After posting my previous article about D/s Play, which many readers seemed to enjoy, someone asked about the point of playing the roles of the Dominant and the submissive. Why do this sort of thing?
I think there are some other questions behind this question too: Aren’t fairness and equality in relationships much more sensible? Shouldn’t every decision be made mutually? Why would anyone want to submit to the will of another?
I know that some people get a little turned off by the labels here. I get that, but the labels don’t matter much. Let me ‘splain.
D/s = Driver and Passenger
Here’s a simple metaphor for understanding the value of D/s: getting into a vehicle (car, bus, etc) where one person drives.
D/s simply means engaging in activities where you have a driver and a passenger. One person leads. The other follows.
Why would anyone want to follow? Because s/he trusts the driver to take them on a mutually desirable journey. It’s done for the benefit of both.
You submit to letting someone else lead you (or drive you), when you think it will benefit you to do so. You submit for selfish reasons.
And when you lead, you’re doing it not just for yourself but for the benefit of others as well.
Whenever I get into an airplane, I’m submitting. After I take my seat, the flight is out of my control. I let the pilot lead me, trusting that he’ll take me to my intended destination.
I do this when a friend drives me somewhere too. Sometimes they take me to a surprise location. Hey, let me show you this cool place you’ve never been to before. If I trust the friend, then I expect that the journey and the destination will be good for me to experience, and usually that turns out to be true.
If D/s play is unfair or inequitable, then so is driving. Is it unfair that only one person gets to drive at any one time? Do people cry out that the bus driver should share the driver’s seat with the passengers? Of course not. People see the value in letting the driver drive.
Why submit to being a passenger? One reason is that it can be more relaxing than driving, if you trust the driver. Driving is more work. If everyone had to drive all at the same time, it would require a lot more effort. So it’s nice to have situations where we can relax and let someone else drive now and then. Wouldn’t you agree?
One problem we see in human relationships is that they often fall into aimless drifting. One reason this happens is that no one is really in charge. With shared responsibility it’s easy to shun responsibility. No one is 100% personally accountable for what happens. Under such conditions, relationships have a tendency to descend into doldrums.
In households where no one is in charge of doing the dishes, the dishes often pile up. But if one person is clearly in charge of the dishes, and if everyone knows it, the dishes are more likely to be done and put away. Everyone wins.
For some people it’s okay to be in a relationship where no one is leading.
But even within the fairest and most equitable relationships, there are situations where it’s wise to have one person lead. For starters, this happens whenever both people get into a car and one person drives. They can take turns if they want. But still one person is driving at any one time.
Who makes dinner? What happens when neither person is in charge? The couple can waste time vacillating every evening about what to eat. It’s simple if one person decides what to make and then makes it (which may include directing the other person to help), and then they both eat. If one person didn’t like the choice, they can give feedback, and this can be adjusted for next time.
What about sex? When does the couple have sex? How often? Which positions? Which fantasies will be explored this week?
In a driverless relationship, sex often falls into vanilla, repetitive patterns. It can lack spice and spontaneity. But when one person is in charge, and the other person can just relax and follow, it’s certainly possible (but not guaranteed) for both people to enjoy the experience much more.
Who’s the right choice for leading in any given situation? I think it makes sense for it to be the person who’s likely to do the best job.
When Rachelle is staying with me, she cooks. I’m an okay cook, but she’s a great cook — much better than I am. She knows how to do things with food that seem like magic to me. Maybe I’m held back a little due to being colorblind. Maybe she just has more experience. Maybe she cares more about doing a good job. For whatever reason, there’s no debate. She’s the better cook, and we both know it. She also happens to enjoy cooking.
Rachelle cooks. I pay for the food. We both feel that’s a fair arrangement. It’s been working well for us for years. If either of us stopped liking it, we could change that. But for now, when it comes to making meals, she’s the driver, and I’m the passenger.
I love her cooking. I never take it for granted. I always tell her I appreciate that she made us a nice meal. I feel lucky whenever I sit down to eat with her.
