Sunday, October 27, 2013

Subs Don't Need "Training" but Doms Do

A few years ago, I was dating a submissive girl who lived at the other end of the state. She was delightful and adorable and apparently really kinky, but our early visits were rocky; she would express ambivalence and occasional antipathy towards me. Despite this, we kept trying to find a groove over the course of eighteen months. Along the way, she expressed an interest in "slave training"—a topic she'd encountered on BDSM forums, and discussed with other subs. I had not given any sort of training to my previous partners; I tend to develop a romance organically, and teach my partner things, about me or about herself, as needed.

Seeing a training project as an avenue to bring us closer together, I proposed that she visit me for a long weekend of specific lessons. I made a list of kink activities to introduce, a lesson plan for each, and a schedule for each day. Over four days, there would be three 90-minute sessions per day, with breaks in between. Topics included behavior basics, emotions management, kissing, oral service, bondage, pain, protocol, and submissive mindset. I even drafted an agreement for us to sign together, defining the framework of the weekend.

The four days of instruction went well, in fact better than any of our previous meetings. She struggled with a few of the lessons, but didn't become grumpy or withdrawn, a pleasant surprise. The final lesson concluded with the two of us in a calm, connected place. But the exercise did not dispel the greater issues between us; they soon resurfaced. I suspect she had wanted an experience that would suddenly demolish her internal barriers to feeling safe and connected to a lover; that would train her to be... herself. My training schedule was not nearly as intense as it could have been, but in retrospect I don't believe that any dom-imposed training regime could have accomplished what she sought.

In my opinion, all the talk in BDSM circles about "training a submissive" is wrong-headed. No standard training regime is required to be a good submissive partner. (Though many subs I've met could stand a course in how to select a worthy dom! See How to Interview a Dom/Master.) In reality, it is we doms who require the training, and not simply on how to wave a whip safely.

Doms need training, or knowledge and practice, because we assume the authority in the relationship. The ability to retain and wield authority responsibly, and consistently over time, is not innate—there are no "natural dominants". One must acquire and hone these skills, and doing so can take years. Even accurately perceiving your own words and tone as you speak can be challenging, as is choosing an effective mix of substance and style to convey a specific demand.

Although one can find workshops presented by dominant men or women describing their own experiences with D/s, there are no accredited schools for dominant lovers. Most doms therefore educate themselves, hopefully with some mentoring by other wise doms. But for most of us, we are trained by trial and error within our relationships, causing our subs and ourselves suffering when we err.

For subs, the only skills which all must master are emotional and interpersonal best practices, like clear communication, sound boundaries, managing emotions, awareness of triggers, focus in the present—which aren't specific to kinky relationships. Subs who tend to have a strong psychological subspace response should also learn to handle that (see Two Kinds of Subspace). Whatever other abilities that a particular dom desires his love to obtain can be taught at the appropriate moment as their romance unfolds.

And doms do indeed teach their subs many things, especially how to recognize and fulfill their needs & desires, and also life skills beneficial to their partners. Different doms naturally teach different lessons. But to be an effective teacher, a dom must first learn his sub; her strengths and weaknesses, how she absorbs and embraces new ideas or behaviors. Next, he must adapt his ways of instructing and guiding to her. Teaching is a lot easier if you understand how the pupil thinks and learns!

Having a mentor is the closest that most doms and subs get to actual training. The most productive mentoring relationships are dom-to-dom and sub-to-sub, although the other combinations can also work. Mentoring is largely conversational; it happens over coffee, on the phone, via the Internet. While mentoring may occur within a romance, a relationship formed for the purpose of mentoring should not become sexual, as that creates a conflict of interest for the mentor. A mentor's goal must be the growth and success of his protégé.

Some couples like to use "training" as a kinky label for getting-to-know-you activities or early BDSM sessions. These really aren't training per se, but language is a useful romantic lever, so why not "train her" if that feels hot. In the opening stages of a D/s relationship, both partners are best served by simply learning each other. Fitting any two people together, in kinky relationships as much as vanilla ones, is like doing a jigsaw puzzle; it takes time and some trial and error. A dom may need to accommodate a new sub somewhat to win her trust. Over time, she will of course accommodate him extensively as their trust deepens.

A period of immersion in D/s roles—around the clock for a weekend, a week, or even a month—may be hot and bonding for some couples. (For a case study, see Crossing the Line.) However this is not a getting-to-know-you exercise! Only couples with established mutual trust should attempt to dive in such waters.

