Myth-busting Monday: “I’m alpha”
I wouldn’t bet on that.
Let me set the context: a woman, my client, connects with a man over Bumble. They meet for coffee. The conversation was typical in getting to know each other. Then the man said this, to which she did not respond, and he then invited her to his place. Their date ended shortly after, and the two discontinued communication.
So what was that? To me, personally and professionally, he was a fake dom.
Doms (short for dominants) and often a synonym of alpha, are identifiers in the BDSM/kink community. As a community, like all other communities, there are expected behaviors and practices of etiquette that help a group stay cohesive. One expectation: consent. Without consent, an activity can be criminal (ie consensual sadism becomes assault). Consent is so important that there are TWO+ models used in BDSM/kink1. Here, our alpha never asked her about her preferences or identifiers (what if she was also alpha?), he never specified what he meant (though she could have asked – more on that in a second), he never negotiated what going to his place would look like – all of these are gateways to discussion of consent.
Another, related practice promoted in the BDSM/kink community: more experienced practitioners are supposed to act as guides and mentors (see the writings of Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy), that is, to be more explicit in communication with newer individuals and check in more during encounters. Our supposed alpha made assumptions of her knowledge or lack thereof (did he even know if she knew what he meant?). He did not explicitly communicate what he was looking for, nor engaged her in that communication about her own preferences. His lack of communication doesn’t indicate a person comfortable with sexual communication or negotiation. As indicated in the previous paragraph as well, he failed the mentor test.
Further, BDSM is, for many, specifically about explicit power exchange. This man was in a place of power, based on his gender, his claimed label, and possibly (we don’t know) his experience. He did not use his power in a collaborative, ethical way to ask her anything about her desires or experiences or expectations. He instead used his power to make a claim, rather than collaborate. Holding and wielding power is a responsibility, not an entitlement.
Which brings me back to the concept of fake doms2. These are predatory people that look for someone to do things to, not for someone to do things with, in a consensual, collaborative process. Based on my own awareness, as well as discussions with clients, these are often, though not always, cis/hetero men (this is also the group most likely to commit nonconsensual acts within the BDSM community3; these patterns have a sense of relatedness to me). Perhaps it is a sense of entitlement and that society has groomed these individuals for this behavior, or it is the Fifty Shades of Grey4 fall out (it is a problematic movie), or some statistical phenomena (like sampling bias) or something else. Maybe the why doesn’t matter so much: what does?, be aware of fake doms.
As a sexuality professional, I do adhere to flexibility in ways of thinking and doing and labeling (ex. there’s no “right” way to be bisexual or to be transgender or to provide oral sex), to intentionally deviate from our society, which loves labels, hierarchies, and telling people they are wrong or not doing something “right”. Along these same lines, I try to avoid should-ing anyone. There are many ways to be an alpha, but his style is not the one promoted in ethical kink communities, though it might fit in some less ethically inclined spaces. Considering why this scenario was problematic to me professionally and my client personally is important – lack of consent discussion, lack of explicit discussion/negotiation of an encounter – his failure at mentoring, and his assumption of power over.
Have you encountered “fake doms”? If you participate in the BDSM/kink lifestyle, how do you model and negotiate consent in your encounters?
Thanks for reading, community. Wishing you well in navigating your own sexuality journey and hoping you continue to learn for yourself, from yourself and others. RACK-on
- Two models of consent: Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC) and Risk Aware and Consensual Kink (RACK). SSC is the older model, and some practitioners found it problematic (ex what is and who defines “safe”? and “sane”? – is sane ableist? Does it imply sobriety?). Promoting more individualized language, RACK acknowledges that there are risks in practices (here we remove the “safe” component) and removes the “sane” qualifier. There is also the idea of consensual non-consent – some individuals want to be surprised. But this consensual non-consent is explicitly and specifically negotiated and requires experienced players (educated in techniques, understanding of a person’s bodies and behavior and desires, etc).
- Listen to podcast by Sluts and Scholars interviewing the creators of Kinkville here, around minute 20 they discuss fake doms: https://slutsscholars.libsyn.com/181-welcome-to-kinkyville-with-javay-da-bae-and-emily-blake
- Consent Violations Survey by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom: https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/9xj.1d5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Consent-Violations-Survey-Analysis-final.pdf with more good info on best practices here: https://ncsfreedom.org/key-programs-2/consent-counts/#:~:text=Consent%20Violations%20Survey%20NCSF%E2%80%99s%20survey%20launched%20in%202014,details%20about%20consent%20violations%20in%20a%20BDSM%20context
- Consent Isn’t Enough: The Troubling Sex Of Fifty Shades by Emma Green https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2015/02/consent-isnt-enough-in-fifty-shades-of-grey/385267/
Other resources to check out:
- The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy
- The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy
- When Someone You Love is Kinky by Dossie Easton and Catherine A Liszt
- As Kinky As You Wanna Be by Shanna Germain
- Tongue Tied by Stella Harris
- Safe, Sane, and Consensual: Contemporary Perspectives on Sadomasochism by Darren Langbridge et al., eds.
- You can find more on Fetlife as well, but be aware that the content is very graphic and adult oriented and many individuals find themselves overwhelmed or turned off by their encounters on this site.
- Educators and authors like Marla Stewart teach adults how-tos related to BDSM: https://www.velvetlipssexed.com/
- Other good educational sites: Kink Academy https://www.kinkacademy.com/ and Tool Shed https://www.toolshedtoys.com/events/upcoming-classes-events/
- Check out my offerings as well – my content is not always related to kink as I cover a variety of sexuality well-being concerns (link below in author info).
Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, wellness practitioner working to awaken and re-center joy and pleasure through Ignite Well-being. PT (DPT), CHEK practitioner, personal trainer, RYT500, sexuality counselor and educator; copyright protected, please cite accordingly.
The image is from Pexels.
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