BDSM: How to be a Good Sub?

Good Sub
Molly Lazarus
Written by Molly Lazarus

When I first got into BDSM as a submissive, I figured my only job was to show up, follow orders, and enjoy myself.

“Hey! I’m here! Let’s get those whips crackin’ eh?!”

After all, the onus was meant to be on the dom, right?

After I eventually got some experience topping, I realized how selfish my initial attitude had been. While BDSM may appear from the outside to be one person acting upon another, the truth is that sustainable kinky relationships are all about equal partnership.

Dominance done right is hard fucking work, so it’s important for us devoted subbies to hold up our end of the bargain.

If you’re unclear on how to be a good sub and please your dom, I’ve got your back with this article.

What You’ll Need for Kinky Playtime

  • Any tools or toys you’d like your partner to use during play, like ropes, paddles, blindfolds, or nipple clamps.
  • Safety gear for the activities you’d like to do. (For example, if your partner plans to tie you up, they’ll need a strong pair of scissors on hand in case they need to release you quickly.)

How to Be a Fantastic Sub

1. Understand Your Responsibilities.

Giving up your desired level of control and focusing on your partner will be your main priorities during play. That’s the sexy fun part!

woman excited for BDSM session

However, there are important things to keep in mind if you want to keep your BDSM dynamic healthy. For the most part, it’s going to be on you to decide which activities are on or off the table.

Don’t let ANYONE pressure you to do things you don’t want to do.

If you’re not willingly consenting, it’s not BDSM. It’s abuse. Doms need structure in order to work within our desired boundaries, and a sub who says “Do whatever you want” is a huge red flag.

They’re taking a lot of risks by agreeing to dominate, so help them out as a co-creator.

You’ll also need to let your dom know when they’re crossing into unwanted territory, meaning you’ll need to use your safeword. Many beginning subs have trouble with this. Self-awareness is your friend here. Know when to tap out.

For most of us, our fetishes can tie into personal issues or baggage that lies deep within our subconscious. Many people find BDSM therapeutic for this reason.

sub woman

This can be wonderful, but keep in mind that our dominants are probably not qualified professionals and we can’t expect them to be entirely responsible for our mental health.

We have to be able to separate fantasy from reality in our kinky relationships. For instance, acting completely helpless during play can be exhilarating. However, BEING completely helpless in reality makes for a toxic situation, especially when BDSM is involved.

Make sure to stay grounded and take a step back to process things when necessary.

Though your dom is taking on the responsibility of leading your dynamic, they’ll also have needs and limits of their own. Make sure to give equal attention to their physical and mental health.

2. Learn about Your Dom’s Fetishes and What Makes Them Tick.

When I first started playing, I had an idea of why I liked pain and submission. However, I didn’t understand why my partners enjoyed domination or sadism.

Understanding why your partner likes what they do will help you come up with ways to turn them on.

For instance, some doms love the idea of conquering a bratty submissive, while others detest bratiness altogether and seek subs who worship them without question.

Ask your dom about what they like. Listen carefully when they open up to share.

3. Think about Your Preferences and Limits, and Your Preferred Safeword System.

Preferences are activities that you’d like to try, like bondage, objectification, or wax play. Hard limits are activities you’re unwilling to do, and soft limits are activities you might like to try at some point, but are hesitant about.

sub in BDSM rope session

It’s difficult to know what your preferences or limits are when you’re first starting out, but as I mentioned above, your dom will need to work within a structure set by you.

Have a think about the things you may or may not want to try.

If you’re unsure about all the possibilities BDSM may entail, check out a BDSM glossary or a BDSM checklist. Keep in mind, you need to understand the risks of every activity you want to try in order to properly consent to doing it.

Additionally, you’ll want to come up with a safeword system that you feel comfortable using. Though having a single safeword can work well for some people, having multiple safewords can be extremely helpful.

4. Communicate Anything You Want Your Partner to Know During Negotiation.

Negotiation is a main aspect of BDSM best practices. It’s important to chat before playing in order to clarify limits, safeword systems, and other considerations.

Worried that talking about BDSM will ruin the magic? I assure you, it absolutely won’t.

Talking about kinky details can be incredibly arousing and create delicious feelings of anticipation for you both.

woman ready for BDSM session

What’s not sexy are injuries, lost trust, and misunderstandings about whether an act was consensual. We want to avoid these problems however possible.

