This, like most of my articles, is for both sides of the slash. Let’s start with what you hear of more commonly. The D-type pushing boundaries or pressuring an s-type, especially the newbies, to act as if they are in a power exchange dynamic. So all you s-types listen up: Just because you’re AN s-type, doesn’t mean you’re HIS or HER s-type! If you haven’t heard this before, it won’t be the last time. A power exchange dynamic, just like play, is something you enter into with consent and communication.
So how might a D-type push these boundaries?
One way can be before you ever meet them. It could be as soon as their first message to you. Greeting you, making their intention known and then “giving you permission” to call them Sir/Mistress, etc. Why? Just because you’re an s-type? Calling someone by a title is something you do as part of a dynamic. (By the way this is not in reference to those who refer to everyone as Sir or Ma’am out of politeness nor toward those that have it as part of their protocol.) You in no way “owe” this to anyone, especially someone you’ve never met! Remember you have a voice. Let them know you aren’t comfortable referring to them that way since you’ve never met. Or perhaps it wasn’t their first message, but only a handful of messages in. Either way, whether you’ve been chatting for one minute or one year, titles are things you discuss. If they get upset, then I would take that as a huge red flag. Chances are, at best, they are role-playing the D-type thing and really have no idea or interest in how these things work. At worst, they are purposefully trying to manipulate you.
Besides expecting titles to be used, there are other ways that D-types can push a dynamic. It could be at a party or munch where they tell you to get them something or expect you to cater to them. Key words here are “tell you” and “expect”. It’s one thing to politely ask for a favor, it’s another to simply assume you are at their beck and call just because of how you identify.
Now on to the other side of the issue. S-types can push a dynamic as well. Here’s how…
So you, a D-type, find someone to chat with on Fetlife. Things are going well up to this point, only a dozen or so messages back and forth so far. That’s when the s-type hits you with, “what do you want to do to me Daddy/Mommy?” or “What did Master/Mistress do today?”
Daddy?! Master?! Mommy?! Mistress?!
Hold on there! These are titles that should be earned, discussed, and negotiated. Now, this s-type could be trying to push for a dynamic or relationship prematurely, or they may not know any better. I think it’s a common misperception that s-types are expected to use titles for every D-type. This is especially true for those that are new in the scene. I recommend, if this happens to you, to let them know that they do not need to call you by a title, that your name (or preferred label) is perfectly acceptable until or unless you both agree to enter into something more. Now, if they disregard that request, then you may have an issue.
What it comes down to is that a power exchange dynamic is something to be respected and taken seriously. Try not to move too quickly and be wary of those that do. It’s ok to move at a slower pace, at your pace, until the time is right.
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.