Red Flags in BDSM for Dominants and submissives

Jamie is 24, relatively new to the BDSM community. Expressing a desire to become slave in order to explore a long term power exchange, he bemoans the struggle of finding guys looking for something similar. His experience is primarily sexual servitude, which leaves him wanting more.

Most dating apps seem designed to favour the casual hookup. That’s great. But what if you want more? The simple answer is: be brave. Go out there into the community and find what you’re looking for by establishing connections in the real world. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.

If your only answer right now is looking for something online your first job is to establish what it is you are looking before establishing your why. We are all out there looking for our own thing, which can be frustrating, even daunting. But it’s important to remember that Doms and Subs are more complex than the stale, immovable, and two-dimensional fantasy that we start out with in our heads.

During the early stages of conversation, you should take time time to look for signs (red flags) of unhealthy behaviour – vital in considering a power exchange where the risk to our wellbeing is heightened. Once you have established what you want, it’s important to get to the root of what your potential play/life partners want.

Too much too early or stuck in la-la-land?

Some are satisfied with the role-play aspect of BDSM. Dipping one’s toe in the water now and again can enrich an entire life without it speaking to who you are day to day.

Newcomers often assume role-play to be the primary vehicle for a D/s dynamic to function. I call instant bullshit on that. If you are to establish a long term relationship, anything close to a Total Power Exchange, the role-play will enhance sessions now and again, but it won’t work 24/7. A common misunderstanding, proliferated by the pathologising of kink is that one uses a power exchange as a means of hiding, escaping life. In my opinion, it does the opposite. A power exchange forces you to confront yourself on many levels. There is no escape.

At first Jamie was satisfied with the casual role-play tinged encounter with various Masters, Daddies, Sirs etc. But he evolved, he now wanted something extra. He wanted a full time experience. He got frustrated sifting through those stuck in a fantasy – no hint to any character they may exhibit beyond the Dom.

There are multiple types of role-play heavy Doms AND subs out there:

Daytrippers

Those that are looking for a casual escape, be it on a regular basis or just a one-off encounter now and again. Absolutely a legitimate way to explore BDSM, but a minority of these types can be quick to assume that this is the norm for everyone in BDSM.

Binary Thinkers

They see the world of power exchange as completely binary. New Doms (my younger self included) often fall into the trap of thinking they have to command a room with agressive authority at all times lest they be cast off their Dom throne. New subs automatically dehumanise themselves, because they have a very stale image of what a Master is. Some Masters manage a stable of dehumanised slaves in a very mutual and healthy way, but it’s not everyone’s M.O.

These two types are relatively harmless. It’s also important to remember that their approach to BDSM is no less worthy than those of us looking for 24/7. I would only suggest that some read a fucking profile now and again. However, I should imagine some of us lifestyle Master/slaves are guilty of skipping over details now and again.

Abusers

Abusers operate in kink communities by using the trappings of BDSM to satisfy their need to manipulate and abuse others.

Manipulation is a tough one when it comes to red flags – it deserves an entire blog post of its own. Any good Master must be somewhat skilled in manipulation in order to get a slave where they need it to be. But there are those who use it to abuse only.

And it’s these types that, should the red flags start to tot up, be a little easier to spot. One or two red flags is not necessarily anything to worry about, but the more you find, the more cautious you perhaps need to be. Sometimes they speak to confidence issues coming from inexperience or bad experience. That’s fine. As long as your confident enough to get to the bottom of it and work with it.

Red flags can go from slight to extreme. So let’s look at a few that apply directly to establishing a relationship online.

Red flag: No name, no solid places, no pertinent details

Jamie’s last experience was meeting a Dominant online. The Dom insisted on being called Master from the get go (a red flag in itself sometimes). Only in retrospect did Jamie realise that his ‘Master’ had never revealed any biographical details about himself throughout the course of their dialogue.

‘Master’ explained to Jamie that he would spend the next couple of weeks assessing him through a series of FaceTime chats and phone conversations. Perfectly reasonable – they lived quite a distance from each other.

Jamie was honest and upfront about his intention of seeking a Master for an eventual 24/7 power exchange. ‘Master’ implied he was looking for the same thing. It didn’t occur to Jamie at this point that ‘Master’ had neither offered any detail about his life – not even a first name – and also hadn’t asked Jamie for any details beyond the size of his cock (yes, you can see where this is going).

Whether I am looking for general conversation or potential slaves, I always start with the basics. I want to establish a picture of who I’m talking to – name, occupation, relationship status, interests, hobbies. And I give what I get.

A lot of Doms will be familiar with this conversation:

Dominant: so tell me about yourself. what do you like to do in your spare time, what are your hobbies?

Submissive: i am slave. i don’t have hobbies. i am a blank slate, ready to receive your wisdom, sir.

Dominant: that’s delightful, but what do you do in your spare time?

Submissive: a slave doesn’t have spare time

Dominant: No really? What do you enjoy?

Submissive: enjoy, sir? please explain such an alien concept to it

If this submissive is looking for a casual role-play I can direct him to my profile and clear up any confusion. If he’s looking for something more? Beyond what one could translate as an authentic eagerness, this kind of talk tells me that the sub may not be confident enough in themselves to become a full time slave. He is hiding behind a role. Confidence is key to a good slave. This particular submissive went on to express a wish to be dehumanised. I pointed out that he’d done a pretty good job of that himself, so what does he need me for.

Red flags aren’t always about signs of danger and risk, this one is relatively harmless and indicates how much work a Master may have in building up a potential slave, should they want the challenge.

A lack of simple details doesn’t bode well for potential 24/7. Both Dominant and submissive need to get to know each other on a personal level. The simple details are only the beginning of what any mainstream couple would do when starting out – discovering relationship history, talking about family life, hopes and dreams for the future – everything.

