Category Archives: Advice

Learning how to top: From curious to competent

Today my blog turns two! First of all I’d like to thank my readers new and old for being interested in what I have to say and sharing me with their friends! Without your support and comments I would just be here talking to myself. Hopefully what I have to say helps some of you just as blogs like Bitchy Jones’ Diary helped me. In the spirit of helping, I decided to come up with some guidelines on how to go from a curious newbie to a competent top, as this is one of the questions I often get in my email and comments, and it’s never an entirely straightforward journey. I should note that this entry was a joint effort between Edward and I. I couldn’t have done it without him.

1) Identify and become comfortable with your interest in topping.

Realize that you’re kinky. This sounds easy, but it’s often not. Both Edward and I, to some extent, didn’t realize that what we liked to do sexually was a bit odd until we were in our late teens. Once you realize this, you also need to acknowledge that what you like to do requires special consent. You can’t just assume that because someone wants to make out with you they want you to gnaw the fuck out of their neck or pull their hair even if that seems perfectly normal to you.

You’re not an abomination. Once you realize you’re not quite ‘normal’, you also have to accept that you’re also not wrong. Just because the majority of people don’t like hurting consenting others, tying them up, or bossing them around doesn’t mean that you are evil for wanting those things. For me, I think it helped that I had to come out to myself as bisexual before I came out to myself as kinky. I grew up in a very religious household, but I had come to accept that my bisexuality was not an abomination and had learned to accept a humanist ethical code. I had already had several years to get comfortable with the idea that if your actions are not harmful to yourself or others, then there’s nothing wrong with them. It didn’t take me long to recognize that consensual masochism, bottoming and submission are not harmful to those involved.

Even if you are Christian (I’m afraid I’m not familiar with other religious texts: commenters feel free to pitch in) Matthew 7:12 says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”. Even though I’m no longer Christian, I still think this is a pretty good rule. While as a top you may not be interested in bottoming, if you can accept that others truly love bottoming, then you can see that both of two people can be fulfilled by engaging in BDSM together. And as a bonus, ‘sex’ doesn’t have to be involved!

As a follow up from the Golden Rule, you need to also realize that just because someone else’s kinks are different from yours doesn’t mean that theirs are wrong while yours are right. The kinky kaleidoscope is one of the beautiful things about human sexuality. Judge not lest ye be judged!

2) Identify what about kink interests you.

I use kink as an umbrella term for both BDSM and things that fall outside of (but often overlap with) the BDSM realm like fetishes. Just to clarify for the newbies, topping tends to be the person performing an action, regardless of whether that’s tying someone up, beating them, or telling them to sit still while being tickled. The BDSM alphabet soup stands for the following:

B is for bondage. Tying people up, wrapping them in Saran wrap/cling film, putting them in a cage or chaining them to the wall with cuffs are all examples of things a bondage top might do.

D is for domination or discipline. Dominants like to give orders that are dutifully followed by a submissive or slave. This can occur from a scene-by-scene basis (which can be for just a few minutes or several hours) to a constant dynamic (which is known as 24/7). Orders can consist of anything from, “Take off my shoes!” to “Hold this ball against the wall with your nose for an hour, and if it falls you will get one cane stroke for every minute shy of the hour”. It just depends on what the dominant and submissive are both interested in. It should be noted that not all dominants like administering pain, but some do.

S is for submission. This is where the BDSM acronym gets a little ridiculous as S actually stands for both submission and sadism. I know it’s a bit strange, but just go with it. Submissives can have a myriad of individual interests, but their main kink is doing things because their top/Dom/Owner said so. Whether it is kneeling at their partner’s feet while watching tv, reorganizing their dom’s library, or fucking the shit out of their dom, they enjoy being bossed around by the person of their choice. Note that submissives don’t necessarily like doing anything their top/Dom/Owner tells them to, and you should never assume that just because you’re a top a sub will do whatever you say. Furthermore, not every sub wants to be your sub, and you should never assume otherwise. Doing so would make you a douche dom.

S is also for sadism. If you are a sadist, then you enjoy other people’s pain. In the BDSM community, this often takes the form of impact play: some form of hittie thing (hand, flogger, cane, bullwhip) is used to inflict pain on a bottom or submissive. The motto safe, sane, and consensual is often used as an indicator of what’s ok when it comes to sadism (and topping generally). While sadists may enjoy the idea of people’s pain regardless of consent, it’s only ok to act on hurting people with their consent. Fantasies are one thing, but when it comes down to reality, if they didn’t say you could do that, don’t do it.

