Soft Domination and Soft Submission
BDSM is an acronym coined in 1969 by combining the first letters of the words Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism, but the practices it names have been around for a very long time. Cuneiform documents date these practices to at least five thousand years ago as a form of worship of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna, the goddess of love, fertility, and warfare. It’s interesting that the Sumerians would attribute both love and war to the same deity, isn’t it?
Ritual flagellation of young men is mentioned in the “Satyricon Liber”, written by the Roman author Gaius Petronius and published in the 1st Century CE. The famed “Kama Sutra” contains instructions for hitting and scratching during sex, and dates at least as early as the 2nd century CE. Some scholars maintain parts of the “Kama Sutra” were recorded as early as 400 BCE.
The publication and subsequent movies of the “50 Shades of Gray Trilogy” brought BDSM into the conversations of most people in the developed world. To most, BDSM means ropes and other restraints, whips, floggers or paddles, and the occasional ball gag thrown in for good measure.
It is those things, but it is much more, and in some ways can be much less. Most BDSM stories only relate who does what to whom, and don’t really approach the feelings of both parties involved. That’s understandable for the majority of amateur authors. It’s difficult to credibly write about BDSM in depth without enough personal experience to understand and explain the practice and the motivations of and effects on the participants.
It’s relatively easy to write about the part of BDSM that nobody really talks about. It is the Dominant/Submissive role that is often ignored by writers of stories that are not in the BDSM genre. Perhaps it is just assumed that the D/s roles only apply to BDSM works because anyone engaging in BDSM is by default either a dominant or a submissive. That is mostly true, though there are “switches” – people who switch roles from time to time. The converse is not true, i.e., most dominants and submissives do not necessarily engage in bondage, discipline, sadism, or masochism.
The subject here is what I would differentiate by using the words “soft domination” and “soft submission”, and can make for a captivating story because all of us have experienced it at some time or other.
“Soft” D/s is simply the trait of a person to feel comfortable with, and sometimes want or need a certain role during sex. It is limited to what would be called “vanilla” sex in the BDSM community in that no restraint, degradation, or pain is involved.
A “soft” dominant is the partner who feels most comfortable initiating sex and is usually the one “on top”. A soft dominant will control the pace of foreplay and to a certain extent determine the position for the sex act, but would never attempt to force the submissive to do anything.
A “soft” submissive is the partner who is the opposite of the soft dominant. A soft submissive is more comfortable if the soft dominant leads. That does not mean a soft submissive will “submit” to whatever the soft dominant does. Quite to the contrary, a soft submissive will call a rapid halt to something out of their comfort zone and expect the soft dominant to comply.
It also does not mean a soft submissive is the passive partner in the sex act. Soft submissives can be just as active in the sex act as soft dominants. They would just rather not initiate the act or determine its progression. Soft submissives are usually the one “on the bottom”.
Since soft domination/submission is as much a choice as a personality trait, it is common for soft dominants and soft submissives to switch roles. Doing so depends upon a multitude of things - base personality, what happened that day, how dominant or submissive the other partner is, and perhaps just how both partners feel about each other at the time.
The important thing here is that the labels of soft dominant and soft submissive are mostly fluid rather than mostly fixed. Both men and women can be either at different times, or can be dominant in initiating sex and then become submissive at some time during the act.
The same thing probably holds true for gay and lesbian couples even though they are of the same sex. Just as with heterosexual couples, one of the couple may prefer to be dominant and the other submissive.
So, what do you as a reader or as an author think about the concepts of soft domination and soft submission? If you’re a reader, do you like seeing the traditional roles reversed sometimes? If you’re an author, do you sometimes reverse the traditional roles? Maybe you’ve experienced both sides of the equation. If so, what caused the change?