For the sake of this post I will refer to Dominants or Tops as male and submissives or bottoms as female. This is not an indication of how it works in real life. Tops and bottoms both come in all sizes, sexes and from various backgrounds. I apologize if reading it that way frustrates you, but this is what is easiest on me, the writer. One day I will blog about same sex couples, I hope, but I have to have experienced that first and I have yet to find a woman I want dominating me. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that while I may be bi, I have yet to explore that side of me to the degree that I bring it into BDSM somehow. I am young though and I hope to rectify that one day. For now though, this is how I write.
I once wrote a bog about what it takes to be a good dom. Ironically, I wrote it while in an abusive and unhealthy relationship. I want to write a new, updated version, this time without the fear of my ex around. Forgive me if I forget a few things or over indulge in others.
The fascination with Dominance and submission is as old as the concept of time. Since our very first appearance on this earth we have had leaders and followers. It is impossible to lead if no one will follow you. Just as it is (almost) impossible to follow if there is no one leading.
When the dynamic between a Dominant and a submissive is healthy, it is beautiful. The grace and patience it takes to be in both positions is remarkable. It can be easily compared to vanilla relationships, though I would happily argue that they have roles too, even if they aren’t as open about them as we are.
To submit to someone takes courage, but to admit that you enjoy dominating takes even more. This society doesn’t seem to appreciate the role of a Dom anywhere near as much as they accept and appreciate the role of the submissive. Choosing to hit women with sticks and whips of leather and claiming it is for the pleasure of the bottom as well is a foreign concept to most people. Having to explain it to yourself is difficult, having to explain it to others can be downright painful.
A good dominant understands that he will drop from time to time, and prepares himself for that. This is one of the many reasons after care is so important. It allows both the Top and the bottom time to process, feel and accept the scene they’ve just completed. It brings out the tenderness that the Top may not have shown during the scene. After care is the time spent after a scene. Sometimes it includes a blanket wrapped around the bottom, and sometimes it includes things like chocolate and water, but one thing that it absolutely must include is sensitivity. The bottom is the one that most people watch after a scene because they expect her to “sub drop” or deal with the emotions that come flowing out of her after a scene. These can be hot and heavy and trigger without warning. A submissive that is not properly cared for after a scene can sink into a deep depression that takes months to rectify.
What bothers me though is that some people don’t consider the Top. He can drop as well. Top drop is a real thing. It tends to be described as the moments after a scene where the Top feels the shame society would pour over him if they knew what he had just done. The fact that the bottom enjoyed whatever the Top has done does not matter. In fact, it can even complicate things in unexpected ways. When the Top drops, there may not be anyone there to catch him, so to speak. His emotions are all over the place as well, and without proper aftercare, he can become depressed or worse, pompous. A Top that ignores aftercare may think very little of the submissive he was just with, or may not understand how important it is for both of them that they snuggle each other into reality again. His emotions may be harder to identify and respond to. Society does not like to discuss the emotions of men, and so some men have may deduce that they should never show any emotions. This is extremely dangerous territory. A submissive wants to serve, she craves it. During after care, she gets to give back to her Dom in ways she could not during the scene. She gives him her heart, trusts him with her emotions as raw and strong as they may be. And the Top gets to snuggle with someone who he just whipped or caned or what have you. He is reminded that she still cares for him, even though he’s just done things society would lock him up for, and she gets reminded that she is more than just a toy, or a sex object to be used. They remind each other that they are human and that there are real emotions involved, even if they are only partners for that one scene. I could write (and might) an entire blog post on after care alone, but this post is for the Doms and subs out there looking for ways to recognize proper (accepted) Dominant behavior.
