entirely possible to be both scrupulously consensual and genuinely commanding and in charge. If done right, they even support one another.

Here are two tips for sweeping them off their feet with your power while staying firmly grounded in their consent.

Slow Down and Make them Beg

One of the hard realities of consensual kink is that nobody really has to do anything they don’t want to. So if we’re always the thirsty one who’s pushing for more D/s, harder D/s, deeper D/s, sooner D/s now now now — then we’re bound to struggle with tension between being masterful and respecting consent.

Respecting consent means acknowledging that all our stern demands for pushing our dynamic farther and faster are really more like requests, and that — ultimately — it’s up to our partner to decide whether or not to give us what we’re asking for. Anything we could do to take command of that ultimate choice, or put pressure on it, is going to stink at least a little bit of abuse.

But we don’t have to always be the thirsty one begging for more! Submissives want to submit. That’s my favorite thing about them. If we cultivate some patience and self control, and we slow our roll enough to let them miss the taste of our boots and get hungry for something deeper, then we can get them in the position of being the one making the requests. And then consensual and masterful are on the same side.

Because we have the same ultimate, unquestionable right to say “no” that our partners do. So if our partner is the one pushing for more, we get to make stern demands that actually are demands.

“Prove to me that you’re ready to take more.”

“If you want a beating, get down and beg for it.”

“I might play with you tonight, if you’re really good all day today.”

One of the most effective tactics I know for deepening submission is to give someone almost as much dominance as they want, but not quite. You don’t want them feeling significantly under used, but if you stop just before the point where they would’ve wanted you to stop then they walk away still a little bit hungry — and eager for more next time.

Take the Lead on Safety & Consent

Another hard reality of consensual kink is that it carries risks — from risks of accidental marks through risks of intentional harm.

Many of us look at the things that need to done to mitigate those risks as inconveniences that detract from our dominance over our partners. This attitude, again, pits masterful and consensual against one another.

If I propose to my sexy new date that we go back to my place, and they say that they want to set up a safe call first, then they’ve just had to do something to protect themselves from me and create a limit my power over them. If I make any kind of fuss about it — protesting that they should trust me or taking offense that they’re implying I’m a rapist — then I’m being an asshole.

Especially with new or casual partners, this can look like them dictating a whole laundry list of terms, conditions and limits by which we must abide. Hardly masterful.

There’s a better way.

We can educate ourselves about ways to enhance our partners’ safety and ensure that their consent is respected, and we can take the initiative to start the conversation about those protections.

Instead of just proposing to take my date home, I can bring up the fact that going home with someone carries risks and I can suggest some options (playing at a public space at first, safe calls, ruling out things like gags that would prevent someone calling for help) and demonstrate my leadership in helping them stay safe.

I can be the one to bring up the STD risk and safer sex strategy conversation.

I can bring up risks that they might not even have thought of (photos getting posted online) and suggest ways to mitigate them (let’s take that sexy picture with your phone instead of mine, and you keep the picture).

Starting conversations around safety is awkward and hard, especially for our partners. They’re afraid that we’re going to be the asshole who takes it the wrong way. If we take the lead, do that awkward job with confidence and grace, and demonstrate that we care about their safety and are knowledgeable about ways to protect it — it sends a powerful message that they can trust us, depend on us, and follow us.

We can be masterful about consent itself, and it can be a profoundly powerful tool for inspiring submission.

 

Those aren’t the only two ways to marry scrupulous consent and confident, masterful dominance, but I hope they’re enough to give you the idea that a keen focus on consent doesn’t have to detract from being the baddest dominant around.

Your Inability to Submit is Nothing to Brag About

“I’m 100% dominant.”

“I don’t have a submissive bone in my body.”

“I couldn’t be submissive if I tried.”

It’s the favorite humblebrag of folks who dominate but could never-ever not me no-siree possibly submit.

It’s a humblebrag because while it’s phrased as an admission of inability, it’s almost always really meant to be a boast. The implied meaning is that they could never submit because they’re soooo dominant. Naturally dominant. 100% dominant. So gosh darned stuffed full of dominance that there’s no room for even a speck of submission. It’s a claim intended to bolster someone’s status and to melt the pants off subbies for whom more dominant = more attractive.

