Getting Started with D/s Play

Occasionally people ask me how to get started with D/s play (aka domination and submission) with a willing partner. Sometimes they don’t know what questions to ask or where to begin. So this article is specifically for such people who’d like a gentle introduction to D/s play and some tips to get started.

I think this can be especially helpful for people who don’t consider themselves kinky but who’d still like to indulge in the stimulating fun of D/s play to spice up their connections.

D/s play is totally free, requires no props or equipment, and can be done anywhere. All you need is a willing partner.

Why D/s Play?

The main benefit is that D/s play helps maintain and even increase the sexual and emotional intensity of a relationship connection.

In long-term relationships, it’s common to hit a dead zone sexually after some period of time together. You fall into a routine and begin looping through familiar patterns, which can become less engaging over time. For most people I’ve talked to, this usually happens within a timeframe of 6-18 months after the relationship begins.

Another key benefit is being able to explore your desires more deeply than you otherwise would. Through D/s play you can dive deeper into your existing desires, and you can experiment to discover hidden desires you never knew were there. This can expand your pleasure chest of possibilities.

All in all, the core benefit of D/s play is that it can help your relationship become stronger, closer, more authentic, and of course more fun.

Ok, let’s talk about the practicalities of getting started…

Finding a Willing Partner

All of this deliciousness begins with a willing partner. So how do you find a willing partner?

I think the simplest way is to publicly out yourself as being interested in trying D/s play, such as by posting about it on your social media pages. Yes, you may get some teasing for it as a result, but so what? Just tease people back for being so boring and vanilla.

Teasing is good because it means those people are disqualifying themselves from being a match for this interest. They’re simply expressing their incompatibility. So let those people have their say, which will usually last for up to 48 hours, and after that they’ll typically lose interest.

Just stand firm in expressing your interest. After the incompatible people excuse themselves, you may start getting expressions of interest from like-minded people who share your interest. These people were probably there all along, and now that they can see you’re open to this, there’s a good chance that someone you already know will reach out to you.

The truth is that most people are already into D/s. They just don’t label it as such, and they treat it as a serious pursuit rather than doing it for fun. How many people have jobs and bosses? How many people behave submissively at times? How many people automatically obey traffic laws when driving, without even thinking about it? How many people go to work each day and obey someone else’s commands? Commanding and obeying are ubiquitous in society.

So recognize that D/s itself is already immensely popular. It’s only the play aspect that’s less mainstream. But if people can enslave themselves to a company for pay, and if they can obey laws and social rules whenever they go outside, then surely there are people who’d enjoy exploring this popular mode of social interaction for fun, learning, and growth.

Consider that if you’re going to spend so much of your life dealing with various aspects of authority, you might as well take the time to explore and understand this aspect of reality more thoroughly. A terrific way to do that is through play, where you can feel free to explore and experiment without such severe consequences if you make a mistake.

In some cities you can find BDSM meet-up groups. The quality of these groups can vary wildly. Some are great and attract wonderful people. Other groups are downright scuzzy. You can always look for a group on, go to one meeting, and see if you like it.

Chances are you’ve already met someone who’d be interested in exploring D/s play with you, if only that person knew about your interest.

I understand the reasons for keeping this part of your life a secret, but if you do that, I think it will be very difficult to find a good partner, unless you already have access to a D/s-friendly community of some kind.

Being ashamed of your genuine interests is understandable perhaps, but it’s a foolish and immature way to live. That kind of attitude will only slow your growth to a crawl. It’s more intelligent to accept your desires and explore them openly, unless you happen to live in a closed society where the social consequences of doing so would be severe.

This attitude shift is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to attract play partners. Once you rid yourself of fear, shame, and guilt with respect to your interests, you’ll stop creating unnecessary resistance, and it will be so much easier to attract like-minded matches.

All you really need to do, after all, is to start inviting people to play with you, and also let people know you’re interested in receiving such invitations. Physically speaking, these aren’t complicated actions. You can do them in a few minutes. But if you pre-reject yourself for having such desires, then of course you won’t take these actions, and you’ll be denied a lot of fun, learning, and growth.

If you simply invite enough people, and if you invite invitations by being more open and less secretive, the chances are good that you’ll find at least one quality match sooner or later.

Convincing an Existing Partner

In a word, don’t bother.

Ok, that’s two words, but in my experience and that of many readers, trying to convince someone to become interested in D/s play is like pulling teeth. Either people find it appealing, or they don’t.

