November/December 2002
Fear or Respect
A lesson from my Father

by FineArt


As in other facets of life, there are those who rely on fear to gain the upper hand, to control those in their environment. In some cultures today, some governments, even in some business, those in power rely on the knowledge or perception that swift and severe consequences will follow if someone "crosses the line", disobeys or fails to follow the rules or does not meet expectations. Fear often has a legitimate place in BDSM and D/s. However, the Dominant must carefully examine the methods he uses to establish this fear.... and his motivation in doing so.

The two faces of fear

There are two distinct forms of fear... each of which should be clearly understood.

The first is the fear of the unknown or the knowledge of what could happen. It is often associated with trying new and different things. It is the anticipation of the unknown or untried... or simply something one feels very uncomfortable doing. For example, may people "fear" public speaking or venturing on their own into new surroundings. Or it can be a "fear" of being taken to the edge... such as with knife play or being bound for the first time or asphyxiation. Like riding an exciting roller coaster or seeing a horror movie, such situations can bring on the adrenaline, create a tremendous rush... and enhance the pleasures of both the Dominant and submissive.

Such fears are often accompanied by great anticipation, anxiety, even dread. Many times, these fears define limits to be explored, pushed by the Dominant in order to help the submissive grow as a person, to experience new things. In other cases, these fears offer opportunities for reaching emotional highs or to experience extremes of sensual pleasures.
For the competent Dominant, these represent opportunities to push the limits, to drive the relationship to new highs or to derive the maximum amount of pleasure, most often mutual pleasure, from the sensual aspects of the chosen lifestyle of those involved. The competent Dominant will measure the reactions, the progress, in order to push the limits over the edge or beyond the previous boundaries... WITHOUT going too far or fast. The goal is to experience new things, or to conquer fears, to assist the submissive in gaining new capabilities or experiencing new highs... without having the fear become terror! And without breaking the spirit of the submissive.

The second form of fear is the fear of unjust, unfair, perhaps irrational actions on the part of the Dominant. Some, only a few, feel the need for others to know that they are "in control and powerful", that in their position of Dominant, they can reach out and do whatever they want to their submissive, and perhaps others as well, simply because they are Dominant! Occasionally, we see Dominants who work hard to establish this perception of "fear" in others... promising swift and severe punishments to others for even the most minor of infractions, or perhaps for no reason at all... other than their own will. Some even attempt to intimidate their peers through their actions.

When these actions are effective, they do not result in the adrenaline rush or the heights of pleasure. Most often they do not tear down barriers to the submissive's willingness to do new things or overcome anxieties of doing some things. Instead, they build walls, cause others to simply avoid doing those things that will "set the Dominant off". Like the actions of an abusive spouse or schoolyard bully, these tactics may lead others to cower or result in trepidation or terror instead of growing and prospering in the relationship... certainly not a basis for a healthy relationship.

When these methods are ineffective, the wielder not only loses the respect of others... but also looks a fool!


Few things are more pervasive in the realms of D/s and BDSM than the concept of respect. While respect may easily be given for "position or status", respect for the individual must be earned. To be respected is to be held in a position of esteem or high regard. Those who are respected in our community receive particular attention, often their guidance is sought.

Respect is earned in many ways... how the Dominant treats others, the soundness or wisdom of what they do or say, the consistency of their actions, the perceived quality of their experience or their ability to assess and influence their environments. Respect also comes from how they administer discipline or punishment or how they push others, especially their submissves, to explore new things.. to move past some of their limits. (Recall the "wisdom" of King Solomon!) Included is how the Dominant utilizes the emotion of fear, if it is used at all!


As a curious, ambitions, adventuresome, headstrong and often mischievous boy and young man, I spent a great deal of time with my father. He taught me to think for myself, but equally important, beyond myself... to the impact my actions and decisions would have on others. Through him, I established my own values... strongly influenced by his own, of course, yet they were my own. He taught me to question things, to make sure that the important things in my life fit together, supported each other instead of tearing me in different directions. Through him, I established strong values and beliefs like hard work, the importance of achievement and contribution, independence and integrity. He guided me to be a risk taker, to explore new things, to go where others would not. Like him, I learned to stand firmly for those things I believe in where others might falter.

Many times, I stood before my father for discipline or punishment. (Chuckling as I recall how very many times I incurred his disappointments... but never his disapproval of me as a person.) On these occasions, he was strict... and many times I thought, harsh. But I always understood why I was standing before him. And always it was my learning and growth that he sought. Never once did he seek retribution or his own satisfaction of "securing a pound of flesh" from me, although I am sure there were many times he was sorely tempted!

As I look back on those times, so long ago, they were never fun times for me... nor, I suspect, for him either. But they are some of my clearest and, in hindsight, fondest memories of the man who shaped me to become a man myself. Now, more than three decades since his passing, there is seldom a day goes by that I do not call on him... his wisdom, his methods to live a life that would make him proud that I am his son.

Never once did I stand before him in fear. I never cowered in his presence. With his guidance, what he taught me, I never stood in his shadow, but was able to come from under the umbrella of his care to be what I am today.
Whatever I did with my father, who was also my closest friend in so many ways, whether standing beside him or before him.... it was always with the utmost admiration and RESPECT.

As I view the actions of some in our community, seeing how they conduct themselves, how they administer punishment or how they attempt to establish themselves through the installation of fear, I am thankful for this lesson from my father.

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