Saturday, December 29, 2012

BDSM Relationship Variations

BDSM glossaries aren't hard to find, but what you need to know when getting started is the most-common styles of kinky relationships.

First it's important to note: There is no correct way to practice BDSM. Any pair of partners does what works for them. Some kinky people will assert that there is One True Way to be kinky; they're wrong. That's not to say that your views shouldn't expand when you meet a thoughtful person with different ideas; if you're open-minded, no doubt they will evolve organically.

The two major themes in BDSM relationships are "dominance & submission", which implies psychology and interactions, and "sadism & masochism" or "sadomasochism", which implies activities and effects. To oversimplify, the former is more in your head and abstract, the latter in your body and concrete. Kinky relationships often contain both dynamics, but not always.

The most common variety of BDSM is as a purely sexual pursuit, e.g. both partners find it hot when the "sadist" ties up the "masochist" and then does "whatever he pleases" to her. In fact, it's whatever pleases them both; the transfer of control in this situation is a game with agreed or implicit rules. The fact that he doesn't really have sole control doesn't mean that "she's really in control" (a common misconception) — rather, it means control remains shared. The balance of control may actually shift back and forth during the game. Greater intensity, i.e. doing things that "hurt" more, does not necessarily mean that the doer has greater control!

Some jargon: The top and the bottom did a light scene. Top/bottom commonly refer to sadist/masochist roles in a sexual context. Scene refers to a session of S&M, aka kinky sex (although intercourse and orgasms are optional). Most kinky folks, but by no means all, also enjoy non-kinky sex, often termed "vanilla" sex. Some identify as a "switch" and alternate between top & bottom roles, either with the same partner, or different ones.

Perhaps the next most common style is a variation of the above where the top does take more control, and uses that power to do things to the bottom that she both does and doesn't enjoy, or even really dislikes. But she accepts such treatment because she sees her partner aroused and delighted by witnessing her in distress and submitting nonetheless. Doing this kind of scene requires more familiarity and trust between the two, because the bottom is making a sacrifice, and without meaning and purpose, sacrifice can be damaging. In a close relationship, the bottom's dislike for what she was subjected to during the scene will usually transform into satisfaction or pride after the fact. This kind of scene can be scary to both partners, but that fear can be intoxicating.

For some tops, myself included, having tasted power during sex, we begin craving more; then kink starts creeping out from under the bedroom door...

This brings us to another common relationship pattern: where a transfer of control, or dominance & submission, occurs in certain non-sexual contexts. In such relationships, a "dom" seeks influence or authority over his "sub" in small or not-so-small ways, e.g. the way she speaks to him, behaves towards him, dresses around him, even her diet, her exercise regime, her schedule planning. Typically a dom proposes specific rules, and his sub agrees or negotiates an alternative. This is called "lifestyle D/s" and the possibilities here are very broad; there are no areas which a sub should necessarily surrender or retain control over.

Some more jargon: A dom feels ownership of his sub. Here "dom" and "sub" are common shorthand for "dominant person" and "submissive person". Some like to emphasize the roles with capitalization: Dom/sub, Top/bottom, and even pronouns like He/i. (I feel this makes writing harder to read, though I do write "D/s" instead of "D/S".)

A common motivation for a lifestyle D/s partnership is creating a sense of service to the dom by the sub during everyday life, which reflects the more intense service she performs during their sexual scenes. (Note that not all lifestyle D/s relationships incorporate S&M.) Another motivation is mentoring of the sub by the dom, regarding her skills as a sub and/or general personal growth. Some D/s couples codify their intentions and obligations to each other in a written "contract" (although such a document is not legally binding).

Humans, diverse beasts that we are, contrive variations on the D/s theme: master/slave, daddy/girl, owner/pet, teacher/student. These entail rituals and/or role play — sometimes quite elaborate — in both sexual and other contexts.

