Thursday 1 August 2013


Now that I'm away on vacation I thought it might be a fun idea to do a couple of blog posts that delve once again into some deeply sexual subject matter. To that end, I've decided to write two little articles here, one this week and one next week, covering the topics of Dominance and Submission.

The idea of "control" in the bedroom has always been critical to me in my understanding and appreciation of sex. When I talk about dominance and submission, I'm not just speaking in a strictly BDSM Master/Slave context, but rather in a universal one that applies to just about any sexual encounter you can imagine.
There will always be an element of "who's on top", "who's in charge", or "who's taking the lead" whenever we have sex. It won't always be obvious, it won't always even be consistent, but it'll always be there. It's part of what makes up a couple's sexual dynamic, and it's often a large part of what makes sex so exciting (or not so exciting) for many of us.

Traditional sexual roles tend to view the male as the dominant and the female as the submissive, and while I'd venture to guess that this is still generally true for the majority of us, there are plenty of couples out there that buck this trend, and a great many more that dance around it more than they realise.
Dominance can play a part in who makes the first move, who puts the condom on, who has to work to get their partner going, or who clings on tighter in the heat of the moment. It's just as much a part of the minute details as it is part of the more obvious ones.

Anyone who takes an interest in sex culture in general will probably be familiar with the terms Dom, Sub, and Switch (dominant, submissive, and someone who alternates between both). While I'm not really fond of sexual labels like this in general, I pretty firmly identify with being a Switch myself, and I've always been able to appreciate the appeal of both dominance and submission in the bedroom, along with how a little fluctuation in our roles often leads to some very exciting encounters indeed.

One of the sexual themes I use in my writing pretty often is Disobedience; the idea of a sub having a moment (or more than a moment) of uppity resistance to their dom, spurring the sex scene to whole new heights of intensity. This might be coloured by personal preference, but I believe most doms secretly crave a little disobedience in their submissive partners. After all, a thoroughly obedient partner never leaves room for their dom to exercise a little discipline and reinforce their commanding position in the bedroom. This also feeds into the subservient desires of the sub, by demonstrating that their partner will not tolerate any disobedience and reminding them of their place.
The sex scene I wrote in Wild Changes is a textbook example of this. At the climax of the chapter, the heroine Lyssa takes a more confident and provocative role than usual for the express purpose of goading her partner Thorne into unleashing his dominant side and forcing her to submit to him. The submission is what Lyssa craves deep down, but in order to achieve it she ends up taking a more dominant role than usual, at least initially.

This leads on to the second segment of Dominance I wanted to touch on: How to write a dominant character.

Now of course, everything I've talked about in this post so far is pretty much an idealised version of reality for the sake of illustrating my points. In the real world there are plenty of couples who settle into their dominant and submissive roles without ever challenging one another, or subs who challenge their doms and find the response they get less than satisfying, but when it comes to writing we're often concerned with an idealised, sexy, star-spangled version of reality in general.

So what makes a good dominant character? Some authors, unfortunately, believe that a strong/dominant male should simply be a demanding asshole who refuses to bend or compromise, and overpowers his partner with brute force or sheer unstoppable sex appeal. Aside from being an incredibly one-dimensional archetype that doesn't often leave much room for exploration, characters like this are often difficult to like for many readers. I've read plenty of stories that deal with some pretty unappealing (and at times morally reprehensible) "heroes" who fall into the trap of becoming the generic dominant jerkbag who doesn't have anything going for him beyond the ability to satisfy the heroine's desire to be overpowered.

Now don't get me wrong, "generic dominant asshole" is still a sexy archetype to begin working with (it was certainly the template for Elliot Wolf in my Darkest Desire serial), but it needs to give way to something with more depth pretty fast if you're interested in writing anything beyond a short sexy romp, otherwise such characters quickly become tedious and unlikeable.

Secondly; dominance is not simply about brute force or an unwavering will. The deeper side of dominance, the part that tickles your brain and makes you tingle with longing, comes from the subtleties of it. A dom who doesn't need to be forceful has always been the epitome of male sex appeal for me. He can be softly spoken, calm, disarmingly relaxed; but beneath it all there's a hardness and a confidence that compels his sub to obey.
This often feeds into the more psychological side of domination, lending itself well to scenes where the dom asserts himself by forcing the sub to take a more introspective role, guiding them patiently through their own wants and desires rather than pushing them too hard. A good example of this would be a dom slowly spanking his partner, holding his strokes for so long and so teasingly that she becomes desperate, craving the punishment and perhaps actively begging for it as he gets inside her head and toys with her deep-seated desires.

The topic of dominance and submission is a big one to tackle, but hopefully this post has provided some food for thought on both dominance in general and how to approach writing a dominant character. In retrospect I could've split this article up even more to cover the writing side of it in more detail, since we've barely even scratched the surface there, but perhaps it'll be a future topic to cover!

Stay tuned next week for when we slip on the handcuffs and sink into the subject of submission.

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