Monday, November 28, 2011

Dominant vs. Abusive Asshole

This is something that has gotten a lot of talk on some of the forums and social sites, and is mentioned occasionally in some of the many BDSM books that I have read. What is the differences between someone who is Dominant and when the line is crossed into abuse.  I hope to convey what red flags to watch for, when that line is crossed, and to show what is healthy or not.

I come to these thoughts after many years of living in and around the BDSM lifestyle as well as many talks and communications with many leaders in domestic abuse centers.   I have found that while there are somethings that are obvious signs of abuse, a lot of those that teach anti-abuse seminars or are helping those that have been abused see a lot of what happens in a Dominant/submissive as signs of abuse. 

The first point I would like to make is that of Dominance.  Yes, when someone is Dominant, they take control of some or all aspects of another persons life.  The biggest difference here is that this is done with consent of the person giving up that control.  Because that consent is given freely to the Dominant, that consent can be taken away just as freely.  If that consent can not be removed or taken back then that person is no longer being Dominant and it has become abuse.  I make this distinction because control is one of the major signs of an abusive relationship but also within a Dominant/submissive relationship.

Isolation is also a known sign of abuse.  Now I have seen some aspects of isolation within a Dominant relationship.  The distinction comes in how much.  Isolation comes when you are removed from your friends and family, having the feeling of being alone.  I agree that this is abuse.  Now I have seen Dominants that will restrict or stop their submissives contact with some people in their life.  The difference here is that in every one of those cases, there was a very good reason for that contact to be removed.  From "every time you hand out with Scot, you get drunk and do something stupid" to "when you have seen Tammy, she gets you so depressed."  This is not isolation, but usually done for the better of the submissive.  Isolation is the removal of all friends.  Also, no Dominant, no matter what, will not demand removal of your family.

Lastly would be physical abuse.  This can be a sticky subject with most, but that is because most abuse counselors can not fathom that pain can be something that people enjoy.  The difference here does fall back to consent.  If the pain being inflicted is consensual then this is Dominance, if it is not, then it is abuse.  It is really that simple.

I hope that this helps understand the differences between Dominance and abuse.  Comments are always welcome, here or to

Keep it kinky!



  1. I'd like to also point out that even thought physical pain may be someone's fetish and they, yes, enjoy it, it does not necessarily mean it ISN'T abuse. While you say the simple difference is consent Vs. non-consent--there are some fetishes that involve pain that are simply dangerous. They may enjoy having their back with flailed off skin or being cut-up, but it isn't healthy for the person, and if the dominant does it for their submissive anyway, then in my personal opinion, it is abuse.

  2. Some people who enjoy physical pain, enjoy it at certain times, but not at others. So ongoing, open communication and flexibility are REALLY important i.e. no assumptions either side, or as few as possible, regarding "forever' long term preferences.

    From the mental health perspective, certain people w/ abusive backgrounds, specifically certain types of personality disorders, are unable to be assertive, and may unconsciously be drawn to reliving trauma, in a way that is not healthy. For these people, they may think they are in touch with what they want, but later down the road realize that they were not. BDSM crosses the line, when it falls into that area.

    However, I would imagine that usually the type of dominant that would take such an individual on, and compound their not a true dominant in the BDSM world anyways...but probably presents themselves as so. And likely even believes they are so, when reality they are not, and likely a narcissist.

    I also think the distinction between dominant and sadist is really important, and that often the two get lumped together.

    So a sadist, getting involved with someone who is not a true masochist, but a person who has not resolved past abusive trauma, could lead to the kind of trouble abuse centers deal with. It is really complicated, and mental health workers really need more training regarding the BDSM world. That'll be the day!!

    Those two examples are the kinds of situations which some mental health workers assume the whole bdsm world is about. In reality, that is just another example of dichotomous thinking and ignorance, but identifying where the misunderstandings lay, is always an important first step toward progress.