Oh no, I've somehow fallen down the sexy hole of lifestyle FemDom and found that partners describe me as "soft" and "gentle." What do I do?
What I do may be different than what you do, but here's what I've discovered about myself thus far:
Foremost, as long as I don't take anything too seriously, I should be fine. I strive to have a good time. I'll ignore people intent on yucking my yum, and otherwise be measured about what I like.
Secondly, I'll bring my tranquillity to my relationships. I love many people, and caring for them necessitates grace. This is part of my fundamental D/s philosophy.
Thirdly, I'll know that I'm sexy as all hells. There's few enough lifestyle kinksters in the world, and being one is a great opportunity to explore the wholesome world of deviancy.
Fourthly, figuring out my relationship with soft dominance and what it means to me is an ongoing process of becoming. It's a constant journey of self-discovery and refinement. I'm going to change my mind a lot with time.
There's quite a lot of discussion surrounding labels like "Gentle FemDom" and "Soft Dominance." Some suggest that the labels have outlived their purpose, others still cling to them. I'll discuss my perspective on labels towards the end, but:
Fifth and finally, I'll elect to use labels as I please, or when needed. Some people respond well to them, others don't. Until a better term arises than "soft dominant" and "gentle Domme," I'll use what I may. Labels are only ever going to be an approximation anyway.
What is a Soft Dom Anyway?
I don't know the definition of a soft dom, but people seem to know it when they find a soft dominant.
Of course, that's a total cop-out of an answer. We can try deconstructing what elements soft dominants are composed of, and see where it leads us!
At a high level, soft dominants tend to have positive interactions, lots of love and affectionate actions, and sometimes caregiver elements (like mommy Dommes and daddy Doms).
You can have cute elements like praising, gentle teasing, and shy modesty. It can get to the point of being sappy and saccharine.
These aspects are so ubiquitous in FemDom though, that this may feel like a distinction without a difference. That's why a lot of GFD content focuses on people that incorporate crossdressing or feminisation into F/m. Pegging is a really popular one, as well.
Then you get to the seemingly contradictory elements: some people say that sadism is just fine in gentle dominance. Some add the caveat that it should be clearly loving, not harsh or degrading. Others still say that sadism is entirely off limits within gentle femdom, that being gentle is a rejection of the harsh stereotype from FemDom porn.
I maintain that the label of gentle dominance is about the aesthetic and the whole of the experience; you can have momentary bits that seem to go "against" the whole, but when you look at the totality of experiences they point overwhelmingly in a gentle direction.
It's about the theme of the experience, not individual points along the journey.
I'll share more thoughts about labels later, for now let's focus on the more interesting points!
What Does a Soft Dom Do?
Whatever the heck they want to do, obviously.
There's not much room for stereotyping individual people into actions based on the framework of their role. There are, however, plenty of gentle ideas to draw inspiration from for play and fulfilling relationships.
I shall call to your attention this page, which is loaded with ideas and pointers to draw from:
Though the page is F/m focused, there's plenty of points that carry over to my experience. Though my experience is much less sex focused.
I'm fond of positive words. I shower my dear lady in comments of desire, as well as jokes. I also enjoy praising and compliments for all my wonderful people.
My partners should feel utterly desirable when I'm through with them.
I also enjoy owning my submissives, and knowing that we are mutually entwined. I am as much their Domme as they are my subs. I seek to build a life with them deeply involved in it, and will frequently remind them of those facts.
Thus I love possessives, like "You are mine," and "My good girl." Our aspirations come up frequently, like living many long years together in a home of our making.
Dancing for and with my partners has always been an interesting experience for me. It's one I only infrequently partake in, to keep it undiluted – I vividly remember the few times I have danced.
Like the first time I ever slow danced, with my first girlfriend at a pride prom. Or when I danced with my husband before the pride month drag show. Or for the first time before my dear lady, in front of her in her room in the comfort of privacy.
I also express my bubbling excitement whenever I see my partners, usually through happy wiggles and demands for affection. I may be a reserved person, but for my partners I'm willing to let the mask drop so that they may see my love plainly.
I love sensory play as well: pinwheels are my favourite toy, both to use on someone and to have used on me. That's not even to mention how often I tickled my dear lady when I visited her.
Rope is a staple in this household.
There's always the sensual buildup: running it across my submissive's skin, getting them to gasp when I cinch it down, and then grabbing the rope and handling them around.
Likewise rope is useful for restraint, for my submissives deserve to be tied down and used at times.
Yet those are aspects that come up after I've established a dynamic. What brings about the frequent labelling of me as a soft Domme?
Tranquillity and Grace in Loving Others
One of my qualities that I appreciate the most about myself is my grace in loving. For the people that get to know me, it's what nudges them to see me as a soft Domme.
