Book Review – The Heart of Dominance: A Guide to Practicing Consensual Dominance

It’s getting close to Christmas, and if you haven’t finished your shopping for the Dominant, Master, Daddy, Big or Owner in your life yet (or you identify as one of those roles and you’re looking for a good vacation read), then I want to introduce you to this book before the holidays. Add it to your shopping list, you won’t regret it.

Dominance, like all BDSM roles, is not as straightforward as you might think it is. If you visit any kink forum you’ll find it hotly discussed, and there are many common misconceptions. There is confusion over dominance as a personality trait versus Dominant as a sexuality or role identity (“a Dominant”), and what it means to be a Dominant.

You’ll read a lot of things online, quite often misguided. Fortunately, Anton Fulmen has put together the most sane, balanced and grounded writing I have read on the topic in The Heart of Dominance. If you’re looking for a how-to guide to spanking your partner or tying them to the bed then this is not the book for you, but if you’re looking for a deeper, richer Dominant/submissive relationship, then Anton delivers in spades.

Contrary to that pervasive myth online that dominance is some kind of collection of personality traits that you “are”, this book looks at it clearly from the angle of something that you choose, and that you can learn to do.

The work of dominance is to enable or inspire submission. We don’t make our partners submit; we create the opportunity for them to submit. Maybe that sounds like I’m just saying the same thing in a different way, but understanding the difference between making someone submit and enabling them to submit is crucially important to dominating well.

The first half of the book is an elegantly constructed journey into understanding what dominance is, and the principles we base it on to keep it safe, hot and mutual. Anton takes a penetrating look into how deep and satisfying Dominant/submissive relationships are formed and the magic that both parties can find within them.

It’s the kind of discussion and advice that separates the men from the boys (or the ladies from the girls), and it explores the true core basis of power and power exchange, and how incredibly fulfilling and sexy that can be. Hint: It’s really not about being a blustering alpha yelling “get on your knees slut!”, although there can be a time and a place for that too, if it gets your motor running.

A metaphor that appears throughout the book and sheds a lot of light on Dominant/submissive relationships is “the container”:

Successful D/s relationships, whether short or long, are usually those that find some way to acknowledge both partners’ full humanity and to fit peaceably among all your other passions and priorities. And the best way that I know of to achieve that harmony is to build a solid container.

The container is a metaphor for the understanding and agreement, shared between our partners and ourselves, of the border between the D/s dynamic we share and everything else in our lives. We define it through conversation with our partners and observation of our partners, building an understanding of what’s important to them in their lives and what conditions support and invite their submission, and then making agreements that create a space for D/s in our lives together that’s comfortable and appealing for both of us.

Easier said than done, perhaps. But using this container metaphor, he then explores the many ways this can be made a reality. This is supported by practical “Technique” sections, which bring a down-to-earth focus to the discussion and look at ways things can go well, or badly, and why.

Of course there is not only one flavour of dominance, but within the boundaries of consent Anton is not trying to teach you “the one true way” or tell you that you are doing it wrong. It’s really about exploring mutually fulfilling, mutually desired, exercise of power and control, and the many varied ways of doing that. He does that in such a way that you will be able to see your own technique and relationships reflected in the writing and, whether you are a newbie or an experienced Dom, I promise that mirror will reflect some surprising and enlightening things back to you.

The second part of the book gets more specific about the flavours of dominance, and it’s a fascinating and informative read, but you may find that some parts relate closer to your own personal style than others. It looks at control, conquest, service, devaluation, nurture and objectification in detail. Perhaps there’s a little bit of all of these things in what it is that you do, or perhaps some areas will be more interesting to you than other areas.

Some people believe that all dominance is a form of play-acting, and I don’t think that’s true. Dominance is as real as the shared desire between us and our partners. When both of our desires are engaged and aligned with our dominance, then it can be as real as anything in this world. But when we’re playing contrary to our partner’s desire, then it has to remain a piece of theatre.

The Heart of Dominance has a warm and embracing style that makes it a pleasure to read, but what really makes it such a great book is the way it takes such a complex (and personal) topic and brings incredible clarity to it. Parts of it have stayed with me, and I’ve even found myself quoting some of the things I’ve read here in discussions.

It’s available on Amazon in ebook and print format, and I’m sure whether you’re new or experienced you’re going to get a lot of value from it. It will make a fine addition to your bookshelf.

About The Author

Anton Fulmen runs the Mentoring Program for the Society of Janus and is a kink and sexuality author and educator. He is a big believer in mentoring as a way to help people find their paths in kink and their place in kinky communities, and teaches workshops on D/s, consent and occasionally blood play. He also teaches sex educators how to sex educate as a member of the training staff of San Francisco Sex Information.

Author Janet Hardy called The Heart of Dominance “absolutely the best, most grounded book I’ve read on the topic of consensual dominance and submission” and said “if I’d had this book a quarter century ago, it would have saved me (and my partners!) untold frustration.”

Writer, speaker and activist Race Bannon said: “Here you have a balanced, grounded and realistic examination of the topic. No pontificating dictates. No directives from some mythological past. Instead, the author beautifully rolls out a clear explanation of what such play is and is not and how to make it hot, fun and safe.”

You can find more information on this book and more of Anton’s writing on his website, Consensual Dominance.

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