Defining “D-type”: general term I use to encompass those that identify as a Dominant, Master, Mistress, Goddess, Trainer, Top, Owner, Daddy/Mommy, etc.
D-types in the BDSM community are those that hold the power or control that their s-type surrenders, or yields, to them. Why would someone want to assume this great responsibility? The answers will vary depending on who you talk to. People are drawn to this roll for a variety of reasons. Some reasons may include a desire to maintain control, power, or decision making for another, wanting to provide structure or discipline, bestow a sense of safety and caretaking, and/or seeking service from another.
Where does Dominance come from? Why are some people naturally this way or seek this role in relationships? Again, just as with s-types, not all paths or reasons are healthy. Many are quite healthy. There are complex layers that turn us toward certain partners in life, vanilla or kinky. It may be that it is an extension of how they were raised. Messages like, “A man is the head of the household.” or “A strong woman is independant and shouldn’t be controlled.” could contribute to someone being a D-type. It could also be that they grew up with chaos or feel a lack of control in many aspects of their life (ie, answering to a boss, etc) and so taking consensual control within their relationship is empowering.
One complaint about 50 Shades of Gray is that the books portray the main character, a D-type, as a man who has found this dynamic as a result of childhood abuse. While this may be true for some kinksters, both s and D-types, it is certainly not true for many – if not most. It’s unfortunate that this popular piece of fiction has perpetuated negative stereotypes.
There are many messages, that D-types may hear from folks around them and pieces like 50 shades.
“You’re just a control freak.”
“You are a predator that wants to take advantage and use other people.”
“You need to control your partner? You must be insecure or overcompensating for attributes you lack.”
“You’re an asshole/bitch.”
Or worse yet, you hear these types of messages from your vanilla partners before realizing that it’s OK to be a D-type. This is where I want to tell you about an ex of mine because her story is a perfect example of someone being naturally inclined towards Dominance, yet suppressing it due to external negative messages.
When I met *Lisa she claimed to be “the most vanilla person you’ll ever meet”. So why did I persue a relationship with her? I don’t know, perhaps I saw that as a challenge or maybe it was her punny sense of humor. That part doesn’t matter. What matters is the part where I started introducing her to the kink scene. I started with munches, then slowly introducing her to my friends, and eventually taking her to parties. It was a whole new world and experience for her but after the initial shock wore off she was starting to have fun. We began to introduce more kinky play into our dynamic and she was taking lessons and tips from so many wonderful people that embraced her. As our relationship continued I started to encourage her to take the lead with decisions and making demands. I showed her through my response that not only did I not fight her on these things, I actually thrived in following her lead and supporting her commands.
At first it was difficult for her and we would discuss why. Turns out she had some fairly strong Dominant traits all her life, yet when she would act upon them in her vanilla relationships, her girlfriends did not appreciate those traits at all. They wanted to be equal and it would turn into a power struggle as opposed to a power exchange. After enough of these experiences within failed relationships she ended up suppressing these Dominant traits. She was attempting to maintain the peace when her partners would accuse her of being “too controlling”. Her natural Dominant tendencies became “wrong” and “bad”.
So there I was – opening her eyes to a whole world where people thrive with the structure she was attempting to suppress. She was experiencing a relationship with me, who not only accepted, but encouraged her Dominant side. She was finally able to accept and cherish parts of herself that she had grown to villainize.
She learned that it is OK to be a D-type.
Something I say in my classes is, “the D in D-type should NOT stand for Douche-bag”. It should stand for Dominant and represent someone who comes from a place of confidence and security. Someone who can be trusted and someone with integrity.
Dominance in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s when people use it in a harmful or irresponsible way that leads to abuse (emotional, physical, or psychological) or intentional/unintentional harm. If you are Dominant take responsibility for how you express that Dominance. There are many s-types out there that thrive on and crave what you have to offer. It is your responsibility to understand what you are offering, continue to grow and learn, take classes, join discussion groups, read more articles, etc. Don’t take advantage of your role and use it to control your s-type in an unhealthy way. Part of your responsibilities as a D-type and as a partner is to support your s-type in reaching their full potential. Know and accept your Dominance, embrace it, and use it for good.
