I will describe a couple of “red flags” that people can maybe encounter at the Dominant side of D/s. I do strive for completeness so if you have anything to add, please leave a comment.

How to read this

The Dom(me) who shows a lot of the behaviors that are being presented in the following list of “red flags” does need some extra alertness. If you see one of the following red flags, you don’t need to panic immediately. There are a few mentions here that some count heavier than others. But when you see a single red flag, nothing is wrong. But when you see some more you do need to be more alert, listen to your gut feeling a bit more. Possibly there are plenty of other ‘green flags’ that compensate for those red flags completely. But you might see more red flags because of the extra alertness, who altogether do form a clear signal that needs to be discussed in a good and equal manner. Optionally with a third person involved. And if you cannot talk about your concerns and you feel good about it afterwards, then of course exactly that is obviously another red flag…

If you recognize red flags down below, then I do recommend to ponder about them so that you do not have to blame yourself afterwards because you did not recognize the warning signs. A lot of people say, after they get out of an unhealthy relationship, that they did not want to be the one that seems to “criticize” everything. That’s why they never brought it up and their problems grew. Because indeed, when you never bring things up, you might very well end up with big problems and not only that, you might end up feeling very alone with your problems. And we’re most likely talking about your health and about your heart here. So please take red flags serious, it does not help to “want to believe that everything is okay.”

What are those red flags?

A relationship (including a BDSM relationship) starts to be an unhealthy one when someone does not give space to the other partner to have his/her own life outside of the relationship:

  • By preventing contact with others from a Dominant position. Especially when the dominant partner tries to prevents the submissive partner to contact (vanilla) friends and family, then this poses a clear risk after some time.
  • Also have some special attention for the Dominant ones that try to prevent for you as sub/bottom to contact likeminded people in the BDSM community with excuses as “those are too … for you”. Their fear is: the BDSM community is diverse and you could discover something that you like and your Dom does not have. That needn’t be a fear for that will always be the case. That is why wishes and possibilities could grow apart over the course of time. The Dominants who cannot handle that fear and try to keep you from “doing your own thing” in the scene, deserve a red flag because they are in the way of you finding out what could be beautiful, fun, hot or pleasant for you.
    • Special attention to the Dominants who try to create jealousy with others and tries to prevent you from doing things for the scene. This goes for “skills” as well as for “position in the scene”. So either it will be sentences like “you cannot match her, she can do it a lot better than you” or something like “she is way too popular for you, you cannot match that”.
  • A pretty new red flag is “Social Media Blocking”. When all communication (phone, texts, chats, WhatsApp, e-mail and letters) is going through him or her (and possibly being blocked without you knowing about it) and when there cannot be any case of private communication outside of your Dom(me) that is what I am talking about. Having every contact checked, that can be a super exiting fantasy, but for some Doms, this seems to be a power too big for them to handle.

When someone does not respect your feelings.

  • The most well-known -and big red flag- is the idea that some Doms have, that you as sub “need to be broken”, that “your will needs to be broken”, that “your ego needs to be broken”. If your Dom(me) does not have a very concrete plan on how you should be built back up (preferably with multiple people that are experienced in doing this that will guarantee that they can do this): run, don’t walk! Looking at this fantasy from a psychological way, breaking someone down is a LOT easier than building someone back up… actually, as psychologists, we still don’t really know how to do the latter.
  • When someone does not take your feelings seriously which makes you feel embarrassed for your real sincere feelings.
  • When someone humiliates you in front of people outside of a play event, especially when this is in front of non-BDSM people (vanillas) or even with your friends or family.
  • When someone has big -and especially- unexpected mood swings in being nice and caring and then being cold and blameful the next moment.
  • When your Dom(me) is being very jealous.
  • When your Dom(me) cannot be reached for days or weeks without telling you this.

When someone does not take the underlying relationship in a BDSM relationship seriously.

  • By “cheating” outside of the set rules
  • When someone is not being clear about which role you play in the life of the Dom.
  • When the Dom does not want to say what he/she wants to do with your relationship in regards to the future, does not want to discuss in which direction he/she wants to grow with you.
  • When someone does not take you serious as a person and does not take your opinion or ideas serious “because you’re just a sub”.

