People shy away from talking about abuse in the BDSM scene for good reason—it wasn’t too long ago that the mainstream world thought all Dominants were abusive, and all submissives were victims, and that both sides were crazy to boot. I promised myself when I really got into the blogging that I wasn’t going to avoid the unpleasant topics, and I wasn’t going to censor myself to please everyone so we’re going to talk about abuse, how to know if it’s happening, and how to deal with vanilla people who can’t tell the difference. Continue reading “The difference between controlling behavior and domination”
This isn’t a fun post, but I think it’s a useful one. More importantly, it’s one that I needed to write for myself, and I hope other people will find it a helpful read too. It’s timely since I’ve just come back from a wonderful week with my Dominants in Canada. I thought I’d get my thoughts in order before I started to head downwards emotionally, but I didn’t quite make it. So, there is a gap between when I started this and when I finished, but hopefully everything is still fresh enough on my mind.
Submissives hold all the power…or do they?
So, we here in the world of consensual BDSM play, yes that does include the milder side streets of domestic discipline and spanking, talk a lot about how the submissive or bottom has all the power in the relationship. I’m going to say something controversial here because I don’t believe this is true or should be true.
Not every D/s relationship actually deals with real discipline. Not every submissive wants or needs to be told to go to bed on time and eat three meals a day. The rules you have between a Dom and sub (or any variety of top and bottom) have to be accepted on both sides. A submissive who is self-sufficient and runs her life just fine without help has no need of being micro-managed, but it’s rare to find a power exchange relationship with no rules of any kind.
Most of the time when one person is given power and authority over another there are going to be rules and discipline for breaking them. Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons and some of them depend on the type of rule, but in general making and enforcing rules is a way for the Dominant to express their power, and for the submissive to be reminded that they are not in charge.
Behind the scenes we know that the submissive actually has a great deal of power over what happens in the relationship, but a lot of times it’s not what we want to be thinking about while we’re in a scene or spending time with our Dominant. A big part of the excitement of submission is feeling helpless or controlled. Rules are a huge help with that and of course rules without consequences are really just suggestions, so punishment tends to come along with them, even if it’s only a play or sexy punishment.
“You bad girl…you know you’re not allowed to wear panties under your skirt,” he said, shaking his head and sighing at her disobedience. “Looks like someone’s getting a spanking.”
She struggled to hide the smirk, instead fixing her mouth into a dramatic pout, “But Daddy, it’s windy outside. If it blew up everyone would see me bareeeee,” she replied. There was a childish whine in her tone that belied her very mature body.
At thirty-five Lila still managed to pull off the naughty little girl act and her husband knew exactly what she was angling for. She wanted a spanking, and he couldn’t wait to get her luscious ass across his knee.
“Mhm, that’s just too bad. You know the rules, Lila Jean. No panties under your skirt without permission or you get a spanking. Isn’t that right?” he demanded.
Her bottom lip rolled out even further and she stomped her foot. “No fair! I don’t want a spanking!” It was a complete and utter lie and they both knew it.
“Well, that’s too bad.” He used that low growly voice that she loved as he pulled her right across his lap. The short skirt she was wearing flipped up conveniently to expose the sexy see-through panties she wore under it and he took his time rolling them down over her shapely ass before he brought his hand down with a nice crisp swat.
It’s very clear that this isn’t a real punishment at all, but it does come along as a consequence of breaking the rule he gave her. In some relationships, some rules are very much made to be broken. It can be fun and If a submissive has rules like this then she knows exactly what she needs to do to get some specific attention, without getting anyone angry. That can be very handy for lending some excitement to the relationship.
But when it comes to rules there is also a serious reason to include them in your D/s relationship. For a submissive, knowing that they have to behave in certain ways, or are forbidden from doing things is like an invisible leash, tugging them back. It’s a reminder that they submit. That doesn’t mean these rules need to control very second of your life though. The kind of rules are going to depend entirely on what the submissive wants and needs and what fits best into the dynamic.
