The Acolyte

We left off with the definition of domination. In this section, we'll explore the basics of what it means to be a dominant. Understanding the fundamentals of the lifestyle is crucial to your growth, no matter how you choose to implement them.


[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

From that flows the term "Dominant" as one who exerts control over a consenting partner. Notice the words "consenting" and "mutual." It is important to dispel a common misconception that many novice dominants have. Being a dominant does not entitle you to lord over any and all submissives who happen your way. The critical term that distinguishes "domination" from "abuse" is consensuality.


Consenuality is really the first law of D&S communities ....Clear, informed, and verbalized consent is the moral dividing line between brutality and D&S: Partners must voluntarily and knowingly give full consent to D&S activity before it begins.

Different Loving, p. 52

This applies to more than just sexual activities: It extends to our interactions on every level. Unless you have a relationship with a submissive, you have no right to expect their submission to you. Waltzing into a room and commanding subs to "kneel before you" will, at best, get you laughed at and will likely earn you the disdain of dominants and submissives alike. We have various terms for such people: CHuDWa (Clueless heterosexual dom/me wannabe), HNG (Horny net geek), and several other less polite adjectives.


The essence of domination is to take another's power and then use it for mutual pleasure.

The Loving Dominant, p. 24
John Warren, Ph.D.
Published by Masquerede Books, Inc.

From this, you can see that it's not all about "me, me me!" but about "us." Everything that occurs between dominant and submissive should be for mutual benefit, not for yours alone. It's not about the sub giving everything and you sitting back and taking it all, offering little or nothing in return. It is a power exchange.


Power exchange is the empowerment of the dominant by the submissive's surrender to his/her control. Power exchange is consensual and should be well negotiated. The depth of the power yielded by the submissive is equal to the level of responsibility assumed by the dominant.

Screw the Roses, Send Me The Thorns, p. 235
Miller & Devon
Published by Mystic Rose Books

Let's take a closer look at that. We see from the definition that the dominant is empowered by the submissive. Control isn't something that we take, but it is something that we accept. There's a subtle difference. In order for the submissive to surrender some of his/her control to you, you have to earn their trust. It isn't something that you are entitled to by virtue of your title as "dominant." Once again, the emphasis is on "consensual." Of particular note is the last sentence in the definition. This is an exchange, which means it is a two-way process. In return for your submissive's surrender of control, you have an obligation to assume responsibility for those things surrendered. This is where the idea of negotiation comes into play.


Negotiation is the process of determining the practices of sexual and SM activities between a top [dominant] and bottom [submissive]. It may apply to the whole relationship or just a specific scene. Negotiating is an ongoing process that that is repeated as the players' needs change.

Screw The Roses, Send Me The Thorns, p. 233

"What? You mean it's not as simple as me giving the orders and the sub obeying?" In a word: no. Fiction and the media certainly have led many to that misconception. In reality, it takes communication. Both parties have to make known to each other what their needs, desires, and limits are. Failure to do so can lead to serious physical or emotional injury and is the most common reason for a bad session or the failure of a relationship. It is more than you simply laying down the law. You need to know what your submissive's hopes, desires, and expectations are. She may need something from you that you cannot or are not willing to offer. You may need something from your relationship that the sub is not ready to give.

Since you are going to be dealing with subjects that, for most people, are very difficult to discuss, it helps to have tools that make the process easier for both of you. Communicating our most intimate emotional and sexual needs and desires isn't something we are used to doing. Additionally, as a novice you or your submissive may not have any idea what kinds of activities might be enjoyable other than what they have already experienced. Most experienced dominants utilize a checklist of sorts as a negotiation tool in order to discover hard limits, high- and low-interest activities, as well as a means to expose the submissive to things they may not have even considered as potentially erotic. One very common mistake dominants make and that you should avoid: you should fill it out as well, so that your submissive knows your interests. This will help to guide them toward pleasing you better. Most dom/mes I've encountered think of the checklist as a tool only for the submissive to fill out. But if you don't express your interests, how will the sub know how best to please you?

You can find a sample checklist in the links below. Print out two copies and both of you fill it out. Then exchange them and discuss the results. You might be amazed at how this opens up the lines of communications between the two of you.

D/s relationships are built upon a foundation of trust and communication. Those two factors, more than any others, will determine how successful and satisfying your relationships will be. You can no more build a house without a solid foundation than you can a relationship. The choice is yours: Build your relationship upon sand or stone. It doesn't take an engineer to know which will last longer.

This is just an overview to get you started along the path. You have so much more to learn before you can call yourself a "Master." Where to you go now? To the bookstore. These books are an absolute necessity for your personal library, not just to own, but to read and understand. At this stage of your journey, you can best further your training by learning from the vast experiences of those who have gone before you.

Books You Should Read

Now that you have the concepts of consensuality, mutual pleasure, power exchange, and negotiation, continue your training by mastering the information presented in these links.