Bound Together
One couple’s insights into BDSM

The New Dominant Survival Guide

Man walking on deserted beach headed toward mountains

You’ve finally figured out how to label that super sexy way you like to be in control of the object of your desire; congratulations, you’re a dominant! There are as many ways to be dominant in BDSM as there are doms, but following the advice below will make you a better one. If you’re submissive or a non-dominant kinkster, you’re welcome to read on to get a glimpse of what makes a dominant tick, but you should also check out The New Submissive Survival Guide.

1. Don’t succumb to the myth of the Domly Dom 

You’ll find that many self-proclaimed doms are arrogant and pushy, mimicking faux-BDSM popular culture. One of the things all BSDM educators can agree on is that Christian Grey of the Fifty Shades series is a horrible fucking role model. If you need to stalk or coerce a potential submissive, they aren’t interested and you’re doing it wrong. A dom who is creepy, domineering, and pointlessly aggressive is predatory, clueless, or from erotic fiction. These behaviors aren’t a turn-on and demonstrate poor judgment. Treat everyone, including potential subs, as an equal until otherwise negotiated. Don’t do mean stuff unto others—unless they’ve asked you nicely.

2. You can’t fake it

Being a dom doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Many of us are switches or only want to be a dom once in a while. But if you don’t get turned on by the thought of being dominant in BDSM sometimes, I’m sorry to say it’s never going to happen. This isn’t a “fake it until you make it” sort of thing. There are broken-hearted stories as far as the eye can see of kinky people whose partners “just didn’t get it,” even after decades of trying. People may adapt a bit to different play styles, and almost everyone develops new kinks over time, but domination is either a part of your kinky DNA and sexuality or it isn’t. If you try it and it isn’t for you, be honest with your partner. No one should coerce you into being someone you’re not.

3. Hard work is required to be a better dom

I sprang forth from the womb as a dom fully formed like Athena bursting out of Zeus’s head. OK, OK, I’ll be honest; when I first started experimenting with BDSM, I made embarrassing dominant mistakes like wasting time fiddling with complex ties during a scene and killing the mood. Even now, I could study some kinky skills for years and never be half as good as some of my teachers. Do your research! Read, practice, and never stop talking to fellow kinksters about being a dom. It will pay off in spades in the sack.

4. Practice on yourself

Do you ever wonder what that thuddy thing feels like when you strike your submissive with it? God, I hope not—you should know exactly how it feels! Yes, some submissives enjoy erotic pain more than you might, but you should have some direct experience with the toys you intend to use. I’m not saying you need intense long-term experience with your submissive’s favorite dilldonics, but you should at least have a good sense of what you’re doing. When practical, I always test a new impact toy on the sensitive inside of my forearm, and test knots and rope burn speeds on myself. The more you know first-hand, the more you can provide the care and cruelty your submissive deserves.

5. You’re only human

It’s OK to be vulnerable sometimes. Even if you check the “living it 24/7” box in Fetlife, it’s impossible to be fully “on” all the time. As exciting as being dominant in a BDSM relationship is, you have other priorities and responsibilities. Look for submissives/bottoms who can also respect your humanity and understand that there’s more to you than your spanking hand.

6. Don’t rely solely on safewords

You can’t always assume that your partner will be in the proper mindset to use or remember a safeword when they need to. You also can’t assume your partner always knows in the moment when you’ve pushed them past a point they might later regret. Any kinkster can make a mistake, and subspace, subfrenzy, lack of experience, and eagerness to please can all complicate communication during a scene. It’s your job as a dom to understand your partner’s risk profile and check in on them frequently. This goes triple for a CNC scene. As you achieve a greater level of trust with a partner and learn each other’s play styles, you can develop subtler ways to communicate, connect, and play.

7. Go beyond “what are you into?” 

One of my dominant BDSM role models, Princess Kali, has written a lot about asking submissives, “What feeling do you want to achieve?” This “goal feeling” provides enormous insight into exploring new ways to hit your submissive’s sexy nerves. If they’re into impact, is it just about sensation, or is it about feeling owned? If they’re into being called names, do they want to feel degraded or objectified? I learned that Mimsy enjoys feeling controlled and like I’ll stop at nothing to take what I want from her. This knowledge opened the door to strict bed sheet and rope bondage, control through threats (sometimes with knives), and dirty talk about how people can tell what a slut she is for me. These are just a few of the ideas I would have never imagined without talking to her about her goal feelings. Keep communicating with  your partner to pave the way to an exciting new scene, or maybe an entirely new kink.

8. Safewords aren’t just for subs

Doms may seem mean, but at the root of the scene we’re orchestrating, we take incredible pride in giving our submissives exactly what they want in a way most people in the world never can. It can be seductive to push past your comfort, safety, or skill limits to please your partner. You can, and should, communicate your limits clearly and confidently up front and stick to them. If a scene is going too far, change direction or safeword to end it. In the brilliantly instructed class Precipice: Edge Play with Shay and Stefanos, the dominant Stefanos recalled safewording out of a race play scene due to his own discomfort, even though he saw it was making the submissive rock hard. If something makes you uncomfortable, don’t feel compelled to continue for fear of disappointing your sub.

9. Doms need aftercare, too

While it’s important to ask about your submissive’s unique aftercare needs, don’t forget to communicate your own. Based on my experience and that of acquaintances, “top drop” tends to manifest as negative feelings about the scene in some way—sometimes days after the fact. Some examples are feeling depressed or conflicted about being “sadistic,” or generally feeling burned out. My top drop is averted or cured by hearing words of affirmation from my partner and by talking with other dominants about their similar experiences.

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Bound Together
One couple’s insights into BDSM