M is for masochism. A masochist enjoys pain. This doesn’t tend to be pain of the stubbing-one’s-toe variety. Masochists usually enjoy receiving pain from people they are attracted to. Masochists are not necessarily submissive. You can be a dominant masochist, a submissive masochist, or just a pure masochist with no desire for power games.

Switching. A switch is someone who likes being both top and bottom or Dom and sub (or in my case Dom and bottom). You may find that you’re just interested in one of these things, or you may be interested in trying them all out. Feel free to try a few things out before deciding what feels best for you. I should also mention that BDSM does not have to be sexual. While there often is a sexual element, some people experience BDSM as a non-sexual thing. If this is true for any of my readers, feel free to tell us more about that in the comments.

Fetishes. Overlapping with BDSM, and certainly within the realm of kinky, are fetishes. A fetish is when something non-sexual becomes a sexual stimulus. Strictly speaking, someone is only considered a fetishist if they cannot orgasm without this thing being present, but it’s often used in a more casual way to mean that the presence of said thing greatly enhances the sexual experience. Fetishists can be interested in BDSM, but don’t have to be. For example, a foot fetishist might like licking your feet because it makes him feel submissive, but he may also just love feet in the same way that many men love boobs. A good bit of boob touching, licking, etc. doesn’t make someone submissive, and similarly, liking to lick someone’s feet doesn’t necessarily make you submissive. Other common fetishes include furries (people who derive sexual pleasure from dressing up or seeing people dressed up as animals or some sort of human-animal combo), splosh (getting off on people being covered in wet or messy substances such as whipped cream, custard, mud, etc.), body piercings, hair (long, red, shaved, stubbly, you name it, someone has a fetish for it), leather, and latex. All of these fetishes can overlap with BDSM, but don’t have to, and there are many, many, many more fetishes. As above, if someone else has different kinks than you but is still playing in a safe, sane, and consensual way, be cool man, be cool.

Finding your kinks. If you have realized that you’re interested in being a D/s top, you need to figure out what kind of things you’d like to order your bottom/submissive to do. There are lots of options. Some people enjoy tease and denial (which can involve chastity), others enjoy being pampered with massages, some love dictating exactly what happens during sex, others enjoy giving pain to demonstrate power, while others revel in receiving pain in exactly the way they like. Some people (like me) enjoy all of these together (though not at the same time, that would be a little crazy). To get ideas about what you might like you can read erotica, check out some tumblrs, or just let your mind rove through all of the fun things you might like to explore. And remember, just because you don’t see what you envision in other people’s porn doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. There is no one way to be kinky.

3) Find a partner (whether for a scene or for life).

This can be tricky, particularly if you don’t live in a booming metropolis. It’s good to be open initially to trying out different roles and activities as long as they don’t just completely turn you off. Edward and I suspected that we were submissive and dominant, respectively, but we both started out playing in the opposing role because we found people we liked and wanted to get some BDSM experience even if it wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. We both enjoyed our experiences and learned a lot from them, but eventually were able to live out the roles we felt drawn to initially. Now we consider ourselves switches, though I lean dominant and he leans submissive. And while I would recommend trying out different roles, I wouldn’t recommend marrying a dom if you feel like you’re a dom until you’ve at least had a chance to dominate someone (unless you’re committed to having an open marriage).

You will have to put yourself out there a little bit if you want to find kinky partners. That can mean being open with your friends about it so that they might recommend another kinky friend to you, that can mean using a vanilla dating site that has a fair number of kinky folk, you can get involved in online BDSM forums, or go to munches (casual kinky meet-ups). I lived in a small town when I first started getting interested in BDSM, so I used a vanilla dating site to find other kinky people nearby. I met Edward at my local munch.

4) Plan a scene based on your own and your partner’s interests.

Now that you’ve identified what you’re interested in and found a willing partner to try things out with you, you need to plan a scene. First find some mutual interests, and then start plotting things out. You won’t always need to plan scenes, but Edward and I both found this to be a helpful tool when we were first topping as it allows you to relax a little because you know what’s coming next and aren’t pressured to come up with things on the spot. You can also use scene planning as a time to educate yourself. Do you want to tie someone up? Then you’re going to need to learn how to do that. This is a great list of references for BDSM jargon, starting relationships, bondage tutorials, safety, techniques and activities and more. Do you want to flog your partner? Then you need to know where on their body to do that. Here is a primer on impact play, which is any kind of beating with hands, paddles, floggers, crops, whips, canes, etc. A great book to start with to get good information on safety as well as some ideas for scenes is SM101. Another great resource for all sorts of kinky things is Kink Academy. Edward recommends thinking of the end result you want (i.e. your submissive tied up and begging to fuck), think of the steps necessary to get to that point, and then learn what you need to learn to do that in a safe and confident manner. Here is a list of ideas of actual activities to do. Feel free to comment with scene ideas for kinksters new and old (though indicate if the scene is for more advanced players).

