The B and M aspects of BDSM are as widely varied as the participants themselves. However there is one element common across the entire spectrum, and that is the Dominant/submissive relationship. Wikipedia describes it as “complementary, but unequal roles”. I think this is a perfectly elegant description of BDSM play, but the underlying foundation of the D/s relationship is actually very equal. In fact I would argue that it is more balanced than most traditional relationships.
To begin to understand the nature of the Dominant/submissive relationship first you must understand the nature of the submissive. A good submissive is not someone weak that can be dominated, rather they are someone strong that wants to be dominated. BDSM is a completely consensual relationship. The submissive chooses to submit. This isn’t a arbitrary choice either. The sub gives a Dominant power over them because they know they can trust them with that power.
On the other side a good Dominate ensures that his or her sub is not just obedient. It is the responsibility of the Dominant that the submissive is taken care of mentally and physically while under their dominance. This commonly includes monitoring their sub’s health during physically intense play and caring for them after. But it can also include making sure they eat right and exercise and making them pursue their life goals.
Even though outwardly the Dom/sub relationship appears to give all the power to one person, in practice a good BDSM relationship is actually an equal balance of power.
This works because from the onset both the Dom and sub are open and clear about what they want from the relationship and what they are willing to give. Each person’s role is clearly defined and control is expressly given. Then both people must prove—through actions—their worthiness, loyalty, and dedication to the relationship on an ongoing basis. This interplay eliminates the uncertainty and power struggles that undermine traditional couplings.
A BDSM relationship isn’t a superficial relationship. It can’t be sustained on empty gestures or cultural obligation or blind tradition. Both the Dominant and submissive must build, and continually maintain, the foundation of trust, and prove their dedication to the relationship through clearly defined actions. This is why the D/s relationship is more balanced and in my opinion, when done correctly, a healthier more productive relationship.