When someone does not play based on mutual agreements and responsibility (SSC and/or RACK), then this is clearly a “red flag”.

  • When someone is not ordering you, but lets you do things based on an improper feeling like guilt.
  • When someone gives you the feeling that you should be able to deal with something “because you’re not a real sub otherwise”

When someone seems to be very stuck in the role of a Dominant, then this is a “red flag”.

  • When someone can only act from that dominant position
  • When someone cannot handle to “be wrong” or cannot say “sorry” when something went wrong.
  • When someone also acts snotty or dominant to people who are not involved in the scene, like cashiers, service desk employees, gas attendants, etc.
  • When someone is not able to thank you or appreciate you for being there.

When someone does not give the time to the submissive person to grow in this role or give the space to find out what is appropriate and what’s not, then these are important “red flags”.

  • When someone doesn’t care about safesex or safeplay (i.e. safewords)
  • When someone pushes you too fast or too much towards the submissive side of a D/s relationship.
  • When someone is trying to hide behind the dominant role in case of an argument or when things go wrong, saying that you cannot question a Dom(me).
  • When someone lets the sub do things that are not in line with the personal limitations and “likes/dislikes”.
  • When someone does not seem to care about the safewords, limits, negotiations, deals or “contracts” you’ve set.

People who do not have their own life in order, can also drag down the life of their partners, causing damaging situations.

  • When someone wants to borrow large sums of money (from others or from you as a sub)
  • When someone tries to damage him/herself or threatens with suicide.

Someone’s general trustworthiness can be a “red flag”.

  • When someone is clearly lying or when someone is keeping information for you or does not fulfill their agreements on a regular basis
  • When someone regularly does not show up at agreed times. (or shows up at times that you did not agree on)
  • When someone keeps blaming others when things go wrong and does not take responsibility for their own mistakes.
  • When there is a case of alcohol and/or drug abuse.

When someone can not handle their own emotions quite well.

  • When someone has anger or panic attacks. Especially when this happens when the sub is doing “something wrong”.
  • When someone is not able to have a constructive difference of opinions but instead starts screaming, shouting, swearing or starts blaming others.
  • When someone can only be hard and dominant and never wants to show other “humane” vulnerable feelings.

When someone has a lot of bad past relationships, then this is a “red flag”:

  • You can notice this:
    • In case of a bad relationship with most family members (that does depend a little on the family, because there are more unhealthy family constellations).
    • In case of an absence of older friends
    • When someone who argues with their exes a lot
    • When these exes have a common feeling of “being cheated upon”.
  • When someone gets easily and suddenly upset with friends or former friends, suddenly declaring them to be enemies (for hat matter, thinking in terms of “enemies OR friends” is a warning sign).
  • When your Dom(me) is displaying an explicit vengeful behavior towards the people who did not meet their (sometimes big) expectations.

Most of the time, it is a pretty bad sign when someone has a bad name or bad role in the BDSM community itself, a scene which should work in a self-cleansing way.

  • When someone has a lot of fights within the scene or
  • is overly criticizing the BDSM community (also depends a bit on the local community) and/or
  • does not participate or never wanted to participate in this community (which as a whole also has a lot of knowledge about responsible behavior and responsible ways of “playing”.)
  • Also: people who have lots of different friends in the entire community and are good friends with everybody, but these friendships are all only just established. This can be a sign that someone has being manipulative so he/she can “infiltrate” within the scene. This can be out of enthusiasm, but it also can be a sign of someone not being able to maintain relationships very well and tries to “start completely new all over again” in the scene. A way of living that is often pointing towards serious problems with the continuity of their lives.

If you would like to talk to Hans and learn more about his individual and relationship coaching approach, you can best reach him via Kink Aware Coaching.

Hans has over a quarter of a century of experience in the mental health sector. Hans is a certified physiotherapist, psychotherapist and relationship coach. The debilitating effects of shame and taboos have always had his attention.

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