A Submissive’s Guide to Being Dominant

Woman's Legs up on a wall

Did you hear the one about the two subs, who walked into a bar? 

No one ordered. [Cue laugh track!]

Jokes aside, being a sexual submissive is a beautiful thing. You understand one of your core turn ons (relinquishing control), and you pair nicely with a dominant or “dom” lover, who knows their turn on (exerting control). It’s a complementary BDSM pairing that, with appropriate consent and boundaries, everyone can feel good about.

But what happens when you – a self-identifying submissive – need to switch it up?

That wording is intentional: being a “switch” refers to someone who can dom or sub, and has both the skillset and the arousal capacity for both. Let’s say your partner is also submissive, and wants you to dominate them: what advice would a switch offer? How, exactly, can a sub dom for the night?

Here are 5 ways a sub can lean into their power-hungry side.

1. Talk to your partner

First things first: do you already know that the person you’re about to have sex with wants to be dominated? Is this someone brand new to kink and/or BDSM? Are they coming to you with a history of vanilla sex, but want to start toeing the waters of sexual power dynamics?

These are important questions, because even if your partner is well-versed in the world of BDSM, what looks “dominant” to you might look really different to them. Often, being a successful dom has less to do with props or posturing, and more to do with helping your partner arrive at a set of feelings: for instance, helplessness, rebellion, surrender or (in some cases) humiliation. So here are some open-ended questions to ask in the negotiation process, before you two have sex:

  • When you think about having hot sex as a sub, what does it look like?
  • When you fantasize about me dominating you, what does it look like? 

The answers to these questions will give you a helpful starting point, especially if your partner is new to all this. Some people new to kink confuse “being a dom” with “being a jerk,” but nothing could be further from the case. As the dom, you are in a trusted position of authority, so it’s vital you understand your partner’s motivation for exploring this sexual experience. 

2. Negotiate general rules 

The talking doesn’t stop there. As you get into more specifics around your partner’s vision, you can start IDing behaviors that will foster their desired set of feelings.

As the dom, you’re “driving” this sexual encounter: what you say goes. So establish a few rules at the outset, to create a bespoke sub/dom encounter that safely speaks to their cravings. Here are some questions to ask: 

  • Are there any words/phrases that are off-limits?
  • Are there any words/phrases that turn you on?
  • Thoughts on pain play? Would you like me to spank you, pinch you, scratch you? Would you like to involve props, like a flogger?
  • Are you looking to have penetrative sex? Or are their other things that turn you on even more?

That last question is really important, because not everyone turns to BDSM for penetrative sex. Some sub/dom encounters are just about pain, where, for example, the sub enlists a dom solely to paddle them. So get crystal clear on the do’s and don’ts of your sub, and while you’ve probably heard this phrase so much it’s become a punchline – do create a safeword. It’s really helpful during kink encounters, since a lot of people enter this world for healing. If emotions arise, you’ve both got a safeword to lean on. 

3. Create your version of power

Now that we’ve discussed the needs of your sub, let’s talk about your needs.

There’s no one way to be a “correct” dom, because even though the sub/dom dynamic relies on an established power dynamics, the way you wield that power is specific to your personality, curiosities, limits and personal history. Just like you did with your sub, it’s now time to turn the lens on you, and ask yourself a few introspective questions:

  • What does sexual power look like to me?
  • What does sexual permission look like to me?
  • What does sexual punishment look like to me? 

Here’s an example of the way you might answer these: 

  • To me, sexual power looks like verbal worship from my sub.
  • To me, sexual permission looks like my sub asking me if they can orgasm.
  • To me, sexual punishment looks like me spanking my sub, if they touch me without asking first. 

Again, those answers are just an example, but the point is that being a dom has much more to do with you inhabiting a role that feels mostly authentic, and it feels that way because it’s connected to things you actually like. 

4. Dress the part

Now that you’ve got more clarity on the emotional feelings that lay under the surface of this BDSM encounter, it’s time to go straight to the surface – with an outfit that makes you feel like a badass.

BDSM is, in essence, sexual play: a co-created, imaginary world where the two of you drop into assigned roles. So don’t skip this part. Yes, the clothes are far less important than the afore-mentioned communication and desires, but having a dominant “uniform” will help you own the role. Here are some questions to help you design your outfit:

  • Do I want to feel intimidating? 
  • Do I want my outfit to suggest bondage?
  • Do I want to show off certain parts of my body?
  • Do I want lots of layers, that my sub gets to take off? 
  • Do I want something minimalist, that allows my sub to see a lot of skin right away?

At any sex boutique – or a trusted online sex retailer, like Good Vibrations – you’ll quickly find a lot of dom get-ups and fetish wear: black leather, chest harnesses, spike heels, etc. If those give you sexy dom inspo, great! But if what makes you feel like your most powerful sexual self is something more low-key, that’s OK too. There’s not a strict dress code – it’s more about dressing with intentionality, to foster your turn ons, and theirs. 

5. Don’t forget aftercare

The most important responsibility of being a sexual dom? Aftercare.

BDSM can be physically or emotionally intense for both people (not just the sub), so make time after your session is closed for clean-up, cuddles, and conversation. This helps everyone wind down and process. You just experienced something really vulnerable together! So discuss what you liked (and, maybe, what you didn’t like), the hottest moments, and techniques you can’t wait to experience again.  

I hope this helps you feel more prepared to step into the role of dominance. As a sexual submissive, it’s not impossible to dom. It just takes personal reflection, communication and maybe a paddle board, to exert the sexual power you already possess.