5) Enjoy your scene and scenes to come.

You need to have a safe word. This gives you both the ability to end the scene at any point if either of you find it’s just not working for you. A common system is stop lights: green for all good, yellow to indicate that things are getting a little too intense, and red to indicate that the scene needs to be stopped immediately. Some people use the number system for impact play with new partners to get an idea of their pain tolerance. After a few strokes the top might ask the bottom how painful that was on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being excruciatingly painful and 1 being not at all painful. Edward has also used a squeezing system to check in with subs without interrupting the scene. You can take their hand in yours and they can squeeze once for good, twice for bad. If your bottom/sub is gagged, then you will need to give them a non-verbal way of indicating a scene should stop. For example, they can hold onto a ball that can be dropped if it’s all getting to be too much. Even when you have safewords, you still need to be observant. A bottom/slave may try not to use their safeword when perhaps they should, or they may enter sub space and become unable to safeword. Take things slowly when you’re getting to know a new partner. It’s better to stop a scene or slow it down a bit earlier than you both might like than to take things too far, and reach a point where that bottom/sub never wants to play with you again.

Don’t take your partner’s limits as your to-do list. If a new partner has told you that they are terribly afraid of clowns, you should not take this to mean that you should break out the clowns to really up the fear factor. In a long term D/s relationship a subs fears may be something that can eventually be explored (with their consent), but this is not where you should go for your first scenes. When they tell you what they like, listen to them and do some of that. If there’s some things that you love and they don’t mind, you can do that as well, but respect their limits.

Adopt an alter ego if that helps you. When it comes to actually carrying out the scene, things will often feel a bit unnatural at first. This is perfectly normal. While I’ve made a point of saying that women don’t need to wear corsets and heels in order to be dominant, if wearing a sexy outfit makes you feel powerful, then it may be helpful to use that at least for the first few times. However, if you feel most powerful in fluffy bunny slippers, then you should go with that. At first you might not feel like a very dominant person. Initially you might want to imagine someone whose power you admire and step into their shoes. This is the basic logic behind role playing – you can tap into an alter ego that allows you to do things you might otherwise find difficult. Maybe you want to become a doctor, a librarian, a professor, or a burglar. Anything that feels sexy and powerful to you could help you get into your top groove. If you don’t need this role playing to tie people up, give commands, or hurt them, then don’t worry about it, just be you. However, if you’re not sure you could do it on your own, but feel like you could with a little help from your alter ego, then go for it.

I first started getting interested in BDSM after I acted as a dominatrix in a play. I wore the traditional get-up of corset, high heels, make-up, and a flogger. When I did my first scene as a top I took these trappings with me, and they helped me assume the persona that I wanted. As I did more scenes I found I didn’t need those things in order to be dominant, but I do think they helped when I was nervous and unsure. An analogy for this is learning to play the guitar: some people can automatically start writing their own songs, but for most you learn other people’s songs first until you’re comfortable with the skill set, and then you can go on to express yourself. Similarly, tapping into a person or archetype’s power can help you as you learn new skills, and then once you have the basics down, you can start to make things up as you go along.

Use a blindfold. Another tool to use when you’re a bit nervous and unsure is a blindfold. I’ve been topping for six years now, but I still feel a little silly when I’m trying out a new bondage tie. What to do? Blindfold my slave! If they can’t see you as you retie a knot for the third time, you may feel a little more relaxed.

The end result looks pretty, but I did not get this right the first time around!

The end result looks pretty, but I did not get this right the first time around!

Don’t feel like you have to talk the whole time. Trying to figure out what to say during a scene can be difficult when you’re getting your bearings as a top. Feel free to give your bottom/sub clear instructions, but leave it at that. If your partner has expressed to you that they really like it when you talk to them, then follow Dan Savage’s basic dirty talk advice: say what you just did, say what you’re doing, and say what you’re going to do. If you get inspired along the way, then go with that, but don’t feel pressured to call someone a dirty little whore if that’s not what either of you wants. Edward particularly likes it when I tell him what I’m going to do to him because it builds anticipation. For example, “I’m tying you up now because I’m going to whip you later, and I don’t want you moving around too much when you’re in pain”. This adds a psychological element to play: sometimes fear of something can be even more intense than the actual event itself. However, when you’re just starting out, stick to basic instructions until you feel comfortable saying more.