My patience is nearly limitless, my love is unconditional, and my demeanour is tranquil but principled.
I am not often firm in my resolve; rather, I flow like a river. Unstoppable when I'm in motion, but flowing around obstacles to go where I will.
To be firm too often is to be stubborn, contrary to my grace.
With all that said, my relationships are conditional. Unconditional love is nice, but if I believe the parties involved will be better off apart, then I will follow through on that. I see that as an expression of love in itself:
It's saying, "I love you more than the need to cling. I love you so much that I will do the hard thing of being apart from you for the sake of our well-being."
My whole life has been an exercise in developing grace. Life is altogether too brief, and when you bring your intentions into the world, life just laughs and changes your plans for you.
I've first learned my grace from the best: my mother, who survived for astonishingly long with a cancer. She constantly brought joy and grace to her interactions, despite the constant looming spectre of death.
Death comes for us all. I've since lost too many beloved friends to a variety of fates. Loss and grief is humbling, even amidst our stronger emotions, like raging against the unfairness of it all.
Grief and grace are inextricable for me. Grace comes from being humbled and learning because of it.
The ideal is that as a Domme, I get what I want when I want it. Yet reality humbles that ideal far too often, as pragmatic concessions erode away my intentions. Getting what I want is never easy.
One of my intentions in life is to get plenty of quality time with my chosen people.
Our worldly time is so short, I cherish every day I manage to have with my people. We steal fragments of time and space from life's cruel onward march, and we make the most of our terrible situations.
We aren't just handed happiness in life, we win it in small batches through our choices.
Thus, when my husband or my dear lady face a crisis, I am patient and loving. I know that the crisis will pass with mutual work. When it passes, we will have more joyful time together.
Again and again, crises come and go. The joy remains because I am committed to it. By that method, we can have many long years of happiness together.
There is no blaming someone for facing a crisis, there are no recriminations or "you should have done this." What's done is done, what we choose is to carry on and work towards happiness always.
Like the river encountering an obstacle, I simply reroute around the crisis and keep my eye on the larger goal: a lifetime filled with happiness.
Being a Kinkster is Wholesome (Sometimes)
I often compare kinksters to performance artists, for good reason: many kinksters are exploring expression and experience through kink. Deviancy of this kind is wholesome and enriching.
However, there's a huge caveat to wholesome kink: there's a lot of people that aren't there yet.
There's missing stairs, predators, people out of control of their own lives, and people stumbling around in the dark hurting each other by accident.
Despite those caveats, most kinksters I run into at events describe their experiences in ways that point towards wholesomeness.
They're learning, they're growing, they're embracing the things about themselves that make them happy.
I think embracing kink for kinksters is a way of becoming whole. It's why I don't resonate with dark allegories:
In short, some people see BDSM as a conflicted fragment in their identity. They struggle with it, they isolate themselves, and they refuse to properly integrate it.
From my perspective, sex and BDSM are both wholesome activities when you embrace them as such.
Which is why I enjoy being gentle: not everyone has the same relationship about it that I do, some people have buried trauma and traditions to unlearn.
There is healing in kink. Though I'm not qualified to elaborate on that.
I suspect gentleness is a ubiquitous experience too.
Not gentle play scenes, but the machinations behind the scenes that make things happen at all. Negotiating is wholesome, aftercare is gentle, community is important, and most people are careful as they develop trust and rapport.
Though, gentleness is not entirely universal. Some people are well-meaning and fiery, for instance! They can be loud and fierce.
Yet in my experiences I have seen a lot more of grace and gentleness when interacting with kinksters at events. It's all part of how social interactions run smoothly.
Being a Kinkster is Sexy and Wholesome
For someone like me, I wouldn't be interested in sex at all without kink – I'm somewhere on the grey-ace spectrum.
Yet I'm described by others as a wholesome person, even when I'm expressing my desire for hot, kinky sex. It's not contradictory.
What's wholesome about kink is that it's rejecting preconceived norms about how sex and play should be, and instead about discovering what works for you. Life's too short to get locked into unfulfilling activities, sex included.
By embracing kink, people are stepping into a world of intentionality. They're often willing to do the work necessary to have good experiences, to get what they truly want from life. It's great!
There's not enough kinksters in the world, in my opinion. More people can learn from practising kink, and it should be more normalised to love as you wish.
My Notion of Being a Soft Domme Includes Both Growing Myself and Nurturing Others
Many people choose to expand their boundaries via kink. Many dominants also enjoy exploring limits with their partners.
Yet my notion of soft dominance goes beyond just kinky explorations, and into the realm of nurturing a partner's whole self.
It's tied to my kinky desires: I don't just want kinky sex, nor do I want someone to micromanage with orders.
