What is a Dominant?
Like BDSM (and submissive as we’ve discussed before) Dominant is often an umbrella term, one that encompasses both roles in the BDSM lifestyle and dynamics and roles within discreet BDSM scenes. In any kind of power exchange, the Dominant partner is the one who receives and utilizes power and control. Being a Dominant, however, is more than taking control; it’s about balancing control with care and a certain amount of restraint at times.
The Dominant Umbrella
As a general, Dominant and Top are interchangeable terms. In isolated scenes, whether at play parties, between kinky couples, or in a professional or show setting, the Dominant is the assertive actor. In an impact scene, they are the one striking their partner. In a bondage scene, they are the one trying up the bottom or submissive. In a humiliation scene, they are the one dishing out insults and displaying sadistic disappointment.
In all of those examples, the submissive or bottom partner has given them power to take those actions on them (within agreed-to limits). The power exchange goes no further and ends when the scene ends.
For example, a submissive and Dominant agree to a bondage and impact scene where those will be the only activities in the scene. The Dominant cannot command the submissive to do anything else in the scene that was not negotiated. Nor can the Dominant do other things to the submissive just because they are the Dominant in the scene.
Consent is one of the cornerstones of the BDSM lifestyle.
In power exchange dynamics, the Dominant is the partner who receives and utilizes power given by the partner, the submissive. Dynamics can vary.
Power exchange dynamics can be 24/7, where the submissive is always under the Dominant’s control, or 24/7-ish, where the submissive may be subject to checking in and occasionally given tasks, but is otherwise free to their own power or to answer to others (examples include a submissive always subject to You, but with a job you cannot interfere with or a submissive subject to you but who is also married to someone else). Other dynamics are only “on” when partners agree the scene or session begins. Once those sessions are over, power exchange stops until the next session. Couples who are also into the lifestyle sometimes do this to separate the lifestyle from family and home responsibilities.
As a Dominant it’s important that you understand all of these types of power exchanges are valid, that dynamics sometimes need to shift between them, and that how and when you hold and exert power will vary between them.
Types of Dominants
Just as dynamics differ, so do Dominants. Dominant is itself a role in power exchange with the submissive giving you power with certain limits. As with submissive, there are also different types of Dominants based on the different types of power exchange. It’s not, however, unusual for someone to have aspects of multiple types. A few examples of Dominant types include:
• Daddy/Mommy – a Dominant that takes on the assertive and nurturing role for a little/middle type of submissive
• Sadistic Dominant – Dominants who enjoy inflicting pain in power exchanges
• Owners – Dominants whose power comes from accepting ownership of a person. These can be TPE (Total Power Exchange or Owner/slave). They can also be Owner/pet (where the submissive has the role of a domesticated animal) or Owner/object, where the Dominant literally uses the submissive as they would inanimate objects.
Becoming a Dominant
Becoming a Dominant requires time, study, and experience. How that happens depends on the resources available to you. If being a Dominant is something you want, whether for discreet scenes or in a committed dynamic, take time to learn before you play. Research different ideas about Domination and BDSM. Seek out lifestyle groups and attend socials where you can meet like-minded people and get hands on experience in a controlled environment. Some of the things we do in BDSM can be risky, so it’s important to learn safety and how to monitor your partner.
Seek Dominant training. Types of training Types of training vary depending on the community you seek to learn from. Some may prefer bottom-Up training, where a potential Dominant first serves as a bottom or submissive. This is good for gaining experience and understanding of the submissive roles. Others prefer mentorship and co-Dominant styles of training. Communities should be open to multiple styles and as a Dominant you should be open to multiple ways of learning.
We’ve talked about what a Dominant is. I want to also look at what a Dominant is not.
• Dominance is not gender based. Anyone regardless of sex or gender expression can be a Dominant.
• Dominance is not about having an assertive personality, nor is it about vanilla power roles. Powerful people often seek some form of submission as a release. Likewise, assertive people sometimes like submission while shy or submissive personalities make energetic and intense Dominants.
• Dominance is not abuse. A Dominant is aware of and stays within limits and immediately respects the use of a Safe Word. A Dominant ensures their partner enthusiastically consents to a scene and ensures their partner’s well-being.
Always remember, power flows from the bottom up. You are not a Dominant over someone else until they agree to give you some power over them. Once that exchange happens, you only have the power they give you. If you desire more, you can talk about it with your partner. You never take power not enthusiastically given to you first.