But there are a couple of essential steps missing in that formula.
Obedience is, of course, important. Open defiance is often enough to get a submissive released from service entirely. I’ve known a Master who had a slave for ten years, and one day, the slave acted up, and the Master ended it, just like that. While Masters and dominants will have a variety of different reactions to that particular scenario (I probably would have sent them away for 24 hours with some assignments to cool off, for example), the point remains: obedience is important.
Don’t get me wrong— minor disobedience, in play kinds of ways, can be fun, and make more friction between folks. It can instigate more sadism in a dominant, and it can be used as “funishment”—faux-punishments which are more for pleasure than because someone actually did something wrong, like, “Oh look how wet your cunt is, you slut, I’m going to beat you now.” Yep, that is good fun stuff. Sometimes folks call this brattiness, though being a ‘brat’ is a debated hot topic in the D/s worlds, with many dominants saying they would never want a brat. Brattiness can be a really good tool — especially if dominant likes it, or if it creates more excuses for play. That kind of “disobedience” is more about obediently playing the game that’s been set up, and it’s legit.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the importance of a submissive doing what they are told to the best of their ability in the D/s context.
It’s not open defiance, intentionally being disobedient, but it isn’t perfect obedience. Regardless of who is at fault (and finding the ways that both the dominant and the submissive can make sure this doesn’t happen again is perhaps more useful than finding the fault), the dominant often responds with disappointment, and the submissive often responds with deep sadness that they didn’t get it right.
Because that is most often what submissives want, right—to get it right, to be good.
When we find ourselves in that scenario—and we will, if we play with power dynamics, eventually be in that scenario—we have to allow the submissive some wiggle room with being “good.” The submissive has to be able to mess up without serious blows to their self-esteem, value, and submissive identity. Now, I’m not saying that the submissive shouldn’t be punished, or there shouldn’t be an increased amount of discipline next time, but hopefully those things can be done in ways that build up the submissive’s self-value and self-worth, and don’t tear it down.
No matter how much humiliation fetish we may have, having a submissive with no self-worth is bad for everyone. A submissive with no self-worth can stop trying, can stop expecting amazing things of themself, and can stop believing in their value to their dominant. At the core, it is best to have submissives who believe themselves to be strong, capable people.
Submissives who are strong, capable people also tend to have needs, wants, and desires. We all do, of course—dominants are expected to constantly mine their needs, wants, and desires, and find ways to use the submissive to meet those. But submissives are often expected to override their own needs, wants, and desires in deference to their dominant’s. This is often called being a “good” submissive.
For example, there might be some orgasm control rules in place, where the submissive can only have so many orgasms, or none at all. It can be really hot to deny them what they want: “Oh, I see you writhing around, trying to rub your dick on the sheets. Are you trying to come? You know you’re not allowed, little pet; you will get in so much trouble if you do that.” The need for sexual satisfaction is of course valid, but part of sexual satisfaction, for this particular submissive, is being denied and teased with what they want.
There can be other, less sexual, examples of denial, too; if the dominant doesn’t like a particular food, perhaps the submissive never has it at home (there are never mushrooms or cilantro in my household, for example). This is, generally, not a big deal, especially not at first. But denial of something pleasurable, even something the submissive just desires, and doesn’t “need,” can wear them down over time.
When we’re talking about 24/7 relationships, especially authority exchanges which are also primary partnerships, the submissive does have needs, wants, and desires. That’s just a part of reality, a part of being human. The submissive does have core values and core kinks which, if they don’t get met, at least sometimes, they may start feeling unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and even unloved.
The dominant role has many components, but one of them is to monitor and support the submissive’s fulfillment and satisfaction. Many submissives are fulfilled and satisfied by being controlled and denied, but long term denial can break down a relationship. A dominant must pay attention to the submissive’s needs, wants, and desires in order to bolster the longevity of the relationship.
Depending on the D/s arrangements that you have, it may be up to your dominant what they do with this information, or it might be your responsibility to assert your needs and boundaries, or to get them met outside of your relationship. My wish for you is that you can both figure out a way to honor your humanity, to acknowledge that submissives (and dominants!) make mistakes, have miscommunications, and differences in styles, and that everyone has needs, wants, and desires that are core to our long-term fulfillment and happiness. Hopefully, the dominant can fold a submissive’s needs into their own, and make them part of the power dynamic—another thing for the submissive to, enthusiastically, obey.