Power Play for Beginners: 10 Ways to Explore Dominance/Submission
Dominance and submission. Two words that bring to mind sexy secretaries in spreader bars, attractive billionaires wielding leather floggers, and couples where at least one person is wearing a collar.
What many don’t realize is that power play – that is, a negotiated exchange of control – doesn’t have to be an all-encompassing lifestyle. You can participate in dominance/submission for an hour, or only in very specific and limited ways. It can just be another bedroom game, a costume you wear just like lingerie.
Unlike lingerie, though, you need to make sure you’re wearing it safely. That means having open, honest conversations with your partner(s) about what your boundaries are. That means familiarizing yourself with “subspace” and “domspace” (the often floaty frame of mind that some people experience when playing.) That means if you’re exploring kinks with risks (like bondage or pain play) you need to research and discuss safety measures in advance.
That’s right, friends – kinky sex comes with homework!
That being said, it can be difficult to know where to start when you’re curious and just want to test the waters. How do you actually feel dominant or submissive? What are some easy ways to explore those sides of yourself?
- Ask/give permission to touch or orgasm.
Asking and giving permission is a great way to explore dominant/submissive roles while still making room for organic check-ins. Asking a dominant partner “can I touch myself?” gives them the invitation to make that choice on the submissive partner’s behalf. The dominant is still “in charge” because they’re the one making the decision.
It’s incredibly hot to leave your pleasure in a partner’s hands. They might choose to prolong it through edging, deny you relief, or give you exactly what you want – and who’s to say which result is best?
- Choose sex acts that make you feel in (or out of) control.
Does being on top, standing while receiving oral, or holding your partner’s sex toy for them, make you feel like you’re calling the shots? Does laying on your belly, getting a rimjob, or straddling a sex toy make you feel deliciously vulnerable? Let your partners know, and start enjoying those acts/positions with more intention.
- Do something to serve or be served.
“Service kink is getting the good tingles from doing things for a play partner. Sometimes those things are traditionally sexy (performing oral sex, giving a strip tease, worshipping someone’s body) and sometimes they aren’t (doing chores, running errands, etc),” I pointed out in 9 Ways to Get Kinky That Don't Involve Pain.
To make service extra spicy, you can sexualize your action by dressing scantily (or being naked) or wearing an underwear vibrator, chastity cage, or butt plug. If you’re the one being served, you can order consenting partners step by step to remind them of their role, praise or taunt them for their service, or masturbate or dirty talk while the services are being performed.
- Try pre-negotiated teasing/bullying.
Are you turned on by feeling shy or embarrassed? You’re not alone! Humiliation and degradation aren’t for everyone, but they’re pretty common kinks. Maybe you like being called a “dirty little slut,” or you enjoy having your hair pulled, or drooling around a ballgag while a partner teases you for being messy. Or maybe you like to be the one dishing out the taunting!
It’s important to establish that these words and acts are all for mutual fun, and will only occur when everyone involved is excited to play.
- Role play as an authoritative/subservient character or figure.
“Playing with power dynamics in bed can inspire a host of new experiences. If you’re not sure where to begin with dominant or submissive play, pretending to be a person that society perceives as commanding or low-ranking can help ease you into the headspace,” I recommended in Beyond Hot for a Teacher: 5 Ways You Can Role Play in Bed.
“There are countless roles in society seen as inherently powerful or subservient. There are positions of power based on occupation, like doctors, managers, politicians, landlords, or religious figureheads. There are jobs society views as subordinate, like house keepers, babysitters, and secretaries. And there are power dynamics involved in familial or socially constructed relationships (like rock stars and fans.)”
- Incorporate bondage into foreplay or sex.
Restraining a partner can be incredibly hot. “Being restrained can make you feel vulnerable, exposed, objectified, etc. Having a partner bound before you can make you feel powerful, awed, sadistic, protective… You might be surprised at how bondage can inspire your sexual creativity,” I pointed out. Like any kink, bondage isn’t for everyone – but it’s also not one-size-fits-all! You can experiment with limited restraint, like having a single hand bound to the headboard, or letting a partner hold you by a leash.
If you need some ideas about what to do once you or a partner is tied up, here’s five suggestions.
- Play with “discipline.”
Has your partner been naughty lately? Maybe they’ve been dressing sexy around the house, or they’ve been giving you too many flirty glances while you’re trying to work from home. Maybe it’s time you give them a consensual time out with no underwear, or a paddle spanking.
Giving or receiving play discipline can easily bring out feelings of dominance or submission. It’s one of the most obvious exercises of authority. Whether you’re submitting to sexy punishment for a fake offense, or you’re asking a partner hold you accountable to your to-do list by giving/denying orgasms, discipline can be a fun vehicle for submission.
- Restrict a sense.
Blindfolds, headphones (with a sexy soundtrack), ball gags – these are just a few of the tools that can be used to limit your senses. Like restraints, sense restriction is a form of bondage, and it can inspire feelings of vulnerability and dependence. A creative dominant partner can take advantage of your more attuned senses (like touch, if you’re both blindfolded and wearing earplugs) to control your sensory experience and bring you to toe-curling heights.
- Use titles/honorifics that imply a power dynamic.
You’ve probably heard a lot of kinky petnames: sir, daddy, goddess, little one, mxtress, kitten, boi, etc. You might be surprised how quickly using names like that – or having them used for you – evokes a feeling of dominance or submission. Whether you’re speaking the title with respect, possessiveness, reverence, or playful brattiness, a special name you use while experimenting with power play can serve as an anchor to that headspace.
If petnames suit your play style, you might enjoy exploring further by incorporating more dominance and submission to your dirty talk. Giving (or asking for) orders, asking questions, flirting in accordance to your role – these dynamics can add a lot of flavor to your verbal exchanges.
- Utilize impact play.
“What do I mean by “impact play”? The definition is right in the name: it’s playing with impact sensations. That means spanking, flogging, slapping, etc,” I explained in a recent video for Peepshow. “There are two cores to impact play: sensation and atmosphere. Sensation is the physical feelings you get from impact. Atmosphere is the mood of the scene, the build-up, the dynamic you have with your partners. Literally everything going on around the impact.”
Impact play can be paired with discipline, bondage, role play, humiliation… It’s a great tool to bring out feelings of dominance or submission because it heightens your awareness of who’s consensually in control, and of the ways your bodies can be used to create or experience sensation.
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