What Is Dom Sub? A Complete Guide To Dom/sub Relationship

Human sexuality is a vast and intricate landscape, one that encompasses a wide range of desires, preferences, and practices. Among these diverse expressions of intimacy is the world of BDSM. Many people find that the power dynamics and sensory experiences of BDSM can enhance sexual arousal and satisfaction. It can add excitement and novelty to your sex life. Within the BDSM spectrum, one of the most well-known dynamics is the Dom/sub relationship. Let’s delve deeper into the world of Dom/sub relationships, exploring their secret to a better sex life.

In essence, Dom/sub relationship is a consensual power exchange between the Dom and the sub.

The Dom

The Dom in a D/s relationship is the person who assumes the role of leader, guider, enforcer, and protector. He is the one with control. It is common for a sub to be permitted to share her opinion with her Dom, particularly when the decision being made pertains to her well-being. However, it is the Dom who has the final say over what that decision will be. Where one would never be permitted an opinion is typically where the line crosses between Dom/sub into that of Master/slave (M/s), although some slaves are allowed to express their opinion.

The sub

The sub assumes the role of obedient follower, pleaser, student, and servant. A sub may also have other types of roles within their submissions, such as brat, baby girl, or princess. The sub may move in and out of these additional submissive types, depending on their mood, their Dom’s mood, or the scene at hand; or they may adhere to one of these types always.

There are many books and articles that go more in-depth as to the various types of Dominants and submissives that exist. Some of these types include Doms who are white nights, sadists, or Daddy Doms and subs who are brats, pain sluts, or domestic servants. Once you have established a basic knowledge of D/s, it is worth exploring these various types to further to determine which of them you identify with. This is helpful in knowing what type of Dom or sub will make a good partner for you. For example, a sadistic Dom and a baby girl who is not masochist might not have the ability to meet each other’s needs quite as well as a sadistic Dom and a pain slut, or a Daddy Dom and a baby girl. The disclaimer here is, rarely do we fit into one neat and tidy box. Often these types intersect and overlap, so do not get so caught up in the labels.

Side note: In the case of a switch, people can switch between these roles. They are sometimes the Dom and sometimes the sub, either with their existing partner, or someone other than their partner. So, for example, if you are a D/s switch, you may be 100% submissive to your primary partner, but a Dominant to a different partner (or vice versa). Or in the case of those who switch within their dynamic, you may be submissive to your partner in one scene, and then assume the role of Dominant over this same partner in another scene.

Dom and sub Relationship

A Dom/sub, or D/s relationship, is one in which one person assumes a leadership or dominant role over the other, who is subservient to that dominant partner. These relationships are as varied as the people who engage in them. However, the typical D/s relationship involves the Dom imposing on the sub rules, punishments, rewards, protocols, rituals, and defined expectations. These can be written within a formal D/s contract or simply understood through a verbal agreement.

It’s really just about having kinky sex, isn’t it?

One misconception is that D/s is mostly about kinky sex. This is not true. Some D/s relationships are purely platonic, with no sex involved at all. For others, sex is a very big part of their D/s dynamic. Of course, there are many D/s relationships that exist anywhere in between.

D/s vs Vanilla Relationships

The main difference between a traditional “vanilla” relationship and a D/s one is that the roles are clearly defined and established. There is one partner who is dominant, and the other submissive, and the sub has explicitly agreed to give over the control to her dominant partner. It is important to note that D/s relationships are consensual. It is not about a partner seizing control. A sub gives consent to enter into a formal D/s dynamic, and the Dom agrees to accept that role. Without consent, it would be an abusive relationship.

Types of Dom and Sub relationships

There are different types of D/s relationships:


In a typical D/s relationship, the submissive agrees to give a certain level of control to the Dominant. The sub may retain power in other areas of her life, such as finances, career, and family/friend relationships. In areas controlled by the Dom, such as daily routines, how free time is spent, and when to self-pleasure, the sub may be permitted to express her opinion, although the final decision will be up to the Dom.

