A question arises in BDSM circles from time to time. Should a dominant say please and thank you when interacting with a sub?
The title of this column might make you think that please and thank you are for the fakes. Not so!
I am not here to say that dominants should avoid saying please and thank you. Instead I am here to say that omitting please and thank you in the context of consensual D/s is not necessarily impolite. But we have been taught that we should say please and thank you! Yes, but we have also been taught that we shouldn’t hit someone with a flogger! BDSM creates a different context which makes acts that we avoid in general social situations acceptable within a BDSM interaction.
Let’s start by considering why and when we say please and thank you.
What is our intention when we say please and thank you? We are being polite. And what is our intention when we are being polite? Our intention is to convey respect, which reduces to conveying a gesture of good will. Or we are recognizing the sovereignty or agency of a person and being cautious that we don’t act as if we think that person is below us in rank. It is for the same reasons why we might address someone as Mr. Bush versus Harry.
The need to convey this gesture is greater in formal situations and in situations where there is a greater need to convey that good will and recognition of agency exist. Consider the following situations:
Bob is having a meal at a table and needs pepper that is in front of Harry. Consider the three ways below he can ask for it:
- “Pass me the pepper.”
- “Harry, please pass me the pepper.”
- “Mr. Bush, would you please pass me the pepper?”
Now imagine each statement in the following contexts:
- The lunch is a formal business lunch. Bob had just met Harry who is an associate of same or greater rank of a partner company with whom Bob is negotiating a business deal.
- Harry is Bob’s brother.
- Harry is Bob’s son.
If we took a survey, most people would agree that statements 2 and 3 are better suited for the business lunch; some people would consider statement 1 inappropriate. While statement 2 would be appropriate with a brother or son, statement 1 would also work without people thinking that it is rude. Statement 3 would be odd in this context.
Now let us imagine another scenario. Pat is supervising recruits in the military and wants to tell the recruits to do push-ups.
- “ Down on the ground! Give me 25 push ups!”
- “Please get down the ground. Ok, now would you please give me 25 push-ups?”
The second statement reminds us of the soft spoken officer from the Police Academy comedy films, doesn’t it?
Looking at these examples tells us that it is not rude to omit please if good will is established, or if there is an established rank difference and the statement is not a request but an order. Similarly, a dominant may omit please to express a greater authority rank and convey that what was said was an order, especially when good will and underlying respect is established. Indeed some people, dominants and submissives, like to use language to express different ranks, and omitting please is one such way.
Thank you serves two purposes: it conveys good will, respect, and recognition of sovereignty, much like what occurs with please. Also, it shows appreciation and recognition of effort someone made. Here too, thank you may be omitted if the good will and appreciation is clearly established. And thank you may be omitted when what the other person did was expected and compulsory—it too can be a way to show a difference in rank.
What if a dominant wants to omit saying thank you but wants to otherwise show appreciation to the submissive (we all like to receive appreciation)? There are multiple approaches to take then:
- Say thank you or express appreciation using others words from time to time, and omit saying thank you on each occasion.
- Express appreciation using words that still reinforce the D/s dynamic (e.g. you pleased me, you served me well, you have been a good servant).
- Express appreciation non-verbally (a smile, or an appreciative look), possibly in a way that reinforces the D/s dynamic (motioning for the submissive to kneel and stroking the head, or patting the cheek).
What if a dominant wants to say please and thank you? They are entirely welcome to say please and thank you! What if you are a submissive and like to hear please and thank you? You are welcome to say, “Please say please. Thank you for thanking me!”
The points I convey are:
- If you a dominant and don’t want to say please for sake of expressing D/s, it does not make you rude as long as such interaction is within consent. You might simply be expressing dominance.
- If you are a submissive and don’t want please or thank you used for sake of D/s, it does not mean you do not value yourself. You might simply be expressing subservience and receiving dominance.
- If you see a dominant not using please or thank you, it does not mean that the dominant is rude, or that the submissive is allowing the dominant to mistreat them. They might simply be expressing their respective roles.
I actually have a bit of a difference of opinion – but only a mild one. If the D/s dynamic has not been expressly stated and consented to, then in my opinion it is not being dominant, it is being impolite. If I had a submissive and another dominant simply ordered him/her to “pass the pepper” – well, that’s rude, because the dynamic has not been consented to.
Strangely enough, I encounter this most often from females, especially of a dominant persuasion. The worst moment was when a dominant woman I very much respect and like completely ignored my female partner, apparently because she assumed I was with a submissive. Problem is, that partner was not even remotely submissive – so while my friend may have been expressing dominance, she also made a pretty bad first impression on my partner.
Personally, I enjoy being polite. There is an old saying that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat those who serve. I prefer to reflect the higher polish and be a classy gent…especially since it makes the times that I am not so genteel that much more effective.
I am glad you added your comment, for after submitting the article I wished I had given greater emphasis than I currently have given to this type of interaction being within *consent*. Your comment helps deliver the emphasis that is missing from the article.
To add to your comment and to the article, omitting please and thank you is one of way of expressing dominance and submission when the wish to mutually engage in D/s has been established. Just as it would be inappropriate to engage in other forms or expressions of D/s outside of consent, the same applies to omitting please and thank you.
I respond well to the omission of please and thank you by those with whom I choose to interact with D/s, and with whom a mutual sense of good will exists. When please and thank you are omitted by those with whom I have no such sentiment, I perceive it just as anyone would in any social situation and find it to reflect poorly on the person making the omission.