The Nature of Dominance

In a blog about the difference between BDSM and abuse, establishing matters such as the need for the dominant to live up to his own standards and to make sure he keeps in mind that he is dealing with a human being and not a crash test dummy is critical

Reposted with permission:

The Nature of Dominance
By Rick Umbaugh
Dominance is a state of mind, like honor it is a gift one gives oneself. It is a particular way of viewing the world. To begin with it is a matter of accepting responsibility not only for your own actions but also anyone under your discipline as submissives. In the not to distant past this responsibility was expressed in the Code Duello, in which a gentleman was held responsible for not only the honor of his behavior but also for the behavior of his household. This responsibility is the source from which all Dominants, from the Old Guard to today, receive their right to dominate. Until a Dominant understands this basic principle he or she is, to my mind, not worthy of the submission of anyone. This is a very dogmatic stand, I understand, but one need not spend a lot of time in the scene to see how important this concept is.

So, how does one live with this lofty ideal? To begin with a Dom must live up to his own standards. As anyone whose life has been touched by the military knows, one cannot expect to discipline anyone until one is disciplined oneself. Sobriety, moderation and rationality are the marks of the successful Doms, male or female, I’ve met over the years. While this might seem to be more the code of the vanilla Boy Scout, you have to understand it within the context of what we do. In the scene you can be all kinds of evil things and express all kinds of destructive emotions, but underneath it all you have to understand that there is a human being who has placed their well being under your care and trusts that you will be careful of it. This trust is the wellspring of his or her submission and to violate it, by destructive, inconsistent behavior is to risk losing that trust, which will lead, inevitably, to the loss of the sub, if not worse. How can you take responsibility for his or he behavior if your own behavior is erratic, dishonest or careless? How can he or she prop his or her accountability against a wall which is rotten?

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Protected: Is It Possible for a Dominant to Be Too Indulgent?

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Protected: Punishment – or Deal With Root Problem?

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Master – Who Gets to Decide?

The title of master should be given and not self appointed.

This applies on both the individual and the group scene level.  He who calls himself a “master” of anything is most likely not.  He whom *many* other people think of in those terms is more likely to be, although that’s still no guarantee, because few people know what goes on behind closed doors, no matter what a given person projects in public.

As a title, it is *earned*.  It cannot legitimately be self-proclaimed.

As a descriptor of any sort, it must still be earned, by one process or another.  It is still never self-assigned.

Yes, “mastery” in general may be an internal thing; however, when applied in a BDSM kind of situation, it is something that other people are in a far better position to assess about a given individual than he ever is of his own self, no matter who he is.

For that matter, that’s true in the rest of life as well.  We don’t get to appoint our own selves “masters” of anything, in any context.  It’s still for others to evaluate and decide – and more than one.

Just because one calls himself a “master” does not in any way mean he actually is one, or has mastered anything.

*Neither* dominant nor “master” are really self-appointed concepts, although dominant comes closer.  Still, there are those who too readily confuse domineering behavior with actual dominance, and so there are still constraints on what really is dominant vs domineering or abusive.

But the big red flag is a person who insists on being called “master” by anyone, including his own submissive, until such time as she or they feel it in their own guts and assign the label to him themselves.  A bigger red flag still is one who believes he’s entitled to the title or to consider himself a master of anything just because he continues to work on himself.  Capitalization in the abstract of a common noun like this is also a screaming red flag.

A *real* master would never dream of calling himself such, and the majority even shy away from being so addressed or referred to even by others.

People who talk about internal mastery being a function of just working on oneself are completely self-deluded and only showing their own ignorance, particularly as how it relates to BDSM.

Being An Asshole, or Topping From the Bottom?

Thank you to Devastating Yet Inconsequential for permission to repost this post.  My comments are below the double line.

topping from the bottom

Can we please, please retire this concept?

Listen, there is such a thing as being an asshole in bed, no matter what kind of sex you’re having.  These types of behavior might make you an asshole (depending on context):

  • constantly insisting on getting your own way
  • not letting your partner finish the sex equivalent of a thought before correcting them
  • trying to force your partner to do things they don’t like and don’t choose
  • pouting or whining that things aren’t exactly to your liking
  • giving your partner long lists of changes you’d like them to make
  • refusing to play along with any idea you haven’t thought of yourself

When bottoms do things like this, it’s sometimes called “topping from the bottom.”  But the behavior listed above is equally obnoxious from a top or dom.

