“what is the difference between domineering and dominant?”

Some great questions are showing up in my search terms lately ūüėÄ Thanks internet randos!

First of all someone can definitely be both dominant and domineering. Just like it’s possible to be dominant and abusive at the same time, they’re not mutually exclusive. Calling it bdsm doesn’t magically make it not abuse, and convincing someone to agree to it doesn’t magically make it not abuse either.

That said, I think there is a difference between being domineering and being dominant. Maybe not as much difference as kinky people might like to pretend there is, but I do think there’s a difference.

Let’s start with the dictionary definition of domineering. According to dictionary.com it’s “to rule arbitrarily or despotically; tyrannize.” Well, doms can be pretty arbitrary, and a 24/7 total power exchange relationship could certainly look tyrannical. To go a little further into that definition, a despot is “a king or other ruler with absolute, unlimited power; autocrat.” Gee I can’t think of anyone who would want absolute power ūüėČ

So what’s the difference? Depending on your definition of dominant and whether you have a laundry list of bad experiences, there may not be one. My personal definition of dominant is “has dominant desires” i.e. likes being in charge in personal relationships, which isn’t actually imcompatible at all with being a domineering asshole. Being a good dom, on the other hand, takes more than just having certain desires. To be a good dom, you have to care enormously about the happiness and wellbeing of your sub, and that’s the difference between domineering and dominant.

Also, domination is supposed to be about freely given control/authority, whereas domineering jerks don’t care¬†whether or not you want to give them control. They only care about whether they can take it.

Of course, there’s some¬†grey area there. Some people find “force” really hot, and not to be an asshole, but not all of those people are great at telling the difference between fantasy and reality. And of course, not everyone communicates especially well, which, you know, can go poorly when you want to do things that are as difficult and easy to screw up as¬†d/s where you’ve handed over a lot of control.

Not to mention many many people just aren’t compatible with each other. If a submissive isn’t interested in giving up as much control as their dom¬†wants to have that doesn’t necessarily make them a bad dom, it just makes the two of them incompatible. Now, if that dom tries to force their sub to give up more control than they’re comfortable with, that’s definitely domineering.

This may not be hugely helpful, but I think it’s less important to be able to decide whether someone is dominant or just domineering than it is to figure out whether or not you’re happy. You don’t have to have an airtight case to break up with someone, there’s no breakup tribunal. If you’re unhappy, you get to leave. You don’t have to prove¬†anyone is a bad person to be allowed not to date or play with or submit to them. Not being into them is enough.

Is domination learnable?

After my last post, obviously I have to write a followup about domination :p

Honestly my advice is largely the same as in my post about whether submission is learnable: both doms and subs need to know what they actually want, they both need to know who they are and what they can deal with, they both need to be able to control themselves when they’re having strong feelings, and they both need to be able to communicate well.

For doms it’s probably even more important than for subs to have a handle on your emotions. Nobody submits to someone whose opinion they don’t care about, which means you have enormous power as a dom to emotionally crush¬†your submissive by losing patience¬†when you’re having a bad day. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck when your submissive has a shitty day and takes it out on you, but submissive people make themselves incredibly vulnerable to their doms and you have a duty to take good care of them.

Just like giving up control is a thing you can practice, so is taking control. I promise you nobody is amazing at that the very first time they try dominating someone. It is totally normal to feel tentative at first and to check in a lot and worry about whether all that checking in is ruining the mood and generally feel like a total dork. That feeling eases up a lot as you get more practice, which is why I say taking control is a learnable skill. I’m not sure a person can learn to want to take control, but if you do want to you can get better at it with practice.

Same with accepting service. It might seem silly to call that a skill, but it’s actually really hard to get used to when you’ve been raised in a society that says your purpose in life is to do things for others (especially men), not to let people do things for you, who do you think you are you lazy bitch what do you mean you asked your husband to bring you a cup of tea he’s going to leave you for a woman who actually cares about him. Ahem. Giving orders is very commonly hard for people in the exact same way – we’re basically trained from birth to hint and hope because what kind of domineering bitch straight up tells people what to do?

