(This was originally published earlier this week at Male Submission Art.)

Apparently, my last post, “Dominants are rapists,” struck a nerve with a lot of people. I’m seeing every reaction under the sun: abject rejection, terrified self-loathing, utter confusion, etc. And I think the post struck a nerve because everyone is terrified they are a rapist (especially Dominants).

And look, here’s the thing: you should be terrified. Because you probably are. It is important and necessary for each of us to confront our shadow selves, the darkest parts of who we are.

But even if we look at the most evil parts of ourselves and discover that every horrific and vile thing we feared about who we are is, in fact, completely and undeniably true, that does not make us unworthy of love.

The magical power sadomasochistic relationships can offer us is the ability to confront the reality that we are complicit in perpetuating unforgivable, unforgettable traumas on most people in our lives without becoming incapable of working to end that complicity. The BDSM Scene could be a place where its members participate in such self-training. But it’s not.

In BDSM culture, Dominants are taught to make submissives dependent on their dominance, rather than facilitating experiences their submissive partners want to have. This parallels the overculture, where therapists are taught that their job is to help people better integrate themselves in an abusive society by sublimating their own will rather than supporting their clients to do whatever the fuck they need to do to reject participation in said abusive society.

If you have a position of power over someone, such as a teacher, a parent, or a Dominant, the only ethical thing to do is to facilitate others’s growth so as to make yourself obsolete.

When I write “dominants should be extinct,” I also write, “teachers should be extinct,” “parents should be extinct,” and “employers should be extinct” not because we shouldn’t have places where people learn things (“schools”), or people who protect younger people during their period of growth (“parents”), or ways for people to provide for their own sustenance in harmony with the Earth (“jobs”), but because each of these things has been corrupted to maintain itself to the detriment of its charge.

Teachers in schools are youth jailers, parents in mainstream culture are taskmasters, and employers in capitalism are wage slavers.

In this way, Dominants in BDSM are rapists. They don’t have to be. But until they are willing and able to confront their shadow selves—the possibility that, in fact, they are rapists—they will never have the ability to be anything else.



So, here’s the thing. There is a difference between wanting to play with someone sexually in a way that facilitates their submission and wanting to “dominate” someone.

If you enjoy playing with submissive people because you think submission is sexy, and you’re thrilled by the idea that someone might want to be submissive in a sexy way with you, and you want to do stuff that will make that easier and safer and more fun for them, that’s one thing. What that looks like is helping your submissive partner have experiences that they want to have — and because human psychology is fascinating, sometimes you do that by creating experiences that, on some level, they don’t want to have.

That’s different from the desire to do things to people whether they want you to or not. That is, definitionally, the desire to coerce — or, when you add sex to the mix, the desire to rape. Such desires are not inherently illegitimate, because no desire is inherently illegitimate. What is illegitimate is acting on those desires by preying on people with whom it will be easiest to get away with it.

Submissives make the perfect partners for Dominants, because our often complex relationship to consent and desire makes us easy targets for Dominants to take advantage of. If what turns you on is disregarding other peoples’ humanity, it’s so much easier (psychoemotionally, logistically, and legally) to do that with someone who gave you permission than with someone who didn’t. But Dominants make bad partners for Submissives for the very same reasons.

It’s one thing to fetishistically desire to harm vulnerable people. It’s another thing to manifest that desire by actually pursuing erotic intimacy with vulnerable people who you can harm. And it is, in fact, even worse — not better — to achieve that intimacy by convincing said vulnerable people that they started it, that they invited you to hurt them, that they wanted it, that they said it was okay.

There are lots of people who enjoy sex that involves the sharing and exchange of submissive desire. Mainstream narratives about romantic lovemaking are packed with it. But the subset of submission-lovers who describe themselves as “Dominants” don’t seem interested in playing with someone because they’re excited about that individual’s personal expression of submission. Rather, they’re turned on by the idea of a “consenting” submissive partner, because that is the situation in which they are most likely to be able to get away with doing whatever they want.

See also: Dominants are Rapists