I’m going to divide these into life rules, protocol rules, and arbitrary rules. There is a lot of cross-over between them too, and a lot of relationships incorporate all three types. Remember, every relationship is unique and should be defined by the people in it.
Life rules involve the Dominant making rules that affect a submissive’s life outside of scenes and playtime. This can be tricky and, in my opinion, the submissive should always have input on whether they have real rules at all, and what they are. I also want to say that the Dominant should be very careful about how much control they take over the submissive’s daily life. It’s not healthy for anyone in the relationship if the sub becomes so dependent they can’t function on their own without asking permission hourly.
Ideally the rules would create a structure for the submissive to use for a healthier life overall. The majority of these rules should be designed to help with things the submissive struggles with and focus more on what they need, rather than on exciting ‘scene’ things. Though there is certainly no reason why Dominants can’t add some of those kinds of rules too, I’m just choosing to put those in the arbitrary category.
Submissives who have life rules to follow will usually find that most of them are going to revolve around being safe and healthy. Eating properly, sleeping enough, and getting work done tend to be in there, among other more specific ones, based on that particular submissive’s struggles. I highly recommend the list be made together during a discussion where the submissive can speak clearly about what they need. The Dominant, of course, will have insight to add on problems they’ve seen, but if you want rules that actually help then the submissive needs to be part of making them.
Why? Well, for one thing if a Dominant slaps down a pile of rules without the submissive’s input on what they think they need, there might just be a rebellion. The submissive will often be more focused on trying to find a way around what will feel like unfair restrictions, but it’s really hard to blow off rules that a submissive has openly admitted they need. And it’s even harder to argue that it’s not fair when they know the majority of the rules are things they said they wanted.
You can have a submissive who is grateful that you’re taking the time to help them with what they feel they need. Or you can have a submissive who feels resentment that you are forcing your own ideas of what is necessary on them—and in the end, no matter how well a Dominant knows their sub, the sub is always going to know better what they struggle with inside.
Protocol rules would involve behavior within the relationship, especially in regard to dealing with each other, or dealing with other people in the scene. People vary on how much structure and formality they want in their D/s. Many Master/slave relationships, for instance, like a strict and rigid set of behavior rules defining how the submissive behaves towards the Dominant. Some common rules in that context might be:
“You will always address me as Master.”
“You will kneel when you greet me and ask permission to speak first.”
“You will not look into my eyes without permission.”
For people who like a looser, more relaxed, relationship it can be easy to think that those rules are all about feeding the Dominant’s ego, and sometimes that can be the case, but it’s always good to remember that what you see is only one small slice of the whole picture. I know many on the bottom who love that strict formality. It touches their deepest fantasies and they thrive in it. In the end that’s what you want to see in a D/s relationship.
Other people might set up a protocol that’s simpler and the rules might be something like:
“You will call me Sir when you are being punished.”
“You will not use language I find inappropriate.”
“You will not talk back to me.”
It’s all about making it clear who’s in charge. For a lot of submissives those kinds of protocols also give them a chance to show respect and love for their Dominants in front of others.
And now the last category I’m going to discuss—
There are so many things that fall into this category and so many reasons for them that it almost wants a post of its own. Let me start by defining what I mean by ‘arbitrary’. This is a rule that is given without a clear/defined reason. It can also be a rule that comes off as kind of random or odd, especially to outsiders who may not know the reasons behind it. I should say that although rules may seem arbitrary on the surface, there are often hidden or deeper reasons for them.
The sub may or may not know why, but the Dominant usually does—even if the why is only that the Dominant wants to tug the leash. My favorite kind of rule in this category is one that is there because of a need, but the rule itself doesn’t necessarily make it obvious what that need is.
Here’s an example of an arbitrary rule in my own life: I am required to send a picture to my Dominants every day. It doesn’t really matter what the picture is of, though I have three categories to choose from and I rotate them each day. It only matters that I send the picture.