Red flag: ignorant of Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC)

During the first few sessions on camera between Jamie and his ‘Master’, things started out quite casual. Jamie was aroused and excited for his prospects. He intuited that the Master was a very powerful individual. He had no time for a submissive’s limits. As far as he was concerned a true submissive should have no limits. He went on to teach Jamie some basic slave positions – a begging pose, a worshipping pose, the usual.

During the third session, Jamie asked about safewords. ‘Master’ got very angry, he ‘lost his shit’. Jamie was deeply ashamed of himself. He thought that this is what a true slave must feel like when it offends its Master. The ‘Master’ ceased all contact for 24 hours before calling Jamie at work. He demanded that if Jamie were to be eventually accepted that he should leave work immediately, get home, strip naked, and be ready to please his ‘Master’.

No negotiation around safe language and a desire for no limits is just a no go for me. It’s unrealistic, dangerous, and has the potential to lead to serious physical and/or mental harm.

‘You’re not a real sub if you have limits’ is one from the tired playbook. And then the sheer volume of subs that validate this ridiculous idea by saying ‘I have no limits. A submissive shouldn’t have limits.’ Yes you should. You’re a human being. We all have limits. Hard limits. Soft limits. Limits placed on things we haven’t tried and limits suddenly brought into force because something we once enjoyed is no longer enjoyable. The reddest of red flags.

It tells me that they either have little experience and/or they are not of sound mind. If you don’t have much experience try being honest about it. When asked about limits, tell whoever it is you are getting to know that you haven’t done enough to establish many limits yet.

Arguments against SSC come from the mouths of potential or actual abusers. Not Masters. Not slaves. No legitimate Doms or subs. We have a code of ethics including negotiation, contracts, aftercare to ensure we are not crossing a line from power exchange to abuse. Even in a Total Power Exchange, blanket consent is only ever used after establishing a strong bond of trust. To do it any sooner: is that really worth risking your physical and mental wellbeing? If the answer is yes, then surely you need to examine why you are putting yourself in these situations.

The necessity for safe language and limits does indeed change somewhat during the course of a long term power exchange. With my owned slaves, I can read them like a book. There comes a time in a relationship where you just know what the other person is feeling. You know through all sorts of tells – body language, breathing, eye contact – a lot more than just words. And with limits, you can indeed get to a point in a Master and slave dynamic where, through careful negotiation and a sense of mutual exploration, you can consensually begin pushing against the harder limits. But doing this with someone you hardly know, if at all, is just not worth the risk.

Red flag: extreme acts

Jamie did as he was told. He was just happy he hadn’t fucked things up completely. Over the next couple of weeks, the sessions carried on as normal. Jamie accepted that he had wronged his Master and followed latter instructions to a T.

Jamie did balk at one point. ‘Master’ told him when he was fully owned, there would seldom be time for Jamie to visit family. He would decide when and if his slaves were to see their loved ones. Though this seemed harsh, the potential slave kept thinking he had come too far to let this one go. So he carried on. Maybe it’s something they could compromise on down the road.

After four weeks, the ‘Master’ called Jamie in the middle of the night. He told him that he was ready, if he wanted a place in Master’s house then he better start packing. Jamie was elated. He felt honoured when his ‘Master’ instructed him to shave himself from head to toe to prepare for his new life. Jamie did this immediately. He took the required pictures of his newly shaven head and body, and sent them to his ‘Master’. He didn’t get the immediate response he had come to expect. He started to worry for his ‘Master’. What if something had happened to him?

After 24 hours he visited the app that they had met on. He messaged his ‘Master’ begging for a response. Eventually he received the words:

You are no slave of mine. You failed, sub. Better luck next time.

Jamie had been had. At that moment everything clicked into place.

One could sit here and say Jamie was a grown man, he should have known better. Jamie was an intelligent man, how could he have not known. But that dismisses the fact that this happens over and over again on the fringes of our BDSM communities. An abuser masquerading as a Dom/Master uses a roleplay to get his kicks and humiliate a submissive without any care for informed consent or mutual satisfaction.

One could suggest that Jamie was lucky. He dodged a riskier bullet. In part true, but he was still scarred by the experience.

Shaving head to toe might seem like a small thing to some, but it is about identity. Our appearance plays a lot in defining who we are and how we behave. This is exactly why some experienced Masters utilise the protocol of having a clean shaven slave, though this usually comes after or at least during a training process. An experienced Master won’t do such things until they have established mutual trust.

It’s a classic story of an abuser preying on the naivety of inexperienced submissives, playing games with no gratification to anyone but themselves. They offer the submissive all they ever wanted just to get their quick kicks.

We’re not all cardboard cutouts

A lot of the problems highlighted above stem from the fact that people enter this world through the myopia of a porn lens. They don’t look beyond the fantasy. Sometimes, they wilfully refuse to acknowledge that you can have all the power or surrender all power and still be a living, breathing human being. Believe me, its so much more fulfilling playing with power in three-dimensions than it is going method on a cartoon.

Coming out of your bubble and exposing yourself to a BDSM community can be terrifying. But community in all walks of life is where you can find safety. Maybe you’re not yet brave enough to meet a group in person, but consider places such as Fetlife where you can make a few connections before finding a potential partner. A community can give you shared experience, they can have your back, support and advise.

Ultimately, Jamie and I went our separate ways. We remained in contact but he wasn’t destined to be a slave in my House. We had more differences than things in common. How did we know this? We got to know each other.

There are many potential red flags out there. This was by no means an exhaustive list. Have you come across any signs of unhealthy behaviour that need discussing? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for listening,

The Boss and his bois

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