Instead I strive to surround myself with capable and vibrant people who love me.
That's a two part desire: first is that I must feel worthy of so much love, by improving myself and moving closer to my ideal self image. Second is supporting my people to achieve their own better selves, so that they can adore me and offer themselves to me.
I want not just to nurture my loves, but to reap the rewards of such care.
Why Bother With Labels For FemDom, Like GFD?
FemDom is FemDom, correct? Why do we need labels for more specific things?
To begin with, there's the difference between umbrella labels and specific labels: umbrella labels (like "queer" and "non-monogamy" and "FemDom") are broad and encompass a wide spectrum of identity and behaviour and other labels. They're great for finding community despite differences.
More specific labels on the other hand are great for finding community with the same narrow set of experiences or expectations. Stuff like the labels "pansexual" or "parallel polyam."
Note that some labels can easily be both umbrellas and more specific than an umbrella label above them. Like "non-monogamy" is an umbrella, but "polyamory" can be either an umbrella or a more specific type of non-monogamy.
In a recent conversation with a friend, we got to talking about the efficacy of labels. We share a lot of queer experiences, and I always value his well-reasoned insights.
When we lectured to students, one of the things I always stressed about labels was that they're tools for communication. Tools can be used and abused in a variety of ways.
People have a variety of relationships with labels.
Some are more prescriptive, where labels stereotype behaviours and even pigeon-hole people into expectations.
Others treat labels as compositional pieces, which they can build a mosaic picture representing their self with.
Others still use labels as shorthand to convey a variety of aesthetics – like vague notions and feelings, or a multitude of community behaviours that may be contradictory in a single individual.
Though, you always have to remember that labels are not identities nor people. A person comes first, and labels are merely a tool they may adopt or shed at a moment's notice. Labels are usually more about the aggregate community that uses them than the individuals.
During the conversation with my friend, we brought up gentle femdom and soft dominance.
He views it as a clear theming to dominance. That there are gentle aspects to all kink, especially aftercare, but that gentle dominance is set apart by focusing on those aspects.
He also mentioned that labels need to be flexible, since individuals have different contexts and relationships with literally everything. What does "gentle" even mean to you? What does FemDom mean for you? Is it just about kinky sex, or power exchange, or something different?
There's a bit of duality to it too: people can have individual relationships to a kink, for instance degradation may be affirming and gentle to one person but harmful to another. They both can agree on a communal label of what degradation entails, despite their different contexts.
I come from the perspective that labels are chaotic, churning concoctions of community. They're constantly changing as people share their experiences with the community and help create a consensus of what the label means.
Sometimes that means that labels that have been fairly stable and unified in meaning – like GFD (Gentle FemDom) in Tumblr days – undergo great sea changes.
I'm curious to see where it goes, and if it'll ever settle down into a specific meaning again. I also wonder whether a new label will rise to be shared within the community.
Musing on Gentle FemDom (GFD)
Beyond seeing where labels land, I've mused on GFD in the past.
Since that article I'm amused to see what has changed in my view and what has stayed the same:
For one thing, I've cultivated more relationships with gentle dynamics since then. I've heard from more people that gentleness and softness resonate with them, even when they don't know precisely what that entails.
For another, I've discovered more interesting niches of GFD content that have changed some of my points about boring fantasy – though not entirely.
Change is the only constant in my life. That's because I'm constantly in the process of becoming a better person. Part of that means being "wrong" from time to time:
Being wrong doesn't necessarily mean factually incorrect, nor morally in the wrong, but instead that I may at times move past facets I once held. That I tried something on for size, found it didn't suit me, and moved on.
That too is part of becoming: finding what doesn't work.
Since labels are inaccurate, I've always taken the attitude that they start the conversation for you and give you a common language.
Yet you need to talk out any dynamic you wish to develop.
Labels don't do the communication for you, they just get you into roughly the right area to find people who can hone in on the specific dynamic you can work with.
People keep being drawn to my gentle side, and I enjoy that!
It's fun to be a sexy Domme desired by intriguing lovers, and my particular theming of grace has drawn in the kind of people I like most.
In my line of work, we refer to a concept known as the "pit of success." It's where, no matter what actions you take, it's really easy to accomplish something good. You're trapped in a pit where success is the main option, and you have to try really hard to fail.
That's what my D/s relationships feel like.
I'm in a sexy pit filled with sexy people, doing kinky things like the wholesome deviants we are.
We're all discovering ourselves, perpetually.
We may as well embrace what we love, as well as the ones we love.
If you're interested in reading more about the reality of loving others, I shall call to your attention this article:
Everyone deserves the love that suits them. Yet loving another person is often a difficult task, due to life's complications. It's worth examining what that means.