What is it about being dominated that gets us so hot?

Recently, I was discussing sex with a friend. Obviously. What else is there to talk about? Anyway, the subject of domination came into conversation. While we were describing various fantasy situations involving dominant/passive roles, she posed this question to me- why is it that dominance is such a common theme in our fantasies? This got me thinking. Obviously, I have my own thoughts on the topic, but I thought it might be a bit more interesting if I spiced things up a bit by asking a bunch of my friends, acquaintances, colleagues, etc. what they thought about it. As all of you know, I am a psychology major…so please forgive me now for the psycho-babble/analysis that is bound to make its way into this blog post!

I posed the question somewhat like this:

Imagine a situation in which you and someone you are intimate with are engaging in some sort of sexual play, and things get so overwhelmingly passionate that suddenly your partner throws you against a wall and begins to dominate you. What is it about this situation that is so universally “hot” to us?
A lot of the people that responded to my question had trouble vocalizing exactly what it was about the situation that was so stimulating, but they unanimously agreed that it was just that- stimulating. A few took the time to really analyze themselves and think about why they are, in fact, turned on by being dominated.

Some came to the conclusion that it has to do with instinct, and letting go of everything else but that pure physical sensation that we feel in that very moment. One woman commented that it helps to heighten one’s arousal because “something is being done ‘to them’, not ‘with them’. Another said that it allows people to “completely let themselves go and let their body take over”. Someone even called this feeling a sort of high- “you could say the same thing about drinking to get drunk or doing mind-altering drugs to feel free. People like being able to let go and lose control”.

One friend went into detail about how primal this instinct really is. “(It makes me feel) like I’ve been hunted and captured, and he’s the predator. I think it’s a primal response of safety. It shows a level of testosterone I feel my body is made to be attracted to because like it shows a power that means I’ll be able to rely on him to like “take care of babies” and “hunt food”… being completely overcome by a man in this way is so hot to me because it’s like nothing can go wrong. This kind of dominance to me makes me feel safe, not violated.” It’s almost animalistic.

The second theme I noticed in people’s answers was a sense of role-play. One woman, extremely successful in her career and a busy mother, wrote that “there is a definite tendency to want to be taken; to be at the effect of someone else’s power” is a welcome change from being “always in charge as the boss, the mom, the mentor, the oldest sibling, etc”. Another friend said that young, progressive women are “bombarded by messages instructing us to be in control and we spend so much time doing just that…there’s something alluring about the idea of being out of control, having someone else dominate us”.

Something else that managed to sneak its way into almost every answer was the allure of the sense of urgency. “The fact that the people engaging in the scene can’t even wait to get somewhere more comfortable adds excitement…a lot of people are turned on by the ‘I can’t wait any longer, I have to grab you here and now’ aspect…the passion and urgency…is enticing”.

So that’s as much as I’ve heard…but please please please comment with your thoughts!

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About Michaela


Michaela is a recent Seven Sisters graduate with a self-designed degree in Sexuality Studies. When she's not blogging, you'll find her teaching Health and Wellness and A Cappella to high school students, helping women find properly fitting bras, and working as an editor on a documentary. She hopes to continue her education one day with a PhD in Feminist Anthropology.

  • http://twitter.com/PRAMITASEN PRAMITA SEN

    My feeling is similar to the passion aspect as well. The feeling that you are extremely desirable to someone else at that moment…to the point that they cant wait….can put you in your comfort level with yourself. At that point, you are not tensed or worried about giving pleasure, but rather ready to let go of inhibitions and allow your partner to take over!

  • Alison

    my boyfriend and i discuss this domination frequently, although we have always considered it in the realm of male-female sex only.

    i think that i love being dominated because it makes me feel extremely feminine. the irony is that i am a feminist, so this sort of plays out like a cruel joke: i would never want to be dominated by a man because of his sex, but i would definitely want to be dominated by a man during sex. i think that i conclude that i like to be dominated because my body is created to receive love and his body is created to give love, physically speaking, and i totally get off instinctually.

  • YesYesYes!

    This post was hot … and very imformative.

  • Kierstenkb

    I think it’s also important to consider that it must also be hot for the person doing the domination. If it weren’t, they wouldn’t do it either.

  • jeniminx

    Wasn’t there a study done a couple years ago about women and rape fantasies? I thought it concluded that for the women who had them it wasn’t so much about rape as it was about the man finding her so desirable that he couldn’t control himself. The description you offer of domination is very similar. It’s hot for precisely the same reason in my opinion.

  • http://www.mypleasure.com Dr. Sandor Gardos

    I think for a lot of women it has to do with the feeling of being overwhelmingly *wanted* by their partner.

  • Michaela

    Glad I could help! :)

  • Debby Herbenick

    I agree with Sandor – and I also wonder what that “wantedness” means to people. For example, are they/we turned on because being wanted means we did something right? Because we’re irresistible? Sexy? Etc. I sense it’s self-affirming in some way.

  • Kate McCombs

    I think this post really addressed something important to a lot of women. This fantasy is common among my female friends also, but many of them struggle with the “What does this mean about me? But I’m a feminist…” It’s wonderful to see other women sharing that domination fantasy is nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Kate McCombs

    Also, there was an interesting article in the NYT magazine last year that addressed some of the research behind this fantasy (it’s toward the end of the article): http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/magazine/25desire-t.html

  • Andrew

    All of this conversation is OK for girl-talk, but doesn’t seem to really address the fact that either male or female can have the same or differing feelings about being dominated. In addition, for every dominant partner there has to be a partner who is dominated. It would be equally interesting to hear what is so hot about being dominant (male or female)?

  • http://thesexualityblogger.wordpress.com Michaela

    I’m glad you mentioned this! I’m currently doing research for my next post, which will discuss male’s perspectives and opinions on domination.

  • Caitlin


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