It’s ok to be dominant

dominant man blindfold woman

Defining “D-type”: general term I use to encompass those that identify as a Dominant, Master, Mistress, Goddess, Trainer, Top, Owner, Daddy/Mommy, etc.

D-types in the BDSM community are those that hold the power or control that their s-type surrenders, or yields, to them. Why would someone want to assume this great responsibility? The answers will vary depending on who you talk to. People are drawn to this roll for a variety of reasons. Some reasons may include a desire to maintain control, power, or decision making for another, wanting to provide structure or discipline, bestow a sense of safety and care taking, and/or seeking service from another.

Where does Dominance come from? Why are some people naturally this way or seek this role in relationships? Again, just as with s-types, not all paths or reasons are healthy. Many are quite healthy. There are complex layers that turn us toward certain partners in life, vanilla or kinky. It may be that it is an extension of how they were raised. Messages like, “A man is the head of the household.” or “A strong woman is independant and shouldn’t be controlled.” could contribute to someone being a D-type. It could also be that they grew up with chaos or feel a lack of control in many aspects of their life (i.e., answering to a boss, etc) and so taking consensual control within their relationship is empowering.

One complaint about 50 Shades of Gray is that the books portray the main character, a D-type, as a man who has found this dynamic as a result of childhood abuse. While this may be true for some kinksters, both s and D-types, it is certainly not true for many – if not most. It’s unfortunate that this popular piece of fiction has perpetuated negative stereotypes.
There are many messages, that D-types may hear from folks around them and pieces like 50 shades.

“You’re just a control freak.”
“You are a predator that wants to take advantage and use other people.”
“You need to control your partner? You must be insecure or overcompensating for attributes you lack.”
“You’re an asshole/bitch.”

Or worse yet, you hear these types of messages from your vanilla partners before realizing that it’s OK to be a D-type. This is where I want to tell you about an ex of mine because her story is a perfect example of someone being naturally inclined towards Dominance, yet suppressing it due to external negative messages.

When I met *Lisa she claimed to be “the most vanilla person you’ll ever meet”. So why did I pursue a relationship with her? I don’t know, perhaps I saw that as a challenge or maybe it was her punny sense of humor. That part doesn’t matter. What matters is the part where I started introducing her to the kink scene. I started with munches, then slowly introducing her to my friends, and eventually taking her to parties. It was a whole new world and experience for her but after the initial shock wore off she was starting to have fun. We began to introduce more kinky play into our dynamic and she was taking lessons and tips from so many wonderful people that embraced her. As our relationship continued I started to encourage her to take the lead with decisions and making demands. I showed her through my response that not only did I not fight her on these things, I actually thrived in following her lead and supporting her commands.

At first it was difficult for her and we would discuss why. Turns out she had some fairly strong Dominant traits all her life, yet when she would act upon them in her vanilla relationships, her girlfriends did not appreciate those traits at all. They wanted to be equal and it would turn into a power struggle as opposed to a power exchange. After enough of these experiences within failed relationships she ended up suppressing these Dominant traits. She was attempting to maintain the peace when her partners would accuse her of being “too controlling”. Her natural Dominant tendencies became “wrong” and “bad”.
So there I was – opening her eyes to a whole world where people thrive with the structure she was attempting to suppress. She was experiencing a relationship with me, who not only accepted, but encouraged her Dominant side. She was finally able to accept and cherish parts of herself that she had grown to villainize.
She learned that it is OK to be a D-type.

Something I say in my classes is, “the D in D-type should NOT stand for Douche-bag”. It should stand for Dominant and represent someone who comes from a place of confidence and security. Someone who can be trusted and someone with integrity.
Dominance in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s when people use it in a harmful or irresponsible way that leads to abuse (emotional, physical, or psychological) or intentional/unintentional harm. If you are Dominant take responsibility for how you express that Dominance. There are many s-types out there that thrive on and crave what you have to offer. It is your responsibility to understand what you are offering, continue to grow and learn, take classes, join discussion groups, read more articles, etc. Don’t take advantage of your role and use it to control your s-type in an unhealthy way. Part of your responsibilities as a D-type and as a partner is to support your s-type in reaching their full potential. Know and accept your Dominance, embrace it, and use it for good.

*Actual name not used

Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer here:


  1. BDSM, both on the s-side *and* the d-side, is such an enormous umbrella of person interactions. Do we really need to narrow the focus on the mentoring aspects of dominance? Some women I’ve met need to be “put down” in order to quiet the many voices inside that distract and tempt them in day-to-day life.

    Yes, in giving them that needed action, I’m helping them to be their best selves, but there’s no mentoring in that. Not all the time.

    It’s OK to look our partners in the eye, get that evil smile, and just get off on demanding what’s ours to have.

    Also, unintentional harm isn’t always bad dominance. Just as skydiving is a risky activity with precautions that we can take, so too is BDSM able to include risky behaviors that we can use precautions to manage risk, but sometimes, the risk is the reward.

  2. Ice Falcon, first of all, thank you for your thoughtful comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

    It is certainly difficult to encapsulate all the variables that make up a D/s dynamic in one article. It is a huge umbrella topic that can include so many variables specific to individuals and partners across the board. This article definitely only hits on one aspect and I was attempting to generalize the information a bit in order to allow more people to relate.
    There are s-types out there who desire the process of being “put down” in order to reach another level of their potential, etc. Again, the need for this may be healthy or not, depending on the individual. Sometimes the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the result. As long as things are done in a consensual way and/or with trust set in the hands of the D-type, things will usually end up ok.

    Also, the moments where the D-type simply demands their wishes to be met happens all the time. I, in no way, meant to suggest that’s an issue. Although if that is all the relationship is, then that is an issue. There are times when on the outside it just looks like the D-type is giving arbitrary orders, yet below the surface they may have an intention behind it that an outsider can’t see. Plus, it may also speak to the s-types desire to serve selflessly.

    Unintentional harm isn’t bad Dominance – especially if it is the exception rather than the rule. We are all human. It is an excellent opportunity for growth and learning. It can result in damage that needs to be repaired, however, like you said it can also result in a positive outcome that neither party could have predicted.
    Ultimately I think, in my opinion, it comes down to intent. The intent of the D-type should never be to “harm”. Even if He/She intends to hurt the s-type, it should be with some kind of growth, satisfaction, learning opportunity or to help them reach their potential.

    Again, thank you so much for taking the time to comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

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