Thank you for inviting me onto your blog today, Mary! And thank you for providing such insightful questions for me to answer!
Let me preface my answers by saying that they are all based on my own experience. Nothing in this interview is meant to be taken as BDSM gospel. My experience may not match that of others, nor will some of it match the textbook definitions. Every answer is truthful, though, and based on my own experiences with the lifestyle. It is also key to remember that these responses are written from a female Dominant’s perspective, and therefore may not match with what a male would say, given the same question. Just as “normal” men and women are different, so are male and female Dominants. We look at the world differently, whether or not Dominance comes into play.
That said, I hope that others will glean some new knowledge from my responses, and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Let’s get started!
- Why do you think BDSM or D/s is so popular with readers?
I think it’s a window into the forbidden. Characters in a book can get away with fulfilling fantasies that the everyday person wouldn’t dare experience. Books take us places we cannot ourselves go, and they give us permission to experience taboo delights that would cause us grief in real life. We can live, laugh, and love with the characters in a book, without fear of reprisal.
As to the BDSM aspect, reading about taboo pleasures is sometimes easier to contemplate than experiencing them in real life. We can read what happens to a character and say to ourselves, “Yes, that sounds like it would turn me on.” And, we can do so without actually having to put it to the test. It’s a way to delight ourselves, see what we truly do and do not find sexually stimulating. BDSM is still such a taboo subject, many people feel safer experiencing it in the pages of a book, rather than risk getting hurt in real life.
- When did you know that you were part of the lifestyle (LS)?
I won’t give details, because that journey was very personal. I will say, though, that I discovered the LS at a very early age, and it filled me with longing for something I didn’t know how to get. Through experimentation, I discovered that I was a natural Domme, and pursued that designation from that point forward. I have been a 24/7 Domme for 15 years, give or take. And, no, I wasn’t born perfect. I had to learn, just like anyone else. The journey was part of the fun, and self-discovery was a major part of that endeavor.
- That leads into my next question nicely. Do you think we are born with it, or can we jump in later in life?
Yes, and no, lol. We’re born with certain personality traits that make us lean more toward being Dominant or submissive. These traits are either there, or they aren’t. They can’t be learned, or forced, or wished into being. You either have it or don’t.
That said, those natural traits must be trained in order to grow properly. NO ONE is born knowing how to be Dominant, even if their personality makes them lean that way. A true Dominant will seek out ways to improve their natural traits, just as a true submissive will seek out mentors to help them hone their natural abilities. No one is born knowing all the answers, period.
Which leads me into this: yes, you can come into it later in life. Being born with certain traits doesn’t mean you will automatically recognize them within yourself. If you don’t teach and nurture those natural inclinations, they won’t grow. Therefore, you can be born a natural Dominant or submissive, but you can also ignore those traits until later in life.
- What is a Domme for you, Rhiannon? And how do you know you are a good Domme?
Talk about a difficult question, lol. Let me start with generalities, then move to specifics.
Being Dominant means having an inner drive to own, love, and protect what belongs to you. The word “own” isn’t meant in the sense of possessing physical property, like owning a house. It’s ownership in the sense of taking responsibility for another person, to the point where their entire life revolves around you. It’s a deep, driving desire to see to the welfare of those who belong to you. Those who belong to you become your ultimate responsibility, and it’s a responsibility that you desperately want to claim.
I’ve heard some people question the motivations behind a Dominant nature. Why would you want to possess someone, body and soul? Why would you want to control their every action? What does a Dominant get out of owning someone else? Why would a Dominant want that kind of devotion? Is it hubris? The desire to have someone at your feet, worshipping your every move? The truth is—it isn’t that simple.
As a Domme, my ultimate desire is to provide for every aspect of my sub’s life. My satisfaction revolves around giving him the satisfaction he needs to thrive. If that means providing a stern front so he knows when he has displeased me, then so be it. If that means giving encouragement when he needs to know someone else believes in him, that’s what I give. And, if it means taking control of the day-to-day activities, so that he feels as if there is order and continuity in his life, then that’s what I do. My only purpose is to provide him with the rock he needs to thrive.
This is one of the Catch-22’s of the LS. Submission means giving your life to another, in whatever way feels natural to you. Dominance means taking control of another by accepting that submission and treating it like the treasure it is. By definition, it should be the sub who gives up the most, because they are the ones who are giving up control. But, the truth is that the Dominant is also giving. The Dominant accepts responsibility for the sub, which means giving them what they need. A Dom/me does nothing without knowing the sub wants it from them. The Dom/me tailors every action toward providing the sub with every comfort in life, whether that means constant discipline or constant support. The Dom/me takes responsibility for the health and wellbeing of the sub, in every way possible. What does that mean? Basically, the Dom/me’s life revolves around the sub’s. We can’t live without each other, and our needs are only met when we devote ourselves to each other. We both give. Just in different ways.
