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Related: authority - female submission - humiliation - masochism - obedience - sexual slavery - slavery

Contrast with: domination

Domination and submission

Domination and submission (D&S, D/S or D/s), in a BDSM context, is a sexual activity involving the biological responses of submission and dominance. 'Domination and submission' in a relationship context is a relationship that employs one dominant partner and one submissive partner. These relationships can be part-time or 24/7.

Dominant and submissive relationships, however, are not unique to human recreational pursuits. Dominant and subordinate relationships appear within many animal populations, especially the more socialized populations including most mammals.

Dominance between species defines the nature of the food chain, and may underly the phylogenetic evolution of neural systems that affect dominant and submissive behavior. Those systems include the monoaminergic systems, especially those mediated by the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine, and by polypeptides, especially endorphines.

In human sexual behavior, a dominant is one who enjoys performing any of a variety of BDSM practices upon a submissive; this enjoyment can spring from a simple desire for dominance or an enjoyment of the interplay of wills involved in such a scenario. The term is falling out of use in vanilla sex (see top). A male dominant is often called a dom; a female, a domme or dominatrix. "Dominate" and "Dominant" are sometimes used incorrectly as synonymous nouns. Submissives who submit to an extreme degree are sometimes called slaves.

The term "dominant" is more precise than "top", since the term "top" is also used in vanilla, especially gay, sex to refer to an insertive partner, or as a transitive verb meaning to have insertive sex with. As above, it is very commonplace for partners to change roles from one encounter to the next or to have both insertive and receptive sex.

A submissive may be, but is not necessarily, a BDSM bottom. For example, some submissives enjoy taking orders from a dominant but do not receive any physical stimulation.

It should be noted that the submissive is commonly, in a wider context than the BDSM scenes themselves, the partner who is giving instructions - the top typically tops when, and in the manner, requested by the bottom.

In order to explore BDSM sex, it is essential to be careful and choose a top who will be responsive to one's needs, feelings, and limits. (See safeword.) Failure to choose a trustworthy top can be very dangerous, and even a trustworthy but overzealous top can inflict severe pain or injury by failing to pay attention to the bottom.

Note that in D&S, it is commonplace for two partners to switch roles from one encounter to the other, depending on mood and preference, a practice known as switching.

There are some indications that preference in B&D activities follows a 'compensatory' pattern, with people who have much power and responsibility in real life often preferring a submissive role, no hard scientific data to either confirm or reject this hypothesis seem to exist, however.

There are also indications that submissives substantially outnumber dominants, in both males and females. Professional dominants provide sexual services for those unable to find a compatible partner for this activity. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki//Sexual_submission [Jul 2004]

Male Submission

Female Domination did not originate from dominant women or feminists. It was men who coined the phrase Female Domination to categorize their sexual and social desires to submit themselves to the female gender. --Elise Sutton


  1. The Sexually Dominant Woman: A Workbook for Nervous Beginners - Lady Green [Amazon US]
    This was a wonderful book for the curious beginner. It was written by Lady Green in a very clear and open style, defining terms as it went along. The author was careful to explain drawbacks as well as benefits of different types of dominant/submissive play, and gave many safety tips as she went along. Many suggestions for further reading were also given. The book is best for the beginner to BDSM, and works well for both dominant and submissive as a reference. For more experienced players, the safety reminders would be most useful. --Gin-no Hitomi, amazon.com

  2. The Mistress Manual: The Good Girl's Guide to Female Dominance - Lorelei [Amazon US]
    In a lot of ways, this is simply a reprinting of an earlier guide self-published back in 1994. Its sad how few things have changed. The target audience of the book are monogamous and het couples who practice role-playing where the woman is the "top" and the man is the "bottom". Role-playing is the key here; the book will not tell you how to do 24/7 or switch or even just be yourself. The book contains two apparent contradictions: the fantasies discussed are "male" but women are told to do only what makes them feel good. Frankly, I don't think the five main fantasies (nursemaid, governess, queen, Amazon, and goddess) are necessarily "male" and realisticly if the focus is time and again on figuring out what the man wants, how can a woman figure out what she wants. The fact is that Lorelei is correct: relationships take compromise but that doesn't equal sacrifice from either party. --TammyJo Eckhart

  3. The Natural Superiority of Women - Ashley Montagu [Amazon US]
    Among the central issues of the modern feminist movement, the debate over biology and culture over sex and gender, over genetics and gender roles has certainly been one of the most passionately contested. Making revolutionary arguments upon its first publication in 1953, "The Natural Superiority of Women" stands as one of the original feminist arguments against biological determinism. An iconoclast, Montagu wielded his encyclopedic knowledge of physical anthropology in critique of the conventional wisdom of women as the "weaker sex," showing how women's biological, genetic, and physical makeup made her not only man's equal, but his superior. Also a humanist, Montagu points to the emotional and social qualities typically ascribed to and devalued in women as being key to just social life and relationships. Subsequent editions of this book have provided additional support for Montagu's arguments, examining both biological and social scientific data of the late 20th century. One of the most broadly renowned and read scholars of our century, Montagu brings out this fifth edition with up-to-date statistics and references. A lengthy foreword by Susan Sperling contextualizes the book within the intellectual histories of feminism and anthropology, noting the huge social and intellectual changes that are spanned in Montagu's life and writing. Montagu's foundational book is an important addition to the library of all gender scholars. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

  4. Dressage, suivi de : Une brune piquante, les Quatres jeudis, Barbara - Bernard de Montorgueil [Amazon FR]
    Avec les manuscrits attribués (a posteriori, et très arbitrairement) au pseudonyme de " Bernard Montorgueil ", nous touchons à un des mystères les plus épais de la littérature clandestine. Passés en vente il y a une trentaine d'années, ces manuscrits furent en principe tous rachetés par un riche amateur américain. Mais quelques années plus tard, il en parut quelques-uns en Hollande, puis en France. Nous en présentons ici cinq, dont un complètement inédit, provenant de la collection privée d'Alexandre Dupouy. On va voir que ces textes, fondés sur le principe de la soumission masculine face à des " dresseuses " somptueuses et raffinées, fonctionnent parfaitement : épisodes bien enlevés, soigneusement décrits, ils méritent entièrement l'attention des amateurs - comme des lecteurs, si nous osons dire, de tout poil.