5. Prepare Yourself for Playtime.

You want to be physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced before jumping into a BDSM session.

Here are some ways you might want to prepare:

  • Many doms and subs thrive on the element of surprise during scenes. Indeed, not knowing what will happen during a session can be thrilling! However, it’s also easy to psyche yourself out and make yourself unnecessarily nervous, which will prevent you from enjoying the moment. I try to do a bit of meditation to focus my mind so I can be fully present with my dom.
  • Certain bondage positions can contort the body in uncomfortable ways. (Which is often the point! Mwahaha!)
  • Stretching in advance can do wonders for your ability to enjoy the experience and walk away without (too much) soreness afterwards. Roll out that yoga mat, kinky subbie!
  • You and your dom will need to gather any specific equipment you’ll want to use. For example, if you’re looking to do anal play, you’ll need lube that’s specifically designed for it. If you’re going to play with rope bondage, you’ll need the rope itself and safety supplies like scissors. Any type of play that involves abrasion or penetration of the skin, like needle play, require products that can clean the skin and prevent infection. Make sure you have what you need.

6. Enjoy Your Scene While Keeping Track of Your State of Mind.

Woohoo! You’re ready to play!

Now you get to experience all the exciting, challenging, relaxing, and mind-altering effects of BDSM with your partner. Enjoy yourself!

At the same time, make sure to remain aware of your emotional and physical state, and to communicate your feelings when necessary.

BDSM aftercare

It’s never a good idea to assume your dom understands how you’re reacting to any aspect of play. Doms aren’t mind readers, nor are they infallible.

7. Tap out with Your Safeword at Any Point, for Any Reason.

Some submissives refrain from using safewords due to fear of disappointing their dom. This can lead to self-induced trauma and injuries.

A good dom will prioritize your safety and never want to actually harm you, so use your safeword freely! Don’t be shy!

8. Domination Is Difficult to Get Right, so Be Patient When Things Don’t Go Well.

A great dom will want to do everything they can to please you. However, they’re human like the rest of us and will make mistakes. This can be frustrating or even scary at times, but try to remain patient and calmly explain your feelings when things go wrong.

If you need to cool down, take the time you need and then talk things out with your partner.

9. Be Present with Your Dom During Aftercare.

Aftercare is the time when you and your partner make sure you’re both okay and can make a smooth transition back to reality.

This may involve cuddling, kissing, having a chat, sleeping together, or whatever you both require.

Aftercare isn’t just for your benefit, but your dom’s as well.

BDSM aftercare

They may be feeling a bit taken aback, exhausted, or even guilty after particularly intense scenes.

Be present with them and make sure they know that what they did during your scene was consensual and wanted, if this is unclear.

10. Give Candid Feedback about What You Did or Didn’t Enjoy During Play.

My best dominant partners have always asked, “Is there anything you didn’t like about what we did?” Aftercare may or may not be the right time to have this conversation, but it’s important to address it at some point.

Let your partner know what you loved and what you don’t wish to experience again.

If they have the right information, and the freedom to explore and adapt their approach in the future, your next scenes will only get better!

11. Try to Please Your Dom in Little Ways Before You Play Again.

I always like to touch base and flirt to keep things exciting between sessions.

For instance, if your scene left you covered in some particularly impressive bruises, your dom may be interested in seeing them, so snap a selfie of your glorious black and blue ass. (I always do this!)

These little steps will keep your partner inspired. Be their muse!

12. Make Sure Your Dom Knows How Much You Value Them.

BDSM can inspire intense feelings and it’s easy to get wrapped up in our own heads.

Make sure to let your partner know that their efforts are valued. This appreciation is something good doms live for.

As you can probably see, submission is much more complicated than simply following orders. Don’t let this intimidate you!

Power exchange will add beautiful depth and intimacy to your relationship if you and your partner both approach it with mindfulness and compassion.

Best of luck and have fun playing!

About the author

Molly Lazarus

Molly Lazarus

Molly Lazarus is a freelance writer and sex educator specializing in BDSM and other pursuits of pleasure. She grew up in San Francisco, but has spent the last 10 years living in Osaka, Japan, where she organized a monthly BDSM munch, leads D/s community discussion groups, and mentors adventurous explorers as they wade into the exciting world of kink. Molly believes it's everyone's right to freely explore their sexuality in ways that are enjoyable, consensual, and safe for all involved.