6 First Steps to Becoming a Great Submissive in a Dom/sub Relationship (In-depth Guide)

6 first steps for subs - a submissive guide

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So you think you want to be a submissive, and you have found someone to be your Dominant. Perhaps the Dominant is your existing partner or someone you hit things off with at a kinky event. 

Congratulations! I know it can be very exhilarating. 

However, there are some invaluable first steps to take as a beginner submissive in a new D/s dynamic prior to engaging in BDSM play with another person.

I recommend you work through the 6 steps in this submissive guide BEFORE you submit to your Dominant for the first time. 

If you are reading this guide, I assume you at least have a basic understanding of the workings of D/s relationships and what they entail. If you find your knowledge of D/s dynamics needing a refresh, don’t fret! Chief has written some helpful guides for you. 

But no matter your kinky education level, your journey into BDSM can greatly benefit from a bit of self-reflection of your own submission and how it applies to your relationship. 

Following the 6 steps outlined will enable the beginner submissive to establish and maintain a fulfilling (and safe) D/s dynamic, both inside and out of the bedroom.

So go ahead, grab a fresh notebook and a hot beverage of choice to work through the following steps at your own pace. There are no right or wrong answers; this exercise is purely for your benefit as a new submissive. 

Consider it your first submissive assignment (gold star upon successful completion)! 

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A submissive guide: Your first 6 steps

Step 1: Know why you want to submit

These questions may sound simple at first. However, their answers are fundamental in determining the direction of your D/s dynamic. 

The Art of Submission. A course for beginner submissives
  • Does acting submissive arouse you? Would it satisfy an emotional desire through the polarity of dominance exhibited by your partner? 
  • Will your submission be purely sexual and tied to the bedroom? Or would it spill over with your Dominant and yourself engaging in psychological power play outside the bedroom?
  • Do you know what type of submissive you are? How deep does your desire to submit go? 

Suppose you know what you want to get out of your submission before you submit to a Dominant. In that case, you can focus on specific aspects of your D/s relationship that satisfies your needs as a new submissive (fulfilling a core desire, adding variety to your sex life or something in between).

See also: Why Would a Woman Want to Be a Submissive

Step 2: Know your boundaries

  • What behaviours are acceptable to you, both from yourself and your partner? 

As a beginner submissive, it is essential to understand your own personal boundaries before you submit to a Dominant and engage in BDSM play.

In BDSM relationships that emphasise Dominance and submission, negotiating personal boundaries is crucial for fostering a healthy relationship built on trust and consent.

I define personal boundaries as accepted parameters you choose to uphold through your own actions and interactions with others

Silva Neves, a qualified psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist, defines a personal boundary as “the line between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in relationships with others, with romantic and sexual partners and also with friends, family members, and peers.” (Read Gigi Engle’s full article for more information about Implicit and Explicit Sexual Boundaries)

Some general examples of personal boundaries (of varying levels of severity): 

  • the way you dress or behave in public;
  • what you consider appropriate topics of conversation amongst close friends versus work colleagues; 
  • how much money you justify spending on a hot beverage.

My own boundaries for the examples above: 

  • fairly conservatively, with red lipstick permitted only after 7 pm; 
  • no mention of BDSM within earshot of my mother; 
  • £3.30 max and never from corporate big-bucks, unless it’s truly the only option when travelling.

As you can probably tell from the above examples, personal boundaries can fluctuate depending on specific circumstances. 

They operate as a sort of implicit ‘bubble of protection’ — or comfort zone — in which an individual chooses to act, rather than an explicit Hard Limit that you refuse to cross. (I will discuss Limits in Step 3.)

Often, external factors such as social norms and cultural beliefs influence personal boundaries, as well as individual preferences.

So you can think of personal boundaries as your own general code of conduct based on your social upbringing, ethical principles and sense of morality.

In a BDSM context, then, some examples of personal boundaries may include:

  • When and where you feel comfortable engaging in D/s play;
  • What forms of address, if any, you enjoy being called during sex;
  • Acting out specific taboo roleplay scenarios. 

However, the common trait of all personal boundaries is their relative flexibility as parametric constraints you choose to implement on yourself.

As a beginner submissive, knowing where you stand on specific actions and behaviours outside of your D/s dynamic will help you better judge whether you want to participate in BDSM activities that may challenge your boundaries. 

Ideally, you should do this before engaging in BDSM play, outside your partner’s influence or the impairment of arousal. Like being under the influence of alcohol, excitation and arousal can lower our inhibitions, where we might behave in a way we wouldn’t typically outside of play. 

The inherent power imbalance of a D/s dynamic may further amplify this effect, where the submissive might feel tempted to satisfy their Dominant at the expense of crossing their own boundaries. 

Thus, having a clear understanding of your personal boundaries before you engage in D/s play will reduce any pressure you feel when discussing those boundaries with your Dominant.

