Site Network: Submissive Guide | Submissive Journal Prompts | Dominant Guide | Kinky Blogging | My Blog |

Essay Collection

Hundreds of the most informative essays have been hand-picked for depth of knowledge and varied opinions with new and seasoned practitioners in mind. A wide range of topics are available for you to explore. Donations are always open so submit your essay to The Iron Gate for consideration!

Email to a Friend    Print Essay    Save to Computer

How to Spot a Non-Dominant

Author: COUNtess VelVEEta

Filed in: dominance, newbies, general knowledge

Karen said, in her preamble on How to Spot a Nondominant Male:

"I am quite convinced that the BDSM community has become a haunting ground, and a hunting ground, for vanilla males who resent the feminism of recent years, and who see here what they regard as a community filled to overflowing with women who are just begging to be abused. They got that wrong, but then they have just about everything else wrong too."

A very good point, Karen. And quite true. Our experience (Count Cruel and Unusual and myself) supports this theory as sad fact. We've talked to many submissives over the years who were looking for dominants on ASB (as well as APB, ASS, and the other kinky news groups) who run into these terrible, vanilla men who are lying about who they are and what they want. These submissives usually end up getting quite hurt (or, at least, very disillusioned about S&M) from the experience. The worst part is that many of these women, women who quite obviously have a strong need for submission in their lives, decide, from their single experience with one of these losers, that they must not really be submissive (else why would they have had this horrible experience?). Part of the reason why this happens is because many women seeking dominants are inexperienced and assume that whatever the man (dominant or no) they happen to meet says about his sexual orientation is absolutely true. Something that compounds their ignorance is the medium through which they're getting to know their dominant. It's awfully hard, even when you're experienced and critical, to tell what someone is really like over the computer, and this becomes doubly difficult if you're unlucky enough to meet a "dominant" who is either purposefully misleading you or completely confused himself about who or what he is.

In addition to listing their identifying traits, it can be interesting to consider the kinds of non-dominants who are out there. There are probably more than this, but off the top of my head I can think of five:

A. Predators. Men deliberately looking for hot sex from a succession of kinky chicks rather than for an in-depth relationship with someone special and who have no problem with deceiving their partners on this point. Users.

B. Lazy vanilla men looking for a free emotional ride: relationships that are completely undemanding, that require no work.

C. Men who may very well have the beginnings of genuine dominant feeling but who are deeply conflicted about them: who secretly believe that dominating someone is bad. These guys really screw up any genuine deep submissives who have the misfortune to run into them, because their guilt-ridden conflicts over their own dominant desires are often transferred onto the submissive: she'll often be told by these confused souls that she's extremely sick for wanting to give up control as much as she does.

D. Men with severe emotional problems or personality weakness who should not be trying to control someone else: men who can't control their tempers, men with self-destructive obsessions or addictions, men with numerous emotional hot buttons, men who have trouble being consistent or keeping their word or following through with a promise. These men turn to dominance as an "escape" from all these problems: if you're omnipotent and in control (or tell yourself that you are) then these personality failings will automatically disappear.

E. Confused men who aren't dominant at all but who for reasons having to do exclusively with ego and status and appearing cool before others, have decided they must associate the dominant sexual orientation with themselves.

And of course there are many non-dominants who are various combinations of the above.

I think that your points below will do a lot of subs a big service. (And it will probably help some men as well as women--as the male submissive situation has a few things in common with that of the female submissive's--not much, but enough that parts of this message will be helpful to them.) I hope that these people see your message and read it. Now on to your points:

"1) Any man who can get off for more than a minute on the erotic image of female as whore is not a dominant. That image is a pure vanilla fantasy that reduces the female to an object of masturbation. The whole idea of it is to dehumanize the object, so that the male has nothing to be concerned about."

While I agree with what others have said about some D&S couples getting off on the whore-slut scenario for humiliation or depersonalization reasons, this does not detract from the important points you're making here, namely that:

A. This is primarily a vanilla male fantasy, and men who get off exclusively or primarily on it are more likely to be vanilla than kinky and....

