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. Continue reading
“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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
I haven’t updated for a while, but it’s been for a good cause — creating the print edition of The Heart of Dominance.
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!
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. Continue reading
Hi! You’ve been linked to this essay because the kinky forum you came from has been derailed by an argument over whether or not no-limits power relationships can be a real thing, and the person who posted the link is hoping that maybe you can cut that argument short and get back to whatever more interesting thing y’all had been talking about before.
As with many unproductive arguments, a big part of the problem here comes from people talking past one another—because they have different notions of exactly what they mean by no-limits. Continue reading
A little excerpt from my shiny new book, The Heart of Dominance.
The first lesson to learn on the path to competent dominance is that we cannot make anyone do anything. I don’t mean that just in the context of consensual dominance either. I mean that no one can ever truly make anyone do anything. This is wisdom that applies all over our lives, and you’ll find it taught in places from Buddhism through Nonviolent Communication. We may be able to limit the options that someone has to choose from, or impose consequences on their choices, but the ultimate choice of what to do (or think, or feel) always remains firmly locked within that person’s head.
If someone points a gun at my head and tells me to stand on one leg, the choice of whether to pick up my foot or not is still mine. If someone offers me a billion dollars to stand on one leg, the choice of whether to pick up my foot or not is still mine. If my partner has made a solemn vow to obey me in all things and has signed a contract in blood and has undergone decades of training and I order them to stand on one leg, they still have to make the decision to pick up their foot — every single time. Continue reading
A little excerpt from my shiny new book, The Heart of Dominance.
Many of us love to play with surprise, and for good reason. Information is power, and controlling information means holding power. Blindfolding our partner so they don’t know what we’re about to do to them, or taking them on a trip and not telling them where we’re going, or catching them off guard with a surprise tackle and takedown are all highly effective ways of inspiring feelings of helplessness in them and putting ourselves in the driver’s seat.
Some of our partners also particularly love surprise. The experience of waking up to a hand clamping over their mouth gives them a huge thrill; following their partner into the bedroom without knowing what’s in store for them lets them experience deep trust.
The danger is that if our partner doesn’t know what’s going to happen to them until it happens, then we have no way to read their reactions to see how they’re going to feel about it–until it’s too late. More than half of all of the accidental consent violations I have ever heard of involved surprise. It can happen when we misread our partners’ hints (that kidnapping fantasy they told us about really was just a fantasy), or are missing some important information ourselves (we have the living room all dungeoned-up for when they get home from work, and they walk in with the coworker who gave them a ride home). Also, some of our partners do not react well to surprise at all, or react to it unpredictably: they might go weak in the knees sometimes, but lock up or panic at others. Continue reading