BDSM & Kink

How to be a Dom: The Guide To Being A Dom

Everything You Need To Know About Domming From Lola Jean, A Pro Domme and Sex Educator
by Lola Jean
16 Sep 2019

UPDATED: 3 Nov 2022


The BDSM universe is becoming more and more popular in our modern world.

Searches for all things dominance have soared. Let’s take a look at the literal meaning of dom and domming, as well as the questions of how to be a dom; how to be a better dom if you’re actively involved already; and what it means to be a dom. 

Domming 101 – How To Be A Dom

A domme (also spelt Dom or Dommx) is a dominant in a BDSM role. Being a Domme is a big responsibility, so it’s important you understand the rules.  

What is a Dom? What is domming? Why do Doms like being Doms? 

In the BDSM acronym, Dom/me/mx’s make up the ‘D’ when it stands for “Dominant” while the Submissives make up the ‘S’, standing sometimes for Submissive (it can also stand for Sadism). 

Dominance and Submission is an exciting, oh-so-steamy dynamic.

What a BDSM Dom/me is not

Let’s bust some Dominant myths.

Myth One: Dom/mes can force subs to do whatever they want

A Dom/me does not force someone to do something if the other person doesn’t want to do that thing. 

This is a massively misconstrued interpretation of the meaning of Dom/Domming. In reality, all activities in a BDSM scene are pre-determined and consented to. There may appear to be elements of reluctance or resistance from the submissive, but again this will always be a pre-arranged element of the play.

Myth Two: Dom/mes act without emotional responsibility. 

As a Dom/me, you are responsible for creating a safe, physical and emotional space where someone can feel their most vulnerable. A sub is putting a tremendous amount of trust in you and your behaviour. Real Dom/mes act with a total understanding of the emotional responsibilities they carry, checking in with their submissives and ensuring a safer and exciting experience for everyone.

Myth Three: Dom/mes ignore safe words

No Dom/me should ever, ever ignore a safeword. It’s there to protect everyone in play, including the Dominant partner. 

Every person has their limits and will show nearing the edge differently. Whilst Dom/me’s may push boundaries, and experiment with nearing edges of resistance, they should never proceed with play once a safeword has been used. They should also have a system for ascertaining when they’re near a boundary – lots of play partners like to use a traffic light system (green – all good; yellow – slow down, we’re near a boundary; red – stop all play) or a number system to judge how things are feeling for one another. 

 Everything must be rooted in consent and trust, otherwise it’s not play, it’s abuse. 

Myth Four: Dom/mes underestimate the importance of trust 

The more trust you have built, the further towards the edge you can – in theory – take someone. 

In building trust, you’re creating a magnetising experience in your attempt to be a good Dom. The better you know your submissive, the more confidence you’ll be to build in your activities as a dom, and the more tailored an experience you can provide. 

Being a good Dom requires heaps of trust and commitment. 

Myth Five: Dom/mes all dominate the same way.

Being a Dom/me is more than an identity badge. 

No two Dominants are exactly alike, and nor do all Dominants have to fit into the same general category. There are Dom/mes that are scary and Dom/mes that are sweet, Dom/mes that wear leather and Dom/mes that wear jeans. 

It’s a way of behaving. That behaviour will adjust and evolve over time, not only from your own experience as a Dom/me, but in the ways you interact with your submissive(s). Don’t forget that the openness to expand your knowledge of how to be a better Dom/me will positively shape who you are as a Dominant.

There are varying degrees of domination: from traditional old school rules, to a more playful casual domination (my favourite), to 24/7 D/s relationships. What type of relationship you end up building will depend on the needs and desires of the submissive and how the Dom/me can accommodate it. It’s all about knowing your submissive and being totally open when communicating with each other. 

There’s not a ‘Become a Dom/me in 5 Steps or Less!’ textbook. It’s about trusting your body, your submissive, and your intuition and desires.

How To Be A Dom/me/mx

Effective Domming requires intuition, reading nonverbal communication, and empathy – lots of empathy. 

Empathising means you’re able to put yourself in another person’s shoes. This is not the same thing as sympathy. You act upon empathy because you can envision how someone is feeling. It’s the key to making someone who is vulnerable feel safe. 

You need to be able to understand how your submissive may be feeling. It’s a good idea to experience the submissive role in some capacity to relate to their experiences for when you Dom/me. Like everything, knowledge and understanding is power. 

Plus, you never know – you also might like it. 

Building The Backstory

Think about any Domination scene* you’ve seen in a movie – or even in a real-life sex party. There’s a whole load of backstory, conversations, and time that went into that relationship that allowed for that scene to play out as it did. 

*scene being a finite time wherewith Dominance and submissions are occurring between two people.

