Adult Sex Ed

Ask the Sexpert: The Key Foundations for Conscious Kink Relationships

AGWDM 247 BDSM coupleEvery once in a while, I hear about someone wishing or wanting to be in a 24/7 D/s relationship. Most of the time, they wistfully talk about it like a pipedream with more emphasis on the sexual part but little or no consideration of the everyday life part.

I know of a few people who do who have happy and fulfilling D/s relationships, but I don’t know the details. I also know Galen Fous, a psychotherapist who specializes in fetishsexuality with individuals and couples. I felt that he could give much better advice on this topic than I ever could.


AGWDM galen fousThere are no hard and fast rules for Conscious D/s-BDSM relationships, other than what two reasonable mature and responsible adults agree on.

Some couples may agree to include some dimension of Dominance and submission and BDSM as an occasional part of their sex life. For others it will be the context for all of their sexual relations, but not in their relationship. And there are those who will desire to extend the D/s aspect into the ongoing day-to-day dynamics of the relationship itself.

For any of the above, the complexity involved psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and physically goes far beyond the realms of egalitarian relationships and vanilla sex. Based on 15 years as a therapist and living, researching and studying the dynamics of D/s-BDSM relationships, here are the key foundations I follow in my own relationships and working with clients.

The Difference Between D/s and BDSM
While the D/s and BDSM aspects are intricately entwined, they are two distinct and inherently different dimensions. In my view the D/s aspect pertains to the relationship itself and the negotiated power exchange dynamics. This can apply within a casual “sex-scene” or a committed 24/7 relationship. The Dominant has negotiated authority and control of the submissive.

In the right blend, the psychological foundations of power exchange can bring forth a very noble, mythic, romantic, loving quality to the relationship. The Dominant can aspire to the highest standards of leadership, integrity, wisdom, romance, responsibility, vision, and blessing. The submissive can aspire to service, surrender, seduction, selflessness and devotion. For both, these are best considered aspirations, not destinations. They are ideal states that can be approached but not perfected. Think of either aspect as a personal journey one takes that involves developing practices to continually grow into the qualities of Dominant or submissive one aspires to. It can be helpful to engage in mindful communication with your partner periodically to review, make adjustments and fine-tunings along the way. There is no perfection here. Allow yourself to expand into your chosen role as Dominant or submissive in a way that is personal and meaningful to you both.

The BDSM side is the erotic shadow side of the relationship. It invites in all that is taboo, forbidden, inappropriate, wild, cruel, slutty and more. This is the realm of the erotic sadist and masochist, of cold-blooded predator/prey energies and hot-blooded mammalian alpha/beta instincts, all with an ecstatic sexual charge.

These are volatile desires that require a certain foundation to be able to be explored in an empowering, safe and erotically intoxicating manner.

The BDSM aspect can be best held within the protection of the previously negotiated protocols of the D/s aspect of the relationship. These protocols protect the soulful, loving, intimacy between a D/s couple, and allows them to safely shine the light into the dark, forbidden underworld of their sexuality. The couple can then explore in a negotiated, well-paced way that does not traumatize the core body, heart and soul of each, but in fact increases trust, intimacy and erotic ecstasy. At its best the engagement and connection of Dominant and submissive in the realm of BDSM is a dance between the two polar aspects. It is a dark exquisite tango. It is important to stay connected with your partner at the deepest levels, to unleash the most fulfilling ecstasy available within the realms of D/s-BDSM Eros.

D/s-BDSM relationships confront us with paradox on numerous levels. In the above distinctions between D/s and BDSM there is the paradox of the noble dimensions of the relationship with the ignoble exchange in the sexual realms. Understanding how to blend the sacred with the profane allows both dimensions to be fully expressed in a healthy, ecstatic manner. In this regard, building the D/s Protocols that include clear consent, boundaries, respect, heart to heart connection and safety around the dark-edged BDSM realms, allows our profane sexual desires to have a safe and strong container to be held and expressed within. Our mostly neglected, secreted dark, twisted, perverse sides really just want to be invited, encouraged, admired, respected and ultimately loved also! They are integral and authentic parts of our whole selves. If kept hidden in shadow they will likely leak out into our lives in unhealthy, unfulfilling and often risky ways.

Many will also need to face a similar paradox within themselves. We have all been raised within a sex-negative culture that has forced most of us to keep our kinky desires hidden from view. Most have an embedded monotheistic judgment that views our acts and desires as good or evil, civilized or primitive and right or wrong. It can be a stretch to come to terms with these paradoxes within our own unconscious psyches. How can I be a loving parent, an active community member, a person of service, be a tender, loving, respectful and romantic partner, and also be a dark-edged, sadistic cruel motherfucker in the BDSM realms (Note: I can be tenderly cruel too – lol!). This requires an acceptance of paradox. Yes! I am both of these. One does not diminish the other. And I can find ways to express my most profane, perverse taboo desires in a conscious, healthy, consensual way that is consistent with my values and moral and spiritual principles.

