How do you get a dominant to dominate?

Unspeakable Axe interviewed me for his podcast Masochast a few weeks ago (I’ll let you know when the interview goes up), and one of the questions he asked really got me thinking, and I still don’t have a very good answer, so I’d like to pose it here to see what you think.

Most of us tops know that there are certain things you can do to get someone to be more submissive, to surrender, to let go, to move into that bottomy headspace. Like pull someone’s hair, for example, or slap their face, or bind their hands, or giving them orders, or having them kneel. Everybody’s a little different, but there are certain themes and similarities that I bet many of you submissives would agree upon get you into that space faster and easily.

But, Axe asked, what can one do to get a dominant to dominate? So I was thinking about it, specifically: what kind of action or look entices dominance in me?

I have some ideas, but nothing that really makes me think, yes, that, exactly. It’s a hard question – there definitely isn’t one simple thing that always does it.

Things like closely-shaved legs, straps on her shoes that lace up her ankles, short skirts or flowy skirts that go down to her knees, hourglass dresses with pinched waists, hair up and off her neck (just begging to be pulled down), definitely give me that growl in my stomach. Looking up at me or sideways at me under her eyelashes, yes. Sometimes (I said this on the podcast) having her be a little resistant of me gives me the cue that I should take her a little more forcefully, a little stronger – but it’s not about bratty resistance, it’s about keeping the tension strong between us.

Yes, that’s it: tension. She can do things that increase the tension, and that builds the dominance in me. It’s the ways that she gives me her power, then takes it back, then gives it over to me, then takes it back. I think I’ve heard Dylan Ryan call what she does “active bottoming,” which of course implies that bottoming is sometimes “inactive,” which is probably where we get the same stereotype of “pillow princess” – which is a little problematic.

I don’t exactly have a cultural history of submission at my fingertips, but I feel like this is a rather new idea. Or maybe it’s just an unthought known – something that has been around for a long time, but that sexology and kinksters are just starting to observe and name in a theoretical, observed kind of way.

But, back to “active bottoming.” That’s the kind of thing I look for – someone who will push back against me. Not necessarily in an attempt to resist what I’m doing or break out of my restraints, but someone who knows how to keep the friction alive between us, someone who heightens the tension as we give-and-take the energy we’re raising and dispersing. That’s what gets me feeling more powerful, that’s what makes me more dominant.

Though I’m not sure I’m hitting on everything here. Still feels like there’s something else at play. I’ll keep thinking.

What about you? What are the ways that someone can entice dominance – or submission – in you? A look, a glance, a bit of clothing, a particular gesture, the flash of a body part?

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

13 thoughts on “How do you get a dominant to dominate?”

  1. Katerina says:

    To get me to be more submissive: being pushed against a wall while kissing.

    To get a dominant to be more dominant: I definitely think there's something in the way that I kiss. Pulling away while kissing seems to make a dominant get more dominant.

  2. violet says:

    I suspect that I tend to provoke dominance by giving just a little bit of cheek (just a little), but I also alternate those kindof mildly impertinent nudges with deliberate searing, point-blank shots in the dark at what I imagine will appeal, very seriously and specifically, to my dominant.

    I cultivate this by paying close attention, both so I can gauge how much I can get away with and also in order to increase the likelihood that I'll pick up on something that'll enable me to drop some kind of arousing, tailored, deadpan hotness into conversation whenever I sense that the timing is right.

    This goes the other way, too—my dominant is very deliberate with choice of words and manner of address and tone of voice, all things which I find deeply hot. The specificity of what is being said and what's left unsaid is ultimately what conveys dominance to me the most decisively. A sense of the well-chosen. Also, the sense of just asserting, just taking, and knowing it will be given. Wearing that kind of confidence.

    I love how every relationship grows unspoken languages, but I especially appreciate how well the language of dominance and submission seems to take to being refined and crafted over time. For me, it's also very much about tension play—sharpening up the points where we meet and being aware and respectful of the spaces between, in a way that feels really good, and hot, and healthy.