I wouldn’t bother trying to convince someone to try D/s if they’re hesitant or resistant because the overall experience will suck for all involved. It’s like trying to convince someone to play a game that they don’t want to play. It’s not nearly as fun as finding someone who’s genuinely enthusiastic about playing. And even if you manage to do it once, the resistance will be there again the next time.

In short, it’s just too much work to try to convince someone to try this. It’s much more productive to invest your energy in someone who’s open-minded and/or enthusiastic about the idea. If there isn’t mutual willingness, you’re going to have a very hard time creating a win-win situation.

Be honest, patient, and steadfast. If  you want to try D/s, then communicate that with your partner. Let your partner say yes or no; then decide what to do based on his/her response. Don’t pretend not to be interested just because your partner may decline.

What if you really want to try D/s, but you’re in a long-term relationship with a disinterested partner? Then you have a few options. You can leave that relationship and find a more compatible partner. You can convert to an open relationship and enjoy D/s play with interested partners on the side. Or you can abandon your interest in D/s play and settle for a vanilla experience.

For me D/s play is too much fun not to have it in my life, so I wouldn’t want to get into a long-term relationship with someone who wasn’t interested in it.

Life is too short to waste your time dealing with partners who don’t share your interests for learning, growth, and exploration. You can block yourself by clinging to partial matches, but in the long run, that’s a recipe for resentment.

If you want to find out if your partner is into D/s play, you can have him/her read this article as well as D/s Play and Domination-Submission and Personal Growth for an overview.

Note that your partner just has to be willing. Expertise and experience aren’t necessary. One or both of you can be totally new to this since you’ll learn as you go.

First Steps

Once you have a willing partner, how do you start playing together?

First, decide who will be dominant and who will be submissive, at least during a given session. If you like to switch roles, you can trade off now and then. Some people like static roles; others like to mix it up.

If you’re the dominant one, put yourself in the mindset of being able to command your partner to do anything you desire. Don’t ask permission. Just command. Your partner still has the option to decline if they want to, but know that you can issue any command you want, no matter how over-the-top it may seem. Expect to be obeyed. Then let your partner react and respond. If you’re pushing too far, you’ll find out soon enough. Be willing to push and explore. Give some commands beyond what you think is reasonable. See how your partner responds. You may be surprised. These surprises can really spice up a connection.

If you’re the submissive one, focus on being very obedient for your partner. Speak, move, and behave submissively. Get into the mindset that your life purpose is to serve, obey, and please your partner. That is the only thing that you need to think about. It’s easy and mentally relaxing to obey, isn’t it? Whatever your partner commands you to do, obey immediately and enthusiastically. Push yourself to keep saying yes (or “Yes, Master”) to as much as you can handle. Encourage your partner to give you commands that are wilder, edgier, sluttier, etc., especially if you think your partner is still holding back.

Safe Words

Some people find it helpful to use a safe word in certain play sessions. This is a word or phrase anyone can use to call a time out. It’s commonly used in S&M and bondage. This allows someone to scream things like “Stop” and “No more” while still wanting the session to continue. It only stops early if the safe word is spoken.

For D/s play I find it unnecessary to have a safe word because we aren’t doing anything that involves pain, discomfort, or risk of injury. If anyone wants to stop, they can just say they want to stop. Then you both stop and discuss the situation.

In some scenarios, such as if you’re acting out a rape fantasy, you may want to use a safe word. But otherwise I don’t see why you’d need one for D/s play in general unless you need one for vanilla sex too.


A fun way to get into your roles is to adopt your own titles. How do you want your partner to address you? You can discuss these in advance and agree upon something you both like. Or if you’re the dominant one, you can choose how your partner addresses you and how you’ll address your partner. After all, you’re in charge.

The generic terms are Dom (for dominant) and sub (for submissive). I don’t like using these terms in practice though because they just sound lame to me. I prefer using Master and slave.

To make it simpler to write the rest of this article, henceforth I’ll use Master to refer to the dominant person and slave to refer to the submissive person in a D/s play scenario. These terms are arbitrary, so you can substitute whatever you like for your own practice: Mistress, Lord, servant, pet, precious, etc.

I love being called Master, probably due to watching too many episodes of I Dream of Jeannie while going through puberty, so that’s the only title I ever use. Maybe there’s some Star Wars mixed in as well. The license plate on my car is MASTERY, which has a fun double meaning for those who know I’m into D/s.

For a slave, I let her pick a name she likes, but it has to be of the form “___ slave,” where ___ is an adjective. My girlfriend is pretty slave, but I assigned that one to her. I think it’s best for each slave to have a unique slave name if you play with more than one. Since this type of play is so personal, people can get attached to their titles, and it can feel unsettling if someone else uses the same title.