As a bit of a side note here, being a dom does not mean you have to learn to accept service or to give orders or to do anything that doesn’t do it for you, no matter how many assholes say you aren’t a real dom if you don’t ____. Fuck them, do what makes you happy. I’m only saying that¬†nobody starts out amazing or even particularly good at those things and you can get better with practice.

And finally, self confidence is also learnable – well, buildable anyway. Unconfident people can certainly have dominant desires, but I think they should work on their self confidence because it’s not the submissive’s job to do all the work of convincing you that you’re good enough to dominate them. I firmly believe that if you want to have a submissive of your very own you’ve got to hold up your end of the bargain and part of that is inspiring¬†your submissive to submit to you.

Come to think of it I wish I’d made a similar point in that last post about submission, because constantly reassuring your submissive that they’re good enough to submit to you isn’t any fun either. I can definitely understand how male submissives in particular are at a disadvantage there and that going against everything society says about what a man is supposed to be can do a number on your self esteem, but that’s also beyond the power of your dom to fix.

Of course hard¬†skills like throwing a flogger or tying a knot are learnable too, nobody comes out of the womb good at those. Those are a lot easier to learn (well, it’s easy to learn enough to have a fun scene, I know you can spend a lifetime perfecting your rope technique) than the squishy soft skills I’m talking about here though, and basically everyone recognizes them as a) skills at all, and b) as important skills you should have. I wish we all talked more about the soft skills involved in being dominant or submissive instead of buying into the myth that a real ____ is magically good at all of those skills with no practice and people who need practice can’t possibly be a real ____.

Readers, what soft skills do you think are important?

Is submission learnable?

As much as the idea of¬†training as a universally recognized path to Doing Submission Correctly irritates the shit out of me, I do actually think that some parts of submission can be practiced. To be entirely clear,¬†the fetishy idea that there is such a thing as The Marketplace and one correct way to submit and you just have to learn the right way to kneel, the right way to beg, and you’re set forever is completely ridiculous. That is how scenes work, but that is not even slightly how relationships work and I really wish people could keep that shit straight.

When I talk about submission being learnable, I am absolutely not talking about anything anyone would ever jerk off to in any situation ever. I’m talking about¬†boring relationship skills that take work to learn and that don’t get anyone off.

Now that everyone who thinks that submission is exclusively about what gets them off is gone, let’s talk about specific skills.

The first and most important thing you can learn is who you are and what it is you really want. One thing that will come in handy here is a BDSM checklist. Yep, checklists sound boring don’t they. Do it anyway. One of the big strengths of checklists is that they include stuff you had never thought about, which is really useful when you’re trying to work out what you want and what you don’t. One of many things that particularly annoys me is when “submissive” guys¬†act shocked and surprised that a dom is interested in something that doesn’t make his dick hard. You can parially avoid that by finding a comprehensive list of kinks, thinking about each one of them, figuring out which ones you would ever want to do, and more importantly, accepting that there are kinks that don’t turn you on. You should never ever treat it as a terrible surprise that a woman is interested in something that you aren’t. Women are people and have their own desires, etc, etc.

