By: A.M. Garrison
When defining roles and relational power play dynamics in sexual engagement, people tend to identify as either "dominant", "submissive", or "versatile"/"switch".
Those who identify as "dominant" can be described as sexually aggressive. They enjoy driving the flow of sex by actively directing and leading engagement, pushing pleasure to the limit without crossing their submissive partner's boundaries. Those who identify as "submissive" can be described as sexually obedient. They prefer to release control and allow the flow of sexual engagement to be directed by their dominant partner. Lastly, "versatile" and/or "switch" identified people are capable of embodying both submissive and dominant traits, and are comfortable being either the driving force of engagement or submitting to their partner's influence. Which role they play may alternate depending on their partner, the situation, the general mood, the desires of the moment, or many other factors. Switches can even change dynamics within a single sexual encounter, shifting along the spectrum of control and resignation as actions play out.
The best way to let these dynamics play out effectively is through basic communication to establish and continually strengthen trust. Talking about sex before physical engagement is an important tool for navigating you and your partner's unique sexual landscape. It is also excellent foreplay. Tell each other what you like, your wants, needs, fantasies, desires, kinks, limits, et cetera. Hearing your partner speak to you about what they want to do to you, and what they want you to do to them is an incredible turn-on that also serves as a way to learn what they are consenting to, as well as their boundaries. These stats are important data that allow you to fully understand how to provide pleasure while prioritizing respect and support through every aspect of your sexual encounter.
Knowing how your partner identifies in terms of carnal dynamics is just the beginning. As you move forward in your relationship, explore different ways of reaching orgasm for you and your partner by keeping communication open. Learn why your partner likes what they like. There are many ways to embody dominant and submissive qualities, and many personal fundamental influences that drive people to want to behave in particular ways during sex. When someone trusts you to be in control of their body it is a privilege that should be taken seriously. No matter how rough you get, stay cognizant of your partner's state of being by checking in on them through eye contact, verbal confirmation, and physical care. As a submissive identified individual so succinctly described their dynamic with their partner, "I love the way they pay such close attention to me. Also how they hold me accountable." Their partner is dominating them, yet is sure to keep all means of communication open so that they stay in sync. This is a foundational key element to successful sexual engagement.
BDSM is an acronym defined as “bondage, discipline/domination, sadism, and masochism”. This involves physical control over another person, releasing or harboring control in role playing situations or character embodiment, and deriving pleasure from controlling others or being controlled. This does not include emotional or intellectual control over another person because self-awareness and self-advocacy is a foundational part of establishing an individual's approach to their own pleasure. Someone cannot determine how another person finds pleasure. That can only be determined and established by the person experiencing the pleasure. For example, if someone wants to role-play a situation where they relinquish control by being kidnapped, tied up, and tortured throughout their sexual encounter, they must be given full control of the way in which they are being engaged and the ability to call it off at any moment in order to stop or reconstruct the dynamics as they please. They must be the primary orchestrator of their own pleasure-seeking experiment. Check out this exact situation in action in the following short film:
While the term BDSM perfectly describes how many people see themselves in respect to sexual engagement, it can also be an overwhelming term that some people prefer to avoid because of its conceived ability to box people into concepts of power dynamics that they deem potentially harmful or oppressive. In reality, BDSM is a spectrum that can encompass a wide array of “rules of engagement” including a myriad of perceptions, but prioritizes consent and communication above all else. The true defining aspect is that the eventual engagement is predetermined as completely acceptable and desired behavior through conversation, understanding, and established contracts that ensure enjoyment on the personal terms of everyone involved. This is where tools like check-ins and safe words come into play to guarantee safety and respect. BDSM is unique to each individual, and is understood and defined through personal exploration and experience.
“At the time, all I really knew about kink and BDSM was the stereotype available in popular culture — as far as I knew, kink was white, heteronormative, and violent, without redeeming qualities. I did not want to see myself slide into a subculture that I saw as inherently misogynist. But my desire to fill the needs of these women challenged me to become a student of kink and BDSM. I took a year off from dating and delved deeply into the world of Black, queer kink, and in that space, I found myself.”
BDSM can certainly refer to hardcore sex involving rope, whips, and chains, but it can also refer to something as simple as wanting your partner to call the shots during date night by establishing the events and flow of the evening that you agree to unyieldingly accept. It can manifest in one person blindfolding another and dictating their every movement or in a couple role playing as strangers in a public place to spice things up. BDSM can be expressed in even simpler ways as well, like having your partner feed you your favorite snack. You have complete control over what the snack is, but they have complete control over how much you get, when you get it, and how. The creativity is in their hands. They might spoon feed you your favorite flavor of gelato while you sit and chat in the kitchen. They might tie you to your chair, blindfold you with their favorite silk scarf, smear the gelato on their lips, and have you suck it off as they kiss you at intervals of their choice. It is up to them to learn how to playfully toy with your desires to heighten and enhance your experience. They already know what you want, but if they truly pay attention, they can make you want it more.
