Dear Andre,

I’m a trans man in my early twenties and I’m entering into my first D/S (Dominant/Submissive) relationship with a femme top. I’m very new to the BDSM scene and met this woman through an online group that connects local kinky queers to each other. While I’m thrilled to find someone with like interests, my gut instinct is saying that something’s off. Only a few days after meeting online she was instructing me on what I should wear and eat, then ordering me to send her photos to verify I was “following rules”. A few hours after meeting for the first time in person, she suggested going shopping for a locking collar together. It’s not that I’m NOT interested in these kinds of activities, but I’ve been doing some research online and I feel like there should have been a more thorough negotiation process before deciding what our relationship was going to look like. Is it my place to challenge this person? Should I find someone else to explore my desires with? Am I being a “bad submissive”?

Best,

Viktor G.

Dear Viktor,

Run. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.

Sometimes kinky people get so preoccupied with defending their inclinations against claims that BDSM is inherently abusive, that they forget the very real capacity BDSM has to actually BE abusive. Controlling personality types are everywhere, and we’re vulnerable to them no matter how queer we are or how many times we use the words “ethical” and “consensual” in our online dating profiles to “weed the bad ones out”. An easy rule of thumb for D/S: If the behavior wasn’t explicitly negotiated ahead of time, it’s not consensual. This goes for both physical and non-physical behavior.

Often I see submissively-inclined kinksters make excuses for controlling behavior that they’d NEVER tolerate in a vanilla relationship. If you met up with an OkCupid match for the first time and they immediately ordered all your food for you, made suggestions on how to dress for future dates, and asked you to pick out an engagement ring after dinner, how long would it be before you made haste?  

Abusive dominants first establish their professed expertise in the mind of the submissive and then rely on the submissive’s willingness to please them to cement the bond. They can then slide controlling behavior into the power dynamic confidently. Should the submissive challenge the dominant’s behavior, the dominant will then shame them (“How dare you question me!”) and reinforce the submissive’s supposed naivete (“I have more experience than you, so I know what I’m talking about”). Don’t get stuck in this loop!

Here are some of my best tips for procuring healthy kinky partners:

  1. Don’t date people without a “résume” – at least a few people in their past who can attest “yep, I dated them, they treated me well.” Both LGBTQ and kink communities can be insular, and this puts you at an advantage for doing “reference checks” on potential dates. In my opinion, this is especially important for submissive folks vetting dominant folks. If a potential dominant ever tries to shame you for requesting a reference or two, they’re not worth your time.
  2. Continue educating yourself. Resources I’d recommend include “The New Bottoming Book” by Janet W. Hardy & Dossie Easton, “Playing Well With Others” by Mollena Williams and Lee Harrington, and Sinclair Sexsmith’s “Sugarbutch Chronicles” (www.sugarbutch.net) and “Submissive Playground” online intensive (www.submissiveplayground.com). As you’re doing your research, begin creating a “Yes/No/Maybe” list of D/S-related dynamics and activities that you’re interested in/not interested in/might be interested in. This list is going to evolve throughout your lifetime, and it’s a great tool to have when meeting new dominants and fielding the, “So what are you looking for?” question.
  3. Take your time and listen to your gut. Dating is hard. Dating as a kinky queer person is harder. Don’t rush into relationships in a way where you’re substituting eagerness for compatibility. Your keen intuition already alerted you to one potentially harmful situation; trust it moving forward. And remember, being submissive – whether for an hour or a lifetime – shouldn’t be synonymous with relinquishing your autonomy, your agency, or your self respect!
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Author Profile

Andre Shakti
Andre Shakti
Andre Shakti is a queer journalist, educator, performer, activist, and professional slut living in the DMV. She is devoted to normalizing alternative desires, de-stigmatizing sex workers and their clients, andnot taking herself too seriously. Andre wrestles mediocre white men into submission and writes about the resistance for Rewire, Thrillist, MEL, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Autostraddle, and more. She frequently lectures,coaches and advises on the intersecting issues of sexual health, politics and pleasure, race, trauma, gender diversity, sex worker rights, non-monogamy, and queerness. When not working, Andre can typically be found marathoning "Law & Order: SVU" under a chaotic pile of partners and pitbulls, and yes, she knows how problematic that show is. In addition to her work with Baltimore OUTloud, Andre is the reigning polyamory pundit at her biweekly non-monogamy advice column "I Am Poly(amorous) & So Can You!", which you can visit - and submit questions to! - via IAmPoly.net. She encourages you to connect with her on Facebook via "Andre Shakti" and follow her NSFW exploits on Twitter via @andreshakti!
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