  3. Vintage_Femme says:

    I can only comment on my experiences and give thoughts formed from them, but the following seem to give the doms/ tops I’ve been with the hint to take control and to ‘dominate more’:

    -sarcasm in response to their physical or verbal demands at various points in the ‘session’
    – teasing them, almost pushing them into a submissive mind state then laying down a challenge e.g. suddenly stopping, walking off a little and glancing over my shoulder, coming out with a comment which essentially says “now chase me/ take me, if your up to it…”
    -roughly pulling her on top of me
    – wearing a corset, stockings and giving her the filthest ‘come get me’ look I can muster
    -asking her quite directly what she wants to do to me in a sexy, putting her in control and getting her to set the agenda kind of way.

    so, yes I think it is about keeping the friction going back and forth -about the bottom giving power to be ‘taken’ away again, but (as with all good sex) its often about very good communication -sex isn’t always like in stories/ films -sometimes you have to have a brief ‘interruption’ to clarify what the other wants before stepping back into the ‘moment/ senario’.

    : )

  4. Axe says:

    Thank you for this post. I've never really put two and two together before.

    Sometimes I've been told that I'm "too submissive". Many seem to like a challenge and now I'm thinking that my being eager to get on my knees may be the issue there. Perhaps putting up some resistance will do the trick in those situations.

    It was wonderful talking to you by the way. Your episode will be up next week!:)

  5. by submitting, of course!

    i mean, everyone has their little cues; the things that turn them on – whether "on" means dominant, submissive or just, you know, on. there are, of course, themes, but it is largely a matter of getting to know who you're playing with.

    this brought to mind a related but slightly different (i think) situation – bringing out dominance in someone who has previously been vanilla (like my amazing girlfriend). i suppose it's a lot of the same things, but less about tension and more about balance. it is, as always, all about communication; finding ways to make it clear what you like, to entice her to try things – or, more importantly, to try more (and not scare her off =). i don't necessarily mean verbal communication (not my strong suit). i much prefer physical cues, which i feel can be much more nuanced and less awkward.

  6. Hair is such a big one. Less dominant but still very forward, both hands tangled in the other girls hair, makes more dominant kissing easily directed. I love a girl with beltloops or a belt, also very grab-able. I am so glad you mentioned pushback. I recently figured out that while I am more assertive at times, I am definitely a bottom in that I will push and pull on a lover, but in the end, I always want to be taken down. Also, best body part, back of the neck or the hips, if you're handling me there,…sold.

  7. riotfemme says:

    I react quickly when my hair is pulled, when I'm pinned down, when I'm ordered onto my knees. These actions trigger and draw out my bratty submission, remind me that I'm a bottom.

  8. Trust is the biggest thing. That sounds really dumb, but I'm still at a point where I feel insecure about dominating (gah, sounds like such a contradiction) and so if I'm with someone I feel very comfortable with, I can let go of all the insecurity and just let the attraction/intensity/whatever spur me on to be more dominant.

    What can the other person do to make me more dominant? Be a sassy bitch/torment/fuck with me a little bit, or be responsive to what I'm doing. I like to know that I'm turning them on, so to speak.

  9. G says:

    For me, it's all mental. I can point to so many different things a woman can do, or the many body parts that make me crazy, but without that underlying mental stimulation, it's not the same for me. So it's not about a woman who submits to me, it's about the resistance before the submission. It's the fact that she won't do something when I ask her to because she knows I don't want her to anyway.

    It's the words she uses to prod me in addition to her hands in my hair, legs wrapped around me. I think you got it right with the mention of the tension, too. That drives me crazy, and the right woman for me knows hows to use that power.

  10. I'm late to the discussion, but getting a dominant to dominate for me is (like Brett says) about playing up my submissive role, putting on a pretty pout and asking very very nicely.

  11. I have a partner who is totally submissive which is a new experience for me, and when you find a sole mate which you can do what ever to each other but special to her and in the morning look at each other a smile, where other partner in the past would of wanted a pair of Jimmy choo shoes are Diamonds or certain partner would of probably phone the Police.

    This quote by Miria hunter I think really describes it well.

    If you are meant to be in the lifestyle, you will find that, where you were once only walked through life, you will be gliding on air. Parts of you that never were complete will then become whole. In relinquishing control, I have found freedom: freedom to find and be the person I am inside.

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