Tantrums, Dominants, and BDSM


I’ve been reading in a few places lately about people throwing tantrums, in both the vanilla world and in BDSM. In an excellent post on the subject, entitled “That’s Life (Vanilla and BDSM Tantrums)“, Ooooohhhhyesss concludes that “Tantrums are tantrums independent of being Dom/me, sub or vanilla. It is a lack of training in being a social animal. In the vanilla world, you can blame your parents until you are an adult. In BDSM you can point to your play partners; however, your behavior shouts out about YOU and merely reflects on others”.

So what exactly is a tantrum, and how do they apply to WIITWD?

Tantrums are, first and foremost, a sign of complete loss of self-control.

Healthline defines them as:

“… disruptive or undesirable behaviors or emotional outbursts displayed in response to unmet needs or desires. They may also refer to an inability to control emotions due to frustration or difficulty expressing a particular need or desire”.

Wikipedia describes them more extensively as follows:

” A tantrum is an emotional outburst of ill humor or a fit of bad temper wherein the ‘higher’ cognitive functions are unable to stop the emotional expression of the putative ‘lower’ (emotional and physical) functions. It can be categorized by an irrational fit of crying, screaming, defiance, angry ranting and a resistance to every attempt at pacification in which even physical control is lost… Even when the “goal” of the person is met, he or she is not calmed…

“From a psychological standpoint, there may be several goals to a tantrum, which may or may not be the “reward(s)” that are consciously desired by the person. To many outsiders, these goals may seem irrational, unreasonable, inappropriate, criminal, unethical, immoral, or the work of some spiritual force(s)…

“Since there are chemical correlates to tantrums, some kinds of medication can minimize but not always prevent tantrums…

“A tantrum may be expressed in a tirade, a protracted speech usually marked by intemperate, vituperative or harshly censorious language. A tirade may also take the forms of a prolonged fire of invective or a long-drawn-out harangue.”

In this online day and age, such rages may also be expressed in writing, in email. You can recognize them as different from information being shared, advice given, opinions and feelings being expressed, etc. because they are purely vituperative, and use attacking language, often completely disregard anything actually said to which they are responding, exaggerating wildly, blowing things out of proportion, etc. Any attempt to respond will be rebuffed, and the issue escalated.

Tantrums may also be expressed more “quietly”, by pouting, sulking, stomping around not talking, withdrawing from others, withholding sex from a partner as punishment, cutting off all contact instead of keeping the lines of communications open, etc. The two may even appear together, with a raging, screaming fit and personal attacks followed by a sullen, pouty period, the disruption of which may well lead to another full-blown tantrum.

Common in young children as part of the developmental process, in adults they are definitely abnormal, and often reflect a difficulty in expressing frustration in words, so they act out their stress, anger, and frustration either physically or with inappropriate language and screaming. This is the stuff of which road rage is made, among other things.

There are many potential underlying causes, including stress, tiredness, a tendency towards feeling helpless, inconsideration for others. Goals often include getting attention, getting one’s own way, retaliation when feeling hurt, and to get others to leave them alone. When directed at women by men, they may be a result of anger at women, perhaps a deep-seated misogyny, and in virtually all cases, they reflect extreme emotional immaturity (except for those resulting from injury or brain chemistry aberrations) and inability to control one’s emotions and behavior as a result.

The net effect, regardless of etiology, is that the tantrum thrower gets to control the entire situation, without any respect for their targets or others, who may be trying very hard to pacify them, or even to comply with their demands. However, all such attempts are generally destined to fail.

But this controlling the whole situation – isn’t that what D/s and being a dominant are about?

No, not like this. The sort of control required for healthy D/s is self-control, and a carefully reasoned and executed mutually agreed upon control over one’s partner, backed by real concern for her health and safety that is demonstrated consistently, with reasonable expectations of the submissive – and respect for her and her needs. That’s dominance. It’s about earning the submissive’s trust, not demanding it, not belittling her if she doesn’t live up to your expectations, if something goes wrong, etc.

Tantrums, on the other hand, are the stock in trade of a domineering and controlling person, a bully – and an abuser. Being domineering is very different from being dominant.

Dominants build their subs up and leave them in a better place, making sure they are well taken care of both emotionally and physically. Domineering people tear their partners down and leave them in worse shape than they started in.

Dominants seduce consent, obedience, and submission, and know that this is a process that take time, sometimes even years. Domineering control freaks, on the other hand, demand that submission whether or not they have earned it, and even if they have violated the trust that is so necessary for real submission to ever happen.

Tantrums are not appealing in anyone, clearly, but they are particularly unattractive, IMO, in a dominant, and even dangerous, precisely because they reflect the utter lack of self-control that is really essential to the foundations of WIITWD – and to the sub’s safety, both physical and emotional.

A dominant who throws fits, whether of the loud and screaming variety or the sulking, pouty sort, especially when directed at his submissive, is only giving away his own power. This makes it impossible for her to submit to him, for a couple of reasons. First of all, in giving her his power, she is left with nothing to submit to. Second, it can be outright dangerous for her own health and safety.