A barefoot woman swathed in a black fishnet body stocking is handcuffed to a St. Andrew’s cross, her back toward me. Her silky brown hair is gathered in a low, loose bun, the stocking exposing her naked body through its cheesecloth-like holes. With every thwack of the flogger’s tentacles across her cream-colored back, she howls in ecstasy.
We’re in a dark room with black walls, gray carpet and several other pieces of kink-themed furniture. Outside, about 100 people mingle, wandering at will into other rooms just like this one. The labyrinth building is called Sanctuary Studios, a space where L.A.’s BDSM community can come to play. But tonight’s event, Club Awakening, is slightly different than other parties held here: It’s geared specifically toward welcoming newbies to the world of fetish.
“I wanted to create someplace where people could come and play, [and] if there’s something you want to try, you can,” says Jenn Masri, an L.A.-based marriage and family therapist who created Club Awakening a year ago. “It provides a little less of a shocking atmosphere.”
Masri got the idea for Club Awakening after teaching BDSM classes for rookies for several years. She instructs students on concepts like consent, safe words and terminology. She says one question that comes up consistently is, “Where can I go for my first party?”
Four newb-friendly booths scattered throughout Sanctuary Studios allow attendees to try hands-on play — e.g., spanking; crops, canes and paddles; flogging; and ropes. A fifth surprise booth has included more extreme offerings such as fire cupping and light knife play. The event has been packed every month since its debut, including the night I attend.
The event is monthly and generally well-attended. This night in mid-February isn’t any different — despite its being at the peak of the worst rainstorm L.A. has seen in years, the type of foul weather that usually renders Angelenos unable to leave their houses at all, let alone drive somewhere in the dark. But once I check my coat and enter the club’s inner sanctum, I find myself amid a throng of dry, happy and, occasionally, nude or nearly nude people.
Masri has linked me up with Pam, a 47-year-old data department manager from Orange County who has been exploring “the scene,” as it’s colloquially known, for about six months. Pam discovered the scene through a friend just as her 18-year marriage was coming to an end. “I was looking for something,” she says, and “the more I read, the more I got interested.”
Her story, I find, isn’t unusual: Leave an unhappy marriage, enter BDSM. Masri herself has a similar history. “I didn’t get involved until I was out of a 17-year, vanilla marriage,” she says. “Someone I dated did a couple kinky things, and I was like, ‘That was fun, I want to do more of it!’”
Pam has been to Club Awakening, she estimates, five or six times. “I love this event,” she says. “You can try something new, and you can meet new people.”
Around 5-foot-6-inches, Pam is dressed for the evening in a blue-gray tunic top, tight black pants and low-heeled mules. Her lips are painted red, as are her toenails; her shoulder-length, dirty blonde hair is collected into a low ponytail, and she wears delicate amethyst earrings that dangle into the shape of flower petals. We were originally going to explore the event as a pair, but last week, Pam met Jeremy, a 48-year-old dominant and her date for the evening. Much taller than Pam, Jeremy has been in the scene for several decades. He wears coke-bottle glasses and sports a scruffy salt-and-pepper beard, gray-blue button-down and black slacks.
For the first hour, the three of us stand around a cocktail table and chat. It’s an alcohol-free event, so the bar is stocked with six different kinds of soda: Cactus Cooler, Cherry Pepsi, 7 Up, Mountain Dew, root beer and — amusingly — Squirt. It’s also a potluck. A folding table is decorated with homemade platters of food, including frosted lemon cake and pink sugar cookies with Hello Kitty emblems at their center; plastic tubs of cookies from Trader Joe’s; and a bowl with single-serving bags of chips: Spicy Cheese Doritos, Chili Cheese Fritos, Cheeto Puffs and Ruffles.
As we mingle, Jeremy explains the scene to me.
“Sex is our common interest,” he says, “but it’s all about consent. We talk about everything; what we like, what we don’t. It’s all about consent.”
Throughout the night, he’ll continually demonstrate to me that he won’t do anything to which Pam hasn’t consented — e.g., “Can I put these handcuffs on you?” And: “Can I make them tighter?” He also makes a point to demonstrate the nature of his relationship to Pam; within moments, he grabs her ponytail and yanks her head back. “Here,” he says, “I’m showing my dominance.”
When the main room is nearly full, Masri takes the stage. Her waist is cinched into a corset, causing her already bountiful breasts and hips to reach cartoonish proportions. After introducing herself, she opens with the rules: “No cell phone use. Even just opening your cell phone; please go back past the bar and open the door, or go out to the smoking patio.”
