Mentoring, self-help and submissive exploration


In BDSM, a top or dominant is the partner in a BDSM relationship or in a BDSM scene who takes the active or controlling role over that of the bottom or submissive partner(s).

A person who submits control of a large percentage of his or her day-to-day life to a dominant partner, or who submits within a formal set of rules and rituals, is the slave, and the person who assumes power over the slave is the master or mistress.

Agreement on the exact meanings of the following terms is far from universal. For example, the function of tops and dominants is similar, and, in many cases, overlaps, but while the terms are used interchangeably in some discussions, there are differences between the two.


A Dom is a partner who takes the role of giver or controller in such acts as bondagedisciplinehumiliation, or servitude. Such acts are performed on a sub. Many Doms incorporate all aspects of being a Top but this is not universal.

While a Dom will take care of his sub, he will be giving orders or otherwise employ physical or psychological techniques of control. He might instruct the submissive to perform the act on him.

The relationship between a Dom and his sub may be very transitory or can be permanent. Some Doms are married to their sub. Long term relationships are known as D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationships.

A Dom might be a sadist but is unlikely to be a masochist.

Some partners switch roles from one encounter to the other, or even during a single encounter, depending on mood and preference. See Switch.


The top is the actor within the BDSM context who applies to the bottom partner(s) the techniques of a sexual, sensual, and psychological activity: flogging, bondage, servitude, or humiliation. The dominant controls the BDSM scene or relationship, exercising authority over the submissive partner(s). A dominant who exercises control over a large percentage of a submissive’s day-to-day life, or within a formal framework of rules and rituals, is a master or mistress.

The functions of top and dominant often intersect, where the top is the dominant, but this is not always the case. Someone who is “topping” may be doing so at the request, or even the direction, of a bottom partner; in this case, the bottom is the dominant partner. A top who acts within this kind of relationship dynamic is sometimes called a service top. A bottom who has dominance over the activities or the relationship is said to be topping from the bottom, even though he or she is really exercising dominance from the bottom. Another possibility is that the top and bottom are acting at the direction of a third, directing person.

Within communities of lifestyle BDSM devotees, there exists a widespread prejudice against both those who act as service tops and those who top from the bottom. Both are considered by many to be failing to achieve a proper BDSM relationship dynamic, especially, if the partners are purported to be trying to achieve a dominant-top/submissive-bottom relationship.

While it is possible that a dominant would not act as a top and thus have no expression of his or her control through kink- or fetish-based activities, it may be argued that such a relationship, lacking any erotic aspect to the exercise of control, would fall outside of the BDSM context.

Tops or dominants who also assume a bottom or submissive role are referred to as switches.

The only prevalence data on roles currently available is anecdotal and not statistically significant.

Master or Mistress

Master or “Mistress” is one of the honorifics some people use to describe the dominant partner or “owner” in a Master/slave relationship. Because it is an honorific of the dominant form it is usual for it to be written with a capital letter.

It might also be used by the submissive partner as an honorific term in a D/s relationship. This can cause confusion when trying to understand BDSM terminology as both “Master” or “Mistress” and “slave” might be used – as terms of endearment – even though neither considers himself to be owned nor owner.

Some people enjoy the connotations of servitude or submission in calling their partner “Master”, or being called “Master”. To others the ritual of such a formal mode of address may be appealing. It may also be useful in building roles in which one partner or the other may indulge in sadistic or masochistic desires, although people living as Master and slave are not necessarily sadomasochistic.

Usage of “Master” or “Mistress” in most BDSM environments does not imply any specific expertise, abilities, or formal training. To successfully maintain a Master or Mistress/slave relationship takes abilities and skills beyond or apart from normal relationship skills.

The term “Master” can be gender-independent but is mostly used only in reference to males. There is otherwise no male-specific equivalent. The female equivalent is “Mistress” or possibly dominatrix.

Although the Master is understood to have authority over the slave in some sense, this never extends to one’s legal rights and thus there must always be an implicit element of consent involved.

Power and Safewords

The control of the dominant over a partner is seldom absolute and often operates within a set of defined limits.