If you enjoy a scene, you can always repeat it. Don’t feel like you have to craft a completely new scene each time you play with someone. If you really enjoyed a scene, and it went well, you can always repeat it. If you’re in a D/s relationship, you can even do it every day if that makes you both happy. Eventually it might even become a ritual, which can be a daily reminder of your D/s dynamic.

The scene won’t always go perfectly. Try to be flexible. Maybe you were planning on keeping your sub in a really difficult bondage position and flogging them until they had nice welts, but that position just isn’t working for them and their pain threshold is low that day. These things happen. If you deal with this well by changing positions or dialing down on the pain, you’ll be able to try again another day or find an equally sexy position that allows them to be more in the moment.

If you’re switching with a long-term partner for the first time, you need to treat them like a new partner. Edward and I switched for a month at one point in our relationship, and while some things went well, others didn’t because we both felt like we already knew each other, and thus did not need to communicate quite as much as we would usually do with a new partner. We forgot about the importance of debriefing, which I will cover next.

6) Aftercare and debriefing

Aftercare. After you’ve finished a scene, it’s important to give your bottom/sub some sugar either literally or metaphorically. If you’re casual play partners (particularly non-sexual ones) you may just want to fix them some hot chocolate and wrap them up in a blanket, but if you are sexual partners, then cuddling is usually a good idea. Check in and make sure they are all right. Bottoms and subs can experience what is called sub drop. A scene can often be exhausting, and create adrenalin and endorphins, so afterwords bottoms often experience a crash. Snuggles and sugar often act as an antidote. Tops can also experience top drop, which is a similar crash after a high, but is more from the psychological experience than the physical. These drops can occur anywhere from minutes to a day or two later, so just treat yourself and your partner nicely and know that if you’re a little sad after scenes, that’s perfectly normal.

Debriefing. Debriefing is particularly important with a new partner, but can be used with a long-term partner as well. After a scene it’s good to discuss what went well and what did not for both of you. If something didn’t work, it’s important to figure out why. When I was a submissive in my first D/s relationship one scene didn’t go well at all: I was having trouble relaxing or taking much pain. My dom stopped the scene and we had a chat and realized that I was mad at him because he said he’d arrive at 8 and didn’t get there until 10, and that was just completely keeping me from enjoying the scene. It wasn’t that the pain was too much or I didn’t like being wrapped in chains, I just wasn’t happy with him and needed to discuss that before being able to relax and let go. Similarly, it may be that a bottom can take lots of pain, but not when they are in a certain position. Finding out what specifically did not work will help you figure out what does work. Asking your partner what they would like to do again is also great because it allows you to create an experience that’s thoroughly pleasurable for both of you.

7) Continue exploring and developing new skills

Each partner is a new challenge. Don’t assume that what worked for you and your last partner will work with a new partner. Conversely, a new partner may have things they like to do that were off-limits for another partner. If you are switching, don’t assume that what works for you as a bottom/sub will work for your partner as a bottom/sub. Always communicate about interests, limits, and triggers before jumping in.

Approach new skills with humility. Just because you’re awesome at flogging people now doesn’t mean you can pick up a bull whip and use it without practicing first on something that isn’t your partner. I’ve been using paddles, floggers, canes, crops, and a dragon tail for awhile now, but when I got my mini bullwhip for Christmas, I knew that this wasn’t something that I could just start using on Edward right out of the box. Some skills need to be practiced alone before playing with others, and more basic skills should be mastered before moving on to more advanced skills. In the bondage world, for example, it’s best not to attempt suspension bondage before getting comfortable with safely tying someone up on the ground. When it comes to impact play, beginners can try leather straps, floggers, and crops with some basic information about where to hit, where not to hit, and cautions about wrap-around (when using a flogger, strap, cane, or any hitty thing with some length you need to try to avoid letting it wrap around the body, which can create deeper welts than the top was intending). When practicing these skills on a person, it’s best to do it on an experienced sub who will tell you when you’re hitting them in a bad location or when wrap-around is occurring. Similarly, some basic ties can be practiced on another individual right away, so long as the top is aware that they need to avoid cutting off the blood supply by leaving a finger’s width of wiggle room, and they have some bondage scissors so they can cut the bottom out of the ropes in case of an emergency (these scissors are used to ensure that in cutting your bottom out of bondage you don’t cut them too). Below is a table of activities appropriate for different skill levels and trust levels.