A Master/slave relationship takes D/s much further. A slave does not have any personal autonomy and the Master has all the power and control. The slave is not permitted to own anything, as everything, including the slave, belongs to the Master. The Master and slave establish a slave contract, typically in writing, before beginning their M/s dynamic. The slave agrees to give up all freedom and autonomy in exchange for the Master caring for her. Some Masters may choose to permit their slave to express an opinion when asked for one. Other M/s dynamics would forbid this.

In an M/s relationship, there is no safe word or hard and soft limits. The slave puts her trust in her Master to know where the limits are. The Master has control over the slave's finances and career, choice of clothing, diet, and other aspects of day-to-day living, and has the power to use the slave whenever and however sexually.

TPE – Total Power Exchange

A TPE relationship is exactly as it sounds, a Total Power Exchange. Power is consensually exchanged from the sub to the Dom, who then retains control over the sub. This may or may not involve the relinquishment of safe words and/or limits. Sometimes limits are retained, but safe words are relinquished.

TPE is a relationship dynamic. Whereas some practice D/s within a BDSM only and the exchange of power does not continue outside the parameters of play, those who practice TPE retain the power exchange outside of these scenes, in their everyday lives. Another term people use for TPE is “24/7”.

CNC - Consensual Non-Consent

Having a D/s dynamic that incorporates CNC is similar to TPE, in that the Dominant has the power to do what they want with their submissive without having to seek explicit consent before doing the thing. However, this blanket consent is still within the limits set by the submissive, and the use of safe words is permitted. For example, a Dom may decide they want to whip their sub tonight. Whipping is not on the sub's hard limit list. Therefore, the Dom goes forth and whips his sub, without having to seek consent first, since they have previously been given CNC by their sub. During this particular whipping scene, maybe the sub reaches her limit and decides to use her safe word. The scene stops.


Findom, or financial domination, is a type of D/s in which the submissive gives gifts and money to a financial Dominant. The relationship may be accompanied by other BDSM practices, but there is no expectation that the submissive will receive anything in exchange for their financial contributions. This differs from a Sugar Daddy/Baby relationship, in which the sugar daddy offers gifts and money in return for a relationship, generally without any explicit elements of domination. Some Findom dynamics involve the sub giving their Dom open access to the sub’s bank accounts or credit cards. Others involve the sub taking their Dom shopping. However, it is not uncommon for a Findom relationship to take place entirely online, with the Dom and sub never meeting in real life.


Femdom refers to “Female Domination” and is a D/s relationship wherein the Dom is female (often spelled Domme to denote the feminine). The sub is quite often male, although there are certainly many Femdom relationships where the sub is also female or trans. In the traditional sense, Femdom incorporates the sissification or feminization of the male sub by the Domme, either long term or temporarily. This may be done using clothing, make up, hormone pills, forced bisexuality, etc. The main purpose of this is typically to humiliate the sub and to reinforce that the Domme is the one in complete control. However, this is not a prerequisite for Femdom. Many Dommes prefer that their sub retain their masculinity.

DD/lg – Daddy Dom/little girl

Although DD/lg is the more common title used for this type of D/s dynamic, a more all-encompassing term is Caregiver/little. This type of D/s relationship includes a Dominant whose role is that of a parental authority figure, and a submissive who is childlike in their submission. The Caregiver Dom (aka Daddy or Mommy), establishes rules and punishments for their sub, typical of a D/s relationship. But there is often an element of role-playing in this dynamic, that has the Dom acting like a parent over the sub, who assumes a younger persona. There are many misconceptions attached to this particular D/s dynamic and the reader is encouraged to explore further into this realm before making judgments.

The Appeal of a D/s Relationship

When a vanilla person (someone who does not practice BDSM) comes across D/s, they are often perplexed and wonder why would someone choose to engage in this lifestyle, what do they get out of it? Well, to put it simply, for a person who enjoys control, who takes pleasure in having power, and who finds fulfillment in being a leader, these needs are met through assuming the Dominant role in a D/s relationship. For a person who is uneasy making decisions, who may be dominant in a stressful career and wants to come home and not have to make any decisions, who finds fulfillment in pleasing and serving their partner, these needs are met through their submissive role. When dominance or submission is linked to someone’s sexuality, they achieve sexual fulfillment from this kind of relationship.

