Race Bannon AKA member PigMaster4PigSlave has been an organizer, writer, educator, speaker and activist in the LGBT, leather/kink, polyamory and HIV/STI prevention and treatment realms since 1973.
Synchronicity is an unusual thing. I had been pondering writing an article expressing my views on certain disappointing and sometimes disturbing interactions I have seen between some dominants and submissives. Then, a friend and local San Francisco kink thought leader (BeefyboyDaddy on Recon) posted on social media about what he referred to as "Dom Disillusionment Syndrome."
My friend was referring to the collection of challenges both partners in a dominant/submissive relationship encounter when a submissive notices and then can't forget a significant gap between the fantasy figure they have been subbing to and the real person. That's exactly the topic I had been pondering, but my friend ended up coming up with a much better name for it than I had.
I think this sort of fantasy versus reality clash happens a lot more in the kink and fetish scene than most of us want to admit. Submissives frequently elevate their dominants to near deified status because it fits with the classic fantasy scenario of the all-knowing, all-wise and all-skilled dominant. This is a recipe for disaster. The disconnect between fantasy and reality must be pointed out and addressed early in any relationship founded upon power dynamics.
Perhaps this will rankle some purists, but the fact is our entire scene is based on fantasy. While the physical things we do with each other, from the gear we wear to the various erotic practices we explore, are a physical reality, the reasons why we do those things are spawned from our individual and collective fantasies and the mindsets they create.
Everything in our scene and in our individual erotic lives is a construct. We collectively cobble together the overall scene based on the elements we see before us for which there is some consensus on their hotness. Then we each take those collective constructs and further hone them to fit our own internal sexual narrative, usually bolstered by the mental imagery to which we jerk off. That imagery becomes the basis for what we come to feel is our individual erotic identity and set of associations and activities that excite us most.
No two people will ever have the exact same erotic narrative playing in their heads. Even if some are quite similar, the uniqueness and diversity of each person's life experience, and that includes sexual, necessitates admitting that even when we all appear to walk and talk and act the same, we're all quite different.
However, that's not how many of us operate. While it's the nature of erotic fantasy to wallow in the idealized representations of dominance and submission, not realizing those representations are indeed idealized and not grounded entirely in reality is a prerequisite for an unhealthy and unhappy relationship, and at times can even be dangerous.
Power dynamic play comes in all flavors and configurations from one-time encounters to casual play buddies to dom/sub duos to polyamorous or family configurations. Each of these scenarios comes with its own set of idealized fantasies regarding what the dominant(s) in the situation should be and how their dominance should be exercised.
Of course, before anyone claims I am chastising dominants too much here, let me say this sort of disillusionment can happen just as easily on the submissive side of the equation. Much as many dominants portray and are seen by their submissives as the personification of infallibility and perfection, so do many dominants see submissives the same way. And then you have all the switches, which is most of us, who alternate dominant and submissive personas at will, but are still often trying to match up those personas with what they perceive as all-knowing and perfect from whatever side we are playing. But that is another discussion.
I've often said that in Kink 101 style classes or when guys are mentoring others the first thing that should be discussed before negotiation, technique, safety or consensuality is setting appropriate expectations.
One of the primary causes of unsatisfactory erotic experiences is unrealistic expectations. So often we build a fantasy in our mind in great detail and then go out into the world in hopes of making that fantasy a reality. Depending on the complexity and specificity of the fantasy, it may be easy or difficult to bring to fruition.
If as a submissive you are looking to be swept off your feet by the perfect dominant who knows all, senses all, and never errs, you are in for a buttload of disappointment. If you're in a relationship with a dominant and expect them to never make a mistake, be depressed, feel the need to learn, or otherwise simply be an imperfect human being, you're in for a buttload of disappointment.
Tying your erotic satisfaction to such rarefied fantasies can be a recipe for an unfulfilled sexuality. Loosen up your expectations. Give people a chance. I'm not saying you should compromise your standards, try something you know you won't enjoy, or delve into a relationship that's already waving red flags of warning. Just try to broaden your possibilities. I think you'll be happier for it.
On a practical level I think the best solution to avoiding such disillusionment is open and honest conversation early in the relationship process, whether a short-term play or long-term partnered relationship. Put it all out on the table early. Set the expectation that no one in the relationship is perfect. Idealized fantasies will have to be modified to fit with reality. Mistakes will happen because that's part of the human condition. The constructed dominant and submissive personas each partner takes on should be acknowledged as being what works to feed each person's sexual needs and fantasies, but that will impede physical and emotional joy and safety if adopted without question or qualification.
If you're a submissive and your dominant is displaying some aspect of being a less than perfect human being, embrace it. See what you can do to allow them to be human while still being your dominant, in all his imperfect glory.
Race Bannon has been an organizer, writer, educator, speaker and activist in the LGBT, leather/kink, polyamory and HIV/STI prevention and treatment realms since 1973. He's authored two books, been published extensively, spoken to hundreds of audiences, created the world's largest kink-friendly psychotherapist and medical referral service, was a leader of The DSM Project that led to a beneficial change in the way American psychotherapy views BDSM, founded a groundbreaking alternative sexuality publishing company, been an internet radio sex talk show host, received national and local awards, and appeared in numerous documentaries. He currently also writes for the Bay Area Reporter and on his blog