Experience,  Opinion

What is a Soft Dom?

If you’re new to BDSM terms, here’s a handy article that lays out some basic types of dominants and submissives.

And here is an article I wrote awhile back: 14 Qualities of a “Good” Dominant.

Recently I saw a post on twitter referencing “soft Doms,” and while I can make some reasonable assumptions about what the term means and how a “soft Dom” differs from a “hard Dom,” I decided to do a little research and see if I could define it more clearly…especially since I suspect this is the best term for my Husband’s style.

Reddit’s BDSM community forum offered up this response:

Soft Dom:

  • asks you to obey rather than making you
  • pushes your boundaries but in a cumulative way
  • may be more about the play less about the aggression or ownership
  • when playing hard, check-ins are gentle but consistent
  • may be more focused on pleasure without involving pain
  • may give soft commands knowing that you can fulfill them
  • may be more encouragement-based

Hard Dom:

  • they want to make you obey
  • may even enjoy making you obey
  • may give harsh commands knowing that you cannot fulfill
  • may use degradation rather than encouragement
  • might be okay with you not being in pleasure the whole time
  • pain may be a big goal for them
  • may do check-ins while staying in dom mode
  • might focus more on visual and behavioral cues than asking

Then I found this one on Tumblr:


Still other forums and websites maintain that the terms are relative and mean very little because of that.

And here is a great post from Violet Grey on the subject: My love for the soft Dom.

But after my research I feel I have this sense.

Soft Doms are exactly that…softer. They ask or command calmly, knowing that’s enough to make you obey.  They don’t tend to degrade or humiliate, and while they may enjoy inflicting some pain, they are careful to watch your reactions and not push beyond what you can handle. They revolve around you in many ways and gain pleasure from giving it. They care, protect, and please, because they see their sub as a precious possession.

A hard Dom demands, degrades, humiliates, and requires the sub to revolve around them and exist for them. They enjoy punishment and deride pleasure from giving pain, pushing the sub to their limits. They are rougher and more forceful.

I think most Doms are probably a mix of several “types,” and may change to fit their circumstances.

Though I would say my Husband is definitely of the softer variety most of the time, He can be rough and forceful. I can’t imagine Him pushing me past my limits, or enjoying really hurting me. He’s not a true sadist in that regard. Beyond the occasional spanking or hairpulling, making me bleed or cry wouldn’t do much for Him, I don’t think…because He knows it wouldn’t do anything positive for me.

There have been times when I needed Him to push me to tears, to help me reach subspace and clear my head enough to find a cathartic reset. But He was fulfilling a request, not really getting off on hurting me. (Though I know from experience is does make Him hard to spank me.)

I’m not judging hard Domination or subs who need or want that in their lives.

But for me, the soft Dom is my choice, with a little hard during play on occasion to spice things up.

During our daily lives, since we fall into pretty clear, traditional gender roles, He’s the Head of the Household, which, in my eyes is a soft style of Dominance. Because we have chosen to run our lives this way, our D/s is technically 24/7, though it has less to do with sex than just plain old power dynamic. He sees me as an equal, as do I, but I have chosen to defer power in certain ways because it makes my life easier and we naturally fall into those roles and feel more comfortable there.

But that didn’t happen over night. Find D/s sexually is what helped us toward a daily living pattern that worked for us both. And even though our sex isn’t even D/s all the time, there is still always that inderlying knowledge that He is in charge.

If He had to get “hard,” I suppose He would. If I pushed Him to it with brattiness or outright insubordination. And the Hard Dom in Him does come out during sex from time to time. So I know it’s in there.

Two sides of a coin, I suppose…or maybe a sliding scale.

What are your thoughts on hard and soft Domination? Is there a clear set of rules or definition? Or like everything else in BDSM, is it all about interpretation?


  • Mrs Fever

    I prefer the term Gentle Domme; for some reason (I say that tongue-in-cheek — ‘some reason’ is ‘hundreds of reasons’ and it has everything to do with the socialization of genders) this soft/gentle concept is less difficult for people to understand when the scenario is F/m.

    Everything is subjective, of course. Your “soft” might be my “squishy” and your “hard” might be my “bendy” — but the concept of ‘soft’ (gentle) is rather like speaking in a firm, low voice: I’m choosing NOT to shout to be heard…

    But I damn sure expect him to hear me.
    Mrs Fever recently posted…Saturday Night Fever: Feeling My AgeMy Profile

    • Brigit Delaney

      The same here. He doesn’t need to yell or punish or be cruel in any way. I don’t like to disappoint, so a look is all it takes to punish, and a request is all it takes to get the job done.

    • Northman

      This actually affected me in a way. I am so new to all this and am just doing my research but this spoke to me. The “I’m choosing NOT to shout to be heard.” That is something that I’ll have to keep in mind as I continue my research

      • Moon star

        I am new to discovering these things about myself more and more as I realize that this isn’t just about who I am sexually but who I am personally.
        I would say that I’m more of a soft Dom. I can be hard but I’ll rather not inflict fear in order to get whatever the goal is that I’m trying to reach.

        Learning more about terms and how it all plays in my life has helped me out so much to see clearly and gain better focus.

  • Jae Lynn

    I’m happy you visited this topic Bridget. I just ended my weekend with Pet and this one was definitely of the more softer variety as I work through my health issue. In general I am more ‘gentle’ or ‘soft’ in what I want or expect from him. He responds very well to praise whereas punishment can put him in a very negative headspace. I’m not a harsh or hard person in general so this is a great description of our relationship as well.

    • Brigit Delaney

      It was a new-ish concept to me. At least in terminology. I’ve always known Mr. D Wwas of the gentler variety of Dom, hence our experimentation with a Daddy/princess dynamic. We’ve sort of fallen back on Head of Household, because it fits us better in the 24/7 realm, but in most ways He runs our world with looks and requests (which are obviously not to be argued with) rather than commands and punishment. It works better for me, too.

  • Mary Wood

    People are different. And certain styles of behavior may differ in different situations. So how many pairs there are so many options for d / s. But what I understood from reading your post is that you are very happy with your relationship with your husband, which, judging by a few phrases, is ideal from your point of view.

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