B. The reason why most vanilla men get off on the whole whore-slut thing is because it allows them to avoid responsibility, especially the responsibility of showing some caring or feeling toward one's lover. (Milan Kundera wrote a wonderful, chilling story about a vanilla man and his lover who, to spice up their love life, decide to "pretend" that she's his whore for the day. That experience and the strong feelings of cruelty and alienation [rather sickly combined with eroticism] that both partners feel is enough to shatter the relationship. The tale also explores what it's like to be humiliated in an emotionally destructive way [as opposed to the wonderful sexy way that skilled D&S couples practice]. I don't have the anthology that this story came from in front of me but it was probably either The Farewell Party or Laughable Loves.)

"He doesn't have to think, to understand, to be skillful, to feel, to experience any degree of intimacy apart from the meeting of genitals, to sustain a relationship."

Yes, that's definitely the motivation for many of these guys: to make everything emotionally easy and completely non-demanding for the vanilla man having difficulty navigating a world in which women are more demanding and expect to be treated better (more fairly, more equally, with more consideration for their desires) than at many other times in history.

"2) Any man who finds it just impossible to entertain the idea of treating a woman like a child is not a dominant. `Like a child' will offend some people, including some submissives, but I really don't care."

Although I can imagine a good dominant who is not into the parental dynamic, I think he'd be a pretty odd duck. Where dominants differ on this, I think, is in the degree to which they relish the daddy role. Some get off on it so much that they exclusively seek relationships with subs who are also infantalists. With others, it's more of an underlying theme--with something else: the master-and-slave dynamic, say, more predominant. I agree with you, however, that an individual posing as a dominant who finds the "parental" role odious is probably not a dominant. Why? Because the power exchange dynamic (I mean the real thing not the fake, melodramatic "On Your Knees, Slut!" stuff that people often see it to be), in which one person exerts extensive control over another, is enormously reminiscent to both parties of the only other time in your life when you're either that completely helpless or that completely in control of another: when you're a little child or when you're the parent of a little child. The comparison is obvious, and it usually occurs spontaneously to both people involved in heavy power exchange.

If, when the parental dynamic occurs to your dominant, you find he is repulsed by it (not neutral--but actively repulsed) you may actually be dealing with a little boy who has "authority" problems of his own that he has never outgrown. It's something like the Puer Eternis (my apologies for any misspelling of this term--it's been nearly 15 years since I last used it) syndrome, for you Jungians out there. Some people never want to grow up, and they associate the parental role (and the responsibility that goes with it) as leaving an idyllic, carefree "Peter Panhood" behind and becoming a stuffy boring old grownup. Such men can't stand the thought of being daddies. Likewise, they can't stand the thought of exercising an extreme level of power and responsibility over you. If you are the sort of sub who doesn't want or need that level of power taken away from you, then there's no problem. But if you do have a need for the extremes, you aren't going to find it with an "eternal youth."

"3) Any man who is obsessed with "sharing his sub" is very questionable at best. It is a vanilla obsession."

Some dominants "share" their subs with other kinky people for humiliation purposes, or because they want to show off their slaves (who usually also have an exhibition kink), but the difference is that an actual dominant, being the good old obsessive control-freak he is, will always be there to keep an eye on things and to make sure nothing that he doesn't approve of goes on. The only time that I've known a responsible dom to share a sub when he isn't physically present is when he greatly trusts the person he is sharing her with. This was the case with me and a certain femdom friend of my Master's one memorable summer, but even though he wasn't there at the time, he had a very long conversation with her about what she could and could not do with me, and he "participated" in some of the scenes by having her put me on the phone to him as she was playing with me.

But actually, you're not saying that this sharing activity never goes on at all with a real dominant, you're saying that an obsession with sharing isn't present in a real dominant, and I am in 100% agreement with that. Real dominants, as a rule, tend to be quite possessive about their submissives. The thought of pimping their subs out to others (or just sharing them for free erotic fun) is not one that tends to appeal to them. I think that the thinking goes: "my property is mine to enjoy--not anyone else's. Why should I let someone else, especially someone who I do not know or trust, have or risk what is mine?"

