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.

Domination means being able to extract excitement from the pleasure you give to a submissive by every word you speak and every gesture you make no matter how trivial. That enjoyment only increases if a submissive offers unqualified acts of worship. A male dominant may make up for a lack of control in his professional life by expressing his desire for it in the bedroom whereas a female dominant can be regarded, undeservedly, as being counter-intuitive and unnatural in her desires. Most dominants, however, find that a single whiplash is worth more than a thousand wasted words of justification.

There are three variables at work in a dominant’s connection to their submissive:

Firstly, dominants require a degree of dedication and attention that applies whether they are male or female. For them, the act of worship from a submissive represents a depth of adoration from an individual that simply cannot be found anywhere else.

Secondly, in setting tasks and duties to an eager submissive outside of the controlling environment of their BDSM relationship, the dominant understands that the submissive derives nothing but pure joy from the distance application of their adoration. When the submissive is busily proving his or her dedication to the material needs of their dominant even when the dominant is asleep or busy then the compliment to the dominants intellect and their powers of mental seduction beyond physical attraction cannot be underestimated.


Dominants have the final word when it comes to giving rewards to obedient submissives or otherwise administering punishments to rebellious ones. Some derive a sadistic thrill in applying sensory deprivation penalties or similar tactics but many dominants don’t enjoy the over-use of sanctions except when their submissive is behaving uncharacteristically. Then, a punishment may be necessary to re-establish the submissives respect and re-focus their worshipful mind-set. Orgasm denial is a perfect device for the dominant to consolidate their influence and strengthen the connection to their submissive.

The notion that a dominant is in total control of his or her submissive is not strictly accurate. In fact, there is one punishment that a dominant can apply to a submissive that risks the disturbance of the delicate balance that a BDSM relationship represents.That risky sanction is the display of indifference. It is the hardest punishment to administer because it plays into the greatest fear that a dominant can imagine; that of abandonment by their submissive and the end of the worship that they require. The moment a submissive refuses to support their dominant is the instant that the dominant loses all of of their power and influence. If that happens then the dominant might wonder if he or she was ever in control at all.

Gallery from LOVE ME LIKE YOU HATE ME, a short film written and directed by Erika Lust. Photography by Kristyan Geyr Images.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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