As she speaks, Jeremy, who is sitting next to Pam as she stands, begins running his fingers up and down her outer left thigh.
“Make sure you got a ticket for the raffle,” Masri continues. “Vendors donate items for it, and tonight we have a flogger and a full set of ankle and constriction collars.”
The crowd cheers.
“We have stickers, which overall mean you’re open to negotiating play,” she says. “Purple means you’re open to top; blue means you’re open to bottom; orange means you’re open to both.”
By now, Jeremy’s fingers have traveled up to the left side of Pam’s ass, lifting her shirt slightly and slipping his hand underneath it.
Masri goes on: “Consent is key. If you’re going to utilize our practice bottoms” — volunteers who’ve agreed to be submissive for attendees’ learning purposes — “talk to them about it first.”
“No edge play,” Masri continues, “including breath play, fire, needles, cutting, electric, medical, food, blood, anything involving bodily fluid or wax. Sexually: No genital-to-genital, no oral-to-genital, no penetration. On the outside of the body, sexual touch is to be negotiated — and you can get naked!”
Masri then provides the crowd with the evening’s safe words — red and yellow — before introducing the volunteers who will be manning the booths and providing one last line of instruction: “Be kind, ask people if you’re not sure, be respectful, don’t touch other people’s things or peoples — and have fun! We’re gonna open up the rooms and booths. Have a good time!”
Pam and Jeremy’s first stop is the vendor room. A small, brightly lit chamber with “Gin & Juice” playing softly in the background, the room features several tables overflowing with fetish toys for sale: Floggers in a rainbow of colors; handcuffs, collars, leashes and canes.
Jeremy has come here to buy, and he asks Pam her opinion on a pair of heavy-duty leather handcuffs lined with soft red fabric.
Already, Pam has been discreetly carrying around Jeremy’s briefcase, an agreement that seemed to go without saying from the moment the event began. It’s a hard black number that looks like it should hold stacks of ransom money, but in fact it contains toys he brought for the evening. Now, Jeremy ups the stakes: He buys the cuffs, straps them onto Pam’s wrists and instructs her that this doesn’t preclude her from hauling the kitbag.
“This is all part of the play,” he tells me.
Next, the duo heads toward the evening’s surprise booth — a sadistic massage and skin-rolling table run by a man named Dan. Pam lies down on her back, and Dan immediately goes to work.
It’s subtle at first: Taking her right hand in his, he presses his thumb down into her palm. “What I’m doing is pressure points,” he explains, “and I’m doing a little manipulation on her with her thumb.”
He asks Pam — if she wants — to bend her thumb. She does.
“Oh God,” she says, laughing.
“Now, turn your palm up.”
Pam’s face twists into a grimace.
This, Dan explains, is called a “predicament situation.” Pam can move at any time, but moving will cause her more pain. He repeats these moves on her shoulder, her elbow and her shin — all of which are cringe-inducing to watch — before Pam decides to move on.
“Did you like it?” says Jeremy as she gets up.
“Yes, thank you,” Pam responds, before leaving for the flogging room.
Once inside, Jeremy begins to push Pam’s boundaries further.
“Are you comfortable removing your top?” he asks.
She is. He places the blindfold over her eyes and instructs her to kneel over the spanking horse. Handcuffs unlocked, Jeremy begins rolling a Wartenberg wheel — a metal wheel on a handle with small metal spikes, typically used by doctors to check reflexes — up her back.
As he does, three people enter the doorway, but quickly stop. It’s poor etiquette to approach anyone involved in a scene. Jeremy ignores them and continues rolling the wheel.
“Harder?” he asks Pam.
He rubs her ass with an open palm, then smacks it.
“What do you say when I spank you?”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Good. Now, how was that?”
“That was good.”
He spanks her three more times. Then: “Stand up.”
Pam stands and faces Jeremy. He rolls the wheel over her stomach, across her breasts and sternum. Turning to me, he explains, “The front is always more sensitive than the back.”
They continue this way for about 20 more minutes before wrapping up. Handcuffs back on and briefcase lifted, Pam is getting weary physically. That, however, doesn’t stop Jeremy from having her trail him outside to smoke, insisting that she leave the cuffs on and the briefcase in her hands as she tries to smoke a cigarette herself.
