advice, kink

Ask Me Anything: Becoming More Dominant

From the Ask Me Anything questions from Sugarbutch’s 4th anniversary:

What are some tools/techniques that help someone to “try on” a dominant persona? … How can I help her to get into the right mindset? How would you advise a new, and perhaps, reluctant dom to become more comfortable with her power? —Sophia

Great question. Wish I had had some guidelines, or someone who could’ve given me some pointers, when I was starting to come into my own dominant/top orientation.

I think it’s important to have conversations, outside of the bedroom, about your interest in playing with domination and submission, and to do some assurance that you want to be submissive—that you really really want to be submissive, and oh aren’t you so lucky that the two of you can play with that together. You might have to continually assure them of your desire to submit—before, during, and after. I know from my own experience, it sometimes boggled my mind that someone would let me do all those things I wanted to do to them, but I still felt that twinge of guilt and worry that I was going to hurt them, somehow. Assure them that they will not hurt you—or rather, that a) you want them to hurt you, and b) if they hurt you too much, or in a way that you don’t like, you are fully capable of using your safe word and getting out of the situation. They have to trust that you can take care of yourself if things get to be too much. You have to be fully capable of saying no for the yes to have any meaning.

Talk about what might happen if they do hurt you in the wrong ways—that you’ll stop, that you won’t both jerk away and get all distant, but that you’ll have a minute to talk about it, assure each other that it was not intentional and you both know the other wouldn’t do something that was too much on purpose. Apologize, and try to understand why it was too much, if it was just circumstantial (we’ve done this other times and right now it just wasn’t right) or if it was the actual thing (you tried this new thing and it went too far), or something else entirely.

There are some exercises you can do around this, if you want to. For example, you could do some light play with the intention of safewording out of it, at some point, to practice. And when you do safeword out, practice that moment of coming back together, taking care of each other’s needs, and then getting back into the play. A safeword doesn’t have to mean “stop forever and ever I need hours to recover,” it could just mean “okay I really need a break from this for just ten minutes and they don’t seem to be letting up.”

Say things like, “I liked this and this and this that you did, but this one small part was just too much for these reasons.” Assure and re-assure, especially in the beginning. Tell them what you liked, what was working.

Remember that your safeword can also be no or “stop” or “enough” if you aren’t playing with power exchanges where those words are used to arouse.

It really helps to have some parameters when playing with dominance or topping and trying to bring about a more dominant persona in bed. Those parameters can be various things: time, clothing or costume, dirty talking, or assuming another role with certain expectations.

Using time as a parameter can be a great way to start. Put a timer on and say, “I’m going to spank you for 5 minutes, and then we’re going to make love.” Or count: 30 spanks with my hand, 5 minutes of warm-up with the flogger and then 10 really hard strokes, 5 strokes with the cane.

Sometimes certain clothes can really enhance an exchange, and sometimes just one key item can transform a scene from “us” to “play.”

Dirty talk has been key for me in getting more comfortable with my dominant persona. Not only was it key for me to hear a semi-constant reassurance from people I was sleeping with that they liked what I was doing, it is also a way for us to keep in better contact during play, because we’re engaging our brains instead of possibly zoning out.

Role play can be a fantastic way to try on a dominant persona and get more comfortable inside of it, because you can hide behind both the fantasy and the role. Most role plays requre some sort of negotiation before hand, especially if you’re talking about what you’re doing (or what you’re doing in the fantasy). Say you decide that you’ll be a student and they will be a teacher, and you’ll do anything to get a better grade on that test, even bend over the desk. You’ve established a power dynamic, it’s within these specific constraints (because you’ll just go back to being yourselves when you’re out of these roles, you don’t have to own the desires quite as much when you’re stepping into another persona), and you’ve already established some guidelines about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to yeild that power such that your partner consents (“anything” for that better grade, even bend over the desk). They know this, because you already talked about it.

That kind of scenario gives someone permission to play with variations on a theme. They know they can bend you over the desk—but what happens if they try to get you on your knees first, or to sit on their lap? They know they have permission to do these kinds of things (especially if you’re good at the dirty talk, egging them on: “What do I have to do? Tell me, I’ll do it, you just tell me what to do. I have to get a good grade, I have to pass this class, I just have to.”).

So: negotiate, talk dirty, role play, fantasize together, work on your trust.

And don’t forget to assure and re-assure. Do it sincerely, don’t push it too hard, but step up and express the things you loved, the ways you felt, what you’d like to do again or more of. Write it down in email or chat (or a shared Google document) if it’s hard to do in person. Do it in pillow talk right after, if your tongue is more loose at that time.

Hope that helps.

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.

7 thoughts on “Ask Me Anything: Becoming More Dominant”

  1. This is great! (Very timely, too, since ML and I have a "date" on Sunday, from the time we wake up until the time I have to leave in the evening, to do a dom/sub thing.)

    I've had some trouble getting ML to be comfortable with taking on the dominant persona I really desire. Mostly, for her, it's a fear that she's going to trigger me (as a rape survivor). I certainly don't discount that, and I think it's really important for the dominant to be ok with the scene, too, before it and during it. What helped HER was just talking about for ages and ages (several hours on several different occasions), writing about it, and me being fairly specific with her about the kinds of things I want/don't want.