Some would-be doms like to talk about "breaking a submissive" as a desired outcome of "training". Sadly for them, people are not horses. You cannot expect to magically level your lover's limits by putting her under sustained pressure. For many kinky couples, the practice of BDSM is indeed about finding and transcending boundaries, over time. Someone facing a boundary to be crossed must decide to do so; forcing them across is almost always damaging, to the individual and the pair.

I've heard of doms who offer general "training" for inexperienced subs. They are, from what I could tell, either players looking for easy kink, or polyamorous people seeking short-term relationships with kink newbies. The fact that a dom offering such a "service" fervently believes that it's for the benefit of the sub doesn't make it so. There's nothing inherently wrong with kinky hookups or short-term relationships, but misleading a new sub about the value of the experience is unfair, and all too common.

So my advice to subs is: "Don't seek BDSM training; work on your emotional and interpersonal skills, and seek a capable, sincere dom." And my advice to doms is: "Definitely seek education and mentoring; what you wish to achieve is hard!" A dom's responsibilities—wielding authority wisely, and teaching and guiding his partner—are not easy, and not inborn. Learning these skills takes focus and practice, and wisdom from those with some mastery of them. Becoming that to which you aspire is a long and often arduous journey.
 

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28 Comments:

At October 30, 2013 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfect timing, Will. And beautifully expressed. Breathing it in. Thinking of you. K.

 
At November 09, 2013 3:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this article. It was great to read this, rather than the typical thoughts on the matter. This is very much the approach that my Dom takes, and it confused and frustrated me at first, but it was much more effective for me when I actually began submitting to it.
Best wishes, rivkeh :-)

 
At November 30, 2013 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Will for clearing up an idea that a sub would be a weak or demure type. For this I am happy to hear. I am strong willed and thought I would not qualify... I am having a better understanding of it. Thank you again.

 
At November 30, 2013 2:04 PM, Blogger Michelle B said...

Very interesting

 
At January 28, 2014 10:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow.... I'm a "vanilla" and even I understood this. Very clear.

 
At January 28, 2014 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A wonderful article . I have bookmarked you to reread it in the future and share it with others.

ladiek

 
At February 18, 2014 8:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am getting more attracted to this lifestyle after reading 50 shades and married

 
At February 19, 2014 7:16 AM, Blogger Constanze Borgia said...

To be honest, while I agree with most of your statements, I think BDSM is something for adults, I always have a problem when submissives are automatically absolved from all responsibility.
I see BDSM as a shared responsibility, I once had a big rant about s-types forcing nonconsensual play on D-types, simply by withholding essential information deliberately, and often trying to push for play they're simply not ready for. For me consensual means that both parts are aware of the risks, and not that one of them is absolved of it. Most submissives are intelligent people, but quite a few seem to park their brains outside when it comes to BDSM.

 
At February 25, 2014 3:02 PM, Anonymous Abject Sub said...

Thank you so much for saying this! My only quibble is that the term "training" does have some meaning. Subs want to please, so the early stages of a relationship necessarily involve learning how to please one's dominant. I think this would be even more relevant for service-oriented subs than for most of us control-oriented ones (to use Raven Kaldera's distinction). But I agree that there are a lot of other kinds of teaching/learning which are more important for a responsible dominant to keep in mind.

 
At March 09, 2014 4:47 PM, Blogger Stanton Seitz said...

I really enjoyed your article. I am new to this lifestyle. I am dating someone who has some experience but not a lot. She is a Sub. Where do I look for a Dom mentor to help me? Any suggestions on good online clubs or forums? Thanks

 
At March 11, 2014 5:05 PM, Blogger Will said...

Stanton, Fetlife.com is a decent resource, with a variety of interesting discussion forums, and many fascinating (and some nutty!) profiles. It has regionally-focused forums for many metro areas; those are a good place to look for locally-connected folks. Then surf profiles by finding one that's well written, and clicking to that person's friends. With a little persistence, I think you'll find folks willing and ready to play a platonic mentoring role there.