And I imagine it’s pretty often effective, because lots of people think of dominance and submission as opposite ends of a spectrum. The implicit model in their heads is as though everyone has 100 points to divide between dominance and submission. So someone with 80 dominance points and 20 submission points is pretty dominant, but the only way you can have a full 100 dominance points is if you have zero submission points.

That’s an understandable thing to believe — it’s the way I thought about D/s myself, before I got a lot of experience and did a whole lot of thinking about the subject — because dominance and submission sure can look like opposites.

That appearance is deceiving, however. The “divide your points” model is not how dominance and submission really work, and being incapable of submission is nothing for a dominant to brag about.

I love partner dancing as a metaphor for D/s. Partner dances have a lead and a follow, and in ways you can look at them as opposite roles, but they’re more like complements. Being able to follow well certainly doesn’t make you less of a lead. Being good at following — personally understanding what it’s like and how it works — makes someone a better lead. Enjoying following doesn’t detract from someone’s passion for and enjoyment of leading. Someone who loves to lead and someone who loves to follow aren’t opposite kinds of people. They’re both people who love to dance, and by virtue of that they have more in common than they do dividing them.

For a more macho metaphor, look to the military. Do we assume that the best general would be someone who not only has never been a lieutenant, but who goes around telling anyone who’ll listen that they would be constitutionally incapable of ever holding a rank where they had to follow orders? No. We give the most respect to commanders who have worked their way up and understand military discipline from both sides. Knowing what it’s like to follow orders helps them to be better at issuing orders.

So it is with dominance and submission. Desiring to dominate and desiring to submit aren’t opposing desires — they’re both expressions of the same love for the dance of power. Being delighted by both of them doesn’t make you less of either one. If anything, people who have a stronger inclination toward D/s, a more intense obsession with power, are more invested in creating deep power exchange relationships in their lives, are probably more likely to feel drawn to explore both sides of the coin.

I’m not saying that everyone ought to want to submit, or that anyone should submit unless they really want to. Certainly there are some people with a powerful drive to dominate who just don’t get much out of submission, and that’s fine. But notice the difference between “I tried submitting and it wasn’t my thing,” and “It’s absurd to even imagine me submitting; I’m far too dominant for that!”

When you tell someone that you don’t submit, ask yourself why you felt the need to tell them that. Do you feel pressure to assert your non-submissiveness in order to make sure everyone knows how dominant you are? Are you afraid of what they’ll think of you if you don’t?

Are you just not interested in submission, or are you proud of your inability to submit? If being incapable of submission is something to be proud of, what does that imply about your beliefs and attitudes toward people who do submit?

How does it feel to imagine yourself submitting? Is it just not interesting to you, or do you feel yourself forcefully recoiling from the very idea? Is it really that you have no capacity for submission, or is that you’re afraid you do?

Those are the kinds of questions that go through my head when I hear someone loudly proclaiming how it would be literally physically impossible for even the slightest glimmer of submissive sentiment to ever even approach the inviolate Fortress of Domliness that girds their soul.

So go ahead and dominate without ever submitting if that feels right for you, but you might not want to brag about it.

Mentor Someone

I’m always hearing that the world of kink doesn’t have enough mentoring, or that we used to have mentors but we’re losing that tradition. Our communities have multiplied, fragmented and spread out across the breadth of the Internet. Everyone doesn’t go to the same bar and belong to the same club like they used to.

Lots of people are learning our craft through books and online videos and message boards and maybe in-person classes where they listen to a presenter talk for two hours and then they leave, all without ever connecting to a more substantial community where they might be able to form relationships with elders and learn all the things that online videos are less good at teaching: social graces, community values, or the comfort and confidence that can grow from having a role model who’s walked the path before you. I hear from so many kinky folk that they feel isolated and wanting for connection and guidance.

If any of that resonates for you — if you wish you saw more community and more connection, more passing down of values and helping people find a happy healthy place in the world of kink — I’d like to invite you to change it.

I run a mentoring program with the Society for Janus. At heart our program is a matchmaking service between mentors and mentees, and something I’m noticing is that a huge part of what we do is just give people permission to mentor someone. Many people who make great mentors think that they aren’t experienced enough or aren’t knowledgeable enough, that they’re too young or not well enough established in their community — or it just has never occurred to them that they could be a mentor for someone. All they needed was for someone with an official-sounding title to come along and invite them to start mentoring.

