Exploring Dominance and submission

Exploring Dominance and submission

Tips for Powering Up your Sex life

by Dr. Kristine Chadwick

A vinyl-clad Dominatrix stands over their submissive in a lavishly decorated dungeon, full of ...  what ARE those things and what are they doing with them??

Hollywood and erotica authors provide us regularly with depictions of power play in the form of Domination and submission (D/s), which is a practice within the BDSM side of kink. It’s not surprising that we see it represented; Domination and submission are among the most common sexual fantasies. However, fictional depictions like those in the 50 Shades book trilogy (Secretary is a more accurate representation!), take some creative liberties with D/s that make it seem extreme and full of deeply injured and traumatized people.

In the real lives of folks who engage in the D/s dynamic, the power exchange is consensual, negotiated play that fulfills the unique needs and desires of both the Dominant and the submissive. People who enjoy power play come from all backgrounds and demographics, although more than half of them have already celebrated their 40th birthdays. 

Power play can be an interesting addition to partners’ sexual repertoire. No matter the daily dynamic of the people involved, inserting a power dynamic to your play can help spice things up and result in new and exciting sexual experiences!

Tip #1: Communicate Openly

A D/s power play dynamic begins and ends with open, honest, two-way communication. Whatever practice each person consents to performing is talked about up front. Bondage? Impact play? Sensory deprivation? Forced orgasm or orgasm denial? Humiliation? Role play? Everything that will happen is discussed beforehand, and the sub has the opportunity to decide what they are willing to do, and share if they have any triggers or limits that could lessen their enjoyment of the experience. 

In addition, Doms have the responsibility of checking on the welfare of their subs regularly. This includes everything from navigating their sub’s headspace to making sure they aren’t getting dehydrated during the scene! Although the Dom is leading the activities, their role involves tuning into their sub(s) and taking cues from body language and verbalizations about whether to continue, increase or decrease intensity of the play, or switch up how they are playing. The people involved also discuss and agree to safe words (e.g., “red” under the traffic light system) and gestures (e.g., three taps) prior to play, and a good Dom always pays attention and stops the scene immediately if a safe word or gesture is used. For more information on BDSM safety, check out our wide selection of kink books!

Tip #2: Get into the Mood and Mindset

Power play can be a great way to change up how people in a relationship connect with one another. It’s about experimenting and can be great fun. Sometimes, people get anxious at the thought of giving up or taking control during sexy times. It’s helpful to remember that you’re only engaging in this because you want to try it. It’s called play because it’s supposed to be fun! Going into the scene with a mindset of experimentation, exploration, and adventure goes a long way to creating a memorable experience for all involved. 

Taking time to discuss fantasies and mentally prepare for a D/s play session before the scene begins not only heightens the anticipation, but also ensures that all parties are aware of their partner(s)’s hopes, fantasies, and worries.

A trip to an adult pleasure store like As You Like It can also serve as great preparation for D/s play. Interested partners can spend some time together looking at and discussing lingerie, restraints, vibrators, massage candles, anal plugs, floggers, and so much more! With everything available to browse, it's easy for folks to see what stimulates the imagination, and maybe even get some ideas that they really want to try. 

Starting a D/s session slowly with a lot of caresses, kisses, and verbal affirmations is often a good first dip into the D/s pool. A Dom can tell the sub how excited they are to do a certain activity with them and how grateful they are the sub has chosen them to submit to. A sub can share their excitement and affirm their trust in the Dom.

Tip #3: Think About Starting Small

The most basic rule of power play, like every other kind of sexual play, is consent. When two (or more!) adults have communicated and consented to taking on the role of Dominant or submissive, they may experiment for a few hours or maybe a night. Want to try bondage, sensation play, impact play? Great! Do those sound a bit much if you’re just exploring power play? The Dominant can still direct the submissive in sexual activities that are more familiar and comfortable. One of the first things we recommend for folks who want to try power play is a simple blindfold. Temporarily removing one of our senses — in this case, sight — can make the rest all the more intense. It also requires the submissive to have a certain amount of trust in the Dominant partner, but they can easily remove the blindfold if it gets overwhelming.

Power play is about the dynamic of the Dom taking control of what happens, but with the sub willingly giving up that control within parameters to which they’ve both agreed. That’s it! Anything within those bounds qualifies as participating in kink. Don’t push yourself to emulate porn or sexy scenes in movies — instead place emphasis on discovering what you like. Remember that experimentation is key, and your desires may surprise even you!

Tip #4: There is no “Right Way” to Engage in D/s Power Play 

You can give D/s a trial run. There isn’t a right or wrong way to engage in consensual power play and you may need to try a few variations before you find something that excites and satisfies you and your partner(s). If things feel off, you may want to switch up who is the Dom and who is the sub. Maybe you will learn that a little impact play is exciting, but not if the sensation is too intense. Maybe impact play doesn’t excite the sub at all, or makes the Dom uncomfortable to administer. That’s ok, too! Experimentation with different types of play and starting slowly can go a long way in getting you in touch with your own body and how different sensations make you feel. You could try sensation play—ice cubes, blindfolds, feathers, wax, running a vibrator up and down an entire body—or maybe a role-playing scene would excite all involved. The goal is to have fun and step out of your day-to-day dynamic. No matter what the acts are in which you’re engaging, trust and honest communication are always at the core of any power play.

Tip #5: Engage in After-Care and Debriefing the Experience

When sexy times are coming to an end, there is usually a period of aftercare, during which the individuals involved decompress, return to a baseline headspace, and talk about what worked well (or less well) for them. Aftercare can look different for everyone! The participants may cuddle, or the Dom might run a bath for a sub, massage them or apply soothing lotions, get them something to eat, or read to the sub while they fall asleep. But Doms may need some attention, too! The sub may want to show their affection to their Dom through cuddles, massages, and kisses. Typically, Doms and subs also use this as a moment to express their affection and gratitude for the partner(s), for it is a sign of trust to take control and to give up control that can bring the participants even closer together. 

There are countless ways to engage in power play within a relationship! If you and your partner(s) experiment with some introductory kink and decide you’d like to learn and try some more advanced activities, there are many resources, including a plethora of kinky books, as well as blogs and how-to videos online that can help you learn how to reach whatever your goals are for your D/s play. Just make sure you choose sources that you trust, and always listen to your body. At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can decide what you’re into. We all have unique wants and desires; consent, communication, and imagination are the only universals for us all. But that just means that power play can happen however you like it — so enjoy the adventure, and remember to play safe!

About the Author:

Dr. Kristine Chadwick is an enthusiastic lifelong learner about the psychology of human sexuality and a fierce advocate for de-stigmatizing sexual wellness and pleasure. Kristine earned her PhD in psychology at the University of Rhode Island, and is a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. She is a certified sexual health resource and staff writer at As You Like It and The Eugene Intimate Health Center.


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