Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kink 101, Part 3: The Power to Surrender

This is the third in a six part series on kink. In this series, we will discuss the following topics:
8/16: Introduction to kink
8/17: Sadomasochism
8/18: Dominance and Submission
8/19: Abuses of Power
8/20: Your Kink Is OK
8/21: Safely Expressing Extreme Fetishes

Like many of the topics I am approaching in this series, dominance and submission (the DS in BDSM) is a large and complex topic which I will only scratch the surface of in this article. This article is intended to be a general overview of the topic. As always, I am happy to explore any topic of interest to my readers in deeper detail.

Dominance and submission is the voluntary surrendering of power from the submissive to the dominant. This transfer of  power can be for a single scene or it can be for a 24-7 relationship. The level of power transferred also varies from one relationship to another. In some cases, it is simply a matter of attitude, in others the submissive expresses their submission by allowing the dominant to control anything from choice of clothing to restricting the use of certain words in their vocabulary.

Dominick says: While the popular image of a Dom is a person dressed in leather with a bullwhip, dominance is a mental state, not a style of dress. A dominant can be dominant in a business suit, a leather suit, or a birthday suit. Attire and equipment can augment the image, but the force of dominance comes entirely from within the dominant.

The most important thing to understand is that a healthy Ds relationship exists within a few boundaries:

Revocable Consent - The submissive is willingly and knowingly surrendering power to the dominant. The submissive also has the power to revoke the dominant's power at any time.

The Power to Submit - One cannot transfer a power that one does not have. The submissive must have power over themselves before they can surrender it to their dominant.

Rational Boundaries - Sometimes, Ds can get very extreme. Consider the scene in Secretary where Lee has to report to Mr. Grey what she is eating and he instructs her how much she can eat. It is important that this not get to the point where it affects real life things like work, friends, and family.

Who Submits?
For some people, the idea of being in control and calling the shots is very enticing. For others, the release of responsibility in handing power to another is very appealing. People generally have a good idea of if they are naturally a dominant, a submissive, or a switch. (A switch is one who enjoys both dominance and submission.)

One who is not familiar with Ds might get the idea that dominance and submission is a matter of strength and weakness, but this is not entirely correct. It would be more accurate to say that it is a matter of strength and surrender. The dominant is strong enough to be able to hold the responsibility for both the dominant and the submissive, and the submissive, recognizing that strength, is comfortable enough to give over power to the dominant, knowing that he or she will use it responsibly, keeping in mind the needs of both the dominant and the submissive.

While many dominants are male and many submissives are female, it does not break down along gender lines. Many women enjoy being dominant, and many men enjoy submitting.

In many scenes, the dominant is also the top, and the submissive is the bottom. However, it is not uncommon to switch those roles. For example, picture a dominant man who orders his submissive to get into the missionary-female-dominant position. He is still in control, even though she is in a "top" position. A dominant may also enjoy receiving pain, such as a flogging, and he may give orders that the submissive serve her in that way.

On Being a Dominant
As a dominant, either in a scene or in relationship, one has the opportunity to have power in a way that most people do not experience in our daily lives. While the power differs from scene to scene and relationship to relationship, a dominant in a scene might be able to give explicit orders to the submissive to carry out specific instructions. The dominant in a relationship might create lists of tasks to be completed by the submissive. The submissive will carry out these instructions, often with pride and enthusiasm. Even if you are a manager in your day job, the kind of obedience that you will get from your subordinates is nothing like what you will get from a submissive.

Being a dominant is not just giving orders and calling the shots. It is also very challenging. The dominant is responsible for both herself and her submissive. That is a great deal of responsibility. In a non-Ds dynamic, both parties are involved in making sure that everyone enjoys the scene. In a Ds situation, the enjoyment of both people is in her hands. Furthermore, the submissive's safety is also in the hands of the dominant. The submissive always has the option of using a safeword, but there are always other issues of safety that the dominant must consider. Some people find this very appealing, but others find this to be too much responsibility to be fun.

On Being a Submissive
Our daily lives are full of responsibilities. Homework, taxes, work, family. At the most practical level, a submissive has the opportunity to set all of this aside, placing all of this responsibility into the hands of the dominant. Of course, this requires a great deal of trust. The submissive needs to trust both the dominant's integrity and her skill. Different levels of trust are required depending on the nature of the relationship. For a simple scene, the level of trust is not the same as that needed for a 24-7 relationship.

The Appeal of a Dominance and Submission
Many people, dominant, submissive, and switch enjoy seeing a good dominant or submissive, both in and out of the bedroom.

Have you ever seen someone who seems completely in control of a situation? A person who walks into a room and can take control of it, not through aggression or threat but through strength and confidence. The kind of person that you want to follow because you know that he will lead to places you want to follow. Even if it is not a sexual attraction, one might find a great appeal in this kind of person. In a scene, a submissive has the chance to get this kind of person all to himself, up close and personal.

A submissive also demonstrates a very appealing kind of strength. He has the confidence to trust his power to the dominant. Anyone can yield from a position of weakness, but a good submissive is sexy because he is surrendering his power entirely of his own free will. Not because he has to, but because he wants to.

Brats and Rolling
In some Ds dynamics, the transfer of power is entirely pre-negotiated. The submissive surrenders power to the dominant as a matter of negotiation. In other dynamics, the the dominant has to work for it.

A "brat" is a submissive who only partially submits. She will submit but may resist some instructions, requiring the dominant to work to maintain his dominance in the scene or relationship.

Candy says: I'm not a brat. I'm an "independently minded submissive."

"Rolling" is the term for flipping the power dynamic. This is most common in a relationship between switches. Some people roll their partner simply by demonstrating dominance with a look or tone. Others roll their partner by physically wrestling with them.

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