Why We Need to Be Careful Who We Label a “Real” Dom or Sub
Can a submissive or Dominant be good? Yes. Can they be right for you? Maybe. What about “real” Doms or subs?
Well, that’s where it gets problematic.
Let’s get one thing straight: yes, there can be people who fake being a Dominant or a submissive to get something, to use someone, or to get themselves off while offering nothing in return. Yep to all of that. But we have language for that — abusers, wannabes, posers, assholes.
When the term “real” gets used, it’s usually to negate another person’s experience with D/s. How many times have you seen someone go on a rant about what a “real” Dominant will do or how a “real” submissive behaves? Have you ever thought, “But I do that?” I know I have.
We’ve been told we can’t be “real” many times over the years because I’m too opinionated to be a submissive and John Brownstone isn’t enough of an asshole to be a Dominant. (Insert eyeroll here.)
I think we need to differentiate between “real” and “good.”
We All Do Things Differently
There are some kinks and some power exchanges that I just don’t get. When I hear about them, it’s a bit like hearing a foreign language. I recognize what’s being said as words but they hold no meaning for me. Does that mean that the D/s relationship is somehow less real than mine? Of course not! If we say (as John Brownstone and I do) that all you need are consent and communication, then the rest doesn’t really matter. Yes, even when the things being done offend our senses and scare the hell out of us.
And yes, I’ve seen some questionable behavior, especially from Twitter Doms™ who tend to fall in the wannabe category. They throw up red flags left and right, and sadly, someone will (eventually) fall for it. Yes, we need to continue to talk about why some behavior isn’t okay but we need to be careful how we label things we don’t agree with.
We Can’t Always Be On 24/7
Sometimes John Brownstone has zero headspace to make a decision, and sometimes I love being in charge. Does that somehow mean we’re less Dominant or submissive in those moments? Of course not. Being a Dom or sub isn’t a costume we put on or take off at will; we’re always who we are. But that doesn’t mean we’re in the role every moment of every day. Just because I make a decision (and he lets me) doesn’t make us less of who we are.
Your Definitions Only Fit You
I get why some people really hate labels in BDSM. It’s because once a label is applied, it becomes almost a definitional prison. If you don’t conform to a specific definition, you’re doing it “wrong” and you don’t belong. The thing most people forget is that just because something is wrong for you doesn’t mean it’s wrong for someone else. Define your D/s on your terms and let others define it on theirs.
Struggling is Not a Sign of Failure
I’ve been called a “natural submissive” which on one level seems to fit me and on another level I find problematic. Partly because I’m not even sure what it means, and two, it seems like it excludes others. And whatever that term means, we all struggle with our Dom or sub self at some point, a little or a lot. Maybe only in the beginning or maybe all the time, but the struggle is real and normal. Outside of new relationship energy (NRE), it’s not uncommon for submissives to have a moment when they really don’t want to do that thing for their Dom. And yes, sometimes a Dom wouldn’t mind if they could just not make a decision for a minute. When that happens, you’re no less “real” than the next kinkster.
What works for you won’t work for someone else, but that doesn’t negate the reality of whatever you feel yourself to be. As a community, we need to be careful about who we label as real or authentic. When we see bad behavior, call it out. When we don’t understand something, ask questions. But I personally don’t feel qualified to decide who’s real or not in D/s, although I might definitely have an opinion on good versus bad behavior. And I’m sure most others aren’t qualified, either.
In episode 133 this week, we’re going to dive into some of the definitions the community has for what it means to be a Dom or sub, from natural to real to good. And why we need to be very careful how we apply those definitions to ourselves and others.
Do you have thoughts on the “real” label we sometimes give or take from other kinksters? Feel free to share in the comments below or on Twitter!