When she sometimes asks me what I’d like for dinner, I often tell her to decide. Whatever she makes, I’ll eat it. I like letting her lead. I trust her. We have very compatible tastes in food. And she’ll do a better job than me. I find it relaxing to let go and let her handle everything. It’s more work for her, but she accepts that work. And I really appreciate that she likes doing this.
In other areas of life, I prefer to lead. Why? Because generally speaking, I’m good at it. I usually have a lot of clarity about what I’d like to explore next, and I like to invite people into those explorations much of the time. When they accept, we’re off and running. More often than not, I prefer to be in charge of setting the course.
Some people hate being in charge, but in many areas of life, I love it. I love feeling the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I love knowing that other people are counting on me. I love running my own business. I love deciding what to do each day with no boss. I love being able to create positive ripples in the world. I love the freedom of getting to decide. I love the challenge of making good decisions.
In the bedroom I love it when a woman surrenders and lets me lead. I love being free to direct the exploration with her; to guide us both into joyful, heart-centered pleasure; to make us both feel really good; to play with her in the ways I like (and that I expect she’ll like as well). I love playing with the energy between us, getting us turned on sexually, drawing that energy back up into our hearts, and swirling it around through our bodies.
I especially love it when a woman surrenders outside of the bedroom, agreeing that I can touch her and play with her whenever I desire. This gives me the ability to direct, tease, and play with the energy between us. I love filling her day with surprise escalations to rile her up, then making her hold onto that energy as anticipation. I like having the opportunity, but not the obligation, to do this. Women seem to love this too — the surprise, the anticipation, the constant wondering about what may happen next. Not all women may like this of course. But I like it, so I prefer to connect with like-minded women. I’m not interested in taking on passengers who would complain about my driving. I want passengers who can relax and enjoy the ride, letting me drive in the way that feels natural to me.
And of course if the woman ever objects to something, she’s always free to pause or stop things. She’s not taking this ride with a stranger. She’s taking this ride with someone she trusts. So there’s always time for feedback and adjustment. The whole point of entering into this arrangement, from her perspective, is that she likes it. She’s doing this for entirely selfish reasons — because it’s very pleasurable for her.
Why follow, either sexually or otherwise in a relationship? The benefit is that you can often have a much richer and more pleasurable experience if you let someone else lead.
If you can relax and let go with a good partner who knows how to lead, giving them permission to be in charge of your pleasure, you may be surprised to learn that they do a pretty good job of it.
You do this whenever you get a massage, unless you’re micro-managing the person’s every movement. You trust the person to make you feel good. You don’t know exactly what they’ll do, but you hope they’re competent enough to make you feel good. In such a situation, your best option is to relax and let them touch you. Afterwards, you can reflect on the experience and offer feedback. You can also decide whether you’d want to get a massage from this person again.
When I give a woman a massage, and she wants another one from me, I figure I’m doing something right. She let me lead. She was happy with the result. She wants more.
The same goes for really sexual D/s play. If the women I did this with told me that they didn’t enjoy the experience, then of course they wouldn’t come back. If they like it, they want more. Why? Because it’s fun and it feels good.
D/s play can also be a growth experience. Sometimes when I get a massage from a friend, she does some new technique that I’ve never seen before. So I ask her to teach it to me. Then I can add that to my own repertoire as well. This is one thing I love about connecting with multiple partners. You can learn from more people and thereby upgrade your skills faster.
To date I’ve seen no reasonable objections to D/s play. To say there’s something wrong with it is like saying that there’s something wrong with any kind of leader-follower dynamic, including driving.
The reality is that when done well, D/s play of a sexual nature is very pleasurable for all involved. People feel good. Everyone is happy. Consequently, I question the intelligence of those who claim it could be somehow wrong, unethical, or unfair. I imagine those people to be unable to get into a vehicle and let someone else drive, due to the inherent unfairness of such submissive behavior.
Getting Past the Labels
I realize that D/s sounds like something dark and mysterious, but the reality is fairly simple. Leading and following is a natural human dynamic that we experience every day. There are many situations where it’s nice to have a clear leader. And it’s also nice to acknowledge who’s following and why.
Is it really such a bad thing to have a leader role in the bedroom? That’s up to you to decide. Anarchy can be fun at times, but I usually prefer to have a more focused and intense experience. I know how to create that, so that’s one reason I like to lead.
