Dominant vs Domineering

In the kink scene (particularly online) it’s not unusual to hear that so-and-so isn’t dominant, they’re just domineering. But what does that really mean?

According to, domineering means:

inclined to rule arbitrarily or despotically; overbearing; tyrannical: domineering parents.

and dominant means:

ruling, governing, or controlling; having or exerting authority or influence: dominant in the chain
of command.

While isn’t talking about dominance in the kinky sense, there is still something there to work with. Domineering and dominant both involve ruling, but being domineering also involves a lack of interest in the well being of whoever you might be in charge of.  Or to put it another way, you might be domineering if it has never occurred to you that submissive people submit because it turns them on, not because it turns you on, as an awesome commentor on xojane put it.

Dominance in the kinky sense is supposed to be a symbiotic exchange. It may not always be obvious what everyone is getting out of it, and it may not always be pretty or comfortable, but everyone involved should be getting their needs met. It makes me sad that I have to spell that out, but I’ve seen far too many questions in groups like Novices & Newbies to assume that everyone understands that the dominant is supposed to care about their submissive, and that you should feel good after a scene. If your dom acts like you aren’t supposed to have any needs of your own, that asking for your needs to be met is completely unreasonable of you, then you’ve probably found someone who is just domineering, not dominant.

While some people are blatantly domineering jerks who shouldn’t be in charge of a goldfish, there’s enough grey area between dominant and domineering for the distinction to be pretty confusing. I’ve certainly seen plenty of personal ads from men who insist that they really do want a woman to use them however she likes without worrying about what they get out of it. Even though I’m pretty sure most of these men are lying to themselves or are unclear on the difference between fantasy and reality, there could well be a few of them who just want someone who will let them serve without getting uncomfortable with it and insisting on doing things for them. The perfect dom for one of them might be someone else’s lazy jerk. If someone’s style of dominance isn’t right for you, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad dom.

The most important judge of whether someone is dominant or just domineering is the submissive who’s dealing with them, whether that’s an email flirtation or an established in-person relationship. If you feel used, does it really matter if I think your dom isn’t so bad? If you’re happy, does it really matter if I can’t fucking stand your dom?

And for the doms out there, while it’s not the end of the world if one person calls you domineering, I think it’s a good idea to keep this saying in mind:

The first time someone calls you a horse you punch him on the nose, the second time someone calls you a horse you call him a jerk but the third time someone calls you a horse, well then perhaps it’s time to go shopping for a saddle.

Things I wish someone had told me when I was a noob, part 1 of many

When I first started lurking at the edges of the kink scene, I thought I was a strictly a top, not a dom. Eventually I figured things out, but I would’ve done that a lot sooner if I had been able to read Fernsamazing post about how she handles it when her submissive says no about six years ago. Note: the rest of this post will make very little sense if you haven’t read Fern’s post.

The reason that post would’ve been so helpful is that I thought if I was a “real” dom, I’d just magically know exactly what to do if I told my submissive to do something and he said no. Since I had no fucking idea how to handle that, I just assumed I wasn’t meant to be a dom. In hindsight that’s pretty silly, but it’s what I thought when I first got into the scene.

Somehow, I never made the connection between saying no in a d/s relationship and doing something equally disrespectful in vanilla relationship. To quote Ferns:

In my relationships, this is a signal that there is something really wrong. It is the vanilla equivalent of him saying ‘Fuck off!’. It is hugely hurtful and awful and I completely understand why dominants struggle with it. [emphasis mine]

Of course new doms struggle with how to deal with someone suddenly throwing out the agreements they made about submitting! Would you expect a teenaged girl to magically know how to handle it if her first boyfriend tells her to fuck off when she asks him if he wants to go for a walk with her? Of course not! But I had the idea that d/s relationships were somehow fundamentally different from vanilla relationships, so it never occurred to me that my submissive saying no to me is breaking his agreement to behave a certain way, and that’s at least as much his fault as it is mine. If the dom does a bad job of communicating expectations that certainly doesn’t help, but if the sub just says “No” when he means “Wait, what? I thought we were taking a break from the d/s thing since we’ve both been so busy at work”, then it’s not solely the dom’s fault when things go wrong.

I also had the idea that it’s the dom’s and only the dom’s job to make a d/s relationship work. To quote Ferns’ again:

I think some submissives cannot get their head around the fact that D/s takes two people. As a dominant, I CANNOT be second guessing whether he will do what I want or not, I need to trust him to submit.

I’m sure the whole d/s thing would be a lot easier for many submissives if they didn’t have to take any responsibility for holding up their end of the agreement, but that’s just not how it works. I can’t make a d/s dynamic work all by myself. I need my submissive to, you know, submit. I understand that it’s not easy for everyone to submit, and some people just find a “How about you make me” dynamic more fun, but I’m not here to take the blame for not being dominant enough when the problem is really that my submissive doesn’t really want to submit to me. Maybe he’s more interested in bottoming than submitting, maybe our styles just don’t mesh well, but either way, pissing on the agreement he made is not the way to get what he needs out of the relationship.

