Not only do I adamantly identify as a switch, I mostly only play with other switches. And because of my hardcore switchery, I’ve had several people recently ask me for a good rebuttal to the “switches aren’t real” nonsense that gets floated around. So here goes.
Part I: Traditional Kink Culture Doesn’t Get It
1. Dungeons usually aren’t really set up to accommodate switches, meaning that switching is often invisible. Most traditional dungeon furniture is designed and set up with the assumption that one person does something to another, and there literally isn’t usually much room to create scenes where people take turns doing things to each other or do things to one another at the same time. What that means is that you often literally don’t see much switching happening in public, creating the impression that it is uncommon, difficult, or simply not done.
2. Much of kink culture idealizes the idea of “24/7” relationships, which are purportedly founded on the idea that one person is in control and the other person isn’t. There’s no subcultural foundation for a 24/7 switch relationship, even though such a thing is not only possible, but hot (hey, my husband and his girlfriend are giving it a shot).
3. Playing with power dynamics can be so much more fun and nuanced and sexy and complicated than either/or. What so much of kink culture fails to realize is that dominance and submission is a spectrum, and when you let them, power dynamics in an interaction can literally shift from one moment to the next in a scene.
4. The ideal type of a switch–as much as there is one–is of someone who is perfectly capable of being either a sub or a Dom. In reality, a True Switch is as rare as a True Dom or a True Sub ( and I use the word TRUE with finger air quotes as I’m not saying my way is more acceptable then someone elses view). Real-life switches tend to lean in one direction or the other, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t switches. Keep in mind the concept of the spectrum.
4. Much of kink cultural jargon encourages people to engage in tortuous intellectual exercises to try to pretend they’re not switching. People talk about “service topping” and (more pejoratively) “topping from the bottom” instead of simply labeling these things what they really are: switching. It may not be switching with perfectly evenly distributed power dynamics, but it’s still switching, dammit.
5. There are lots of conversations about subspace, a very few about dom space or top space, and almost none about switch space. It’s real, I promise! Switching is more than simply the movement from sub to Dom; it is also it’s own legitimate position in a spectrum.
6. We don’t even have a conventional written abbreviation for “switch.” We usually just write “D/s”; from now on, I’m writing D/S/s, because I’m tired of switches being invisible. I encourage you to do the same–together, we can change how people think.
Part II: D/S/s Is More About Interactions than Individuals
1. One of the most common misunderstandings among kinksters is that dominance and submission (and by extension switching) is primarily a characteristic of individuals. As far as fetlife ( and any sites pertaining to the BDSM community)is concerned , the three things that matter most about you are your gender, your age, and your BDSM “role.” Now, there are BDSM roles that I think are characteristics of individuals (fetishist comes readily to mind, as does sadist/masochist–but one could reasonably argue that s/m is just a fetish for pain), but dominance, submission, and switching are much better understood as characteristics of relationship dynamics than individuals. You might like to think of yourself as a Dom, full stop, but when you stop and think about it, I bet you’ll realize that the nature of your dominance varies greatly depending on the nature of your submissive (and if it doesn’t, I’m going to snarkily predict that you have trouble keeping subs).
2. No act that I can think of is objectively dominant or submissive. As a switch, one of my favorite things to do is to blow your mind with my fickle switchy ways. One of the ways I love to do that is by turning the tables on acts that people usually consider obviously dominant or submissive. For example, one night in a dungeon, I left all of my partner’s clothes on, pulled his pants and underwear down around his knees while he was still standing, then got down on my knees and started giving him a blowjob. People usually think of someone on their knees giving them a blowjob as something that puts them in a position of power, but the reason I enjoyed this particular arrangement so much was that my partner was clearly discomfited by the dishevelment and functionally restrained by his own pants and underwear. My point here is that relationship dynamics, chemistry, and interactions mostly shape the D/S/s qualities of kinky and sexual acts, and there is very little flow in the opposite direction (with acts shaping the D/S/s dynamics).
3. Trying to summarize any person with a single label like “dominant” or “submissive” (or even “switch”) is usually pointless. Most of my favorite and most intense psychological pleasures come from dominance with a side-helping of sadism. Most of my favorite and most intense physical pleasures come from masochism with a side-helping of submission. Where does that put me on the BDSM role spectrum? I’ll just say “switch” and leave it at that. Some Doms want you to make them breakfast in the morning after they fuck you up; some desperately want to cook you breakfast in the morning after they fuck you up. I personally think these two styles of domination are radically different from one another, and I will mock any comments on this post that claim that one is “real” domination and the other is not. But the point is that there is already so much breadth and complexity attached to these labels that they don’t mean a very great deal.
4. Almost anyone will tell you that their D/S/s dynamics change, depending on their relationship, and frequently over the time of the relationship itself. I’ve talked to several people whose D/s dynamics reversed completely over the course of their relationships! It’s also common for people who identify as “Doms” or “subs” to have power-neutral primary relationships and simply play with others in their preferred D/s role, clearly indicating that D/S/s is a property of relationships more than people. Hell, I think of myself as a pretty hardcore switch, but even I still have one partner that I go to to fight and lose, which would put me fairly far on the submissive end of the D/S/s role spectrum with him. My point is that it’s relationship chemistry and trust that shape D/S/s dynamics at least as much as individual desires and preferences. And frequently, when someone really wants someone else, they often start compromising their purported D/S/s “identity” anyway (“I’m generally a top, but she’s just so hot that I figured I’d let her beat me up. And I actually liked it because it was her”).
In conclusion, one of the recent arguments that I heard claiming that switches aren’t real is that “everyone actually leans dom or sub.” I think that that statement is simultaneously true and also egregiously off the mark, so I’m going to counter with an overly simplistic aphorism of my own: “almost no one is a pure dom or a pure sub, and the people who claim they are are usually no fun.” Not that I have strong opinions about this or anything