Considerations for Dominants

Distinguishing abuse to and with these individuals…

What is a healthy dominant?

A dominant is a person of any race, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, etc. that seeks to direct and/or receive power or some measure of control of a counterpart, usually a submissive, slave, or bottom. Dominants often enjoy exerting their will or power over another trusted individual interested in submitting to it within this consensual power exchange. A dominant may prefer to remain alone, using their power and/or leadership abilities in more community oriented ways, they may decide to run for a leather title so that they can use their influence or power to benefit their community or they may focus their control solely on themselves and allow their energy to assist them financially or creatively through writing, teaching or the creation of art. Many dominants learn things of interest to them or that might increase their enjoyment of a well-matched submissive partner like flogging, cutting or military-style training methods and they may sometimes seek to learn new ways to expand their ability to consensually control or may explore the ethics behind ownership, if that is what they are into.

Some people within the BDSM community have the misconception that dominants want power over a submissive partner because they are on an "ego trip," or because their own life doesn't work and they want someone to pick up the slack or because they are perpetrators of some sort. A healthy dominant is usually none of these things. They are someone whose life actually works well; they have good relationships with their friends, make appropriate safety and partnering choices for themselves, go to great lengths not to harm others and can operate independently of submissives with a high level of self-sufficiency. Many dominants are very careful about whom they choose to become involved with because they believe their dominance is to be exerted with care and they want to safeguard those who come to them against abuse or maltreatment.

Healthy dominants will take the time to learn good negotiation skills, seek to stop behaving in old patterns/paradigms that may be left over from their childhood or past hurts, will take responsibility for their mistakes and will learn how to practice healthy conflict/resolution skills. They will also take their time getting to know someone before they trust them, will be honest about their concerns and will not need to manipulate or make promises to get their way. They will seek relationships that are win-win.

What is considered abuse to or with a dominant?

Since many people who identify as dominants are assumed to be the ones in control or the person responsible for an abusive relationship, it may be more difficult to discern abuse. Random House Webster's Dictionary defines abuse as "to use wrongly or improperly" and "to treat in a harmful, injurious or offensive way." Abuse and domestic violence within BDSM relationships, especially abuse against dominants, are frequently overlooked, discounted, tolerated or accepted because there is no public support of bdsm or the dominant will be seen as weak or unable to be in control if it is discovered they are being abused by their submissive. Abuse of dominants can come in the form of ridicule, extreme jealousy or hysteria if the dominant does not give the submissive what they want or refuses to see others that they negotiated for time with, backlashing a dominant after an agreed upon punishment is administered, etc. Abuse can and does occur to dominants, even by submissives or other dominants, and if the partners are or have been intimates, then it is considered domestic violence. In either case each party should get help quickly.

What does abuse towards a dominant look like?

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Dr. Gloria Glickstein Brame
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