Another thing I highly recommend, and which I stole directly from Ferns, is to literally write down your idea of an ideal normal day with your partner. If you don’t have a partner, this is going to be a little bit harder, but try to imagine a reasonable human being who doesn’t live to fulfil your fantasies and has a job and hobbies and friends and maybe wants to see her family now and then. The key here is to think about a normal day, not like day 3 of your most intense fantasy of 24/7 slavery or whatever. When you get up in the morning, what happens? Do you get up early to make coffee for your partner and bring it to her in bed? Are you the least morning-person ever to hate mornings? In that case maybe you stay up after she goes to bed to set up the coffee maker so she only has to hit one button before she gets into the shower. What happens when you get home from work? Do you get started on dinner right away so she can have a nice meal when she gets home? Do you get home after she does and take the dog for a walk so she can make dinner without worrying about that? Do you check in before you leave work and see if she needs you to pick anything up on the way home? Do you wait for her to give you permission before you start eating? Do you keep it strictly vanilla until after dinner or until bedtime? Does she control small choices like what you wear to work or does she want you to take care of the little things so she doesn’t have to worry about them? Do you check in with her during the way, or do you both concentrate on your work? No judgement from me either way, but you want to be on the same page about that. Personally I like some contact with my partner throughout the day but I can in no way be bothered to give him permission to use the bathroom or go for lunch or have another cup of tea.

For me, micromanagement is so much more work than I’m interested in. For another person, that may be how she shows love and how she likes to run her relationships. That’s why it’s important to figure out what you want, so you can tell people what you want, look at what they want, and figure out if there’s any chance at all you might be compatible. Knowing what you want is absolutely essential to communicating clearly with a potential partner, and communicating clearly with a potential partner is absolutely essential to actually having a happy d/s relationship.

Another thing that’s possible to practice is letting someone else be in charge. You can do it at work, right? And you’ve definitely accepted assignments from your teachers, whether that was in high school or college/university. It is a bit of a leap to accepting orders in a personal and/or romantic relationship, but¬†that just takes practice. It’s not exactly the same thing, but theoretically it should be possible to practice taking orders with people who aren’t your dom. Think about what lets you do it in some situations and see what you can apply to taking orders from your dominant girlfriend.

It’s entirely unsexy, but something that could really help is meditating on a regular basis. No seriously, a big part of meditation is watching your thoughts as they pass by and learning that you don’t necessarily have to do anything about it just because you had a thought. You can figure out how this would apply to submission, right? Just because you have a reaction to an order in the moment doesn’t mean you need to freak out about it, maybe you just need to sit with it for a minute and think about whether it’s really you who has a problem with it or whether it’s just societal programming that says men should always be in charge or whether it’s just weird for you to take orders outside of your fantsies and you need a little practice.

Communication skills are also immensely useful. Not sexy, but useful, which I think is why they come up so rarely. One way to learn better communication skills is to learn about non-violent communication. In an emotionally charged situation, it can be really helpful to talk strictly about how you feel about another person’s actions and not make value judgements about those actions. There’s plenty of other advice about communication skills online if you google it. If non-violent communication doesn’t do it for you that doesn’t mean there isn’t something out there that will work better. And to be clear, NVC only works when everyone involved has good intentions. People can and do use NVC to be total douchebags and you need to be aware of that and to stand up for youself. If someone uses whatever communication skills or SJW language they have to make you feel like you’re a terrible person, ask youself why they’re still spending time around you if you’re so terrible. Hint: the answer is they want to control you.

To summarize, know thyself, understand that kinks that don’t do it for you exist, practice giving up control, mediate, and learn to communicate. None of those are sexy but I promise they’ll get you a lot farther toward finding a partner and having a happy relationship than babbling on about “training” as if that’s an actual thing that exists outside The Marketplace.


Fantasy, reality, and mismatches

As I was reading a thread about people immediately demanding submission in that one Fetlife group I like,¬†I had a thought. Well, a couple of related thoughts. 1) I thinking roleplaying online is perfectly fine as long as it’s clear that’s what you’re doing, and 2) I think a big chunk of what makes people miserable trying to find a kinky partner is mixing up roleplayers and realists.

To recap the original post from that thread, the OP was curious if it’s normal and accepted or something that’s just brushed off as silliness or what when somebody puts stuff on their profile like “Anyone who wishes to speak with me will address me as Goddess/Mistress/High Grand Poobah”. Most of the replies were “yeah, that’s ridiculous, but at least they make it obvious that they’re not compatible with reasonable human beings who are looking for a dominant girlfriend” and some touched on the roleplaying aspect.