 
At May 13, 2014 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes it is sadly true what you said about certain dom-types trying to "break their submissive!"
My first dom did a good job of that since we were both inexperienced and he just kept turning the kink-dial up a notch every, single, time.
I don't regret the extensive and laborious training it taught me everything I know but the boundary-crossing left me completely traumatized. Have had to do a lot of reading and self-help to recover since then from what can only be considered a form of sexual PTSD! It's worth it though because even so, I discovered my true self and so did he. It's just worth noting that D/s requires an education of BDSM, safewords, but most importantly trust and respect alongside clear boundaries/limits. The more you know - the more rewarding the scene will be.

10/10 for this post! :) x

 
At October 23, 2014 7:36 PM, Anonymous greedyslut said...

I would love to post a link to this in my Fetlife account. This is perfect. thanks.

 
At October 24, 2014 2:06 AM, Blogger Will said...

Please feel free to post links to my articles anywhere! I do ask that you not paste the content of the article, other than a single paragraph to provide a taste of the text.

 
At November 15, 2014 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree with you that most "training" Doms are people who just want an easy lay, that, like most things in this lifestyle doesnt always hold true.

I've had some very wonderful relationships with subs who have appreciated by more easy going style of Dominance. My patience, care, and respect are the foundation of my Dom style and some individuals have wanted me to ease them in because of it. I don't take subs lightly just because they are new, but I also don't shy away from being a teacher if there is at least a friendship connection there.

Even then, the greatest gift I can teach them is that of open communication and rule setting. Before I proceed with them, I make it explicitly clear what we are both getting into and triple check that it is acceptable to them. Acknowledging this is no different from setting the rules and boundaries of LTRs in the scene.

 
At January 08, 2015 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for another great article Will. From new Dom in need to learn fast.
By the way, doing much, much better beyond my sessions.

 
At January 09, 2015 7:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has made me think more about myself and partner. I belive I am submissive in nature and wish to explore this side of myself, with my partner as well. Thank you for your words.

 
At May 09, 2015 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question, I had just 3 conversations with a 51 yo Dom on Fet Life & he said as a task to test me..send him a photo of my pubic area. I of course didn't send it to his email. But does this sound right to you for a Dom to ask for a nude photo so quickly? I see a red flag on this matter but would like your expert opinion.

 
At May 13, 2015 3:45 PM, Blogger Will said...

Proposing to "test" you without having met in person and agreed to D/s interactions is the major red flag here. The early request for a nude photo likely indicates a guy more interested in porn than romance, although it's possible he has a particular fetish which he desires a partner to satisfy.

 
At May 19, 2015 11:07 AM, Blogger Crystal Allums said...

Sadly i only came across this blog today...an sorry if i had published this twice...im in a bit of a delima myself i have been with my bf for goin on 12 yrs an have 2 kids by him....before i met him i knew i was different but didnt know how different till 5-6 yrs ago when i met my first dom...he decided to give up on me persay since i had a bf...well i then tlked to my ooo soooo vanilla bf bout me being sub..he would try different things but didnt last an he found no pleasure in it...i hate the fact of cheating on him but this feeling, these needs, this craving is just to strong...i love him with all my heart but my submissive side is burning rapidly inside me...its soooo hard to find a dom that understands an is willing to help me....ive met a few doms that have multiple subs but thats just not fulfilling...call me selfish but thats not really wat im lookin for...i would love to find a dom that is experienced an wouldnt mind handling me...but like i said its sooo freakin hard seems like there r really fewer an fewer doms out there lol...an i wouldnt dare talK to my bf bout me finding a dom...prob tear him apart...an it saddens me to do it secretly but these feelings i have is overwhelming...any ideas or suggestions would b greatly appreciated

 
At June 03, 2015 4:51 PM, Blogger Will said...

Crystal, apologies for the slow reply. I address this issue in Why Doms & Subs Should Not Date Vanilla People.

 
At August 03, 2015 6:59 PM, Blogger Charlie'sMom said...

