Welcome to the Lair! I’m very excited to contribute a monthly column for Kink Weekly! I’ve written a lot on the subject of Dominance and Submission through the years, so there’s a good chance you’ve read my writing before. I welcome back my loyal readers and also embrace this opportunity to reach out to new minds, introducing them to viewpoints that hopefully will both resonate with, and challenge their perceptions on power dynamics. Through the years, “Rika’s Lair” has taken on several forms: First on CompuServe Channel 12, then in an IRC group, a Google Group, a FetLife group, or now this column. The mission of my writing has always been to challenge perceptions, create awareness, and provide insight and guidance for people developing, exploring and refining power-based Relationships. I hope this column adds a unique perspective for you in your relationships.
In the coming months we’ll cover many topics: Some will be familiar, others familiar to those who have read my books, and many that will be completely new. There will times when you will nod your head in complete agreement and others when you find yourself desperate to challenge my views. That’s OK! My objective is to share a perspective which may not be apparent at first, but which will cause you to stop and think – and maybe to incorporate those ideas into your lifestyle.
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with over a hundred couples who had added, or were adding, power dynamics to their relationships. I’ve been able to help many (most!) of them overcome challenges and find greater fulfillment. This work has given me a unique perspective from which I’ve been able to identify commonalities, trends, and patterns – common stumbling blocks, and popular misconceptions. What’s most interesting, the majority of the “obstacles” we all face, can be eliminated simply with common sense, logic, and a whole lot of communication!
There is nothing more fulfilling for me than watching the smile come across dominants faces as they become comfortable with the personal entitlement dominance brings, or the happiness that submissives exude when they begin to submit in a way that finally serves their partner’s needs.
So, let’s get started!
It Starts With Intent After a great deal of consideration, I arrived at a discussion of “Intent” as being the first subject for this inaugural article. It’s not so much intent itself, but developing the ability to step back and identify our root intent, as well as the source of that intent. A critical tenet of my approach to submission is that: Dominance and submission do not consist of things that you do (or are made to do), but rather the REASON BEHIND the things that you do. It’s never the action you take, it’s the INTENT behind that action that makes it “Submission” or “Dominance”. Dominance and Submission are states of mind not activities or practices. Focusing on intent as a critical aspect of D/s clears away many of the seemingly paradoxical situations surrounding power dynamics and frees us (as dominants) to move our dynamics to where we want them, without having to consider how “domly” we’re being.
Let’s use a very common “act of submission” as a demonstration of the complexity of all of this – Foot Worship:
A woman orders a man to his knees and demands that he kiss her feet. She watches him
intently, making sure that he does exactly what he’s told to do. She instructs him to lick between her toes and to suck on her big toe “like it’s a penis”.
Is it Dominance?
Some would say, “Of course it’s dominance, he is debasing himself and demonstrating that she is a superior”. But I say, it depends on INTENT. Why is he worshiping her feet? Why is she having her feet worshiped?
Maybe she loves the visual of having him beneath her, lowering himself, and debasing himself. Maybe she gets a thrill from the feeling of it. Maybe it turns her on and drugs her with power. That would certainly support the idea that this is an act of dominance.
Now consider this possibility: Suppose she gets absolutely no satisfaction from having her feet worshiped? Suppose, to her, there is nothing symbolic or “submissive” about kissing and licking feet. Some people feel that way (I’m one of them). It does nothing for her, and in fact, might even be a little repulsive. Yet, she’s doing it because he’s confessed a deep desire to worship her feet. She knows it turns him on to do so. She knows that by “demanding” that he does this, it triggers emotions in him that she knows he really enjoys. She enjoys his reaction – she likes to see him happy. It’s her intent to turn him on.
Is it still Dominance? Guess what…it depends on intent again!
You might not think this is dominance, you might think that it’s just kinky fun and she is just making him happy. In fact, let me take that idea to the extreme: Suppose I told you that HE was the dominant, but he loved feet – maybe its even a clinical fetish for him … and she was having him worship her feet as service to him! Perhaps he, as her dominant, told her that he wanted her to have him suck her toes! Doing so wouldn’t change her position as submissive – because, regardless of how “dominant” her actions were, her INTENT was to serve him.
Or…let me introduce the possibility that she’s eliciting that reaction from him because she is also restricting his orgasms and hasn’t allowed him release for the past 3 weeks – and by stimulating him without release, her intent is to multiply the impact of his denial. Suppose she’s leveraging the fact that, by having him do things that turn him on, the chemistry in his body is going to deepen the impact of her tease and drive him even more insane with desire? So, she is having him worship her feet, even though she doesn’t really care about that, with the INTENT of stimulating him at a time when he has no means of releasing that tension! Now she sounds like the dominant again.
