Submissive Conditioning, Training, and Development

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Submissive Conditioning, Training, and Development

by Cross
(Handout from May 2014 Class)

NOTE: This was a handout designed to act as an anchor point in the context of a much larger discussion. This is not inclusive of all information presented in the class and should not be taken as a complete resource.

Also, If this is a subject that interests you, these are some books that might be helpful additions:

Erotic Slavehood

The New Bottoming Book

Partners in Power

The Loving Dominant


The World According To Me

The ideas, theories, and crazy schemes presented herein are the sole perspective and opinion of the presenter, who encourages attendees and readers to seek out other perspectives and ideas, especially those that disagree with him, before deciding on a path for themselves. Cross is not an “expert” of any kind related to this practice and does not guarantee any particular result from its use. Play at your own risk profile.

The Three Aims of Submissive Training and Development:

While the goals of training will always be determined by those involved, the following three areas are the most common and tend to have the highest priority

  • Submissive Skill/Behavior Development
    The purpose of this section is to learn skills, knowledge, or behaviors that can be valuable in a variety of settings with a variety of dominant partners.

    • Household Management
    • Personal Attendance
    • Sexual Services
    • Business Communication and Organization
    • Event Coordination
    • Interpersonal Skills
  • Dominant’s Individual Preferences
    The purpose of this section is to learn the preferences of specific dominant partner(s) for use during service to them.

    • How they like their food prepared
    • Their daily or weekly schedule and what you can do to help with it
    • How much pressure they like during a massage
    • What are their favorite fetishes
    • Protocols, rules, and consequences
  • Personal Goals
    The purpose of this section is to continue personal growth as an individual according to your own dreams and drives.

    • Things you are embarrassed that you can’t do well
    • Eliminating a bad habit
    • Abilities or skills that you are proud of
    • Things that you always wanted to learn
    • Abilities that will be useful in your future career
    • Hobbies that keep you sane and focused

Identifying the proclivities of the submissive and determining the submissive’s role

What does the submissive get out of the D/s relationship?
What fulfills them and drives their submission?

  • Desire for Active Service – Active services are those things that the submissive does for others, such as cooking, performing oral sex, or managing the dominant’s schedule.
  • Desire for Passive Service – Passive services are those things that the submissive allows to be done to them for the pleasure or benefit of others, such as flogging, sexual use, or body painting.
  • Independence – To what level does the submissive desire to act on their own, without the direct instruction of the dominant?
  • Selflessness – To what degree does pleasing or benefitting others motivate them?

These factors are used to determine:

  1. Whether you are compatible in a D/s relationship, and whether training is likely to result in a strong, positive relationship.
  2. The training approach that is most likely to yield success.

What Is Conditioning? (Behavioral Learning)

Conditioning is a behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement typically being a stimulus or reward for a desired response.

Conditioning is a form of learning in which either (1) a given stimulus (or signal) becomes increasingly effective in evoking a response or (2) a response occurs with increasing regularity in a well-specified and stable environment.

Classical Conditioning
Classical conditioning modifies the respondent patterns of the submissive by associating two unrelated sensations/stimuli so that both illicit the same reaction.



Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is the use of consequences to modify the voluntary behavior of the submissive by associating certain choices and behavior with a defined set of consequences.


is a consequence that encourages a specific behavior

  • Positive Reinforcement (Reward)
    Providing a positive stimulus or other positive stimulus in response to a desired behavior. Ex: The submissive gets to have an orgasm if they keep the house clean.


  • Negative Reinforcement (Escape/Relief/Avoidance)
    Removing an averse stimulus in response to a desired behavior. Ex: Removing the chastity device for the evening if they correctly cook the meal you request. This can result in either direct response training (Whenever they here the annoying noise, they do a specific action to make it stop) or in active avoidance, where they perform the desired behavior to avoid the negative stimulus altogether.



is a consequence that discourages a specific behavior

  • Positive Punishment (Punishment)
    Providing an averse stimulus in response to an undesired behavior. Ex: Shocking the submissive’s balls with a cattle prod when they speak out of turn.


(PS – I am not suggesting you do this)



  • Negative Punishment (Penalty)
    Removing a positive stimulus in response to an undesired behavior. Ex: Taking away the submissive’s favorite sex toy when they forget to do the laundry.


(Many interesting curse words can result from this)





ext(No, not that kind)

Extinction is what happens when the effect of conditioning wears off. In classical conditioning, this is when the sound of the whip no longer makes them wet or the sight of the crop no longer makes them cry. If you go to long without enforcing the conditioning, it will stop working and their behavior will stop being influenced by it. If you flip back to page 3 and look on the bottom, you will see a graph that shows the standard learning and extinction patterns related to classical conditioning. The next big section is about how to make a plan for enforcement of conditioning in order to make it effective with minimal effort, while preventing extinction.

