I’m still sick, and I’ve been wanting to write this for awhile, so here goes.
In this piece, when I say “you,” I really mean “me.” Your mileage may vary.
A lot of this list is common sense, and yet I and many other s-types I know have ignored much, or all, of it for long periods of time.
1. Submission should feed you.
It should make you happy. It should energize you. It should make you feel useful and capable and self-actualized. It should feel good, it should feel right. Even if you are sobbing in agony, even if you are an exhausted, sweaty, cum-crusted mess, even if to the casual vanilla observer you would look like you are having a terrible, traumatic time… it should feel good and right to you.
If submission leaves you exhausted and miserable, you may be with the wrong Dom, or you might not be submissive at all. You might be a bottom, a masochist, a switch, or even a sadist or top or Dom yourself. That’s fine and wonderful. The world needs more of those. BDSM is about finding authentic expression, and having fun. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t cram yourself into it.
If submission doesn’t feed you, doesn’t satisfy a deep need in you, doesn’t make your heart fucking sing… don’t do it.
2. Submission should feed you, but you cannot live on submission alone.
You need food, water, sleep, medical care, and all kinds of other pesky things that homo sapiens require to function. (Submissives are not a separate species… nor even a subspecies.)
Aside from those physical things, you need emotional support from others.
Sometimes, you even need gentle affection, as well as the harsher kind of love that you prefer.
3. Your Dom can’t be your world.
Your Dom should probably be one of the people who helps to take care of you. But your Dom cannot and should not be everything to you. There must be others.
You need friends, you need family (biological and chosen), you might need a therapist. You definitely need other submissives in your life, because you need friends who really get you.
Have a support network. Learn to ask for help.
It’s probably hard, because you are a sub after all, and it’s likely that your default mode is to take care of everyone else. This is a sweet and charming impulse, but recognize the little kernel of arrogance it contains. You’re only human. We all need help sometimes. Surrender to that reality.
4. Learn to take pride in the excellent care you take of yourself.
Stretch. Exercise. Take long showers or baths until you are squeaky clean and utterly relaxed. Eat really well. Drink a ton of water. Get at least 8 hours of sleep as a rule, and sleep in when possible.
Moisturize the fuck out of your skin. Wear clothes you love. Make sure you like your haircut and style.
If you have necessary medications, for the love of God, your Dom and especially yourself, take them as prescribed.
Your Dom might want you to do some of these things differently. They might have stipulations about your grooming, your dress, your hairstyle. That might be fine, but don’t take this type of negotiation lightly. The way you look on a daily basis does a lot to your confidence and mental well-being. If your Dom wants to alter your appearance in a way that will really mess with your happiness, please say no. If your Dom doesn’t utterly suck, they will understand, and try to find a compromise.
If your Dom does utterly suck, leave. More on that later.
5. Do not harm yourself.
I beg you, with the compassion and understanding of a person in recovery, to listen to me when I say this.
Do not cut, burn, or otherwise engage in self-harm. It might not seem that different from consensual S&M. It is different, because chances are you can’t control your self harm. Chances are, it’s compulsive, and you do it when you feel low, insufficient, frustrated, triggered, desperate, furious, or numb. Those are headspaces in which you probably wouldn’t want to play. Right?
(Please avoid play in those headspaces.)
Please do not use drugs or alcohol to excess.
Please do not restrict your food intake. Please don’t purge, either by vomiting or excessive exercise.
If you are struggling with any of these addictions and compulsions, or any others, please get help. (Feel free to message me if you need resources.)
Engaging in any of these behaviors will probably make your Dom miserable, but that is hardly even important if you are at such a dark place yourself. You need to get healthy for you first.
6. Please engage in safer sex (and play).
Get tested regularly for STIs.
Learn the risk factors of anything you want to do before you do it, or let anyone else do it to you. I don’t care how dominant they are. Your consent has to be informed to be meaningful.
Be particularly diligent in learning and assessing the risks of breath play and suspension. All types of play have dangers, but those two are probably the most frequently underestimated in terms of their inherent risk. Get facts, and make your own decisions.
7. Learn the difference between a Dominant and an asshole.
A Dominant negotiates. A Dominant acts only within your consent. A Dominant respects your limits.
(Everyone has limits. Some people have no limits with their Dominant, but those are people who have very carefully chosen a sane and ethical Owner who they can trust to not dismember them with a hacksaw.)
An asshole pushes boundaries. An asshole pressures. An asshole tries to “get away” with things to which you did not consent. An asshole violates and abuses, and will try to isolate you, the better to do so.
You have no obligation to serve such people. In fact, you have an obligation to yourself to avoid them whenever possible.
If you aren’t sure whether you are with a Dominant or an asshole… you are probably with an asshole.
Ask yourself if they regularly make you feel like shit, in a way that you don’t like. Has your life gotten bigger or smaller since you began serving them? Are you changing, and is that change for the better? Is your confidence and mental health deteriorating? Have you somehow lost touch with everyone else you care about… and is your Dom the reason?
Assess your situation with these tools, and hopefully you will know what to do.
Remember here, again, to ask for help.
8. Empower yourself with education
Read everything you can get your hands on about BDSM, leather, kink, D/s, M/s, and whatever else interests you in this life. Form your own opinions. Notice which models of service and power appeal to you, and which don’t.
Learn about risks and techniques. Learn about the history and traditions of leather. Learn everything you can from a variety of sources, so that no charlatan can control you by saying “This is the way it’s supposed to be.”
9. Know yourself.
If you’re a Daddy’s girl, don’t force yourself to be a puppy. If you’re a puppy, don’t force yourself to be a slave. If you’re a Daddy’s girl, a puppy and a slave, more power to you.
But the point is to know yourself. Only then can you find the right Dom and the right dynamic for you, the one where you can be the most satisfied and useful.
A slut who craves sexual use won’t be happy doing non-sexual service in 24/7 chastity. While that might be an appropriate punishment in the short term, over the long term it would simply be a ludicrous relationship. A slut or sex slave is a bit wasted scrubbing floors with their genitals under lock and key– especially when there are so many chastity-loving domestic service types in the world. That’s like using a screwdriver when a hammer is what’s called for.
You are an elegant tool with a specific use that you crave to fulfill. Don’t let yourself be wasted. Feeling underutilized will be your greatest source of misery.
10. You need to take care of yourself to be of use to your Dom.
You ALSO need to take care of yourself because you are a person with needs.
Both of these things can be true.