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 Ferns‘ amazing 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.