BDSM & Kink

Exploring The World Of Dominants And Submissives

Serena Red talks us through the many and varied dynamics of dominant and submissive relationships
by Serena Red
11 Jul 2021

UPDATED: 21 Jul 2022


Despite what the media and films tell you, you don’t have to sign a non-disclosure agreement to enter into a Dominant and submissive relationship (unless you want to – we see all you paperwork loving kinksters out there). You don’t even have to call it a Dominant and submissive relationship, if you don’t want to. Let’s go back to basics…

Dominant And Submissive Relationships Explained

“Dominant” – the dominant partner of gender identity. The dominant partner, often referred to as “Dom” (masc.) or “Domme” (fem.), or “Dommx” (non-gendered) is the individual who usually takes control of the other person (the submissive) in some way or form.

“Submissive” – the other partner, or partners, who usually takes a submissive role in the relationship, either physically, emotionally or a combination of both. 

N.B. I have used ‘usually’ when referring to each role, as there are a tonne of different roles that someone can take within a Dominant and submissive (D/s) relationship. Also, some people identify as a “switch”; someone who switches between dominance and submission, sometimes with the same partner, sometimes with others. Neither dominance or submission is defined by gender – anyone can be a dominant and anyone can be a submissive. 

D/s relationships can exist in a multitude of different ways

A person may enter into a D/s relationship solely for sexual play. For instance, a person may choose to be submissive purely because they enjoy being dominated in the bedroom, with no interest in this role becoming part of their wider lifestyle. 

Alternatively, D/s relationships may exist outside of play and outside of the bedroom. These can take on a whole range of different forms, with the dominant taking control over certain areas of the submissive’s life, such as choosing what the submissive should wear, eat, and setting them tasks that need to be completed through the day. 

The Gender Question: One More Time For the People At The Back

Dominants and submissives are not tied to any specific gender; you certainly do not have to identify as male to be dominant! There are as many female, non-binary and transgender dominants as there are male Doms. The same goes for submissives. 

If you don’t fit in any of these labels, who cares? If you’re having safe, sexy, consensual fun, then keep on doing you. It is also important to remember BDSM and kink is a journey – enjoy it!

Consent and Communication

You certainly do not need to yield a contract, hire a lawyer or sign an NDA if you and your partner/s wish to try out elements of a Dominant and submissive relationship.

However, it IS really important to make sure that you and your partner are aware of your limits; what definitely turns you on, what might turn you on and what absolutely doesn’t.

Being open and honest is the absolute key here; speak to your partner/s, and discuss what you might want to try. This has to be a two way dialogue, no matter who is taking on what role in the Dom/sub dynamic. Listen to everyone and respect everyone’s feelings. You might be absolutely desperado to peg their ass, but if your partner feels a bit ick about that, don’t try and force them into it. There will inevitably be another thing that can scratch that itch, so to speak… remember, the world of kink is huge!

What Exactly Do Dominants and Submissives Do?

Dominants and submissives enter into a power exchange within their relationship. The submissive ultimately relinquishes control of agreed things to their Dominant. That might be just about giving over control whilst having sex, or in wider areas of their life, as discussed above. 

The power exchange can manifest in lots of different ways, depending on the personal preferences and tastes of the Dominant and submissive involved (see here for an explanation of how you don’t have to be a sadist to enjoy being dominant), but generally it will look a bit like one, or a multitude of the following:

  1. Service

This can involve actual acts of service, like cooking and cleaning.

  1. Humiliation

Name-calling, verbal abuse, being used by multiple people, cuckolding…humiliation has wide scope, with lots of people enjoying elements of this form of domination

  1. Pain/masochism

Your standard issue BDSM tropes. Flogging, spanking, caning, whipping, wax play, bondage, etc… 

  1. Bimbofication

Being “bimbo-fied” involves being objectified as an thing to be used, ranging from dumb blonde to a living doll kind of a vibe. Again to remind you, enthusiastic consent is always needed! Always always discuss things in advance, and never surprise someone with a “dumb slut” comment in the heat of the moment. Again, bimbos can be any gender.