I suggest using a title that gives you an emotional zing when you hear it, so hearing your title is like a mild stimulant. On some level, it excites and arouses you. Then whenever you engage in D/s play, your use of titles will help to anchor the type of emotional experience you desire.

Use whatever titles you like. Or use none at all if you prefer. In your fantasies how would you like people to refer to you?

As a rule of thumb, the Master’s title is capitalized when written. The slave’s title is lowercase only, unless it begins a sentence, in which case it’s okay to capitalize the first letter. This is a common protocol and helps reinforce the roles. You can use this rule when texting or emailing.

You may also find it fun (and more immersive) to speak in the third person when you’re in D/s play mode. This can help to create a playful vibe. So you could say, “Master commands pretty slave to come cuddle with Master on the couch,” and your slave might reply, “Yes, Master. Pretty slave is a good and obedient slave.”

One benefit of having titles is that using them is an easy way to signal intent. If my girlfriend says or texts something to me and refers to herself as pretty slave or to me as Master, she’s signalling her intent to engage with me in that way. Similarly, I can be in the middle of a normal conversation with her, but as soon as I call her pretty slave, our connection shifts into a more playful mode. And since we’ve used these signals for years, when one of us enters into that mode, it’s easy for the other to play along.

You can also playfully use titles as a way to invite someone new to engage in D/s play with you. For instance, if I’m giving a woman a neck and shoulder massage and she says, “Mmmm… that feels good,” I can playfully reply, “Say, ‘Mmmm… that feels good, Master.'” How she responds is up to her, and her response will tell me how playful she’s feeling… and whether she’d enjoy playing in this way together. A good response is that she’ll say it back, but usually with a bit of sass. In that case I might reply, “Not bad. Now try saying it more submissively.” I can continue to invite and coach her to see if she wants to play along and to see how far she’s willing to go. It’s a nice way to check whether she’ll enjoy this without being so formal about it. I’m also communicating what I like, so she doesn’t have to guess.


Some Masters like to formally train their slaves and even run them through a training program. Watch the movie The Story of O for some examples of such training, although that’s definitely more of an S&M version, not so much pure D/s.

If you’re the Master, you’re in charge. So feel free to instruct your slave to behave exactly as you desire. Have your slave practice certain behaviors until such behavior pleases you. Don’t permit any unacceptable behavior from your slave. Your slave should delight and please you in all of the ways that matter to you. If anything needs adjustment, command your slave to adjust it. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you’re fully satisfied.

Don’t settle for less than what you want. Keep your standards for compliance high. An important aspect of D/s play is to explore your desires deeply. Don’t just fantasize about your desires. Actively fulfill them. Make them real. Stop wanting, and start having. Delve into the rich experience of actually having what you desire. Having is better than wanting. So teach your slave how to help you create the experiences you want to have, exactly as you desire to have them. If there are certain details that matter to you, like having your slave wear a collar, then get those details right.

The presence of a willing partner who wants to help you explore and experience your desires is a tremendous gift. Honor and respect that gift by receiving it graciously and enjoying it fully.

You can also train your partner to respond to you appropriately. How do you want your partner to speak, move, and behave in your presence? Do you like eye contact, or should your partner submissively look down? Do you like hearing “Yes, Master,” or would you prefer, “If it pleases you, Master”? Whatever you want to try, command it, and see how you like it. Experiment. Then create ongoing rules for the patterns you like.

Teaching your partner exactly how to please you is one of the most delicious and rewarding aspects of D/s play, one that will carry over into other aspects of your relationship. Why leave your partner guessing? Why not make it easier for your partner to please you? Then whenever s/he actually wants to please you, even when you’re not doing D/s play, it will be an automatic behavior. And the side effect is that you’ll feel disgustingly happy, grateful, and appreciative towards your partner.

If you’re the Master, you can also use your authority to figure out what pleases your partner most. Command your partner to receive. Stretch your imagination, try lots of new ideas, and command your partner to give you honest feedback. Learn what your partner likes, do more of it, and get better at it. Learn what your partner doesn’t like, and stop doing that.


An especially fun thing to do is to command your slave to always agree with you. Deny your slave the ability to disagree with you about anything ever. This is a hard rule to enforce, and you may not want to enforce it all the time, but it can be fun in certain situations.

You’ll still be able to tell if your slave feels resistance to a command, but it can be extra stimulating for both people if you require your slave to at least superficially agree with all commands and statements regardless of how s/he feels.

