JT Stockroom

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Do you have to be a submissive to become a good dominant?

Pick your title: Master/Mistress and slave, Dom/me and submissive, top and bottom...there are people who say that you either can't be a good dominant without first being a submissive, or that the best dominants are ones who were submissive first.  This opinion seems to be purely anecdotal.  A search for research on this topic yields no studies.  What tool(s) do we have left with which we may examine the claim?  In lieu of studies--which I fully support, if they exist or if they come about in the future--we can attempt to look at it logically.

The assumption that it's better to be submissive before one becomes dominant presupposes the following:

  • Submissives share common experiences, so if one has been submissive, one will know what a submissive wants/needs/feels
  • Submissives make good dominants
  • A dominant cannot be as good if he/she never submits
The first presupposition takes a cookie-cutter approach to the submissive experience--an idea that is ludicrous on its face.  Not all submissives are the same.  Some enjoy pain; some don't.  Some respond well to corporal punishment, while others respond well to nurturing, positive reinforcement, tasks, or verbal reprimands.  Some are simply obedient and do not need correction, and they are quick learners who require very little training.  In short, no submissive is really the same as any other.  Assuming you know what a submissive wants because that's what you wanted represents an unrealistic expectation that will make you less adaptable. 

The idea that there's a progression from submissive to dominant does not mesh with my twenty years in the BDSM lifestyle.  There are submissives, there are dominants, and there are switches, and those who are submissive or dominant tend not to want to be anything else.  I know some people who started out submissive and became dominant, and I know people who wanted to be dominant in the beginning, then went through a mentoring/learning process to get there.  It is not, by any means, a rule that dominants start out as submissives, and, since all the people with this opinion have are anecdotes, I will offer that anecdotally speaking, the best dominants I have known have never been submissive.  That's not to say that I'm right and they're wrong, but if we're only going on personal experience, my observations are just as good as theirs.  Right?

Finally, I object strongly to the supposition that a dominant can't be as good if he/she has never submitted.  I don't think I need to have been a submissive to have empathy.  I have acquired the skills to listen to my partner, to understand body language, to understand tone of voice and types of breathing, to know what questions to ask--verbally and physically--to make our experience the best it can be.  I know when my slave is into what I'm doing and when she's not.  I know what makes her wet, I know what gets her into the mood, I know how to maintain continuity of play, and I know how to regain control if something interrupts us.  I am not sure how being a submissive contributes to any of this experience.  I don't need to know what the flogger feels like on my skin (though I have tried implements on myself just out of curiosity) to know what her responses mean.  I can tell how much aftercare she needs and what kind.  

This argument takes me back to when a lesbian friend of mine opined that women give better oral than men to other women because they know what women want--they have the same parts.  I know that opinion doesn't hold water, because each woman I've gone down on has wanted something different.  Some women love it rough; some women want it gentle.  Some want the clit sucked in and nibbled, or even bitten; some just want it sucked gently, with the tongue flicking over it.  Assuming that every member of your sex wants head the same way ignores a simple truth: we are all sexual individuals.  We have different erogenous zones, different qualities to which we are attracted, different levels of sensitivity on our genitalia.  To believe that you have the puzzle solved because you were once a puzzle yourself ignores the fact that there are billions of puzzles out there, and you're only an expert on one.  

I think about my experiences in this lifestyle, and how different each and every submissive has been: one had no limits to the pain she desires, even to the point where there were serious safety concerns.  Another wanted nothing but blood play.  Another enjoyed electricity and spanking, but not needles.  Another enjoyed bondage and humiliation, but not a lot of pain.  There are as many different ways to play as there are players.  It's not a cookie-cutter experience, and that's what this idea of requiring dominants to first be submissive suggests.