I’ve posted a number of things aimed at subs lately, so one boy suggested that I write a post on the qualities a good dom needs. That strikes me as an excellent idea. There are a lot of things that go into making a good dom. Here are the traits I would emphasize.
- A Sense of Responsibility: A good dom understands that when he gets power from a boy, he is responsible for how he uses that power. I think of power and responsibility as flip-sides of the same coin. The more ‘power coins’ the boy gives me, the more ‘responsibility coins’ I get with them. And the more responsibility coins I have in the relationship, the more I have the obligation of making sure that things go well and of keeping that boy safe from the plausible consequences of my actions. A sub deep in his submissive mindset has little ability to say no to me, which means I have to think about the risks inherent in whatever I tell him to do. It’s the Spider-Man Rule: With great power comes great responsibility.
- Knowledge: A good dom understands the types of play he wants to do with a sub. Before he ties someone up, he learns the basics of rope work, and before he flogs someone, he practices using the flogger. Learning can take the form of reading books, watching instructional videos by experienced kinksters, seeking out a mentor, or practicing the skill in question. That doesn’t mean that a dom can’t ever explore with his sub, but he needs to make clear what he does and doesn’t know. Most particularly, he needs to know something about safety.
Obviously, every dom starts as a novice, but before you play your first scene, spend some time learning how to do whatever it is you want to do in that scene. If you want to do a form of play that has physical risks, learn how to do First Aid for the plausible potential injuries that might result from that form of play. (No one can be expected to be ready for all possible injuries.)
- Confidence: A good dom is confident about what he wants and what he does. Confidence helps a sub let go and turn himself over to the dom. Confidence says that a dom knows what he’s doing, which is what a boy wants to see, especially when it comes to things that make the boy nervous. It tells the boy, “yes, I know this is scary, but I know I can keep you safe.”
The tricky thing, however, is showing the right amount of confidence. Too little and the boy may be reluctant to submit, too much and the boy may suspect that the dom is over-confident, meaning that the dom doesn’t actually know what he ought to know.
A confident dom knows what commands he can give that the sub will obey, and never commands the sub to do things there is a realistic chance that the sub will refuse to do. A confident dom does not need to raise his voice, threaten to punish the sub (except perhaps a play punishment), or lose control of his temper. Those things make a dom look brittle and weak.
- Humility: This may seem like a contradiction. We doms are supposed to be the embodiment of power, confidence, and superior masculinity. We demand things of our boys and expect to be worshipped and obeyed. But a good dom understands that although he gets to perform the role of the arrogant, superior man, behind that performance he’s a human, with all the weaknesses humans have. A humble dom knows that he has to constantly earn and seduce his boy’s consent and not simply take it for granted. A humble dom knows that he is capable of making mistakes and therefore takes reasonable precautions. A humble dom knows that he has limits and needs and a mundane life that may interfere with his ambitions. A humble dom knows that there are things he doesn’t know and has yet to learn and that others do better than he does.
- Empathy and Emotional Availability: These are incredibly important traits in a good dom. A dom needs to be able to empathize with the feelings his sub is experiencing, for many reasons. Empathizing helps him get into the sub’s headspace and take him more deeply into it. It also helps him be the boy’s defender and guide when the monsters that lurk in the shadows of our mind come out to attack the sub. Empathy allows a dom to recognize when his sub needs a comforting daddy rather than a demanding slavemaster. Empathy means that the dom will understand how important he is to the sub and enable him to set appropriate expectations and limits.
If a dom is unwilling or unable to be an empathizing presence for his sub, he needs to make that clear early on, because subs have a right to know what they can and cannot expect from any power exchange dynamic.
- An Understanding of the Campsite Rule. Dan Savage’s Campsite Rule holds that an older or more experienced sex partner has an obligation to leave a younger or less experienced sex partner in better shape than he found them. In my opinion, this principle applies to how doms interact with subs, regardless of how experienced that sub is. First, doms are more likely to encounter novice subs because of the simple imbalance in dom/sub numbers. Second, because doms tend to be older than their subs, they are typically more experienced than their subs, although there are certainly many highly experienced subs and skilled younger doms. Third and most importantly, the nature of subbing involves becoming vulnerable to the dom’s personality and influence. In a sense, all subs, no matter how experienced, are seeking the guidance and authority of their dom, and that makes them inclined to obey even when obeying may harm them in some way (although this is more true of Dog Subs than Cat Subs). A good dom understands the power he holds over his sub and tempers that power with mercy and empathy where necessary to avoid inflicting emotional harm on the sub.
- A Willingness to Put the Sub’s Best Interests Ahead of His Desires: Part of being a responsible dom is the knowledge that sometimes boys want to serve more than is good for them. A boy may wish to please his master so much that he craves a harsher beating than is healthy for him. A finsub may be tempted to skip meals or short his rent to be able to tribute more. A boy may become so obsessed with the joys of submission that he pulls back from vanilla friendships that he may need for social support. In cases like this, the dom must have the strength of character to rein the boy in, set hard limits on how he can serve, and so on. The sub’s needs must come before the dom’s mere wants. The boy’s mental and physical health has to be a higher priority than the dom’s pleasure, even if the boy’s pleasure takes a backseat to the dom’s pleasure. This, in my experience, is one of the things that many doms fail to recognize, often with disastrous results for the sub.
- Decent Verbal Skills: Arousal is much more of a mental thing than a physical thing, and a good dom understands that stroking his boy’s brain will get more intense results than stroking his dick. Good verbal skills allow a dom to shape the sub’s ideas about the scene, help the sub focus on what the dom wants to make the center of attention, and control the sub’s mind as well as his body. If you like verbal abuse, learn as many different ways to call your sub as bitch as you can. Learn to say them with conviction. Figure out how to tease the sub verbally, humiliate him with words, and so on. Good vocal control can help calm down an agitated boy and is fundamental to hypnosis. While some people are naturally more articulate and well-spoken than others, verbal play is a skill just like flogging.
Things that aren’t required to be a good dom:
- A huge bank account: A dom should be self-sufficient, but the millionaire dom is essentially a figure of fantasy. Don’t feel like you can’t be a real dom without a lot of resources.
- A perfect body or model good looks: Sure, those are both nice qualities, but dominance is not a biological trait but rather a mental one. A keen mind and a strong set of ethics are far more important than a pretty body.
- Arrogance: It can be fun to play the asshole dom for a scene, but actually being an arrogant asshole makes a dom weak and brittle.
- A massive collection of toys: Again, it’s nice to have a good range of toys to play with, but a good dom can do a LOT with 10 ft of rope, a couple clothespins, a riding crop, and the teeth and fingernails God gave him. A good imagination is the best toy a dom can have.
- A Comprehensive Knowledge of Kink: No dom knows every type of play. Every dom has their strengths and weaknesses. Start by focusing on one or two skills, like rope work and verbal play; get good at them and then think about adding more types of play to your arsenal.
Obviously being a good dom is about more than just the things on this list. But as I see it, these are the most important qualities.