“The sub is really the one in control.”

People on FetLife regularly trot out the D/s platitude that “in a D/s relationship, the sub is really the one in control.”

Why is the sub the one ultimately in control? Because the sub can stop a scene with a safeword at any time, and because a sub can leave a relationship that’s not fulfilling.

Here’s why the platitude is bullshit, though: the dominant can stop a scene whenever they want, too (and doesn’t even need a safeword. They can just…stop). The dominant can also leave a relationship that’s unfulfilling.

Neither person in a D/s relationship is actually more powerful than the other.

Seriously, the more I think about this stuff, the more obvious it is to me that D/s relationships are not a hierarchy (as most people seem to want to believe); they’re a symbiosis. You have one person who thrives on being humiliated or receiving pain or giving service or taking orders or feeling owned, and you have another person who thrives on giving humiliation or pain or accepting service or giving orders or feeling a sense of ownership. These two people’s interests mesh well and they agree that the dominant will do certain things and the sub will do certain things and, ideally, everyone ends up happy.

Yes, the dynamic is thrilling. Yes, when all goes well the sub feels owned or powerless and the dominant feels powerful. But these are roles the two people are occupying, and the spell can be broken if either party steps out of place.

So I’m getting a little sick of domly-doms who take themselves too seriously and subs who smugly claim that they secretly run the show. STFU. Your relationship is a negotiated dance between equals, hopefully choreographed to keep everyone content, and either one of you can end it and either one of you can fuck it up. Just like the vanillas.

5 Comments

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5 responses to ““The sub is really the one in control.”

  1. Andy

    I’ve always thought that was a weird party line as well. I realize how it can be comforting to vanilla people who are on the outside looking in and to new subs who are just testing the waters, but it really doesn’t make all that much sense. If I’m tied up or immobilized and have suddenly realized I want things to stop, the word “red” is not a magic skeleton key which will unlock my handcuffs and shoot me out of the room. It only has as much power as the top gives to it. If THEY respect it, the cuffs come off. If THEY don’t, I’m fucked. How do I have power again? (On that note, a submissive partner in a BAD D/s relationship can absolutely have less power than the dominant because we’re way more likely to jump into things which make it hard for us to leave–whether we’re talking literal bondage or metaphorical financial/emotional/mental bondage)

    In the end, it’s less “in a D/s relationship, the sub is really the one in control” and much more “in a good relationship, partners take care of each other, whether they are kinky or not”

  2. “- they’re a symbiosis. You have one person who thrives on being humiliated or receiving pain or giving service or taking orders or feeling owned, and you have another person who thrives on giving humiliation or pain or accepting service or giving orders or feeling a sense of ownership.”

    This so much. Why did it even take so much time to get?

    (Bitchy Jones would have the answer: because the world is fucked up and so is the world of d/s.)

  3. People on FetLife regularly trot out the D/s platitude that “in a D/s relationship, the sub is really the one in control.”

    Ugh. Also,hi! I’m on a bit of a commenting spree here 🙂

    That platitude bugs me because it seems so much like the kind of thing we tell vanilla people so they won’t be freaked out. “No, it’s okay, the bottom is really in control!”, “No, it’s okay, everything we do is safe, sane, and consensual!” Nothing we anybody does, ever, kinky or not, is perfectly safe, and depending on who you ask, nothing we do is sane. Sure, the bottom can use their safeword at any time, but that safeword is only as safe as the top is trustworthy.

    Okay, I feel better now 🙂 Back at your actual point, I think you’re absolutely right that nobody is really more powerful in a healthy d/s relationship. I’m not somehow better than submissive people, I’m just different. Issues of rolequeerness aside, doms and subs complement each other. If I need submissive people in my life to be happy, I can’t very well magically be superior to them.

    But these are roles the two people are occupying, and the spell can be broken if either party steps out of place.

    Yes! One of my big pet peeves is the people who seem to think that keeping the dynamic going is the dom’s job and only the dom’s job. That only works in fantasies, not the real world.

    • Oh hai! I love getting comments, especially from thoughtful and interesting people like you. So have at it. 😀

      Issues of rolequeerness aside, doms and subs complement each other. If I need submissive people in my life to be happy, I can’t very well magically be superior to them.

      Yes! This too. Identifying as dominant is largely pointless and empty if you never have anyone to be dominant with. Dominants need submissives. And if you need someone, it behooves you not to act like a dick toward them.

  4. Pingback: D/s intentions | hiding in plain sight

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