We talk a great deal about consent in the kink community, as we should, however, I fear we sometimes do so at the the expense of other important aspects of a healthy kink relationship. In this article I want to go beyond consent and explore the role of trust in D/s dynamics.
We are going to explore it from two perspectives, that of the responsibility of the Top to be trustworthy and the reciprocal responsibility of the Bottom to be trusting.
Trustworthy tops make trusting bottoms
Trust is the solid foundation upon which a kink relationship may be built, it is what lets us explore further, take risk and be able to be our complete selves with another person. Being open about our kinks can make us very vulnerable and we take an additional risk with every new revelation. When our partner reveals a new kink to us they may be battling against every voice that has ever told them they won’t be accepted. As the Top we have to be the calm voice of acceptance, gently teasing out of them what they want. We must build ourselves in their mind as such a figure of authority that we can counter all those negative voices. Our partners must trust us more than fear the spectres of their own imagination.
When someone has enough trust in us to reveal a desire we must respect that and act to encourage further trust. Even small things are important, because it is only if we can be trusted with those little things that we can ever show that we can be trusted with the big stuff. Why would any of us ever reveal a deep kink if our partner responds to our interest in something relatively minor, spanking maybe, with ridicule or disgust?
To do and to be seen to do.
I believe it is not only important to be trustworthy but also to be seen to be trustworthy. We want and need for them to feel that they can come to us with anything. Be active in acting on information they share. If they have taken the risk of revealing something that makes them vulnerable then show them the respect of making the effort of engaging with it, don’t just say they are accepted, show they are accepted. If they say they want to engage in an activity, you be the one to suggest when it could be done.
Given all that I have said I think it is important to highlight that acceptance does not mean we need to engage in every kink our partner expresses an interest in. There are kinks that partners of mine enjoy, and I do not. That certainly doesn’t mean I would ridicule or condemn those kinks. If I am not into them it does not make them wrong. I will say that isn’t a kink of mine, but I always want them to feel safe exploring and enjoying the wholeness of who they are. Just because I do not want to do a certain activity does not mean I don’t want to support them in their right to have an interest in it.
I am lucky enough that even if I don’t enjoy an activity I probably know someone who does, and who is very good at it. Within the dynamics of my relationship I can encourage a partner to explore their kinks with others. The key here is encouragement, acceptance and support, even if it is something I am not actively doing with them.
So far everything I have touched upon has been about how we as Tops can respect and encourage trust. However there is an element of trust in D/s relationships that may be overlooked, that of the Top trusting the Bottom to communicate well and to be honest about their needs and wants. If our first step is in making ourselves trustworthy then the second step belongs to the Bottom.
Death by awkwardness
I am sure we have all been trapped in the horrific British awkwardness of the “Where would you like to eat?” “Whatever you would like to.” “Well how about Indian?” “If you would like to.” “Do you want to?” cycle. In thousands of years time archaeologist shall find the mummified remains of many a British couple so trapped in an endless cycle of indecision to the point of death.
Confidence, that is what is needed to break out of this cycle. How do we develop this confidence? It cannot happen in a vacuum, we need our Bottoms to help us, we need to trust them.
Let us explore the British awkwardness cycle of death. Someone desperately needs to make a decisive choice. There are two ways out of this, making a choice when you do not care about the other person’s opinion, or the other when you know them well enough that you feel confident making a choice for both of you. Now the first solution, of not caring, is not one I would entertain at all, and the second means we need confidence.
So where do we derive this confidence from? As with so many things I believe it comes from information.
One honest conversation
I often say to my bottoms that we need to have one honest conversation. Just once I need to have them tell me what they want, how they want it, what their desires are. After that one conversation I can take the lead, I can be confident in knowing what my partner wants.
One of the great tricks in good D/s is the Tops pretending that we are big bad Doms who do just what we want all the time and the poor Bottom is helpless. We can keep this up if we feel confident that the information we are working with is accurate and honest. I would feel terrible if I set up a big scene based on what I thought were a Bottoms likes and desires, only to find out afterwards that they hadn’t enjoyed the scene. That might make me hesitate, question my every action in future and that in turn has a knock on effect on the confidence my Bottom might have in me. We may even get sucked back into the British awkwardness cycle of death. “Is it okay to spank you?” “If you would like to.” “I would like to if you would like to.” and so on ad infinitum.
If I am to pretend to force them, to take on the role of the confident sadist I need to not be double checking everything I do. This means I need to be able to trust my Bottom to have honestly told me what they want. It also means I need to be able to trust them to communicate mid-scene as well. I need to know they will safeword if the need arises.
Finding our feet
It may take us a while to find our feet, to learn what we want from each other in a new relationship. As such it is okay not to know exactly what you want to begin with, just make sure to express that.
The Top needs to be trustworthy from the beginning even as we are learning how we will engage with this new person. The Bottom has the luxury of having time to learn what they want to do. However, once they have they need to remember their Top is not a mind reader, and they have to tell them.
We can only do so much to make ourselves a safe person to confide in, we then need our partners to be honest. We cannot effectively lead with any sort of confidence if we don’t believe our partner. The responsibility for when people act in good faith on false information rests squarely on the shoulders of the one who provided the false information. Bottoms need to be aware of that and accept it when they consider how they communicate with their Tops. There is only so much responsibility we Tops can take on. However that does not absolve us of our responsibility, we are in a position of greater authority and thus our responsibility is greater.
Trust in turn
Trust goes both way. Each of us involved in the relationship might have a greater or lesser role in developing that trust, but we must never forget that while it is Tops who may be supposed to lead it is good Bottoms that make us good Tops.
D/s relationships are filled with nuances of emotional meaning, here revealing a kink is not just saying “I want to do naughty things with you.” it is also saying “I trust you enough to tell you these secrets.” and when we reply by saying “I would like to do those naughty things with you.” we are also saying “I accept who you are, you are safe being who you are with me.”
About the Author
Will Hunt has been involved in the UK kink scene for the last 10 years; running clubs, teaching workshops, performing and generally encouraging naughty behavior wherever possible.
Mimsy Borogoves says
Agree on all fronts. Trust is so critical on both sides of the slash. And the level of trust involved in D/s is also part of what makes it so hot!
We can’t tackle trust enough. thank you for writing this