Defining Domination

NOTICE: The article below deals with adult and fetish-related topics and fantasies. If you are offended by this sort of thing or are not a legal adult, I suggest you leave this instant.

Continuing my coverage of D/s topics, I once again base my writings on the excellent work of Exotix (Inara Pey), which can be found in Her “Devices and Desires | D/s in the virtual Domain” blog, which is a must read for anyone seriously interested in properly learning about D/s (and SD/s – Sensual D/s), especially w.r.t. its application to Second Life and other virtual worlds. This time, my starting point is Her post “The nature of domination“.

In my previous post titled “The loving Dominant” (see also Exotix’s own original post that was the inspiration and starting point for my work), I discussed the traits that make a good Dominant. These traits can be applied both in real life (RL) and SL (and other virtual worlds), due to the fact that, behind the screen, on each end of the connection, there are real people, with real character traits, desires, feelings, needs, wishes and even weaknesses and troubles. The question now arises: what is Domination (or Dominance)?

Before we proceed any further, I must point out that Domination as an activity stands apart from the “qualifications” of a good Dominant: all good persons possess the character traits that make a good Dominant. Not all of them are Dominant, though. Also, it must be noted that not everyone out there can understand or translate Domination correctly.

Protection and Respect

A common misconception is that Domination is all about throwing one’s weight around, barking out orders, handing down punishment on a whim, randomly and arbitrarily applying RLV restrictions (in SL) and belittling others. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While orders, punishment, RLV restrictions (in SL) are often part of D/s and BDSM play, they are only that: part of the activity, and they come to play only when appropriate – and even then, there is a very thick, red, glow-in-the-dark line that separates play from schoolyard bullying and domineering.

A Dominant is bestowed with the honour and responsibility of caring for their submissive(s), training them, nurturing them, encouraging their desire to submit and serve and providing a safe haven for them (mostly from an emotional point of view). Thus, the nature of Domination has protection and respect at its heart. These two are intertwined, because the submissive willingly surrenders to the Dominant; the submissive surrenders control and ego, and allows the Dominant to take control of (at least part of) their life. Thimakes it de riguer for the Dominant to respect the submissive’s choice of position and status within the relationship and to protect the submissive from any abuse of their relinquishing of control; the Dominant must never allow the submissive’s surrender of control to be abused either by the Dominant or by any third party with whom the submissive may come in contact within the context of their D/s lifestyle. It is dictated and required by the nature of Domination that the Dominant becomes the submissive’s emotional protector, mentor, teacher and lover.


The nature of Domination is one of understanding. The Dominant seeks, through open, honest and sincere communication, to learn about the submissive’s desires, hopes, needs and wants, as well about their fears, troubles, weaknesses and worries. It is this knowledge, this insight that will give the Dominant the ability to take care of the submissive, providing them with what they need – this may not necessarily be what they presume they need or think they “want”. So, it is the nature of Domination to build upon the trust the submissive offers the Dominant and to strengthen the submissive’s self-esteem and feeling of self-worth.

The nature of Domination is not capricious. Domination is not about exercising power and control over someone else for the sake of this power itself or the thrill that the feeling of power may understandably give someone who is in a Dominant position over somebody else or at the cost of the submissive’s self-esteem, mental health, balance and dignity. Those that repeatedly and deliberately exercise this kind of negative control over others are not Dominants – they are domineering abusers and poseurs and the submissive has every right to leave such an individual immediately. Domination is not a licence for anyone to do as they please with someone else, without thought or care about the impact (emotional, mental and/or physical) that their actions may have on the person(s) who willingly placed themselves in their care.

Similarly, Domination is not about depriving a submissive of their identity, although consensual and agreed upon (under specific conditions and within a specific play framework) “loss”, “surrender” or “change” of the submissive’s identity may very well be a valid part of play within the relationship. It is also not purely about punishment, even though proper, judicious, transparent and fair application of punishment (physical or psychological) does have a role to play within D/s relationships, and “punishment” is a valid form of BDSM play.

Let it grow, let it blossom, let it flow

Domination is not about randomly swaggering around a BDSM-themed sim (in SL) or club (in RL or SL), throwing one’s weight around, insulting and hurting others’ feelings or barking out orders like a drill sergeant on a power trip. It is about growth, love and encouragement. Domination is not about tearing down or subsuming the submissive’s identity or dignity; instead, the Dominant should allow the submissive’s identity (as it is expressed through the submissive’s desires, dreams, fantasies, fears, hesitations, needs, thoughts, wants and worries) to grow, allowing and enabling them to gain a better understanding and acceptance of their own nature, their desires w.r.t. the Dominant, and to feel secure in them.

It is through love – genuine love – and encouragement that the submissive will be nurtured and allowed to blossom in their desire to surrender and serve. F.R.R. Mallory put it very eloquently: “the submissive radiates from the Dominant’s love and devotion, becoming a rose; a beautiful being that knows they are loved and cared for.”

Fairness in punishment and reward

When and  where punishment – in its true, strict sense – is required, it should be applied fairly, transparently, with just cause and for reasons perfectly clear and understandable for both sides. Punishment must never be arbitrary or applied on a cruel whim of the Dominant; and anger has no place in the application of punishment, for Domination is not about harshness, cruelty or hostility: Domination is about love and forgiveness. And it must always be remembered that good behaviour on behalf of the submissive should always be rewarded appropriately: reward encourages the submissive to exhibit the desired behaviour, while punishment discourages them from behaving in an improper way; thus, punishment and reward are of equal importance and a relationship where the submissive is never rewarded, but only receives punishment is not a D/s relationship at all, but an abusive relationship with a domineering poseur.

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