Rika’s Lair – Fulfilling the Needs of the Submissive: Without Obligating the Dominant

Since it’s the first I’m writing to you this year, Happy New Year! I hope you had a festive turn of the year. Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019!

I hope you’ve had the opportunity to read my previous three installments in Kink Weekly and are anxious to move forward with your journey into dominant-centered, service-oriented power dynamics! If you haven’t read them yet, you can click on my name in the by-line above to get links to all of the articles. Read from the beginning!

In November, we saw how each relationship carries attributes that are shared between the partners and that continue within a relationship, regardless of the existence of a power dynamic, or not. In December (in two parts), we discussed how the dominant is given a new right, by virtue of the power transfer; the “Right of Expectation”. We then talked about obligations of both the submissive and dominant, and how different they are. Lastly, we discussed CERAF (Communication, Expectation, Recognition, Assessment, and Feedback); a simple series of steps dominants can use to remain an active and involved participant in the dynamic.We also addressed that, while relationships are two-way streets, submission is a one-way transfer of power. We acknowledge that his makes some worry that the sub’s desires will not be fulfilled and the power dynamic will not be healthy.

So, this month, we take the next step, discussing ways by which dominants can consider the needs of their submissives, while remaining the center of their submission. We will avoid obligating the dominant with anything more than was discussed in the previous articles, while making sure both partner’s needs are being fulfilled.

Before tackling this challenge, we need to take a hard look at the difference between “Needs” and “Wants”. Let’s face it, there are things we want and then there are things we need. We’re humans, and like to be pleased, so often, we call things that we “want a lot”, needs…but they’re not really needs…they’re just things we like a lot, want a lot, and desire a lot. A need is something you really can’t continue (whatever it is), without.

We know we can’t live without food, water, and shelter. While there are many more things we want to live, and there are philosophies built around a hierarchy of human desire, these three are simplistically accepted to be the mandatory needs to live. Relationship needs are a bit more complicated and personal. My friend Jen extended it best, “Needs in relationships are things the relationship cannot survive without. Wants are things that make the relationship more enjoyable.” I find this definition to be perfect for this discussion.

In November’s discussion, we discussed the notion of “Mutual Fulfillment of Needs” as being a fundamental requirement of the underlying relationship layer. If you’re going to have longevity in a relationship, any type of relationship, you’ll likely require that your needs are being met by it. If not, you’ll likely stray from the relationship, or end it altogether. Lack of companionship, lack of caring, lack of love…all may be failures in need that lead to the dilution of relationships.

As I mentioned last month, in a non-power relationship, our “wants” are filled when we communicate them and hope that our partner chooses to fulfill them. We then talked about the imbalance of equity and obligation within a power dynamic, where the Right of Expectation, created by the power transfer,

provides “want-fulfillment” for the dominant. The dominant is given the right to expect and even demand to have their wants fulfilled. The submissive isn’t given the same right. While they don’t lose their right – as a partner in a relationship – to ask for their wants fulfilled – and to seek compromise (just like those without a power dynamic), the power dynamic itself does not provide expectation of “want- fulfillment” for the submissive, as it does for the dominant.

So, what does a sub really “need”? It’s an individual thing, of course, but most subs I’ve met feel a real need to dedicate themselves in service, and / or to yield authority, to their dominant partner. This is usually the core need of what they say they want, although the descriptions of their desires are usually crowded with very specific activities – things they like and want. As dominants, we want to address our partner’s needs, but not feel obligated to do so exactly as specified by the submissive, particularly if were not comfortable with the activities requested. Too often, submissives will lobby to get their descriptive wants in the name of “Mutual Fulfillment”. This often materializes as pressure from the sub against the dominant in the form of a demand or ransom (“I will not serve properly unless I get my wants fulfilled too”), or as a complaint (“You’re not dominating me the ‘right’ way”). This is manipulation based on a false premise. Mutual fulfillment is a requirement of relationships, true…but it’s mutual fulfillment of NEED not WANT!

This is not to say that a submissive has to resign themselves to go without what they want. I’d go so far as to say that subs need to know their dominant partner cares enough about them to consider their wants. If we don’t consider a sub’s wants, it can be interpreted as a lack of caring or a lack of interest; both of which can violate their basic needs and threaten the relationship. As dominants, although our wants become our expectations for our subs, their wants are ours to take under advisement. We must avoid being obligated, as a condition of their submission, to fulfilling their wants, but we need to make sure their needs are addressed through honest and open consideration of them.

OK, so how do we demonstrate consideration for a sub’s wants while retaining the purity and “one- directional” nature of their submission? In my first book, “Uniquely Rika”, I introduced the use of “Treats / Gifts” to address this need, and I’ve seen it connect with hundreds of couples since.

