How to be a Good Dom to Your Partner

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How to Have Safe Sex With Your Partner


So you’re into BDSM, hmmm? You’re in good company. BDSM play has gained popularity and notoriety over the years, and for a good reason — it can be super hot. Whether you’re a naturally dominant person who’s looking to transition into the BDSM lifestyle or your partner has actually requested that you move in the direction of kink, you’re welcome here! 

The biggest thing to know is that how to be a good dominant is about a lot more than just power play or sexual dominance. There’s a lot more to it, and many common misconceptions to be aware of. It’s always a good idea to learn from the BDSM community -- the ultimate guide to being the very best dom for your partner!

What exactly is a dom?

The word dom is short for dominant, and it refers to anyone (man, woman, or non-binary person) who likes playing with someone else who’s submissive to them. The dom leads the encounter, decides what will happen, and the sub follows/serves/obeys.

Dom/sub relationships can and often do involve sexual pleasure and sexual play, but they can also extend to life outside the bedroom. Some submissive partners enjoy being told what to do in “real life,” while others only want to engage in D/s (dominant/submissive) play in sex. 

In either case, there’s a strong element of role play regarding the power dynamic in BDSM activity. All parties, whether two or more, must consent to what’s going on, or it’s not BDSM. This is part of why safe words and things like the traffic light method for consent and safety are used. Learning how to have safe sex with your partner goes beyond just using protection; you should always check if the other person is feeling safe and comfortable. 

It’s also why so many BDSM experts suggest doing “pre-work” between the two of you to get on the same page before things happen. The more prep you do in terms of BDSM practices, the better off you are! Healthy boundaries lead to hot sex, people.

The 5 types of doms

There are five main types of doms. Many require their subs to call them by certain names or titles, like Master, Daddy, or Sir. This can enhance the experience for both the dom and sub.

Here are the 5 common types of doms:

1. Master dom 

Ever heard of a dom having a slave? That’s a master dom. In this flavor, the “master” treats their sub like property, and play can occurin a sexual or non-sexual way. Sexually, for example, a master dom might train a slave on how to please them through oral sex -- the right or wrong way to do it. A slave might be praised for doing it right or punished for doing it wrong.

Outside the bedroom, a slave might cook for a Master in a certain way, wear certain kinds of clothes, or have to wear toys like nipple clamps while engaging in regular household tasks. Again, the theme of control comes in, and all the ways it can be played with. 


2. Daddy dom

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got Daddy doms, who are way less into punishment and more into caregiving. These Daddies are often paired with “Littles,” which are the younger aspects of someone. A common pair here is the “Daddy dom with little girl,” which is so popular that it has its own acronym: DDLG

Daddy doms might help their Little put on her jammies and snuggle while watching a movie, or enforce rules like no screen time before bed. To be very clear, this is NOT an actual father and daughter/little girl dynamic. It is role play and it doesn’t always involve your sex life.

As one expert put it, “Commonly, the daddy takes on the dominant role. But littles could be doms, too, by being “brats” or “princesses.” They could even switch roles. It could be sexual, but it doesn’t always have to be. Some practice it in private, exclusively in the bedroom, or as part of their daily lives. Ultimately, it’s a roleplay that involves power exchange and care. IN MANY WAYS. It only really depends on the two consenting adults, making defining it quite challenging. But there’s one thing it’s definitely NOT: a relationship between a father and child.”


3. Sadist dom

Back to the other flavor, a sadist dom is exactly what it sounds like: someone who likes to hurt their sub. The subs in this category are known as masochists or sometimes pain sluts. This is where things like handcuffs, flogging, and even knife play can come into the equation (again, with consent). 

Humiliation play can also be enjoyed here, with things like specific insults or punishments.


4. Rigger dom

If you’re into rope play like shibari, you may be a rigger dom. Some rigger doms love to see a sub all tied up and ready to be “used” for their own satisfaction (with consent). But some rigger doms simply love the beauty of the ropework itself. While a lot of dominants do enjoy the sexual aspect of D/s relationships, some don’t, and you don’t have to in order to be a good dom.


5. Caregiver/romantic dom 

Similar to the Daddy dom dynamic, this kind of dom likes to help his sub grow in the world. He might have her make a list of goals and then help her work toward them. Or he might help her decorate her space in a different way, or help her choose different kinds of foods to eat. He’s a leader, a guide, and a caregiver.

