The title says BDSM, but this post will mainly focus on the domination aspect of it, and I’m just talking about the relationship between a dominant and a submissive, won’t even go into master and slave relationships. I should also point out from the beginning that what I’m trying to say is not that this lifestyle breeds domestic violence, but quite the opposite, that people who exhibit dominant traits and don’t admit to them, or at least not enough to say that they desire such a lifestyle, may tend to become violent when they realize that their partners aren’t submissive enough.
BDSM requires consent. The behavior exhibited in such a relationship is desired and enjoyed by both (or all) partners. If a person is tied down, dominated, humiliated or even injured, it’s their choice. Sure, the act itself is likely the wish of their dominant partner, but the terms of the relationship have been established from the beginning, there are boundaries which are respected and safewords that can be used if the submissive partner is no longer comfortable with what’s going on. Therefore, regardless of how it may seem for an outside observer, there can be no harm done in a proper BDSM relationship.
The problem appears when there’s no such understanding, when the behavior is not desired by all those involved, when the boundaries are not respected and when the domination, humiliation or violence doesn’t stop even after the one subjected to it makes it clear that they’re not comfortable in that position. These are destructive relationships, where one partner forces their will upon the other, and unfortunately they’re quite common.
Let’s take a moment to think about those who exercise destructive dominance in their relationships. Why does that happen? How often is it because they actually want to harm their partner and how often is it simply because they want their partner to do what they say? Maybe I’m wrong, but I think relatively few people truly make a goal out of causing harm to their partners, if only because it’d make little sense to still desire to have a relationship with them if that were the case. And, if so, we can conclude that an important cause of domestic violence are dominant tendencies and desires which aren’t recognized or at least assumed as such.
Based on the large number of domestic violence cases, we can conclude that there are a lot of dominant individuals, so there wouldn’t be enough submissive ones to create suitable matches, but that’s an issue for later. The main problem now is that many of those who exhibit these dominant tendencies either don’t notice them at all or don’t think their partner should be made aware of them. When trying to explain why that happens, I find that culture most likely plays a very important role, especially in the case of men, who are most often the authors of domestic violence anyway. If a man lives in a place where culture and tradition say that he should be the ruler of his household, he’s more likely to assume that this dominant behavior would be expected of him, just like he starts to expect a submissive behavior from his future spouse, and when he finds reality to be different his response often ends up being a violent one. And culture and tradition unfortunately still say that men should be rulers of the household pretty much everywhere.
Culture may be very difficult to change, and tradition perhaps even more so, but there are still things we can do. Popularizing the concept of BDSM and trying to make people understand exactly what it involves could help some of them recognize these behavior patterns in themselves and others. Some could even realize that such a relationship is what they desire and start looking for an appropriate partner, while others may have a better chance of knowing what they need to stay away from. Campaigns against domestic violence focus on the acts themselves, usually after they become bad enough, while the indirect effect that something like this could have would have a greater scope.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the same mindset and behavior patterns drive those who take a dominant role in BDSM relationships and domestic abusers. The two are completely different and a domestic abuser will certainly never make a decent dominant partner, that’s quite obvious. However, some of those who have dominant tendencies could train themselves to become decent dominant partners in such relationships if they’d really want to and if they’d start early enough, before those tendencies would have a chance to take them down the other path, before they’d lead to abuse and violence. This won’t solve the problem as a whole, but it could at least help a little. And the fact that some people make a living by dominating others like this shows that there’s still demand for a few more good dominant partners or even masters.
Don’t ask me how could one train themselves for this, I have never been in such a relationship and have no desire to ever be in one either, despite the fact that I could somewhat describe myself as borderline submissive. But I’m sure there are good sources of information available and also people who have experience in such matters and who’d be willing to help those who are genuinely interested. After all, those who currently are good at taking a dominant role in such relationships weren’t born knowing all they needed to know either! They simply realized that they had these tendencies and they developed them in a way which ended up being satisfactory for both themselves and their partners. They realized that they don’t have a right to demand submission from any partner they might have, so they trained themselves and looked for a suitable partner in order to create something positive instead of something harmful and damaging.
It’s a complex matter and, as always, I’m bad at explaining things, but this could be a start… There will still be many people who believe that their partners must obey them simply because of their gender or social status, unfortunately. There will also be people who are just evil enough to desire to harm their partners. But this is a potential solution for those who are in neither of those categories, those who find themselves desiring something and not knowing how to obtain it without causing harm to others. It’s an issue that most people still know far too little about, so informing them could really help.