This is meant as a general guideline only and all of these activities require some degree of education with regards to safety risks. If you perform any of these actions you are agreeing to take full responsibility for them.

This is meant as a general guideline only and all of these activities require some degree of education with regards to safety risks. If you perform any of these actions you are agreeing to take full responsibility for them.

Decide how frequently you want to be dominant. How much you want to become dominant in your day-to-day life if you have a long-term partner is up to the two of you. This is a good guide to different levels of power dynamics. You may find that you like having this separate identity that you can step into and out of whenever you like. Conversely, you may find yourself wanting to become more assertive, decisive, and dominant outside of the bedroom as well. In my case, it was the latter. I grew up in a pretty traditional household with my father as the head of the family. I was socialized to always be nice and compliant. I was still sometimes bossy throughout school, and took the lead in group settings pretty naturally, but I wanted to use BDSM not only to explore my kinks, but also to work on becoming a stronger woman. A recent TED talk I watched suggests this strategy might work! This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of assertive, decisive subs out there (or doms who don’t need the practice). Some subs may be happy to sub because they have to boss people around so much in their daily lives that they want a bit of a break. For me, domming is a path to growth as well as orgasms. Others may need different things to grow, or may like BDSM to just be a bit of kinky fun.

Keep an open mind. Things that you used to find weird may start to appeal to you as you come to understand them more. Be open to that, and allow yourself to change and evolve. One of the great things about kink is that it turns sex into a never-ending journey of discovery both of the self and of you partner. Enjoy the ride!

The intersection of performative masculinity/femininity and dominance/submission

A few posts back I discussed performative masculinity, and how to move beyond it. Today I want to discuss the difficulties posed by the intersection of expectations for males and females combined with expectations for dominants and submissives. I’ve hinted at this in previous posts, but here I want to address it head on. It’s difficult as a female dom or a male sub to figure out your own identity and your place in ‘the scene’ because your prescribed roles are in conflict. To be performatively feminine is to be submissive, and to be performatively masculine is to be dominant. By choosing or feeling yourself led to a place of feminine dominance or masculine submission, you are entering a no-man’s land where expectations are unclear and by your mere existence you are subversive. This is both a blessing and a curse.

Before we go any further, let’s define some terms. These are taken from Informed Consent‘s BDSM Dictionary.

Bottom: A bottom may be male or female. Within BDSM, the bottom is the partner who is the recipient of such acts as bondage, discipline (e.g. flogging) or humiliation. A top performs acts such as these upon the bottom. In the context of human sexual behaviour, especially anal sex among gay men, the bottom is the receiving partner, or a person who prefers the receiving role. However, the activities between a top and bottom need not include the sex act.Top: A top may be male or female. Within BDSM, the top is the giver of such acts as bondage, discipline (e.g. flogging) or humiliation upon their partner, usually a bottom. In the context of human sexual behaviour, especially anal sex among gay men, the top is the giving partner, or a person who prefers the giving/active role. However, the activities between a top and bottom need not include the sex act.

Dominant: As an adjective, “being” dominant is about exercising influence or control. Governing matters; being in charge. Predisposed to taking over and wanting to maintain power.

Submissive: As an adjective, “being” submissive is wanting to or being willing to submit to orders or wishes of another.

Switch: In BDSM, a switch is someone who participates in BDSM activities as both a top and a bottom, or possibly both a Dom and a sub. A switch will be the top on some occasions and the bottom on other occasions. Switches are very common; partners may switch roles based on mood, desire, or being with a different partner.

Let’s look at the ‘act like man box’, the ‘act like a woman box’, the ‘act like a dominant box’ and the ‘act like a sub box’. The first is mostly taken from Charlie Glickman’s ‘act like a man box‘, which was created through workshops wherein people were asked to describe a ‘real man’. I created the subsequent boxes based on what I think people are often saying when they tell someone to act more feminine, dominant, or submissive, respectively.

The BDSM Hierarchy

As you can see, how to act like a man neatly maps onto how to act like a dom, and how to act like a woman neatly maps onto how to act like a sub. In this way, heterosexual M/f couples (male dominant, female submissive) wherein the man is a sadist (enjoys giving pain), and the female a masochist (enjoys receiving pain) can easily perform their two roles flawlessly at the same time. This is exemplified by the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey. This book is able to be so easily consumed because it doesn’t trample on anyone’s preconceived notions of what it means to be male or female, dominant or submissive. The M/f couple then, can be at the top of the BDSM hierarchy, with the male dominant on top of course because he’s dominant (and dominants are supposed to be superior).

