Rika’s Lair- Giving Directions vs. Setting Direction

I hope you have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all of my articles in KinkWeekly! 

In my latest book, “Uniquely Dominant: Being the Dominant in a D/s Relationship”, I have a section on determining the style of domination that you prefer. Do you prefer anticipatory service, or reactive? Do you want to be a task master, or calm but firm? Do you want a punishment dynamic, or one that’s based on a submissive’s self-control and the use of CERAF (see my article on “Why I don’t Punish” (http://www.kinkweekly.com/article-kink-weekly/rikas-lair-dont-punish/ here in KinkWeekly), etc. There are many such factors to consider. It’s important to understanding the style of domination that you prefer, in order to communicate it to your submissive, and give them the information they need to serve you to the best of their ability. 

I recently had a discussion on tasking submissives, with a couple of other dominants. We arrived at the differentiation between “Giving Directions” and “Setting Direction”. In essence, this is at the root of one of the key decision points when articulating your style of dominance and I thought it would be interesting to discuss here in KinkWeekly. 

Some dominants want to “Give Directions”: “Go to the store in town, purchase everything on the list that I have provided. Be sure to pack the groceries in paper-in-plastic. Don’t mix the frozen with the fresh. On your way home, pick up the dry cleaning, but don’t dally, as the perishables in the car need to get home to the refrigerator quickly. Load the refrigerator in size order, so it’s easier to find things inside.” 

Other dominants prefer to “Set Direction”: “You are to keep the house stocked with groceries for the week’s menu. You are to make sure my clothes are dry cleaned and available when I need them. Make sure the house runs as efficiently as possible” 

The obvious difference in these styles relate to how much autonomy you give your submissive. Do you give the submissive specific tasks to execute, or do you tell them what needs to get done in general terms and allow them to determine how best to meet the requirement? 

My friends who prefer to give direction enjoy the control and predictability that comes from this approach. For the most part, and within reason, they do not allow the sub to make decisions on their own. Their subs are to follow the steps provided, with no question but for clarification, and execute without embellishment. My friends say this level of control is necessary for the subs to demonstrate their submission. I have found that many subs also enjoy this style of domination, as it leaves no room for misinterpretation and does not require any decisions which might incur risk. 

Other dominants prefer to set direction than to give directions. In their opinion, having a sub ought to make your life easier and less complicated. It is certainly far easier for a dominant to establish a desired outcome and leave the work of figuring out how to achieve that outcome to the submissive. They consider subs who prefer to be told what to do to be lazy, shifting the responsibility of thinking to the dominant. They feel that setting direction brings the sub’s mind into play, leveraging the theory that two minds are better than one. These dominants feel they have intelligent, enterprising, imaginative subs, so why not take advantage of the power of their minds – as long as that energy is focused on the dominant’s objective and the dominant’s preferences? 

There are up-sides and down-sides to both approaches. If you give directions, perfection will be easier, and likely faster, to achieve…for that specific task. If the sub follows the directions, they succeed in the task…Simple. There is also comfort in knowing that a job is going to be done in the way that you prescribe. Giving direction also plays to the “slave-imagery”, which is desirable for some. The downside varies: It is far more difficult to think through everything that a sub needs to do. Plus, there may be surprisingly better ways to get a job done than the way one might imagine. If you give directions, the responsibility for the accuracy of those directions fall on you. A failure in direction is yours to bear. 

If you set direction, you communicate it once and then monitor. Monitoring is easier than directing, requires less time, and frees the dominant more. It opens the door to the possibility of a solution that the dominant didn’t think of themselves; one which might be more efficient or effective. The direction is more generic, and hence is applicable to more tasks than just the one in play at the time. Over time, the sub gets better at determining how best to meet the dominant’s expectations. The lessons learned carry through to all future tasks, further freeing the dominant from the burden and responsibility of solution design. Lastly, the onus of success, and hence accountability for it as well, falls on the submissive. The downside is that setting direction requires assessment of the sub’s effort (and decisions), followed by feedback and adjustment. Plus, the sub may fail a few times before getting it exactly the way the dominant wants it. 

Personally, I like to set direction. I believe in the value of a sub’s mind. I want to take all of the assets my submissives bring to the table and put them to use for me. As long as my sub’s INTENT is to serve my preferences and expectations, and are striving to do the best possible job, they are free to do what needs to be done. I’ll adjust them if they’re off base and provide positive feedback when they’re on target. I’m willing to spend the up-front time to adjust their actions and to increase their knowledge of my preferences, with the prospect that, over time, they will become perfect submissives, and perform beautifully without my needing to think for them. In the long-run (which is what I’m interested in), this method is far easier for me and, in my opinion, more effective. 

Ultimately, we blend multiple factors to create our own unique styles of dominance. Giving directions vs. setting direction is just one of many such factors. The key is to think it through and communicate it to your submissives, so that they can adjust their submission to match your preferences. I’d love to hear what types of things you consider. Write in comments below, or email me at: Ms_Rika@hotmail.com. 

Ms. Rika is a lifestyle dominant, educator, and author; living in the suburbs of NYC with her husband/slave. She has written several popular books on her approach to adding Dominant-Centric, Service-Oriented D/s to relationships. You can find her books (in both print and eBook formats) at Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/msrika), or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iStore, Books-A- Million, Kobo.com, or anywhere books are sold. Search for “Ms. Rika”.


  1. kinkbride says:

    intriguing topics and great points

  2. babyflogger says:

    very great stuff to think about

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