Dominant in real life and submissive in the bedroom is a pretty common trope, whether it’s directed at men (bad ass CEO visits Pro Domme) or women (Kick ass modern woman defies feminism to submit to a man). It’s also such frustrating bullshit, that I usually ignore it. Except for today, I’m not going to ignore it, I’m going to take a look at why it’s BS.
Dominant in Real Life as Annoying BDSM Trope
An older article just showed up on my Facebook feed, published by Elite Daily, about why some women are dominant in real life and submissive in the bedroom.
The article starts off well enough, talking about the successes that women have achieved in the work world; becoming CEO’s, entrepreneurs, artists and so much more. It goes on to talk about how a woman embracing her sexual desires, without shame or remorse, is still a pretty radical thing to do. So far we are in agreement; it is difficult to embrace your sexual desires when women are told at every turn that we need to appear sexually available but if we are actually sexually available we are worthless sluts. Thankfully, this attitude is changing, albeit slowly, thanks to the amazing women who walk the walk when it comes to sexual expression.
Where the article loses me is when it claims that being submissive in the bedroom is some grand act of rebellion and that they are doing it because they are so dominant in real life and everywhere else.
A difference in dominance
Part of the reason that this annoys me is that we are comparing two totally different types of ‘dominance’. I am a Dominant – I have control in my relationships and over my partners in a consensually negotiated power exchange. I also have a pretty dominant personality, people consider me to be dominant in real life, and I have had many jobs where I am in charge.
The jobs where I am in charge – whether it’s working in medicine, or as a retail manager (two jobs I’ve held) or as the owner/operator of my own business (what I’ve been doing for the past 5 years) – is a different type of dominance. I hesitate to even call it dominance because dominance, for me, is a word that applies to more intimate relationships. While work may have many similarities to a D/s relationship, it isn’t the same. Just like listening to your parents isn’t the same as doing what your boss asks of you, control in intimate relationships is different than control in a work setting.
Does being dominant or submissive in the bedroom turn you on? I think for most people that are into D/s, the answer would be yes – that’s why we do it. I get a certain satisfaction from dominating and topping my partners, it makes me feel excited, happy, recharges my batteries and helps me to feel a close bond with them.
Now, does being dominant or submissive at work make you feel the same way? I don’t get the same ‘charge’ out of telling employees what to do. In fact, if I did, I would likely be told it was inappropriate. If I had a sexual response to my responsibilities as a business owner, I wouldn’t complain so much about having to do all the mundane tasks required of me!
A false dichotomy
Furthermore, this trope depends heavily on the idea that because someone is in charge in their work situation that this drives them to be submissive in the bedroom. Does that then mean that people who are submissive in their work life are dominant in the bedroom, to take back the power they give up day to day? What happens if a person gets a promotion or gets fired? Do they switch to the other side of the slash? Did the market crash of 2008 create a lot of bedroom dominants?
But let’s examine the rationale that the author uses to justify this dominant in real life and submissive in the bedroom trope.
It feels good to be wanted and desired
This is true, it does feel very good to be wanted and desired by someone you are attracted to. I’m not sure how this applies more to being submissive in the bedroom than any other type of romantic relationship. As a Dominant, I am wanted and desired by my submissive, at times he literally worships me. I’m sure that people in vanilla relationships also feel wanted and desired by their partners.
The idea that because we are recognised for our brains y being dominant in real life, that by being submissive in the bedroom, we can be recognised for our beauty really doesn’t play out for me. Again, my submissive is with me because he appreciates both my brains and my beauty – in the same way that I desire him for his mind as well as his good looks. Vanilla people are the same – people fall in love with each other because they love the whole person.
There are many ways to feel wanted and desired, if being submissive in the bedroom is how you can achieve this, that’s awesome! But it’s not the only way.
We have partners we trust deeply
Trust is the foundation of any relationship, whether it’s a kinky one or a vanilla one. To imply that D/s relationships have more trust than vanilla ones is unfair. While it’s been a long time since I was in a vanilla relationship, I can’t imagine being with a person I didn’t have a deep sense of trust with.
