Who has the duty of care?

I was recently talking with a friend of mine who is not only a sub but also a doctor and she passed on to me some disturbing information. There are subs out there who are being permanently damaged physically by what is being demanded of them by (quite often) irresponsible Doms and Dommes. She cited as examples the prolonged use of extreme heels necessitating the use of heels permanently and the forced prolonged use of a catheter on a sub resulting again in its necessary permanent use. My main question is this; Who has the duty of care when it comes to the welfare of subs? Is it his/her responsibility to look after herself or is it ours to make sure that he/she comes to no permanent harm? Of course, permanent change may happen with full consent (piercings, tattoos etc.) but they may also happen through ignorance or, even worse, a lack of care. Sadly I have far too often encountered irresponsible Masters and Mistresses whose only interest is their own gratification and who care little or nothing about their subs. I am interested to know where you stand on this matter.


  • Ultimately it’s the sub’s call: final responsibility for your welfare can never be delegated, ever. You can farm it out, but in the end, nobody really cares about you, so you’ve got to second-guess everything that happens to you.

This is true even if coercion is involved (“Do it or I will slit your throat!”): you may have to temporarily obey, but you then set your mind on escape and contact the police.

  • Sadly quite often it’s done with the consent of the subs I’m afraid. However, I’d see the responsibility with their dominants not to give in to wishes that will harm their normal body functions like urinating.

However, when it becomes clear that the Dom doesn’t care about the wellbeing of the sub I see the responsibility with the sub to leave the unhealthy relationship.

Ignorance is even worse because then there’s no-one to intervene. You can only hope that they attend parties, munches or chats where their unhealthy behavior will attract attention and somebody is ‘brave’ enough to go and talk to them.

  • I agree that primary responsibility falls with a sub to protect themselves however I would not go as far to say no one really cares about you. By protecting themselves I don’t just mean in a particular situation but choosing a partner that has their best interest at heart. There will always be bad apples it doesn’t matter who you are or where you go some people just suck yes. There will also be those who do harm out of ignorance and simply need to be educated. Don’t think for a second there aren’t people dommes, doms or whoever that do take everything action and command into consideration when dealing with the welfare of their partner. At the end of the day, every individual has to recognize for themselves the risk of a situation, what kind of partner they have and handle accordingly.
  • Ultimately its the sub’s role to ensure they are giving theirself to someone who has earned their trust and respect – __and__ that they have tested enough to know that they can trust their body to.

A submissive can always say no. But they have to make that choice. I don’t believe in “my master/mistress” made me do it cause they gave me an order”. that’s passing the buck of responsibility.

Just because someone puts the label “Dom/Domme” on themselves doesn’t mean shit. If they are doing something that is unsafe or objectionable, then you (the submissive) need to speak up and say NO. Nobody can take that way from you, but it’s your job as a person to speak up and take care of yourself.

  • I’d agree that both parties should really do the research to know what it is they are getting into, and to make sure situations like that don’t occur out of ignorance. In the end, though the sub should have it in them to refuse such unreasonable requests if they arise. I would imagine some, perhaps through conditioning or just plain meek personalities, might have trouble with this which is sad. I think in those cases it is less of a D/s relationship and more of an abusive one.
  • There are self-destructive people all over, in the BDSM community and outside of it.

The thing about BDSM is we can either have double the protection, with both sub and dom looking out for each other, or double the damage with abusive doms finding self-destructive subs. And whoopie, they don’t have to do the destroying themselves anymore – they have a dom, aka “self-destructive helper.”

And to answer the – both

  • I think that a sub has ultimate responsibility for their own well-being BUT a slave’s well-being is the responsibility of their Master. Of course, the Dom still needs to be responsible when playing with a sub. I take complete responsibility for my boy physically, emotionally, sexually, etc. To be a true Master you need to know your slave well enough to know what they need and you need to have the lines of communication open so they can let you know if they have a need that’s not being met (very different from a want that’s not being met.) Also, it’s hugely irresponsible to do any type of play unless you know all the possible implications of it. [example: you wouldn’t do anal fisting on your sub/slave without taking the time to get their body accustomed and you would stop if they started to tear.]
  • Early in my foray into BDSM, I was taught that the first rule of any D/s dynamic was to ‘protect the property’. This means that the Dominant/Owner’s first responsibility was to see no harm came to their charge/property & that the charge/property fulfilled his or her first obligation to see that no harm came to themselves.

The niggling part of this entire thing is to determine what both parties consider harm. This determination should come from an honest, frank, and upfront discussion.