It should also be noted that you don’t have to “pick” just one of these. You can be fluid and go between them; it could just depend on that day/night. Being a good dom is a lot about knowing what you truly want, and being fearless in going after it. 

What are the responsibilities of a dom?

A primary responsibility of a good dom is safety. You want to be tracking physical and emotional safety -- of both your sub as well as yourself! You count as a person, after all. ;)

Seriously, though, it’s actually easiest to go through the healthy characteristics of a good dom, rather than a list of responsibilities. It’s so much about mindset that it’s easiest to do it this way. 

A good dom is:


A good dom never punishes out of revenge. He knows subs will mess up sometimes, and adjusts accordingly. He is fundamentally respectful, non-judgmental, and present. He’s paying attention to what his sub is saying as well as their body language. He wants scenes to be win/win for all involved, and the health and wellness of those he’s playing with are paramount.


Assertive and communicative

A good dom makes clear choices and is straightforward in their communication. They don’t hedge or hold back, and they’re not confusing or inconsistent. They can lead, plan, and execute on those plans. They’re decisive. 

They’re also communicative. They constantly work on improving their communication skills, reading books like Nonviolent Communication or It’s the Way You Say It.

They’re willing to lead, for example by having all parties involved fill out a sex menu. This is a great way to get on the same page about what you’re both willing to try and what you’re not. Never heard of a sex menu? There’s a whole MasterClass on it!



One of the best ways to be a good dom is to be curious. You want to know what your sub actually likes, wants, and needs. You want to get inside their head (in a good way) and really grasp what’s going on there, and where the hotspots are -- both turn-ons and places to be sensitive about. 

Yes, you could just boss your sub around, but that’s not actually being a skilled dom. Knowing exactly how to boss them around in a way that lights them up is the sign of a good dom. 


Open-minded and non-judgmental

Since a good dom genuinely wants to know what turns their sub on, they’re willing to have edgy conversations. They’re willing to be honest and ask for what they want, and hold space for what their sub wants. They never judge what another person might want, even if they’re not available to provide it. They also never judge someone else for not wanting to do something -- and they certainly don’t withhold love or affection if they receive a “no.”

They’re also willing to take direction and they have space to hear “this one thing didn’t work for me in our last scene.” They don’t get defensive or shut down or withdraw if something isn’t working/didn’t work. They’re open to feedback and want to know.



Good doms schedule regular check-ins with their subs, discussing what’s working, what each person might want more of, and how everyone is feeling emotionally. Note that it’s important to emphasize that this check-in is a space where you aren’t in the D/s dynamic -- you both come as equals.


Who makes a good dom?

You might have a picture in your head of someone all dressed up in leather chaps with a whip in their hand, but the truth is that what makes a good dom is not so much about the outside as the inside.

The truth is, anyone can make a good dom. As long as you’re willing to lean into the part of you that’s naturally dominant, finding that power within you that enjoys telling someone else what to do, you can rock it. 

It’s also worth repeating that taking on the dominant role does NOT mean being aggressive, manipulating anyone or abusing anyone. In reality, choosing to be a Dom in a BDSM relationship is actually more work because you’re now tracking the needs of both yourself and whoever you’re playing with. 

As many sex educators will tell you,  a certain magic that occurs when sexual polarity lines up -- when a dominant partner enjoys their role and the other loves being a good sub. It can add a lot of heat to your relationship!

Three characteristics of a good dom

1. Being educated

Communication is one of the most essential parts of being a good dom. If you’re not listening closely (to both words and someone’s body), you’re not a good dom. So getting educated on how to dom well is part of the whole thing. 

For example, if you’re going to play around with electrical stimulation sex toys, you need to know what they do and feel like before you have someone else use them. You need to be educated before you can lead well.

2. Knowing what you want (as a dom)

Accessing your own power is critical to being a good dom. And knowing your own preferences is part of personal power. For example, while you may have seen a ton of stuff on spanking, that might not be your thing. In that case, don’t do it!

But if you are into it, go back to step one and get educated. Check out some videos and learn about how to lead a good spank sesh. 

A great first step is to take a BDSM test and start to really reflect on what YOU want, and how you want to lead. Exploring options, educating yourself, and connecting with others in the kink community helps a lot. Don’t be afraid to get on FetLife and visit your local BDSM dungeon to get a feel for the whole thing!


3. Helping your sub overcome insecurities

For this section we’re going to assume you identify as a man and you’re playing with a woman who wants to take on the sub role with you -- but to be clear, these principles apply to anybody and any body.