To someone on the outside it’s going to be “Okay….um, that’s silly.” Because they don’t understand the purpose. There are two reasons for this rule. The first is that I sometimes I have trouble breaking rules, even when I need to get into trouble. Being punished is a necessary thing for me on occasion, but I can’t always make myself deliberately act up and I’m never able to actually ask. I get very focused on being perfect and my stress level maintaining that can skyrocket until I finally give in and get in trouble–a lot of trouble. By giving me a random unimportant rule to break it ensures that I can get that without messing up something more essential to my health.
The second reason, and probably the more important one, is that I often have trouble telling people when I’m upset or struggling, especially if it seems like an inconvenient time to need more. By giving me a simple rule to follow that doesn’t take up much time out of my day, they are going to get some clues about how I’m doing that don’t require me to be verbal. If the picture doesn’t come for a couple of days, they know to do some checking. I’ve learned to communicate more through my choice of picture too sometimes.
When I’m able to communicate at least a little bit, I try to go a step beyond just not sending the picture, because putting all the responsibility on them to notice it didn’t come isn’t fair. And of course, it can take a few days of it not arriving for them to realize or think it’s more than just me being forgetful. So, when possible I have been known to actually say there won’t be a picture sent. Sometimes it’s a defiant “You’re not getting a picture today!” or a quiet “No picture today.” Which causes immediate questions and can be helpful in getting me to talk.
So, this rule has value on a number of levels, but only because of what it symbolizes. They could have given me any of a dozen other rules that would have fit the exact same purpose. I have a new rule in this category too that involves polishing my silver bracelet each week. It’s obviously not going to need cleaning that often, but as it’s the symbol of my submission it’s a good way for me to take a couple minutes to focus on that. I guess you could say it clears some of the clutter from my head.
Those are arbitrary seeming rules that really have a purpose, but what about ones that are just because the Dom says so? Well, examples of rules in that category could include having to ask permission to masturbate, or, as seen in the example, not wearing panties. Perhaps the Dominant doesn’t like swearing so forbids the sub to curse or hates the color purple so there’s a rule that would require his submissive not wear that color when they are together. These kinds of rules may feel like they are feeding the Dom’s ego, and they might be, but I think a lot of submissives like the occasional rule that isn’t about what they need but about their Dominants taking charge.
For a submissive the feeling of being owned is so important. Being cared for is wonderful; rules that keep a sub safe and healthy are great, but nothing says “You’re mine” like an order that is based on nothing more than your Dominant’s preferences. “This is what I want, so this is what you’re going to do.” can really make a submissive feel that collar.
While there are BDSM relationships that don’t have any rules, I find that most of those are more based on sensations only. More S&M than D/s basically. I think once you get into being dominated rules are just part of it. The key is to figure out which ones are going to enhance your experiences, and what you want to get out of your relationship. Are you just looking for sensation and titillation, or do you want a full life experience?
Personally I enjoy the whole package, but I don’t need it all. I like the arbitrary rules that make me feel owned. I need the life rules that help me focus and get stuff done. But when it comes to protocol rules, I don’t find them necessary. I like the idea of having to say ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ when I’m in trouble, as if bad behavior has lost me the privilege of being casual and sassy, but outside of scenes or punishment I no longer feel a need for formalities. G’s opinion on protocol rules is that he would rather hear me call him Sir or kneel because I want to, not because I’m required to, and I think that’s about where my head is now too.
Remember that whatever rules you decide to include in your relationship should always be open to discussion and renegotiation. People’s needs and desires change and relationships that don’t change with them tend not to last very long. Don’t get so invested in a series of commandments that you feel like they’re carved in stone, because if they don’t fit you they will quickly start to chafe.
Did I leave anything out? Any questions? Let me know in comments!
Up next, I hope, will be a snippet from the novel I’m currently working on!
Continued from: When your D/s relationship is out of the norm (part one)
Now that we’ve gone through a few different examples of D/s relationships let’s get back to my situation. I’m afraid that after giving you all those lovely descriptions, I’m not actually going to apply them to myself. They was more to open your mind to the various possibilities, so I won’t get into the exact nature of all my relationships or detail what I do and with who, because there are things we like to keep private. What I am going to do is give you a basic idea of how this works mostly by focusing on my relationship with K and W.