That all being said, … there are many dishonest, loathsome people in life who will lie and mislead those they think they can get something from. Oftentimes these folks do not even know they are lying to others as they are also lying to themselves.

First Rule: Protect the Property.

  • I think both Domme and sub have a duty of care. In the fantasy or the heat of the moment, it is easy to go for the ‘no limits’ scenario where an extremely sadistic Domme beats the living daylights out of the sub – or whatever your particular fantasy is. When a Domme asks if I have any limits, I always say yes and tell her what they are. I find Dommes are virtually always caring. But there are exceptions and last year I had to stop a session and walk away – while I could still walk. That was the first such experience in 30 years. I had detailed limits to her which she chooses to ignore. She said she did not recognize any limits. So no matter how experienced you are, please always set limits.
  • It comes done to both. However, if I am doing something and my pet becomes uncomfortable, this feeling starts to increase or worse, I completely expect him to safeword out. I need to know when something I’m doing went from good hurt to badly hurt before it gets to harm. And yes, to me there is a clear distinction.

And I agree with the first rule: protect the property

shiny metal collar

  • THe Duty falls to the one who is in the position of being able to STOP whatever is happening if it is abuse. That much is clear. It can be one of the players or an outsider. That is duty. That is being human.

If it is damage done in ignorance then all parties are equally responsible for its prevention and aftercare if it occurs.

It is hoped that before doing any at risk play that the players would have done proper preparation and research. That is why places like this have real-time meetings and classes.

Even if a player must spend some cash to travel to find onscene proper knowledge it is a must. I’ve encountered a few asshats who “learned how to spank online” and want to try it out..LOL, ya..
The worst part is that the totally inexperienced often want to meet only equally inexperienced ..

  • It is my personal experience that male subs, when tempted with the carrot of the sex or fetish they deeply desire, will do almost anything, however risky it might be if the domme is sufficiently beautiful, or young, commanding, persuasive etc.

So it’s not about the “should”, it’s more about the reality of what happens– the end result. Not the theory, not the “on paper” ethics.

Yes, the sub should be responsible for his/her own safety. But are they? Some are, some aren’t. The domme needs to know her own levels of expertise, constantly seek to stay abreast of new knowledge and practice, hone their technical craft. Do they? Some do, some don’t.

I am weary of dommes who seek to save the poor subs from abuse.
It’s a constant theme in one of the groups where I am involved. If solid education is offered, plenty of discussion and interaction provided, the dommes are already doing the best they can.

My opinion, backed up by Jay Wiseman’s observation on the same topic is that most of the mistakes made, resulting in serious consequences, occur between couples who don’t have connections with their BDSM communities, who don’t research and practice, who take risks based on both ignorance and lack of common sense.

It is the domme-sub couples behind closed doors, who aren’t on a site like FetLife, who don’t attend classes, demos, presentations, who are basing their practices on porn and fantasy–they are most at risk.

The ones who truly need saving are invisible to us.

  • My Mistress pointed this thread out to me, and I want to put in my two cent’s worth 😉

A lot of Dominant Females reacting here.. a few submissive reactions.
I think the duty of care changes when the dynamics change.

To set myself as an example; when first engaging in D/s with Mistress, I felt it was my duty, and mine alone, to take good care for my well-being. This because I couldn’t ask that of Mistress yet, She didn’t know me well enough to do so.

But as the dynamic changed (now evolving into TPE) i surrendered more and more of that to Her. I agree that i am responsible for my choices, my actions. But when I am in subspace, I can no longer make good choices, so i delegate them to Mistress.

So I guess it is both who have the duty of care.
Funny to read the opinions on submissives handing over the duty though..in the ‘submissive women’- group here on FetLife, almost everyone thinks the submissive should own their own, and be responsible.

  • And for the awareness of potential problems…well, I think someone should be aware of the risks before engaging in any activity.
    Want your submissive wearing heels for a long time? google it..and see if there are any,and what the risks are.
    Want your submissive wearing a corset for body-modification? Google it, and be aware of the risks.

Now I can hear some people questioning themselves ‘what about acting on a hunch? What about me being spontaneously sadistic?’
Well..I’m sure you have some idea of what you’re capable of, and where your desires lead to. So google it as soon as the idea comes to mind, that way, you’re able to act with sense when the possibility comes up.

You can make this fun for the submissive too; Mistress had me searching the internet for dangers concerning whipping or bondage, i.e. faulty areas, the vascular- and nerve center,and pressure points as an assignment. This way, both Her AND me are aware of any risk.

