Sex talk: the psychology behind submissive and dominant relationships

BDSM (Bondage Discipline and Sadomasochism) is an increasing trend in the realm of sexual experiences. The most common practice when engaging in BDSM is the delegation of roles: submissive and dominant.

Currently, male domination and female submission is the most common practice, but not by very much. There is an increasing presence of male submission and female domination that has psychologists attempting to explain why social roles have been discarded, and also rationalizes why some people choose to keep and re-enact social roles in the bedroom (in feminine-submissive/male-dominated relationships).

First, it is important to note that BDSM, while integrated into one’s sex life, is not actually about the sex. Having dominant and submissive roles allows people to breach the margins of their social roles. For example, type-A personalities and Alpha males may actually experience psychological relief by handing their power and social dominance over to someone else, says Matthew Hutson of Psychology Today. In fact, those who may not be in socially powerful positions may enjoy taking control in the bedroom instead. Quite typically in these cases, the roles played in the bedroom are not reflective of the lives of the participants outside of the boudoir.

A current cause for controversy surrounding BDSM is its supposed ‘infliction’ on the feminist movement. Upon discussing this matter with females aged 18-32, many women find that surrendering in the bedroom means succumbing to oppressive societal roles placed on women. Again, this goes back to the idea of Alpha personalities wanting to give up control. In fact, many submissive women are in positions of power or authority in their social lives and are more than willing to allow their partner to take over that sense of control. It is also important to note that when regarding women as submissive, subs (especially women) often have more control than the one dominating them. There are always limitations, and very often there is a safety word, which allows for the obedient to control what the dominant person is doing.

Dr. Leon Seltzer of Psychology Today states that female submission is often centered around the inherent want to be “irresistible,” or desiring a man to be unable to control himself in the sexual pursuit of the woman. Upon examining this theory and sharing it with the females I had previously talked to, the majority now find female submission to be a form of empowerment (as long as there are limitations).

Researchers Ogas and Gaddam suggest that both submission and dominance can trigger psychological pleasure. People are biologically and socially programmed to act a certain way (females submissive, males dominant), and both acting out those roles in extreme, and completely reversing them will provide pleasure in certain circuits of the brain.

This research suggests that taking on either or both dominant and submissive functions, either simultaneously or not, can prove to be an outlet for pleasure in both men and women. If being tied up or dominated is what you’re into, or you really want to know what it is like to take charge in the bedroom, talk to your partner about the guarantee of pleasure and try it out!

Amber Richardson


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