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As the new year approaches, most of us are thinking about the year gone by and looking forward to the future. Many of us will be considering our New Year’s resolutions: How we’d like to improve ourselves and our relationships going forward. It’s the perfect time to continue the discussion we started in the December 17th edition of “Kink Weekly”. If you haven’t read that article, I would recommend going back to the archive and reviewing it!
On the 17th, we discussed how each “relationship” we enter carries attributes that are mutual in nature: Trust, honesty, caring, respect, open communications, mutual fulfillment, and perhaps love. These attributes continue within a relationship, regardless of the existence of a power dynamic, or not. As partners in relationships, we are given certain rights of expectation – the right to expect to have each of these mutual attributes from our partner (in varying degrees, depending on the type of relationship). We also discussed how a power dynamic – created by the commitment of one partner to serve the preferences of the other as their submissive – creates a power imbalance that, in turn, provides the dominant a new “right of expectation”; a right that the submissive is not given. We then started to talk about how our roles obligate us to each other. We talked a little bit about the submissive’s obligations and that they are different to those of the dominant. I mentioned that D/s is imbalanced, but not one- sided. Now, let’s get into the dominant’s obligation a bit.
The Dominant’s Obligation
The dominant does take on new responsibilities, however. In exchange for the sub’s submission, the dominant promises to receive submission as an active and involved participant in the dynamic. In my first book, “Uniquely Rika”, I called this involvement, “Receiving submission from a position of dominance”. I further qualified it when I wrote my second book, “Uniquely Us”, introducing the concept of CERAF, using examples of couples with whom I had worked in a variety of relationship contexts.
CERAF is a mnemonic that stand for: “Communication“, “Expectation“, “Recognition“, “Assessment“, and, “Feedback“. It’s a sequence that demonstrates to a submissive that we, as dominants, are actively involved in the dynamic, require that the sub’s efforts are targeted towards us, notice and appreciate their efforts, and consider the sub’s submission to be important to us. If you want more information on CERAF, or to see examples of it in action, I recommend you read “Uniquely Us”.
The following is an excerpt from my latest book, “Uniquely Dominant: Being the Dominant in a D/s Relationship”, in which I covered the basics of CERAF:
Communication of the dominant’s preferences starts off the process. As dominants, we need to be clear in communicating our expectations to our submissives. We need to give them every opportunity to succeed in serving us the way we want to be served. They are not mind readers (and are often awful mind readers when they try!), so it is our responsibility to make clear what we expect them to do for us. There are thousands of ways to communicate our preferences. The use of the Routine Task List Exercise that I covered in “Uniquely Rika” is one very effective way. Just make sure your communication is clear and understood.
Expectation that they will try to fulfill those preferences is the next step. Once you’ve communicated what you expect, expect that the sub will try, to the best of their ability, to fulfill your wishes. Make that expectation clear and concise (write it down!).
It’s surprising how often dominants fail to actually expect that their partners will meet the communicated requirements. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted with reasons (reasonable or otherwise) why a sub might not fulfill them. Avoid gender biases (e.g., “men can’t control their urges“, “women will react emotionally“, etc.) and maintain a strong demand for fulfillment. All of your expectations will not be met 100% of the time – that would be an unreasonable expectation – but, you can expect a submissive to strive for perfection every time.
Recognition of the sub’s attempts to fulfill your expectations is next. It seems that this one might be simple, but it’s actually the thing that trips most dominants up. The biggest fear most submissives have communicated to me throughout the years, is that they may one day find themselves alone in their dynamic; that their partner won’t (or already doesn’t) recognize the intent with which they go about their actions, and that the dynamic exists only in the submissive’s head. That’s a very lonely place. In “Uniquely Us“, I showed a number of examples of how this “simple” responsibility is often missed – and the trouble it causes. Recognition doesn’t require a lot of boisterous feedback, it just requires that you demonstrate that you understand your sub’s intent.
There are very simple ways to demonstrate recognition – from a knowing look to a blatant phrase. One of the easiest ways is use of the final two phases of CERAF: Assessment and Feedback!
Assessment. You’ve communicated your expectations, expected them, and you’ve recognized that your sub is striving to fulfill those expectations. Now it’s time to determine how good a job your sub did at meeting those expectations. Assessment is the phase where you take a little time to introspect and understand the impact your sub’s effort has had on you. Are you happy with the result? Are you happy with their effort? Did you get what you expected? If not, why not? – did you communicate your preference accurately? Did the sub understand what you asked for? Was the sub able to achieve or did circumstances get in the way? Were the circumstances avoidable? What could have been done better? Etc.
It is our responsibility as dominants to determine the quality of the submission as it relates to our preferences. Our dominant-centric subs are measuring their ability to submit based on this assessment. The only way they can improve and become better submissives for us, is for us to assess their efforts and provide that information to them. Hence the last step of CERAF…
Feedback your assessment to your sub. The only way a good sub can improve to be an even better sub is if they understand how their actions were received and understand if there are things they could have done better. The focus of this feedback is improvement, so think of this as constructive adjustment aimed at improving the long-termed dynamic.
How you go about executing that adjustment will depend on your style of dominance and your preferences. This might manifest itself in punishment – if that’s what you do. I prefer to simply discuss my assessment, in depth, with my submissive, with the expectation that we have the mutual goal of improving their service.
The combination of Communication, Expectation, Recognition, Assessment and Feedback provides a framework that allows a sub to know what to do, how they did, and what to do better in the future. When the dominant takes the time to go through these steps, there can be no doubt they are active and involved in the dynamic. CERAF clearly sends the message that the sub’s submission is important to the dominant; important enough to spend time and effort to
improve it. It emphasizes that both dominant and submissive share the common goal of making the submissive’s submission the best it can possibly be. Further, it sends the message that only the dominant can assess the quality of a sub’s effort and results. This shares the responsibility of defining improvement, while keeping the onus of execution of that improvement on the submissive and the right of assessment to the dominant. It assures that the submissive will never feel alone in their dynamic (where both belong). The dominant will feel they are the focus of submission and that their assessment of the quality of that submission matters.
One last thing to point out: Nothing about CERAF discusses the content of submission. Whether submission is foot worship, house cleaning, receiving whippings, or just being a doting partner, CERAF is designed to communicate the dominant’s definition of what serves them and to provide a framework for improving the quality of submission; whatever that entails for the unique dominant, over time.
Using CERAF, a dominant fulfills their obligation to a submissive. It’s a much different type of commitment than obligates the submissive.
If this all seem one-sided, to an extent, it is. However, dominants are still partners in their relationships. They are still obligated by the rights of every partner in every relationship: to care for their partner and to work for mutual fulfillment. This doesn’t mean they are obligated to give their sub what the sub wants, when the sub wants it – that right of expectation belongs solely to the dominant. It means they are obligated to consider the needs of their partners and to assure their partner remains fulfilled within the relationship.
In the January installment of “Rika’s Lair”, we’ll talk about ways dominants can fulfill the needs of the submissive, without being obligated to serve them. We’ll introduce some concepts you can put into use in the coming year!
Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and a Happy New Year!
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”.