A good Dom does his research (and really, a good submissive should do this as well). Find local clubs. Ask questions. Read as much as you can about BDSM, accept the differences between the way that you choose to act and the ways that others show their Dominance or submission. There are many different types of people in the world so it only makes sense that there would be many different types of subs and Doms alike. Some submissives enjoy humiliation, others do not. Some Doms enjoy being sadistic, others cannot fathom it, let alone follow through. This is not a bad thing, these are just differences. It is important to figure out what kind of Dom (or sub) you are so that you can be matched well with someone else. Otherwise you set yourself (and your partner) up for a difficult road of heartache and frustration. Knowing who you are, or at least, who you want to be, allows you to speak those same desires to your partner. Talking about it to your partner about it allows you both to decide if you are right for each other for the scene, or longer. Ignoring this step is silly and honestly I believe it is a stupid move. A good Dom (and sub) is willing to admit both their flaws and their desires. This doesn’t have to be a long conversation, in fact, the more you understand yourself, the easier and shorter it can be. But it is a conversation that must be had. Usually this is done in the negotiation period but there are times where the excitement of doing a scene with someone new gets in the way of logical matters first. Be aware of this and you can avoid future problems.
A good dom recognizes that each submissive he is with will be different and have different needs and desires. This can be frustrating, especially if you have specific moves that you like to think of as “signature moves”. They may not always work well for every sub you come across and having a cookie cutter pattern for every single submissive will only cause problems. A Good Dom is willing to work with the differences, not against them. A rule that worked with his last submissive might be exactly what she at the time needed, but that same rule might trigger the next submissive might. To trigger means to flashback to bad times, snap out of her submission, or worse cause irreparable harm that requires professional help to work through. A dominant (or even a submissive) that expects the exact same thing that worked in their last relationship to work in the next one will often wonder why it never works out for him (or her) and might even go so far as to blame the other person for the failure of the relationship.
The reverse should be mentioned as well. A submissive who has been beaten and abused, but continues to seek after the same kind of Dom is literally seeking more abuse. The hard part here is that she (or he) may not recognize that they are their own worst enemies here. This is one of the many reasons I push (and am in) therapy for those who have been broken (or close) before. If you have been through abuse, of any kind, regardless of how you identify, I beg of you, please seek counseling. You can always change therapists if you don’t click well with the first (or second, even. It took me three therapists to find one I felt safe enough to open up to the first time I went to therapy).
A Good Dominant knows he needs friends who identify as he does to help keep him in line. This is important for everyone, but especially a Dominant. Submissives seem to easily strike a cord with fellow subs. The clubs and webpages and books I have read all say basically the same things (and it bears repeating) that the submissive is the one who should be surrounded by good friends, who are kink friendly and can help her avoid pitfalls and bad doms and will notice the red flags she may be blinded to. But the same needs to be said for the Dominant as well. He (or she) also needs the support of friendships that are kink friendly, to help him from making mistakes in his topping of others. He needs people that he can confide in. People who will tell him what he needs to do when he struggles with the delicate balance between a Dom and a sub. People who will stand up to him when he handles something incorrectly, or forgets about after care, or starts to stroke his ego a little more than needed. Some say this is the submissive’s job, but I think it takes a team, for both partners (or all partners) involved. We all need friends we can confide in, vent to or struggle through life with. We need people we can rely on to tell us the truth, even if it hurts to hear it. This is a lot to put on the shoulders of just one person. I think that was my failure with my last relationship. I lacked the support of solid, kinky friendships. I found a great community in San Francisco, but by that point, Jason already had a death grip on my heart and I was too far gone in the abuse to open up to anyone. I knew something was off, but I didn’t feel safe enough to confide in anyone either. I lost myself in the abuse and didn’t have anyone to help pull me back down. (Something he made sure of by either sleeping with the few friends I did make, or by cutting me off completely from communicating with others). Friendships are a vital part of BDSM and should not be ignored or overlooked. A Good Dom will not only seek out these kinds of friendships, but he will encourage his submissive to do the same. It is okay if you have different sets of friends too, in fact, it might even be healthier that way. Each person needs someone else they can fall back on. Someone who may have a different opinion or viewpoint and can help guide (but not force) the relationship towards an even healthier version of itself.
There are many, many other things to be said about healthy BDSM. Books have been filled with tips and tricks, but I hope that these few help those of you seeking play for the first time this weekend. And I hope that as my own understanding of BDSM extends, I can help to write more in the future.