“I don’t mind working, holding my ground intellectually, artistically; but as a woman, oh, God, as a woman I want to be dominated” ~ Anais Nin
In a society that emphasizes the value of ‘dominance,’ I’ve noticed a significant dearth of men who are actually skilled in this art.
I don’t intend to blame or emasculate nor do I mean to imply that it is always a man who dominates and a woman who submits. There are a significant number of cases where a woman tops a man, a man tops another man, a woman tops another woman or any variation of gender fluidity in between. Domination has more to do with the quality of one’s energy than the genitals between one’s legs.
However, since domination is a role that requires a more masculine set of skills, we often see men take the ‘dominant’ role in carnal play.
As a woman who has spent most of her sexual life on the bottom, I consider a skillful dom to be nothing short than a gift from God. I will bow before the throne of this man. I will kiss his feet, offer my unending devotion and surrender all that I am at the altar of him.
So why does it seem that, in the (almost) lament of Flannery O’Connor, a good ‘dom’ is hard to find?
In a word: humility. Or lack thereof.
What is typically described as ‘dominance’ actually stems from reptilian-minded, scarcity-driven thinking, i.e. kill or be killed. Men’s compulsive acquisition of status and competitive one-upmanship are masks hiding deep wounds surrounding their disconnect from the feminine and confusion about their own authentic masculinity.
We’ve seen the stereotype: men craving bigger, better, faster cars and younger, blonder, sexier women in order to feel ‘on top’ in the world. Cream the competition. Leave no prisoners. Never take ‘No’ for an answer. Feelings are for pussies.
So if dominance is the ‘prize,’ than anything that is not, i.e. ‘submission,’ is viewed as ‘the loser,’ ‘less than’ or ‘beneath.’
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Feeling is essential in domination, vanity is poison and submission is considered the ‘power position.’
Think less like a lizard and more like a sculptor: there is the clay, the artist and the sculpture within. Contrary to what may appear to be happening, the sculptor is not ‘controlling’ the scene, nor is he ‘better than’ the clay or the sculpture within. The sculpture determines the next stroke and the clay relays this message to the sculptor’s hands.
The same applies in power play. Desire, or that which yearns for expression, channels orgasm through the submissive to the dominant.
Therefore, though dominance is a role requiring strength and solidity, it also includes humility, respect and ‘beginner’s mind.’
Anyone can Google ‘Shibari,’ ‘Spanking’ or ‘How to Get Her Off’ to learn a variety of techniques for sensual play. But tools are not enough. One must learn the language of the feminine, and totally surrender himself to her desire, in order to dominate like a master.
The following is a guide for unleashing your inner dom (note: for this guide, I use the term ‘Her’ in reference to ‘Submissive,’ with an implication that the Dominant is a man. As I mentioned before, there are a variety genders playing both roles, but for the purposes of easeful distinction, I am using the heteronormative language):
1. Know Thyself. Are you truly looking to dominate? Or are you donning the dom mantle in order to enroll someone to dominate you? This can often be seen in ‘tit-for-tat’ scenarios, i.e. ‘if I do you a little, will you do me in return?’ As I have stated before, our society often views submission as ‘weak,’ so it is no wonder men would feel embarrassed by submissive desires. Be braver than that; admit what turns you on and go for it.
2. Be of service. A dom is overflowing with generosity. Just as a massage therapist is in service of his client or a restaurant server is in service of her patrons, so must you be in service of your submissive’s desire (even if she can not yet articulate it). Have their favorite foods on the fridge, sensual music playing and warm lighting in the space. Put care and attention into creating your scene.
3. Choose your partners wisely. If your turn-on is rope work and hers is daddy role-play, you may not be a good match for each other (no matter how hot she is). You don’t see Michael Jordon riffing on a guitar or Carlos Santana shooting free throws. This doesn’t mean you can’t expand your repertoire or have a variety of kinks. But by being honest about your desires, you will more easily attract play partners suited to your tastes.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Speaking of desires, it is imperative that you lay your cards on the table and invite her to do the same. Ask what her what turns her on. What edges would she like to push. Does she have any requests. Any injuries. Any boundaries or ‘Hard Nos.’ Any STDs. Choose safe words. If you have a question, ask and get her consent on anything that feels ‘iffy.’ This is vital to the safety and sanctity of play.
5. Let go of the goal. Again: let go of the goal. One more time: Let. Go. Of. The. Goal. I know it can get exciting when things get wet and juicy and you want that big to reassure you that you are doing a good job. But nothing kills a scene faster than pushing for a result. She will either get angry that you aren’t feeling her or obliged to perform a certain way so as not to hurt your feelings. Remember, the art is in connection, not perfection.
