Most subs experience some degree of fear when they sub, particularly novice subs who haven’t quite figured out how the Inner and Outer Layers work. As a result, there’s a lot of awareness in the kink community that subs experience fear and there’s social support for them. Good doms and other subs know that subs need help working through their fears.
What’s less understood is that dominants have fears too. Many doms have experience fear but they talk about it a lot less than subs talk about their fears. And on the surface it makes less sense. Doms are in charge and in control. At least physically, subs pose much less of threat to doms than doms do to subs. So what is there for doms to be afraid of?
From my conversations with doms, I’ve identified several major categories of things we tend to worry about.
- Actually seriously harming my sub is probably my top fear. When I take charge of a boy for a scene, he trusts me to not cause him lasting damage. If I were to screw up and cause him a real injury, not only would I feel like a failure because I hadn’t been skilled enough to keep him safe, I would feel like I had profoundly betrayed his trust in me. To me, that is the absolute worst consequence–failing to be worthy of a sub’s trust.
- Subs are more at danger of physical injury, but doms are more vulnerable to legal and social problems that might arise from a bad scene. A sub who leaves a scene really unhappy is in a position to cause a lot of problems for a dom. He can call the police and make accusations of assault because a lot of what doms do to subs is technically illegal (varying from one jurisdiction to another in exact details). Although there is rising appreciation of bdsm as a legitimate practice, a lot depends on whether a particular police officer or assistant district attorney disapproves of kink or homosexuality. It might not result in a legal trial (although the Oliver Jovanovic case is the nightmare) but it could certainly force a dom to hire a lawyer.
- In the age of the internet, angry subs are also capable of contacting employers, family members, churches, and other social groups and causing a stink. In some cases, simply revealing that the dom is kinky or gay could have major repercussions. Years ago, I left a scene with a strong sense that the boy had basically enjoyed himself, only to have him turn around and threaten to contact my employer, whom he somehow managed to identify online. Fortunately, after about a month of threats, he finally lost interest in me and moved on. But the incident taught me a lot about how vulnerable a dom is to that sort of thing.
- On a deeper level, it’s definitely possible for a dom to be afraid of his own desires. Many of us have some degree of real darkness inside us and we let parts of that darkness out in order to do a more intense scene. Subs often express fantasies involving intense physical torture, unrelenting verbal abuse, kidnapping and rape, and the like, and they seek us out to give life to those fantasies. But doing a scene like that well requires the dom to connect to the part of himself that might actually enjoy doing it. He has to let out the monster inside far enough that he can be the cruel tormentor the sub asks for. And that can raise all sorts of fears inside us. What kind of person would actually enjoy doing that? If I play out an intense race play scene, does that mean that maybe I’m actually a racist? What if I like being that character so much that I don’t want to stop? What if I can’t tame that monster and force it back into the closet?
Years ago, I was close enough to a boy that I let out a piece of my monster I’d never let out before. I hate-fucked him. I called him the absolutely worst things I could image saying, told him how much I hated him and wanted him to suffer. It was an incredible scene, one of the most intense scenes I’ve ever done. I loved it. And when it was done, I curled up into a ball and started crying. Letting out that monster was exhilarating, but it was also terrifying because of what it suggested about me as a person. The boy had to spend about half an hour holding me, reassuring me that he knew I wasn’t truly that monster I have inside me. It took me a couple years to realize that I honestly could control that part of me, that I could let it out and then lock it up again without risk of losing control of it. And I know I’m not alone in this particular fear.
- Following on from that, letting out the monster has another risk associated with it. What if I let out a piece of that monster and the boy is horrified by it? What if a boy tells me that I really am that monster? We understand that subs make themselves vulnerable to doms, but it’s less understood that doms make ourselves vulnerable to our subs. We show them parts of ourselves that are socially unacceptable, and the risk of rejection is not inconsequential. I think every dom has the Phantom of the Opera inside him, dark and ugly and damaged and needing to be seen and loved. So if our Christine sub recoils in horror when they see the real us, there’s no defense, no ability to say ‘I was just pretending to be that person.’ When I hate-fucked that boy, there was more than a little of me that was scared he would be horrified. Fortunately, he wasn’t. He understood what he was seeing and he was able to accept it. In fact, he married me.
What does all this mean? For subs, it means you need to understand that you’re not the only one taking risks when you meet up with a dom. It means you may need to offer aftercare to your dom after an intense scene. It means you need to be ready for the more intense reactions you might have from a scene and not freak out if you experience subdrop. It means you need to communicate in a mature way. And it means you need to understand why a dom might think you’re not ready to play a particular scene–this stuff takes emotional maturity.
For doms, it means it’s ok to have fears, because your fellow doms have them too. It’s ok to talk to your fellow doms, because they will probably understand your experience. It means it’s ok to talk to your subs. A good sub will be ready to support you when those fears rear their head. You don’t have to be that stereotypical strong unemotional dom, because that guy doesn’t really exist.