Certainly forty-year scene veterans can make for great mentors, but so can two-year scene veterans. There are ways in which having a mentor who is only a shorter distance farther down the path than you are can even be more valuable. They “grew up” in a kink world more similar to the one you’re in today, and the early stages are still fresher in their minds.

So I’m giving you permission right now. If you aren’t completely fresh off the turnip boat yourself, and you’d like to see more continuity and more community in your community: mentor someone. Offer a hand up to someone who’s new come to your circles, but sincere in their interest. If they take you up on it, be a resource for their questions and a friendly face to make events less intimidating. Be a role model and show them the best etiquette and ethics you’ve learned. Help them connect to other folks and start to feel like they’re part of something, not just a consumer who paid $25 to get into a party.

Some simple guidelines for how to do that and have it go well:

  1. Mentor someone who you don’t want to fuck.

Erotic or romantic interest complicates the living hell out of mentoring. Lots of folks have gotten a bad impression of the whole concept of mentoring because they associate it with chickenhawks mobbing the fresh meat with offers to “mentor” their pants off. Don’t be that guy. Mentoring works best when you find someone who’s on a path that’s similar to your own rather than someone you’re attracted to. If you like beating people, look for a mentee who also likes beating people, not one who likes to get beat.

  1. Asking can be awkward.

Many of the best mentors I’ve known are modest enough to recoil from the idea of putting themselves forward as someone’s mentor. Of course, it’s awkward on the other side too — it’s hard to walk up to somebody and ask “Will you mentor me.” One good approach is to let other established members of your community know that you’re available to be a mentor. Then when they meet a newcomer who they think might be a good fit they can make the introduction.

  1. They set their direction.

Mentoring shouldn’t be like teaching high school, where the teachers set the curriculum and try to drum the things they consider important into their bored pupils’ heads. A mentor helps someone move forward along their own agenda. You don’t have to create a program of education; you answer questions, you present options, you help them think through what they want to learn, and you point them in the right direction to find what they want.

  1. Connect; don’t isolate.

A hallmark of really bad mentoring is when you try to set yourself up as someone’s only source of wisdom and support. Even if you’re the smartest, best and most awesome kinkster around, people learn better and find their place in community better when they get to hear from multiple voices and see multiple styles of being kinky. A good mentor works to connect their mentee to other people, groups, books, etc. to help broaden their horizons.

  1. Don’t waste your time.

Not everybody’s prepared to make good use of having a mentor. If you’re trying to mentor someone and they’re regularly flaking on you, never actually follow through on the options that you offer them, or seem to be expecting you to do everything for them — don’t keep throwing away your valuable time and attention. A mentee should be putting as much effort into the mentoring relationship as you are, and should be demonstrating (not just talking about) that their kinky development is a genuine priority in their life.

Topping From the Bottom is too A Real Thing

I just read another essay arguing that topping from the bottom doesn’t really exist — that the phrase is just a way that people try to shame bottoms for having limits, expressing preferences or negotiating for what they want. And yeah: that totally happens. I see “topping from the bottom” get used that way all too frequently, and it’s unfair and unhelpful and pretty shitty.

It’s also almost exactly the opposite of actual topping from the bottom. Someone clearly and explicitly negotiating for what they want out of their kink isn’t topping from the bottom; topping from the bottom is when someone negotiates to submit and then covertly and manipulatively tries to take control of the scene or the relationship — without admitting that they’re trying to be in control.

The classic case goes something like this:

Bottomy Bob has a powerful fantasy of total submission. In Bob’s fantasy he relinquishes all control to a powerful dominant, who then locks him into a cock cage, forbids him any sexual gratification, and takes him parties where he’s stripped naked and used to orally service all the stern and haughty guests. Hot stuff!

So eventually Bob works up the courage to actually find that powerful dominant, and when they ask him what he wants he says: “To surrender all control to you!” It’s exactly like in his fantasy!

Until they respond with “Great! I want to tie you up and beat your cute ass cherry red, then fuck you senseless!” Now there’s no cock cage, there’s no sexual denial, there’s no objectification and public humiliation: none of the real meat of Bob’s fantasy is fulfilled. Because he didn’t ask for it. Plus he’s gotten himself signed up for a bunch of stuff that he might have no interest in or outright hate.

The sensible thing for Bob to do here would be to back up and say “Oh hey, actually there’s some specific stuff I’m into and would you be down for that instead?” But sometimes that isn’t what happens.

Why not?