A treat / gift is something given randomly; for no particular reason. It is usually unexpected and never demanded. They are given out of the goodness of the dominant’s heart. There are no quid-pro-quos (a ‘this for that’) with a gift. Gifts / treats are not earned as rewards would be. They’re not due the submissive, there are no obligations to give it. There are no promises, no commitments on the dominant’s part. There is no implied contract. They are given, “just because” – and they send VERY clear messages:

  • I’m going to give you something I know you like, but are not demanding or expecting
  • This is not owed to you. Your actions cannot obtain a gift, it’s given to you because I just feel like giving it to you. I’m never obligated to do so
  • I’m in total control and can give, or take away things you enjoy
  • Even though I’m giving this to you, I’m still thinking about our roles and I’m still within the power transfer we have established By using treats / gifts, dominants can freely give their subs what the sub likes and wants. They can fulfill a sub’s wants without worrying about compromising their position of authority, nor of being obligated to serve the sub. As we discussed above, by considering and fulfilling the sub’s wants, the dominant demonstrates that they care about the sub’s happiness – which fulfills a core need. By avoiding obligation (gifts/treats are NEVER owed, promised, earned, or exchanged) the dominant remains in control of the dynamic and eliminates any possible misinterpretation as to who has the right of expectation.

Consider the submissive’s position: When you receive a gift, you feel genuine gratitude. This is how we want the submissive to feel. They didn’t earn it, they didn’t control it, yet they received it. They’re thankful to the only person in control of giving it to them.

It’s worth restating: A critical success factor is that gifts / treats must never become the motivation for submission. If you believe that your sub feels that submission is a means to getting a gift, remove the gift! They must understand that the quality of their submission is always expected to be at the top of their ability, whether they receive gifts or not. The gifts / treats are not compensation, achievements, or rewards. We want our submissives to be motivated by our happiness with their efforts; the dominant- centric focus. If they are motivated by “what’s in it for them”, their submission will never reach a truly useful level.

Wrapping up this month: We’ve identified the dominant’s preferences as the source of the definition of submission to them and discussed the underlying relationship, contrasting it with the additional attributes associated the power dynamic’s layer. We’ve established the roles, responsibilities and obligations of the submissive and how they differ from those of the dominant. We’ve acknowledged that the obligations and responsibilities of all relationships continue, even after the formation of a power dynamic. Additionally, we introduced the sequence of CERAF, and how it demonstrates our active involvement in developing the quality of the submissive’s submission. Lastly, we’ve demonstrated the difference between needs and wants, and discussed how gifts / treats can be used to provide for a sub’s wants without sacrificing the purity and direction of the of the power transfer upon which our dynamic is built. Whew! That’s a lot!

In February’s column, we’ll start to put it all together with a discussion on becoming a better submissive: Something for submissives to strive for and dominants to insist upon. I think you’ll find plenty of New Year’s resolutions to apply!

– Rika.

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. TonyTopHeavy says:

    Extremely informative and thought-provoking

  2. firefairy says:

    Lovely read! A great perspective taking piece

  3. i don’t see the Dominant giving kinky treats or gifts to the submissive in a relationship, if the Dominant doesn’t particularly enjoy these kinks. It seems that a D/s relationship would be more natural and spontaneous if the Dominant just did kinks at will that She/He and the submissive mutually enjoyed. In doing so, the Dominant would still retain full power over His/Her submissive.

    • Stubsub: Things that my wants fall into three categories:
      1) Things I also like: These things will be incorporated into our normal routines and into our power dynamic. They will be included along with other things that make up my sub’s submission to me. These are the things you mention that are mutually enjoyed.
      2) Things I don’t particularly feel serve me, but I don’t hate: These things are what GIFTS will be made of. They can’t be included in a sub’s submission, because it’s not something done to serve me…but I can still give them to my sub as gifts – because I want to.
      3) Things I do not want: These things are simply not going to happen. Period.

      So what you’re talking about – in terms of mutually enjoyed kinks – can certainly be part of a sub’s submission – as long as the intent is to serve the dominant’s preferences. Mutual preferences are wonderful. But when preferences don’t match up perfectly, gifts / treats provides an excellent mechanism to keep them in play – and not have to forgo them completely.

      – Rika

    • Of course, that first sentence should read: “Things that my SUBMISSIVE wants falls into…”

  4. I wonder how this gifting/treat concept applies to or relates to to allowing the sub to do what they did already before they agreed to be a sub, as understanding this might clarify the concept of underlying relationship vs power exchange addition for me. For example, if I as a sub played in a band weekly, and it is very fulfilling, then once I enter a D/s relationship, if my Dom no longer wants me to play in it because he prefers me to be at home that night, do I need to give it up? Continuing it would not be a random treat but a regularly scheduled event. Am I as the sub supposed to abandon it for my greater desire to serve my Dom? In real world if the Dom wants me happy, would he (she) let me continue somehow for the greater good even if I am not home Tuesday evenings to serve him? Maybe this is where limits to D/s (bedroom only would eliminate this as issue, or negotiations you hear about doing before you start to submit) come in, but this kind of question (decinding to allow sub to participate in a time-consuming event like this band) is where I blur the underlying relationship rights (retained) with the added :”right of expectation” and get confused as to how you see this being partitioned (base relationship right vs new dominant right to supercede it as part of the added Right of Expectation). I’m sure it works out in practice (one partner yields or the other of course) but not sure how it fits your theoretical framework and would appreciate your thoughts as to how to keep the sub happy while the dom still gets right of expectation met… thanks in advance for your thoughts on this, Very interesting theoretical framework you have laid out, I just am not sure how this example first in

    • Thanks for writing in…I almost didn’t see this post because it was in the archives by the time it came out!