  • Sadly this doesn’t surprise Me at all. I would say it’s a mutual responsibility, but ultimately it’s the responsibility of the submissive. I have spoken to many subs and find Myself sadly amazed at what some will allow a Dominant to do to them. I personally will not consider meeting with subs who have no regard for their own safety and worth as a human being.
  • You’re talking about two different issues. One is the risks that some activities entail. It’s likely that we don’t know all the risks of the activities that we engage it. They probably don’t publish studies in JAMA on the long term effects of gratuitous catheterization, breast bondage, or ball kicking. Even when people know the risks, people still smoke. The second issue is that some dominants care more about gratification than they do about their submissives. I’d add a third issue that some submissives care more about gratification than personal safety.
  • All parties involved have the responsibility. In regular life and in play. During play, the Dom/me is responsible for the sub’s well being, especially if the sub is incapacitated and/or once the sub goes into subspace. But the sub is responsible in letting the Dom/me know if something isn’t right, if at all possible, (good reason to use safe words, or ) especially if the Dom/me is in Dom/me space. Just my 2 cents worth.
  • As a submissive, I think there’s a point from our side that hasn’t been raised in this discussion. And that is the kind of headspace one can get into as a sub, where you want to please and make your owner proud of you; even outside any thought of sexual reward or fear of punishment. I know I’ve driven myself harder than might have been wise just from that desire, and although I wouldn’t directly lie to my Mistress about my condition… I have in the past not been as openly honest with Her as I should have been. I was punished for that, and rightly so I think. Not for failing in a physical task, but in failing to honor the trust and honesty that to me, is the whole basis of the bond I have with Her.

In the debate of who’s ultimately responsible for the well being of a submissive (physical, mental and emotional health), I think as many have said that it’s a shared burden. As a submissive, I have the responsibility to ensure my owner always knows of anything that concerns me, or any physical issues that may arise. By the same token, any Mistress/Master who wants to make demands of their submissive has the responsibility to understand or research the possible dangers (short or long term) that may result from their orders. This is especially crucial I think, because the submissive may simply never have thought about the dangers of some things, but follow the order out of desire to please.

If you want your sub to always be parading in high heels, you as the Mistress/Master take the responsibility to know what the damage done could be. And likewise, the submissive has the duty to report fully any problems such as intense pain even when NOT wearing the heels, that they feel. Any submissive who puts an order above their own well being isn’t doing anyone a favor, and any owner who does that doesn’t deserve to have a submissive in the first place.

  • My take is that anyone who “consents” to something that will result in serious or permanent harm isn’t capable of making decisions for themselves, in which case it isn’t really defensible “consent”.

On the other side of the coin, a person who knowingly and intentionally causes that same serious or permanent harm to another human being is guilty of aggravated assault, and I don’t give a shit how much the person “consented”. If someone “consented” to you cutting out their liver and their heart, would that make it acceptable?

  • This discusion has taken an interesting, if somehwhat more worrying, turn with all this talk of the legal positions involved. It wasn’t something i had envisaged originally but is nevertheless of great importance.

Thank you all for your contributions so far. At least it has satisfied me that there really are some responsible kinks out there. Please keep the posts coming and also please point people in this direction.

  • I have all my life looked for the most experienced people in a field to ask a question.If I’m going to submit to someone,it’s going to be a person with years of experience in the lifestyle.

My Mistress has had years of experience & has informed me of things that could damage a person. I had no idea a flogger not used properly could ruin a kidney. She can be sadistic at times but rarely leaves marks.
I do think a person,who is new to the scene should ask around before being submissive just to have a kinky play. I would add no matter what the sub must be smart enough to say ‘No !’ .
I have not had the need to say it but my Mistress knows when she is pushing my limits by reading my body reaction.

  • for me, the primary responsibility is with the Domme by agreeing to take on a slave the Domme is in charge. I can be likend to being a parent one has to do what is best for the slave. These include wellbeing, physical, emotional, and spiritual. the responsibility of thr slave is to speak up when hiséher needs are nottaken care of. when slave can not communicate with the domme or the domme chooses to ignore the slave then the total responsibility rests wih the domme.To me it is very similar to the parent-child relationship in the vanilla world
  • I’m only going to post about what I have seen take place at some clubs.

A random “Domme” rounds up a group of random “subs” for a trampling session with a number of other random “Dommes”. The “subs” think – “ohhh fun! I’ll have some of that”. They duly lie down and take whatever the random “Dommes” want to do.