The underlying factor to all BDSM situations is establishing, earning, and implementing consistent trust. A dominant identified individual described this BDSM dynamic beautifully: “I believe it’s the ability to be myself, my truest self, in my most honest form. I enjoy the trust provided to me by a submissive to take control of them and, in some cases, their lives. All while maintaining a level of care and transparency.”
Lots of individuals prefer being dominant in order to be in control of pleasure play and dynamics. Likewise, some people recognize that playing the submissive role is actually the best way to actively please a partner who craves the opportunity to be freely dominant in an encouraging and accepting atmosphere. A submissive individual described this dynamic in the following way: "... it allows me to take care of my master. I love the act of pleasing... I love how it gives me a purpose. I love how my Dom becomes a true King when in character." This person is taking a dominant stance in submission, as they know they have full control of their partner's pleasure by displaying the submissive characteristics their partner desires so deeply.
Inversely, a switch identified individual gave us an example of taking a submissive stance in dominance in this quote: "I have had relationships where I would go down on my partner for hours until they came multiple times, and that was it. I just wanted to give them orgasms over and over again." Although this person is the dominant driving force of pleasure in this circumstance, they find satisfaction by submitting completely to fulfilling their partner's needs repeatedly.
Another elemental purpose to playing with power dynamics is being able to disappear into roles to learn more about yourself: "It allows me to be free to explore different sexual kinks." Possessing or releasing power can lead you into new aspects of sexual enjoyment that you've never explored or considered before. This is how you continue to discover exciting new pleasures throughout your life-long sexual journey.
The switch is granted access to both sides of the sexual experience, giving them an important viewpoint on sexual relationships. A switch identified bisexual individual stated that they "play both the dominant and submissive role with partners of different genders because sometimes I love to take command and sometimes I just need to let go." By playing both of these roles with a wide spectrum of partners, this person gets to widen the paradigm through which they relate to others. Their approach to giving and receiving pleasure is seen through their own lens as well as the perceived lens of their partner, as they have played through dominant and submissive dynamics with vastly different people who identify in a multitude of ways. This ultimately allows the individual to expand their view and experience in terms of sexual relationships, giving them more tools for trust and understanding that they can apply in the future.
Sexual experiences, conversations, and implementation of knowledge gained through engagement and communication are essentially the building blocks of an individual’s toolbox of instruments for better comprehension and relational skills. As you live life try to be aware of learning opportunities that can help you truly connect with others in more efficient ways. This applies to sex, relationships, friendships, and all areas where you are living simultaneously with other human beings. Apply empathy whenever possible and prioritize recognition of other people’s emotions and viewpoints in order to become a master of connection and the best version of yourself in relation to others. This is how you strengthen relationships and enhance your ability to give and receive love, which simply makes life better.
TKINK: CLOTHES MINDED
There are many ways to incorporate clothing into dynamic sexual play. Consider these distinctive garments and the ways in which they can be implemented for exciting engagement between you and your partner.
The Black Chain Leather Jacket is designed with themes of both authority and control in mind. Use the zipper and chains to adjust your partner’s access to a free range of motion. Wrap your fingers around the chains, pull and grasp to express wants and needs. Zip them up in the jacket and then release them by gripping the pull and slowly sliding down, exposing their chest one metal zipper tooth at a time.
Some people simply love to be held. The Velvet Hug Hoodie Coat was created to make you feel like you’re in an ongoing encompassing embrace. This piece allows you to envelop your partner in a soft velveteen grasp, so they can feel a tight plush caress even when you’re not close enough to touch them. Use it to clasp and encapsulate, creating a luxurious personalized atmosphere.
The Sheer Mesh Bodysuit is a tight fitted item that covers the arms and torso, then wraps between the legs with a thin strap of fabric. Mesh simultaneously blankets and exposes the upper body while letting the rest of the form breathe openly, creating constant tension between the concepts of restraint and freedom. Run your fingers across your partner’s form, feeling the alternating masking and unearthing of the skin beneath the fabric. Slip your fingers under the borders of the piece at the cuffs, neck, and high waistline to touch and tease as you please.
When your partner wears the Black Genuine Leather Hoodie Vest you can touch, grip, and grab them in intriguing ways. The garment zips all the way up to the eyes, allowing you to restrict their ability to speak freely, reducing their sentences to mere muffled tones. Adjustable straps wrap around the waist, enabling you to cling and pull at them from all angles. The sides of their torso are exposed, which permits you to slide your hands across their chest and back freely. Wrap yourself around them from behind and lace your arms through the interior of the apparel. This item equips the body with unique ways to engage and play.
Use The Safety Pin Cape to role play and embody the most powerful version of yourself. Transform into a superhero and set yourself apart from others with a touch of theatrical flair. Cloak yourself in gravitas and grandeur to turn your sexual encounters into a ritualistic and unique experience. Wrap you and your partner inside of it to create your own little world in which to exist as one.
Thank you to India Jewels @submissivequeen44, Black Queer Dom @blackqueerdom, and Master Eros @dominant.etc for their experience and insight as quoted in the article.