Professional Dom/mes can be expert mind and intuition readers, but even then would only delve so far in a first-time session with a new client. When Domming someone, especially for the first time, you shouldn’t try to imitate your idea of a Dom/me.  Just because you’ve seen it in a movie, it doesn’t mean it’s an accurate representation. When you do this, you’re losing sight of the person in front of you. You can get lost in the moment and become carried away. 

If you’re determined to make a particular experience happen, or if you are tied to a picture in your mind, you won’t be acting in response or listening to your submissive, and responding in real time. It’s in these situations that people get hurt.

The best Dom/mes can maintain control and composure. They have an innate confidence that they don’t need to know everything. It’s essential to recognise the areas you’re unsure about, and educate yourself around them, especially when it comes to the more physically dangerous elements of play. Want to know more about rope bondage, or impact play, cuckolding, choking? There are courses on all of these and more – some even run by me!

You don’t need to ‘fake it ‘til you make it.’ This is an individual role that only works when you’re authentically yourself. 

Dominance Motivations

We can either rule with the promise of reward or the threat of punishment. And don’t forget, denial can play a key role in punishment, too.

This will be determined by what your submissive reacts most to and not what you prefer as a Dom/me. Your preferences are also valid, but they need to align with the sub’s desires

Rewards don’t always (or ever) have to be sexual, either. Your sub could just have their fundamental human faculties returned to them – sight, touch, freedom of movement. Maybe you’re the reward. Perhaps it’s a physical item that’s the reward. Maybe it’s a tasty snack, or words of praise. Either way, the motivation needs to come from your submissive.

Isn’t it all just spanking though?

Impact play is a *tool* of domination. For some, the physical sensation can be completely satisfying on its own, for others it functions best as a punishment, or a deterrent. For still more people, it leaves them completely cold. 

I’d venture to say that impact play forms a tiny subsection of BDSM, but we still seem to give it the most attention. The soft skills may not seem as outwardly sexy, but they are sometimes the most essential parts of our submissive’s experiences. Some people love being spoken to in a certain way, or called certain things, and don’t care to be touched at all

Submissive Motivations

The typical motivators and fantasies of submission can be divided into 4 main categories:

  1. Shame-Based –  sexualizing shame or stigma mentally or physically
  2. Objectification – image-based sexualization or physical acts
  3. Service-Oriented –  someone who thrives off of validation, following rules, knowing what is expected of them, and/or making others happy
  4. Brat / Fight for Top – an individual who requires a specific tension and dynamic for varying reasons. They can be looked at as a puzzle or a fun challenge. Not necessarily to be “tamed” but perhaps to be allowed to run wild and free within a contained non-physical space. 

Why do people enjoy being dominated?

Domination is a place where we have mental permission to behave in ways in which we’ve never imagined, in ways we’ve dreamed of, or in ways we feared. 

BDSM is a playspace for adults. 

It’s a game with a defined set of rules, objectives, and players with a beginning and an end (unless we’re talking about 24/7 relationships, but this is a small minority). 

While many may identify the desire to submit with a desire to feel out of control – due to demanding jobs, etc. – many thrive off the element of control itself, enjoying the instructions and boundaries that submission allows. 

It’s important not to assume motivations about your submissive. 

Many wrongfully assume that a Brat will act out because they enjoy and seek punishment. However, the Brat* may be motivated by the playfulness disobedience provides or the attention it brings them.

Whatever the reason, you, as the Dom/me, need to know it. 

*an individual who acts out or purposefully disobeys their Dom/me.

How To Implement Sexual Dominance In Public 

The critical question here is: how ‘out’ does your submissive want to be in public? 

You must also consider whether behaving as a Dom/Sub in public is on their ‘yes’ list. 

If not, don’t force it. 

It means that your Sub wants to keep your relationship dynamic private and secluded. 

Wherever your sub is on the ‘out’ scale, there’s still so much fun you can have regardless of your public-facing desires.

Small gestures between the two of you can be an excellent way to cultivate intimacy in public. Your submissive can wear a particular outfit or undergarments you picked out for them, perhaps being a little secret that you share. You can develop subtle ways of exploring your D/s dynamic in public, for instance by telling them before you meet or leave the house together that you want them to sit a certain way, or by giving them a phrase that the need to say back to you when given a specific cue.

Remember that D/s dynamics are not all about dungeons and danger! It can be fun, or even silly, especially if your sub is into feeling embarrassed. Experiment, explore, and always always communicate. 

Dom Styles

Just like Submissives, Dominants can have boundaries as well as individual styles. Though you alter your style slightly based on your submissive, you’ll still have a style authentic to you. 

I embody a playfulness and brattiness that I employ no matter what position I am in. I can keep those elements of what is true to me without compromising the needs of my submissive.