If you’re a truly good dom, you’re actually part of a certain level of sexual healing. Why? Because women are still shamed for being sexual beings, and being open about loving or wanting sex.

You’re creating a safe sexual space where she can feel free to really “go for it,” expressing her real, sometimes hidden, desires. 

As one practitioner put it, “Being a good Dom is about cultivating an environment which allows her to trust you, giving her permission to expose this hidden part of herself. Everything your sub needs to become a highly sexual woman who loves sex is there, bursting to break free. Your job is to water that seed, providing her with the right mental nutrition, and a kind hand, to help her blossom … Remember my Dom code – leave her better than you found her. No, you’re not her therapist, but you can do your part to make her feel great about sex and BDSM.”

This may sound like you are explicitly telling her she’s safe, but it’s more than that. One of the very best ways to create a free and open sexual space is to be honest, raw, and vulnerable about your own desires and needs. 

A lot of people who play the dominant role have to work through their own stuff around accepting that yes, what they really want IS to be in charge and tell someone else what to do. Especially men who do respect women and would never want to be That Asshole, this can be challenging.

As that same dom put it, “[O]ne of the biggest difficulties I had to overcome was reconciling my head telling me that everything should be equal in a relationship, and accept that what my heart wanted was a power imbalance, where I’m the one in charge in the relationship … When I started my journey towards being a good Dom, I felt uncomfortable bossing a woman around in the bedroom, let alone asking her to do things for me around the house.”

Common mistakes to avoid as a dom

Again, some of these may surprise you, but here are some common mistakes that people starting out can fall into:


1. Taking yourself too seriously

You don’t need to act angry or aggressive in order to be a good dom, and things don’t need to feel heavy! You can actually bring your joy and playfulness into the equation. Things will feel better when you own who you actually are and bring that to the party.


2. Doing all the things all the time

Being a good dom doesn’t mean you have to want to do everything listed here! You may be into some things and not into others. That’s OK! You get to choose what you’re into and if you try something a little bit and don’t like it, then skip it. 

For example, you may find that you never thought you’d like dirty talk, but your submissive partner just lights up when you do it, so you lean into that and get really good at it. 

Or maybe you thought it’d be a good idea to try a kink party, and while there, you found you really loved the rope play because it was such a beautiful demonstration of trust between the participants. Perhaps the rest of it was a bust but you got turned on to that and it has opened something up for both you and your submissive.


3. Not taking accountability for mistakes

Real talk: As a dom, you will sometimes mess up. You’re human! It happens. And making mistakes isn’t an issue as long as you’re willing to own up to it, and apologize. If you weren’t paying attention and someone got hurt, own it. You don’t need to be perfect, and striving to be that is actually often when not great things happen.

It’s worth noting that proactively checking in with a sub (or anyone, really) about how a scene was for them is actually a dominant move. Waiting for them to come to you is passive; if you have a sense that something was a little too much or needed to be different, go and ask about it. Checking in is sexy and important.


4. Waiting for things to be perfect

You can play with domination in many ways, and it doesn’t have to look like whips and chains. For example, a dommy move could be: If you’ve already filled out a sex menu with your partner and you know you’re both interested in incorporating some sex toys for couples, you tell your submissive partner that you’ve got a special surprise planned for later. No matter how much she begs you to specify what will happen, you won’t! That’s you maintaining control. 

Then when it comes time for the big reveal, you blindfold her. She’s also not expecting that, and it amps up the anticipation. 

You remind her of the stoplight method (green light if things are good; yellow light if things are approaching too much, or something needs to be adjusted; and red light for stop). Then you start to play with the toy with her -- or have her start to play with it on you, depending on what you choose! You control the encounter from start to finish, maybe even choosing when she orgasms. 

Afterwards, you both engage in BDSM aftercare, and after you’ve both “come down,” you lead a conversation about how that was for each of you.


The possibilities really are endless, and there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get kinky!



Dainis Graveris, "What Is DDLG? The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide," SexualAlpha. Published February 8, 2023. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Chief, "Dom sub Relationships: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners," Kinky:Events. Published March 1, 2020. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Kinkly Writers, "Stoplight Safe Words," Kinkly. Published Sept 14, 2020. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Ally Head, "Ever heard of BDSM? How to please a masochist, according to a sex expert," Marie Claire. Published May 23, 2022. Accessed April 24, 2023.


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