We stay at the event until 1 a.m., for a total of four hours that go by surprisingly quickly. Pam and Jeremy have tried everything they want to try, and are ready to wrap up the evening. We say our goodbyes, and they head to their car together.
When I speak to Pam a few days later, she explains that finding the scene was “an epiphany” after 18 years of marriage to a man for whom she felt she had to do everything. Prior to that, she was a rule-follower; a good girl.
“The way I grew up, I don’t know if I’d call it sheltered — I had a very good family life — but you’re always doing the right thing,” she says. “When I decided I didn’t want to be married anymore, I was making that decision for myself. I learned in the scene that that’s okay; nobody judges you. In fact, it gave me a lot of self-confidence I’d never had before.”
This change in herself, she acknowledges, has all happened in just the past six months. She’s been involved with a different dom for much of that time, and her relationship with Jeremy is moving in a positive direction as well. (Many BDSM relationships are open, although they aren’t typically considered dating relationships to begin with.) Meanwhile, Pam — like many people who open themselves up to the scene — is enjoying the freedom that comes with no longer caring about what other people think.
After all, she says, her divorce wasn’t about finding someone else to marry: “It was about me finding out what I wanted.”
First, what do I mean by “s-type”? For those that don’t know I refer to anyone that identifies as a slave, submissive, bottom, pet, property, or babygirl/boy (etc) as an s-type. It’s just an easier way to refer to this group without listing every specific identifier.
What does it mean to identify as an s-type? Why would someone desire, or even crave, to yield their control or power to another human being? This isn’t an easy question to answer, as there are many answers out there depending on who you ask. Some reasons may include a desire to surrender control, power, or decision making, wanting someone else to provide structure or discipline, feeling a sense of safety and caretaking, and being of service to someone else.
The paths that get an individual to this place – this want for surrender – will also vary from person to person. Not all paths or reasons are healthy. Many are quite healthy. There are complex layers that turn us toward certain partners in life, vanilla or kinky. It may be that one didn’t receive the care and discipline he/she required as a child and therefore finds it in a D/s dynamic. It could be simply that the rest of their life demands authority (high powered job, parenting, etc) and the ability to release that control with a trusted partner is like going to a spa after a long hard day. These are only two possible examples of why someone may be drawn toward submission. Not everyone understands this draw however.
“It’s 2015 – you don’t need to bow down to a man!”
“Seriously man – are you that pussy whipped?”
“Slave? How can you let him/her call you that? You’re a grown adult!”
“You mean to tell me you do whatever he/she tells you to do?! Hell no!”
“It sounds like you are just being used and taken advantage of.”
As an s-type we hear so many things from friends and loved ones who just don’t understand or who view our situation from a skewed perspective. Female s-types get lip from the “feminists” about how many years were spent fighting for equality, only for us to throw it all away by stripping our power willingly. However, we need to keep in mind that true feminists would argue that we should have equal freedoms to CHOOSE our behaviors and our lifestyle. Therefore, choosing to consensually yield power, control, etc is, in fact, a huge leap from the days that it was NOT our choice. Everything in our life comes down to the decisions we make. Even in circumstances where we hold no power or control, we still choose how to respond. The movie ‘Life is Beautiful’ comes to mind. (If you haven’t seen it you should!) The point is, we all have the right to decide how we live our life. If we choose to turn over power to someone we trust and respect then that choice should be honored. Male s-types usually catch flack for different reasons. They hear messages like submission isn’t manly. They get called pussies or wimps. Which is kind of hilarious when you think about the fact that many of them could take a much heavier beat down than their “domly” friends. (Although they enjoy it, so maybe not a fair comparison. lol) Again, how is it less manly to CHOOSE how they live their life? To consent to behaviors, dynamics and protocols that make them happy and enrich their life and their relationships?
To every male or female s-type that finds comfort and satisfaction in their submission, how is it any different than the person who finds this in a bottle of beer, a favorite sport, or the traditional vanilla relationship dynamic? Human beings seek safety, comfort, love, affection, and happiness. It isn’t for anyone to judge how you do that so long as nobody is getting hurt (in a bad way!). So take pride in your s-type identity! Slave, submissive, pet, boy/girl, property, bottom, little. Embrace who you are because it’s OK to be an s-type!