There is no such thing as “a good dom” or “a good sub”. Every relationship is different. A good partner is one who listens to and works with the people they’re seeing.
If you’re new to BDSM - or if you’ve been around for a while but feel like the kinky side of your life could do with a bit of a breath of fresh air - there are a few things you can do that will help you get the most out of pretty much any BDSM-based relationship.
Mainstream, vanilla magazines spend a lot of column inches talking about how to “spice up your sex life”. It’s easy for those of us who do things far more extreme than their suggestions on a weekly basis to get a bit smug about it. Don’t be fooled, though. Kinky sex can fall into a rut just as quickly as vanilla sex can. If that happens, it’s up to you to guide you both out of it.
You, by design, are the driving force behind the health of your relationship’s sex life. So if you realise you’re doing the same thing over and over and it’s beginning to stale, take the wheel! Suggest events you can attend together. Or scenes you’d like to set up. Buy a new toy. Share a fantasy you haven’t explored together yet.
This isn’t to say that the dominant partner should do all the legwork if you find that your sub never initiates scenes or makes suggestions, think about why that might be. Ask them how they’d feel about doing so a little more often.
We’re all into kink for our own reasons. And we all had certain images or hopes in mind when we started out. Over time our fantasies and desires grow, change and develop - and, hopefully, our dynamics do as well.
You’re probably getting most of the things you want out of a BDSM relationship because it’s easy for you to ask for them. You may very well have interests that don’t suit your dynamic or fit into your submissive’s limits and boundaries. But, other than that, chances are you’re the one who decides when, where, how often and how hard. This means there’s always a risk that there’s something your partner is daydreaming about, and assuming you’re not into that, you would do it for or to them if only you knew they wanted it.
Ask them some time (this is a good pillow talk conversation, in my experience) what they’d like from a BDSM relationship that the two of you don’t do together. You might be surprised by the response. They may very well say they’d like more rules, or stricter punishments, or a higher level of D/s protocol. They might say they’d like to switch sometimes. Or that there’s a particular fetish they’ve never explored and are interested in trying.
Bear in mind that you don’t have to do these things unless you want to. I’d never advocate anyone to force themselves into a sexual practice they aren’t enthusiastic about. There’s a good chance you’ll be up for whatever it is, though, and if you’re not - well, it’s all still good information that will help you guide your BDSM dynamic as a pair.
Subs can be a demanding bunch, and for many doms, that’s part of what there is to love about them. Depending on your particular partners and dynamics you may very well find yourself giving a lot of aftercare. Like offering general guidance and taking some measure of control over the ordinary day-to-day life of another person to a far greater extent than either submissives or people in vanilla relationships. There’s a lot of responsibility involved in being someone’s dom. When you ask a person to put that much trust in you, it’s important to understand the extent to which that means they’re looking at you to make sure they’re okay.
We love this stuff, of course, and it can add a tremendous amount to the lives of people on both ends of the whip. You can’t do a good job of it if your current house isn’t in order, though. So sometimes you’re going to have to need to put yourself first a bit for both of your sakes.
Make sure that you’re meeting your needs and looking after yourself when you need to. Get comfortable with asking your partner for help when you need to. Kinky relationships are as much about the relationship as they are about the kink, after all.
Creating a set of rules for the submissive partner to live by is a huge part of many kinky dynamics. What these rules are, varies hugely - watch this space for an in-depth look at that very topic soon. They can cover everything from the clothes they wear to the way they live their daily lives to the manner in which they greet you when you walk through the door.
The sky’s the limit, with these (well, actually, you and your partner’s limits are the limits, but you know what I mean) - but they lose all power, fun and energy if you don’t enforce them. It’s perfectly okay (and sometimes necessary) to decide to let an infraction slide, of course. Talk it over with your sub first and tell them why you’ve decided not to punish them.
These rules feel very real to us - but they aren’t, in any abstract sense. Slave contracts aren’t legally binding documents (thank God) and in a civilised society, nobody can actually “own” anybody else. You’ve built up these narratives around your relationship because you both want them there. So, if you brush your decisions under the carpet and forget to enforce your rules time and time again, you’ll end up with no appreciable dynamic at all before you realise what’s happening.
Maintaining all the rules you’ve set isn’t the only way to keep a D/s dynamic healthy, of course. There are hundreds of little ways you can remind both yourself and your submissive of how things are.
Like using your pet names for them in casual conversation. Asking them to do things for you and making it clear you’re getting a bit of a kick out of watching them follow your orders. Or treating them with a sort of old-fashioned chivalry when you’re out and about together (regardless, of course, of your respective genders). You might want to have them wear a collar or some other symbol at all times. You can order their food for them in restaurants, or have them use whatever title you’ve chosen whenever they speak to you when you’re alone.
It’s important to be careful not to overstep your mark here, of course. Kink protocol is far from appropriate in all situations. Most people have headspaces in which they have no desire to act in a submissive way. Talk these things over with your partners before you try them, just as you would anything else. There’s a high chance that there are some small, subtle things you can do that will keep your dynamic alive without anyone else needing to know.
Abi Brown is a freelance writer and general pen-for-hire devoted to sexual deviancy, far-left politics and wearing too much jewellery. Find her at her website or @see_abi_write.
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