  5. The Art of Eric Stanton: For the Man Who Knows His Place - Eric Kroll (Editor) [Amazon US]
    An in depth look into the history of Stanton and his illustrations. Additional info into the publication of his work. This book will save the Specialty Pin-up and Fetish curious reader much time in that it covers a large variety of styles - year to year and publication variations - A very full overveiw of the style. As an art book, it is large, and may dominate some coffee tables. Also bear in mind that the subject-content isn't for the mainstream. Stanton's publications bring you through a wide variety of views, and Kroll's editing is very complimentary. If you are only a bit interested in the genre, and do not wish to buy lots of books, this one is your best find. --corseted@hotmail.com for amazon.

  6. Eric Stanton, Reunion in Ropes - Burckhard Riemschneider [1 book, Amazon US]
    He's been called "the Rembrandt of Pulp-Culture" and it's not hard to see why- Stanton is the crème de la crème of his genre. His imaginative, detailed full-color comic strip narratives picture buxom, leggy femmes fatales having their way with tied-up, handcuffed, or simply awestruck men. The stories included here are highlights from our klotz title "Dominant Wives & Other Stories." Look at it how you want- Stanton's imagery is either an empowerment of female sexuality or a gross caricature of female-domination fantasy. Either way, Stanton's images are extra-hot and are guaranteed to put hair on any man's chest! --amazon.com

  7. The Art of Sensual Female Dominance: A Guide for Women - Claudia Varrin [book, Amazon US]
    It's about time. So far all the books/stories/essays I read on the subject of female domination seemed to focus on the erotic, or sexual part of it. I have always thought (hoped?) that there was more to it then that. support for one thing. Ultimately there are always those who feel more ready to take control then others, and who need someone to do it for them. But most importantly it has to do with love. I could never imagine submitting to someone I don't already love. To me submission is a sign of love. As is domination. If it's domination without love, then it's cold domination. That's partly why I bought this book, as an insight into the female mind, but also as some advice for an undiscovered, shy sub with no experience. And as advertised, it provided me with plenty of information. It also renewed my hope that there were some women interested in love in a way that also involved sensual romance. A beautifully done book, that in no way reads like a manual, thank Goddess(cheeky grin)! A good book for starting dominants, but also great for male subs who need a foothold of understanding. ---- metagoomba for amazon.com

  8. Venus in Furs (1870) Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch [1 book, Amazon US]
    Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch's 'Venus In Furs', is interesting though eccentric, and perverse though compelling. Besieged in wonder and suspense, the love affair between characters: Severin von Kusiemski and Wanda von Dunajew, becomes a roller coaster ride of desire and emotion.
    The obsessive fantasy to be enslaved and brutalized by the woman he loves becomes a cruel reality for poor old Severin. As beautiful Wanda slowly becomes thrilled and captivated by the notion of fulfilling her role in his fantasy, a role that previously made her shrug and laugh, she eventually transforms herself into the controlling dominatrix of Severin's dreams--by becoming more ideal at the sadomasochistic lifestyle than he had ever dreamed was possible. As Severin becomes the ever so content and happy slave, this tug-of-war between self-esteem and power begins to twist and turn with the innocent and deadly psychological games played out between the two.
    Written more than a hundred years ago, this psychodrama of love, bound by the perverted desires of one and the demon lying dormant within the other, was tastefully and artfully done. --B.D.Holland for amazon.com [...]


  1. Seduction - Cruel Woman (1985) - Elfi Mikesch, Monika Treut [DVD, Amazon US]
    Mikesch and Treut's first film, Verfuhrung: Die Grausame Frau (Seduction: The Cruel Woman, 1985) was inspired by the novel Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Seduction examines the psychological aspects of sadism and masochism through the tale of Wanda (Mechthild Grossmann), a German lesbian dominatrix who runs a gallery where audiences pay for the privilege of watching her humiliate her slaves.

  2. Maitresse (1976) [1 DVD, Amazon US]
    Drifter Olivier (Gérard Depardieu) lands in Paris and partners up on a friend's home invasion. Ostensibly they're breaking into the vacant flat of a vacationing old lady, but in reality it's the kinky dungeon of a high-class dominatrix with a powerful client list. The bearish Depardieu falls for the lithe professional, blonde Ariane (Bulle Ogier) in a black bob wig and dressed in tight leather and latex, and soon moves into her handsome flat while she plies her trade downstairs. Barbet Schroeder's kinky little slice of sexual decadence is initially titillating and erotic, but soon turns grotesque. Ariane's clients desire her domination but only as contracted: They control their abuse. The romance becomes a warped mirror of her career, Ariane allowing Olivier the appearance of control as he slides behind the driver's seat of her car, but setting the parameters of his dominance. Easygoing Olivier soon begins to simmer with frustration and jealousy, unable to comprehend her twisted world of sexual deviance, and attempts to "save" her from her lifestyle. Schroeder pushes the portrayal of S&M and bondage to the limits with graphic scenes of pain, torment, and mutilation, presented with a bland detachment that makes them all the more uncomfortable to watch. He brings that same dispassionate attitude to the romance, which results in an uninvolving yet undeniably fascinating story of a quirky affair. --Sean Axmaker

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