NonExpert Advice: Can I be a sub and an ‘Alpha’?

I get a trickle of questions, much to my general bafflement. However, when they’re not strange men asking for training, I do my best to answer them. Like this person, who kindly allowed me to reprint their question. The wanted an answer to the age old question of if they got to be a sub without giving up the rest of their personalities.

Hello Miss,

I was wondering if you would have some time on your hands to help me understand the lifestyle and myself a little better. The reason I ask is because I find that you are aware of many things and I would love to hear your opinions and views on certain areas.

I have my view about the lifestyle but I think it’s time i begin my journey but there are certain things I need to know first. Also there are certain things I need to overcome first before I can say that I am ready to get involved in the scene.

I understand if you are busy but I would really appreciate any help you can offer as I have been struggling with this side of me for a very long time now and so far I have been doing it alone all this time. I know that there are monthly munches but to be honest it’s not really something that I am interested in.

I might sound like I’m all over the place and that’s because I am. Honestly I don’t know where to even begin and not to mention I suck at expressing myself so if there is anything that needs to be clarified please ask.

I think of myself living two lives. One of them is the so called vanilla lifestyle where I am the alpha male and the alternative lifestyle of submission to a female dominant. Can both worlds actually exists or am I being too greedy?

[Name redacted]

Of course he got a reply…

Dear [redacted]

Most male subs are not snivelling little push overs in day to day life. I don’t know how that idea got started (although you will find subs who describe themselves as soft spoken, generally passive, etc…), but the reality is that most people into D/s have many different roles they fill, and obviously can’t be one kind of person in every environment. Even people in 24/7 relationships with TPE (total power exchange) generally delegate based on expertise.

That being said, it’s also going to boil down to preference and what those terms mean to you- whether you mean you’re a bedroom/private time only sub, how the many ways someone can be “alpha” comes out in the way you act, etc…

I can think of many examples of subs I know with nuanced personalities: a close friend who s a male sub is a musician, a born performer and textbook extrovert whose dom is incredibly supportive to his band (think following him and helping with stage shows, etc), while a third friend is simultaneously a happy OCD stereotypical German planner and organizer AND a subby sissy cuckold. A femsub I am friends with is way more admirably a stone cold, shut people down bitch than I will ever be.

On the flip side, there are a lot of soft spoken doms, with sweet as pie personalities. A sexual kink is not a marker of who and what you are except be defining one of the ways you say “I love you”. So generally speaking, functional relationships have to work on multiple levels. And it looks a heck of a lot less like an “alternative lifestyle” in the day-to-day than most people give credit for it.

The other fun thing you’ll learn is BDSM is very much a buffet. The rules of your relationship are developed between you and the person you have a relationship with. You don’t have to do the parts of kink you don’t like, and you can still do “vanilla” stuff too.

Does that help?



This sort of question is not at all unusual, and I’m honestly kind of disturbed how often it pops up. The myth of the submissive, especially a male submissive, as a dysfunctional person shows up everywhere from popular media to femdom stories. Now in the former case it’s usually good old pervert shaming, but it also gets redoubled in pornography, especially against men who want to submit. Comparing say, Venus in Furs and Story of O: O might have been self destructive to the point of being crazy (at least in the suicide ending), but Sacher Masoch goes one step further and in his attempt to writer about gender equality, basically ties feeling and wanting a submissive role to being inherently broken.

Sometimes this isn’t represented as a dysfunction as much as an overwhelming personality characteristic, which is only mildly better in the sense that a broken leg is better than amputation. Context-wise, it’s as if your concept of LGBT was limited to swish or butch. Of course some people into BDSM chafe at the orientation comparison. But, the point remains, although it is silly to assume that dominants or submissives must have a particular sort of lifestyle it comes up time and time again.

And there’s the whole concept of a “lifestyle”. It’s not helped that a lot of BDSM fiction is set in make believe secret societies, and that the only other associations people tend to have are from leather and protocol stuffed porn. There are a lot of people running around that believe that being kinky is like being part of a very peculiar religious sect where you must do or say the right things just because you get a tingly feeling in your private places.

So people head into the BDSM scene expecting it to be all leather, all the time, Mistressing and Mastering every dominant that crosses their path. They try to get experience by hiring a professional and, if they’re lucky she’ll be a patient enough person to let them understand that normal people do this too, but she’s just as likely to lead with her marketing copy “I am a strict and demanding mistress, you will do X, you will do Y!” And even porn that makes it seem a little like lala land, like, still creates a world in the Armory where it’s not really about the interplay between flogging and grocery shopping. They’re so busy reassuring the audience it’s not rape, that we don’t ever get as far as “It’s not rape, and this is no more real BDSM than Buxom Coed Vixens IV is an undergraduate degree”.

Of course fiction can’t be held completely accountable for giving people funny ideas. We’re kind of like the kids in an abstinence only education situation learning about sex from each other and overheard dirty jokes. But, even as a non-expert, if we don’t start talking about this, it’s going to keep perpetuating these sorts of silly restrictions.

4 thoughts on “NonExpert Advice: Can I be a sub and an ‘Alpha’?”

  1. Alpha as an (anthropological?) term is used in the context of dominance hierarchies. It doesn’t just mean being well-adjusted and in control of your affairs. Being alpha in a social structure means being dominant (over others) within it. And it is generally regarded as a good thing to be.

    Since it is generally better to be higher up the hierarchy in other spheres (rich dominant over the poor, powerful over the powerless, etc. It’s better to be rich and powerful than poor and powerless), some of that thinking can translate to the bdsm scene as well. That it’s better to be dominant than submissive.

    Do I can understand why some subs might feel a bit confused and insecure.

    • The other place it gets difficult for people is how a submissive “should” act. Not just that one should be “dominant”, but that certain characteristics are limited to people who are dominant. For example as a dom, nobody minds or notices if I am loud, pushy or outspoken. But there is a tendency to assume your sexual desire is who you are- for example that as a sexual dominant, I must dominate everything, or that a submissive can’t do all sorts of things, from penetrating a partner on through to being loved or even standing up for themselves.


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