Take note: I said when discussing boundaries, not if

In healthy BDSM play, communicating personal boundaries with your partner should feature in your pre-scene negotiations and when establishing a BDSM contract. (I will further discuss communication and negotiations in Step 4.)

Additionally, responsible BDSM relationships frequently discuss personal boundaries as boundaries can (and do) change over time, depending on mood or circumstances. 

Consequently, it is essential to frequently reevaluate your boundaries to maintain integrity within your D/s relationship. 

Your interactions with your Dominant will be more satisfying by clearly establishing where your boundaries lie from the very beginning. And you can relax more fully into your submission knowing your partner will respect your personal boundaries. 

Step 3: Know your limits

  • What are your limits? Where do you draw the line? 
  • What actions do you refuse to take part in? Do you know why?

As a new submissive in a D/s dynamic, it is vital for your safety that you know what your limits are and that you communicate those limits to your Dominant before you submit to them for the first time. 

“But wait,” I can hear you asking, “what is the difference between limits and boundaries? Are they not the same thing?”

It’s true that most people, including myself, will utilise the two concepts synonymously in everyday speech. The distinction between personal boundaries and limits may seem subtle (and even pointless to discuss).

However, there is an important difference between limits and boundaries, certainly when discussed in the framework of BDSM play. That difference comes down to ideas of safety and harm reduction.

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Unlike personal boundaries, I define limits as protective restrictions imposed upon actions and behaviours, in which actions are expressly prohibited or hardly tolerable in exploration during play

Think of limits as tethered leads with only so much give before they restrain you from any further action. With limits, there is an obvious extent to your reach capability. 

Standard sexual limits include activities with an inherent risk factor that impact a person’s sense of safety or wellbeing; trigger phobic or psychosomatic reactions; or bring up past trauma for the individual.

Any further exploration beyond that point could cause distress or injury to the individual with that limitation.

For instance, a generic limit may be your physical flexibility. No matter how flexible you are, if someone were to push you past your flexibility limit, it would result in injury. 

Some examples of sexual limits may include:

  • who you play with;
  • what activities you perform;
  • certain sexual positions (in bondage or otherwise);
  • what toys you use;
  • chosen contraceptive and barrier methods, etc.

In sexual exploration and BDSM play, limits are often, though not always, restrictions to physical activities that might be seen as ‘extreme’ such as heavy impact play, choking, electrostimulation, needle play, fisting, body-fluid play, etc. 

Likewise, sexual limits need not be confined to physical activities. Sexual limits can include aspects of psychological or emotional play you find repellent or hurtful, perhaps due to past trauma (such as bullying, systemic oppression or abuse). Examples of psychological limits could be degradation, humiliation, non-monogamy, raceplay or consensual non-consent.

Accordingly, crossing someone’s limits can cause harm beyond the physical and includes emotional or psychological distress. 

In this sense, you may regard the consequence of crossing someone’s limits in BDSM play as typically more severe than pushing someone’s boundaries. The result of which could be an irreparably fractured relationship. 

Note that, ultimately, the difference between whether you classify something as either a personal boundary or a limit is less significant than making clear to your partner your restrictions for behaviours and actions in any sense.

However, I would argue that it is still beneficial to try and understand the rationale behind your reluctance to do something. 

What is it about a particular activity that puts you off? Is there a ‘yuck’ factor involved, or does it play psychological games with what you consider normal, okay or taboo in a relationship or even your social role? 

If you can pinpoint the source and strength of your aversion, you can feel more confident in asserting your limits and boundaries when establishing a BDSM contract and negotiating a scene.

What if you don’t know your limits?

As a new submissive exploring Dominance and submission for the first time, you may not be aware of all your limits before you play. 

This unfamiliarity might especially be true if you haven’t had any experience with a specific activity. It might also be the case that certain activities make you feel wary or hesitant due to past experiences that were less than ideal.

It is normal to feel trepidation when faced with new sexual experiences in BDSM play or even with activities you have experienced before!

If you are unsure about any activity, you should voice your concerns and apprehensions with your Dominant.

You may deem certain activities entirely out of the question for play and non-negotiable. This sentiment is completely normal, and you are by no means obligated to justify any of your limits to your play partner/s. 

Other activities may leave you with a feeling of cautious curiosity or contain some aspect that prevents you from feeling entirely on board with the idea. 

In a safe environment, these activities might be tentatively and carefully explored within a pre-negotiated scene to determine whether or not you might enjoy them in specific circumstances. 