Where do female dominants and male submissives land in this hierarchy? Female dominants get a higher place in the BDSM hierarchy than male submissives because even though they are stepping outside of the ‘act like a woman box’ 1) they too are dominants, which are intrinsically better than submissives according to our boxes, and 2) they are taking on masculine traits, which lifts their status rather than lowers it. Therefore, the hierarchy is topped by male dominants, then female dominants, then female submissives, and then male submissives. The latter group find themselves at the bottom of the heap because, like female dominants, they cannot reconcile their two roles, but unlike femdoms their new role takes them down a peg rather than boosting them up the ladder. The fact that their desires and behavior go outside of the ‘act like a man box’ threatens all men who are concerned with performing masculinity, but particularly dominant ones. It makes them more aware of the man box, and more dedicated to staying inside of it. In fact, most people who are not dominant women (or dominant gay men) are disconcerted by them because they are willingly forsaking their privileged role. In this way, submissive men are devalued. This is why male submissives end up as the ultimate joke, as we see in Pulp Fiction: they make everyone who is performing their gender uncomfortable.

It seems the F/m couple get the short end of the stick, but this doesn’t have to be the case. While an M/f couple might easily fall into their roles since the prescriptions for both their sex and their power dynamic are in line, an F/m couple is forced to more carefully pick and choose what they want. As an analogy, the M/f couple are able to pick out a suit from a rack at a store. It might not fit them perfectly, but it fits well enough that they don’t really notice the imperfections, or they make a few minor adjustments. The F/m couple on the other hand, is an entirely unconventional shape. They have to go to a bespoke tailor because nothing on the rack fits. Going bespoke costs more emotionally and psychologically. However, in the end, they come out with a suit that fits perfectly. An M/f couple is able to lead an unexamined life, for the F/m couple, that is nearly impossible.

Throwing out the bad

Trying to ‘act like a female’ and ‘act like a dominant’ at the same time can lead to some strange combinations that can be dissatisfying to those involved. I’ve mentioned before the frigid ice queen archetype who maintains her lack of sexual desire, but combines it with sadism and controlling her partner’s orgasm (often giving him none). This is fine if it’s what a woman actually wants, but all too often it is construed as how a dominant woman is supposed to behave. Even in non-kinky contexts women are told that in order to maintain control over their man, they need to withhold sex. I find this idea repugnant, and in my experience it is simply false. I have sex with my submissives early and often, and yet somehow they still do exactly what I tell them to. It’s almost as if their desire for sex isn’t the only thing that dictates their behavior! I have explained before that I would never put my submissive in permanent chastity because I enjoy riding his cock too much, and I know I’m not the only female dominant who has penetrative sex with her partner for fun. A woman only loses power when she has sex if her partner is a douchebag who thinks that sex is the only thing a woman has to offer and/or that a woman is spoiled goods once she’s been fucked. Why would a woman want to control a man who thinks either of those things? Many of the attributes in the ‘act like a woman box’ are ridiculous and should be (and fortunately are slowly being) discarded. This isn’t to say that a woman should want sex all the time, but rather, she shouldn’t feel like less of a woman if she does.

Similarly, trying to ‘act like a man’ and ‘act like a submissive’ can lead to some strange results too. For example, some men overcompensate by being an asshole (violent, competitive, and angry) to everyone but their dominant. This doesn’t solve any problems. Other men forsake the ‘act like a man box’ altogether and portray themselves as useless worms ripe for humiliation. As I’ve said before, and I’m sure I’ll say again, what fun is it bringing a man to his knees if he was never standing tall to begin with? Confidence and a comfort in one’s own skin are attractive traits in anyone, male or female, dom or sub. While we shouldn’t try to stay inside of our boxes, we also shouldn’t try to stay entirely outside of them because that can be equally limiting.

Keeping what works

Just like with the ‘act like a man box’, the best way to conquer all of these boxes is not by rejecting them flat-out, becoming the reciprocal of what the box indicates, but rather by picking and choosing what works for you. Rejecting the box can make one feel just as trapped as trying to conform to it. As Glickman describes,

They had to do everything that was inside the [Act Like a Man] Box. I couldn’t do anything that was inside the Box. They couldn’t show sadness or fear. I couldn’t show anger. They had to be aggressive. I became really passive. They had to make their needs come before other peoples’. I wouldn’t state my needs or desires, and I never let myself come first.

A woman doesn’t have to reject everything in the ‘act like a woman box’ in order to be dominant, and a man doesn’t have to reject everything in the ‘act like a man box’ in order to be submissive. Neither do they have to conform to everything in the ‘act like a dominant’ or ‘act like a submissive’ boxes. This applies to M/f, F/f, and M/m couples too, but I will be focusing on what this looks like in the context of an F/m relationship.