I would agree, though, that vanilla wanna-be doms who read fictions such as that silly Story of O and then regard these ridiculous stories as containing actual truths about the reality of S&M will read about Sir Stephen's pimping of O and uncritically think, "Gee, I should do that too, since it's what all the way-cool Domly Doms like Sir Stephen do!" They never stop to think about whether that's something they would really want to do, because, not being dominants, they're far more concerned with appearing to be a dominant to others than with actual dominant obsessions (such as controlling one's life and environment as extensively as one can so that one gets exactly what one wants out of it). As I said once about such folk at the end of a long movie review message, "Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Belong in...ASB Zoo!" (g)

"4) Any man who rants and rails about his needs, his wants, his desires, and tells submissives that they really ought to be just overjoyed to attend to his every want without regard for her own needs, wants, and desires is not a dominant. He is a spoiled three year old child in a man's body."

Unfortunately, it takes a rather critical attitude to spot that in men posing as dominants. This is something that a submissive beginning to fall in love (or in love with her own submissiveness) isn't likely to have. What a sub is actually going to hear from these men is all about what great dominants they are, how they've had so much experience, how wonderful everything is about them. It helps, when you're getting to know a potential dominant, if you can ignore the words he's saying about himself, and watch closely how he treats you, especially when the first relationship crisis or two come up. Than, if he really is a baby, he'll start stomping his feet and wailing: about how bad you are, how unsubmissive you are (isn't it odd the way the more vanilla the man is, the more unsubmissive he claims his partners are?), ad naseum.

"A dominant will get what he wants and isn't concerned with stamping his feet about it."

Of course. And if he's experienced, he'll do it so smoothly and competently, you won't even realize what's going on till it's over. (g)

"He also derives a great deal of his enjoyment from what he can "get out" of his submissive, and that means being very concerned with her needs, wants, and desires."

Exactly. Because helping her to develop herself and satisfying her needs, wants and desires--as long as they do not involve hurtful or dangerous habits like overeating or smoking--when fulfilled, make her into a happier, sometimes more talented, and overall a more valuable piece of property.

"5) Any man who spends too much of his time denying the concept of vulnerability in a relationship, insisting that the submissive has just as much "power" as he's got, is not a dominant. He doesn't want responsibility and he doesn't even want to believe in the possibility that some responsibility might exist. Vanilla men like to make women responsible for everything that happens to them. Guilt again."

One minor version of this that submissive women looking for partners tell me about a lot is when the putative dominant tells her that since she can't do "action x" or feel "emotion y" on demand, she is not a "true submissive," because "all true submissives do or feel X." Dumping this relationship failure squarely on the submissive partner's shoulders is a dead giveaway of a non-dominant poseur. An actual dominant will talk to you and help you through your inability to do or feel something, if it is important to him that you do or feel it. He won't guilt trip you about it or accuse you of being not up to par as far as submissives are concerned. And he won't be concerned with how long it takes: depending upon your problems with the activity, it may take him minutes or it may take him years. But if he is really a dominant, he will get his way in the end (and with your enthusiastic assistance--if that's important to him).

"6) Any man who believes that he can `make' a woman like whatever he wants her to like is not a dominant. He's also not too bright."

I both agree and disagree with this. I agree, if he expects that liking to develop instantly when it involves overcoming dislikes that may have grown up over a lifetime. I disagree, if he perceives that his submissive's dislike for something is superficial or habitual and that it can genuinely be affected with time and persuasion. I mean, part of being a successful dominant, after all, means to get one's own way, and if what one wants is to change a submissive's negative attitude toward an activity you happen to like, well then, I can't imagine someone like that holding back or thinking it's an impossible dream. A dominant training a sub to take a little pain with good grace and even an amount of eroticism is a common example of this. But to be able to perceive the source of this dislike--to be able tell the difference between a deeply-rooted phobia or neurosis, say, verses a superficial habit of mind--requires a depth of perception that most vanilla men posing as dominants are too narcissistic to muster. I'm not saying that all (or even most) vanilla men are unperceptive or blindly stupid; I am saying that men who like to pose as something they are not (i.e., vanilla men posing as dominants) are quite stupid--and they are usually doing this posing for narcissistic (as well as all the other wrong) reasons.

