What does the acronym D/s actually stand for?

Author: Lynn
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What does D/s mean?

D/s is an abbreviation for dominance or dominance and submission, both of which are included in the generic term BDSM. It refers to the game of consciously and consensually creating unequal power relationships between two or more partners. You can tell from the spelling that this involves a differential: Upper case D, lower case s. The dominant part, in BDSM, often called Dom or Top, determines what happens in the game in relation to their submissive partner, for example Sub or Bottom.

Examples of D/s practices

D/s is a general term that combines many types of play. These all take place on the basis of a power imbalance. Whether role-play, impact, pet play, golden showers or wax play: There is always a leading, controlling person. It is very often about education or discipline, which is why FLR, chastity and sexual rejection are also part of this exciting and large field. For example, from tease and denial games to cuckold constellations, humilation and degradation.

Surrender instead of submission

In contrast to “sadism & masochism” (abbreviated to S/M), D/s in a consensual BDSM context describes a consensually established hierarchy rather than the exercise of physical domination. This authentic sensation is referred to as “living D/s”, especially in 24/7 models. The hierarchy is also present in time-limited games, a “D/s role-play”. This is also frequently encountered in the professional sector. D/s therefore always contains a gradient of “top” and “bottom”. An “upper” person exercises power and a “lower” person experiences powerlessness or submission. Whether authentic and omnipresent, or tactically and role-playingly staged.

The terms “Submission” and “Devotion” are often equated in the German-speaking BDSM community. However, this is not entirely correct: Submission refers to subordination, while Devotion describes a deep dedication or sacrifice. It is only synonymous when submission occurs with joy and dedication. This is not the case with defiant subordination, as we find it in the realm of Brats or Primal Preys. Of course, S/M can be a tool or means of D/s dynamics. The Dom can exercise power by inflicting pain on the Sub. However, pain is not mandatory in D/s. It’s more about the perceived inferiority, whether with enthusiastic dedication or “forced”. Especially in psychologically demanding play, the Dom is challenged. Because here, they must take care of the partner physically and mentally.

Role-play or relationship?

A D/s role-playing game or session generally has a clear beginning and a defined end. No matter which term is used: It is a temporary, tactically staged self-expression. At the end of the session or role-playing game, all participants return to the same level. Rituals often frame the sessions and give the construct its own character.

For this reason, symbols can play an important role in underpinning the balance of power. Perhaps the sub or serf wears a collar or another piece of clothing or jewelry that he or she can only take off with permission. This can be used to mark the start and end of a session, for example. Typically, various leadership methods, as known from management or psychology, are used symbolically or tactically in games.

However, there are also interpersonal relationships that extend beyond individual sessions, where the D/s dynamic is more or less pronounced. This is referred to as a D/s relationship. In such a relationship, each participating person is fully aware of the role distribution. Even within these relationships, there can be additional defined time frames. In these cases, the otherwise subtle dynamic may be intensified and actively utilized.

What should I bear in mind if I am interested in D/s?

In D/s, people like to play with clichés or the image of BDSM. Especially when it comes to temporary variants. It’s a lot about how people imagine a dominant person or a serf, for example that the serf has to kneel or crawl. Dom commands a certain form of address or emphasizes a punishment context in which, for example, painful or humiliating practices are specified.

Some lovers of this type of play also attach importance to a so-called “contract”, even if the legal aspects of these documents always raise questions. Often, however, drawing up such a document only serves the intended psychological effect. Such effects can be to make the helplessness of the party playing below clear or, in the context of edge play, or more precisely “fear play”, to deliberately scare them. Safety agreements such as a safeword should always be in place.

For these reasons, it is important to talk in advance about your preferences, fantasies and ideas associated with the D/s construct, as well as your own limits. Are you interested in playing and dressing a role or are you also interested in feelings? Is it about playful education or does it also have an influence on your everyday life? Do you want to experience D/s without having to obtain situational consent (= metaconsensus)? After the end of the session, appropriate aftercare should take place on an equal footing. Especially with the more psychologically demanding types of play, the dom is required to care for their partner both physically and mentally.

How do I know if D/s is suitable for me?

On the D side: During the game, you don’t think about yourself, but about the other person and the influence you have on them. You are a dominant person who takes the lead. However, you are aware that dominance is not permission to make someone a plaything, but is based on mutual consent and trust. Is it in your interest to have the growth and well-being of all parties in mind and to determine the way to achieve this? Then D/s could be right for you.

On the s side: submission does not mean self-abandonment. Quite the opposite: surrender should be seen as a gift, not a burden that you give up. How and why the appeal of submission is felt is very subjective. For some, it is letting go of another person and the special intimacy that comes with it. For others, it is the exchange of power. If you want to satisfy and serve your dom with pleasure and dedication, D/s could be the right type of play for you.

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