Myths About D/s

D/s relationships are abusive.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about D/s and the Dominants who govern them. Yes, there are Doms who use their power to abuse their partner, be it mentally, physically, financially, etc. However, domestic abuse exists in all cultures, races, lifestyles, etc. and this maltreatment is not condoned in D/s. The cornerstone of D/s is consent. Without the consent and willing participation of the submissive, the relationship does not constitute a D/s dynamic. In other words, remove consent from the relationship and it is no longer a D/s one, it is an abusive one.

D/s is all about whips and chains.

Dominance and submission fall under the umbrella of BDSM. However, it does not mean that all D/s relationships involve sadomasochism. Some Dominants are sadists and some submissives are masochists. For them, their D/s will often involve the giving and receiving of pain, in order to meet their respective needs. For others who are not, there may be no pain, or pain may only be reserved for punishment purposes (i.e., spanking, kneeling on rice, etc.) if this is agreed upon by both parties.

D/s is just kinky sex.

For many who are attracted to the D/s lifestyle, their Dominance and submission are linked to their sexuality. Therefore, they are sexually aroused by being dominated (sub) or by having power over another (Dom). These D/s relationships very likely involve sex and often include kinks, such as being tied up, choked, and/or hurt during sex, cucking, etc.

For others, D/s is not sexual. Some submissives find deep fulfillment in service without any sex, including serving domestically, cleaning, doing yard work, driving their Dom around, etc. Some Doms get a thrill from empowerment and having control over a sub, but this thrill does not equate to a sexual one.

If it’s not 24/7, it’s not “true” D/s.

This is a debate that often pops up among BDSM lovers. Some believe a Dom/sub couple must be practicing D/s in their relationship 24/7 in order to qualify as “true” D/s. Those who believe this are often proponents of “the One True Way”, meaning if you do not do D/s “their way”, your relationship does not qualify as D/s.

This simply is not correct. In fact, the majority of D/s dynamics are not practiced 24/7, for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just not practical for the couple. Some may choose to practice D/s in the bedroom only, where the Dom has all the control sexually, but this control does not extend to other areas of the sub’s life. Some only practice their D/s roles when they are physically together. This may be the case in some long-distance relationships, where the Dom takes control when they are together, but when apart the sub has complete autonomy for themselves. In any case, 24/7 is not what makes a D/s relationship. It is the roles that each participant takes on within that relationship.

Dom and sub Rules

For the D/s specific relationship, rules must be established for everything to work properly, so that each participant is getting what they need in order to be satisfied and fulfilled. However, there are no set rules that work across the board for every Dom and sub. Rules are established based on what works for the particular couple. Therefore, consider the following list of rules as examples, and not "must-haves" for a D/s relationship:

There are several reasons for establishing rules within a D/s relationship:

Many D/s dynamics include protocols, which some confuse with rules, because of the expectation to comply. Protocols are rituals that are established to help reinforce each other’s role within the relationship. They can also be the prescribed way in which some rules are followed. Some examples:

How to Start a D/s Relationship?

Although it is more challenging to start a D/s relationship within an existing vanilla one, it is not impossible. However, success hinges on whether both parties share the same desire and motivation to make the switch. It takes a lot of work, patience, communication, and research to convert your current relationship to a D/s one, and you both need to be equally dedicated to making it happen.

Whether you are a vanilla couple wanting to develop a D/s dynamic, or you are single and looking for one, the first thing to do is research. Read all you can on D/s and build your knowledge. Talk to different Doms and subs, either online or by attending a local munch in your area. Some locals hold D/s workshops where the fundamentals are taught. Some suggested topics to research are: sub frenzy, sub and Dom drop, subspace, D/s contracts.

Although you are excited to begin, do not jump into a D/s dynamic with the first Dom or sub you meet, in your eagerness to have one. Just as you would with a vanilla relationship, take time to get to know one another and to build trust, before agreeing to be in a dynamic. Trust is crucial when you are giving control of your body and mind to another person! If you can, vet the person. Ask others in the community whether there have been any complaints made against them for consent violations or inappropriate behavior, and what their reputation is.