Many women enjoy conforming to the ‘act like a woman box’ to some extent, and want to maintain that femininity while being dominant. Similarly, many submissive men like being masculine in some respects. For example, a female dominant might enjoy being nurturing, romantic and wearing make-up most days. None of these things are actually in conflict with being dominant, so have at it! Some submissive men might like being muscular, assertive, and decisive.  This doesn’t actually prevent them from obeying their dominant, so there’s no conflict. The same goes for deciding how to be dominant and submissive. You say you like tying men up and jumping their bones, but don’t want to fuck them in the ass? Not a problem. You like both biting and being bitten? You’re both going to have some bruises to hide. The only thing that should dictate what happens within any D/s relationship is the interests and consent of the two (or three, or four, or more) people involved. Don’t let yourself get boxed in or boxed out.

Guidelines for making your own bespoke D/s relationship

Here are some guidelines for creating a D/s relationship that uniquely suits your own and your partner’s needs and desires. They are not necessarily meant to be followed in order. Many people, for example, only figure out what kind of D/s they are interested in after finding that someone else is interested in it. This list is not exhaustive, but can be applied to any relationship regardless of sex or orientation.

1) Identify what interests you about D/s. Is it the service aspect? Do you love suffering for someone else’s enjoyment? Does it make you hot when you tell someone what to do and they comply? Is your greatest fantasy having someone dictate what you wear and how you behave in order to please them (slave training)? Whatever the crucial part of your desires are, make sure these are being met by your partner, regardless of your role.

2) Find someone with interests that are similar or reciprocal to your own. Whether it’s online (Fetlife, CollarMe, Informed Consent, OK Cupid), at a munch, through a friend, or through your local polyamoury group, kinky people tend to be more comfortable with their whole selves when they can be with someone who accepts and appreciates all of them.

3) Don’t be afraid to experiment. Fascinated by bondage, but don’t know whether you want to tie or be tied? Try both! Your girlfriend says she’ll let you fuck her in the ass if you let her fuck you in the ass? Go for it!

4) Don’t let fear dictate your actions. As an example, if a man doesn’t want a plug in his ass because he’s afraid it will hurt or tear, that’s one thing. However, if he’s afraid that it will make him less of a man, that’s another. Being afraid of being less manly is equivalent to saying that being female is inferior to being male. Being afraid that it will make you gay is similar.There’s nothing wrong with being gay, so why should you be afraid that something would make you appear gay? Furthermore, liking things in your ass doesn’t make you gay. Avoiding things because you fear they will make you seem feminine, gay, or submissive reinforces sexism, homophobia, and domism.

5) Communicate, communicate, communicate. Have an ongoing conversation about your kinky likes and dislikes. They may evolve and change – in fact, they probably will.

6) Explore novel ways to have sex. No sex act is inherently dominant or submissive. Experiment with ways to keep the power dynamic even when doing something that ‘doms don’t do’. For example, giving a blow job might not seem very dominant at first, but when you add in a man begging you to lick them and begging you to come, you’d be amazed at how it’s magically transformed into a dominant act.

Parting thoughts

As Cat Stevens would say,

You can do what you want

The opportunity’s on

And if you find a new way

You can do it today

You can make it all true

And you can make it undo

Whether you’re male, female, trans, genderqueer, intersex, gay, straight, or pansexual, the way that you do D/s is up to you and those you play with. Don’t let boxes get in the way of your bedroom fun. Try to find your authentic desires, and don’t let your fears get in the way of realizing them. To do so is letting down not just yourself, but also others who would benefit from playing in a world without performative boxes.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to PWN, Edward, and my roomate for helping me edit this.

Advice for a vanilla woman whose boyfriend wants her to dominate him

I got this message a few days back, and figured that this isn’t an entirely uncommon situation, so I’m publishing our dialogue (with her consent). If anyone wants some advice I’m always happy to give it if I can, or point you towards some resources if I can’t. For the purposes of this post, we’ll call her Esmeralda.

Esmeralda:

Hello,

I hope you don’t mind, but I was wondering if you could offer some advice? From the research I’ve done, I guess I’d define myself as straight-up Vanilla. Recently I’ve come into contact with a man who is into BDSM, and he mentioned wanting me to dominate him.