One such limit is a safeword, a signal that a submissive uses to communicate with his or her dominant about the scene while it’s in progress. Safewords can communicate that a limit is being neared (i.e. “yellow”) or that a limit has been reached (i.e. “red”). Safewords are often negotiated before the scene (although saying “safeword” is usually recognized as a safeword). In some cases, safewords are used to completely stop the scene. Accepting more risk, a submissive may agree to forgo a safeword, consenting to edgeplay, an extreme form of submission.


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29 responses to “Dominant”

  1. Dom/switch/somewhere in between

    Hi. I’m married to a very independent woman outside the bed, but who says to me that I am he first person to make her feel submissive, so our relationship has evolved into a d/s relationship. We are swingers as well. The “problem” is that, though she sees me as a dominant top and though I do enjoy that role immensely, I also have a submissive side that I would like to explore. We are looking for a sister sub, but I don’t know whether to present myself to others as dominant or switch, and I also don’t know how my wife would accept that I can also be a sub as well.

  2. Savannah

    My advice would be many things I woukd firstly like to say I am in a Dominant relationship and I am the submissive within the relationship … We don’t have an open relationship however Master does train other submissive and we both help other Master and submissive to become more committed to each other in more of a loving way the key word is trust love respect Master knows I belong to Master within the mind heart and soul .. When ever though if we ever feel that the needs aren’t being met we try role playing for a small period of time and then go back to our main roles this way we feel closer to each other and we remember very quickly why we like and chose the role in the first place after exchanging with role play… The second thing I would suggest is counselling and find out why you feel as though you need an open marriage and maybe with time one could rule this out and then you may feel all needs will be met after finding out and having an open discussing with your partner so it can be more. Of a fullfilling relationship

  3. mehd67

    I have just met a dominant 2 months ago and we are dating now. He has not approached intimacy with me because he says that I would be terrified. I am a novice in this type of relationship, but want to understand and try to make this relationship work. What kind of advice can you give me.

  4. Sub2010

    I am a new sub as well, my sir has had me for 6 months. He was worried about me as well until I showed my sir that I was interested in the submissive role. Just show that you are interested in it, that is if you are interested , by asking a few questions of the dynamics and if the mental and emotional aspect of a D/s. My sir told me that BDSM is not all sexual, and he’s right.

  5. teatei

    I have just gotten into a d/s relationship june 30 2015. I am so crazy about him already and i want to please him. I am just not easy with submitting but i am getting there. Every day that passes i want to be near him. In his presence. I just want to so everything correctly. I feel as if i love him already but isnt this too soon. Help please.

  6. teatei

    Thank you. And thanks for such a quick response.

  7. AnonMiss


    I’ve always had a fascination with men that are sexually dominant. My previous relationships did not fulfill my curiosity or my needs. In fact, all four of my previous partners had strong negative reactions to my requests. Recently I have begun seeing a man that is a Dom, however he holds back when we are together. He has admitted that if he were truly himself, he believes that I would run away. I trust him fully, but I don’t think he trusts himself. How do I make this better for him? How do I get him to understand that I trust him and would not be with him if I didn’t?


  8. Sharon Stone

    I met a very hot man a few weeks ago and after a night of love making he texts me that he now was going to be my Dom and I’d be his Sub. I know about this lifestyle but always thought the subs were brainless and I’d never submit to being a part of it.
    But he is the most alpha male I ever met and was very much surprised even that he had contacted me from an adult website we both were on, I had seen his profile on it for 4 months, and he had hundreds of women there who left positive feedback for him. I’m 60 years old and newly divorced and a little chubby, He us a body builder and 11 years younger.
    So thinking I was going to be “dating” this very desirable man, who likes my chubby tummy, I was very surprised he told me this. Of course I could have said get lost, don’t contact me again, but I have always been fascinated with a dominate man. I even asked a few of the men from the web site to be my Dom. Only in the sense that I wanted them to control the situation in the bedroom. I guess i really didn’t know what i was going to get into.
    I had my 1st training lesson 2 days ago. 2 hours, of humiliation and sexual fulfillment. He has let me know there will several more with variations added.
    My romantic side wants to stay with him as a girlfriend, But I wonder if he just likes the training part and will let me go after it’s over to be a good Sub for other Doms?

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