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 practically any BDSM-based relationship.
Making a conscious effort to defer to your dom in small ways that are a part of your everyday life will instantly help you both feel more connected to your dynamic, although this doesn’t mean that you should turn into a doormat. Sublimate your wants and needs or start living like a creepy Stepford wife (unless that’s your kink, of course). Your dom isn’t more important than you are. You should only ignore your preferences if you have freely chosen so to do.
Sometimes making an effort to defer to your dominant to help yourself feel more submissive is fun. I love having my food ordered for me in restaurants and giving up responsibility for little things. Like ‘what film to watch tonight’ or ‘where to go for a walk this afternoon’. I’d throw an epic fit if anyone tried to assume that role without my overt permission and invitation, but when it’s one of my doms I love it - so I try to cultivate it where I can.
You hear a lot about aftercare for submissive partners, but amongst dominants, it’s a much less discussed topic. In my experience, that’s a shame. You could do a lot worse than to start paying attention to the times your dom might want a little aftercare following a scene.
Doms get into some pretty heavy headspaces. It can take a little while to come out of those headspaces. If your shared kinks involve a lot of intense violence or degradation, it can be helpful to reassure them that you know they care about you and don’t want to hurt you.
Why not try thanking them for giving you what you so dearly want? Which isn’t just a nice gesture, it’s also a neat way to reassure them that they haven’t crossed a line and that they have no need to be anxious. (If they have crossed a line, of course, you should tell them that, too. Aftercare is about support, not lying. Which brings me to my next point.)
If your dominant cannot trust you to use your safeword when you’re unhappy, they’ll never feel safe doing all the things you’d like to try together. If they constantly need to worry that you might not be into it, they won’t be able to let themselves go and relax into the role you both want them to take.
Consent is a massively complex subject, but in BDSM the basics are pretty clear-cut. If you’ve agreed on a safeword in advance and you’re not using it, then you haven’t withdrawn your consent in a way your dom can understand. Don’t put yourself through the consequences of being in that position. And don’t put your dom in the position of having to worry that you might.
A lot of the rules we set in BDSM relationships are not as robust and visceral in reality as they are when we fantasise about them. If you’re supposed to ask permission before you masturbate whenever your dom isn’t there, then one day you fancy a quick go before you fall asleep alone that night...well, how are they to know? It doesn’t matter, right? It is an easy trap to fall into if you don’t live together. What difference can it make if it doesn’t feel much like a part of your relationship?
The trouble is that every time you do that, you break the fourth wall. BDSM dynamics are in some sense a fiction. No matter how real they feel to the people who live inside them. A lot of their success depends on you maintaining that fiction.
We all break our rules sometimes. If you want to be in a relationship that has rules, the only way to make it work for you both is to try and stick to them. That means confessing as quickly as possible when you haven’t. Otherwise, all you’re doing is cheating yourself and your partner out of the kind of relationship you’ve always wanted to have.
Leaving all the hard work to your dom can be tempting, and a lot of the time, that’s why subs are interested in these relationships in the first place. Within my defined limits and with a safeword as my unspoken get-out clause. I don’t want to be in control of what happens to me during sexual encounters, after all.
That said, there are still two people in this dynamic. It will work better for both of you if you’re as much of an active participant in it as they are. I’m not saying you should top from the bottom - unless that’s what you’re into, of course! Try being the one to initiate sex or scenes occasionally or suggest a kink event you’d like to attend together. Or try out a fantasy. If your dom feels like you’re as invested in keeping the dynamic going as they are, you’ll both be much the happier for it.
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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