6. Connect your heart to your cock. Yes, a sub wants to feel your animal, but she also wants to feel loved. Oftentimes men will sacrifice one for the other and we end up with a room full of ‘nice guys’ and ‘assholes.’ You certainly don’t have to be ‘in love’ or life partners, but you must empathize with her and stay connected to both your power and compassion.
7. Harder and faster doesn’t always mean better. In most cases, it’s a disguise for losing connection with your partner. You must be willing to go painstakingly slow—so slow that even she can’t stand it—in order to build the kind of energy for deep, erotic play. In the same vein, whacking her hard won’t necessarily open her either. Think of the more intense strokes as peaks of the experience, rather than blasting the scene with the same loud note. As I like to say, the feather sometimes is mightier than the flogger.
8. Be a rock. She has to know in her body that you have her no matter what. If you are only 99% present, she will feel it and won’t feel safe enough to open. Be a 100 percent solid rock for the tempest of her desire.
9. Be vulnerable. That being said, you must also be receptive to her. You must feel her experience and ride her wave. You must know your own pain in order to consciously inflict it and know your own pleasure to revel in hers. Your vulnerability also invites hers out, which is essential for orgasm to arise.
10. Hold, not control. Again, this hearkens back to the letting go of the goal part. You are simply holding space for her opening. The impulse to ‘control’ will cut you off from feeling the next right stroke.
11. Be willing to sit in the unknown. If you’ve stopped feeling her, chances are she’s stopped feeling you. Stop. Breathe. Reconnect. Sit in the unknown. And allow desire to take the reigns.
12. Keep it simple. Don’t try to use every toy or get into every position. To dispel the myth about BDSM, it isn’t all whips and chains and leather and pain. You don’t even have to get naked. A scene can be as simple as a blindfold and a bowl of strawberries. Art isn’t just knowing what to express; it’s also knowing what to edit.
13. Keep her safe, but don’t protect her. You want to keep the space safe for expression, but don’t make the mistake of protecting her from her orgasm. It’s raw, real and wild. Remember: solid as a rock. Get big enough to hold all of her, but don’t buffer her experience because of your own discomfort.
14. Do not take responsibility for her orgasm. Yes, be responsible for yourself. Yes, be responsible for the care of someone who is entrusting her mind/body/spirit to you. But don’t take on her work and yours too. Otherwise you will feel angry, resentful and obligated to ‘make something happen.’ Your job is to feel the orgasm through the conduit of her body. It’s up to her how much she wants to open to what’s inside her.
15. Claim her. Not too get all Harlequin romance novel on you, but this is an important point. In a recent bondage workshop I attended, the instructor demonstrated a hair pulling technique that beautifully illustrates ‘claiming.’ When she pulled the hair up and out, it felt yanked out of my skin and like she was taking something from me. When she pulled the hair down and in, it dropped me deeper into my body and closer to her, as if she was saying with her actions “You are mine.” Through this unwavering declaration, I was more willing to submit.
16. Breathe. Oftentimes, when the energy gets high, we hold our breaths. Remember to breathe, let the energy flow, which will in turn relax her even more into her orgasm.
17. Touch her in a way that feels good to you. Imagine you are petting a cat. You aren’t petting the cat for a result or to try to get something from her. You pet the cat because it feels good to your hand. A sub is the same way. If it feels good to you (and you are fully present with her), then she’s probably purring with equal delight.
18. Have a sense of humor. Poop happens. Pussy farts happen. Banging heads happen. Don’t take it all so seriously. Be willing to laugh and roll with the punches. And then move on.
19. Ride the edge. A skilled dom can feel their sub’s threshold and go just one step beyond. This is the sweet spot of dynamic tension. One step too far and the scene climaxes too quickly. One step too short and it never builds enough steam to take off.
20. Aftercare. Most people think of ‘climax’ as the most important part of play. For me, it’s aftercare, which is the process of ‘coming down from the high’ and reintegrating back into the world. Aftercare is a process often overlooked, but vital to the health of your relationship. A good comedown has your partner feeling relaxed in absolute trust and allows her to stretch further in future scenes. A bad one has her feeling abandoned with her guts hanging out and not likely to play with you anymore. Hold her. Caress her. Wrap warm towels around her. Bring her fresh water and hot tea. Share peak moments from your experience with each other. In these gentle moments, you lay fresh ground for new connection and deeper intimacy.
21. Bring it. All of it. Your fear, your courage, your prejudice, your brutality, your softness, your warrior, your wounded little boy and your dirty old man. Sex will quickly highlight all the facets of your soul that have remained in the shadows and the more you hide them, the less your sub will trust you. Be confident. You are who you are. Own it.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta