What is Dominance? | 30 Days of D/s
Note: Welcome to a new blog series based off our free 30 Days of D/s email course. The program asks you to think about different topics within kink and BDSM with a new email each day focusing on a specific question. We thought it would be fun to answer those same questions from our perspective.
What does it mean to be a dominant? That’s a very personal question and no two people will ever give the exact same answer. The simplest explanation of dominance is control over a submissive partner’s actions and behavior and/or some aspect of your relationship together. But what does that actually mean? We think it can be broken up into a few parts. How you view these things can help determine what kind of dominant you are (or want to be).
The phrase “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” might be an oversimplification and cliche, but history bears witness to what powerful people have been willing to do to maintain power.
Power is a funny thing. In one person’s hands it leads to abuses, corruption, and improvement only for those at the very top. In the right hands, it can lead to growth, contentment, and the realization of mutual goals. Having power in kink is a privilege. It’s a sign of trust from the person granting it, and can be (and ought to be!) removed at anytime.
Having power means having the ability to make decisions for other people and yourself. It also means bearing the responsibility of a bad decision. Power is influence. It’s convincing, telling, ordering others to do what they might not do otherwise — and them doing it, because you said so, and because they trust you.
Power can be loud and harsh, it can be quiet and unassuming, and it can be a blend of both. Some Dominants only need a raised eyebrow or a lowered voice to exert their power. Others use more direct methods.
In D/s relationships, power can be granted and it can be withdrawn regardless of the style of dominance. Even micro-managing Masters can be made powerless once a partner withdraws consent and no longer follows their lead.
Control comes in two parts: self-control and control over a submissive partner. The more self-control you have, the easier it can be to win the control of a consenting partner.
Self-control manifests in a lot of different ways. Holding your tongue when you’d rather rage at the world. Exhibiting self-discipline with your personal goals and responsibilities — doing what you say you’ll do. Not acting in anger. Having the patience to wait for what you want. The list goes on and on. Do you have to exemplify every example of self-control to truly have self-control? No. We’re all human, and sometimes other emotions take over. But in general a certain amount of self-control goes a long way in dominance — the most prevalent being patience.
Control over a partner must be earned, and like power, it must be wielded with an understanding of the responsibility that comes with it. When you control another person, even for a little while or in small ways, you bear responsibility for the outcome of the directives you issue, the requests you make, and the direction you take that person and the relationship. They’re not a robot and need to be responsible for themselves as well, but the influence and power you exert over them and the relationship must be remembered at all times.
What does this look like in power exchange?
Self-control over yourself may require you to wait for the kinky fuckery you really want until your partner is ready to go there with you.
Control over your partner can be making them wait for an orgasm, for a thing they want, for your decision on a request they’ve made. They can’t take action until you give the word.
To be a Dominant is to be the leader in your power exchange relationship. You have the power and control, as granted to your submissive, and you’re responsible for what happens in the moment as well as the outcome of any decision you make. Leadership isn’t necessarily about managing your partner or your relationship, though the two terms are often used interchangeably. Managers make sure the tasks get done. Leaders have a vision for where everyone is going and how to get there.
Finding your own leadership style is part of figuring out your dominant self. Do you want to have a say on any and all decisions your submissive makes? Are you the type to set expectations and let your submissive handle the details? Do you see your role as a nurturing one or more of a dictatorship? Are the specific rules just as important as the outcome? All of these questions (and more!) should be considered when you think about who you are as a leader.
Leadership doesn’t have to be serious, stone-faced, and rigid. It’s more about being the person who’s willing to guide the relationship in a mutually beneficial direction. You can’t do it on your own. Submissive partners must voice their needs, wants, and own goals. Those have to be considered or you’re not really leading anyone anywhere. Being an effective leader means being someone your partner wants to follow. You’re the type of person they can believe in, that they trust, that is worthy of the responsibility.
If you read through any of this and feel the weight of responsibility and wonder if you’re up for the task, that’s a good thing. Those who question (even for a moment) whether they’re the right person for the role tend to be more thoughtful, more willing to listen, and more willing to move forward slowly. Those three traits will be absolutely necessary as a dominant. If not now then at some point in the future.
Dominance is whatever control, power, and leadership role you’re granted by a consenting, willing submissive partner. Use it wisely, treat your partners well, and take the responsibility seriously. Do all that, and you’ll be well on your way to being your authentic dominant self.
Want to figure out what Dominance, submission, and power exchange mean to you? You can do 30 Days of D/s, too. Get the 30 Days of D/s workbook here!