I have been seeing a few discussions on FetLife where people are wondering what the differences are between a Dominant and a Master. In many ways, there isn’t a lot of a difference, in others there are whole worlds of differences. First, I do want to make clear that these are my opinions and not those of anyone else, necessarily. While I think they are reasoned and well thought out, you may think it is total crap. Frankly, I am ok with that. We each need to come to our own understanding of what these terms mean, but I think it is a good idea to have a basic shared understanding of what words mean so that we can communicate with each other.
That said, I think that in common usage there is a bit of overlap between the two words. They both are used to indicate that the person enjoys playing with a bit of control with their partner. Both like feeling in charge. The world of BDSM has no clear lines, only fuzzy borders where worlds blend. Some Dominants and Masters are not much different than a vanilla lover who likes a “traditional” relationship. Well, at least in a traditionally male dominant relationship.
If BDSM is a spectrum that starts with vanilla on one end, and full time 24/7 human ownership on the other, Dominants fall in the broad range in the middle. They make up the largest numbers of our community, and range from casual bedroom only situations to full time play partners. I have found though, that they generally are less focused on formal BDSM, although there are definitely exceptions. I think that most of use start in this area, and stay there as it meets our needs. However, some choose a different path and focus more on the controlling aspects and formality of BDSM. Play and control play large parts in their relationships, but play usually has a slight, but definite, edge. Dominants tend to play with subs too.
Thus we come to the term Master. Really it means two things. Some use it to refer to those that have spent a life time in the community and have earned the respect of their peers. Others are those that own slaves, or human property. They tend to take the lifestyle more seriously. They may develop household manuals, complicated rituals and are more focused on the controlling aspects of a relationship, though play is an important part of their relationship.
Really, neither is better than the other. I know plenty of dominants who take the lifestyle seriously. Focus on rules and rituals. But, I think they are an exception rather than the rule.
What really matters though, is how you live your life, not the terms you use. As the Bard said, “Would not a rose by another name spell as sweet?”
What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear about them in the comments.