Hi Will. I have been enjoying your blog! I suppose I have so much to learn as there is so much of it that is new and fascinating to me. I have sort of an odd situation… I am married but also have a Dom on the side. That isn't the odd part! I'm sure lots of people do this. Although I do feel terrible about it, my husband is about as vanilla as they come. However he is a really good man and an excellent father, qualities I cherish. This Dom is also married with a family, we work together and he lives right down the street… We have no illusions of being "together", I think we both just enjoy having that secret life together and we have built some trust which has made it easier for us to open up over time. I have really relished being his sub for nearly 2 years now, however recently he has expressed interest in other kink. Things that involve me being dominant over him, cuckold fantasies and the like. I'm smart enough to know that he is manipulating me into still doing what he wants but making it seem like I'm the dominant one. If that makes any sense at all???? I'm the type that if it turns you on then it turns me on too so I've enjoyed these fetishes also. However I really miss his dominating ways and he's become sort of obsessed with the other kink... I have expressed this to him and he just keeps on going with it. It makes me wonder if he has always had this in the back of his mind as his real intention for me… My question is, is it appropriate for us to switch roles like this? Is he one of those selfish Doms I should've avoided? I love what we had.. I'm torn

 
At September 27, 2015 4:34 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I have been married 17yrs and my husband has been very weak and passive. I had tried leaving my husband several times due to incompatibility. Recently I have discovered I'm a sub and really looking for a dom. I left my husband as I was finding this out any advice?

 
At September 27, 2015 4:35 PM, Blogger Iyesha Washington said...

I have been married 17yrs and my husband has been very weak and passive. I had tried leaving my husband several times due to incompatibility. Recently I have discovered I'm a sub and really looking for a dom. I left my husband as I was finding this out any advice?

 
At October 05, 2015 12:07 PM, Blogger The Tonk. said...

Good read thanks Will.

My partner has displayed a few sub tendencies in the bedroom "yes sir/no sir/don't mind a smack on the ass". And then the 50 shades books.

I decided to give the next step a go and bought a few novelties online, tied her up etc, which she really really enjoyed. Me as the "dom" I guess, I liked it for its novelty and do have a decent kink side to me but it would have been a very amateurish fumbling effort on my behalf and I felt pretty stupid not knowing what to do or where to go next with it.
Where to next? Your blogs seem to talk about this being a lifestyle in and out if the bedroom, I'm happy being on equal footing with my girl out of the bedroom- can a Dom sub relationship only be at certain times? How could you go about it, you have mentioned a contract of sorts?
I'd like to take her along to a bdsm club but not sure her or myself are quite prepared for what we may encounter.
I'm a bit lost...

 
At October 05, 2015 3:19 PM, Blogger The Tonk. said...

Good read thanks Will.

My partner has displayed a few sub tendencies in the bedroom "yes sir/no sir/don't mind a smack on the ass". And then the 50 shades books.

I decided to give the next step a go and bought a few novelties online, tied her up etc, which she really really enjoyed. Me as the "dom" I guess, I liked it for its novelty and do have a decent kink side to me but it would have been a very amateurish fumbling effort on my behalf and I felt pretty stupid not knowing what to do or where to go next with it.
Where to next? Your blogs seem to talk about this being a lifestyle in and out if the bedroom, I'm happy being on equal footing with my girl out of the bedroom- can a Dom sub relationship only be at certain times? How could you go about it, you have mentioned a contract of sorts?
I'd like to take her along to a bdsm club but not sure her or myself are quite prepared for what we may encounter.
I'm a bit lost...

 
At December 10, 2015 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant. I made a lot of mistakes in my first role as a Dom. I hadn't even gonna looking to be one. And essentially I was being a player even though I thought I was being upfront about it. I regret how I left the person involved feeling. But it taught me that this dynamic needs careful attention. Your blog is really helpful. Thankyou.

 
At July 07, 2016 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So far, your blog has been extremely helpful compared to other sites and articles. My problem is putting it to my situation, so I hope you don't mind me asking for your opinion.

I am new to actually learning about dom/sub relationships. They always sounded great, but I only recently met my first dom. It started out wonderfully (we "worked" passed the initial awkward age gap of 26 years with no problem) and with our time of talking seemed very compatible. Once we discussed the idea of a relationship sex was a constant though. I loved all of his ideas and how he discussed it. He said he adored my brain and my body. Later abruptly ended our relationship though over an argument.

How do you know when enough questions is enough? I thought we had discussed enough but he changed during the argument. He was controlling and mean.

How do you know when you should start being physical with your dom? We didn't get actually physical yet, but we started discussing it. He said sex was a must in his long term relationships. Which didn't bother me because I like to be a sexual person, but how do you know when they are starting to soon? We had only really been talking for acouple months(2-3 I want to say) and he asked for pictures sent to his email. When we would video and ended conversations he's sometime demand for me to show my breasts. Did he move too fast?

Thank you so much again.

 

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