Over the past couple of months, I’ve been introducing you to my approach to Service-Oriented D/s dynamics. We’ve discussed the intent of submission as well as the roles of both the dominant and the submissive. We’ve looked at obligations and responsibilities within the context of power dynamics and discussed submission as a form of commitment and dedication. If you haven’t read the previous Kink Weekly articles, click on my name in the byline above to get links to each of the previous articles!
Let’s dive right in!
Good Submission: If you’ve read my prior articles (or my books), you’ll know that I don’t believe in any single definition of “Good” when it comes to submission. There are no general activities, attitudes, or actions that define good submission – because each dominant defines submission based on their own unique preferences. Therefore, the quality of submission can only be measured by the dominant being served. Being a “good submissive” doesn’t have meaning unless it’s relative to a specific dominant, where submission is aimed at fulling their set of communicated expectations.
Therefore, to arrive at “The Best Submission Possible” for your relationship, the dominant will need to communicate, and the sub will need to learn and adapt. In this month’s article, I’d like to briefly review a couple of key points that will help you cultivate the dynamic you’re looking for.
Dominants – Communicate Your Expectations: This may sound like an obvious recommendation, but you’d be surprised how may dominants either don’t communicate what they really want, or haven’t even decided what really serves them. Very often, they assume that the stereotype of “The BDSM Dominant” has to be what they’re signing up for, and just follow a prescribed pattern. Others will find out what their partner likes, and then try to deliver that. My recommendation for developing a successful dynamic, is to take time to introspect and fully understand your true preferences. Focus on what fulfills you and consider what your submissive can do to provide that fulfillment. Clarify your style of dominance: Do you prefer subs who strive to anticipate your needs, or subs who await direction? Do you want a sub who grovels, or one who stands on equal, but subordinate ground? Does pomp and circumstance, high protocol, and formality serve you, or do you prefer less roleplay and formality? I recommend writing these definitions down. No one need see them, you can even throw them away immediately – but writing them down will help you articulate the concepts and structure the message.
Whether they fit a “dominant-mold” or not, communicate your preferences to your submissive. Don’t worry if they don’t seem “dominant enough”. Your expectations will become their definition of submission. Subs make horrible mind-readers – be sure to communicate clearly and take the time to get feedback, so you know your submissive “gets it”.
A key piece of advice: When determining what submission means to you, put aside what your sub prefers. That may sound harsh and one-sided, but this exercise is about determining what submission to you entails. It’s not going to be the end-all of your dynamic, but for you to effectively communicate expectations that will serve you, they need to be about YOUR preferences. There is ample opportunity to give your sub things they enjoy…but when it comes to defining what submission to you is, the message has to be about things that are FOR YOU! For instance: Don’t tell a sub they have to bow when they enter your presence unless having them do so actually serves YOU in some way. Don’t feel
like you have to establish a dress code or an honorific system, unless you feel empowered by it. If pleasing you means that a sub needs to offer themselves as a canvas for your sadistic desires, then state that expectation, but don’t feel you have to be sadistic in order to be a dominant. Don’t think about the imagery of dominance, think about what pleases you. Create your own definition of dominance and communicate that. INSIST on it. Create a set of expectations that serve you, communicate those, then openly EXPECT your sub to fulfill them!
Submissives: The thing that trips up most submissives is the “topping from the bottom” mentality. It’s an overplayed topic and I promise I’m not going to preach its evils here. However, there are two extremely common, very subtle, forms of manipulation that generally are not discussed, but which may well be undermining your efforts to be the best submissive you can be…And you may not even be aware you’re doing them!
The first manipulation to be avoided, is a technique I call, Passive Rewards and Punishment. Yes … submissives rewarding and punishing the dominant! Here’s how it works: When the dominant does something that the submissive enjoys and would like to have in their dynamic, the submissive reacts in an overly positive way: Their energy goes up, they improve the level of their attention and show how excited the activity makes them. Conversely, when the dominant does something that that submissive does not enjoy so much, they become sullen, sluggish, non-enthusiastic, resistant, and sometimes even ornery! The result is an unspoken manipulation, in which the dominant is rewarded for behavior that is in line with the submissive’s desires, and punished for those activities in which the submissive would rather not engage. Rather than focusing on the happiness of the dominant (the commitment the submissive makes when they submit), the submissive passively creates a dynamic in which the dominant is forced to focus on the preferences of the submissive in order to avoid resistance. I’ve seen submissives guilty of this without having the slightest idea that they were doing it…in fact, some of them believed they were HELPING their partner by showing them “how much better life can be” when certain things were in the dynamic. One classic example of this, is when subs insist that they be put in chastity in order to elicit top-level performance – insisting on being forced (what they want) in order to serve well (what the dominant wants).
Of course, consciously or subconsciously, dominants feel this manipulation and react to it. They may lose interest in the dynamic and pull away from it, feeling that the dynamic is no longer serving them. The spiral often continues when the sub senses the dominant’s resentment or lack of interest and then blames them for not being “dominant enough” … which is certainly more punishment and downhill we go…
The second subtle technique of topping from the bottom is “Falling short of expectation to test a dominant’s resolve”. The extreme form of this is “Bratting”, but I’m talking about a much subtler manipulation. I’ve watched as subs “test the waters”: The dominant says they want something, or something done a certain way, and the submissive deliberately falls short of that expectation, to see if the dominant will insist on the quality. They want the dominant to actively correct them; to demonstrate that they are active and involved in the dynamic. They want to test a limit and feel a boundary. Once again, the focus is sub-centric; failing to concentrate on how the behavior effects the dominant…failing to put priority on how well the submission fits the dominant’s expectations.
A word of warning: Subs have had “Topping from the bottom is bad” drilled into their heads in every piece of literature, every blog, etc. While it’s good for a sub to be aware of avoiding such manipulations, there is a risk that the fear of topping from the bottom could cause communication to break down. I’ve had many subs ask how they can request things of their dominant partners, without
topping from the bottom. I always answer, “Talk to them!” Subs are so afraid to manipulate, they lose the ability to communicate. So dominants, be aware that your sub might be holding back valuable feedback and make sure you make it comfortable to share.
That’s a starter for this month! Next month, I’ll share some guidance I gave a sub who was facing exactly that challenge: How to approach his dominant with suggestions of how to serve her better, without topping from the bottom. Until then, focus on communicating and listening – and avoid the subtle manipulations that often plague our dynamics and have some fun!
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”.
The ‘falling short of expectation’ manipulation seems to be very challenging and difficult to resolve.
Do you have any suggestions as to how the Dom\Domme can manage this situation to get the sub back on track?
Very thorough and well-explained
Intriguing piece and concepts