Dominant Vs. Tops: What Kind of Dom Are You???
When I first launched the Black Queer Dom Circle (a learning space for queer/trans/GNC Black folks interested in Dominance and kink) I realized that so many of us feel locked into a particular way of practicing Dominance & submission. I'm hopeful that this blog, my IG and the emergent conversation there will help each of us to carve out a space that feels authentic and brings us joy. I offer my journey and identity as merely a starting place for exploration. It is queer, centered around a Masculine of Center Sensual Dom lens, focused on pleasing and loving Black women as my submissives. This is what comes naturally to me. And it is the space I'm trying to navigate, hence what I have to share. I welcome your thoughts, perspectives, resources and ideas in the comments!
So first...Are You a Dom? Or a Top????
Not an inconsequential question. Many of us discover our Dominance through the bedroom. But being a Dom is about much more than how you have sex. It's even more than power exchange.
The recent increase of BDSM visibility in film, music and pop culture have made the idea of being a Dom seem very seductive. And it is. But more than that it is A LOT OF WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY. It is a commitment to a craft. To safekeeping others. To being invested in their growth and development, their pleasure and sometimes their pain. Any prospective Dom who focuses on themselves, what you can do for them and how you will submit immediately...should send up red flags right away (unless a Dom who is focused on self and ignores you is your kink).
A Dom offers guidance, support and instruction across your life. Not just in the bedroom. They typically have order in their own life. While we are not perfect, Doms should be committed to their own growth, health and emotional well-being as a foundation of their Dominance. They do not anger easily, are disciplined, grounded and even at times spiritually rooted. They should also be capable of creating a safe and stable environment for their submissive (whatever that looks like for your dynamic). All Dominant/submissive relationships or connections include power exchange as a fundamental core of the engagement. And most D/s relationships include some form of conditioning of the submissive (what we refer to as training but more on that later).
In BDSM, power exchange refers to a relationship or activity in which the submissive gives the power and authority over their body to a Dominant in exchange for the submissive's happiness and health. Any good Dom knows that the submissive is actually the one with all the power in an exchange. The cornerstone of any healthy dynamic is consent (more on that here). That whoever submits, does so freely and enthusiastically. The nature/details of that exchange are unique to the people within it. There is no template to follow as long as you create a dynamic that works for everyone involved.
Being a Top however is really about assertive, dominant energy during sex. You take the lead. All Doms are Tops. But not all Tops are Doms. Being a Top is often about being in control, but that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with BDSM. You could be a dope Vanilla Top (Go Off You!). Typically it means you enjoy giving (over receiving) and you may take a more active role in initiating sex and directing/leading what happens once it starts. All dope stuff. But still doesn't make you a Dom. And not everyone Tops all the time. Being a switch means that you enjoy the role of both Top and Bottom (giving and receiving). Exploring the range of your intimate desires means exploring a range of roles. And that's a great thing. But if you are not ready for the work, time and investment of someone else's growth, pleasure and pain. I suggest you stick with the basics and keep it in the bedroom.
Autostraddle did a survey of lesbians and according to them only 12% of us are Tops, which means the percentage of Doms is small y'all. Real small. Only 25% of those who identified as Tops identify as kinky.
So if you are a Black kinky Queer/Trans, Dom, Top...WELCOME! I built this space for you. Let's go!!!! Here is an overview of the different ways our Dominance can show up. Many of us have different energies. And some people may use the title (Master, Mistress, Daddy, etc.) without identifying with the archetype below. The most important thing you learn in kink is that there are no hard and fast rules. Everyone is making this up as they go along. And we should all be trying to do it in the most intentional and ethical way possible that creates the most joy.
My Dominance is Sensual first (check out my post on Sensual Dominance) where you can also take a quiz to understand your Dominance better. After being Sensual, my Dom is a bit Daddy (I like to spoil and pamper) with my Nasty, slightly Sadist edge coming out last. How does your Dom show up?
Sensual Dominance is a type of domination that either focuses on sensation and pleasure/reward over pain and punishment, or it involves no pain/punishment at all. When pain is applied, it is targeted and timed to actually heighten pleasure and sensation. One exerts control over their submissive through pleasure and the denial of it to drive their growth. I think of it as a form of body worship in my practice. Your submit to me and in return even inch of your body becomes my playground of pleasure.
Primal (Hunter) Dominance is where the focus is on your natural instincts and the inhibitions that come from letting your inner animal out during sex. Very often, primals enjoy fighting. They will hunt down their prey and try everything they can to control the prey. This can involve all kinds of actions from biting and scratching, to kicking and hitting. Although a Primal Dom can deploy mental tricks and games to subdue their prey. It is a form of Dominance that unleashes raw feelings and actions that are evoked by natural impulses and urges. It's often minimalist in its approach (no fancy toys, rigging, etc.).
Daddy or Mommy Dominance
is when you relate to your submissive's inner child or playful nature/energy. A Dom here takes pleasure from spoiling, rewarding, disciplining and punishing their "little" (often what submissives in this dynamic are called). This dynamic often activates a Dom's protector energy. These relationships tend be loving and long-term, with a focus on caretaking and nurturing. It's important to note that this form of Dominance does not always include sex and is actually different from ageplay (people who like to play with age as part of their kink). It's also important to note! That there is no link at all with pedophilia (which is not on the BDSM spectrum AT ALL).
