The Nature of Dominance

By Rick Umbaugh

Dominance is a state of mind, like honor it is a gift one gives oneself. It is a particular way of viewing the world. To begin with it is a matter of accepting responsibility not only for your own actions but also anyone under your discipline as submissive. In the not to distant past this responsibility was expressed in the Code Duello, in which a gentleman was held responsible for not only the honor of his behavior but also for the behavior of his household. This responsibility is the source from which all Dominants, from the Old Guard to today, receive their right to dominate. Until a Dominant understands this basic principle he or she is, to my mind, not worthy of the submission of anyone. This is a very dogmatic stand, I understand, but one need not spend a lot of time in the scene to see how important this concept is.

So, how does one live with this lofty ideal? To begin with a Dom must live up to his own standards. As anyone whose life has been touched by the military knows, one cannot expect to discipline anyone until one is disciplined oneself. Sobriety, moderation and rationality are the marks of the successful Dom(me)s I've met over the years. While this might seem to be more the code of the vanilla Boy Scout, you have to understand it within the context of what we do. In the scene you can be all kinds of evil things and express all kinds of destructive emotions, but underneath it all you have to understand that underneath it all there is a human being who has placed their well being under your care and trusts that you will be careful of it. This trust is the wellspring of his or her submission and to violate it, by destructive, inconsistent behavior is to risk losing that trust, which will lead, inevitably, to the loss of the sub, if not worse. How can you take responsibility for his or he behavior if your own behavior is erratic and careless? How can he or she prop his or her accountability against a wall with is rotten?

The wall is your control, which must be consistent and unbending. You must view the relationship, within the parameters you have set between or among yourselves, rather like the training of a child or perhaps even more cogently, an animal. The sub has placed his or her humanity at your disposal, his or her responsibility as a person, so that you can return them to the animalistic state from which subspace arises. You must make sure that no mistreatment is a part of that experience, the wall must hold firm.

Now, what do you, the Dominant, get out of the experience? To begin with, there is the obedience. This sounds so simple, but for all but the most exceptional contemporary woman this is extremely difficult, particularly for women. She has been taught to break the molds of the old society, which set up an antique model of womanhood, and, finding that she wants, however temporarily, to be placed back in that mold, is something of a shock. Many women who love the physical sensations of what we do have trouble realizing that obedience is the first requirement (at least for most Dom(me)s) for anyone I'm going to play with, for safety reasons if nothing else. If your partner is having trouble understanding this I would suggest that you view this as your first assignment in training. It is rather similar to gentling a horse. Take it slowly, expect and make sure not to reinforce resistance and never let the subject divert from your goal, to get her to obey. (Ancillary to this you have to make sure you do not ask unreasonable things. Expecting someone to declares herself submissive to suck your cock on the first date certainly falls into this category.)

Submission is the yin to the Dominant's yang. It is the passive compliment to dominance and the fulfilling principle that propels the Dominance. They cannot exist without each other but their natures are not opposites. The nature of submission does not remove this responsibility; one does not become a victim. One becomes a receiver, both the sexual instrument and the audience that experiences the concert. For this reason a submissive is expected to obey, to follow the lead of the Dominant partner. Submissiveness is about giving up one's control, one's personhood for the time being in order to receive the reward of subspace.

Just as one must think of training a submissive rather like training an intelligent animal so one must think of oneself as a submissive as someone who seeks to return to the animal part of humanity. Not everyone's fantasy of submission is about being turned into an animal, it is a rather specialized branch of S/m, but everyone who submits in the end wants to lose one's control, to become an animal which only feels, doesn't think or manipulate, just feels. It is the loss of control that is the great attraction of submission. The classic and very true cliché of the high-powered man who goes home to become a little boy is the prime example of this. I suspect that the greater empowerment of women is part of what has brought more female masochists into the scene. They make decisions all day so they like nothing better than to come home and have all the decisions taken away from them. It is the eternal paradox of S/m that some of our strongest, most powerful people are the ones who submit.

This loss of control, however, goes deeper than domestic responsibilities. Describing the submissive experience within the scene of erotic torture is very difficult. One must begin in the right frame of mind, submissive, pliant, ready to accept anything, no matter how unpleasant. You must set yourself that you will not call your safe word, no matter how unpleasant what you are feeling. Then you have to let go of your intellect, let your mind feel all those sensations and the results are climaxes that take you beyond the mundane world of sight, sound and feeling and into the nether realm of pure sensation where no culture, no society, no words stand between you and the universe. This is the understanding that is the nature of submission. This is the paradox of S/m. While the submissive receives all the sensation, the Dominant does all the work. He or she receives that sense of power that comes from being able to control. He or she receives the homage due all that work, but in the end it is the submissive who gets to touch heaven.