Now, I should be honest and admit I have no idea what that entails! He mentioned that he was not sadistic, and that he has previously always held the post of Master… I don’t know what he hopes I can provide, but the more I learn the more tempted I am. I am kind-hearted and docile by nature, and I don’t think I’d be able to hurt him.

I keep trying to find out more, but it’s so confusing. Is there a way to dominate him, without pain? I could do with like, non-violent acts, ropes and wax for instance, and I enjoy being a tease. I don’t think I could handle sodomy or excretions, some light spanking would be about as far as I would be willing to go. Based on his preferences, do you think this is enough? Is there a way to meet his needs without pushing my boundaries?

Hope to hear back! Loved your blog, it’s really been helpful in navigating this unfamiliar terrain…

Love,
Esmeralda

Me:

Hello there,

There are certainly ways to dominate without too much pain. As you mentioned, bondage is one avenue. Light spankings and wax play are also things to try if you want to explore light pain. If you are going to try wax play, use a white unscented paraffin candle and try not to pool the wax in one place too much. Coloured, scented candles burn at a higher temperature and dripping multiple drops in the same place within a short span of time can lead to a more intense burning sensation. For more information on wax play go here.

Teasing is a great avenue if that’s one that you enjoy. Bondage + teasing can be a lot of fun. Sensation play is also a nice combination with bondage (and teasing too). Tying your boyfriend to a chair, blindfolding him and running scarves along his body, then a refrigerated butter knife (sounds strange, but it will feel sharp to him and you’ll know you can’t do any damage with it), then parts of your body/lips/tongue works well. If you feel comfortable you could also slap his inner thighs lightly or run your fingernails along him.

Another part of domination can be him serving you. You could make him clean, bring you drinks, make you breakfast, give you massages. However you and he like it. Is there something you would like for him to wear or some way that you’d like for him to prepare for sex that he’s not currently doing? Maybe you really like it when he wears a certain kind of underwear or think you might like it if he waxed his genitals. As part of our daily routine, Edward makes me breakfast each morning and puts on and takes of my shoes when we go out together. When he does so, he kisses my feet. These things are called rituals, and they tend to reinforce a feeling of you dominating him in a gentle way. He and I have a 24/7 dynamic you may not want, particularly when you’re just starting to explore. Perhaps you would like to have a pampering night where he bathes you, massages you, and gives you a pedicure (although it can take some work to teach a guy how to do this well!) or kisses your entire body, leaving no square inch unappreciated.

Chastity is another option for those who aren’t really interested in pain, but are fascinated by control. By controlling his orgasms he may become more attentive and more invested in your pleasure. Personally, I don’t like using a chastity device when I’m living with my boyfriend because I like having constant access to his cock, but I do like controlling his orgasms. The only downside is having to pause multiple times throughout penetrative vaginal sex because it will be harder for him to not orgasm the longer he goes without it. However, if, like many women, you actually prefer receiving oral sex to vaginal sex, then there’s not much of an issue. I love vaginal sex, but it can be fun to challenge yourself to be more creative. You can explore manual stimulation, sex toys, oral sex, etc.

Think about what, if any of this, interests you, and then have a conversation with him. If you want to look at how several different dominant women got into domination, and what aspects of it they like you can go here. See where your interests overlap. Not every guy who is into submitting is into pain or service or any other individual aspect of it, just as not every dominant is into pegging (i.e. a woman sodomizing a man). You also need to discuss when the domination will happen. Are you both ok with you just bossing him around at any given time or should it just be in the bedroom or at least in private? How often would you both like this to happen? Do you want vanilla sex most of the time with this thrown in once a month or something like that? Would that work for him too? And finally, don’t feel pressured to do anything you’re really not interested in. It’s good to try new things, but if you try it and you really don’t like it, you don’t have to keep doing it. Dominating someone should be something that gives you both pleasure: you in an immediate way, him in a maybe-not-this-moment-but-obeying-is-hot kind of way.

Hope that helps, and feel free to ask more!Kind regards,
Dev

P. S. Would you mind if I posted your question and my answer in my blog? I’d like people to know that they can ask questions if they like. I’d be happy to take your name out if that would make you more comfortable.

Esmeralda:
Hi Dev,Thanks so much for all your wonderful advice! This actually helped clear a lot of things up for me, and put me so much more at ease. In my mind, BDSM was that sort of stereotypical Mr. Slave from South Park image. I’m very happy to know that this isn’t exclusively the case. I guess what I realized is that it can actually be accommodated to suit more ‘normal’ relationships and even help to enhance them. A lot of what you mentioned sounds very appealing, and I’m actually getting a little turned on…

Sure, feel free! Thank you for all your help, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.