The Dynamics of Dominance and Submission Relationships

During a casual browsing of my personal photo collections as well as several sources of BDSM imagery I have begun thinking about the various natures of BDSM relationships and the dynamics they can occur in.

The most common theme of BDSM relationships seems to be that of the Master/slave dyad. I do wonder exactly how often that type of relationship actually forms for any sort of long-term commitment. It seems as though for many it is simply a fantasy, a bit of play that lasts a few hours or a few days and then is over as soon as it began. It would seem that usually that type of relationship cannot remain stable because people become invested in their independent lives and are unable to begin putting their own lives aside to make the commitment that is required for the relationship to truly exist. I suppose there is benefit to the idea of the “weekend slave”, but it just seems like a hollow experience. How can you enjoy the Master/slave relationship if you know that in just a few hours or days it will end and freedom will be restored to the submissive and the dominant will no longer have strong influence in the submissive’s life. For me the draw to that type of life has always been in the long-term nature of the relationship and as such any form of playing at it just seems empty and without purpose. Others obviously do not share these views as there is a large quantity of images available which not only depict these types of relationships, but do so in a form that is either idealistic or practically cliché. The leatherman style of dress and the naked submissive are commonly used to depict these relationships in imagery. While I respect that the leather culture and BDSM have a strong connection to each other in their history, linked to as far back as the Mattachine Society and their encouragement of a “macho” image for gay men. Leather has been fetishized into gay culture and has become prevalent in BDSM culture to the point of it being almost iconographic. Judith Butler might describe the use of the leather outfit as a costume or a mask used for playing the part of a certain type of masculinity based on past performances of that gender template. For me my sexuality is not about performing a part or acting out some type of prescribed performance, but is instead about my relationship to the person or persons involved. From my perspective the Master/slave relationship is the most serious of relationships and should not be treated as lightly as many men treat it. Submitting is the ultimate act of surrendering to a lover or a friend. For me the “acting” and “playing” attack the severity of the relationship and devalue the standing of the relationship in discourse.

Daddy/boy relationships are similar to the Master/slave dyad, except that they tend to be treated more seriously, even if they do subscribe more strongly to the standards of leather culture than Master/slave. The age differences typically found in the relationships I do suspect cause them to be more volatile and make them not permanent, even if they are longer term than “play” oriented relationships. The potential for guidance and mentorship is valuable, and I suspect that there may also be the potential for intensely intimate interpersonal interactions in the relationships. Having never been in this type of relationship or given one serious consideration I cannot be certain if these assumptions hold or not.

Bondage friends is another relationship that I see reflected strongly in imagery. It isn’t as tied to leather culture (please excuse the unintentional pun) as the previously mentioned relationships. The relationships seem to not be particularly deep, but they do seem to be longer lasting and provide fulfillment to all involved. In some relationships there are consistent elements of dominance and submission, but in others there is flexibility or even a challenge-based system to determine who is in control. I have had a few friendships which fall into the category of a bondage, BDSM or fetish friendship and find that they are somewhat satisfying, even if they are limited in their scope.

Long-term partnerships extend the friendship idea and add in more intimacy and stronger interpersonal interactions, but also provide the capacity for growth of the roles of each member.As each member grows, so does the capability to trust the other. To me this seems like the most ideal of relationship styles as it can provide the elements of sacrifice as in the Master/slave relationship, while not compromising respect of the self or the other.

A form of BDSM relationship that I have never seen in reality, but is often portrayed in images and video is pure friendship which turns into a BDSM relationship. This type of relationship is the most intriguing to me. The idea that friends bind and control each other and yet remain friends is very erotic to me. I suppose the intriguing thing is that the relationship existed before the BDSM attributes were added and therefore is actually a true test of trust and not just an ignorance of trust for the sake of erotic expression. I have always imagined that the relationships that could exist in this situation would be very strong due to the pre-existing common-interest of friendship which is then layered with the trust required for bondage and similar interactions.

Captor/victim is a relationship which in the context of erotic BDSM relationships must exist as fantasy. The level of depth on this type of relationship is not especially profound or meaningful, but in some ways it isn’t mean to be. I consider this to be more of a form of role-playing than an actual relationship. The people involved could be partners, friends or almost strangers. When the people involved barely know each other there is the potential for the fantasy and “play” to be very close to being real, except the situation is planned and the victimization is consented. I have been interested in this type of experience in fantasy as it seems as though it might be very intense, but I personally don’t have the balls to try it. Even when performed as friends playing with this type of interaction I view it more positively than I do other types of performativity play, such as Master/slave, because there is no implied trust or surrender. The situation is supposed to be forced and physical restraint is used to maintain the situation. I guess I don’t have a problem with role playing as long as it doesn’t mock the interactions of a bona fide relationship type.  There is extensive erotic imagery for this sort of play.

In reality none of these relationships exist in pure forms. I suspect most relationships are somewhere between all of these and function with varying levels of rigidity. There are also more types of relationships than I could ever hope to describe.

I am not entirely certain of the point of this post except to expound upon my observations of how varied the BDSM experience can be in either a dyad, singular or multiple interaction.

One thought on “The Dynamics of Dominance and Submission Relationships”

  1. Well, I didn’t even know you had another post up here! When weeks go by between posts, I don’t always check as often as I should.

    I think these relationships can and do exist for some people. But granted, in their true form, they’re probably not common. Certainly not as much as suggested in pics and video on various blogs and tumblrs.

    I’d argue that for many people, they’re not even looking to have a Master/slave relationship 24/7. For many people, a M/s relationship is a total ESCAPE from their usual life and normal long term relationship roles.

    I totally agree with you that a friendship that turns BDSM is a very hot proposition. Granted, I only know what I saw online, but I would almost argue the initial relationship with you and Jake was like this. At least, that was the impression I got. It was one of the reasons I was drawn to it.

    While not kinky related, I also happen to find a very deep, yet straight male bond(“bromance”, I suppose, but even deeper than that superficial sounding term) is a fascinating and hot one. The idea of a guy willing to the the distance for another guy… even if it’s not sexual… really gets me going. That homoerotic tension is a weak spot for me.

    This all really makes me want to visit and meet up with you one day. Not that I exactly get to NC very often (although I will be in Baltimore/DC in a few weeks… is it possible for you to meet me up there?), but if I do, we’ll have to chat. Why don’t you take a trip to SoCal? We’ve got the beaches and Disneyland. 😉

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