To the outside observer, this man – lapping the bottoms of her soles like a lost puppy – appears to be the submissive, but the reality of the situation lies between the ears of both of them – the only place where it really counts. The interpretation of the dominance or submissiveness of their activities is driven by their mutual understanding of each other’s intent.
So, I claim that there is no such thing as a dominant or submissive act. There is only dominant and submissive intent. With that understanding, consider these commonly seen “paradoxes” (and see if you agree that they’re not paradoxes at all, when you consider intent):
A man lays back on the bed as his wife goes down on him. She takes him lovingly in her mouth, cradling his balls in her hand and brings him to orgasm.
A woman lies back and allows a man to aggressively penetrate her and passionately “take her”
Submissive acts? Could they be dominant acts? At this point, we all should agree, it depends on…INTENT.
The stereotypical dominant/submissive image of a whip-wielding, leather-clad, manipulatrix, humiliatrix, dominatrix trussing up a man like a turkey and forcing him to endure all sorts of inhumanities, or the image of the leather vested, jack-booted “daddy” with his “little girl” sitting by his feet, represents D/s dynamics to many people.
It doesn’t to me. Not automatically.
However, a man who agrees to allow himself to be trussed and forced, etc. because he knows that the dominant likes him to be that way and does it FOR their dominant (whether he enjoys it or not) is very much my image of D/s. Submissives who voluntarily get up every morning an hour earlier than they have to, so that they can prepare for the day and complete some of the tasks that need to be done – so that when their dominant partner gets up, life is easier and obstacle free for them – and does so because this is what the dominant wants, is every bit as much of a submissive – maybe more so – as the guy who is groveling at a woman’s feet. And so is the submissive who does nothing more than follow the lead of his partner…yielding to them as the decision maker for the household…because that’s what the dominant partner wants.
Submission is Intent to Serve the Dominant’s Preferences You’ll notice that in all of these examples, the definition of submission is intent to serve the preferences of the dominant. You’ll notice that, in defining submission, I’m not considering the preferences of the submissive. If intent defines submission, self-serving intent cannot be considered part of that submission – unless it first serves the dominant the way the dominant prefers.
Certainly, doing something that a dominant does not prefer and insisting that it’s somehow submission is folly. Subs who think that, because the activity is considered submissive (eg., foot worship), they’re being submissive by doing it, are fooling themselves. Unless doing so fulfills the preferences or desires of their unique dominant, the activity is worthless as part of their submission.
Equally misinformed is the submissive who insists that the only way their partner can be dominant is if they demand “dominant activities”. Or who insist that a dominant must “control” or “force” a submissive to be submissive, when their partner does not prefer to do so.
Now let’s be careful here. I’m NOT suggesting that the submissive partner never gets what they want – or that a submissive’s desires are not important. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that SUBMISSION cannot be defined by actions and attitudes that don’t fill the dominant’s preferences – because that’s the basis of submissive intent. There are plenty of other opportunities for dominants to give their partners things that they like – without it being part of their definition of submission. I will talk more about “Treats” and “Gifts” in a future article.
Dominants: Communication Enables Submissive Intent We’re going to discuss the roles and responsibilities of both the dominant and the submissive in depth in future months, but here is a bit of advice to dominants regarding intent:
To enable your partner to define their submission with submissive intent, communicate (and insist on) YOUR preferences. They can’t read your mind and their minds are likely filled with porn-laden stereotypical imagery, which may not match your preferences. Tell them what you prefer to give them a target to strive to fulfill. Help them to achieve it by clearly defining what YOU consider to be submission TO YOU – your unique preferences.
If you want to give them things that make them happy too, do it! You’re in a relationship – you can feel free to do things that make them happy too! Just make sure they understand YOUR intent in giving them those things. So, if you (like me) have a foot fetishist as a submissive, but foot worship simply isn’t your thing – feel free to have him worship your feet – just don’t let him confuse your consideration for his needs as his submission to you.
Wrapping Up for This Month We started with a discussion of “Intent” over “Activities”. Even if you don’t agree with everything here, I hope you found it interesting and perhaps a little thought provoking. As we continue our explorations here in Rika’s Lair, we will be discussing the notion that everything that’s done for a dominant with submissive intent and received as submission, is service. We will also cover how submission that’s focused on the needs, wants, and desires of the dominant (what I call dominant- centric submission) creates a more natural, and therefore, more resilient, dynamic, than submission that’s defined by how it impacts the submissive. We’re going to cover the roles of dominant and the submissive and cover their responsibilities and obligations. I’m going to lead you through a logical methodology that you can use with your partner to help establish meaningful, workable power dynamics within your relationships. We’ll debunk a lot of myths and express a lot of opinions. We’ll tackle some tough questions and hopefully look at answers a whole new way!
