What should a Dom or sub expect, and more on safewords.
Hello, and welcome to Deviance, the BDSM Awareness Podcast. I’m Dax, and in this podisode, we’re going to look at a few questions that pop up repeatedly. Specifically, these are common questions I get from people who are new to BDSM: What kind of behaviour should I expect from a new Dom or sub, and what should I do if I don’t like it? And following on from that, we’ll also talk a bit more about Safewords.
First a disclaimer: There are no central rules for BDSM, there’s no one way to rule them all, no rules handed down to us on sacred paddles of stone. Everyone is free to kink their own way, what you do or don’t want to do, and how you do it, is entirely your business and no-one else’s. However, whilst there aren’t any specific rules as such, there *is* a difference between BDSM and abuse. Indeed, in my view, there’s an easy way to tell if someone is abusing you: if you think you’re being abused, then you are. We’ll come back to that; for now the important thing is that these podcasts are my opinions on BDSM, they’re what I consider to be best practice and how I conduct myself, and are generally in line with how many others in the BDSM community behave too. So, just because I say something on here, it doesn’t mean that you have to do things the same way – just be responsible.
So without further ado, and making sure this podcast is at least two meters away from you at all times, let’s crack on.
Now, I’m recording this in May 2020, which is in the midst of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. Due to the lockdown policies in place around the world, a lot of people are choosing to get their kink fix online, and for some of those newcomers it’s their first experience. Meeting people online isn’t quite as straightforward as meeting in real life – it’s incredibly easy to present yourself as something you’re not, and this is especially true in the world of kink. Add to that the fact that you basically have to pick things up as you go along, and it can be very confusing for newcomers.
So, because of all that, I’m often asked things like “Is it normal for a sub to have to send explicit photos/videos to a Dom” or “Is it normal for a Dom to have access to a sub’s email/DMs/chat” or “My Dom says I have to fuck myself with my hairbrush until it hurts, I don’t like it, what should I do?” In particular, there is a common trend of supposed Doms telling subs that no-one will want them if they complain or refuse to do what they’re told, and other stuff like that. I also get questions from people who are new to being a Dominant, and they’ve met someone who claims to be a sub, but never does what they’re told, constantly breaks rules, or just generally doesn’t play along, which frustrates the Dom.
You get the idea; questions from people who aren’t sure if their experience is what they should expect.
Well, the short answer is – you never need to do anything you don’t actually want to do; you can always refuse. Think about that for a moment; you never need to do anything that you don’t want to do.
The long answer involves some explanation, so here we go. You might be thinking “Hang on, I thought the whole point was for Doms to tell subs what to do?” and we will come back to that, but we need to start from the basics: BDSM, kink, even just plain ol’ vanilla sex, is supposed to be FUN. Nobody is making you do this; you’re choosing to engage in kinky shenanigans because it sounds like fun, it sounds like something you’d enjoy. Now, that enjoyment might take the form of what some might consider to be pain and suffering, for example my wife absolutely does not like pain, but many of the submissives I play with love a good spanking or having their nipples clamped. Yes, it’s pain, but to them, it’s a good pain. And that’s the difference; you should only be doing things you want to do. So if someone tries to get you to do something you don’t want to do, then don’t. If you’re already in a scene, playing, sexting, whatever you call it – if you’re already doing that, then use your safeword and either end the scene, or move on to something else.
The best way to handle a new dynamic between people – whether it’s Dom/sub, Caregiver/little one, Sadist/masochist or whatever, is to discuss each other’s likes and dislikes first. We call this “Negotiation” or “Negotiating the dynamic”. This is when you’ll tell each other what you enjoy, what you want to do, how you want the other person to behave, and what things you are not willing to do. You may have heard of things like kink lists or limits, this is where they come in. Your limits are the things you don’t want to do. Many people have hard and soft limits; hard limits are how we describe the things we absolutely will not do, soft limits are things we might be open to trying at some point, but we would want to discuss it first. It’s important to remember that limits can, and most likely will, change over time. You shouldn’t feel pressured to accept something you’re not happy with; that will just lead to resentment and it won’t be fun. By all means compromise on something; if you don’t really like, say, your feet being tickled, but it’s not something you hate, then you might say “ok, maybe that can be a punishment if I’m really bad”. You should never have a punishment be something that’s a limit, but if it’s something you just don’t like, it could be a strong deterrent. Heck, perhaps you don’t even want punishments to be part of the dynamic – that’s fine too.