If there’s anyone else out there who doesn’t know what to do when their submissive says no, you’re not alone. You’re not a bad dom either. It’s not your job to hold up the dynamic all by yourself, no matter what all the porn tells you.

More is always better, right?

Just like there are people who think that having control over more parts of their submissive’s life, or memorizing more slave positions or having more elaborate protocols means they’re somehow more dominant, there are people who think more extreme or harder play somehow makes them more kinky, or better at being kinky.

So we’re clear, that’s all total bullshit. Even if we could measure and compare how dominant people are in any meaningful way, it wouldn’t fucking matter. What matters is whether you enjoy your power exchange, not whether some random dickbag thinks you’re domly enough. Same with how intense your play is. If pushing your limits, challenging your friends, or wowing a crowd is what does it for you, great! If you’re doing especially showy, intense play because you have something to prove, why bother? Isn’t kink supposed to be about getting your desires met, not going along with what everyone tells you about what you’re supposed to like?

Not only is it kind of sad and pointless to play for other people instead of for your own joy, but judging people’s play by your standards of intensity is just fucking stupid. For an experienced needle bottom, taking three needles is probably nothing. For a life-long needle-phobe, those three needles may be more intense than a beating that leaves them black and blue. For someone who has only just started to accept that he’s kinky, three needles might be scarier than the thought of picking up and moving across the country. If you aren’t intimately familiar with everyone involved in a scene, there’s no way you can accurately judge how intense it is for them.

Given that judging how intense other people’s play is basically impossible and would still be totally pointless even if it was possible, why do we still do it? I think it’s just the nature of social animals to compete for social standing. We all want to impress the people around us, we all want to be one of the cool kids, and it’s easier to wow people with a flashy suspension than it is to wow them with the emotional intensity of a subtle, psychological scene.

However, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it. It’s natural for me to be extremely irritable when my blood sugar gets too low, but that doesn’t give me a free pass to say whatever I want to people when I’m hungry. Instead of just talking about the flashy, obviously intense scenes (which I’m just as guilty of as anyone), let’s talk about the fun, lighthearted scenes too. And the quiet, intimate scenes, and the scenes where it’s not necessarily obvious that the players are pushing their limits. If we want people to stop thinking that the more extreme you are the better, we have to stop acting like that’s the only way to get attention.

Pride and Assholes

Happy Pride Day, everyone! Being the ragey person I am, I’m delighted by a celebration that’s basically a huge middle finger raised to everyone who’s enough of a douchebag to believe that there’s anything wrong with not being straight. While I realize that the LGBT community in general and pride parades/pride week celebrations in particular aren’t perfect, I really love the core message of “Fuck you, I refuse to be ashamed of who I am”.

What I really, really don’t love are the ignorant assholes who whine about how there’s no straight pride parade. That’s because we don’t fucking need one, you stupid fucks. Here are just a few things I’ve never had to worry about, just because I had the dumb luck to be straight:

  • I have never had to worry about being thrown out of my home because I’m dating a man. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “20% of homeless youth are LGBT. In comparison, the general youth population is only 10% LGBT.”
  • I’ve never had to worry that I’ll get beaten up because I’m straight.
  • I’ve never had to worry that I’ll lose my job because of the gender I’m attracted to. It’s still legal to fire people for being gay in 29 states, and for being transgender in 34 states.
  • I’ve never had to worry about being kicked out of a club or volunteer organization for being straight. The Boy Scouts of America only recently decided that as of January 1st, 2014 they’ll stop kicking out gay kids, if they have to, they guess.
  • I’ve never had to worry that because of my sexuality I might be turned away if I need help from a homeless shelter or foodbank.
  • I’ve never had to worry I’ll be kicked out of my church (if I had one) if they found out I was straight.
  • I’ve never been told that being straight is a sin, or that I’ll go to hell, or that I should spend my entire life celibate.
  • I’ve never had to worry that people will treat me differently if they find out the gender of the person I’m dating.
  • If anything happens to me or my partner, I know that no one would be so inhumanly cruel as to keep us apart because we’re straight.
  • If I get married, I’ll still be legally married if I move to another province or country.
  • Slang terms for my sexuality are not used as insults.

The pride parade is a form of pushback against that oppression. Straight people are not oppressed for being straight, therefore the only parade you whiny little shits are going to get is someone playing the world’s saddest song on the world’s tiniest violin. If the biggest problem in your life is that you don’t get a parade in your honour, you have it pretty fucking good. Shut your face and be grateful.