A dominant who is prone to playing while angry or frustrated – or becomes angry and frustrated when a scene doesn’t go the way he wants it to – will often injure his submissive, sometimes badly. Both in play and in day-to-day life, emotional damage will also often result from abusive behavior of various sorts, including throwing tantrums. Even if he is able to rein himself in enough physically to not injure her, she will often still feel it coming off of him just by his behavior and attitudes, even if he’s saying nothing. We all know when someone is in a bad mood.

So how do you deal with this? And how is it different from a dominant just giving orders to his submissive and controlling the D/s relationship?

First of all, the most effective way to deal with a temper tantrum is to simply not reward the behavior, to not yield to the person’s demands. I repeat – do not yield to their demands as long as they are in the middle of this fit. As long as it is safe to do so, you have to just walk away, tell them that you are care about them, are interested in what they have to say, and that you will listen when they can discuss it calmly, but that you will not stay there to be yelled at and threatened.

This is not exactly the easiest thing for many people to do, as the tendency is to want to try to explain, retaliate, argue back, etc. It is particularly difficult for the submissive, because the whole relationship structure and her mindset are geared towards keeping her at the dominant’s feet and under his thumb, pretty much no matter what he does. This is all well and good when he’s behaving and respecting her boundaries, but if he goes out of control like this, you must keep your own self safe, both physically and emotionally, no matter what it takes to do that. Even outside of a scene situation, a safeword might work, too. It’s certainly an appropriate tool to use; after all, he’s probably violating some of your limits just by throwing this tantrum.

Many dominants have an iron-clad first rule, and that is that the submissive or slave must “First protect the property” – including protecting her from his own self, if the need should arise. Whether or not your dominant has specifically told you to do this, that’s part of what responsible submissives do. Indeed, it’s the responsibility of all human beings, regardless of relationship structure, to take care of themselves first and foremost.

D/s is about consensual power exchange. There is nothing remotely consensual about an adult throwing a temper tantrum at his partner, hurling invectives, flying into a rage, screaming, stomping around, etc. when he doesn’t get his way, or objects to something she has done. That’s abuse, end of story – definitely not D/s. And all bets are off in a D/s sense when that starts happening.

Regardless of the nature of your dynamic, you must learn how to stand up for yourself and not accept this kind of behavior in anyone, but particularly not in someone who is supposed to be your dominant, who is supposed to be taking care that you remain safe. There’s no way he can safeguard you if he himself is out of control throwing a hissy fit or sulking and pouting. You must walk away, no matter how much he demands otherwise, at least in that moment, and ensure your own safety before you resume talking with or playing with him, if indeed you do resume contact at all. He’s already ceded the control to you in giving you his power; don’t you give up your own.

Yes, he’ll undoubtedly label you as uncooperative, disobedient, unsubmissive, etc. And yes, you will be, in those moments, and maybe in some of the aftermath.

But this is one of those times in which you simply must take care of you own self, and protect yourself from him – which really makes the whole question of submission moot. It would be really foolish to try to surrender yourself and give control over to someone who is so clearly out of control of his own self.

Protecting yourself and your boundaries against someone who is violating them is a very healthy, mature response, even for submissives, perhaps even especially so for us. Demanding that respect is not topping from the bottom, either, no matter what anyone else may tell you. It’s protecting yourself, end of story. Ideally, you can find a way to do this inside your dynamic, but even if you have to drop that to protect yourself and be heard, you ought to do so.

He may even end the relationship (or threaten to) if you try to protect your boundaries and insist on limits being respected and agreements kept if they are violated. That is not a dominant, however; that’s a domineering control freak. An abuser. Someone who is not willing to take responsibility for his own actions and their results.

The very first person a dominant must be able to control is himself. If he cannot do that well, in all areas of life, then he has no business trying to control anyone else.

And doms, this sort of behavior is one of the kinds of things I referred to in a prior post about how a submissive’s behavior reflects on her dominant, and how sometimes what you may consider “bad behavior” may well result from something that you are doing, or have done. If you’re throwing fits or being sulky around your submissive when something doesn’t go your way in some manner, it’s very likely that she’s responding to that, not being inherently not submissive.

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2 Responses to Tantrums, Dominants, and BDSM

  1. Girl says:

    Thanks for this really informative post. Once I begged my master to hurt me when he was angry because he usually holds back during our play, and I wanted to feel the full wrath of him letting go and inflicting as much pain on me as he can. He outright refused at first but after I begged and begged and even started crying he just pinched me as hard as he could for about a second before letting go and got really upset and snapped out of play mode. He then said seriously to never ever beg him to hurt me when he’s angry again, but I still fantasized about it. But after reading this I know how lucky I am to have a dominant that can control himself and will never try and push this boundary again.
    –x

    • Yes, you are indeed lucky that he can control himself. One of my exes couldn’t a lot of the time – or wouldn’t – and he’s far from the only one out there.

      Playing when angry is always dangerous – and so are dominants who *get* angry when things don’t go their way.

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