Reinforcement and Punishment Schedules
The consistency/regularity of the punishment or reward

  • Ratio Schedule:
    The reward or punishment occurs after a specific number of occurrences of the target behavior

o    Continuous: The punishment or reward is administered every time the behavior occurs.
Example: Vending Machine

o    Fixed Ratio: The punishment or reward is administered every nth time the behavior occurs.
Example: Car wash punch card. Your 10th wash is free!

o    Variable Ratio: The punishment or reward is administered, on average, every nth time the behavior occurs, but not always exactly on the nth occurrence.
Example: Slot machine

  • Interval Schedule:
    The reward or punishment has a maximum frequency but is still conditional on behavior.

o    Fixed Interval: A set amount of time must pass before a reward or punishment will be administered after the previous reward or punishment.
Example: Free coffee with purchase, limit one per customer per day.

o    Variable Interval: An indeterminate amount of time passes between a reward or punishment being administered, which is still conditional on behavior.
Example: Fishing. Checking email. Pop quizzes. Random drug tests.


Unless you have a lot of free time, it is simply not possible to respond either positively or negatively to every single thing that a submissive does. Fortunately, you don’t need to. In studies of operant conditioning, researchers have found that behaviors remain influenced by a punishment or reward, even if it doesn’t happen every time. And in fact, it can sometimes be more effective and efficient to reinforce or punish on a schedule. Page 5 of the handout reviews some simple reinforcement/punishment schedule types, each with advantages and disadvantages. We’re going to look at those now. The first is a ratio. This means that when the reward or punishment is given out depends on the number of times that the target behavior occurs. Continuous means a 1:1 ratio. Every time the submissive does a particular thing, they receive the response. If something is a high priority or if something is particularly new, this is probably the schedule you want, but as I said before, it will nearly impossible to maintain this for every single behavior you are targeting. So you have to reserve this schedule for special cases.

A fixed ratio says every 10 times or every 20 times you do the particular action, you will get a particular reward or punishment. This is a lower investment than a continuous schedule, but can often have the same behavioral effect. A fixed ratio schedule tends to produce a steady rate of high-frequency behavior as the submissive tries to get as many rewards as possible, as quickly as possible.

A variable ratio is saying that for every 100 times an behavior happens, they will receive 25 responses on average, but it won’t necessarily be every forth time exactly. This will feel like random enforcement from the submissive’s perspective, but so long as the frequency is high enough that the risk of punishment or potential for reward is stronger than the submissive’s preference for a different behavior, then it will still be effective. That’s why people gamble. Games of chance are designed to reward you just enough to keep you playing, but not too much that it becomes an expectation. In the same way, police attempt to have the bare minimum traffic enforcement to make people choose to drive safer but without committing too many resources to it. The intended mentality of the driver is, “I may not get caught this time, but eventually, if I keep driving this way, I will.”

Now, an interval schedule, on the other hand, is time based, instead of frequency based. With a fixed interval, judgment for the administration of a punishment or reward only happens every so often. A great example is Christmas time with kids. Those two weeks before Christmas is the best behavior you have ever seen. Because there is that impending threat of Santa’s impending retribution hanging over their heads. But if you look on the chart on the bottom, you will see that the fixed interval has what we call a “scalloping” effect, where immediately after judgement day, the behavior stops improving, or even gets worse. If the weeks leading up to Christmas are the best behavior you ever see, the days after Christmas are the worst. But over time, there is a net overall improvement in behavior.

On a variable interval, the moments of judgment are not known to the submissive. You might say that their room will be inspected three times per week, but not tell them when. This can remove that scalloping effect and see a more consistent pattern of behavior. Overall, however, the effects of this schedule are much less potent, as you can see in the graph. This can be corrected by making the punishments and rewards greater.


Differential Reinforcement (DR)
Differential Reinforcement (DR) is the next step up form simple operant conditioning and schedules. It has two important characteristics, first that it emphasizes positive reinforcement over all others, and second that focuses on behavior related to the target behavior as well.

DR works to achive:

  1. A decrease in frequency of the target behavior (DRL)
  2. The absence of the target behavior (DRO)
  3. An increase in behaviors which prevent the target behavior (DRI)
  4. The substitution of a preferred behavior (DRA)

Differential Reinforcement Chart Distributed At a Recent Teachers Conference (Author unknown):


Process for Implementing a Training Program

  1. Observe, Collect Data, Document
  2. Make a Plan and Write it Down
  3. Share the Plan with the Submissive (At least some of it)
  4. Implement the plan consistently and objectively
  5. Observe, Collect Data, Document
  6. Adjust Often

Potential Causes of Failure:

  1. Ineffective Reinforcers – The reinforcers aren’t reinforcing
  2. Inconsistent delivery of reinforcers
  3. The submissive is unable to engage in the alternative/desired behavior
  4. The reinforcers were faded out too quickly
  5. The reinforcers were faded out too slowly
  6. “Generalization” to other environments/conditions was not promoted

A Few Last Things:

Consider your Submissive’s level of experience

• New To D/s

• New to You

• Together for years

• More experienced than you

Multiple partners and other life issues:

• Do they have a sub of their own?

