When you think of the Dominant/submissive power dynamic, what images does that conjure up for you? Do you imagine a submissive being bound and tortured? Do you see a Dominant taking sexual pleasure from a submissive? Outward appearances might not tell the whole story, and power-dynamics are often not what they appear to be at first glance.
A Dominant is someone who has power over another, either because they have taken it, or it has been willingly surrendered to them. So, when you see a person being restrained and flogged, you might assume they are submissive. After all, they have lost the power to move some or all their limbs, and they are being struck with a tool that might inflict pain. That does not necessarily mean that the other person is Dominant though.
Joyclub profile: divine_theatrix
Indeed, the person who has been restrained and flogged might not identify as submissive at all. What if the restrained person had in fact told the other person beforehand that they found it cathartic and pleasurable to be restrained and flogged? If I had agreed to partially suspend someone and give them a flogging because that’s what they wanted, I am hardly in a Dominant frame of mind when I acquiesce to that request. Rather, I am being a very servicey Top. In this scene, while I am doing the action of flogging to another, I am doing the action for them, for their benefit.
Watch our Video about Domination/Submission:
The Top/Bottom dynamic descriptor is similar but not the same as Dominant/submissive. I think that the Top/Bottom dynamic is not so much about power over but about power-with. It is about what actions and intentions are being consented to specifically by each part. In either case, an observer would need to know what the internal experience is of each of the players to know whether they are experiencing a power exchange or not.
Personally, I like to use the Top/Bottom descriptor because I think that focuses on the nature and quality of the actions of the people playing and suits the way I play more than the traditional Dominant/submissive split of roles.
Not sure who is who in a scene? Focus on an action, like oral sex, and ask yourself:
- What is being done, and who is it for?
Another way of digging into this is to ask:
- What is being given, and who is giving it?
The oral sex example is a good one for showing how nuanced dynamics can be. Is the person giving the oral sex being submissive? It might look that way, because surely the receiver of oral sex is getting all the pleasure. Not necessarily. Perhaps the giver of oral sex is doing the action, but they are doing it for themselves, because they get off on giving oral sex. In this scenario, the person receiving oral sex is giving access to their genitals for the other to enjoy.
Whatever you do and whoever is who in a scene, knowing each other’s motivations and overtly expressing these to each other makes for yummy consensual play.
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