Hard limits vs soft limits

Because of this distinction, in the BDSM world, we often describe limits as being ‘soft limits’ or ‘hard limits’. The difference between hard and soft limits is the degree of restriction given to the specific action:

  • a Hard Limit is a firm NO. It is generally understood as being 100% prohibited, without any flexibility toward performing that action.
  • a Soft Limit is a Maybe, but most likely not (and caveat attached). It is almost entirely prohibited, with any potential exploration of said action only possible after very detailed pre-scene negotiations, under specific circumstances, and with explicit consent from the individuals involved.

As a beginner submissive, it is important to establish your firm No’s and differentiate those hard limits from possible Maybe activities (your soft limits). 

Any potential soft limits should be discussed with your partner before BDSM play to guarantee you are both on the same page about that limit’s attached stipulations.

In a responsible D/s dynamic, it is possible to safely explore unknown kinky or sexual experiences when your partner can assure you that they will honour your limits. That means respectfully backing off when you call out your safeword if they inadvertently press your limits during BDSM play.

Remember: if your partner purposefully breaches your limits, you have legitimate grounds for safewording, ending the scene, and potentially ending all interactions. Ignoring or making light of someone’s limits is a sign of an abusive relationship. 

A respectful partner will honour your limits and personal boundaries.

Step 4: Communicate with your partner

The most fulfilling and pleasurable D/s dynamics are founded on open communication, enthusiastic consent, respect and respectful curiosity for each other’s kinky desires. 

  • Do you communicate openly and honestly with your Dominant?
  • Do you feel able to share ideas and feelings with your partner and voice contrary opinions or concerns you may have with them?

If you answered No to either question, I urge you to rethink participating in any BDSM play or initiating any Dom sub dynamic until you can answer Yes.

Not only will this help cultivate a healthy D/s relationship outside the bedroom, but communicating openly with your partner can also lead to better sex with expert communication.

Arguably it is extra important for a new submissive entering into a D/s dynamic that you communicate your needs and desires with your Dominant. That way, you can ensure your emotional well-being and safety in a relationship that already hinges on an unequal balance of power.

  • Have you discussed your relationship dynamic with your Dominant in detail? Have you set up a BDSM contract that you both agree on? 
  • Have you shared your kinky desires with your partner?

It can feel intimidating to discuss your fantasies and kinks with your partner, especially when establishing a new Dom sub dynamic.  

In a relationship based on trust and respect, you should feel encouraged by your partner to share your desires without worry. 

(Learn how to talk to a partner about your kinky desires without fear)

It is okay to feel nervous in conversations where you feel vulnerable. However, discomfort should not discourage you from having these necessary conversations with your Dominant.

  • Have you established a safeword with your Dominant?
  • Have you filled out a sex menu and shared that with your partner? 

(Download our Free Sex Menu Template with over 350 kinky sex acts to discuss and rate with your partner)

Consent is the cornerstone of a responsible BDSM dynamic. I cannot stress enough the importance of establishing unambiguous consent in a Dom sub relationship that engages in power play.

If you do not commit to honest communication with your partner, you risk getting hurt — emotionally or otherwise. It is the mutual responsibility of you and your partner to establish explicit consent in your dynamic by communicating openly with each other. 

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Ideally, consent should be given enthusiastically and frequently reaffirmed to minimise any risk involved with BDSM. 

D/s dynamics encourage consensual practices by both negotiating BDSM scenes prior to play and implementing check-ins and safewords during BDSM scenes. 

When entering into any D/s dynamic (whether that be a one-time play partner or a long term relationship), your initial BDSM negotiations should include the following:

  • Kinks and desired fantasies
  • Activity limitations
  • Setting
  • Time duration
  • Allergies and health issues
  • Safety parameters
  • Aftercare protocols
  • Personal boundaries
  • Hard and soft limits
  • Safewords

Negotiating your dynamic before you submit for the first time ensures the mutual agreement of permitted activities. It also makes certain that both submissive and Dominant clearly understand what their D/s play may involve.

Part of the thrill of engaging in a D/s dynamic as a beginner submissive is having your Dominant challenge you with activities or demands that you may be slightly unsure of. Add a layer of punishments, if your dynamic includes them, and suddenly the issue of consent becomes all the more tricky. 

This is why filling out a sex menu is crucial before engaging in BDSM play. 

This is also why it is essential to establish a safeword with your partner. That way, you know that you have a clear Out for any play you no longer wish to proceed in. 

Additionally, safewords and frequent check-ins during play ensure that consent, along with the safety and comfort of both Dominant and submissive, is upheld at all times.

Your and your partner’s mutual responsibility is to know what actions and behaviours you have agreed to before engaging in any BDSM play. 

Healthy Dom sub relationships will make an effort to incorporate explicit, reaffirmed and enthusiastic consent as a regular part of communication within the dynamic.

Know what consent looks like, and learn what consent is not. Betty Martin’s book The Art of Receiving and Giving: The Wheel of Consent and accompanying video lessons explaining The Wheel of Consent is an excellent place to start!

