The following does not contain any mention of how to spank or how to tie a rope. While these are a staple of BDSM, and doing them well is a worthy pursuit, they are not what defines someone as a Dominate. If you are truly looking to pursue BDSM as a lifestyle there are some very important things that any burgeoning Dom should understand about having and caring for a submissive before you cinch your first knot or swing a paddle.
Control is the foundation of BDSM—both given and practiced. So first and foremost you must be able to show your submissive you are capable of being in control. This is primarily expressed through ritual, which is why formal titles for both the Dom and sub are used in lieu of given names. Also why subs have enforced behaviors around their Doms. But serious control goes beyond kneeling and collars. You should make and enforce rules for your sub, but also make a schedule for them. Set goals for them and give them tasks. Provide them structure. Eliminating decisions and worries for your sub(s) shows them you can make good choices for them and gives them the confidence in you to fully submit.
Equally as important as showing your submissive you are capable of taking control is letting them know they are wanted. To the outside observer this might seem to run counter to many BDSM practices, and is indeed one of the many misconceptions of what people think BDSM is and the reality. Outside of any consensual abuse during play it is your responsibility as Dominate to show your submissive that you want them and will care for them. This can be expressed in how you touch them and look at them. You can also make space for them in your living area. My Kitten has a box and a place in my closet for when she visits. When your sub knows you want them it supports the confidence and the security in the relationship they need to fully submit to you.
Circling back to control and structure we need to address rules and punishments.
How strict you are with your submissive is really a personal preference and the type of sub you’re handling. Some Doms demand absolute adherence to the rules and others allow some wiggle room. Personally, I have some rules I am more strict about than others. Whatever your style, the enforcement of, and punishments for breaking, the rules should always be done fairly and consistently. This means if you’re having a bad day you don’t take it out on your sub over a minor infraction. Conversely it also means on occasion you may have to sacrifice your good mood to correct a bigger violation. Consistency equals dependability and your sub needs to know they can depend on you, even if it is to punish them.
Another aspect of your dependability as Dominate, and perhaps the most unseen aspect of BDSM to the vanilla populous, is simply caring for your submissive. Perhaps “simply” is a poor word choice since caring for your sub includes everything from making sure they’re both physically and mentally healthy to keeping them safe and protecting from danger and exploitation of their submissive nature. And very often includes protecting them from themselves. And since typically BDSM relationships entail some form of actual B and M, it also includes after-care and dealing with sub-drop. Your ability to carry the responsibility of having a sub is what separates the weekend Dom from the Lifestyle Dom.
The final aspect of being a good Dominant is your role as a mentor.
My submissive and I sometimes play a synonym game. I asked her for a synonym for ‘Instructor’ and her response was ‘Master’. This response earned her a treat, not just because it stroked my ego, but because it could not have been more apt. I believe that a major part of caring for your submissive is guiding them, educating them, and encouraging them. The submissive is a reflection of the Dominate—a point of pride. I expect my Kitten to obedient and submissive to me, but I want others to see her as a confident and independent person. This is not only a reflection of my success as a dominate. The more confident and independent she is in her life the more I know she submits to me out of her desire to do so and not out of dependence on me.
If you take anything from this it should be that your submissive should be able to look to you for many things. You must always work to instill confidence. Confidence in your ability and wisdom. Confidence in your acceptance of them. And confidence that they can depend on you to care for them and guide them. In exchange you should/can expect their obedience, devotion, and of course their submission.