Of these, master/slave bears closer inspection, as a surprising number of D/s couples identify this way. Due to the history of slavery in the Americas, this terminology is appalling to many, yet M/s couples seem to embrace the drama of that language. Despite the implication of literal ownership, M/s relationships are just as consensual as any other. Common to these relationships is a sense of continuous service by the slave to her master, and an agreement that the slave will not refuse any demand made by her master. What "continuous" means is distinct in every pairing; some slaves have demanding careers, some tend the home fires diligently, others serve as employees in the master's business.

Yet more jargon: That M/s couple has a 24/7 TPE relationship. Some kinky people present their kink roles towards their partners at all times, or 24/7. Total power exchange, TPE, is one name for a slave's agreement to fulfill any request made by her master.

A common concern of individuals new to BDSM concepts is the potential for abuse presented by an imbalance of power within a couple. Indeed, just reading profiles on kinky dating sites, it's evident that many so-called doms are in fact abusers or manipulators who've discovered that BDSM offers them camouflage. But given a partner with whom you have chemistry, communication, intimacy, trust, and aligned intentions, abusive patterns aren't a serious risk. Any D/s couple will face and work through issues in the relationship; D/s dynamics may be useful in some such circumstances, and in others not!

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26 Comments:

At January 06, 2014 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem which needs to be solved in a D/S relationship is the daily routine where my partner wants to submit to caning but, in daily routine is an absolutely domineering persona. I do everything to please him but we have huge fights over small things when I put to my partner suggestions of when what to eat, when what to watch on TV and it is a huge problem as my partner right away gets belligerent. Any suggestions?

 
At January 06, 2014 12:40 PM, Blogger Will said...

It's not uncommon for someone to be a masochist in the bedroom, and not at all submissive at other times. Have you talked with your partner about his desires and vision of an ideal relationship?

It's also not uncommon for people to have conflicting feelings and insecurities that prevent them from exploring their desires! If he's intending to be submissive around issues like eating and entertainment, but then fights opportunities to submit, you can bring that to his attention and ask him to discuss what's going on in his head and be supportive and curious. You can't change his behavior though; that's on him.

 
At June 06, 2014 1:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In BD/SM relationship, if there is a bottom looking for love, a boyfriend and a relationship is she truely a bottom?

 
At June 06, 2014 1:51 AM, Blogger Will said...

Most kinky people exercise their kinks inside a loving relationship, and the majority of those folks confine D/s to the bedroom. So yes, you can be both a bottom and a loving girlfriend!

 
At August 20, 2014 2:13 AM, Blogger Valerie Rivera said...

I'm new to this. I was asked to be a sub, and asked what this is I said yes cause I'm very interested and he excites me. So I am going to have my 1st lesson Friday with My Master. I'm sure I pretty much got it down. I'm excited coming into this. And I want to tell my experience after the fact.

 
At October 01, 2014 12:04 AM, Blogger Terry Bryant said...

Hey I am a Dom that's new to the lifestyle, but I still know tons about it. I am well aware of the difficulties of finding a nice submissive woman in the bdsm clubs, so I want to want to have access to the vanilla world too. I am aware that there are subs all around who have not come out or come out but not in the scene. What should I look for were should I hang out that could narrow my search and weed out the truly vanilla from the subs. I believe there is aLways a pattern you just have to know how to decipher it. Also I am a bit of a switch, do submissives or slaves tend to see a dominate as week if he indulges in his submissive desires every now and then. If so what is a way to combat that perception, could I train them to flip the tables on me sometimes without losing their respect? When you answer please point me to other articles or blogs on this issue, including any you might have.

 
At October 01, 2014 4:49 PM, Blogger Will said...

Hi Terry. Probably the best place to meet compatible subs is within the social circles or events that you already frequent. When flirting, it's easy to drop kinky hints, either verbally or with gentle physical gestures (moving the girl via gentle pressure on the waist, or catching her arms behind her back). Note that many subs will NOT signal a submissive inclination by their behavior in social settings; many hide it quite intentionally. I've also had good luck discovering subs via OKCupid (its questionnaire is kink-friendly), some luck on Craigslist, and occasional nibbles via the personal ads groups on Fetlife.