Step 5: Set realistic expectations

As unfortunate as it may be, we do not live in a BDSM alternative universe, the likes of which are portrayed in erotic media. 

There is no better way to set yourself up for disappointment and potentially get yourself emotionally or physically hurt than by believing you can recreate the steamy, dark romantic drama you see in porn or read about in BDSM fiction.

My intent is not to dissuade you from creating the D/s dynamic of your dreams; the opposite, in fact! 

Writing as a fellow submissive myself, I want you to wholly enjoy and benefit from your relationship as a new submissive. 

I believe the best way to do so is to adopt a pragmatic approach to your Dom sub dynamic. 

As a new submissive, it is important to manage your expectations when initiating a new D/s dynamic. When you understand the difference between fantasy and reality, you can engage in rewarding and pleasurable D/s relationships in real life.

Thankfully, fulfilling relationships founded on principles of Dominance and submission are not limited to fiction; I hope this submissive guide has illustrated as much!

  • What do you imagine the ideal Dom sub relationship should look like?
  • Do your visions for your dynamic align with that of your partner? Does it matter if they differ?

If you have specific aspirations for your relationship, you will have to put in the effort yourself and collaborate with your partner to achieve those goals. Healthy Dom sub relationships, like any relationship, take active work to maintain. 

Like any relationship, there will be hurdles and hiccups to overcome. You and your partner will constantly learn, revise, and renegotiate as you progress in your dynamic. 

  • Which aspects of BDSM do you consider most essential to maintain in your dynamic?
  • What areas of your dynamic would you be willing to compromise to benefit your overall relationship?

Just because you may operate your relationship differently from a ‘typical’ vanilla relationship does not mean that the typical relationship challenges disappear. It is silly to think anything otherwise. 

Your Dominant may be in charge of some aspects of your dynamic, but that does not absolve you, as a submissive, from typical relationship responsibilities.

Though the role you play in your dynamic may be that of a submissive, at the end of the day, you are still an adult with adult responsibilities in maintaining a healthy relationship.

On that note, you must learn to be patient with yourself, your Dominant, and the progress of your dynamic.

The reality of participating in a real-life D/s relationship is that real-life will inevitably get in the way of your dynamic. 

There will undoubtedly be circumstances that crop up and disrupt your playtime, from unexpected work engagements to family responsibilities to unforeseen illnesses.

Realise that there will be times when you have to PAUSE your dynamic. With patience and understanding, you can better prepare yourself for the unavoidable without it spoiling what games you have built up with your Dominant. 

Step 6: Learn from your experiences

  • What areas of your relationship can you improve on?
  • Where do you want your journey in BDSM to take you?
  • Do you have an end goal in sight as a submissive, or with your dynamic in general? How do you assume you’ll get there?

Throughout your journey in BDSM, I encourage you to document your adventures, such as by keeping a journal. 

In your journal, you can include:

  • Your kinky desires, personal boundaries and limits;
  • Updated BDSM test results and evolving sex menu responses;
  • Your BDSM contract and scene negotiations;
  • Questions or concerns to discuss with your partner;
  • Memories of scenes you play out with your Dominant;
  • Ideas for future scenes you’re curious to try;
  • Detailed fantasies you’re keen to explore.

Although this isn’t a necessary step before submitting to a Dominant for the first time, as a new submissive, it can be very beneficial to document your progress and understanding of your submission and see how that changes over time. 

By recording your thoughts and feelings as you progress in your D/s dynamic, you can watch the evolution of your submission, notice areas of personal development, and spot elements of your relationship you may wish to improve.

And if you have been working through the reflective questions included in this submissive guide, you’ve already made a good start! (sneaky me 😉)

Concluding this submissive guide

Congratulations on working through these 6 steps for the beginner submissive! Here is a gold star just for you! 🌟

I hope you can now proceed in your BDSM journey with a better understanding of why you want to submit, your personal boundaries and your limits. 

Additionally I hope this submissive guide has emphasised the importance of open communication and setting realistic expectations within your D/s dynamic.

I believe it is possible to experience a healthy and fulfilling Dom sub dynamic if both you and your partner put in the work necessary to make it so. 

You can feel deeply satisfied and empowered as a new submissive in a D/s dynamic by ensuring you meet your kinky desires whilst maintaining a safe and respectful relationship. 

A parting question for you:

  • Working through this guide, do you feel more confident in your role as a submissive? What further questions do you have about submission?

I invite you to leave a comment below with any questions about your role as a submissive or how Dom sub dynamics operate in general. We would love to hear from you!

Finally, check out the The Art of Submission, a learn at your own pace digital course designed for people who want to explore their submissive side!

The Art of Submission. A course for beginner submissives
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Ma’am, you are very eloquent and insightful. This has truly helped me, and calmed some of my worries. Appreciate you and Chief giving so much guidance, and safety tips!!