Example:  A gentleman who attended one of my Domming classes once asked how to approach a new submissive who identified as a ‘little’ and wanted him to take the Dom Daddy role. This was hard for him to embody as he felt most at home as a more demanding, stern military type. I asked him if he could adjust the framework. An important piece within Dd/lg (Daddy Dom/little girl) is the protection and care, which is especially important in the beginning and end. What if he started as the caring Daddy and his personality *switched* at some point into his more military, stern persona, then towards the end of the scene he’d “snap out of it” and explain, “I’m sorry darling, I don’t know what came over me”, then proceed to provide ALL the aftercare.

When actors play roles of villains, murderers, or something else unrelatable, they have to find their truth within that character, something that resonates. If you can’t find a relatable touchpoint in the character or role, why not see if you can alter the framework or semantics to make that work for you? It may be that it’s too big a distance for you to traverse, and that is also something that is worth recognising. Play to your strengths, and never be afraid to suggest a sub seeks someone else more suited to what they’re looking for in a D/s experience.

Workshop and practise what you’re going to do by telling them in detail or providing an overview before to gauge their reaction. It won’t “ruin the surprise.” If anything, it will build anticipation while also clueing you into what they respond best to.

How To Be A Good Dom

Avoiding common mistakes 

Being a good Dom starts with learning the pitfalls. 

If you’re new to the Dom/sub relationship, you’ll have preconceived ideas about how to portray your role. 

But the movies that many people learn their ideas from are full of errors. 

Mistake 1: Shouting

Raising your voice or yelling is a sign of weakness as you have to resort to anger to try to control a situation. Unless shouting is specifically part of what the sub is looking for, explore control without raising your voice. 

A calm, cool, collected Dom/me demands much more respect than an erratic one. 

Mistake 2: Being angry for the sake of it

Often, we see the Dominant as a “mean.” In extremes, they may even humiliate an individual. Even though what they may be doing might look or be classified as “mean” to the outside world, we don’t know the context within the submissive’s desires. 

Embodying an “angry” approach should be a last resort, and only after you’ve established consistency and trust with your submissive. 

Mistake 3: Being serious 24/7

Your D/s relationship doesn’t have to be severe and stringent. It can be playful, loving, and fun. 

At the end of the day, the whole point in the D/S dynamic is to escape from reality and to fulfil desires. Being playful only heightens the experience. 

Mistake 4: Expecting a perfect outcome from the first experience

Pretending that mistakes will not happen is damaging. 

Yes, we try to avoid this with safewords, boundaries, check-ins, aftercare and more, but it’s foolish to act like this will never happen. 

Sometimes individuals don’t realise something was a boundary until after the scene, or they may dissociate during the scene, though they appear lucid.

It’s crucial to communicate and understand afterwards (or potentially during) what went wrong and where, how you can alleviate this, and what you both can do differently the next time to rectify or prevent this from happening again. It doesn’t make you a bad Dom/me/mx to acknowledge your mistake! On the contrary, it deepens your understanding of your submissive, yourself and the roles that BDSM can play. 

Mistake 5: Blaming the other person

This is a learning experience for both of you, and mishaps aren’t necessarily someone’s “fault.” This is why aftercare is soimportant, regardless of whether a boo-boo is happening/has happened or not, as it can help alleviate some of the discomforts that may have been caused, and clarify why they happened.

Mistake 6: Demanding trust without earning it

Demanding submission or trust immediately upon knowing someone does not result in trust.

You have to earn the trust you’re craving.  

Just because you call yourself Master, Daddy, Sir, Mistress, Goddess or any other (ungendered) term and instruct your submissive to refer to you as such, this does not mean you have immediate authority. 

Dominance is a title to be earned. And just whilst we’re on the subject of titles, you can call yourself anything you like: there’s no reason why a Domme who identifies as a woman shouldn’t be Daddy. Just fyi. 

Patience and consistency are essential in letting our submissive put their trust in our hands. 

Submission isn’t a free pass to take. It’s given willingly. 

If you find your approach is ineffective, you may need to find a new route. When a submissive is not obedient to demands and rules, it may be that they require a different approach, language, or autonomy. 

This is why the ‘getting to know you’ phase of building a Dom/sub relationship is so important. 

Mistake 7: Punishing or rewarding for no reason

Confusing your submissive by using punishment or rewards without reason is a one-way street to overwhelm city. A punishment OR reward system has its purpose. 

Similar to a puppy, use your punishment or reward system as a means to motivate specific behaviour. You need to be super clear about why you’re punishing or rewarding. A submissive will not be able to know everything you want intuitively. Talk. To. Them. And if they aren’t responding to your methods, see my previous article regarding motivations.

Want More Lola In Your Life? 

Lola Jean’s wisdom about all things Domming can be explored on her Instagram and her website. 

Check her out and expand your understanding of the meaning and lifestyle of a Dom/me. 


Psst…check out this upcoming workshop, Domination 101: A Beginner’s Guide To Dominating Your Partner