Welcome to the Lair! – 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”.
Thomas H. Cotton says
i have two concerns about this article:
The first concerns intent. i think there are two schools of thought about this, the introspectiionist and the behaviorist points of view. The introspectionist, who is concerned about subjective thoughts and feelings, would likely see D/s as being about intent, as does the author. However, the behaviorist, who is concerned with observable acts, will feel left out of this conversation, since the author is advocating that kinksters ignore, or even deny, the objective reality of acts, apparently because acts may contradict and interfere with the subjective reality of intent, and because we want the subjective reality of what we intend, and not necessarily the objective reality of the act we are performing.
i am concerned about this point of view because it discourages any objective undersanding of.kink, and i do not believe that “ignorance is bliss.” i’m wondering if we all wouldn’t be happier if we had some objective scientific understanding of our kinks. When it comes to scientific understanding, i feel the introspective approach has produced untestable theories, such as those of Freud and Jung, whereas the behaviorist approach has produced observable results.
i am also concerned about the author’s outlook. Nowhere does She mention compatibility of D/s interests, and, to me, this is more important than what the author advocates. The author advocates that a sub need only satisfy his Domme’s desires, although a Domme should occasionally acquiese to a sub’s desires, even if She has no interest in doing so, in order to keep the sub satisfied. Wouldn’t it be better, i ask, if the Domme and sub had the same interests, so they wouldn’t be doing things just to please their partner?
To me, what you do is simply less important than why you do it. That is the way I see it. Kink is a great thing…I love my kinks, I love playing with my kinks, and I enjoy my partner’s kinks as well! D/s is not a kink to me, it’s a commitment – a lifestyle commitment. To treat submission as a set of behaviors would be analogous to thinking that “Marriage” is made up of coming home, having dinner, having kids, getting in the Suburban, and going to PTA meetings. I see submission as a commitment, much the way marriage is.
The compatibility argument is a common one. Sure, it would be great to be with someone who shares your kinks – and shares the intents of those kinks as well – why not? It would be great to be with someone who shares your tastes in music, in food, in intellectual banter, and ambition too. Relationships are seldom created between people of identical tastes and interests. They are often complementary…and they are often completely opposite. Still, you find ways to make your relationships work. Often our differences are more interesting than our similarities!
But let’s chase that viewpoint: That search for “compatibility”. If you look to define D/s dynamics as a series of behaviors and actions, you LIMIT yourself to those specific things. Whereas, if you are intent-focused, any number of activities can satisfy the same intent. If your intent is to serve the preferences of your partner, then anything your partner prefers will become a behavior / action you can do to fulfill your intent. The odds of happiness improve.
Look at the numbers game this creates: If you are looking for someone who enjoys the specific kinks you enjoy – let’s pretend: Foot worship, shibari, TPE and chastity – there are “x” number of people out there that you can find. Of those “x”, some percentage will be already involved with others. Another percentage will not be emotionally compatible with you. Some percentage of the remaining folks may not find you relationship material. Your mission is to find one of the rest.
Contrast that with someone who wants to serve another person…who finds pleasure in the act of service itself…someone for whom submission is the kink, regardless of how it needs to manifest for their particular partner. This is a person who will have much better odds finding “compatibility”, because they will naturally start with a larger population of potential partners. They’re not limiting themselves to a set of behaviors and actions. Their focus is on their partner’s natural preferences and definition of submission TO THEM. It COULD be kink…but it doesn’t HAVE to be.
Reality is most likely found somewhere between these two extremes. The problem with the Behavioralist vs. Introspectionalist approaches is that most of us don’t fall fully into one or the other. We act in ways that fit in either of them.
I have found that relationships tend to settle into what works best for both partners through experimentation and compromise. I’ve also found, in real-life, practical applications, that partners who start with an intent-based model that is dominant-centric, have a far easier time finding meaningful, long-termed relationships that include kink. They simply are open to more options. Not that kink-based dynamics don’t succeed in the long-term…of course they do…it just has a much less probable success rate…again, analogous to people who marry because the sex is great and then find that the rest of their relationship is ultimately more important…and they either luck out and find longevity, or they don’t and the sex can’t save the relationship.
So I’m not ignoring compatibility- I’m choosing to focus on the intent of the actions rather than the actions themselves…and that opens more doors, creates more probability for success, and tends to provide flexibility that can adjust as relationships change and grow.
Mistress Laurent says
I have read two of your books and was SO pleased to see you new column here on Kink Weekly. What a treat!
Thank you! It’s a pleasure to be here 🙂
Excellent article! A great read!
I can tell this section is going to be my favorite!