essays

9 Ideas to Support Your D/s During Hard Times

I’m writing this in February 2021, eleven months after the start of the global COVID pandemic. So when I say “hard times,” of course I am thinking about particular “hard times” — but this could be applicable to other kinds of hard times, too, like going through a grieving process, or when someone has a huge career change, or goes back to school, or a new person comes in to your lives. There are so many kinds of change that can create stress on a relationship.

I’m writing this for myself as much as for you. I have struggled, hard, with staying connected to the authority exchange dynamic that rife and I have, even though I love it dearly, cherish it, and always want to protect it and foster its growth.

Because it’s been such a struggle, I’ve been thinking about and talking a lot with friends about how to support my dominance specifically and our D/s dynamic more generally during this time.

Here are some ideas, mostly aimed at folks who are in a relationship. Hope they’re helpful.

1. Reconnect with your “why”

Why are you in an authority exchange dynamic? Journal about it, dance about it, ponder about it, write love letters about it, make art about it. Re-read your contract (if you have one), revisit the active protocols you have, and perhaps even try some new ones. Why do you have the contract? Why do you have protocols? Set aside some time and really dig in to why you do this. If you can, come up with an affirmation, or a shorthand explanation, that can stand in for your “why” so you can connect to it as needed.

2. Join a group. Don’t have a group? Create one.

Support and discussion groups for authority exchange are so important. Personally, I would not want to participate in authority exchange dynamics outside of community. I need that identity perception and validation from other people, and I also want people to witness how our dynamic is working and what it’s like as part of helping to keep it healthy. Authority exchange in isolation can be dangerous, I believe.

The good news is, so many groups have moved online! There are more things available online now for kinky folks than there ever have been. If you can’t find a group you want to go to, consider making a small group for yourself. Call up a few friends and ask if they want to meet every few weeks or once a month to just support each other and share about your dynamic.

3. Study. Read books, read articles, watch films

There are films, books, and other kinds of art out there about authority exchange dynamics that you haven’t seen yet. Check them out! Perhaps you can listen to an audiobook or a podcast with your partner (if you have one) and talk about it. Perhaps you might want to start a kinky Pinterest board or an Instagram account full of inspirational photos. Perhaps it’s time to re-read the Marketplace series, or check out other erotica or nonfiction writings on kink that you haven’t already read. And maybe you’re the kind of person who would also like to write a short summary of the thing you read or watched or listened to, along with some of your key takeaways and a-ha moments. Having a little film club or writing a book report can be a great way to synthesize and integrate the information.

4. Set aside a date night

If you’re in a relationship, and you don’t already have a date night, make it happen. Set aside time for just the two of you to be together. Maybe you want to have a particular dress code, or particular goals. What do you love doing together? What makes you feel strong in your power dynamic? Make a list. Do some of those things.

I realized recently that I spent quite a lot of time in erotic rituals receiving touch and moving energy through my body, and in the pandemic, I’d primarily been a top. I needed more ritual sex time specifically, not just sex and play time. We have been setting aside time to do that lately, and it has helped.

5. Set aside a check-in

Aside from a fun, play, connective date night, set aside a check-in for your dynamic. Questions I like to ask are things like:

  • What has been the best thing about our dynamic (since our last check-in / recently / this week)?
  • What has been the hardest thing?
  • What protocols are you loving?
  • What protocols are very challenging?
  • What, if anything, could I do to feed this dynamic better?
  • What could you do?
  • Is there anything you’re not telling me that you want to share now?

We like to have check-ins connected with something very pleasurable, like a fire in the fireplace, or a nice walk outside, or special ice cream, or ordering take-out, since sometimes they can be hard conversations. But I always feel better the next day, and it can help to keep the dynamic active and conscious.

6. Attend kink events or classes online

There are so many kink events and classes online now! Check out Wicked Grounds, the BDSM coffee shop based in San Francisco; they are hosting many classes every month. There are multiple groups on Fetlife and Facebook specifically for online BDSM events. I’ve seen people teaching everything from psychological mind games to cigar play to impact to DIY sex toys. It can be fun, educational, and connective. If you don’t see anything coming up that interests you, there’s always Kink Academy — they have literally hundreds of videos already uploaded and ready, in a huge archive.

Perhaps even consider teaching a class or two — there is no better way to get to know a subject than to teach about it.

7. Recommit to your dynamic

Have you been together for a while? When was the last time you updated your protocol, your contract? You could think about having a recommitment ceremony of some sort, either on your own or with friends. Think of it as “renewing your vows” to each other and to the dynamic. Sometimes, looking over things, getting fresh and current with where things are, can infuse new life in to the authority exchange.

8. Ask yourself: What do I need to get into more headspace?

These ideas are mostly relevant to me and my own dynamic, and they might resonate for you, but they might not. Ask yourself: what is it that you specifically need to get into a more dominant or submissive headspace? Is something really weighing on you? Is there anything you can do to lift that burden? Can you get some more support for certain parts of your life that aren’t working so smoothly right now?

9.Consider the Protocol Game

If you use protocol in your dynamic, take a look at the Protocol Game, a simple structure of making 52 protocols (some of them can be duplicates), then pulling one randomly each week for a year. That protocol is the thing you do (or your submissive does) for the week. They can be one-shot tasks, or something to do every day, or at a specific time of the day or week. Take a look at the Fundamentals of the Protocol Game for how to play, and check out the difference between tasks, protocols, rituals, and rules (at least how we define them). If you’re on the Patreon, you already know that there’s a secret Protocol Game project in the works!

Hope that’s helpful, y’all

I’d love to hear from you. How’s your dynamic going? What have you found that has been really helpful during these particular hard times, of the COVID pandemic in 2020-2021?

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queer women" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert.

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