There are a lot of folks around our communities who are eager to be trained as s-types. They want to be appealing to the D-types they lust over. They have hot, juicy Marketplace-inspired fantasies about the training process itself. And just maybe, they have a sincere desire to be good: to be as useful and pleasing to their partner as they can be. The idea of training holds out the promise of all three.
There are also a lot of folks ready to tell them that there is no such thing, and those folks have a good point. There certainly is no universal standard of best submissive behavior. There isn’t a right way to kneel; there is only the way that your particular partner prefers for you to kneel. So if “training” means learning positions, forms of address, rituals and protocols and such then it mostly only applies to the person doing the training. Switch to a different partner and you’d have to be trained all over again. (Which might be fun, really.)
But there are other kinds of training, including some that I believe really are transferable to submitting to most if not all dominant partners, and really can make you fundamentally better at submission. Be warned though, those kinds of training tend to involve real effort and focus less on kneeling, posing and getting spanked.
Four Kinds of Training in Power Exchange
1. Play Training
Like play punishment, play training is a fantasy roleplay exercise. The real goal is to have a hot fun time, and you aren’t actually expected to learn anything.
This doesn’t mean that it’s less worthy or important. Having a hot, fun time is one of the most worthy and important ends of power exchange. Pursue your play training with pride and passion, and enjoy it to the fullest. Just make sure that everybody involved is on the same page about whether training is play or not. If you’re dominating make it abundantly clear to your partner whether you enjoy play training them as a maid and would be happy to keep repeating the same training every week for the foreseeable future, or whether you sincerely want them to learn to set the table properly the first time you show them so that they can do it without supervision in the future.
2. Preference Training
This is the non-transferable kind of training in the sorts of etiquette, protocol, rituals and such that a particular dominating partner prefers.
Another partner might appreciate how you’ve been trained to wait for permission before starting to eat at meals, but they just as likely might find it annoying and want you to stop.
Many of us who dominate really enjoy doing our own preference training, and would be disappointed to have it already done for us. It isn’t so much the coffee in bed every morning that we value (though that is nice), as it is having a partner who we ourselves have trained to bring us coffee in bed every morning. Having a partner arrive already doing everything exactly to our preferences would make it less personal, and deprive us of the pleasure of conducting the training ourselves.
So don’t worry about trying to learn the correct ways to kneel and speak and serve and such. For one thing, there is no correct way. And for another, the dominant partner who claims you will likely be happier to teach you themselves.
3. Skill Training
Beyond simple preference training, skill training is the acquisition of substantial skills that are likely to be useful in service to a dominant.
Skills aren’t universally transferable to all power exchange dynamics, but some of them are pretty darn broadly valuable. I don’t know many people who don’t appreciate a skilled massage, for example. Domestic skills like cooking and gardening will be valued by many partners, as will executive-assistant kinds of organizational skills.
Unlike preference training, a dominating partner needs to actually know a skill and know how to teach it in order to train their submissive in it themselves. So when you see folks advertising generic offers to “train submissives” this is less likely what they have in mind. It’s also entirely legitimate to outsource skill training, of course. One can send one’s partner to classes, tutoring or books for expert education in skills that would be valuable for their submission.
Personally, I notice and appreciate the sincerity demonstrated by a submitting partner who has taken the initiative to develop potentially useful submissive skills on their own. I appreciate it even if I have no practical need for the skill itself: it still serves as evidence of their commitment to their submission.
4. Insight Training
This is the kind training that I really wrote this article to talk about.
I believe that there is a kind of training that can help someone to become fundamentally better at submission–in ways that will be valuable to almost any dominating partner.
When we submit we’re called upon to clearly communicate our boundaries and our darkest desires. To remain respectful and deferential even in moments of conflict. To stay connected to our big-picture desire to obey even when right in this moment we’re powerfully tempted to disobey. To be transparent about our most vulnerable feelings and reactions. Those things are hard to do well. They take self-awareness, discipline, sensitivity and a strong grasp of intimate communication.
So the foundational skills of submission aren’t about memorizing positions, or even learning how to give world-class head. They’re about knowing yourself, managing your emotions, and communicating clearly and compassionately–and those skills can be trained.
As with skill training, a dominating partner needs to have worked on these capabilities themselves in order to train anyone else. Fortunately, they’re plenty valuable for anyone to learn for their own benefit. They’re skills help us to be better at relating, and to be better people in general. They’re just especially valuable for submission because submission is relationally extra-difficult.
Many different programs exist for training insight, emotional intelligence and intimate communication. Nonviolent Communication is probably the most well known and widely available–in books, from coaches and in groups both online and in-person. The Gottman Institute offers books, videos and workshops. Organizations like the Human Awareness Institute have extensive (and expensive) programs, also offer videos and materials online for free. Many therapists can also teach this kind of skills.
I have had the pleasure of dominating partners who have invested in these kinds of training, and the benefits are clear as day.
They have thought through their submissive desires and are able to talk about them clearly and explicitly. “Gosh. I dunno. What do you like?” has been replaced by “I love giving service. Feeling like I’m useful makes me really happy and helps me feel like I’ve really earned my partner’s affection and attention. If I serve well I want to be acknowledged for it–it’s that pat on the head that gives me what I’m looking for out of this. I don’t like being punished. I want to be good; if I don’t meet your expectations please just tell me and I’ll work hard to improve.”
They’re able to accept what I actually said to them instead of trying to mind-read what I must have secretly really meant.
They’ve learned to own their emotions rather than projecting them onto the people close to them. When they have a moment of feeling ashamed of their need to be degraded they are able to say “I’m feeling ashamed for wanting this” and we can deal with it together–instead of saying “How can you treat me like shit all the time? I hate you!”
They’ve learned to listen: one of life’s most undervalued skills.
It is such a joy to dominate someone who has been well trained in some or all of these skills. We can go deeper into power exchange with more consistency and less risk of bad experiences, regardless of what kind of power exchange we’re practicing. Self-awareness is as valuable for a service dynamic as it is for a degradation dynamic. Communication skills are vital for both rough & tumble conquest games and for prim & proper high-protocol.
So if you’re looking to be trained in submission, understand what kind of training it is that you’re seeking. If it’s play training, play away!
If you’re talking with a potential dominating partner about them training you, ask about what kind of training they mean. What do they expect you to learn from it? What are their qualifications to teach it?
If you feel driven to put in the work to become fundamentally better at submission, then set aside the lists of “slave rules” and thirteen different ways to kneel, and pick up some training that’s going to help you know yourself, manage your emotions, and get better at communicating with others about sexy, intimate, sensitive topics. I guarantee your future D-types will appreciate it.