*But be aware that ageplay (and Daddy/Mommy and little play) can be triggering for some folks with histories of abuse.
Sadist Dominance is often what people traditionally think of when they imagine BDSM. Sadists enjoy inflicting particular types of pain on their partner(s), usually in a sexual context. Sadism and Masochism (a masochist is the person that enjoys receiving pain) are regularly confused with Dominance and Submission. But really they are one form of Dominance/submission or power exchange. A Sadist Dom is usually very into delivering intense physical sensations. They often don’t want, or need, a title or protocols for behavior, just a body that they can exact energy, pain and physical gratification from. There can be guilt for Doms that find they have a deep Sadist edge. This article talks about the psychology behind Sadism but consensual Sadism can actually be very healing for folks and can be deeply rooted in love and care of your submissive.
Rigger Dominance is when you enjoy tying up and restraining your submissive. This can be done with rope, chains, cuffs, spreader bars, etc. And rigging is actually often not sexual at all, but certainly can be included as part of a sexual dynamic with someone. The cool thing is that the term Rigger is gender neutral and it originally comes from sailing. The Rigger was the responsible for the ropes that controlled the sails which ultimately control the boat. This is a GREAT ARTICLE on being Black in Kink by Sara Elise, a BDSM practitioner who is heavy into rope play.
According to Wiki, "the practice of rigging in BDSM is derived from the ancient Japanese art of Kinbaku, a style of bondage that involves tying a person up using simple yet visually intricate patterns, usually with several pieces of thin rope. Shibari, a Japanese word that broadly means "binding" or "tying" in most contexts, but is often used in BDSM to refer to this style of decorative bondage."
Master/Owner or Mistress Dominance is triggering as fuck for many Black people. We're just gonna say it. Yup. But I will say for the record, this dynamic is not just about owning someone or having a slave. It's about the dynamics of a power exchange where a submissive gives ALL THE CONTROL in your life, over to a Dom. Buyer beware. This comes with a great deal of responsibility, probably the most of any type of Dominance.
These relationships are typically what we refer to as 24/7, meaning that your Dominance over your submissive extends to all areas of their life and includes around the clock care, instruction, discipline and guidance. For many folks, being a Master/Owner/Mistress is complete and total ownership of another human being. This might involve living with their submissive/property or not and it can include controlling everything from their orgasms to supervising their diet, exercise and bathroom use. In this dynamic the Master/Owner is the final decision maker in all things, except whatever s/he may have chosen to delegate to the submissive as the their sphere of responsibility. Keep in mind that all of this is consensual, and that the terms of this dynamic are negotiated as well as how it can be terminated.
Masters can also refer to a Dom who has either mastered a craft or technique of BDSM, or has active submissives or slaves under their care (whom find the Master worthy of such titles). But it's important to know that Black folks are pushing back on the narrative of Master in lots of ways because of its history with slavery in the United States. One of the femmes from the Black Queer Dom learning circle prefers the term Goddess. As she puts it, "a Goddess protects, leads and rewards--allowing the submissive to worship her in return."
An offshoot of this form of Dominance is the Owner/Pet dynamic. Like a Master, an Owner governs all aspects of their submissive's behavior, dress, and punishments but typically identifies as a pet, rather than as property or a slave. It involves pet play where your pet might learn tricks, have a bed on the floor for naps at your feet, wear clip-on ears and tail, or a collar with a bell, paw-mittens or full costumes as well as get treats from you when they have been good. Helpful to note that Collaring someone is a BDSM practice that does not always imply pet play but rather ownership and possession (more on that later).
Brat Tamers are, in essence, Doms who enjoy handling a bratty submissive. I jokingly refer to them as the MVP of all Doms. PATIENCE is the name of the game here. And most Brat Taming Doms find disobedience (in the form of playfulness) a fun challenge or a turn on. They also take great pleasure in teaching their submissive a well deserved lesson (because bratty behavior is secretly a cry for punishment and boundaries). Brats enjoy pushing buttons, testing boundaries and see misbehaving as a form of play. While many Doms seek TPE (Total Power Exchange) and complete obedience, others actually enjoy the work of putting their sub back in their place. It’s a game that both the Dom and submissive enjoy, but it takes a special kind of Dom to be willing to play. If this resonates with you, check out this guide to managing your brat.
But I also think that the traditional BDSM concept of brat is rooted in white femininity, which does not align for Black folks. In my experience, resistance is a form of survival for us, and plays out in brat dynamics. The ways in which Black women embody that energy might be different from the traditional framework of a brat but the desire for boundary setting and attention are just as important.
Our patience, and love for one another as Black folks, makes Brat Taming a different dynamic for us. One which is less about a petulant entitled bratty white kid and more about the power it takes to be a Dom to a strong Black woman who has spent much of her life surviving this world. It is a process through which you demonstrate your worthiness of her love and submission. I am not a Brat Tamer per se but I am drawn to powerful Black women. And almost all of them have some level of brat that requires my devotion, love and discipline.