"7) Any man who believes that submissives are interchangeable is not a dominant. Human beings are not interchangeable. A sub is not a sub is not a sub. If the only thing a man thinks about is having a convenience hole, he is far less than fully human, and dominants are fully human."

You know, sometimes I think that all those guys on alt.personals.bondage who spout that sentimental claptrap about a submissive woman being "the greatest, most precious gift a man could have" are experiencing exactly that same attitude. To them, all submissives are the same "precious gift," when actually submissives differ in quality and value and personality just as much as dominants do. But it's like these guys don't see that; we're all big rubber blowup "precious gifts" to them. One way to tell the dominants with experience from the others is that they tend to be a bit more discriminating than that in their personal ads. They have a specific idea of the type of person they'd enjoy controlling and they post that in their ads. Of course, they're also the guys who go too far down the discrimination road and post a long list of mandatory qualities that no sub, if she's being honest with herself, could possibly meet in toto.

(where's #8? I think I might have deleted it by mistake.)

"9) Dominants don't have particularly fragile egos. They may get angry as hell with something that someone may have said, but they don't spend any significant amount of time in internal anguishing about it."

Agreed. No further comments--except to say that that doesn't mean they aren't arrogant as hell--they just aren't insecure. (g)

"10) A man who would `contrive' an occasion of punishment is not a dominant. Dominants don't have to "set things up" that way. They can use real experiences as real justifications for real actions."

Yes, but sometimes, "just for fun," real doms do contrive situations in this way. Mine certainly does, but the thing is, both of us always know that my grievous offense is so in name only and is being made into a big deal only for fun. It's pretty easy to tell the difference. One is serious, the other isn't.

"11) Any man who can't handle a submissive's emotions is not a dominant. You couldn't be a woman in the 20th century without getting something inside bruised and bent by someone, and dominants are more than happy to handle whatever needs to be handled. They enjoy it. It doesn't just get them where they want to go, it is where they want to go."

Oh, but Karen, it's so much annoying work to deal with another's emotional problems in this way! What about us fun-loving guys who just want a happy carefree fuck with a slut-slave with no hangups who'll cheerfully do our every bidding especially when it comes to sucking our dicks? (What is it with these guys anyway? Don't the vanilla women they date suck dick? By the way they demand this--and often only this--from submissive women, you'd think that no vanilla woman in the world will get her mouth within ten inches of a dick. Or at least not their dicks.) What if we just want someone who will speak only when spoken to--and certainly never express in-depth dissatisfaction at our utter inability to please them or even consider their own erotic needs? What's so wrong with that?

"12) Any man who has lots of "slaves" is not a dominant. Vanilla men just love the idea of a harem, and all those adoring females. Some females like the idea too. Unfortunately, these guys really aren't superman, whatever stupid pills they may have been swallowing."

Oh my, my you are brave. Attacking ASB's favorite sacred cow of polyamory are you? You're probably gonna get burned alive at the stake for this last heretical point. I think a harem is just barely possible within the realms of D&S reality, but I doubt if it would work with more than two slaves, and even with two it would require a tremendous amount of work on the dominant's part to keep both happy and really loved. Certainly in all the publicly-advertised multiple-sub relationships I've read about on ASB over several years, I've never seen a single one that involved someone I think is really a dominant.

"Anybody want to add to the list?"

Thank you, Karen, for a wonderfully comprehensive list. I don't know if I can think of much to add. I can, however, say something about a couple of qualities I think a dominant must have. I'm not saying these are the most important qualities a dominant should have--they're just the ones that occur to me at this moment.

