Full Question:

Dear Ibby,

What do you do when both you and your partner are into being the more submissive one? We both have fantasies of being dominated, but it doesn't turn either of us on to be the dominator. I've tried to tie him up and I'm just bad at it. My heart's not in it. We're kind of new all this and aren't sure what to do.

Ever heard of a professional Dom?

For laymen and people who love to be told things they already know, that would be a person you hire to safely and consensually dominate you in some capacity, often in a BDSM dungeon.

And because I have no doubt that someone like that could answer your question more knowledgeably than me, I talked to one of them about your little personal problem for you.

Everybody, meet my friend Domina Elle, one of the headmistresses at Denver's Mile High Dungeon (which you can read about here).

I'll leave her to it:

When both are more naturally submissive, this can be a major conundrum because people who are into BDSM often take their Dominant or submissive roles (which are just constructs) very seriously. Breaking out of those roles can be tough, but the desire to please our partners and fulfill your mutual fantasies can be the driving force that makes that happen. What you need is just a new way of framing your situation. 

Instead of thinking of what you're doing as 'dominating' or 'topping' your partner, re-frame what you're doing for your partner as a 'stress relieving treatment' or 'therapeutic modality.' Remember that you are providing stress relief, energy release and a much needed escape from the monotony of life for your partner. It's a learning and growth process for everyone involved.

You don't have to have a dominant personality to effectively tie up and then joyously ravage your lover as they have surrendered control. You don't have to have a dominant 'schtick' to give a very enjoyable spanking. If a person isn't used to administering the activities, practice makes perfect, and of course newbies feel awkward whether they're naturally dominant or not.

In BDSM, we often use the term 'service top' to describe people in your situation. It's a person who is normally on the bottom who switches to the top in a 'service' capacity. It's not because they're inherently dominant or knowlegeable about domination; it's because part of the submission is providing a service for their partner. This may be another way to word it that can help you.

When you look at it that way, you let go of the 'Top-Dominant' and 'bottom-sub' constructs, which can make it easier to step into the role you're both trying to be in, but don't yet feel comfortable inhabiting.

What she said!

I'd also add that practice makes perfect. If you're fumbling around with ropes or restraints, or you have no idea how to wield and use a 5 foot long leather flogger, practice on yourself or on some consenting friends before you even go there with your partner. (If you're a YouTube person, I'm pretty sure YouTube is like 90 percent BDSM tutorials and the rest are Ice Bucket Challenges, too.)

You'll feel much more confident and in the moment if you go into the interaction with the technical skills you need to dominate your partner.

And remember — you're just playing around here. No one's saying that because you dominated someone you're officially a Dom, or even a switch. 

"Try not to over think it," advises Elle. "Have fun with it, keep the word PLAY close to your hip. Don't expect to be a master at something right away. There are no 'rules' here other than consent, and the safety protocol involved in each type of play."

One last thing: you can have submissive sex while dominating each other at the same time, in the same sex session. You just have to get creative.

For example: you could tie your partner's legs, and one of their arms to the bed. With their free arm, they could hold a leash attached to a collar you're wearing, and gently pull on it for a light choke while you fuck them (if you're into that).

Or, you could take turns spanking each other.

At any point, one or both of you can be in blindfolds or restraints, or wearing a ball gag, fucking each other like you want to be fucked.

Who knows! The world is your five dollar foot long.

A huge part of domination and submission is symbolism. These things (the sex accessories or the actions themselves) represent a symbolic exchange of power, and that exchange can be fluid and evolving as long as you've discussed how to make that pleasurable for both of you. There's nothing that says one of you has to be dominant and one has to be submissive the whole time.

If none of that works and you have the means, then I'd definitely suggest meeting with a professional like Elle who can either dominate you herself, or advise you as a couple on how to both do that thing you kind of don't want to do but will if the other person wants to or whatever.

Fantasies are all about compromise. Sometimes, you do something for someone because you love them and they're good to you, not because in inherently makes you explode like Old Faithful. As long as you feel safe, respected and you discuss things beforehand, there's nothing wrong with a little giving without getting. You might even find that giving is actually just as exciting as getting.

All that said, only take it as far as you're comfortable with. If you genuinely, genuinely can't and won't top your partner, or they can't and won't top you … that just might have to be something you do with someone else, given your partner's knowledge and consent.

That, or just roll down a hill together — every other second, one of you will be pinning the other down! Perfect.