• Another Dom?

• Do you switch?

• Are they in school?

• Do they have a job?

• Do you/they have kids?

• Do they spend a lot of time with their parents or other

influential people?

• How much do their friends influence their behavior?

Training Without a Dominant:

One of the really interesting things about the world is that power exchange is everywhere, it just usually isn’t talked about explicitly. Personal trainers, coaches, classroom teachers, and bosses are take on dominant roles, and in many cases, you are paying them to do so. That because having someone to push you to be better is effective. As we addressed in the beginning, many of the skills and behaviors that will make a submissive more valuable to a potential dominant and more happy with themselves and who they are available outside of a kink context. However, it often costs money to have someone you don’t know coerce you into doing things.


Way back at the beginning, we talked about these reasons, purposes, and goals for training. But now that we have talked about it and you are looking at the list, you may be wondering how to apply what we’ve talked about to some of these items. How to you apply reward or punishment to something as abstract as “household management”?

What you need to do is drill down from the larger skill set to individual, observable, trainable behaviors. So breaking down household management, that might include supervision of others, maintenance and cleaning, time management, and other things.

Then we take one of those, Time Management, and we break that down to individual components and so on until we find something that is trainable.

A good example for me is that I have a very bad habit of not adding things to my schedule and therefore not planning my time effectively. So a dom of mine might establish a rule that says that any obligations or plans have to be reflected on my calendar. There might be a variable interval schedule where my calendar is regular occasionally audited for accuracy and punishments and rewards are given out accordingly. It could also be a ratio situation where she counts the number of times that I am informed about a scheduled event and don’t immediately add it to the calendar.

Another on the list is sexual services. Drill down on that one and you may decide to focus your training on your male subs stamina during sex to both discourage early climax and encourage the physical endurance to perform for a certain length of time, or as long as necessary. You could use classical conditioning to build associations which either trigger or delay an orgasm. You could use positive punishment to respond to failures. But you could also use negative reinforcement on a fixed ratio system. The chastity belt comes off and you are allowed to orgasm only after the submissive has given the dominant a set number of orgasms.

I could keep going, but I think you have the idea. You simply deconstruct something down to a trainable behavior and then determine what type of conditioning will be effective and on what schedule.

If this article is helpful to you, please consider supporting our work. Find out how here.

Helpful Links:

Mentoring, Self-Help and Submissive Exploration   
One of the most comprehensive submissive resource and support sites I’ve ever found. Great for un-partnered submissives who wish to better themselves without a dominant.


Dominance and Submission
Submissives (BDSM)             
Operant Conditioning           
Classical Conditioning          

Recommended Reading:

Erotic Slavehood

The New Bottoming Book

Partners in Power

The Loving Dominant


The information and theories represented in this handout and the accompanying presentation represents the work of many prominent behavioral theorists, including, but not limited to: Vladimir Bekhterev, Ivan Pavlov. Alan E. Kazdin, Albert Bandura, Sidney W. Bijou, Edwin Ray Guthrie, Richard J. Herrnstein, Clark L. Hull, Fred S. Keller, Neal E. Miller, Marsha M. Linehan, O. , obart Mowrer, Charles E. Osgood, Kenneth W. Spence, B.F. Skinner, Edward Lee Thorndike, Edward C. Tolman, Murray Sidman, John B. Watson, Ole Ivar Lovaas, Steven C. Hayes, Donald Baer, Dermot Barnes-Holmes

If this article is helpful to you, please consider supporting our work. Find out how here.

  1. kajiradreams says:

    Greetings Sir,
    I would would love to read more of your thoughts on the conditioning aspect – as in the benefits of operant vs classical conditioning? develoipment of such over time within an M/s relationship.

    Thank you for a thought provolking post


  2. sam says:

    Yet another website for subs that has no clue what it’s doing – beginning with allowing capital letters in reference to sub missives? Is there any one out there who nows what they are doing?! Has anyone actually been to Roissy? Not from here, obviously…..

    • Cross says:


      Who says this is a website for subs? This is a website for me, more than anything, where I can keep track of the things I am learning. But I hope it is also useful as a resource for other people exploring a similar path.

      I have no idea what Roissy is. But something that you need to understand is that people approach D/s dynamics differently. My particular approach is that everyone in a power exchange dynamic is in service. One is not better or more deserving of respect or consideration than the other. I don’t do the silly alternate language rules with weird capitalization and I don’t think of my subs as less than human, even if I sometimes treat them that way.

      And I believe that is the reason why I have been with my partners for 9 and 3 years, respectively. While many Domly-Dom, High-Horse, Greater-Than-Thou types tend to have relationships for a few months at a time.

      No one gets to dictate what the “right way” of doing D/s, Sam.

  3. Leanna says:

    Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate
    your content. Please let me know. Thanks

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