I’ve seen subs trampled in heels with absolutely no concern for their safety.

Frankly, I think it is ignorance on the part of all those involved.

If you want some BDSM action – it isn’t about rogue playing, it’s about knowing the person you play with and respecting each other.

The sub respects the Domme to do what pleases her without it damaging him. The Domme respects the sub enough to only do what she does safely.

You may disagree but that is my opinion.

  • It is the responsibility of the sub to say stop if he realizes he is being punched too far or in a dangerous scenario. For the Doms, the responsibility of being responsible and not do things that could potentially cause serious damage to fall on them also.

The problem is, how often do either of them know enough about the risks of edge-play to know if it could cause serious harm? Whoever “you” are in this debate, the sub or the Dom, the responsibility falls on “you”.

Since the sub will be the one paying the podiatrist or urologists, or perhaps a proctologist(!), you owe it to yourself to be educated and informed. Ask your doctor. They are probably not going to OK you to be beaten or such, but a reasonable doctor will discuss with you things they know you are going to do, and offer as much advise as they can. Dr’s can point you to books that can give you an idea of what to expect. There are books, books, books abound that can be used to understand how your body works, or how it will/might react to anything you play with. You won’t find then in the BDSM secion of the library (!) but can find them under sports medicine, yoga, anatomy, “how to’s” on anything from surgeries to kidney failure, burns, and first aid.

  • “…most of the mistakes made, resulting in serious consequences, occur between couples who don’t have connections with their BDSM communities, who don’t research and practice, who take risks based on both ignorance and lack of common sense.

It is the domme-sub couples behind closed doors, who aren’t on a site like FetLife, who don’t attend classes, demos, presentations, who are basing their practices on porn and fantasy–they are most at risk.”

Although this was said some time ago & I am only new here I really needed to share my opinion on this comment in relation to this thread.

There as some of us that live very happily in a full-time TPE relationship that doesn’t feel the need or have the ability to participate in the activities you have mentioned. There is also a lot of stereotyping going on here (ie. I don’t even watch porn).

I actually feel that it is more often the people who participate in these activities and in turn believe they are experts because they have done so, are far more at risk of causing serious damage than those who remain private. I am compelled not to learn from what someone else says but to do thorough research on any activity I choose to participate in with my sub. I take full responsibility for his well being both mentally & physically.

  • I’d say both in an ideal situation, but sometimes I worry that the nature of a sub can lead to someone neglecting their own well being for the sake of pleasing another, so ultimately I think it’s the responsibility of the dominant to properly care for their submissive. Being dominant is a lot of responsibility and there’s no room for selfishness when someone else’s physical well being is in your hands. If you’re not going to be a good and proper dom/me, you shouldn’t take on a sub. I know there are a lot of dominants out there who won’t properly care for a sub, so I’d urge submissives to be more discerning in the partner they accept and to stand up for themselves even after they’ve relented to a partner.
  • We’re talking about grown people over the age of 18. People who can smoke a cigarette, break a speed limit, and drink a bottle of scotch for lunch and shoulder the risks thereof.

Likewise, we’re also talking about grown people over the age of 18 who can decide how much risk they are comfortable shouldering, how much risk makes them excited, and how much knowledge they have and need in order to take on the realities of the fantasy and run a scene/relationship.

As I see it, the obligation of a Dominant is crystal clear transmission of what is being risked. The informed nature of the consent is the biggest piece.

I also disagree that community should be mandatory for safety. It helps, but it can also degenerate into YKINOK when it comes to safety.

  • When I first started this thread I expected maybe one or two replies and comments. Its gratifying to see that so many Dommes and subs are seeing this as a serious matter. Thank you everyone for your comments and please keep them coming in.

over 10 years ago Reply more
As it has already been said, these persons are adults. They should both care for the impacts of what they do and whether they are ready to take on with what they get into.

A sub should not play if he feels he is not able to and doesn’t know what he can bear. Anyone is conscious enough to know you should amways keep a way to show your limits when involved in a scene. Everyone is intelligent enough not to get involved in something he can’t get out of with someone he doesn’t know. Most people know they should not play when not in control of their own perceptions and under alcohol or drugs…
As a Domme I am always smoother when playing with someone I have never seem before.
The sub is responsible for his own sake. Abuse starts when you are pushed too far by someone informed of your limits (physical and mental)and who you are confident with.
Once again, communication is the responsibility of both sides. If you don’t tell things to a Domme to keep her interest on you, you’re responsible for what happens as she couldn’t know…

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