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Responsibilities of the Dominant and the Submissive

Updated: Jan 13

A list of duties that derive from the ‘safe, sane and consensual’ rules of ethical BDSM

Woman tied to stake for BDSM whipping
Woman tied to stake for BDSM whipping, by John Willie. Bizarre magazine. Public domain.

Answering a question from a friend new to BDSM, I wrote a quick summary of the responsibilities that a dominant and a submissive have to each other. This was not easy, since there are many types of D/s relationships. Also, there are fundamental differences between relationships in which the participants are ‘in role’ all the time, and the more common case in which the dominant and submissive roles are only adopted temporarily during a scene.

The following lists could serve as general guidelines that could apply to most relationships. They are based on the ‘safe, sane and consensual’ rules that delimit BDSM from abuse.

Responsibilities of the dominant

  1. To know and respect the limits of the submissive (‘consent’).

  2. To know and fulfill the fantasies and needs of the submissive.

  3. To negotiate the relationship and the scenes with the submissive, establishing limits and a safeword.

  4. To create scenes that meet the submissive's needs, and not just your own.

  5. To stop the scene and take care of the submissive if he/she says the safeword (‘consent’).

  6. The dominant should not retaliate against the submissive for using the safeword.

  7. Respect and protect the physical safety of the submissive (‘safe’).

  8. Refrain from practices that may cause psychological or emotional harm to the submissive (‘sane’).

  9. Do not use mind-fucking or other forms of psychological manipulation, unless the submissive has been fully informed, had an opportunity to freely discuss them and has agreed with them (‘sane’).

  10. To provide aftercare to the submissive after the scene.

  11. To not unduly interfere with the submissive's life, including her work, financial, family or friendship environment. Do not socially isolate the submissive.

  12. Do not spy on, stalk or violate the submissive's privacy.

  13. Control your own emotions, avoiding acting as a dominant out of anger, jealousy and other destructive emotions.

  14. To take responsibility if something goes wrong in a scene, apologize to the submissive and do everything possible to remedy any hurt done.

  15. In case the submissive suffers physical harm, panic attack or any other type of emergency, stay with him or her, helping and doing everything possible to remedy the problem, including seeking help and making an emergency call.

  16. If punishments have been agreed upon, use them fairly and in moderation.

  17. To respect the privacy, intimacy and reputation of the submissive in conversations with other people.

  18. Unless the relationship is full time, to treat the submissive as an equal outside the scene, with respect and kindness.

  19. The power of the dominant role should not be used to exploit the submissive.

  20. To care for the submissive's health, well-being and happiness.

Responsibilities of the submissive

  1. To negotiate the relationship and the scenes honestly and in good faith.

  2. To tell his/her limits to the dominant.

  3. To know his/her BDSM fantasies and needs, and to tell them to the dominant.

  4. To be willing to serve and obey the dominant within the established limits, or to face the consequences.

  5. To use the safeword when necessary to protect his/her physical and mental safety.

  6. The safeword should not be used to manipulate the dominant.

  7. To take responsibility if something goes wrong in a scene because of not using the safeword, not making the limits clear, or not negotiating the session well.

  8. Do not usurp the dominant's authority by giving instructions during the session (‘topping from bottom’), unless previously agreed.

  9. Do not use emotional blackmail, unfounded accusations of abuse, or other forms of manipulation.

  10. At the end of the scene, contribute to aftercare and provide feedback to the dominant.

  11. To keep destructive emotions such as anger or jealousy at bay, stopping the scene if they become uncontrollable.

  12. Unless the relationship is full time, to recognize that, outside the scene, the dominant does not act as such and is not responsible for the submissive, who will be treated as an equal.

  13. To not behave as a submissive when the dominant has not agreed to play his role (‘consent’).

  14. To not spy on, stalk or violate the privacy of the dominant.

  15. If punishments have been agreed upon, to comply with them honestly, using the safeword if the punishment endangers the physical or mental safety.

  16. To respect the dominant's work, financial, family and friendship life.

  17. To respect the privacy, intimacy and reputation of the dominant in conversations with other people.

  18. To care for the dominant's health, well-being, and happiness.



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