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Dominant (Dom)

Updated: JANUARY 4, 2021
Reviewed by Dr. Laura McGuire
on December 7, 2020

A Dominant is a sexual participant who takes on a leadership role and consensually controls a submissive participant. This type of partnership is often referred to in the BDSM community as a D/S partnership.

A male dominant is often called a Dom, for short, or a master. A female dominant is commonly referred to as a Domme or Mistress, although the language can be altered in fun and “unconventional” ways. Their submissive partner is often called a sub for short. The word Dom is usually capitalized while sub is written in lower-case, to emphasize the power dynamic.

A Dominant may be a sex worker who serves a number of paying subs or someone who takes a dominant role in their intimate relationships. They may only dominate sexually or be dominant in all facets of their relationships, in ways the sub must continually consent to. For example, a Dominant might set rules for how the submissive should behave socially or control the submissive’s finances.

It’s important to note that Dom is short for dominant, not domineering. While these words are similar, the control dominant and domineering people exert is different. Domineering people simply control for the sake of controlling someone else. This can be very dangerous, both emotionally and psychologically, for a submissive. In contrast, a dominant person controls for the betterment and benefit of their submissive and always has their welfare at heart.

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More About Dominant (Dom)

Dominants may use physical or psychological tactics to control their submissive. Bondage, spanking, and delaying orgasm are ways a dominant can physically control their submissive. They might also humiliate them or tell them what to do sexually, rather than asking as a non-dominant partner might. Dominants often stand above their partners and encourage their subs to sit or kneel to reinforce the power dynamic.

Dominants typically train their submissives to serve them best. The training process reinforces their relationship while teaching submissives what their dominants like, from how they like to receive oral sex to how they take their coffee. A structured approach to training yields the best results, as submissives thrive on order and routine. Praise and punishments help reinforce good behavior and deter negative efforts.

Being so assertive can be challenging for Dominants when society encourages people to give rather than take when interacting with their partner. They may struggle with punishing their partner or being strict with them. However, Dominants must remember that their assertiveness satisfies their partners’ needs.

Being a good Dominant involves much more than being able to control and give orders to others. Good Dominants strive to stay in control of themselves and their submissives at all times. Even if they feel angered by their submissive or other elements in their lives, they should strive to maintain their cool. They also maintain good hygiene, physical fitness, and dress standards to present an air of confidence and control to the world.

A good Dominant also respects their submissive. While they are in charge, they should make sure their submissive is sexually, emotionally, and physically satisfied. They will also apologize to their sub if they make mistakes. Admitting wrongdoing is a sign of strength for a Dominant, not weakness.

Dominants should also be responsible enough to ease the intensity of or stop a scene altogether when their submissive uses a safeword or signal. A good Dom/Domme is continually checking in with the submissive and must be ready to modify, adjust, or stop any action that the submissive is no longer comfortable with, even mid scene. Although the play includes aspects of relinquishing control, both partners still exercise control. Domination and submission are in many senses a performance as agreement and negotiation must be present at all times.

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