That is, a few commenters mentioned that some people are really just on Fetlife (or actual dating sites) to roleplay. I keep forgetting that’s a thing because I’m personally uninterested in it, but you know, as long as you’re honest about being a roleplayer I think it’s perfectly fine. People do all sorts of weird and sometimes shitty things, in comparison what’s the harm in a little make-believe?

I think the key is “as long as you’re honest about it.” Sure, I know it’s really really common for admitting it’s a fantasy to ruin the fantasy, but that’s just too fucking bad.¬†Everybody who plays dungeons and dragons somehow manages to have a good time even though they all know there’s no such thing as elves, orcs, dragons, or wizards and that they’re not actually going to pack up and go on a quest to slay a demon. Of course, admitting it’s just roleplay is just one part of the “be honest” problem.

The other part is having enough self awareness to even know that you’re a roleplayer.¬†We’ve all seen the sad, whiny threads started by guys who just can’t figure out why no one online is “real” (oh, the irony), by which he means interested in acting out his fantasy to his exact specifications. Because he can never find someone who can read his mind, he’s never going to take things offline, at least not with anyone he isn’t paying handsomely to put up with his shit. These guys probably think they want a dominant girlfriend but because no actual human being can ever be perfect enough for them, they’re effectively roleplayers and dishonest ones at that.

And then there are people who are convinced everyone is a roleplayer and nobody actually meets in person and does this stuff. That would just be weird! Why would they need to tell people they’re not interested in taking things offline when obviously nobody else¬†really is either?¬†I’ll admit here that I’ve failed at the other side of that: it would never occur to me to mention on my profile that I’m not a roleplayer because why on earth would someone bother putting up a profile that said they were open to meeting people if they weren’t, you know, interested in meeting people?

Whether it’s outright douchebaggery or just a sad lack of any self awareness, roleplayers and people who actually want to form real life relationships seem to clash a lot when they don’t realize they want such different things. Take for instance the hypothetical dom in the thread that inspired this post, she’s (if she is in fact a she) obviously not looking for a relationship based on mutual respect, she’s looking for a little hot chat and possibly your credit card number. If you realize she’s a roleplayer and enjoy a little creative writing yourself, no problem! But if you believe you’re ever going to meet her in real life or see a movie or talk about your favourite books, you’re going to be thoroughly disappointed.

Another version of that clash is when a submissive roleplayer messages a dominant realist and ends up horribly surprised that she’s so pissed he’s never actually going to meet her for coffee. Isn’t it obvious I have a wife/girlfriend and I’m not going to leave her for some weirdo pervert? What do you mean people actually do this stuff in person? Why is this crazy lady suddenly so angry at me? What’s this world coming to?!!!

So how do you sort out roleplayers from realists so you can pursue your own kind?

Well, ideally I’d like roleplayers to admit it outright on their profiles. If they can’t do that, at least be openly ridiculous enough that people who are looking for an in-person girlfriend type relationship will steer clear. Which our hypothetical dom did, so good on her ūüôā And to be fair to roleplayers, realists should try to make that clear on their profiles too. Skip the yelling about “No timewasters!” though, that just makes you sound too dumb or too desperate to figure out someone isn’t compatible with you.

You can also read people’s profiles carefully, which you should be doing anyway. Do they sound like they stepped out of your favourite video? Then they’re either a roleplayer or have no idea what they’re doing, steer clear. Is their profile all about what turns them on?¬†You can safely assume that’s either all they want to talk about or they’re so bad at communicating that you should steer clear anyway. Or for the roleplayers, is their profile all about who they are as a person as if that matters? They’re a realist, you’ll just make each other unhappy. Is there next to nothing about their kinks on the profile? They probably don’t want to talk about their turnons with random strangers, you’re not going to get what you want from them.

