I hope you have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all of my articles in KinkWeekly!
This week, I’d like to delve into a topic that came up during a discussion in FetLife.com regarding the responsibilities of a dominant in “shaping” their submissive. In this discussion, a dominant woman was having difficulty with her submissive, in that he was not obedient and behaving as she wished around her friends. She was at a loss coming up with ideas for ways to “train” him in this regard, and was asking for suggestions from others.
She actually received a bunch of advice by the time I got there, including several ways to “embarrass him public”, “cut him down to size”, and “Break Him”. In this “wisdom” I saw a common thread regarding HER responsibilities as a dominant, to mold her sub, shape him, and “help him grow as an individual”. They had all sorts of ideas for how to help him develop into a better human being and a better partner.
“What am I, his mother?”
This was all I could think. When did being a dominant become an assignment to raise a child? Since when is his commitment to me grounds for me becoming responsible for his actions? I’m not of the belief that the dominant’s role is to shape a sub. To me, the dominant’s role is to communicate expectations and to assess performance. The fact that the sub consents, implies he has free will to apply himself to meet my expectations. He needs to act on that. I adjust the sub’s efforts by making my expectations clear and providing guidance as to how they can better perform against those expectations. We are in a joint-venture; to provide the best possible service to me. This is what he wants and also what I want. We are working together, but our responsibilities are very different.
I don’t have the responsibility to create, improve, or inspire his submission
As I’ve discussed in other articles, my power dynamics with my subs are defined by what the sub can do FOR me, not around what is being done TO him. “Improving the submissive” isn’t a goal of my dynamics. “Improving the submissive’s ability to deliver”, is. I will provide feedback along with suggestions for improvement. I will enable him by providing what he needs to do the job and by eliminating obstacles to him getting it done right. But ultimately, he needs to make it happen for himself.
I never think of myself as creating or manipulating my sub’s submission. When a sub is a great sub, I didn’t make him great, he did. He deserves the credit. Yes, we work together – but my role is communicating expectation, his is execution. If execution is good, it reflects well on him.
On the flip side, when a sub doesn’t perform to a level that serves me, I look to him to fix it. Submission is a state of mind that HE needs to govern. The thought that I, as the dominant, am “inspiring” his submission implies that the quality of his submission is determined by my behavior: If he doesn’t perform, I didn’t “inspired him enough / properly”. Nonsense: I refuse to accept that responsibility. Performance is his responsibility. The onus of execution falls on him.
One of the guys giving advice suggested that she punish him with “Intense discomfort” to “Train him to become obedient and compliant”. I thought to myself, “Do I want my sub to be MOTIVATED BY AVOIDANCE of intense discomfort?” Do I even want him to be “compliant”? I don’t think I do – not either one of those. In my dynamics, the motivation for submitting – and, in this particular variation, of being obedient – needs to come from his desire to be the best submissive he can be. I don’t want him to be compliant: He isn’t doing what I want because he “has” to, he feels as though he’d be letting HIMSELF down, if he fails to submit to the best of his ability. It follows that, if he is gauging the quality of his submission on how well I feel it serves me – and how happy it makes me – and if he has an inner drive to make sure he doesn’t lower the standard of his submission – then the obedience (or however submission is defined) will be a natural consequence of that attitude. He’s not compliant, he’s actively pursuing the things I want. I don’t need him to fear consequences. I want him to find his motivation in delivering the highest level of submission he can.
When a sub is motivated by his internal desire to perform at the highest level to which he is able, you get the best from your submissive. You get more than you demand. You get a partner who is happy, proud, and fulfilled by his service to you.
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”. Write to me at Ms_Rika@hotmail.com