Listen to your partner.  Give them space to try things.  Be “good, giving, and game” (as Dan Savage puts it).  Be willing to try things yourself.  Prioritize your constructive criticism and give it at a pace your partner can handle.  Recognize your partner as a fellow human being with their own needs and desires, which have an equal claim to be fulfilled.

And, whatever side you are on, don’t worry about “topping from the bottom.”  If you’re worried that you’re impossible for your top to satisfy, work on that.  If you’re distracted by your bottom’s constant comments, talk about that.  But let’s get rid of this concept that I’m pretty sure causes a lot more stress, grief, and reluctance to communicate than it could ever possibly be worth.


First of all, I quite agree that the whole concept of topping from the bottom needs to go away, largely because of what Dev says, namely how badly it (and the fear of being accused of doing it) interferes with communication and the ability to resolve problems.  Even in a D/s relationship, you have a right to have your needs heard and respected, and that means you’ve got to be able to communicate them to your top without fear of this kind of nonsense.  Even in the most extreme M/s, TPE, etc. relationships, you ultimately still have those rights as a human being, even if you’ve negotiated them away.  A smart dominant will listen to them and take them into consideration no matter what the form of the relationship, just as any intelligent partner in a vanilla relationship will.

On the face of it, and without context, this list of behaviors can indeed be quite obnoxious.  I’d argue, actually, that many of them are considerably less appealing when a dominant does them than when a submissive does – and they are very much part of where BDSM may, and often does, cross the line right into abuse.

What the concept of topping from the bottom does is obscure this distinction, and that’s part of why it’s such a bad idea, because far too many people on both sides of the slash cannot tell the difference between topping from the bottom and protecting their own selves from abuse, between a healthy interchange of thoughts and respect for limits as well as attempts to accommodate a partner’s needs and desires, and outright abusiveness.

The notion of topping from the bottom is often pulled out by abusers to justify running roughshod over their submissives, and used as a bludgeon to shut them up and beat them into greater submission, even when so doing is clearly harmful to the sub.  It’s also used as a measuring device to compare one’s own submissiveness to that of other subs, by both subs and doms, when the reality is you simply cannot compare two people or situations, because of differences in individual needs.

Topping from the bottom is a concept that is not limited to what happens in bed, but is also often pulled out by dominants to justify all manner of abuses of their submissives in the rest of life as well, and to stop the sub from objecting.

If we remove the concept and term from our vocabularies altogether, the realities of what may be happening in a given situation are much easier to sort out.

Here are some examples of things that might look like TFTB, or being a jerk on the bottom, but aren’t – and are in fact much more abusive on the part of the top than anything else. Continue reading

25 Characteristics of a Leader

25 Characteristics of a Leader

(This also makes a great list of qualities for a good dominant.)

1. A leader is trustworthy.

2. A leader takes the initiative.

3. A leader uses good judgment.

4. A leader speaks with authority.

5. A leader strengthens others.

6. A leader is optimistic and enthusiastic.

7. A leader never compromises on absolutes.

8. A leader focuses on objectives, not obstacles.

9. A leader empowers by example.

10. A leader cultivates loyalty.

11. A leader has empathy for others.

12. A leader keeps a clear conscience.

13. A leader is definite and decisive.

14. A leader knows when to change his mind.

15. A leader does not abuse his authority.

16. A leader does not abdicate his role in the face of opposition.

17. A leader is sure of his calling.

18. A leader knows his own limitations.

19. A leader is resilient.

20. A leader is passionate.

21. A leader is courageous.

22. A leader is discerning.

23. A leader is disciplined.

24. A leader is energetic.

25. A leader knows how to delegate.

The Book on Leadership
John MacArthur
Published by Thomas Nelson
November 11, 2004



26.  A leader listens to others, and accepts an utilizes good advice regardless of its source.

27.  A leader knows when it is appropriate to comprise on issues, and how to do so gracefully.

28.  A leader knows when to back down and when to forge forward.

29.  A leader knows how to inspire others to give and do their best.

30.  A leader utilizes and encourages the strengths of others and helps them minimize their weaknesses.


Needless to say, abusers are lacking in many of these qualities.

What other qualities do you believe are important for a good leader or dominant?


It’s the Internet, Stupid! How the Online World Encourages Abuse in the BDSM Subculture

I received a private message from someone who was commenting on how BDSM per se doesn’t inspire abuse, but that “…people watch vids on the internet, get it into their heads that subs are just human punching bags that will do anything for anyone and that misunderstanding of everything does cause abuse”.