Anyway, the aim of this negotiation is to get to a point where all parties (there could be more than two) know what the other(s) want, what is expected, and what is out of bounds. Start out this way and it greatly reduces the risk of confusion or unhappiness.
Now, having said all that, let’s get back to the original question – what’s normal? As you might have guessed by now, there is no “normal”. Each dynamic is unique to the people in that dynamic. Sure, there are certain clichés which crop up repeatedly – such as sending photos, or memorising the various “submissive positions”, or being punished for getting something wrong, but again, there is no central definition of “a good submissive will always do this, this and that”. You should start any new dynamic with a conversation about what you each expect from the other; that way you’ll minimise the risk of misunderstandings or expectations. Everything is optional. If you’re negotiating with someone and they don’t agree with what you want, then there are plenty of others out there.
Ok, so onto our next topic: Safewords.
In podisode 2, I briefly discussed Safewords, and I had a few follow up questions, so let’s dive in.
To recap: Safewords are how we can communicate clearly during a scene, and indicate that we want to stop, have a brief pause, or that everything is OK and it’s fine to carry on. Why do we need some special system? Well, quite often in BDSM scenes, a sub might want to pretend they’re resisting when actually they’re not; you know the sort of thing – “Oh no, daddy, it’s so big, no, don’t put it in there daddy, no, no, noooooohhhhh yes yes yes daddy”, that kinda thing. If a scene stopped every time someone said No in BDSM, you’d never get anything done, and it totally ruins the mood.
Personally, I use the traffic light system – green means “carry on”, amber or yellow means “hang on a moment”, which usually means someone needs to adjust something, or get their breath back or whatever, and red means “stop right now”. It’s a pretty straightforward system – red is the universal colour for stop, likewise green always means go, and the one in the middle is somewhere in between. The reason why that system is popular is because having a safeword like “pineapple” or “circumnavigation” could make it difficult to remember in the heat of the moment – red and green are pretty much ingrained in our minds by now for the reasons I just mentioned.
It’s also a good idea to have hand symbols in case the person can’t speak for… whatever reason. Thumbs up generally means everything is ok, a flat palm or tapping repeatedly is a good symbol for stop, and a wavy palm can mean “hold up, somethings not quite right”.
The basic idea is that you can say or show one of those indicators at any time, but it’s often a good idea – especially if you’re playing with someone new or doing something new – for the top to check in periodically with the bottom and ask them directly. Relying purely on safewords is not a replacement for the Dom keeping an eye on the condition of their sub, nor must a sub wait to be asked before they use their safeword.
Now, the colour system is popular, but it’s by no means mandatory. You can do whatever works for you – some people like to keep it simple and instead of Red, they’ll simply use No or Stop – that’s valid too; it’s not my preference for the reasons I described earlier, but again, there are no fixed rules. The key is to discuss safeword usage up front so there’s no confusion. I always incorporate the safeword confirmation into the beginning of every scene, as part of the “collaring” section, but you do whatever feels right for you.
Some people don’t use safewords – and again, that’s entirely their choice. If you have a well-established dynamic with someone, you may know them intimately, and perhaps safewords aren’t necessary, and that’s fine. The only time it becomes a problem is if you get one person saying they don’t “allow” safewords, and the other person saying they want to have the ability to use a safeword to stop the scene – that’s when you need to think carefully about whether that’s someone you want to play with. If a Dom, for example, says they don’t allow their sub to use safewords, that’s basically removing the sub’s ability to withdraw consent – and then that raises a question of how can you give consent if you can’t withdraw it if you need to. Even saying “safewords are allowed except during a punishment” is bad practice – again, you can’t force someone to consent.
So, whilst safewords aren’t mandatory in every BDSM relationship, they are a damn good idea, and if you want to use safewords, or not use safewords, that is your choice – but don’t force that choice on someone else, or accept it being forced on you.
Remember – BDSM is meant to be enjoyable to you, in whatever form that may take. If something is spoiling your enjoyment, change it.
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And with that, it’s time to end! I’m Sir Dax, and You can follow me on the Twitters @TheSirDax, email questions, comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can visit my online store at deviancebydax.com. Join Team Dax at OnlyFans.com/sirdax
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