Many of us have been shamed and condemned about our sexuality and sex in general. Many have been violated or traumatized. Even when we consciously choose to engage our desires and move past these shames and fears, they can still hold power over us and flood back into our beings when we do express our desires. Some of these types of issues may require some deeper level of work to resolve. But many issues from our past that might get triggered in a BDSM exchange can be worked on by partners in a healthy way through vulnerable communication, compassionate listening sessions, and sharing each other’s histories and concerns in these regards. This level of sharing and mutual care in itself can prove healing to each and build a deepening trust and intimacy to more readily embrace adventurous journeys into our wildest but authentic sexual desires.

Range of Protocol
In a 24/7 context maintaining a complete power exchange is probably the most difficult and confusing aspect of a Dominant/submissive power exchange relationship. Even if your goal is to be in a total Master/slave relationship with no rights or power by the submissive, this should also be looked at as a journey. Start slow and move through stages that deepen the protocols, and evaluate at each stage. There are very few couples that will be able to maintain the extreme edge of the D/s relationship spectrum. It is in my judgment impossible and impractical to enslave someone in the complex real world, though I do not judge those who may try. It is possible to negotiate for what works for you in a D/s relationship, and to allow for renegotiation as you gain experience about what really is fulfilling and empowering versus drudgery or feeling exploited. It is also possible to establish different levels of protocol periodically as a way to strike a balance between one’s deeper needs to control or surrender, and the ongoing practical nature of life. For instance you might establish certain weekends or other time periods as a time for high protocol, where requirements of dress, duties, use and service are pushed to the extreme edges of power exchange. Then revert back to more relaxed protocols better suited the stresses, strains and obligations of everyday reality. Again, I emphasize that this is a negotiated journey. In conscious D/s – BDSM practices that I follow, both Dominate and submissive share equally in the negotiation of clearly stated, transparent agreements of their day-to-day protocols.

Some of the most powerful tools to maintain a strong D/s-BDSM relationship are embodiment and mindfulness practices. Embodiment means to be aware of and present at the body level. We live in a very heady culture and are often in a disembodied state. Our minds are roaming constantly in the future or the past. We are barely aware we have a body at times. Using conscious touch, movement, breath and other mindful practices on your own and with your partner can do a lot to shed the surface tensions of the day. Touch, movement and breath all enliven the body, activating the sensorial systems from head to toe. This will support being more present in the intention of the moment be it to have an important discussion about your relationship or to step into the deep end of the BDSM pool. Developing and using these practices will help both partners feel more connected, intimate and freer to express their complex sexual natures. Putting focus on the ambiance of your play space where you engage in BDSM can also be very supportive to the overall experience. Prepare your space, be it permanent or temporary, with the sounds, lighting, aromas, textures and artifacts that are most appealing. All of these tools will enhance your experience and support a deeper journey to unfold.

These guidelines are very broad-brush strokes depicting a highly complex and nuanced subject. I hope they give you hints to explore all of these areas more deeply and find your own style and ways to explore D/s-BDSM in a conscious manner. It is an empowering journey to express your authentic soul in all its manifestations particularly sexually.

For a more in-depth view, check out my article, Myth, Archetype, Symbols of D/s & BDSM, on my blog.

About Galen Fous MTP: As a sex-positive transpersonal counselor over the last 14 years, Galen has worked with hundreds of men, women and couples who sought support to be honest and empowered in who they are sexually, and heal from the decades of fear, shame and judgments that held their authentic desire back. He has a Master’s degree in Transpersonal Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. His academic and research emphasis is on authentic sexual expression, particularly on what he calls fetishsexuality. He is actively researching and developing a new therapeutic model of sex therapy for individuals and couples seeking to resolve inner conflicts between their authentic desire and the parts of their psyche that resists their healthy expression. His sex research survey, Discover Your Personal Erotic Myth, has over 1,800 responses so far in uncovering the depths of the sexual psyche. He regularly presents at a variety of sexuality-related conferences, grad and undergrad psychology programs at colleges and universities, and has been interviewed and written for numerous media for his innovative views on conscious sexuality and the nature of fetishsexuality. His work and research has been featured on Playboy Radio SEXPERTS series, the Dr. Jane Greer Show, Condom Monologues, Raw Attraction Magazine, Psychology Tomorrow, the Dr. Gloria Brame show, and many others. Information about his first book, The Sharp Edge of Love, can be found at . His new book, The Key Foundations for Conscious Kink Relationships, will be out early spring 2015. He is also inventor of the Tetruss Portable Dungeon, Suspension Bondage Rig & Sex Swing. His private coaching/counseling practice is located in Portland, Ore. For more information, visit