Yup, you’ve hit the nail on the head, guy.  No, it’s not BDSM per se that is the problem, but all of the rest of the crap – and I include the books, including the Story of O and all of the older books and videos, not just the new crap and the Internet influences – that cause the problems.

Or, more precisely, giving them too much weight is what does it.  There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas from these sources, but one has to understand the limits of that.

I’ve found that the ability to separate fantasy from what’s viable in real life is sadly lacking in many, and it is the use of these books and videos essentially as “how to” manuals instead of recognizing them as pretty purely wank fodder that leads people astray.

Couple that with the emphasis on secrecy and confidentiality, and a whole lot of really bad – and nonconsensual – stuff gets swept neatly under the rug where it never sees the light of day, and the perpetrators get away with it with more and more people.

Those who eventually wake up to the abuse they are suffering are often too embarrassed to be open about it for many reasons, including embarrassment that they fell for it in the first place, plus fear of being ostracized for breaking the code of silence, especially if the perpetrator is popular or friends with the local community’s leaders, or is powerful in some other way perhaps outside the scene altogether.

Interestingly enough, at the class that Midori and I both attended, when asked how many people in the room had been raped, half the hands went up – and when asked how many of us had reported the rape, all but one went down.  The pressures to not report it are strong, even in the kink world.

Sadly, those who will not or cannot keep their bottoms safe on various levels tend to screw things up a lot for everyone.  I cried when reading an excellent post this guy wrote about why we do wiitwd, going into depth about the passions invoked and the challenges of taking a hard scene and coming out safely on the other side with a trusted dominant, because I do so crave being with someone who can do that with me.  Continue reading

A Field Guide to Creepy Dom

ByGaystapo, aka Asher Bauer, reposted with permission:

1. Introduction

This is a public service announcement for the BDSM and kink community. It is especially directed at anyone relatively new, and extra especially at anyone who ever bottoms. For the benefit of everyone’s mental health and safety, I would like to discuss the widespread phenomenon known as Creepy Dom.

Creepy Dom has many faces. He is almost always male, although I have encountered his rarer cousin, Creepy Domme, from time to time. Sometimes he seems only mildly annoying, at other times outright dangerous, but in general, he just gets scarier as you spend more time around him.

You all know this guy, or have at least heard of him. He’s the one who got banned from the local S&M club. He’s the asshole who just sent you a rude “Submit to me now” message on— even though you’re listed as a femdom. He’s the guy who seriously abused your friend under the guise of “D/s.” He might’ve even made the national news, but more likely, his victims have never reported him to the police. Continue reading

Having a D/s Relationship – Why She Wants to Be Submissive

I did not write this, but found it out in the blogosphere.  Apparently it’s going around, but it is not known who wrote it.  I don’t agree with every single point, but for the most part, it rings true, and is full of excellent ideas on how to create a successful – and mutually fulfilling – D/s relationship.



Like all my writings, this is more for myself than anyone else. Dominance and submission (D/s) has always been a part of my life, both my greatest torment when not understood by either myself and those I shared my thoughts with, and finally the source of greatest contentment and pride when I finally realized how beautiful and loving an exchange it is.
In a way, it is impossible to describe or explain it to another unless that person has the creativity and capacity to see its full potential to draw two people so close together that *everything* they have inside of them can be revealed and that is when they can be loved unconditionally and completely.

The only rule to d/s is that there are no rules. What each sub wants is different and takes varying forms. I am writing this with a particular sub in mind, and that is the kind of woman who is so full of love that she longs to give herself unreservedly to her Master. It is written for those women who want to be a full-time slavegirl, who enjoy the sensual pleasures of being spanked (and more!) and who want to be disciplined when they do not meet their own personal goals and the guidelines for behavior set by their Master.

The Importance of Submission
In my conversations with submissive women, one thing stands out prominently and that is very very few men realize the importance that submission holds for her. It is far more than a physical experience, it is an emotional connection with you so meaningful that it contains her very soul. Continue reading

Dealing With Anger While Playing, and By Playing

How do you deal with anger when it comes up in a scene?  Or when wanting to find a way to release it to start with?

My friend DaddyDarin weighed in the subject in a thread entitled How to release anger? It started as a question about how a sub can release that anger, perhaps in  a cathartic scene, but it also raises the questions of how a dominant should deal with his own anger, and indeed the fundamental importance of his ability to control his own self.

This is a relatively long post, with my comments interspersed, but the most important questions of how the dominant should address his own anger are towards the very end. Continue reading