      Of course, the answer to your question will depend on the type of dynamic you and your particular dominant have, but I will answer from the perspective of my own relationships and how I run my dynamics.

      If my sub had a passion, I would hate to see that passion flattened. I would not want to restrict them because I care about them. However, I also believe in the purity of their commitment to serve…and so, I would want the OPTION to restrict them.

      If they are true to their commitment to serve, and they are truly focused on my pleasure above all else – measuring their ability to submit by my happiness with their efforts – then they would want to forego the band if they knew it was impinging on my happiness. Knowing this…knowing that their INTENT is to serve above all else, I would feel free to allow them to be in the band – without compromising the purity of their submission.

      Knowing it is their passion, once I am in the position of having the power to decide whether they could participate in the band or not, I would certainly allow them to continue in their band – and yes, that would be a “gift”. What makes it a “gift” is that my sub is WILLING to forego the band in order to serve and I am deciding to allow it, even though it doesn’t serve me. It is a decision I make FOR my sub.

      The result is that the sub does not take for granted that they have the freedom to follow their passions, but that I can choose to allow the sub to do so. This forces the sub to deeply feel their commitment to serve and to fully enjoy their submission without compromise. The sub feels gratitude rather than entitlement.

      Preserving my authority is what counts…and authority is not only about restricting, it is about allowing as well.

      I hope that clears it up!

      – Rika.

  5. Nancy Koch says:

    Role-essentialist piffle. Language tricks. All. Framing works, so you go with it. Good for you. But it is not any kind of verifiable reality. Reality–D/s really is quid pro quo like literally every other romantic/sexual relationship. Needs? Here’s more reality–you meet your partner’s desires or they walk. That simple. The notion that the D/s is anything more than a roleplay template is easily dismissed the moment you cease pleasing your partner. No one submits for the submission. No one. The bill comes due, always. It’s a fine fantasy start, posing as a pure giver to a unilateral user, but that’s empty and unlivable. So, you give and you take, both. Gifts? Treats? Call the transaction whatever you will, it’s still a transaction, not something transformative or transcendent. The only thing happening here is that as a D, you choose to frame everything with your own words. Everyone in every D/s does this. This is mere personalization. What you are doing is what all do all over–you supply a demand; they supply a demand. Mutual fulfillment or you’re done. Word games here. Nothing but. Dominant-centric? Absurd. Mutually made. Mutually maintained.

    A note on the performer in a band. Of course, you don’t interfere with your sub’s being in a band. He’d walk. Much better to come up with all kinds of rationalizations about how you have the final say. You don’t. Test it and see. If he stays, then the passion wasn’t all that. If he leaves, then it was. You will never supercede a passion. Best to pretend superiority than risk losing your gorgeous imperial delusion.

    • John (JC) says:

      “Needs? Here’s more reality–you meet your partner’s desires or they walk. That simple. ”
      Actually, for me, there is a major difference between my needs and my desires. If my needs aren’t met, I walk. But only a spoiled brat will walk if their desires aren’t met. People compromise in relationships all the time. When they have desires that their partner does not, but the relationship is strong and their needs are met, they find a way – because the relationship is more important than the specific desire.

      “No one submits for the submission. No one. ”
      I do. It is, by far, the most important thing to me: To know that what I’m doing as I submit to my wife, is for her. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing – whether I like it, want it, desire it, or not. All that matters is that I know that it’s what she interprets to be submission. That’s it.

      ” Gifts? Treats? Call the transaction whatever you will, it’s still a transaction, not something transformative or transcendent.”
      Actually, there is a big difference between gifts / treats and the things I do with submission, even if those things are really kinky. When I’m submitting, I know it’s for her. When she’s giving me a gift, it’s for me. We both know why and that’s what’s important.

      Nancy, I don’t know if you’re a dominant or a submissive – but you sound like many submissive guys that I know – who are threatened by the notion that a dominant shouldn’t be focused on their kinks when they submit. I used to be that way too, until my wife introduced me to this style of power transfer. She basically told me that this was the only way she would allow me to submit to her – to actually submit TO HER. And I did it with a lot of fear and trepidation because she gave me little choice. I will tell you that I have NEVER been happier and more fulfilled. I do get the activities that I enjoy from a pure desire perspective – as a treat, but what I find that I want more than anything else, is to please her. Not because I’ll get a treat (because they’re not connected) but just for the joy of knowing that I’m serving her to the best of my ability and that she recognizes and appreciates that. I’m not longer threatened by this approach.


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