Once you have found a potential Dom or sub and built trust between you (or in the case of an existing relationship, you are both on board with adding D/s), the next step is to negotiate the relationship. Both of you must talk about what your needs, wants, and desires are. Discuss limits, both hard and soft. Disclose the existence of any physical or mental health issues. Establish very clear rules and expectations, understanding that these will likely change over time. You may decide to put all of this into a written contract. Decide upon a time frame to reassess where things are at, such as in a month or three months.

FAQs About D/s

Can a Dom be monogamous?

Yes, a Dom can absolutely be monogamous. Being polyamorous does not make someone more of a Dom. Whether someone is poly or mono is in no way affected or dictated by whether they are Dominant or submissive. Some Doms are monogamous, and some are poly. Some subs are monogamous and some are poly as well.

Can two subs be in a relationship together?

Two submissives can be in a relationship together and there are various ways for each to have their submissive needs met. For example, they may have additional relationships that include D/s, either with a shared Dom, or each with a Dom of their own. These alternate relationships may or may not be sexual. It would be important to discuss expectations ahead of time and to continue to communicate. They may decide a valid way to get their needs met would be to pay a pro-Dom for sessions, either together or individually. If the couple does not wish to incorporate anyone else, they may decide to take turns switching. One may be dominant over the other for a certain period, and then the roles would be reversed. The bottom line is that it is possible, but it requires creativity and open communication.

What does a Dom look for in a sub, and vice versa?

There is no list of criteria when looking for a Dom or sub. Whether or not a Dom and sub will be compatible is based on many factors, such as personal preferences, attraction, commonalities (including common fetishes), and chemistry.

Can a Dom fall in love?

Yes, of course, a Dom can fall in love. In fact, many Dominants prefer a sub who gives their submission out of love, rather than intimidation, and they themselves will often dominate from a place of love and caring.

How do you spot a fake Dom and what are some common red flags?

There are many good Dominants out there, but there are some fake ones too. A fake Dom is usually someone who calls themselves a Dom because they think it will get them more sex. They don’t have the desire or ability to be a responsible Dom, leading a healthy D/s relationship. These are some common red flags to watch for in spotting a fake Dom:

The immediate use of pet names or honorifics. Calling a potential sub “kitten”, “slut”, or “princess”, and referring to himself or insisting he be called “Daddy” or “Master”, when a relationship has yet to be established.

They ask for money or gifts from the sub, or demand this as a form of tribute. They might ask for money for a plane ticket to visit. The sub is always be expected to pay for dinner. They may coerce or outright demand money as proof of the sub’s willingness to submit. These occur when the relationship is not an established Findom dynamic.

Focuses only on sex. Asking for nudes or sexual tasks right from the beginning. Ignoring a sub’s other needs. Sending unsolicited photos of their genitalia from the beginning.

Uses intimidation and isolation. Keeping a sub from her family and friends. Forbidding her from talking about their dynamic with other lifestyle friends. Telling the sub that she is not a “real” sub if she refuses to go beyond her limits.

Not respecting safe words. If your Dom does not stop when you use your safe word, or makes you feel guilty or bad for using them and “ruining the scene”, RUN, don’t walk, to the nearest exit and never look back.

Provides no aftercare.

Possesses little to no knowledge of D/s basics, such as “Safe, Sane and Consensual” play or RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink), sub drop, subspace, consent.

A poor communicator.

Easily offended. The Dom does not allow or becomes angry, when a sub expresses something negative, rather than allowing open, honest communication when issues arise.

Lose control over their emotions. Yells at, hits, or calls the sub names out of anger or frustration. A Dom's job is to be in control. If they can not even control their own emotions or reactions, they are not Dominants.

Final Thought

A D/s dynamic can be the most fulfilling and satisfying type of relationship one will ever have. This is particularly true when the Dom and sub understand, and can effectively communicate, what their needs are. Don’t be put off by BDSM porn. It is unrealistic and not a true reflection of the mutual care and respect inherent in a real D/s relationship.