  • Some people have been mislead to believe that bottoming necessarily involves submitting. That if you want to get spanked, the way you have to do it is to give someone control over you and then cross your fingers and hope they decide to spank you.
  • Some people are ashamed of their kinky desires and use “I only want to serve you” as a way to avoid having to admit what they want while, again, crossing their fingers and hoping that someone does it to them.
  • Some people believe that what they want is submission, but their fantasy dominant always does everything right — where “right” is defined as “exactly as they themselves think it should be done” — and they don’t actually enjoy accepting desires and decisions that vary from their own.

If Bob’s suffering from one of these dilemmas, maybe he goes ahead with the spanking and the fucking, hoping that his partner will eventually get around to the really sexy stuff. From the outside, this sounds silly: how on Earth would his partner know how to give Bob what he wanted? But don’t overestimate power of libido and denial. If there’s something that I think is the hottest goddamn thing in the world, it’s easy for me to believe that it’s objectively and obviously the hot thing to do and that my partner is bound to catch on eventually. That’s how you get people silently suffering through submission that isn’t really what they want, while clinging to hope that any day now what they really want is gonna magically happen to them.

The step from there to topping from the bottom is short and nearly inevitable. Desire always finds a way out. The person with the unacknowledged fantasy starts finding ways to subtly (they think) prod their partner in the direction of fulfilling that fantasy. The person who thinks they want to submit but isn’t actually letting go of their own judgments starts finding passive aggressive ways to criticize their partner’s choices, undermine their decisions, and “correct” their way of doing things.

Eventually Bob starts safewording out of spankings at the first tap, because he never really wanted them in the first place. And he starts dropping sideways hints about chastity and humiliation and expecting his partner to put the pieces together. And when they don’t take that bait, he starts criticizing them for being a shitty fake dominant who’s doing it all wrong. That’s topping from the bottom.

Topping from the bottom isn’t when someone negotiates exactly what safewords they want to use and how they want to use them. That’s just good negotiation. It’s not even when someone speaks up in the middle of a scene to say that they need something to be different. That’s also good negotiation, combined with a good understanding of the ongoing nature of consent.

Topping from the bottom is when someone negotiates to serve your every whim, but then keeps up a stream of criticism, complaints and “helpful” suggestions that make it pretty clear that serving your preferences is not their real agenda.

Toppy types: It’s valuable to learn to recognize this pattern. It’s different from resistance — where your partner wants you to conquer them and then they’re happy. It’s a pattern of attempts to take control that don’t respond well to being met with firmer dominance. And the way forward is to back off the dominant energy and work on figuring out what your partner really wants.

It’s super valuable to learn to not assume that everyone who wants to bottom wants to submit. If someone negotiates for you to paddle them, and you don’t discuss D/s, then you shouldn’t be surprised or offended if they start telling you exactly how they want the paddling to go. If it’s important to you that you be in the driver’s seat, it’s your job to make that clear.

Bottomy types: It’s valuable to understand that submission (following someone else’s lead and doing what they tell you) is only one specific subset of all the lovely kinky bottomy things that you can negotiate for, and that you don’t have to agree any more of it than you really, truly want to. If you want to get tied up exactly the way you want, for exactly as long as you want, and there’s a specific sequence of dirty phrases that you want whispered in your ear while you’re there — you can negotiate for that and someone will be jazzed to do it with you.

If you want to surrender control of some details and not other details, you can negotiate for that.

If you want to submit in general but there are a few things that you need to have or need to not have, you can negotiate for that.

If you’re already submitting and you realize that something isn’t working for you, you can respectfully speak up and let your partner know that.

But understand that trying to get things without admitting that you want them doesn’t work, and that telling someone you want to surrender control when what you really want is for them to follow your script is both inconsiderate and corrosive. This can be tough to recognize if all we’ve known is fantasy, because a fantasy dominant always follows the same script we do — so how can we know whether real-world giving up control will feel great or not? It’s okay to need to get some experience and figure out where your boundaries really belong. But do work on figuring it out.

When you’ve agreed to let someone else drive, notice if you keep reaching for the wheel. Try and understand why that’s happening and address it in a direct, loving, respectful way rather than continuing to say “I live to serve” while waging a covert war to take control of the dynamic.

