All You Need to Know about being Dom, Sub or Switch
Typically, BDSM scenes or relationships, consist of two roles: the dominant and the submissive. For some, satisfaction and enjoyment are only achieved by being consistently top or bottom (dom/sub). But what if there are occasions when you enjoy being the dominant, and other times when you like to be submissive?
Well, that’s quite alright too...
Those who enjoy dominating and being dominated, are known to be a ‘switch’. Quite simply, it means you’re happy ‘switching’ between the role of top and bottom.
Some of you will be well versed in the BDSM terminology, but for those of you that aren’t we have comprised a helpful list of key BDSM terms to help you navigate this blog.
- BDSM: Bondage, Discipline (or domination), Sadism (or submission) and Masochism.
- Dominant: A dominant partner is the more aggressive one in the BDSM scene. They might derive sexual pleasure from activities where they are in control of their submissive partner's climax.
- Submissive: Someone who derives pleasure from scenarios where they’re disciplined, punished or otherwise dominated by their partner.
- Masochism: Deriving sexual gratification from your own pain or humiliation.
- Sadism: Tendency to derive sexual pleasure or gratification from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on others.
- Sub drop: An intense physical and emotional experience that mostly affects submissives. After the endorphin rush of adrenaline during play, the drop is your hormones bringing you back down.
- Aftercare: Aftercare looks different for everyone since our sexual preferences are so vast and varied. In its essence, aftercare means communicating and taking care of each other after sex to ensure all parties are comfortable with what’s gone down.
- Domme: A woman who plays the role of a dominating partner in a sadomasochistic relationship AKA a dominatrix.
- Impact play: The act of the sub being struck (often repeatedly) by the dom for the sexual gratification of either or both parties.
- Safeword: This one does what it says on the tin. A safe word is a random yet distinctive word agreed upon by both partners that once uttered during sex shows that they want to stop.
Different BDSM games can elicit different types of physical and emotional experiences depending on whether you are the Top or the bottom. For example, the thrill of bestowing a good spanking as the Dominant will feel very different to the excitement, pleasurable pain, or vulnerability that might be felt when on the receiving end of a spanking, as the submissive.
Part of the enjoyment of being switch is the opportunity to experience and revel in the sensations of each role.
Switching may also give you a greater ability to empathise with your partner because you’ve been in their position (wink wink), either as the Dom or the sub. Being switch can provide an understanding of the emotional and physical sensations and the feelings evoked by the Dom/sub dynamic. For example, being switch can provide greater insight into how you can support a partner through sub-drop.
Who you’re playing with may also influence a decision to switch. Relationships between different people can prompt different feelings. Being the dominant may feel very natural with one partner, but alien with another.
For some, moving between roles can be so fluid that choosing to be Top or bottom during a particular session comes down to their mood at the time, or the agreed type of kink being explored. For example, it makes sense for someone who is confident with rope bondage to be dominant during play involving Shibari. But they may be less confident barking insults at their partner during humiliation play and actually prefer to be on the receiving end.
As with all BDSM games, communication is the key to staying safe and having a mind-blowing experience. Now, that doesn’t mean to say you need to rush out and find a sex therapist or become a sex educator but why not try chatting openly about your preferences and boundaries?
You also need to establish consensual boundaries and use a safeword. These standards for wellness are used widely in the BDSM community to ensure everyone’s safety. Even if you’re in a d/s relationship it is still important to retain these aspects regardless of your specific role, whether you take the dominant role or one of masochist. You should also consider and prepare for aftercare since BDSM can be an intense experience.
Switching Means Sticking to your New Role
Even those who identify as switch may have leanings to being either slightly more submissive or a touch more dominant. However, if you agree to be the Dom or the sub during a scene you should stick to that role.
One phrase you may stumble across should you decide to further explore the dynamics of being Dom, sub and switch is ‘topping from the bottom’. Put simply, this is when a submissive tries to dictate the direction of play. Ask any Dom and you’ll quickly learn that topping from the bottom is nothing short of a nuisance. Doing so undermines the dominant partner and has the potential to cause the scene to stall or be completely ruined.
Switching means remaining in your agreed role. The best way to avoid topping from the bottom is to make sure you and the partner you’re playing with communicate what’s acceptable behaviour beforehand.
Ultimately, whether you want to take on the submissive role, are into sadism or vice versa, understanding what role you are adopting and the power dynamics that are involved with it is important.
While being a switch means enjoying both masochism and being dominant, the point is not changing your position in the middle of play. This can lead to confusion, a ruined experience and ruined orgasms.
Mixing Things Up
If you’re in a BDSM relationship or want to explore more fetishes then it can be great fun to mix things up a bit. So you might enjoy introducing impact play or try experimenting with toys such as vibrators when restrained. Whatever kind of dom/sub relationship you are in, there can be a lot of perks and enjoyment to be had from exploring your role and the dynamic in your sex life.
Hungry for more Dom/Sub Advice?
Then you may like our guide: An Insider's Guide To BDSM: Tips From A World-Class Dominatrix. Hear from people who identify as either Dom or sub in their professional or personal life.
Alternatively, continue exploring your kinky side by heading to our bondage section to find all the accoutrements and more related articles.