So, returning to our regularly scheduled programming, I bring you a question about dom(me)s. Specifically “Is a dominant born or made?”
It’s kind of a stupid question, I know. Fairly rhetorical. None the less, I wanted to pull it out and play around with it for a bit to see what I came up with.
To begin, I keep hearing that it’s really rare to find someone who is comfortable holding power and receiving service, in an on-going way. This half boggles me – people have trouble with other people doing stuff for them? Really? – and half makes total sense – because, yeah, actually, it is hard to accept service and devotion and all the rest of it from someone without both (a) wondering where the catch is, and (b) getting really uncomfortable about things like “compensation” or “egalitarianism”.

Let me expand on that, just briefly (I think I may have talked about it elsewhere already, so…): Basically, this culture (mainstream “generic” Canadian) isn’t officially class-stratified[1], but we’ve got a fair bit of crap (middle-class mythology crap, super-mom crap, gender rolls crap, you name it) to deal with, on top of that, regarding things like who’s “naturally” inclined/expected to do the dishes and who gets to hire a house-keeper versus who’s expected to be one. We also live in a very, VERY transactional society. Everything we do tends to be read in terms of money or exchange-value (it’s even a pretty recent development for, e.g., relationship therapists to be understanding/interpreting adult-adult relationships with anything other than a cost/benefit analysis). So, while there is an “exchange” going on, in that both partners (ideally) are Getting Something out of a power exchange dynamic that benefits and feeds them, the stuff that the domme is getting out of the dynamic is, perhaps, more visible or tangible (or even just more traditionally viewed as a benefit), than the stuff the sub is getting.

Maybe that’s just me.

It’s hard to see “a space to be small and protected” as anything but a benefit (duh), but it’s also hard for me to read it as solely a benefit for those on the submissive side of a dynamic. After all, that’s one of the things I get from my Ghost, as her dominant.

I gather that being given good direction is fulfilling and provides a needed focus for the folks on the sub end of a dynamic. But viewed through a mainstream socio-cultural lens, “getting giving good direction” reads a lot like “getting bossed around” or “not having any say in the decisions” or other things that, under different circumstances, mean you’re stuck in a shitty relationship with someone who’s domineering at best and outright abusive at worst.

If you’re a dominant, rather than a switch, you won’t know the craving for those sub-side benefits firsthand, which can make it really difficult to grasp the benefits that your own submissive is getting from your dynamic.
At least that’s the case for me.
Whereas the benefits that the dominant gets – the obvious, physical ones like “free housekeeping” or “on-demand foot massages” – are easy to spot and, consequently, both easy to sneer at (She does whatever you want AND you get to make all the decisions? Oh, poor boo-boo!) and easy to fall into discomfort about in a “Where’s the Catch” or “When does the bill come due” kind of way.

… But that’s a bit of a tangent.
Is a domme born or made?

My thought is that it’s probably a bit of both. Like I said earlier, there are apparently fairly few of us out there who are comfortable with holding power – or even trying to hold power – in an ongoing, 24/7 way. Which makes me think that, up to a point, dominants are born – or at least that we develop into people who do well under dominant circumstances pretty early on in our formative years (see: “You tied up your Barbie-dolls, too?”).

But we’re made as well. My Ghost has occasional expressed trepidation when I’ve asked for advice about power-exchange stuff, because she doesn’t want to be “building her own domme”. Which is fair enough. If I wanted someone to really Be The Boss Of Me, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with (or happy about it, or getting what I needed from it) it if I were all “No, no, dominate me this way!” Y’know?
So that’s not what I’m talking about when I say that dommes are also made.
What I mean is that holding power, and getting proficient at holding power… it’s all a big (and ongoing) learning process.
Your submissive isn’t building her own domme. YOU are.
There’s… Okay. I have the we’moon day-planner. I really like it. It’s Pagan as all get out and also helps me keep track of my half-dozen rotating jobs. Yay calendar! BUT it’s also full of art and poetry and stuff (extra bonus!) including this piece by J. Ruth Gendler (in The Book of Qualities, O 1984):


Power made me a coat. For a long time I kept it in the back of my closet. I didn’t like to wear it much but I always took good care of it. When I first started wearing it again, it smelled like mothballs. As I wore it more, it started fitting better, and stopped smelling like mothballs.
I was afraid if I wore the coat too much someone would want to take it, or else I would accidentally leave it behind in the dojo dressing room. But it has my name on the label now, and it doesn’t really fit anyone else. When people ask me where I found such a becoming garment, I tell them about the tailor, Power, who knows how to make coats that you grow into. First, you must find the courage to approach Power and request a coat. Then, you must find the patience inside yourself to wear the coat until it fits.

(emphasis mine)

That’s what I’m talking about. If you’re going to hold power, if you’re going to wear it like a coat and wear the fuck out of that coat, you’ve got to get comfortable in it first, and that takes time, and that takes patience, and that takes putting the damn thing on even if it feels heavy or ill-fitting some days.
Eventually, when you’ll have worn it so long that it’s worn in, and it feels like a second skin. Until then, you just have to remember not to take it off inadvertently. 😉

Ms Syren.

[1] Unofficially, of course, is a completely different story.