The One Most Important Thing For Having Smoking Hot Scenes

There are so many things to learn in order to create hot BDSM scenes. There’s technique with ropes or paddles or knives or exotic electrical toys. There are communication skills for reading your partner, communicating your desires, and setting the mood. There’s cultivating the confidence and emotional maturity that it takes to go deep and play hard without losing your shit.

But the one key insight that’s most important of all for being able to have scenes that consistently knock it out of the park is understanding what a scene fundamentally is. A scene isn’t the toys you use. It isn’t orgasms. It isn’t what you’re wearing. The real essence of what scene is isn’t even the activities that you partake in while you’re doing it: the spanking and the sucking and the growled commands. All of those things can be pieces of a scene, but they don’t get to the heart of it. Most of us who’ve been doing this kinky shit for more than a little while can think of times when we’ve had all the right toys and the right clothes and flawless technique but still, mysteriously, the scene fell flat. When that happens, often what’s missing is that the scene isn’t telling a good story.

At heart, what scenes really are is stories. They are stories that we and our partners tell one another. Sometimes the story is detailed or scripted, like when we’re playing out a specific fantasy about a naughty schoolboy being spanked and the story we’re telling calls for exactly the right outfit or the right words or actions that echo deep in our libido. Often the story is more thematic or improvisational. It can even be entirely nonverbal, but it’s still a story — a story about how powerful or powerless we are, about how much we can take or how little we deserve, about how degraded or cherished or stern or desirable we are. All of the implements and the techniques and the costumes are just props that help us tell those stories, and the way to have the best, most memorable and most satisfying scenes is to make sure that they have all the elements of a good story.

~*~

Characters

Good stories have good characters. In a scene, good use of character comes from understanding how everyone involved wants to think and feel about themselves as part of the scene. If you’re being beaten, do you want to be the tough, stoic, disciplined submissive who can take it and make your partner proud? Do you want to be the sobbing wretch begging for it to stop? Do you want to be the insatiable painslut begging for more? If you’re tying someone up do you want it to be a lighthearted, goofy experience? A demanding display of technical skill? A seduction? Start by knowing who you and your partner(s) are in this story.

Exposition

A good story begins by setting the scene and making a contract with its audience about what kind of story it’s going to be. It usually doesn’t spell out exactly how everything is going to turn out (that would kind of ruin the suspense), but it lays out enough information about what’s going on for the audience to get on board with the story.

In a scene, exposition means establishing a shared understanding of generally what kind of scene this is going to be, so that everyone can get into character and start getting excited for what’s going to happen. Often, this comes in the form of threats and promises. “I’m going to whip you `till you squeal” establishes the action of the scene (whipping), the tone (cruel) and the intended climax (squealing). In scenes that involve a lot of surprise (mystery stories) there may be very little exposition, but we at least establish that there is going to be a surprise and let our partners start getting worked up wondering what the surprise is going to be. Nonverbal exposition might consist of carefully and ritualistically laying out the implements that you intend to use.

Rising Action

A good story builds. It starts milder and grows in intensity and tension, toward some climactic moment. A good scene builds too, and one of the most common ways that I see scenes flop is when someone is aimlessly cycling through different implements, intensities and activities — more focused on using everything in the toybag than on creating an experience that goes somewhere.

The most obvious example of building up is in impact play, where the hits generally get harder over the course of a scene. But the same idea applies to building erotic energy in a sexual scene, or more and more degrading commands issued in a humiliation scene, or nearing the completion of some task in a service scene.

Pacing is key to rising action. If you have a sense of how far you are from your climax, you want to pace yourself so that the tension can grow at an accelerating rate right up until that climax. What you want to avoid is trying to create a climactic moment when you haven’t yet built up to it, reaching an unsustainable level of tension before you’re ready to create the climax of the scene or, worst of all, letting time pass in which tension isn’t building. Excitement either rises or falls; it doesn’t sit still. So if you aren’t building the action, the energy of your scene will be draining away.

In longer scenes, it can work beautifully to work in mini-climaxes where you build to some peak, release some (but not all) of the tension, and then build to an even higher one.

Climax

A good story has a moment when all that tension it’s been building bursts. In a scene, the climax is the moment of greatest intensity. It’s the most vicious blow or the final needle or the orgasm. To have a good climax, everyone needs to know that this is the climax, so that they can know to release all that tension. Usually it’s best to make it clear well in advance that the climax is coming. Instead of just beating someone harder and harder and then stopping, tell them: “Now you will take ten more, harder than before! Count them down as I give them to you, and thank me for each one.”