    For the kind of topping I want from her, the way I was able to articulate it to her so that she would be comfortable with it and not think of it as a power = bad thing was using a pet analogy. Like, if you own a dog, obviously you love the dog. You pet it and stroke it and cuddle with it and take care of it lovingly. You also train it, and you decide when it goes on walks and when it eats. And if it misbehaves, you punish it. The relationship between you and your dog isn't one of whip-cracking master to cowering sub, but rather one of love and care and responsibility. Obviously, if you have a dog, you're not having sex with it (I hope), so the analogy has its limits, but for her, it helped her understand that being in control doesn't have to mean being brutal, forceful, mean. Maybe we'll get there at some point, but for now, I want more of a gentle Master/little girl dynamic :)

    Aaaaaaanyway. I especially like your points about parameters and role play. Those have been very important for us.

  2. marie says:

    first – thanks for the post, and all your writing. yours is a voice that validates my desires and experiences. i can go way too long without seeing any part of myself, my identity or my desires represented anywhere.

    second – i have a question —- what is the difference between domination/submission and topping/bottoming?

    lastly – a huge difficulty (and confusion) for me (and my partner as well) is that what i am most attracted to is the idea of her taking control, leading and determining what happens and when…but too often, i freeze/clam up/panic as soon as she begins to take control. i ask myself again and again – IS this what i really want? if so, why do i fantasize about it (in fact, depend on the idea in order to become aroused) yet have such an averse reaction to when it happens?

    do you have thoughts on this? speculations? experiences to share?


    1. Sinclair says:

      hi marie—

      I definitely have some thoughts about top/bottom vs dom/sub, I think the short version is that top/bottom has to do with action and dom/sub has more to do with psychology and "mind games," for lack of a better term. Not "mind games" in a bad way, but being dominant through words, instructions, vocals, looks, glances—things that are slightly less physical. It incorporates all sorts of physical topping, too, but many tops don't do much domination. I actually have a post on this in progress, I'll dig it out of my drafts folder and write more about soon.

      The second question you asked … I have a few thoughts. It's hard to tell from your vague description what's going on, but I'll try my best to toss a few ideas out there, and if any of them are helpful, great!

      Remember that fantasies are not reality, and that while domination/control/power might be the subject of your erotic inner life, your physical experiences of these things might be less, and you might need to build up to actually doing these experiences slowly. Some people can just jump right into them, for others it takes time.

      I'm not sure what you're doing exactly, but whatever it is, half it, stay there for a while and see if you can take smaller steps into the submission/bottoming. It might be that your mind can take more than your body can, and your body's reaction is telling you to slow down.

      Alternatively, if you can sit *inside* of that reaction of panic or fear for a while, freezing and clamming up and doing whatever, that might also be a way to move through whatever is there as a block. That might be tricky though, hard for both you or your partner, so I might suggest slowing it down first. Just depends on what's going on and whether you and your partner can hold it as it comes up, sit with it, let it flow through you so you can come out the other side.

      Though it's a tough one and I could be totally wrong here, you might have some shame tied up in wanting what you want. Those questions you asked (especially "IS this what i really want?") makes me wonder if part of you still thinks it's not okay to want this, for whatever reasons. Some folks say that you want what you want, and the "why" doesn't matter—and if that works for you, I say go for it. But I know for me, it's important for me to know why I want what I want, and what's going on with me—I think I fetishize the analysis, in some ways. So do ask yourself if there's some shame blocking your access to what you want, but also know that it's okay to want what you want without having to over-explain it.

      That's some random thoughts. Hope that helps marie—feel free to email me if you want to chat about this more, mrsexsmith@gmail.

  3. Irene says:

    Great advices – I will try it tonight :)

  4. WWG says:

    Oh wow, I think I need to save this. I've never quite gotten anyone to top me the way I want to be topped. I end up topping from the bottom, or just never quite giving over to them. They're always afraid to hurt me. I've had some major accidents in my life and survived those well, so I almost laugh at this, but I do understand the fear and appreciate it. I also may not have found the right person for this kind of relationship yet.

    I always wonder if it's better to find someone who is used to domming and build a relationship, or build a compatible relationship and work it into a BDSM relationship. Any thoughts on that?

  5. Something I don’t think can be stressed enough: in regarding roles,(whether in a scene or in a relationship.) the person HAS to want to do it/be it. If they are doing it just to please their partner…it can develop into a problem. (like resentment.) Yes, doing something to please your partner just for pleasing them is a great thing, but it really depends on what it is, and your feelings about it.

    Talk about it extensively, read books on it,(like The Loving Dominant by John Warren, The Topping Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, just to name a few.) Websites like Fetlife can be a good source of information, though of course like any source, take the info with grains of salt. See about checking out any local community activities. They can be alot of fun, you can meet alot of terrific people,(and yes asshats and jerks, Alot of BDSM communities are Pansexual in general, and plus alot of areas have a few Queer oriented BDSM groups,activities and such.

    Take things slow..and have fun with it. And also journaling about your thoughts,feelings and experiences can help with your exploring this new world. *Smiles*

Leave a Reply