The setting of tasks – continuing, daily and ad hoc – by a Dominant is a common (though by no means ubiquitous) feature of D/s relationships. For those unfamiliar it can seem as though a Dominant is simply demanding his submissive fulfils a whim of his. But as with so much in D/s that’s just what is seen from the outside.
But tasking is a valuable tool of connection between Dom and sub. Used well, tasks achieve far more than just the completion of the task itself: it reinforces the bond, it allows the Dominant to care for his sub, and for the sub to show her care for her Dominant, and to satisfy her need to please him.
It gives him a chance to praise her for successful completion, and gives her the knowledge that she has pleased him, succeeded, building her confidence.
Used badly, tasking can undermine these goals, and consequently undermine any connection the two might have.
If the Dominant fundamentally misunderstands how to use tasking, he can easily damage his sub’s confidence, her trust in him, and betray his failure to understand the nature of Dominance.
While tasking is reliant on your Dominance, reinforces it and is an exercise in it, it is not for that. Nor is it about demonstrating your dominance nor about selfishly satisfying your whimsy. As with all things, it’s primarily about using your dominance to the benefit of your sub and your relationship. That it has other immediate benefits to you both is a significant bonus, and how you choose to task to deliver that benefit is important bonus.
Disclaimer: The examples I’m using are not ones from my own life, so aren’t the best ones I can think of. I’m using the best ones!
The simplest tasking reinforces connection and excitement between Dom and sub. For instance, if the circumstances and mood are right, he could decide to task her to go without underwear for an hour. The awareness she will have that she is debriefed for him, maybe in a public place, or at work, will excite and arouse them both. If the mood is right. Used ahead of meeting up, it can form part of a playful prelude. But time it wrong or do it only for his gratification, and he’ll only leave her feeling vulnerable and exposed (in a bad way). There are other tasks that given ad hoc can also be exciting, arousing, fulfilling. Limited only by his imagination and knowledge of her and her limits.
Are there any rules for task setting? I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to dictate any, but for my own practice, yes. And I’d go so far as to suggest if a sub found her Dom were to frequently break these guidelines, she may want to question his instincts and motives.
- The task, while it shouldn’t be too easy and may be quite challenging, should be achievable.
- The task should not be harmful, physically or emotionally.
- The task should not seem to have the purpose of “Exercising my right as a Dom to tell you what to do.“
- Tasks, taken as a whole, shouldn’t be almost exclusively sexual in nature.
- Most importantly, tasks should support a sub in her life and in her personal growth.
The task, while it shouldn’t be too easy and may be quite challenging, should be achievable.
If a Dom sets tasks that he knows (or should know) that his sub can’t or won’t be able to achieve, either through circumstantial or physical inability, or through her limits, then he is setting her up for failure. At best, this shows a catastrophic lack of care and understanding for his sub. At worst it’s an abuse: deliberately undermining confidence, creating a sense of failure.
The task should not be harmful, physically or emotionally.
Some tasks make good ad hoc tasks, but terrible daily ones. Let’s say a Dom decides to set his sub a task she is to complete every day, indefinitely. My example from earlier: going without underwear for an hour would suddenly become routine. Finding the best time to do it, a chore. It would lose its ability to arouse through being commonplace. Worse, it fails to take into account how she feels that day, what’s happening in her life, where she is in her cycle, what she’s doing that day. Taking something that ought to be exciting and making it routine is harmful, I think.
Some daily tasks might actually become physically harmful, altering muscle tone and balance, if used regularly for a time. Other tasks that are exciting most of the time might induce a significant squick factor at other times and so are simply inappropriate as dailies.
The task should not seem to have the purpose of “Exercising my right as a Dom to tell you what to do.“
If a Dom is setting tasks, it shouldn’t be to create a Dominance over a sub, or a sense of ownership. It should use a Dominance that has already been earned through care and understanding. Tasking too early in a relationship, or even trying to task before that relationship has been properly established, is a bit of a red flag. It’s either an attempt to manipulate someone with submissive tendencies into subbing for him before he’s earned it, or he’s showing he doesn’t understand where he is in the relationship.
A Dominant doesn’t need a sub to do a task to “prove she’s [his] submissive“. He shouldn’t need to set a task to reinforce or prove he’s Dominant, either. If tasking is being used for that purpose, there’s something very wrong somewhere.
Tasks, taken as a whole, shouldn’t be almost exclusively sexual in nature.
Tasks of a sexual nature are, of course, great fun for all concerned. If there are no sexual tasks, I’d worry if I were you. But equally, if a Dominant is setting tasks that are exclusively or predominantly sexual in nature, particularly if they’re daily ones, then he would appear to be focussed on satisfying his selfish desires, not supporting his sub. It may be that who she is isn’t really important to him (rather like Sadists and painsluts).
It may be that a Dom is in the process of challenging a particular boundary, or circumstances mean that the pair have less time together than they usually might. Either may lead to a temporary focus on more tasks of a sexual nature. But in challenging boundaries and being together long enough for there to be those circumstance changes, there ought to be sufficient trust for the sexual focus to tasking to not be a red flag.
Most importantly, tasks should support a sub in her life and in her personal growth.
Supporting a sub in her daily life and personal growth are excellent opportunities for daily tasking. Knowing the things a sub wants to achieve in the long term, or the small everyday achievements she’d like to make, give a Dominant a chance to support those goals and help his sub work towards them. By creating the chance to praise and reward her, giving her the feeling of achievement she deserves, even though the longer term path she’s on might seem like a mountain to climb, it’ll be far easier when each step is encouraged and praised.
On the other hand a daily task of a sexual nature, meaning it wouldn’t have reference to mood or circumstance, would – sooner or later (I’d guess within 28 days) – lead to an inability to complete it, and a sense of failure. What might be magical on Monday, might be unachievable on Tuesday. Such a daily task would likely be one designed to enforce dominance rather than support a sub.
So there we have my thoughts on tasking. Again – as always, these are my thoughts only, not a didactic guide to what’s “right” or TRU. Although I’d think some of my thoughts would be hard to argue against.
Tasking shouldn’t be used to reinforce dominance and submission, but to celebrate it, an opportunity to make the most of it, to support your sub, and to create chances to show her how proud she makes you, how much she pleases you.
But what to do when tasks aren’t completed successfully? Then it’s a matter for Correction or Discipline…
© Charles Rochester 2015