Commands and Obedience

Here are some sample commands just to give you some ideas:

Come cuddle with your Master. Kiss your Master. Take your clothes off. Send Master an email listing five ways to deepen your submissiveness and obedience. Take a slutty photo of yourself and send it to Master. Change your social media profile pic to whatever pic Master chooses. Don’t wear underwear today. Give your Master a massage. Give your Master oral sex. Mate with your Master. Make Master’s favorite dinner. Plan a road trip for us to take together. Go do yoga for an hour.

Remember that you can command anything you desire. Stretch yourself to try new things. Explore and experiment to learn more about what you like and what your partner likes.

You can also establish ongoing rules. Some examples:

Always agree with Master. You are never allowed to disagree. You must never have an orgasm without permission, not even when you’re alone. Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Shower every day. Prepare a healthy and delicious dinner for yourself and Master every day. Keep the kitchen clean and tidy. Whenever you give Master oral sex, you will always swallow. You are never allowed to deny Master access to your slave body. You are never allowed to say no to sex. Your favorite word is obedient.

If you’re the slave, focus on obeying your Master’s commands immediately, without hesitation or delay. Don’t ask questions for clarification unless absolutely necessary since that breaks the intensity. Just do your best to obey, and let your Master adjust your behavior if you make a mistake. So if your Master commands you to strip, even if the command is given softly and subtly such as by whispering it in your ear while you’re making dinner, then remove your clothing immediately. Don’t think about it. Don’t ask questions. Don’t stall. Just promptly obey.


A great way to reinforce the slave’s role is to have your slave memorize some verbal affirmations and use them liberally. For instance, whenever your slave has to say, “Yes, Master,” you could require that an extra affirmation be tacked on.

Here are some of my favorites:

Yes, Master. Pretty slave is a good and obedient slave. Yes, Master. Pretty slave loves her Master and obeys his every command. Yes, Master. Pretty slave delights in pleasing her Master. Yes, Master. Always agree! … and lots of other X-rated stuff.

You can also command your slave to sing some slavey affirmations at random times each day, just to mix it up a bit.

Acts of Service

A rather obvious form of D/s play is to command your slave to do things like cleaning, running errands, and other menial tasks. If that sort of thing excites you, indulge yourself. I virtually never do that because I don’t find it stimulating. I prefer more sensual commands.

For some people, having a slave perform acts of service can be emotionally intense, so you might find this appealing if acts of service make you feel very loved.

Feel free to play around with this to discover what stimulates you and your partner.


The sexual side of D/s play is a rich source of stimulation, fun, and connection. If you’re the Master, then you can command your slave to act out whatever sexual fantasies you desire. And if you’re the slave, then you can help fulfill your Master’s deepest fantasies.

You can command your slave to always enthusiastically agree to sex whenever you desire, to seduce you when you want to be seduced, to wear arousing outfits, to give you oral sex, to have sex in whatever positions you desire, and even to invite threesomes if you want.

You can command your slave not to have an orgasm without permission. This can create a fun challenge if you actively try to give your partner an orgasm while simultaneously commanding him/her not to do so.

If you like riling your slave up, you can tease your slave sexually throughout the day and make him/her hold onto lots of arousal without release. For example, give your slave oral sex until close to orgasm. Then suddenly stop and say, “Get dressed. We’re going out.” Your slave will be desperate to jump you the whole time you’re out.

You can prolong this kind of teasing for days if you want. Then finally, when your slave is practically clawing at you, command him/her to have sex, along with permission to cum. It will be good!

Remember that you can command whatever you want. Your slave is always free to decline if you’re asking too much. But give yourself the opportunity to ask for too much anyway, and see what happens.


Some people are really into discipline for disobedience. So if the slave disobeys or doesn’t properly follow a command, then some kind of punishment ensues. Some slaves like being punished, so they actively invite it by being deliberately ornery at times. See the movie Secretary for some examples.

Some people are really into strict discipline with over-the-top punishments for even minor infractions. Others, like me, prefer to maintain a lighter and more playful vibe, so I never delve into serious punishments. I prefer to just use playful teasing and rewards for good behavior.

Feel free to adopt whatever style that you and your partner find stimulating and enjoyable.

Lifestyle D/s

D/s play can be compartmentalized and done on a per-session basis, such as by limiting it to the bedroom only. Or it can be allowed to flow throughout the relationship and be engaged in more frequently, even 24/7, which is called lifestyle D/s.

I started with the compartmentalized version but found it so much fun that it naturally evolved into a variation of lifestyle D/s. It’s normal for my girlfriend and me to flip in and out of D/s mode many times each day. We don’t do it 24/7 per se, but its stimulating presence is always felt, and either of us can choose to relate to the other in this playful style whenever we want.