13. No one is capable of being (or rather, of not being) all of the above things all of the time. And you don't have to avoid all of these things all of the time to be a good dominant: you just have to avoid them most of the time, if you wish to build your submissive's trust and confidence in you as a dominant. However, one thing that distinguishes the men from the boys, as it were, is that a person who feels in control of himself, in control of the situation, and in control of the submissive, will openly and easily admit it when he's made a mistake, when he's blown it. It's no skin off his back to do so. He's the one in charge, after all, and admitting to a mistake isn't going to change that pertinent fact. A vanilla man posing as a dominant will often not admit to his mistakes because deep inside he knows he's faking it, and the last thing he wants is for the sub he's fooling to realize it too. In fact, what the poseur typically does is blame the submissive for his mistakes. Whenever there's a relationship problem it's always her fault.

14. Here's one that I've struggled with in the past, sometimes thinking one way, sometimes thinking another, but I've finally come to believe that a dominant has to be smarter than his submissive. He can be dumber than everyone else in the world, but not dumber than his sub. And when I say smart, I mean all the different ways a person can be smart: emotionally perceptive, experienced, able to express things well, as well as analytical. I think this is important because D&S relationships are not easy. Certain problems, such as resistance and the submissive's perception that what she does is inherently sick, come up, often, and certain unique problems, specific to that submissive and that relationship come up. If a dominant is dumber than his sub, he is not going to be able to help her through these problems, first by clearly explaining to her what's wrong and second, by instructing her in how they can both work to fix things. A submissive who has to struggle through these difficulties alone, or who receives advice from her dominant that she'd expect to get from her 14-year-old nephew, is going to begin to resent this fellow pretty quickly. What kind of control can he possibly have, she wonders, if he is helpless to offer me anything useful or worthwhile to help me deal with these difficulties? Such women must feel very, very alone.

Here's another "intelligence" truth about real and faux doms: the smarter you--the sub--are, the more a genuine dominant will appreciate you. The smarter you--the sub--are, the more a non-dominant male posing as a dom will see you as a threat--and as potential competition. In this particular regard, it can be instructive to note which people on ASB become enraged with and lose their cool around me and Karen. You see, we're both submissive women--and we're both smart. And that scares the dickens out of a great many fakes around here. And what do they do when they're scared? When you see these individuals stomping their wittle feet and throwing their wittle tantrums, ask yourself, what kind of dominant is so easily made insecure and threatened by a submissive?

15. Is there anyone here besides me who thinks that a real dominant ought to be literate enough to know not to describe himself with a verb? I wonder if any of these self-described "dominates" realize how they ruin their chances of attracting anyone even semi-intelligent when they say that? I mean, would you trust someone to control you if they didn't even know how the word that describes themselves was pronounced or spelled? (The majority of people who make this mistake seem to be native English speakers--in other words, they have no excuse.) I suppose it won't be long before we also begin to see other people proudly declaring, "I am a submit!" Actually, that would probably be a good thing, because then all the dominates could get together with all the submits, and leave us more traditional noun-types in peace. ;) Isn't it interesting, however, that unlike the dominant-dominate pair or the submissive-submits, the word for people who ride both sides of the fence, "switch," is quite neatly both a noun and a verb? It just figures, doesn't it? ;)

It may sound to some as if Karen, and now I, are saying that a dominant male has to be a superman. In a sense we are, as to be successful, a D&S relationship requires an extraordinary amount of work, dedication, and talent. And while that sort of success can't happen without two rather extraordinary people--people who already know they can't be happy in any other way and are "absolutely" determined to make this work--the brunt of the responsibility--if not all of the actual work--falls squarely on the shoulders of the person who is ultimately in charge (and in a working D&S relationship, that is always the dominant). Still, if the submissive isn't motivated, if the submissive doesn't work, if the sub tries to sabotage things--or if she isn't really submissive--the relationship has very little hope of succeeding.

In this regard, I'd be interested in a seeing a list similar to the one Karen has compiled--but this time on the qualities or identifying traits of non-submissives posing as subs. Any dominant out there care to give it a try?

Related Essays

The BDSM Circle

Iron Gate Banner Exchange