Adult Sex Ed

What BDSM is & Isn’t: Dominance, Submission & Power Exchange

AGWDM what BDSM is isnt dominance submission power exchange 2This is the first in a series of stories about what BDSM is and is not. I feel strongly about pointing out the facts because of all of the misconceptions and assumptions about BDSM there are in the general public. Some vilify it. Some think it’s a license for misogyny and to disrespect and abuse women. Some just have the wrong ideas of what it’s all about. The sad thing is that people have and pass along these beliefs without having any idea of what BDSM is all about. Even more frightening are the people who get into BDSM and do not fully understand what they’re getting into. I’d like to clarify things and hope that you’ll share this information with those who need it.

The basis of BDSM play is dominance and submission. A male Dom or female Domme (Dominatrix) takes the lead in directing BDSM play over (a) submissive partner(s). The “taking the lead” dynamic is known as power exchange.

Power exchange is based on a carefully negotiated agreement between a Dominant and a submissive. Each makes a joint consensual agreement over sexual acts that may and will not be carried out in their BDSM play. Just because a Dominant has control over BDSM play does not mean that they can overturn the “will nots” or hard limits set forth by a submissive. The Dominant has a responsibility of playing within the bounds of their agreement with the sub. While a Dominant may want to push a submissive’s limits, a submissive has freedom to control play with safe words. Safe words are generally green (go on, this feels good), yellow (slow down, take it easy) and red (stop, immediately).

When I say consensual, consent is the No. 1 rule. No exceptions. Ever. Safe words are always honored.

AGWDM what BDSM is isnt dominance submission power exchange 3“Exchange” is the key word in power exchange. It’s not just about a Dominant directing acts solely for his or her enjoyment. Domination is not about entitlement to sexual acts and pleasure without reciprocation to a submissive. Being a submissive does not mean that he or she gives up the right to receive pleasure. Some of the role playing that takes place in BDSM play – like chastity play and orgasm denial – is not the literal meaning of denial. It just means that pleasure is delayed but is granted at some point, and is usually more intense than in most other situations.

Being a submissive is not about lying back and making himself or herself the sole recipient of pleasure. There is just as much “work” involved for a submissive as there is for a Dominant. BDSM play is all about pleasure for both Dominant and submissive.

Being a Dominant comes with a lot of responsibility. A Dominant has the responsibility of knowing how to safely use the toys and implements he or she uses in BDSM play. A Dominant has the responsibility of monitoring of a submissive’s mental and physical well-being during and after sexual play.

Being a submissive does not mean being a doormat or being a lesser being to a Dominant. Being a submissive is purely about giving up control in BDSM play. Submissiveness should feel challenging, liberating and fulfilling. Being challenged should feel like a thrill or a dare, not anything that feels bad or demeaning.

Relinquishing control to a Dominant is built upon trust and respect of a submissive. Trust is built over time and respect is earned both ways. The act of submission is a gift to Dominant and should be respected and cherished. In social BDSM communities and gatherings, Dominants and submissives are some of the most respectful people you’ll ever meet. They take respect seriously.

AGWDM what BDSM is isnt dominance submission power exchange 4Most importantly, Domination is not about inflicting physical pain for pain’s sake. There is a close correlation between pain and pleasure in BDSM sex. Learning and knowing that correlation between the two takes a lot of education in how it works and how to apply it. Domination is also not about inflicting emotional pain. Negative words that may be used during BDSM play are not to be taken literally or to heart, especially after a session ends. Negative words are simply part of the role playing that takes place during a BDSM session.

Think of Dominance and submission as being the positive and negative ends of a battery or a magnet. Positive does not mean good or better. Negative does not mean lesser or bad. Without polarity, there is no charge, and Domination and submission is all about creating a powerful sexual charge.