What I love about D/s play is that it makes everyday mundane experiences feel much more fun, stimulating, and adventurous.

Suppose you suggest to your partner that you go out to dinner. How would you do it? Most likely this will be a rather boring invitation, something like, “Hey Honey… What do you think about going out for dinner tonight?” Then you might have a discussion and debate about where to go. But what if you disagree about where to go? What if one of you isn’t in the mood to go out? This can result in a very boring interaction. Maybe the idea fizzles and you just stay home. And even if you do go out, it will probably be a boring and routine experience anyway. Blech!

But what if the invitation sounded like this instead: “Master commands pretty slave to go out to dinner with Master tonight. Master will pick the restaurant. Pretty slave must dress slutty for her Master and wear a choker to affirm her enslavement, but she’s not allowed to wear any underwear.” And the response: “Mmmm… Yes, Master. Always agree!” There’s no pointless debate, and if this playfulness continues throughout the evening, the interaction is sure to be a lot more fun.

Why anyone would want to keeping having the same vanilla experience again and again is beyond me.

People waste so much time debating what to do. Forget about asking. Just command it. It’s a lot more fun. And if you can at least learn to create experiences that please you, you’re going to get a lot better at creating pleasing experiences for others too. How can you possibly please others if you don’t even know how to please yourself?

Remote D/s Play

What if you and/or your partner are traveling and you find yourself in different cities? Or what if you want to practice lifestyle D/s while you both work in different places? No problem. You can easily do D/s play from a distance.

For starters, you can continue using D/s-style communication whenever you text, email, video chat, etc. Use your titles. Be playful.

If you’re the Master, feel free to command your slave to do whatever you want. And if you’re the slave, then be obedient and do as you’re told. Always obey your Master.

Depending on the nature of your relationship and whether you’re practicing lifestyle D/s, you might limit your remote D/s play to only when you’re video chatting with each other. Or you might extend it beyond that.

Feel free to email your slave a list of commands for the day. Text a command whenever you want as well, to be obeyed ASAP. Allow your slave to be as obedient as s/he is willing to be.

Something that really makes a remote connection spicy is to maintain control over your slave’s orgasms even while you’re in different places. So if your slave ever wants to masturbate and cum or to have an orgasm with someone else (if you’re in an open relationship), s/he must always ask permission first, which may be granted or withheld. Also, you’re free to command your slave to play with him/herself whenever you desire, and your slave must then do so at the next opportunity.

Another thing you can do is command your slave to send you sexy photos and or videos of him/herself. Or have your slave strip for you (and for the NSA too) while video chatting.

If you want assurances of love, support, obedience, or anything else, just command it.

And if you’re the slave, feel free to express your loving obedience to your Master however you desire. If you feel like being commanded, ask to be commanded. You can easily maintain this part of your connection even while you’re in different locations. It can really spice up your day.

Maybe you’ll find remote D/s play to be very stimulating, or maybe it won’t be your cup of tea. At least give it a try and find out.

Checking in

Be sure to check in with your partner regularly to make sure you’re both enjoying your D/s play. Talk openly about what you like best and where you can improve.

The whole point is to make each other feel good and to enjoy lots of positive stimulation. Try not to get so wrapped up in your roles that you lose sight of the big picture. Use D/s play to enhance your relationship, to bond deeply, and to have fun. Keep checking to make sure you’re both enjoying yourselves, and adjust as needed.

Recommended Books on D/s Play

A number of people have asked me for book recommendations on D/s. I’ve read a bunch, but in my opinion they all sucked. To date I haven’t found anything on this topic that I can genuinely recommend. Perhaps the closest thing I can offer to a recommended resource would be the book Different Loving, which has a section on D/s play, but it’s mostly rambling stories from couples told in a dull, plodding, lifeless way.

I can, however, recommend a movie to watch: Secretary, starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The movie has a lot of S&M aspects, and the characters are odd, but the overall flavor of the couple’s relationship should give you some glimpse of the D/s play dynamic. Watch this movie, and have your partner watch it. See if you find some of the dynamics a turn-on. Does it inspire you to try some new things together?

I think the best way to learn D/s play is to dive in and explore it with a willing partner. Reading about D/s play is like trying to learn dancing by reading about dance moves. You’ll learn faster through direct practice, and it’s a lot more fun that way too.

Since I posted this on April 1st, is this an April Fool’s joke? Sure… it can serve as a joke for those who cling to a vanilla existence. For the rest, it’s an invitation to keep learning, growing, and exploring.

Read related articles:Domination-Submission and Personal GrowthHelp WantedDomination and SubmissionCommitted RelationshipsYour Own Star Colony

Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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