If you are truly in control, you never have to prove it.
You see so many dominants on a daily basis that feel that it is necessary and appropriate for them to “prove” how much control or power they have. In business, this is the person who fires someone every few weeks just to remind everyone that they can. In high school, it was the bully that randomly beat people up. In D/s, this is the person who does something humiliating and painful to their partner, not because the submissive deserves it, not because the dominant enjoys it, but simply to “prove” that they are in control.
In our view at XCBDSM, this is a disturbing and all too common trait, and is dangerously close to abuse.
Now, you may hear lots of really convincing justifications for the behavior. Convincing, but not necessarily valid or justifying. All of the following quotes are taken from actual profiles or written conversations. Some of them are about BDSM, others are about another topic. But the sentiment and the faulty logic is the same regardless of context.
1) “I do it because if she goes too long without a punishment, she’ll start to misbehave”
Actually, if you train a person to expect that they will be punished whether they misbehave or not, it will slowly erode their obedience. It is far more effective to demonstrate that you always have the ability to do something without actually doing it. You can accomplish this with little things that you whisper into her ear. While she’s tied up, you might softly say “If I wanted to, I could leave you here, like this, all night. I could invite some friends over and we could all watch you struggle and writhe.” Not only does the fantasy of it get the heart pumping and breath racing, she has to acknowledge to herself that everything you are saying is true. And then you say, “But I’m not going to do that, because you’re a good girl, and you’re my girl, and I have much more fun things to do to you.” And then you do them.
It works as negative punishment (see this page for a primer on punishment versus reinforcement) without actually having to do it. You confront her with the reality of something humiliating and unpleasant, and then you take it away because she’s been good. It’s a threat without being a threat and is SO much more effective than “preemptive punishments”
2) “He has started to do everything without me telling him, and I want to remind him who he’s doing it for.”
This is even worse, you are actually punishing them for doing a good thing. Everyone has their own preferences, but most people enjoy it when their subs serve them without having to be asked. It is generally viewed as a good thing. And if they sense that they are being punished for it, not only are they going to get really jittery, but they are going to stop taking the initiative, and stop doing things for you.
Reward the good behavior. Reward the initiative. Show them you appreciate it. That’s how you remind them they are doing it for you, and that’s how you show them it matters to you.
3) “If they do it without complaining, then it proves that they are mine.”
Yeah, ok, fine. But if you are going to test them, why not do it in a way that at least one of you enjoys? Because from their perspective, either they will sense that you don’t want it, which will make it much harder for them to endure, if not impossible, or they will believe that they are enduring it because you want it, and will resent you for it. The select few will be glad of the honor to do something difficult for you. That is something to be prised, not abused, and if they find out that you were doing it, not because you wanted to, but because you DOUBTED them, it will hurt them immensely.
4 “If a moment comes where their obedience is critical, I don’t want to have any doubt of it. Regularly testing them preserves my confidence.”
First of all, unless you are carrying out covert military operations with your subs, reliable obedience is probably not a life or death issue. Second, their are plenty of other ways to measure consistency of obedience. Have them do something for you that you really hate doing for yourself. Tell them to do something every Monday at 7:35pm whether you are with them or not and then find out from others if they are keeping up. Be creative.
5 “When I do it publicly, it proves to everyone who is in charge.”
You are trying to get others to be envious of you, to covet what you have, to wish that their submissive were as awesome as yours. But the dirty little secret is, very few of them care. And most of them are writing you off as someone they will never play with. The simple statement of doing something that neither of you enjoys simply to prove a point is bad enough on its own. But when you are doing it for someone who isn’t even part of the relationship, it becomes a warning to others of what kind of person you are, one who uses BDSM to impress others, rather than for the mutual enjoyment or benefit of those involved.
6 “I feel like her submission is slipping, so I do these things to bring her back.”
This is the worst of all, in our opinion. To quote one of our favorite politicians: “The point of power is not just to keep it, but to use it…”
Believe it or not, all power is limited. You only have so many dom-dollars to spend. If you deplete it all just trying to hold on to what you have, you probably shouldn’t have it at all. You should be using that power to benefit one or both of you in some way, and if that isn’t enough, something is gravely wrong.
7 There is no seven. We’re done with the examples.
The bottom line is that power exchange is a conscious and consensual choice. (At least it should be). No one involved should ever have to prove that the choice has been made or the extent of the choice. You should understand what each of you gains from the relationship, and determine whether your personal benefit outweighs your personal cost. In the best relationships, this is never questioned, and it is never “proven”.
If you truly have control, you NEVER have to prove it. Not to them, not to yourself, and certainly not to anyone else. They will show you, in everything they do, that they are yours. If you have to ask for more evidence of your control than that, you never had it to begin with.