BDsM is largely about power exchanges. Whether you’re into bondage, discipline, role play, impact play, service submission or any other facet of BDsM, chances are your play involves one party giving some or all of their power to the other party. And a lot of work goes into making that power exchange happen successfully. The question is: who does the work?
I hear often that Dominants have the harder end of the deal in D/s relationships. They have to plan and execute scenes. They work hard to hone their skills and look after another person. All the submissive has to do is follow orders and enjoy the pleasure that comes with pain. And with that, submissives cry out “we work hard too!”. A submissive is tasked with looking after their top, obeying and following orders and being on the receiving end of some intense physical treatment. Within the D/s dynamic, there is a kind of push-and-pull between work and pleasure.
So who does the work in a D/s relationship or scene? The answer is far from simple.
Let’s start by looking at Dominants. A Dominant’s role comes with a lot of responsibility. Depending on the type of relationship they have, they may need to set tasks and rules for their submissive. This includes following up to make sure that these rules are being adhered to and dole out punishment as required. Although the Dominant is being served, it is up to them to decide how they wish to be served and monitor the execution of that service. They have to play an active role in training their submissive to do things just they way they want them.
Even if your D/s relationship exists only in the bedroom, the Top has to plan and execute the scene each time you play. Creating a scene is no simple task, and requires a huge amount of thought into the mood that is to be created, the psychological journey the submissive will be taken on, the intensity of play and safety precautions. Sunny Megatron has likened it to building a rollercoaster: you have to create the climbs, the turns and the dizzying drops. You have to craft an experience that has rhythm and plays with emotion and builds to a pinnacle before the ride ends. In addition to that planning, the Dominant also has to carry out the scene, which can require a lot of concentration, control and physical skill.
There can be no doubt that the Dominant in any D/s dynamic works very hard to create and maintain the dynamic. However, that doesn’t mean that the submissive party just lies back and enjoys the attention. Being a submissive is difficult. Again, the exact work a submissive does depends on the specific relationship. If you’re a service submissive, then you have to do a lot of dirty work, such as cleaning house, cooking for your master or mistress, grooming them and presenting yourself in a particular way. But submission is a lot more than just blindly following orders. Not only do you have to remember and execute the instructions your Dominant has given you, but a good service submissive will also be anticipating their needs. Providing those small, special touches that make their day smoother and more pleasant. Service submission is both mentally and physically taxing.
When it comes to play, the submissive party hardly just “lies back and enjoys” what’s being done to them. Any kind of pain play takes a physical and emotional toll. You have to work to process the pain and use it before it will be pleasurable. If you’re into bondage, you have to learn to be placed in uncomfortable positions sometimes, to be bound and gagged, to be caged even. In addition to all that, you’re working to conquer your own fears, to trust in your Top and let yourself go. That’s not easy to do, even when you know that you’re safe and being well cared for.
Obedience also takes practice and effort to master. It’s very difficult to bite down on your inner voice and trust that what your Dominant asks of you is right. It takes effort to learn to serve well and obediently, particularly if you are a strong-willed person outside of your dynamic. Submission takes a lot of work.
It seems apparent that both Dominant and submissive parties work hard in a D/s relationship. Aside from the individual duties there is the collaborative work that they do together, negotiating limits, discussing needs and revisiting old rules and protocols. D/s is a difficult dynamic to do successfully, and it takes a lot of work on either side of the slash.
If you’re not personally enticed by the idea of dominance and submission, you might be reading this and thinking “This all looks like so much work! Why would anyone want to take on a relationship of that kind?” And the simplest answer I can give is that for many, the work involved in a D/s relationship is worth it for the joy the relationship brings. A Dominant might relish the planning and execution of a scene because doing so brings them a sense of happiness, because they enjoy playing with their submissive and revelling in that sense of control. Just like some people love building Lego models or writing short stories, a Dominant enjoys crafting scenes. They’re willing to take on the responsibility of training a submissive because it makes them happy. And a submissive might be honoured to serve their Dominant, even if it means a difficult training process or having to wrestle with their own inner voice a hundred times a day. It’s worth it to make that person’s life easier and brighter. For many, service is calming and an act of love. And taking a beating or having wax poured on your flesh or being tied up is a gateway to amazing pleasure. It’s worthwhile moving through that pain to experience the pleasure on the other side.
Dominance and submission each come with a unique set of responsibilities and duties. As D/s relationships are tremendously varied, so too are the kinds of work that each individual person may have to do. But I think it’s fair to say that neither party works harder than the other. But like so many difficult things in life, if it’s something that you truly want, that you truly enjoy, the hard work is worth it. Often, the work wont’ feel like work, or will be more manageable by virtue of the happiness it brings with it.