Despite my earlier posts about D/s and magic, this is not an incantation lifted from Harry Potter. It is actually an Italian phrase attributed to Michelangelo which means “I am still learning” — impressive not just because it came from one of the most brilliant of minds but because it allegedly did so at the age of 87. One of my favorite things about BDSM is the general drive toward continuous learning and education among its practitioners. It is not universal, of course, but it is a defining feature of the community as a whole. Far too many people shut off education at some point, figuring they are done and have learned all they need. The BDSM community, however, generally acknowledges the importance of education and strives toward more learning. Growth stops when learning stops, and that which does not grow, dies.
Among those in BDSM, those most resistant to learning — at least learning from others — tend to be the Dominants. We may be willing to pick up a book or read a blog post or article, but the idea of actively learning from others, much less seeking it out, rubs a lot of Doms the wrong way. New Doms seem particularly susceptible to this. No one likes admitting ignorance, and the thought of sitting down under someone else’s tutelage may come across too much like submitting. Being a D-type comes with a bit of an ego. I do not know if one can learn to be Dominant, but I do know that one can learn to be a Dom. As writer Tad Williams said, “you must not defend against the entering of knowledge.” Just be willing and open to learning.
Submissive, not Ignorant
“If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” — Kahlil Gibran
One of the most commonly overlooked educational resources is the submissive. New Dominants, in particular, are prone to ignoring them as sources of information about D/s. Part of it may well be just a lack of consideration, although there is also a tendency to view the submissive as somehow inferior and incapable of teaching anything to a D-type. A Dominant needs to be confident, but not overly egotistical. An experienced submissive can teach a less experienced Dom quite a lot about about D/s. Unless the sub is a switch, he or she may not be able to provide the Dominant view, but the principles remain, and reverse-engineering some things from the submissive’s point of view is good mental exercise. Not only that, but the Dom should know as much as possible about the submissive mindset.
When I first started exploring D/s, I spent a great deal of time talking to submissives. I found them to be friendly and open to conversation, which helped put me at ease during a time when my mind was unsettled and roiling with questions. It took some time to understand where they were coming from because my mind does not work the same way, but I found it enlightening. Some people say you have to submit in order to properly Dominate. I do not necessarily buy into that completely, but one should strive to at least understand the whys and wherefores of how the submissive thinks and responds to the world. We have to get outside our own heads and our own views in order to control, guide, and lead another. We also have to be willing to learn new ways to provide that control. A Dom may have good instincts, but the proper tools are also needed. And we can get those from other Doms.
Dominant, not Dominating
“When you draw or paint a tree, you do not imitate the tree; you do not copy it exactly as it is, which would be mere photography. To be free to paint a tree or a flower or a sunset, you have to feel what it conveys to you: the significance, the meaning of it.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti
Finding your way as a Dominant can be difficult. Insisting on doing it on your own without help on others makes it even harder. I find that D-types are generally willing to learn various kinds of play from one another (impact, rope, fire, sharps, etc), but many balk at the notion of learning the actual nuts and bolts of Dominance from someone with greater experience and knowledge. The path of D/s is fraught with potential stumbling blocks and pitfalls. A good mentor can help avoid some of those. Not all of them, of course; we are all human and will make our share of mistakes. A mentor can help find the lessons to be learned and ways to avoid making the same mistake again. “Help” is the keyword here. A good mentor is a guide. He or she will not Dom you and will not try to control any dynamic you may be involved in yourself. Anyone trying should be considered a red flag, as is a Dom who claims there is a single, correct way to do things. A good mentor, however, is an invaluable resource and can provide a template for one’s early development.
That does not mean you should try to become a carbon copy of your mentor, however much you may admire him or her. When I first met my own mentor, I was quite frankly a bit awestruck. He has more than four decades under his belt and seemed to have all the answers and the ability to inspire submission and get results with a wave of his hand. I wanted to be just like him. I still do in many aspects. He is the finest Dominant I know. But over time, our paths have diverged and my interests moved into areas he does not work in himself. That does not mean that I have outgrown the mentorship. Indeed, I doubt I ever will. A mentor is not just a teacher or coach; a mentor is a friend and a sounding board for questions and thoughts that need working through. As important as that connection is, however, there is another Dom you need to learn from, one always very close by.
The Dom in the Mirror
“Life is all about evolution. What looks like a mistake to others has been a milestone in my life. Even if people have betrayed me, even if my heart was broken, even if people misunderstood or judged me, I have learned from these incidents. We are human and we make mistakes, but learning from them is what makes the difference.” — Amisha Patel
My mentor says that when a failure occurs, such as a submissive breaking a rule or failing to meet an expectation, the first place the Dominant should look for an explanation is her- or himself. Even with great instincts and an excellent mentor and the best of intentions, things will go wrong. Rules get broken. Relationships are strained. Harm is done
Dynamics falter or even shatter. Blame is rarely one-sided. Look carefully to see what happened on your end and see what can be learned from it.
Things end. People suffer defeat. Failure happens. But the experiences are not worthless if you can learn from them. And the experiences themselves have their own positives as well as negatives. As Hamlet put it: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Take the good. Learn from the bad. Improve yourself. Poet Maya Angelou admonishes us to do “the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Dominance requires care and attention, but everyone makes mistakes. It is what happens in the aftermath that truly measures a Dom’s quality.
At the End of the Day…
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dominance is traveling along a path, not a destination. Even though I haven’t been at this very long, I have seen growth and challenges and redirection of the path I expected. Where I once thought to be a carbon copy of a Dom that I look up to, I find myself establishing my own identity as a Dominant and my own methods for approaching D/s. A year and a half ago, I was not entirely sure of my identity within the kink community. But I know myself better now. I have learned that I am a Dom. And I am still learning.
As always, remember: This is your life; live it your way.