Could I also follow? Sure. But for me it wouldn’t be with some leather-clad dominatrix who wants me to worship her feet. However, I could see myself doing this with a tantra-experienced woman that I could trust to lead me into some new experiences. Then as I gained more experience there, I’d enjoy turning around and leading other women in different ways based on what I learned. I love to learn and explore, so with the right woman that I trusted to lead me in a favorable direction, I could let go and follow. What I’d be interested in exploring as a follower though is different from what I like to explore as a leader.
There’s a time to follow, and there’s a time to lead. Both roles are important in life. Neither is better or worse than the other.
What I actually like about the Dominance and submission labels is that they feel more emotionally honest to me. If I’m going to really do my part as a follower and learn as much as I can, then I’ll submit. I’ll let go and be the best follower I can. I’ll take orders. I’ll do what needs to be done.
I did that in Toastmasters, for instance. I was a Toastmaster from 2004 to 2010. I followed the blueprint. I completed many speeches according to the specs. I earned the educational awards. I served as a club officer multiple times. I jumped through the hoops that were laid out for me. I saw little value in some of the assignments, but I did them anyway, and in many cases I understood the value later. It was helpful for me to let go and trust in the wisdom of those who designed the program and of my fellow club members who had much more speaking experience than I did.
Eventually I began feeling that it was time to move on. I started resisting the assignments. I had to give only one more speech to earn my next educational award, and I didn’t want to do it. I began speaking more often outside of Toastmasters. I got paid to speak. Eventually I quit Toastmasters and moved on to doing my own workshops and becoming an international speaker.
Now I lead myself in this area. I can put together my own events. I can choose my own speaking topics. I get to travel a lot, which I love. But in order to get here, it was helpful for me to submit fully to the learning process, to surrender my path for a while so that I could learn from people with more experience, to be a good student, to let other people lead me.
I could have been an ornery student, rebellious and independent from the beginning. But I don’t think that would have been the best way for me to learn. It wouldn’t have been so good for my club either. Submitting to the process worked well. I’m glad I did it.
Of course at any time, I have the ability to un-submit. That freedom never goes away. If Toastmasters had turned out to be some crazy cult with a hidden agenda, I’d have been out of there in a flash. But as long as I could see that submitting to the program was beneficial to myself and others, it made sense to continue doing so. The program has its flaws, but it worked for me. When I joined, I wanted to learn how to speak professionally. I not only achieved my goal; I exceeded it.
D/s in the Bedroom
In the bedroom it’s really the same dynamic at play. You can learn a lot from others, especially when you let them lead you into an experience.
One reason I love the emotional honesty of the D/s labels is that it exposes trust issues. When a woman and I play these roles together, it only works if we trust each other. If we don’t have a good heart connection, we can’t go there. Someone will resist.
To a lesser extent, you can see this tension arise elsewhere in a relationship too. If trust is breaking down, people will nitpick each other’s decisions. Why did you turn down that street instead of the other one? Why did you buy so many bananas? Why didn’t you take the trash out yet?
When there’s a D/s dynamic in the relationship, trust issues can be exposed faster, while they’re still small. This prevents serious weeds from growing into the relationship. If something isn’t working in the D/s roles, it’s because something else is off in the relationship.
Looking at this from the other side, another benefit of D/s play is that it can strengthen the bond of trust in a relationship. Because you keep stepping into this place where high trust is essential, you keep renewing that trust with your partner. This flows outside the bedroom too, infecting the rest of your relationship with more love, gratitude, and appreciation.
One of the most delicious aspects of a relationship is when the leader and follower roles swirl together in delightful patterns of play and teasing. For instance, while Rachelle is making dinner, I’ll often come into the kitchen… hug her from behind… plant soft kisses on her neck and cheeks… massage her neck… tell her I love her deeply… whisper sexy thoughts into her ear… run my hands sensually over her body… slipping them beneath her clothing… teasing any parts of her that I desire… enjoy feeling her body quake and hearing her moan… and spin her around and kiss her passionately. Then I head back to my office and let her finish cooking.