As for knowing whether I am a good Domme, I don’t know how to answer that. I’ve been with my sub for 12 years. What does that say? 🙂
- What advice can you give to readers that would like to know if they are fit for the lifestyle?
Well, for one thing, don’t read a BDSM book and suddenly decide you are a closet submissive. Just because something turns you on when you are reading about it doesn’t mean you will be turned on by it in real life. If you find yourself truly intrigued by the concept, do some research before jumping in. There are a lot of resources out there. One of the very best is The Loving Dom, which is one of my personal favorite FB pages. TLD offers advice for beginners and long-time LS players alike, and his advice is always accurate. You can also check out FetLife.
- What are the absolute no-no’s a submissive should know?
Some people have the complete wrong idea about what it means to be a Dominant, and they will try to force you to do things because they think subs are supposed to do what they say without any choice of their own. They don’t understand that submission is earned, right from the get-go. If someone ever approaches you and tries to tell you they are Dominant, and therefore you should obey them without question, likely that person isn’t a true Dom/me. A true Dominant will request your attention, give you encouragement to express your desires, and make it a point to let you know that nothing will happen without your say-so. The players out there will try and take your decisions away from you. That IS NOT submission. Don’t ever let someone try to convince you that submission equals being a doormat. It doesn’t. Submission is a CHOICE, first and foremost. You are the one with all the power, because all you have to do is say NO. If anyone ever tries to take that right away from you, run the other way. FAST.
- Rhiannon, you write about D/s. In your own experience, how different is the power play in a D/s relationship versus a hardcore BDSM relationship? And, how does this relate to your own personal practice?
Once again, you ask a hard question. I’ll have to do generalities to specifics again.
The first thing to understand is that while D/s is part of the BDSM lifestyle, they are NOT the same. D/s is more about power exchange—who is in charge, who does what, what is allowed and what is not. While some D/s relationships include bondage and sadism play, not all of them do. D/s focuses more on circumstances, and the emotional involvement of the people involved. D/s isn’t usually about impact play, full bondage, or any kind of sadism. It’s about power.
My personal relationship does not include any form of impact play (pain) or bondage play. We practice D/s, not BDSM. For me, the “power high” comes from seeing my sub perform for me by his own choice. Restraints (bondage) take those choices away. For me, seeing a man tied up and forced to do my bidding is not as stimulating as seeing a man drop to his knees of his own free will. It means more to see him give himself to me by his own choice, instead of seeing him helpless because his choices have been removed. This doesn’t work for everyone. Some subs want their choices taken away, because that is the high they are seeking. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is a very common need. However, my personal gratification comes from seeing my sub make the choice to obey, over and over and over again. I don’t want to take his choices away by force. I want him to give them to me not once, but every single time he submits. What woman doesn’t want a strong man at her feet, ready and willing to give himself to her? That’s what drives me.
- Do you think reading romance novels is the right way to learn about the lifestyle, or at least be introduced to it?
Introduced, yes. But most romances focus on the fantasy, which means Perfect Dom/mes who never make mistakes and are practically telepathic. While that is a lovely fantasy, it isn’t realistic, and therefore subs who rely on romances for their ideal of Dominance are bound for disappointment. Dom/mes are not perfect. We make mistakes, unlike the perfect Dom/mes in romance stories. So, yes, reading about BDSM scenarios can be very educational, because it can lead you to think about what really turns you on. However, no one should ever base their real-world ideals on what happens in romance novels. There are no “Perfect Dom/mes.” Saying to yourself “no true Dom/me would make a mistake like that” is just stupid. Making mistakes doesn’t mean someone isn’t Dominant—it just means they are human, after all. A true Dom/me will immediately acknowledge the mistake and make amends. A fake Dominant will deny any culpability and try to convince you that it was your fault. Don’t fall for that. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment right from the start. Get an idea of what turns you on, then do the research to figure out whether or not you truly fit into the lifestyle. Then remember that being Dominant doesn’t mean God-like omniscience, and remember that BDSM is not a fantasy.
- Why do you think Dom/me characters are always portrayed perfect?
See previous answer, lol. It’s because that’s part of the fantasy. A perfect Dom/me will know what you want before you do, and would never, ever make a mistake. Romance novels are about the fantasy of love. Absolutely perfect passion, scorching-hot sex that never disappoints, and the idea that someone can know you, heart and soul, within moments of meeting you. That’s what romance stories are about, and that’s why readers like them so much. They are fantasy. Fantasy is better than reality, because there are no mistakes.