It’s not bad to be a roleplayer, and it’s not bad to be a realist, but it is a dick move not to be honest about which one you are. Don’t be a dick, okay?

Another take on self-acceptance

Recently I got a nice message from a reader about self acceptance and¬†figured that’s as good an excuse as any to write about something I’ve been thinking about anyway. Unlike some sadists, I’ve never worried very much about whether I’m evil or profoundly disturbed or going to end up a serial killer or something. I do sometimes get a little anxious after scenes and need to be reassured that the specific person I played with had a good time and still likes me, but I’ve never had that “shit, am I evil?” fear that¬†isn’t exactly unknown among sadists.

So like I’ve said earlier, I had a shitty childhood. And weirdly, I think that’s connected to my lack of fear that being a sadist means I’m evil. My theory is that¬†experience, as shitty as it was, gave me a clearer picture of what an actually seriously bad person looks like than most people get.

It seems pretty clear to me that I only want to play with people who want to go there with me. That’s where the magic happens for me – I think it’s a sweet gesture and very meaningful if someone who doesn’t like pain chooses to endure it for me, but what I really love is flogging someone who does the happy masochist dance and asks for more. I¬†care a whole lot about whether they have a good time and if they got to go where they wanted to emotionally and if they want to play with me again. I ask people what kind of aftercare they like and tell them what kind of aftercare I like. That just doesn’t match up at all with my experiences of actually bad people.

If you’re worried about whether you’re a bad person, well a) you’re probably not because serious assholes do not, in my experience, ever consider the possibility they could be assholes, and b) read about actual bad people in the news. You’re not like them if you care at all about your play partners.

While I’m at it, nobody fucking cares what kind of fucked up shit you fantasize about. There is no such thing as a thought crime! You’ve got to be fucking careful if you try to act out, say, an abduction fantasy, but just jerking off to that idea or thinking about doing it (carefully!) for real doesn’t make you a bad person. I’d also prefer that people into problematic kinks like forced feminization just fucking admit that those kinks are problematic and prove they actually do respect women by treating them like actual people whose needs, wants, likes, and dislikes actually matter, but simply fantasizing about something does not make you a bad person. It may mean I personally have no patience for you, but it doesn’t mean you’re irredeemably terrible. Just don’t fucking tell me about how you’re sure that forced femme isn’t misgynistic because a) it is and b) fuck off.

It’s true you can effectively be a bad person without having any bad intentions by being a thoughtless dumbass, but if you’re worrying about whether or not you’re a good person then being thoughtless is probably not the problem you’re having ūüôā

And for submissive people in particular, especially submissive men, how on earth are you harming anyone¬†by being submissive? You can certainly be harmful by being a dick to people who don’t dominate you the way you want to be dominated and blaming them for it, but if you’re not actually being a jerk to anyone then what the fuck is the harm in being submissive?

I know society in general (and many people in it) says submissive men¬†that you’re bad men and failures and nobody will ever love you. If you’re not hurting anyone, the people judging you can fuck right off. You are the grownup now, you get to decide what manliness means to you¬†(link goes to obligatory XKCD comic, which you should really read because that one is especially great). Not giving a shit what haters think of you is super manly by any definition, so you do you. Being submissive is also pretty fucking badass: it means you’re attracted (assuming you’re straight) to the kind of women that average guys would run away from crying. Plenty of men like the idea of a “dominatrix” in the sense of a woman who will dress up in leather or latex and get on top. Far fewer men can deal with a woman who has ideas of her own and won’t do what he tells her just because he’s a man.

But even aside from that, if you’re feeling shitty about yourself, just think about what you learned about what it means to be a good person when you were little. Do you¬†treat people well? Even in situations where you could get away with being a jerk to the barista? Do you try to do good in the world? Are you kind to animals? Do you give to charity if you have something to spare? Do you try not to be an asshole if you can avoid it? Then anyone judging you needs to spend more time worrying about whether they are a good person and less time getting up in your business.