  1. Caregiving

In these scenarios, the Dominant provides the role of caregiver, i.e. daddy dom, with the submissive being looked after. 

This is not an exhaustive list, so if you don’t fit into one of the above, don’t worry!

So It’s Not All About Sex?

All of the above can be performed for sexual satisfaction or with little to no sexual element. A high percentage of people who engage in BDSM actually do so separately from sex. However, lots of people do enjoy parts of BDSM and power exchange scenarios within their sex lives. 

What Is Dominant Sex?

Being Dominant does not necessarily intertwine with a sexual relationship. However, if you do want to try out aspects of Domination and submission in the bedroom, start simple; try out some name-calling, humiliation, hair pulling and see how that makes you and your partner(s) feel. Again, establish consent FIRST. It is about agreeing on each person’s role, who is going to be submissive, who is Dominant. The dominant party would then set rules, which can be agreed upon with set punishments (or funishments, if you’re a masochist like me). 

 It’s All About Perspective

This is where it gets a bit complicated; just because someone views being pegged (being anally penetrated, usually with a toy or dildo as opposed to a penis) as a submissive act, it doesn’t mean that it inherently is. Asking to be pegged can actually be part of the Dominant exerting their power. The Dominant has decided the submissive should carry out that act to give them, their Dominant, pleasure; therefore, it is actually an exploration of their Dominant role. 

The age-old idea that submissives have complete control is absolutely true too. Ultimately, what is decided and agreed upon is vital, and the submissive can refuse to engage in any activity at any point, as can the dominant. This is why a safeword is of utmost importance, as is talking through boundaries and hard limits before engaging in any kind of BDSM play. 


Consent and communication are key, and the use of a safeword is necessary. A safeword is a word that both parties agree on before any form of play, whether in a negotiated and set out BDSM scene or just some fun in the bedroom. If said by either person, the safeword puts an immediate end to what is happening and calls for a “check-in”. 

The generally accepted safeword(s) are the traffic light system: 

RED – stop immediately.

YELLOW – I’d like you to check-in/slow down. I’m okay, not necessarily stop. 

GREEN – okay to continue, usually said in response to a check in.

However, do take time to come up with your own fun one; it can bring a certain level of amusement to a serious matter. 

Remember that both parties can call the safeword, Dominant or submissive, top or bottom, and it does not necessarily mean anything is horribly wrong. It might just be that impact play isn’t having the desired effect it usually does – if you’re someone who has periods, then around that time of the month, be wary!! You will have heightened pain receptors, and I can tell you from experience being caned whilst also being a hormonal wreck is not fun.

It is also important to remember that safewords are not trophies. It is never the goal of the Dominant to “bring a submissive to their safeword”. If that’s your attitude as a Dominant, you need to rethink your involvement in BDSM. If you’re aiming to get a safeword, you’ll be putting people in danger. It’s not acceptable, and you won’t be welcomed by the BDSM community.

Where Can I Find A Dominant/Submissive Partner?

You don’t necessarily need to find someone who is “dominant” or a “submissive”. Start with your current relationship first (if you are in one). Explore what we have spoken about in this article and see if it is something you can involve within your current dynamic. If so, great; if not, and you find yourself searching for more, or you want to explore polyamory, start local.

Look up your local munch – a pub social for like-minded kinksters – and get to know your local BDSM community. Do not treat these as a dating pool and always be respectful. Talk with people on the “Kinky” group on the Killing Kittens app, venture to BDSM play parties, observe, witness and network! Ultimately it is the same as finding someone you want to date, only with added specifications. 

When you think you have found said person, check-in that your kinks align. There’s going to be no happy ending or Cinderella story for you if your Dominant wants to be putting glass slippers on your feet and you hate anything near your toes!

Want to learn more about Dom/sub relationships?

Make sure you check out our upcoming workshops and masterclasses!