Falling Action

Delivering the hardest blow of the beating and then immediately dropping the cane and going to watch cartoons can be jarring, and leave the scene feeling incomplete. A good story has some action continues for a little while past the climax, unraveling the tension left unresolved by the climax. In a scene, leave some space after your climax to wind down. I don’t mean aftercare; that’s later. This is taking the ropes off, giving the area you’ve savagely caned some gentler smacks, or ordering your servant in the cleaning up from the dinner they’ve just served. For some scenes, sex serves as falling action rather than the climax.

Resolution

Now comes the aftercare. A good story ends with a resolution wherein normalcy is restored. In a scene, this often consists of cuddles and reassurances that all involved are good, worthy and loved. That isn’t the only kind of resolution to a scene. Some scenes end with the bottom being ordered to clean up the equipment, as a reminder of their place. Some bottoms need to be given space to return to normal on their own, so resolution might be being left bloody and crying in the bathtub. The important thing is being conscious of everyone’s need to tie a bow on their experience and return to less elevated, non-scene state — and then doing what works for everyone involved.

~*~

Understanding that narrative structure will do more for creating excellent scenes than even the sexiest latex corset.

Understand them well enough, and you don’t even necessarily need to follow them any more. Many of the truly great stories break some or all of the rules of storytelling, and many truly great scenes do as well. But in both cases that greatness tends to appear when people know the rules, have practiced following them, and then break them consciously, with a clear idea of what they’re trying to accomplish in breaking them.

So learn the rules, then break the rule, but never lose sight of the story.

Print Edition Inbound!

I haven’t updated for a while, but it’s been for a good cause — creating the print edition of The Heart of Dominance.

Cover Pic

A proof copy is being shipped to me now, and if it looks good I’ll have it available for sale by next week. Exciting!

Submissive Skills: The Ceiling and The Floor

We domly types often like to think the way D/s works is that we tell you exactly what to do and you do exactly what we tell you and that’s all there is to it. But have you thought about how impossible it is to tell someone exactly what to do? If I tell my partner to be waiting in bed when I get home, they could be kneeling in the center of the bed in sexy underthings, or they could be curled under the covers with a mug of tea and a good book. Even if I tell them to be waiting naked face down on top of the covers with their legs spread and their hands on the headboard, there’s still some wiggle room. Do I find them whimpering and grinding their hips against the bed, or flopped and slack like they’re half asleep? Is the bedroom clean with candles lit, or do I find their clothes piled onto the bed beside them in a heap? There’s always at least a tiny bit of room for interpretation in any orders.

That room for interpretation is your domain, and what you do with it speaks volumes.

Aiming for the Floor

Few things suck the energy out of a D/s dynamic more quickly than when the submissive partner regularly does the bare minimum to obey an order: when they aim for the floor. It communicates that submission is a chore you’re trying to get through with the least possible effort, and it does so in a way that’s particularly difficult for your dominant to engage with constructively. Because you are obeying… technically; so there’s nothing to call you on.

It’s like when you invite a friend over for dinner and they say “I guess I can come if you want me to. I’ll be late, though, because traffic is going to be such a huge hassle, and I have to leave early because I’ll still have work to do that night and I’m going to be up so late getting that done, and I just haven’t really been excited about food lately. But yeah, I suppose I can come.” and you kind of want to tell them that it’s okay if they don’t want to come, but they haven’t said they don’t want to come so that would be awkward.

Sometimes submissives aim for the floor because they’re afraid of being seen as overeager, or as topping from the bottom. They worry that doing anything that their dominant didn’t specifically instruct them to do would be overstepping. They were told to bring their owner a drink, but they weren’t told to kneel as they delivered it, or to smile, or to ask if there’s anything else they could do to be of service, so they don’t do any of those things. They attempt to do exactly what they were told to do, without interpreting in any way.

But that wiggle room is still always there — they also weren’t told to deliver that drink standing, or with a blank expression, or in silence. Trying not to interpret orders tends to result in submission that feels flat, unenthusiastic, even grudging.

Sometimes submissives aim for the floor because they really aren’t enthusiastic about this particular order in this particular moment. They really are not in the mood for a beating tonight, so when they’re told to go fetch the paddle they drag their feet and stop to check Fetlife on the way and bring the paddle back and sulkily toss it onto the couch next to their partner.