Dom/mes are portrayed as perfect because that’s part of the fantasy. A “True Dom/me” would never make a mistake, or hurt someone, or do anything to make the submissive uncomfortable. A “True Dom/me” is born knowing how to be Dominant, needs no training, and would never require any sort of guidance in how to be Dominant. A “True Dominant” would never make any mistakes, especially not early in their life as a Dominant, because if they had made mistakes, then they would know they weren’t actually Dominant.
Guess what? That kind of “True Dom/me” ONLY exists in romance novels. In real life, we make mistakes. We do things wrong. We have to learn how to be Dominant, and we often make mistakes, especially early in our lives. THAT’S real. But, that’s not as compelling as the fantasy of a “True Dom/me”, because the fantasy doesn’t allow for fallibilities. It’s a great concept for a romance novel. However, I see a lot of submissives basing their expectations on the perfection they see in the romance novels, and therefore finding themselves disappointed when they realize that REAL Dom/mes are still human.
- Do you think a female Domme is more or less powerful than a male Dom, or have the same authority?
This is a difficult question for me to answer, because Doms and Dommes don’t mix. I think Dommes operate differently from Doms on an emotional level. A Domme is still female, with a female’s needs. Those are always going to be different from a male, whether they are Dominants or not. Apples and oranges are both fruits, but they aren’t the same. They have different strengths and weaknesses. Being different doesn’t make them any less or more effective. It just makes them different.
From a personal perspective, I believe that Dommes focus on emotional submission more than physical submission. This is because men are typically more physically powerful than women, just from physiological differences. Female subs often desire to be overpowered physically. Male subs want to be overpowered mentally. Males submit to Dommes because they choose to, because they need to. Not because the Domme can physically overpower them. For a Domme, that emotional submission is the goal, not the physical aspect of it. Yes, physical Dominance is part of it, but only in the bedroom, and even then, it is the act of the male giving himself to the female that is satisfying. It’s more of a mental exercise than anything else.
Doms are often considered powerful when they have the physical appearance of power. Dommes project their Dominance with attitude, stance, and psychological strength. I’ve never had to tell a sub that I was a Domme in a face-to-face situation. They tell me there’s just something about me that screams Domme. It’s not something I have control over, though. It’s just there. As a side note, I sometimes wonder if that’s the reason so many women get duped into thinking a certain type of man is Dominant. They look at the physical aspect, and they see a strong, powerful body combined with an arrogant nature. Since those are often aspects of a male Dom, they think those aspects ARE what make a male Dom. But, those are just aspects. A true Dom/me is confident, not arrogant. A true Dom/me has enough confidence to allow others to feel good about themselves, instead of constantly trying to prove his own perfection to others. A true Dom/me will want to help you find your own inner strength, not try to thrust their own version of perfection onto you. A domineering male can have the same physical characteristics of a Dom, but a domineering male is NOT a Dom. Women have to work a lot harder to “convince” a male sub that they are Dominant, especially when they are just faking it. It seems to be easier for male subs to recognize Dommes than it is for female subs to recognize true Doms. But, that is just my experience, not necessarily common truth.
- Please explain the difference between a slave, a sub and a pet. And why do you think people are all mixed up about who is who?
The reason people get so mixed up is because they are all aspects of submission, and they are so very similar. My answer to this is based on my own experience with submissives, NOT textbook definitions.
A submissive is anyone who wishes to submit to a Dominant. This has NOTHING to do with whether or not they like pain, or enjoy bondage play, or anything else that’s part of the lifestyle. Those things are secondary, and all subs are free to choose what they do and do not like. A true sub does not submit unless he or she chooses to do so.
A sub is someone who wants to be given orders, usually in the bedroom, but sometimes outside of it. A true sub will want to please their Dom/me by performing tasks upon request. A true sub will want to wait for that request before acting, so that they know they are doing the right thing. A true sub will perform a task and wait for approval or punishment before moving on to another task. And, a true sub will want constant attention, either in the form of praise or punishment, based on their performance.
A slave is like a sub, but it is a much, much deeper form of service. The Dom/me trains the slave to perform tasks, and that training is done with the expectation that the lesson will not need to be repeated. The slave is expected to perform those tasks from that point forward, without prompting. The slave that fails in that duty deserves punishment.
A sub might be told “You will make dinner for us.” That sub would then make dinner, and wait for praise or punishment. A slave, on the other hand, would assume that “You will make dinner” applies to tonight and every night hence, whether the order is repeated or not. A slave finds joy in performing for their Dom/me, with or without direct orders. In fact, a slave will seek ways to take care of their Dom/me. For a true slave, having to be reminded of a task that they forgot to perform is the worst sort of failure. If their Dom/me told them to wash the laundry, they assume that they are supposed to wash the laundry every day, without needing to be told. If the Dom/me then says something like “You forgot to do my laundry today,” then the slave will be mortified, because they forgot to perform the task without being asked. A true slave seeks to please their Dom/me with ultimate service. This doesn’t mean waiting for orders. It means that all orders that are given are considered permanent, and should be performed without being asked from that point forward. A slave is expected to remember the Dom/mes favorite foods, their favorite movies, their favorite laundry detergent, their favorite restaurants. A true slave will make the Dom/me’s comfort their ultimate goal.
