Conditioning is essential in the development and support of new submissives to kink/BDSM. It is the physical manifestation of any Dom's attentiveness and training to the mindset of your submissive. And while each Dom will have their own unique approach to conditioning, there are core fundamentals that will enhance your conditioning process of your submissive, no matter your goals.
It is important for me to say that conditioning in my D/s engagements with Black women is a form of love. One that it is driven by their desire to be coached, supported and motivated to become their best self. A responsibility that I take very seriously. Underlying any process for growth is the understanding that to be transformed, all of us must build new habits and ways of seeing the world. Habits that allow us to be more authentic, disciplined and open to joy and pleasure. Conditioning is one of the many tools I use to help my submissives not only reach their goals but grow as people.
Conditioning is the academic term for creating a psychological response between preferred response and an unrelated stimulus.
There are two types of conditioning commonly employed in the BDSM community. Classical or Pavlovian conditioning and operant or instrumental conditioning.
Both types of conditioning help submissive individuals learn how they should behave for their dominants, although they use different methods to achieve this goal.
- Definition from Kinkly
Conditioning is essentially the training you offer as a Dom that encourages specific responses through reinforcement, which can be rewards and praise or correction and punishment.
Classic conditioning focuses on developing automatic, involuntary behaviors. It relies on creating a signal before a reflex/stimulus. It is a learned, or cultivated, anticipation/signal. This can include key phrases, positions, collaring or clothing that immediately put your submissive into the mindset of submission by associating those things with previous sessions, rewards, pleasure and even your presence. With classical conditioning the initial behavior is much more involuntary, rather then learned behavior (through operant conditioning).
Sensual Dominants often rely on classic conditioning. An example is placing my hand on the side of her neck (between strokes) or kissing a shoulder before giving her permission to cum. These reinforced moments ground her in our dynamic, her submission-and signal what is to come. They also make her happy, and create a warm feeling she associates with being cared for, pleasing me and being a very good girl.
Operant conditioning, on the other hand, involves reinforcement or punishment after a behaviour. Using operant conditioning, a dominant rewards positive behaviors and punishes for negative ones. The consistency of rewards or punishment creates a feeling of certainty and security for your submissive. Because of that, many Doms prefer operant conditioning, as it is seen as the more effective approach for training submissive partners--and definitely the fastest. You want your submissive to feel secure that if they meet your expectations, they will please you and be rewarded (in whatever way brings them pleasure). Most importantly it creates HEALTHY ATTACHMENT which can in the future be terminated without undue negative consequences for either of you, should the relationship need to end.
Power exchange involves creating healthy attachments that allow you to provide rewards, pleasure and pain to feed your submissives' needs.
Your responsibility as a Dom is to create a space for healthy attachments without compromising the mental health and wellbeing of your submissive in the process. Proper conditioning can support that.
Why Does Conditioning Work?
Simply. When we are rewarded or praised, our bodies release dopamine. Known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter into our nervous system. Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting a reward.
When your submissive comes to associate a certain activity with pleasure, the mere anticipation of that experience is enough to raise their dopamine levels. Dopamine contributes to feelings of alertness, focus, motivation and happiness. It also leads to subspace.
When rewards or pleasure are predictable and consistent, our brain releases less and less dopamine each time. This is actually a GOOD THING. In the beginning the constant dopamine creates new relationship energy (read more about here) and the rush we feel during the honeymoon period. But that eventually fades over time to create more stable and sustainable connections with people.
Positive Reinforcement: Is when you provide a positive stimulus (reward) in response to a desired behavior. Now keep in mind, what serves as a reward for each submissive will be unique to them. It's your responsibility as a Dom to discover the levels of pleasure and reward that motivate each submissive. Knowing and understanding your submissive is one of the most important parts of your learning process during conditioning.
Through discussions, journaling and exploration you will discover what your submissive finds most rewarding. These types of rewards include:
1. Rewards you know they like (food, activities/sexual & nonsexual, interests, physical items like clothes, toys, tech, etc.)
2. favorite activities that allow them to rest (self care is something I will explore deeply in my post about submissive maintenance but it's critical). Few people know how to practice self care in ways that refill their spirit and reset their bodies.
3. Ideas that they find arousing/pleasurable (ie certain types of role play, access to please me as their Dom, spankings, floggings, access to favorite sex toy, etc)
Social Modeling: Where you arrange for the submissive to watch the behavior being carried out by others, and practice with guidance. For instance, teaching the submissive how to tie a rope, or serve morning coffee, or even how to Dominate another submissive under Daddi's supervision. An important tool, socialized learning allows a new submissive to learn a set of desired behaviors from other submissives in addition to their Dom.
Correction: I prefer the concept of correction which includes instruction on how to correct this behavior in the future (in addition to punishment) because it is more effective. I believe it helps to increase communication and reduce negative association with failure (which I see as an essential element to growth). It's important to measure out your punishments (saving harsher for worse, or repeated, infractions). I often use the least painful punishment to get the message across. And if you are having trouble matching the discipline to the error, you might be disciplining your submissive in anger. Which is a red flag that you have personal work to do around anger management immediately. This podcast talks about anger in D/s relationships specifically.
If an action is to be punished, punishment should happen immediately after the undesired action. But keep in mind that punishment does not always work. It may result in increased aggression and hostility. Or it may stimulate pleasure, increasing the likelihood your submissive will seek punishment (beware for BRATS!) But the punishment should always be proportional to the offense. This article clovers 72 ideas for punishment that will get your creative side going...the more unique the punishment to your dynamic. The better.
