For some people, D/s is a fun little roleplay they wheel out in the bedroom and, of course, there is nothing wrong with that. But for quite a few people, particularly 24/7 TPE folks like myself, it’s something far more expansive and complex.
Being a dominant is not something I step into. It’s not a conveniently assumed role, shrugged on and cast off again like a cardigan in unpredictable April weather. It is a facet of how my brain is wired, something which has been a core part of my wiring for as long as I can remember.
When I say being dominant is a part of who and how I am, I am referring to a set of instincts, desires and emotional and psychological needs.
Unfortunately, people conflate the roleplay – the façade of sexual dominance they see acted out in porn and similar avenues – with what is actually means to be dominant. When people ask, ‘are you dominant in everyday life’, what they generally mean is ‘if I met you, would I know?’ They imagine someone confident, bossy, and cold and [insert relevant stereotypes here]. They are asking if, if they met me, they would think I fulfil their idea of dominance.
Being submissive or dominant is about what we’re wired for, not how we’re perceived
Here is the thing though – being dominant or submissive isn’t defined by how we appear to the outside world. It’s about that little quirk of brain wiring, those instincts and desires, the needs which underpin so much of how you are.
Take for example the usual follow up question to, ‘are you dominant in everyday life?’ –
‘Well, would you say you’re confident? Assertive?’
Confidence is an excellent example of a quality which is wrongly framed as a ‘marker’ of dominance. Sure, you have to be confident to pursue your desires, but that equally applies to submissives. If you want to pursue D/s, especially as a lifestyle, you need to be clear on who you are, what you want, and you have to be proactive in going about to get it. And for all of that, you need to at least have some confidence.
I am in fact confident, assertive, and hellishly stubborn. And so is my sub. In fact, he can really give me a run for my money on the stubborn front. In terms of the world at large, he has a pathological hatred of being told what to do and will stand on principle while the world burns.
None of which has any bearing whatsoever on our respective wiring when it comes to kink and our dynamic.
Because here’s the thing – when I say being dominant is a part of who and how I am, it’s not about what you might see if you met me. It’s about how I feel: a set of instincts, desires, and emotional and psychological needs.
And how I appear to the world at large won’t tell you much about any of the above. Why? Because I am by all accounts a reasonable, socially competent grown-up, and those are components of your psychological make-up which you generally don’t leave flapping out and about in the course of everyday life.
Power exchange allows us to have a sustainably equitable relationship, in which our respective instincts and inclinations mirror each other, allowing us to mutually fulfil needs which would not be possible under the umbrella of vanilla equality.
In fact, in a vanilla relationship, I would either make someone else miserable, or make myself miserable.
How? Well, let’s grab a worked example of why I opted for lifestyle D/s.
A worked example in lifestyle D/s: the Naturally Excellent Way of folding socks
I like socks to be folded a certain way – the Naturally Excellent Way, that is, into squares.
Now, there are actual practical reasons for my preference – they don’t come unfolded, it doesn’t damage the stretchy part of the sock and arranging them by colour, spines up, looks pretty. But ostensibly, those reasons aren’t enough to say that this is objectively the only correct way to fold socks.
And I can fully concede that, in the grand scheme of things, sock-folding styles aren’t up there on a list of priorities. People have lives and other things to fold and generally, better things to do with their time.
So, let’s say I somehow find myself in a vanilla relationship. I express my sock folding preference. My hypothetical partner, being a reasonable adult with a life says something like, ‘I don’t have time for that, I will just use [insert inferior sock folding method here]’. The socks are folded, my partner has still done the chore. There’s nothing really to take issue with here.
Except owing to some quirky brain wiring, I do have an issue. I won’t think about it very much in the grand scheme of things. Yet, every time I see those wrongly-folded socks, it will make me just a little bit less happy. A little grain of sand in my shell.
Being a grown-up and all and therefore responsible for my own feelings, I could of course refold the socks myself, except:
- there’s a certain profound futility to refolding already folded socks; and
- the dent in my happiness is not just down to the socks not being folded in The Ultimately Superior Way. Oh no. It’s also because my partner has not paid attention to my preference. (People talk about love languages – I think mine is having things done my way.)
Now, on its own, that’s not a big deal. The happiness dent is tiny. But multiply this incident by a thousand of little preferences, and you get relationship lingchi. Death by a thousand compromises.
And there’s nowhere to go with that. My choices are either to:
- constantly feel like I shouldn’t feel unhappy because they’re just socks and it’s not a reasonable standard but nonetheless still feel whatever I feel; or
- impose my unreasonably specific preferences on someone else, probably making them somewhat unhappy in the process.
Neither is really a good option.
The beauty of power exchange in a lifestyle D/s dynamic
The beauty of a lifestyle D/s dynamic is that on the other side I have a sub with a deep-seated need to please. For him, my insistence on a particular method transforms the otherwise unremarkable activity of folding socks into a means of pleasing me. In general, my demands offer a clear way for him to please and serve me.
Happy domme, fulfilled sub, correctly folded socks. Lifestyle D/s in a nutshell. What’s not to love?
Whereas vanilla dynamics can similarly make subs miserable – a pattern I have often seen is that need to please fuelling effort after effort, eventually culminating in frustration and resentment when they don’t get the validation they are looking for.
For which fault can lie on either side, really. On one hand, a fervent submissive desire to please can ‘autocorrect suggest’ their partner’s wants, resulting in them feeling they are doing something for their partner, but that not really matching up to reality. On the other, it is generally not socially common practice to tell your significant other ‘good boy’ for performing basic household tasks. But that’s really a topic for another post.
Anyway, the point being, far beyond getting your jollies, D/s dynamics can offer a myriad of ways to mutually satisfy emotional and psychological needs.
And that, folks, is predominantly why I have one.
I am trying to carve out more time from adulting to write this blog this year, but I am as ever slowed by the deadly conspiracy between my butterfly mind and my perfectionism in picking topics. So, if you have any thoughts as to what you would like to see pop up on this blog, please do leave a comment or send me a message!