On Dominance, Submission, and Enlightened Sadism

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.”

– Mahatma Gandhi


Because I’m a switch in Kink, I’m very clear about the courage and presence I bring to receiving intense sensation, and the sometimes deeply mystical power I have to transform that intensity into release and transcendent states for me and my Dom. Since I did a deep dive into understanding Sub space first, I know that in my Dom, My sadism serves both me and my Sub in surfing those giant waves of sensation and release.

None of that can happen without vulnerability and presence. With those, all things can become shared, tender, and redeeming. Contempt has a place, there: especially if I can hold that part of me that feels that way, and hold it out to my partner, and say honestly and vulnerably, “there is a part of me that needs to play with contempt and feelings of superiority. I don’t always understand it. Will you go there with me? Will you witness and love me, while I show you this part of me?”

Or, I may need to play with humiliation, as a Sub: the mirror image of contempt. For me, Conscious Kink means calling that out. Inviting it into our play together. Because then I’m not alone. I’m not hiding or pretending. I’m just bringing what is, into the room – all my Shadows, all of his – to see how we can play with them, eroticism them, seduce them, love them.

I’ve heard other Doms say that most Doms are sadists; that a Dom who doesn’t enjoy giving pain is rare (or not a Dom at all).

Au contraire: I have met and played with dominants who have no interest in inflicting pain. A desire to dominate or submit in play does not necessarily include sadomasochism, although it often does. And even when it does, sadomasochism can be as much emotional, as physical. A Dom may wish to extract service, or worship, or absolute obedience, or require their Sub to face a fear or intense emotional sensation, vs. a physical sensation. Punishment for infractions may be as simple as disengaging and stopping play – that can be excruciating for a Sub who wants to please. It’s about intensity, and where the edges lie for Dom and Sub. And, I am one such Dom, in at least one relationship. In my own play, I have a D/S relationship where I as Dom require my Sub to go beyond his limits in receiving pleasure. He runs into a wall where he feels he physically and emotionally can’t go any farther. When I feel that happening, that’s where I ask him to do exactly that, to walk off that cliff into even more sensation, even more pleasure – for me. It’s incredibly powerful for both of us, and it’s slowly shifting where that cliff lies. It’s about going into fear, willingly, with a fierce protector and guide who is also unflinching in demanding more. There are as many ways to play with this, as there are psyches in the world. It’s a matter of finding where our deepest darkest desires match up.

When I think about embracing the unapologetic version of my desires, there are times when that includes being able to inflict serious pain, hear you writhe and cry out… and then walk away guilt-free, with zero consequences. (That feels scary to write, because it feels like there’s a little edge of the sociopath, there.) So, for me to feel safe in my full sadist, I have to trust that my Sub is going to tell me the instant there’s anything happening that feels emotionally or physically beyond what they want to tolerate. That’s where safe words come in – they are not just for the Sub, but for the Dom as well.

As a colleague says: “I want to hurt you. I don’t want to harm you.” Aftercare, as well… which, ironically, is total care-taking. That’s an incredibly important part of any intense scene for me, as Sub or Dom. As Dom, that’s where I can deliver you back to the world from wherever you went and assure myself that there’s been no harm; that you agreed and welcomed the experience we created together, and that your desires were met as well as mine. So you walk away flushed with the thrill of having transformed pain into pleasure and transcendence with all your Subby superpowers, and I can walk away without having to care-take you in any way once the entire scene is done.

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