Punishments must always be practical and possible to complete. You don’t want to assign something that you know your submissive won’t be able to do. And avoid punishments that could be potentially dangerous, including those that dehydrate someone or cut off their circulation. If your submissive is trying to please you by following instructions, they might not let you know that they cannot perform a certain task to your expectations. It’s your responsibility to know what they can do safely. Pay attention to any signs of distress. Stop or adjust the punishment before it becomes a problem.
The Dangers of Conditioning
It's important for you to understand. You can damage your submissive during conditioning if you do not operate in an ethical way. Intermittent conditioning is used in the kink/BDSM community, BUT IT IS DAMAGING to your submissive. And as this article points out, widely known to contribute to trauma bonding. It is the driving force in abusive relationships and something you should avoid at all costs.
When you provide consistent rewards/reinforcement every time your submissive complies with your instructions--you reward them in a healthy way. When your submissive only receives rewards/praise occasionally it is called intermittent conditioning. It creates uncertainty for them and a dopamine deficit (making them desperate for your approval and feeling depressed over time when they do not receive rewards/praise). When they do finally receive the praise, they go into OVERLOAD. And that surge of dopamine inhibits their ability to make rational and healthy choices.
BDSM IS ADDICTIVE, and how you condition your submissive will give them tools and resources to maintain their emotional and physical wellbeing. This is your responsibility. And for those of us that seek to operate from a place of integrity, essential.
Kink can provide critical therapeutic release. The focus on consent can provide people with meaningful tools to navigate past traumas. Being able to reclaim their autonomy, have powerful and radically honest conversations about the specific activities that they do and don't want to engage in, with a partner who listens to and respects those boundaries, can be transformative. This consensual aspect of play allows our bodies to rewire our brain and nervous system responses. Building new positive and consensual experiences can heal and, in a sense, “overwrite” past traumatic ones.
I believe in high levels of communication. All training methods must be discussed with the submissive and agreed upon by all individuals involved. While this should go without saying, it is still a good reminder and an essential part of D/s relationship to always get consent first.
Communication includes my expectations, like what kind of infractions will result in punishment and what will please me. While discovering what pleases me is an unfolding process I love, giving a submissive some key fundamentals helps them to feel confident. Which is important to me.
That means I send them clear instructions of what to expect before our first time together. Everything from how I want their body groomed, limitations of our engagement (typically to limit the intensity of subspace in our early engagements), clothing to wear/bring and more. It's important to note: we would have already discussed my safe sex practices, STD testing, soft and hard limits as part of my vetting process.
As a Sensual Dominant, much of the conditioning I provide a submissive is during our sessions. My intention is to overwhelm my submissive with sensory stimulation and orgasms-triggering dopamine throughout her nervous system. My single goal during conditioning is for my words, voice and presence to bring her to a state of arousal she has never previously experienced. To be single-mindedly committed to her pleasure. To liberate her mind through the release of submission to me.
Doing this well, takes time. You will need to understand your own approach to seduction, desire and eroticism. You will have to practice relentlessly. You will make mistakes and learn. Every Dom is different but this advance preparation for your submissive before sessions will enhance your Dominance.
- My submissives are not allowed to masturbate, or have sex with anyone else for 3 days before we meet in person.
- In that 3 day window, I'm in her phone daily with every desire, fantasy and intention in my heart. You must feed your submissive. When she feels confident she will tap into her own sexuality and become her most uninhibited self. It's your job to get her to that point. To recognize and remove the psychological obstacles that stand in the way of her feeling self-confident, highly sexual and deeply desired. I expect her to masturbate for me nightly.
- Before seeing me, but not within 24 hours she should wax, pedicure and receive a massage (expenses which I cover after our first evening together).
- Within the 24-48 hours before seeing me she will drink a gallon of water daily, increase her intake of fruits and vegetables which are known to sweeten body fluids and reduce consumption of meat and dairy.
- On the morning of our day together she must perform 100 Kegel exercises and report back to me. I may also ask her to prepare herself for anal sex with a douche (not an enema). Preparation should be done a few hours before seeing me. As a rule, she is not able to allowed to cum without my permission. Ever. So kegels help with her orgasm control. (find more on edging in my maintenance post).
- If bondage or stress positions are possible she will also need to do yoga/stretches.
Sensual Dominants Master Non Verbal Communication.
93% of all communication is a form of nonverbal communication. Learning to read and understand your submissive's nonverbal communication will allow you to bring her tremendous pleasure.
Body language, especially facial expressions, make up at least 55% of all nonverbal communication. But it's easy to forget when we are in the moment. When conditioning a submissive you must keep your body language and facial expressions at the center of your mind.
Your positive facial expressions will reward, reinforce and encourage the behaviors your want from your submissive. It will also help you to read her body language as well. A lighter expression, head held higher, and more confident body language are all signs they feel your positive reinforcement. When combined with key phrases (as words of affirmation are often a love language for a submissive) you can send them reeling with desire. Whispering "Good Girl" in her ear is powerful but not as powerful as doing so with a husky tone while staring at her with incredible fire in your eyes.
Learn to use praise intentionally. It is absolutely essential to any form of conditioning. How does a submissive know they are on the right track if you do not let them know when you are pleased. Your being proud of them and articulating that will light a submissive up like almost nothing else.
Building a strong foundation of communication, honesty and trust through conditioning is the most important work you will undertake as a Dom. It is an accelerated time window because of New Relationship Energy. Traditionally, trust takes time and consistency. Your submissive is watching your actions, your leadership and consistency. Can they trust you with their body, their mind and spirit? Are you worthy? True trust is something that cannot be rushed but during conditioning you will demonstrate through your attentiveness to their needs, you are worthy of their submission.