This is a guest post by Xiao Yingtai.

Doms keep telling us that they’re not mind-readers, so we have to communicate. But it’s hard! Especially when it’s something they might not want to hear.

The good news is that there is always a submissive way to say it. And you never have to compromise the message. Here is what I wish I’d known ten years ago.

You Can Say It

A. You can ask for anything without breaking the dynamic. The Dom has the power, right? It’s their decision whether or not to give you what you want. Recently I forced myself to say, “Sir, I was a puddle after our last scene. This is a lot to ask, but could you check on me every day until I tell you I’m okay?” I got a yes, but on his terms. Perfect!

B. You can and should make it all about yourself. Because the alternative is to tell a Dom about domming – yikes! Anything problematic can always be expressed as your own inadequacies/abilities, needs/wants, feelings/reactions, or learning process. Like so: “Ma’am, it kills me that I can’t send you a video because the idea of you watching me melt drives me crazy. Unfortunately, now I realize that online privacy is a hard limit for me. May I write you a description instead, or is there something else I can do for you?” It’s not that you won’t. You can’t. And you want.

C. The zeroth rule is honesty. No white lies. Even qualifiers like “maybe” are out if they’re insincere. Don’t make the Dom work to figure out what you really mean – be explicit, be specific, be direct. Because what we do is incredibly hard, and misunderstanding becomes potentially disastrous. So bare it all: “Sir, I’m sorry I didn’t smile when I saw you today. I was petrified. I always forget the terror of coming into your presence.” Emotional nakedness is not just safer, in the long run, it's HOT. Hand over the ammunition!

Take Your Instincts to the Next Level

1. Be positive. As my first Dom told me, “Your happiness is a gift to me.” But it’s not just about smiling. For me, the hardest thing about communicating positively was learning to offer solutions. It’s so tempting to feel like I’ve done my duty by spilling my poor conflicted guts: “Nudity is really hard for me, but I hate feeling like parts of me are off-limits to you.” Poor Dom. Is there ANY scenario I’d be happy with? “Could we start with all my clothes on, and could you keep taking off whatever you think I’m ready to handle?” And it worked!

Constructive troubleshooting is not the only way to be positive. Gratitude, hope, a wicked sense of humor: whatever your personality, you have something to offer your Dom.

2. Be attentive. Although happy problem-solving positivity is a good default, it can be jarring at the wrong time. Always, always watch for warning signs. If your Dom is in pain, then jokes might hurt instead of cheering them up. Conversely, if they’re trying to be funny and you start moralizing, they will feel like they’re not being listened to. Imagine you’re dancing, and follow your partner’s lead.

All too often we do the exact opposite. It seems so natural to counter “THOSE IDIOTS!” with “I'm sure they’re trying their best, dear.” But there is no arguing with fresh emotion. So roll with it. Some Doms will want active listening and similar emotional intensity: “That sounds really frustrating, ma’am!” Others might prefer respectful silence at a distance. The right answer is whatever works. If necessary, ask.

3. Be trusting. Do you believe in your dom’s good intentions? Their maturity? Do you believe they care about you? If not, get out now! But if you trust your Dom, try not to hide. Come out and ask the real questions. You'll be amazed how many of your scary assumptions are wrong. Are you angry? Did I embarrass you? What do you like about me? May I break protocol? Could you make that a rule? Should I tell you next time? Can we switch? When in doubt, just ask. The best advice I’ve ever gotten.

Your Dom needs a safe place to answer, too. A tough question doesn’t have to sound like an accusation if you make it about your needs and their feelings. Occasionally, once I’ve managed to frame the question like that, the turmoil goes away and I don’t even need to ask.

Cautionary Postscripts

PS. It is actually extremely easy to hurt a dom’s feelings. They are trusting us to act like they are in charge, doing the right thing, and utterly adored. You can shatter that trust with a word. Even indirect criticism hurts, e.g. “Sir, are you going to change implements soon?” So try not to blame your feelings on their actions. Link them to your own needs: “I’m losing the headspace. Can you help me?”

PPS. What’s right for you? I know someone whose protocol specifies a pleasing facial expression, so she hides her emotions until it's a good time to talk. I couldn’t live like that. I want to speak up as soon as possible: “Sir, it’s been an awful day. Can we talk about something else?” And then there are other subs who are supposed to cry whenever they feel like it. The common principle is that hard truths need to be communicated or they WILL blow up - the only question is whether the talk happens now or a bit later. What do you need? What does your dom want?

Need a Cheat Sheet?

  • You can say anything if you say it right.
  • Think about what you want to achieve.
  • Speak from your vulnerability and trust.

Everything else is implementation. Which is not trivial – I struggle with every single point above. So I try, and I fail, and I learn.

Because the best conversations start with: “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me. What should I do next time?”

For more advice on communication, please see my sources: Ties That Bind by Guy Baldwin, Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, slave sarah's class Charm School, and Eric Pride's class PlaySpace.

For etiquette, please see the links in my essay on protocol or lunaKM’s Submissive Speech series. I am uncomfortable with some of their generalizations, but as practical tips they’re excellent.

Finally, many thanks to slave sarahjadeSciophilous and other friends for helpful criticism. All remaining foolishness is my own!

Xiao Yingtai is a straight female submissive who has been in and out of the scene since 1999. She blogs about BDSM, books and missing links at The University Of Abject Submission.