Emotionally Responsible Submission - by Mistress Ophira


By: Mistress Ophira

To an outsider, it may appear that the Dominant partner in a D/s relationship is the one who carries all the responsibility: the submissive consensually surrenders aspects of control to their partner, and it is the Dominant's responsibility to wield this control with compassion and wisdom rather than abuse it. However, just as a submissive should never be expected to offer their submission to a Dominant who practices BDSM irresponsibly, we too run the risk of expending our energy on relationships with submissives who are irresponsible in their submission. This short list summarizes some of my thoughts, and common topics which have arisen in conversations with dominant friends over the years, on what we need and want from submissive partners in order for the D/s dynamic to be emotionally sustainable and mutually beneficial.

1: Consent Is for Everyone

When we think of abuse in BDSM communities, we tend to think of Dominants who try to use BDSM as an excuse for predatory or violent behavior. This issue is a gravely serious one, and all too common in our communities. However, submissives can and do violate the boundaries of Dominants as well. These issues can sometimes be more insidious in relationships because they can be hidden under the optics of a D/s dynamic. When a person's hand is around your throat, it may require some mental acrobatics to try to conceptualize them as vulnerable. Likewise, it may be difficult for a Dominant to admit that they were pressured or manipulated into doing something which they didn't want to do. The expectation that a “real” Dominant can and should be in control at all times can lead to Dominant people self-blaming if their boundaries are violated, or simply refusing to admit that they were harmed.

Submissives violating consent could come in many forms, from subtle or overt guilt tripping to unsolicited, non-consensual acts of submission. I have received my fair share of these, from random strangers trying to open a conversation with “I am your slave” to entitled assholes claiming that if I were a “real Mistress” I would do what they wanted. When I was young and new to D/s dynamics, I dated someone who would submit to me in public without consent [for example, grovelling at my feet] as well as bringing up our kink life in front of vanilla people in order to fulfill his own exhibitionist desires. These things not only violated my consent; they also violated the consent of people outside of our relationship by involving them in our dynamic. The relationship ultimately ended because of this.

At the core of it, many Dominants are essentially people-pleasers. We can be intensely invested in the happiness of those who submit to us. This becomes unsustainable if we venture into the territory of violating our boundaries for a submissive. If your Dominant says that they feel apprehensive about something, be conscious of pressuring them, even if that pressure is unintentional. In any type of relationship the people involved are not obligated to meet each others every need, and D/s relationships are no exception.

2: Know Thyself

Be honest about your wants and needs from the outset: if you begin a relationship with a Dominant who only wants casual play with the expectation that they will eventually change their mind and collar you, this is dishonest. If you prefer monogamous relationships and start seeing a polyamorous Dominant with the expectation that they will eventually become monogamous to you, this is dishonest. Take time to carefully consider what you need in a relationship, and clearly state this when you start seeing someone new. When you know which needs are uncompromisable to you, don't settle for anything less. Reflect on your insecurities and emotional baggage. Ask yourself what triggers feelings of rejection, jealousy, or self-doubt, and investigate why. Learning to embrace your own self worth is not always an easy task, but it is absolutely necessary if we wish to be able to communicate and assert our boundaries. Any dynamic without this type of communication will ultimately bring unnecessary pain to everyone involved. If asserting boundaries and voicing needs is something which you have struggled with in the past, you can request that your Dominant encourage you to nurture these skills. In the long run, it will benefit both of you.

3: It Can Be as Physically Demanding for Us as It Is for You

Although we may not be the ones bearing the actual welts and bruises after a scene, domination can take a physical toll. Whether it's standing in heels for a prolonged period, repetitive motions associated with impact play, or the energy expenditure it takes to physically overpower another person, some activities are nothing short of an intense workout. For myself and many other Dominants I have talked with, a love for the more physically demanding aspects of BDSM must be balanced with rest and recovery. If your Dominant deals with any type of chronic pain or illness, or has a physically demanding job or lifestyle, this is something to be especially mindful of. Being unable to do the intensity or frequency of play that we might like to because of a prolonged illness, injury, or general fatigue, can be a depressing experience (not to mention damaging to the ego). Try not to sulk or engage in any guilt tripping when this is the case-- instead, try thinking of ways you can help them restore their energy between scenes.

4: We Are Only Human

Non-consensual objectification can encompass a broad range of views and actions, whether intentional or otherwise, which deny a person's full humanity-- and yes, flaws and imperfections are part of being human. While in theory it may sound flattering to be viewed or treated as an actual God/Goddess/Deity, when fantasy overshadows the simple fact that your Dominant is still a person it can create an unhealthy dynamic based on unrealistic expectations. Life inevitably throws all of us a curve ball every now and then, and chances are if you are in a long-term relationship with your Dominant, you will see them go through periods of stress, grief, and defeat. While this may be difficult if it was the person's seemingly imperious strength that attracted you to them in the first place, or you relied on them as a stabilizing factor in your life, don't let this make you feel disillusioned; see it as an opportunity to gain a deeper intimacy. There are plenty of ways for a sub to bring comfort to a struggling Dominant partner without compromising a D/s dynamic-- even if it comes down to just giving them some space.

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