On top of that, trust is required no matter which side of the slash you are on. While being submissive in the bedroom does require a lot of trust, so does being dominant in the bedroom, or engaging in 24/7 D/s relationships of any configuration. Yes, a submissive has to trust that the dominant won’t violate limits or cause real harm, but a dominant also needs to trust that a submissive will be honest with their limits, and use their safe word (or communicate) if things aren’t right. BDSM takes a lot of trust from everyone involved.
Refuse to be ashamed of fantasies
I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of their sexual fantasies – unless that’s their thing and they get off on shame. Embracing your fantasies can be scary, it can be hard to admit to yourself that you’re into BDSM. It can be even harder to explain those fantasies to a partner!
Having fantasies about being submissive in the bedroom can be wrought with emotions, including shame, for many women. A lot of the current messaging we get from all angles tells us we have to be dominant in real life. It can be hard, especially if you’re a take-charge kind of woman, to admit that you want someone else to tell you what to do.
Of course, it can be very difficult to admit that you want to be in charge of someone else, to instruct them on how to please you sexually or otherwise. Many women feel shame when they realise that they want to cause (consensual) pain to a partner or that they want their partner to cause them (consensual) pain.
Embracing your fantasies – sexual or otherwise – is something that all people should feel free and able to do, not just those who dream about being submissive in the bedroom. Our society attaches a lot of shame to sexual pleasure and to alternative relationships, which is something that we should do our best to resist. There is no shame in doing what is right for you with consenting partners.
Linking sexuality and creativity
Now, this is something that I have a bit of a hard time with because I have a rather complicated relationship with sexuality.
However, if you find that your sexuality and creativity are linked, that should be expressed in whatever way you see fit, not just by being submissive in the bedroom. I know many adult performers who are dominant or who switch (some are even vanilla). Their art – because pornography and other adult entertainment is art – is deeply linked with their sexuality, which is expressed in a myriad of ways.
Taking the power back
I did like the points made here regarding vulnerability not being the same as weakness. Admittedly, this is a lesson that I struggle with. The idea that vulnerability can be empowering is something that I understand intellectually, but struggle with on a more visceral level – I know I’m not alone in that.
Being submissive in the bedroom is certainly a fairly obvious way of embracing vulnerability. When you’re at the mercy of your partner, you are quite vulnerable. Having the ability to make that choice – and revoke it, if needed, can be very empowering.
However, playing on the other side of the slash can also leave one vulnerable. When a partner sees the joy I get from causing them pain, I expose a part of myself to them. When I abandon myself to the pleasure I’ve ordered them to give me, I am vulnerable.
Being able to connect with this part of ourselves leaves us both vulnerable and powerful – it doesn’t matter which side of the slash we choose to inhabit (or if we enjoy both sides).
Dominant in real life…And everywhere else!
Finally, the idea that because a woman is in charge of other parts of her life, “dominant in real life”, she just wants to surrender that control to someone else and be submissive in the bedroom. The same is said of men who like to be submissive in the bedroom.
While this is a common theme among submissives of any gender, it’s not some universal thing. Many subs do find that they need the stress relief of having someone else be in charge, if only for a short time.
Of course, many submissives find that they just prefer to follow someone else’s lead. They have no desire to be in charge or the leader, they find that they are more fulfilled by being the ‘right-hand man’ (or person). They may feel this way in all areas of life or in specific areas or even just in relationships.
Similarly, some dominants will find that because they lack power in their day to day lives, that they get satisfaction by being in control of a submissive in the bedroom or in a relationship.
Other dominants find that they are natural leaders, people who are most satisfied when they are in charge. They find that other people turn to them for direction, both in life and in relationships.
I found that the author had a lot of good points, but that they could be applicable across the board, not just for those who are submissive in the bedroom. If everyone could feel better about embracing their fantasies and doing what makes them happy, there would be a lot fewer miserable people out there!