This is different from a dungeon slave. A dungeon slave performs in a playroom or bedroom setting only, and is more commonly referred to as a sex slave. A dungeon slave is just a body, which belongs to the Dom/me and can be used as the Dom/me sees fit, without the slave having any control over the situation. A true slave is not always a dungeon slave, though they are often aspects of the same slave service. This only happens when the true slave also desires to be a dungeon slave in a 24/7 relationship. Therefore, a true slave can also be a dungeon slave, but a dungeon slave may not be a true slave.
A pet is the ultimate toy, inside and outside the bedroom. A pet will sit at the Dom/me’s feet and not move for hours, simply because the Dom/me hasn’t given them an order to move. A pet will be at the beck and call of the Dom/me, often acting as a real pet—a cat or dog—and will perform for praise or punishment. A pet is not expected to remember things, because the pet is supposed to obey mindlessly. A pet will never do anything without a direct order. A pet will perform in the bedroom, but only upon direct instruction. A pet is not supposed to think. A pet is supposed to act on request, without any thought for him/herself.
- Do you think a male sub and a female sub are the same, react the same? What makes them different in their needs?
Thank you for asking this question! No, absolutely not, male and female subs are definitely not the same. My experience is with alpha male subs, so the textbook (cliché, actually) definitions of male subs do NOT apply. Male subs are not weenie doormats who want to be treated like shit. They are strong, powerful men with particular needs.
Male subs are just as protective as Doms when it comes to the women in their lives. A male sub will make it his duty to protect their Domme in all ways, at all times, and without prompting. A male sub wants praise for that service, and a male sub wants to be shown that he is valuable because he devotes himself to the Domme. A male sub will make it his mission to make his Domme feel like a queen, and give her ultimate power over their life together. A male sub lives to provide for his Domme, to give her comfort in whatever way pleases her, be it physically or emotionally. Male subs are often seen as alpha personalities in the regular world, because they often have a nurturing nature and will therefore try to help everyone around them. Male subs will also have a driving need to prove their devotion, both physically and mentally. In short, a male sub puts his Domme on a pedestal, and worships her with every fiber of his being. He wants to please his Domme, earn her praise, and suffer her punishment when required. Ultimately, he wants to give his life to hers.
I can’t speak to the type of male sub that desires pain or physical punishment. That is not part of our lifestyle, and therefore it is not something I personally understand. All I can say is that a male sub who enjoys pain with pleasure is typically seeking release from emotional woes. The pain gives them a way to make up for their mistakes. They suffer to prove their devotion, because the pain offers absolution.
Female subs, on the other, hand, desires to be protected by their Dom. They desire for their Dom to provide for them, in all ways. They want to be given orders, and to be overpowered sexually. Female subs will seek praise and punishment in equal measure. Female subs usually want a strong, protective Dom who will make them feel safe, both inside and outside the bedroom.
So, a male sub wants to be the ultimate protector, to give himself to his Domme and prove his devotion with ultimate service. A female sub wants to give herself to her Dom, give him power over her body, and to prove her devotion in whatever way He sees fit. The differences are mostly semantics. It’s in how the submissive thinks, feels, and acts. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to offer submission. The “right way” is what works for you.
13. And, my final question. You mentioned you don’t practice any kind of impact play. May I ask why you don’t believe in pain for pleasure?
Because pain isn’t pleasure when you suffer from chronic pain disorders. Both my sub and I have daily battles with pain. It is something we both have to live with, since there is no cure for either of our conditions. He suffers from a chronic spinal injury that causes shooting pain in his back, neck, and legs. I suffer from fibromyalgia and chronic migraine, so every single day is a pain day for me. Pain isn’t pleasure when you have no choice but to suffer through it, day in, day out. That’s why we don’t practice any kind of impact play or pain play. There is no pleasure in it for us. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things. To many, they are essential parts of the LS. But, for us, there is no pleasure in giving or receiving pain. That doesn’t make us any less part of the LS. Our D/s practice simply doesn’t include it.
“Dominance and submission” (also known as D&s, Ds or D/s) is a set of behaviors, customs and rituals relating to the giving and accepting of control of one individual over another in an erotic or lifestyle context. It explores the more mental aspect of BDSM. This is also the case in many relationships not considering themselves as sadomasochistic; it is considered to be a part of BDSM if it is practiced purposefully. The range of its individual characteristics is thereby wide. wikipedia.