BDSM: Bondage&Discipline, Domination/submission, Sadism/masochism. Often collectively referred to as just "SM." Recently, there has been a movement to distinguish more clearly the differences between these practices, with those outside of SM desiring to distance themselves from negative perceptions of sado-masochism.

So your interest in domination has been piqued. No doubt, you have questions, preconceived notions, and probably many misconceptions. If you are like most of us when we started out, there is a jumble of conflicting thoughts and emotions coursing through your mind. Excitement, trepidation, a feeling of being overwhelmed at all the newness and things to learn, perhaps even a little fear. Relax. It's normal. (Does it sound strange to you to use that word in connection with what most of us have been led to believe is a perversion?)

Yes, you have a lot to learn. That is one of the beauties of D/s. One never really learns all there is to know about it. Getting the basics down will require time and effort on your part. There aren't any Cliff Notes you can study for a couple of hours to earn the title of a "master." As excited as you are about this, you will likely feel some level of frustration once you realize that it's going to take work to be a good dominant. Don't let that discourage you. The lessons can be quite delightful.

You are probably anxious to try this stuff out, too. Eager to rush off and find yourself a submissive to kneel at your feet and fulfill your every whim. Take a deep breath. This is where reality steps in. There isn't some endless pool of subs out there just waiting to serve you. If you are a dominant, you can be so without owning a submissive. Right now you need to take the time to learn what is expected of you, the basics of acceptable behavior, and what this D/s thing is about.


[Domination] is the desire to exert control over a consenting partner for the purpose of mutual gratification.

Different Loving, p. 77
Brame, Brame, and Jacobs
Published by Villard Books

First, you should know that there is no "right" way to be a dominant. How you express your domination is as individual as your fingerprints. You may choose to be strict and demanding, gentle and nurturing, or any combination in between. One style isn't better than another. Domination is an extension of your unique personality.

I remember when I first began exploring domination. I had some vague notion about what it was but no real information. From what I observed in others, I came to the conclusion that I was supposed to be haughty, uncaring, selfish, demanding and unforgiving. I watched as other "dominants" used the vulnerabilities of submissives to their own selfish ends. None of these traits were part of my character, but I tried to force them into my personality under the assumption that this is the way dominants must be. That didn't last. I couldn't sustain for long the mask of something I was not, so I began searching for information from experienced dominants. I devoured fiction and non-fiction alike. While the novels were enjoyable, I knew they were only a fantasy conceived in the mind of the author and I had enough wits about me not to try to translate those stories into reality. It was the books of experienced real-life dominants that showed me my domination wasn't defined by what I did, but by what I am. Armed with this insight, I realized that it takes more than carrying a flogger or adding the word "Master" to your chat channel nick to be a dominant. It takes work.

Each of us is attracted to the world of domination for our own reasons. For some, it is a way to spice up the bedroom. Others see it as an opportunity to increase their chances to "get some." Still others use it as a way to escape the hum-drum realities of their life, playing a role much as one would in a game of "Dungeons and Dragons." For a very small percentage of dominants, it is their nature. To them, it isn't a game or a role they put on and take off. It's not something that goes away when the computer is turned off or when the play party is over. It is what they are.

Whatever your motivation, understand something clearly: being a dominant requires you to be in control of yourself before you can ever hope to safely and successfully be in control of another. The submissive, quite literally, will be placing his/her life and emotional health into your hands. It is a tremendous responsibility you need to consider very carefully. This lifestyle isn't for everyone, and I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on what motivates your domination. If you are looking for an easy relationship where you are the unquestioned boss, you are in for disappointment. If you aren't motivated to give as much to the relationship as you receive (emotionally as well as physically), you are likely doomed to failure. D/s is a power exchange, which means that all involved give one-hundred percent of themselves. If you are not prepared to do that, I suggest that you not waste your time.

In the next section, "The Acolyte," we present the foundational principles of life as a dominant.

Domination is Domination is Not
  • Safe, Sane, & Consensual
  • An exchange of power flowing from the bottom up
  • Mutually gratifying to both dominant and submissive
  • Liberating
  • Nurturing
  • Courteous
  • Founded upon trust and mutual respect
  • Abusive
  • Demeaning
  • Perverted
  • Exploitative
  • One-sided
  • Something you learn in a day, a week, or even a year
  • For Everyone
  • Domineering
  • Manipulative
  • An excuse to be rude