There are plenty of switchy girls who tend to bottom more than top, or bottom with one partner and top others. Not that many gals I've met who identify as lifestyle subs are into topping their doms, but that doesn't mean you couldn't meet someone else for a good thrashing now and then :-)

 
At November 25, 2014 11:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im new to this and I have meet someone who is very interesting and obviously wants me to submit to him but I am not really sure if I want to because I think it will only be sexual. I want to be submissive to someone but I want to be in both an emotional and a sexual relationship with my Dom. How do I ask him about this?

 
At November 26, 2014 12:00 AM, Blogger Will said...

I think these articles might help...
On Communication Within a Dom/Sub Partnership
How to Interview a Dom/Master Prospect
What to Look For in a Dom/Master

 
At February 11, 2015 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a slave in a 24/7 relationship and occasionally top my Master. We both enjoy those scenes, but I'm not dominant - it doesn't in any way change the dynamics of our relationship and I've never been led to question whether or not I am really a slave, or his slave. My Master is in no way weak, but he is human, and the fact that he occasionally likes to give up control changes nothing. In fact, we are stronger together because I get the opportunity to occasionally tap into that primal side of me.

 
At March 28, 2015 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, Will, a little advice please: I am new and trying to discover where my interest lie...I have done research (including reading your EXCELLENT blog), have spoken with several different types of doms, subs, and have actually met one in real life. He is witty, strong, and has introduced me to a variety of delicious spanking items/terms. So what's my problem? He thinks I think too much and ask more questions than he has ever heard. Yes, I am intense and wish to please, but also wish to embrace this experience fully. Any advice?

 
At March 29, 2015 5:54 PM, Blogger Will said...

"You think too much" is a criticism you should only accept from people who know you well and love you. From anyone else, it could be coercive. As for questions, ask away; they're a good way to evaluate someone's intentions and trustworthiness. A dom who won't take time to satisfy your curiosity might be just as disinterested in satisfying other needs. I suggest a long list of Q's to pose in How to Interview a Dom/Master Prospect.

 
At March 30, 2015 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the prompt answer, Will. As usual, spot on advice...perhaps the wish to experience exceeded common sense/gut instincts...and maybe a bit of "gravity"? Feeling a bit foolish, but I guess we live and we learn...a shame since it was delicious. H.

 
At April 10, 2015 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend of mind who is a dom likes to have married subs. He claims it's easier to submit to someone you are not in a relationship with. Is this true and if so can it be good for the marriage?

 
At April 11, 2015 12:52 PM, Blogger Will said...

Most of the submissive women I've spoken with (over 200) either had or desired primary partners who are kinky. Discovering one's sub side after marrying a vanilla man is a source of widespread suffering; my article Why Doms & Subs Should Not Date Vanilla People is by far the most viewed and commented one on the blog.

I have heard several reports of doms who had difficulty reconciling romance and kink in the same partnership. Perhaps it is that your friend finds it easier to dominate someone he is not in a relationship with.

 
At June 02, 2015 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I haven't rally tried anything in the D/s, but I really want to try it. My question is, I'm a girl and I would want a dominating female partner. How should I go about finding a partner? Its already difficult enough to find a girlfriend, but is it more difficult, or about the same to find a dominating one?

 
At June 03, 2015 5:41 PM, Blogger Will said...

It's probably a bit more difficult to meet dominant lesbians than vanilla ones, however awareness of kink is higher in the GLBT community than among the rest of us, so simply asking around could be a good way to meet folks. Other resources would be Fetlife, OKCupid, Craigslist, and dating sites for the LGBT crowd. See also Online BDSM Dating Tips.