Not wanting to obey an order is legitimate — you’re human and you’re going to have your own feelings, desires and sometimes boundaries — but halfassed, minimal obedience is almost never the best way to express that feeling. Directly (and respectfully) telling your partner that you don’t want to obey, and why you don’t, lets you deal with the issue together, whether by having that order amended or by resolving whatever it was that was preventing you from obeying wholeheartedly. Doing the minimum necessary to obey can leave your partner not certain whether you’re intending to resist and with no idea why, and that makes it difficult to address.

And, sometimes, submissives aim for the floor as a way of trying to provoke discipline. It’s a way of pushing the line to see how much malingering they can get away with, while hoping that they won’t get away with it. Told to be waiting naked at home, they do strip, but go right back to watching TV and don’t look up when their partner walks in — waiting to see if they’re taken to task for being insolent.

There are better ways to provoke. Provocation that’s actively mischievous, teasing or defiant while still showing your good humor and your desire to engage in D/s with your partner is far more likely to lead to the sexy takedown that you’re hoping for. Get naked except for a pair of silly socks. Or text your partner back and say “If you want me naked, you’re gonna have to strip me yourself.” Rather than doing an uninspiring, halfassed job of obedience, resist obeying at all until you’ve been sufficiently “persuaded” to obey wholeheartedly.

Aiming for the Ceiling

That’s the downside. The upside is that every order, assignment or rule is an opportunity for you to be an active partner in building the powerful D/s dynamic you desire. Do you want more dominance? Do you want your partner to be more confident and push you deeper into your fantasies? You can help make that happen from your position as the submissive, without being demanding or topping from the bottom. Just aim for the ceiling.

I’m not advocating that you exceed your orders, or pester your dominant partner for more frequent or more demanding orders — both of those can easily come across as criticism, like you’re implying that you’re unsatisfied with your partner’s dominance. That’s more likely to shut them down than to get you more of what you crave.

I’m also definitely not advocating that you do anything you can’t wholeheartedly consent to. Don’t push past your limits to try to be a SuperSubmissive. That road leads to trauma and heartbreak for everyone involved.

But when you’re given an order that you can obey, obey the hell out of it. Look for that inevitable wiggle room and use it to communicate your investment in your submission and your desire for your partner’s dominance. That’ll egg your partner on. It’ll tell them in unmistakable language that next time they can go farther with you, if they want to.

Here are a few ideas for ways to aim high when obeying. Dominants will have their own individual preferences, of course, but these things will go over well with many or most.

  • Respond to orders like they’re the highest priority thing you have to do right then. Stop whatever else you’re doing and obey right away.
  • Acknowledge orders in a way that makes it clear you take them as orders rather than friendly suggestions: “Yes, owner” rather than “Okay.”
  • Put your full attention into everything you do when obeying. Even if a task is so easy you could do it in your sleep, focus on doing it deliberately and well. The care that you invest will be apparent to your partner.
  • Look for ways to include gestures of deference in your obedience — things like obeying from your knees, kissing hands or feet, or obeying with a bow.
  • When you’re finished, check to see if you can be of further service.

Once I told a partner to remove my boots for me. It was an offhand thing, as we came into the house after a long and tiring trip. My mind was mostly on unpacking and getting to bed and all the unanswered emails waiting for me at work the next morning.

She dropped what she was doing and came over to me immediately. She arranged herself precisely at my feet. She stopped chatting and focused completely on this one simple task. When she was done, she kissed each of my feet, came back up to her knees, and stopped — looking up to me for dismissal or further guidance.

She treated this little, simple order like it was important, putting her full attention into exceeding my expectations while remaining within the bounds of what I’d told her to do, and it got my full attention. I stopped thinking about work, or even about being tired, and connected with her as my submissive right there in that moment. After that, her removing my boots for me became an ongoing ritual within a powerful and deepening D/s dynamic.

If she’d just slouched over, fumbled my boots off while continuing to grouse about how late we’d gotten home, and then headed straight for the shower — that’d still have been obedience. Weary as we both were, I wouldn’t even have faulted her for it. It wouldn’t have ratcheted up our D/s in the same way, though. It wouldn’t have brought us closer together. And it wouldn’t have become a ritual that I remember with pleasure many years later.

That’s how aiming for the ceiling can let you contribute to taking your D/s dynamic to new heights.