Hi Rhonda,

My question is how can I tell if my partner is my Dom or a sadist?

He isn’t happy until I’m black and blue with bites and slaps, he tells me he loves me but enjoys hurting me.

I enjoy seeing his handmarks on me. Our relationship is supposed to be Dom/sub. I’m trying to be open minded as he says I will enjoy it, but I’m left feeling confused about us, what his feelings really are and find myself upset trying to work it out. Maybe I am overthinking and being too sensitive…



Dear Seekamy,

I hate to write this, but I am seeing some bright red flags here: lots of blurred boundaries and uncertainty.

Dom or sadist?

Firstly, some definitions: a sadist is someone who enjoys inflicting pain on others; a Dominant is someone who has power over another. The two are not mutually exclusive and can co-occur. For instance, a Dominant might enjoy inflicting pain, but may not. Similarly, a submissive might want to yield power to someone, but not be hurt by him or her. Your partner enjoys inflicting pain and he has power over you, so he is a sadist and a Dom.

How can he hurt me if he loves me?

You also seem confused and upset imagining that someone could love you and want to hurt you. While I cannot speak for your partner, I can say there are plenty of examples of loving, consensual BDSM relationships. We know it is possible to receive pleasure through inflicting and receiving pain.

If you can accept it is possible, then it comes down to communication: how you demonstrate your love for one another. Part of that demonstration is about respecting the boundaries of your BDSM play, including showing appropriate aftercare. It is important to feel assured your partner truly cares for and loves you, and this is something you need to work out with him and for yourself. Of one thing you can be certain, however: if he does not respect your boundaries, he does not respect you.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries

What concerns me from your letter, is you appear confused about the extent to which your partner hurts you and what your play entails. You say you enjoy seeing his handmarks on you and that your relationship is supposed to be Dom/sub, however you do not indicate you have agreed to what is taking place. What consent have you granted? What is your safe word or signal? Where are your boundaries?

Just because you submit to another, or enter a D/s or S/m arrangement, this does not give that person carte blanche. You should always agree upon boundaries or limits, and have a code (such as a safe word or signal) that lets your Dom or sadist know when you need him to stop.

Some people use a traffic-light analogy, where ‘orange’ means to ease off, but keep going (be ready to stop), but ‘red’ is a clear indication to stop. In a healthy D/s or S/m relationship, there are boundaries, and the submissive (or the masochist) is always in control of where those boundaries lie. A Dom does not have consent beyond the point where a sub indicates ‘red’ or uses a safe word.

If a Dominant or sadist pushes beyond boundaries, he/she should be doing so with consent. If he/she does not have consent, this is not a BDSM relationship; it is an abusive relationship, and he/she is assaulting you.

Play safe: communicate

I truly hope in this case you and your partner simply need to communicate more clearly with one another. Establish where your boundaries lie, what activities are in or out, and put a safe word or signal in place. That way you can play safely, assured of your feelings for one another.

Play safe,

Rhonda xx

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