 
At July 07, 2015 4:00 AM, Blogger Andiesolive said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At July 16, 2015 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I am a switch and I think I am read for a real BDSM relationship. I just don't know how or where to start. If somone could email me and give me tips, that would be magical
puddles3535@gmail.com

 
At July 29, 2015 7:19 AM, Anonymous Dutch said...

Hi Will, I'm enjoying your writings, so thanks! I've a situation going on in my relationship. I was born a kinkster, my girl isn't. In the last 1.5 years i've introduced her to many practices and shared my mind about the things i like and we can possible share. In many ways she does these things textbook style, even enjoying it. But she isn't arroused by it in any way. She can enjoy it as a mutual interest but no more than that (i'm quoting: 'not my fantasies'). Somehow i sense this when we play. It just seems not that intense for some reason. i can't pinpoint this because her personality fits the role and she takes initiative from time to time. Even to the extend surprising me by renting a professional dungeon. Any thoughts on the matter? thanks! (by the way: she's the D, i'm de s)

 
At July 21, 2016 10:40 AM, Blogger pinkpiggyash said...

I am looking forward to have my first "play" with my Daddy Dom this weekend. We have had casual sex a several times. He has always been very powerful and dominate, and me very submissive and eager to please him. Then he half jokingly called me his sex salve. After some thought I formally asked him how would he feel if I called him Daddy. He agreed. Nothing really changed much. Because he has already be calling me "baby" and "princes" before we had the formal titles. I asked him about his kinks, and we established some rules. I can't wait to live out my fantasy! I get aroused verbally easily. I get psychological high. But for me, to be able to totally submit myself to him, will mean that I absolutely love him deeply. For him… I think at least at this point, he isn't ready for a exclusive relationship. We will see how things go as we have more play dates.

 
At December 13, 2016 5:54 AM, Blogger Cass Natschiv said...

Yes. A bdsm relationship should always be built on love. My master and I learned the hard way.

 
At January 19, 2017 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Sub is in charge. full stop. period. case closed. this is not a misconception. it's actually pretty hard and cold in its veracity--if The Sub EVER does anything demanded by the dom that the Sub doesn't like, then abuse is in progress. this is how The Law sees it. try it out! no, seriously, will. try it. see what happens. what leaves the mouth of the dom as an order is merely confirmation of the pre-negotiated and agreed upon action The Sub has consented to. if the dom gives an "order" that has not been negotiated, then consent has been breached until The Sub renegotiates--a safeword need not be employed; this is still the case. The Law frowns on gaslighting and coercion, both physical, mental and emotional. if the dom gets what the dom wants out of The Sub when The Sub has not consented to it, well, then, now the dom is a criminal. so, yeah. The Sub is in charge. the dom is, at best, a service top with 'tude and at worst a rapist.

 
At February 09, 2017 3:53 PM, Blogger Will said...

You're welcome to your opinions, and by all means organize your relationships in accordance with them. But I have met a great many subs who would disagree with the substance and tone of your comment, including this point, "If the sub ever does anything demanded by the dom that the sub doesn't like, then abuse is in progress." And this one, "[A dom's] order is merely confirmation of the pre-negotiated ... action the sub has consented to."

I offer but one statement that I'd suggest is universally applicable: Any two people in a kinky relationship do what works for them. I encourage you to research the practices of consensual non-consent (CNC) and total power exchange (TPE), if you're inclined to learn more. The depth and breadth of kinks and behaviors which humans find fulfilling and sustainable might astound you.

I don't assert that abuse is not an issue in D/s relationships (see Crossing the Line: Where Kink Becomes Abuse) but it's no less an issue in the vanilla world.

 
At February 18, 2017 3:55 PM, Anonymous Bweeps said...

No, every person has a little of both

 
At March 14, 2017 5:37 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

A sub that does things she doesn't exactly like but does them for her Dominant, feels her submission go deeper, which is a good thing.

 

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