A very brief discussion this morning with Mistress Kye (@mistresskye–give her a follow!) about the difference between being submissive and always agreeing with the dom made me think there was enough in this issue for a blog post.
To quote Kye’s original post, “A message to submissives: Remove the notion that you must agree w/ a/your Dominant 100% You are your own individual human being and have agency Anyone telling you different is tilting towards abuse Even players in committed TPE D/s know this You ALWAYS have a voice in kink”
Kye is 100% correct about this, for a whole lot of reasons. Subs should always strive to obey their doms (within the limits of their agreed-upon submission), but that doesn’t mean they are obligated to agree with everything their dom says and does.
First, a Dom’s first duty should always be to keep the sub safe from injury (physical, financial, career-wise, etc), and sometimes a dom will miss an important safety consideration that a sub notices. In a situation like that the sub should always speak up (“Sir, it seems like you forgot I can’t breathe well through my nose, so I can’t wear that gag” or “Mistress, if I send you the tribute you are demanding, I won’t be able to pay my mortgage”). Any decent dom knows they can’t know everything and that they might overlook something important, so a dom who expects a sub to remain silent in the face of a dangerous order is not a dom who should be obeyed at all.
Likewise, a sub should speak up when they are given an extremely unethical order or when their dom proposes to do something extremely unethical. A Dom’s leadership should always have an ethical component. A sub should follow their dom because they truly believe their dom deserves to be obeyed, and that means the dom should hold themself to a higher ethical standard. Obviously there are always ethical grey areas, but things like intentional consent violations (which are often crimes and may well be a form of physical or sexual assault), actions take maliciously to harm or upset someone or some group, sexual or financial exploitation of minors, or similar choices are signs a dom is making a serious error in judgment and a sub has a duty to speak up and challenge their Dom’s choice. Perhaps the dom has let their feelings get the best of them momentarily; in that case a sub serves their master by keeping them from making a serious mistake and reminding them to be the best person they can be.
On a less egregious level, any good dom realizes that their sub probably has knowledge and skills they lack, so they ask their sub for advice and input before they take action on something where the sub’s expertise is relevant. It’s common sense that if your sub knows a lot about the tax code, you should listen to your sub’s advice on how to file your taxes or whether to report your income from tribute.
It is a foolish dom who thinks he always has to know more than his sub. The more experienced a dom is, the more they generally understand that they don’t know everything there is to know about kink. A sub may very well be more experienced in a particular form of play than their dom is, and in a situation like they, the dom should let the sub guide and educate them, even if the dom is making the final choice about what to do.
Even experienced TPE relationships typically have room for the sub to have their own thoughts, hobbies, opinions, and so on. Many couples use standard phrases to indicate the sub’s desires while still retaining a submissive gloss to the exchange. For example, if the master says, “You’d like me to beat you, wouldn’t you?” and the slave in fact does not want a beating that day, the slave might say “Only if it pleases you, Sir”. The wording indicates the sub’s desire to not be beaten but makes it clear that the sub is still fully submitting and will accept the master’s choice to beat them. But this allows the master to know that the sub doesn’t want a beating. It might trigger a conversation about why the slave doesn’t want a beating; maybe the slave is still sore from their last beating or is having a bad day or knows that tomorrow is going to be a long work day.
Power exchange only works well if the couple has good communication. Even if the couple is operating on a model of extreme power exchange and submissive behavior, there are still ways for the sub to signal their wishes, needs, and concerns. A dom who isn’t encouraging their sub to express such things is eventually going to stumble into an emotional minefield or cause the slave to act out or run away or disobey, and those things will make the sub feel like a failure even when the mistake is really the dom’s.
So how do you handle this sort of issue in your relationship? Leave a comment!