The Alchemy of D/s

This post is part of the blog tour for Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Volume 3!

(As a heads up, this post discusses D/s dynamics at length and detail, with particular focus on service-based submission. It briefly references pain play.)

I have very fond memories of my first experience with service-based submission. There was something so magical about the way the world narrowed to this one person, and all of who I was oriented towards her, like she was the sun and I was a plant reaching for her, focused on her, worshiping her. I was filled with this purpose: to please her, to be a good boy for Sir, and that intent shaped everything. It was a transformative joyful experience, one I will forever be grateful for.

Each time I write about service-based submission from the servant’s perspective, I remember the electricity of that, the breathless newness, the sparkling pleasure of her praise, how it felt like I was tapping into my best self. The way that experience felt like this deep resounding bell of confirmation al throughout my body, that this was a core part of me.

My story “Trying Submission” centers Liliana, a woman who has been bottoming for quite a while, but has no experience with D/s. She asks Roz, a member of her leather family who is in town for a little while, to do a scene with her where she gets to try submission.

 “I want to try submission,” she said, as fast as she could get it out.

“Submission.” Roz seemed to taste the word, roll it around her tongue. “You want to try submission. Have you tried submission before?”

“No, I haven’t,” she said softly. “I’ve just thought about it.”

“Mmmhmm. How long have you been thinking about it?”

Liliana sighed. “A very long time.”

When they negotiate, there are a few things that stand out as what Liliana wants in the scene. She wants to sit at Roz’s feet and feel her hand on the back of her neck; she wants to take pain for Roz; she wants to be useful; she wants to give over control to Roz; and she wants to be treasured. These are the things that shape the D/s scene that follows.

There is a certain kind of alchemy that happens with D/s, in my experience. I’ve written before about the tipping point, that delicious moment when D/s dynamic crystallizes between people. There is a spark between Roz and Liliana from the beginning of the story; Liliana is aware of it, of Roz’s gaze, of the way she feels safer and a bit vulnerable when they hug, of wanting to call Roz ma’am. But it’s not until they are beginning their scene that Roz deliberately invokes the D/s, and they have this moment of transformation, of alchemy; their tipping point, where things like sitting at Roz’s feet and feeling Roz’s hand on the back of her neck, Roz pulling her hair, transform the energy between them. That alchemy comes from the sensory experience of these actions but also from the meaning they both bring to them. They create this shift together, and it’s a marvelous thing. Quite literally, as Roz openly marvels at it, saying that Liliana’s hair is the key.

I think most folks need to experiment a bit, to find the keys that turn within themself, the keys that turn within a partner, to find those activities that are transformative, that create that alchemy where the potential for D/s becomes the reality of it. Often that experimentation is expected to be the dominant’s job (though it could just as easily be mutual or led by the submissive), and often it is seen as mysterious magic that the dominant does, where we are supposed to ignore the man behind the curtain. It certainly can especially feel that way for novices, who are mostly focused on processing the reality of that D/s experience, and noticing how they got there can get a bit lost In the breathless wonder of being there.

I definitely have no clue how that first dominant of mine got us there, and don’t really think I brought much to that alchemy beyond my own fervent desire to try this for the first time. Liliana is in a similar boat, experiencing the wonder of D/s for the first time, and almost overwhelmed by it. I loved writing that experience, drawing a picture of that kind of alchemy happening for them, from deep inside Liliana’s point of view.

Once they are deep in dynamic, and Liliana is in languorous floating subspace, Roz shifts the scene to focus on service. Liliana has expressed a deep desire to be useful, and this gives her an opportunity for that. On the surface, the acts described are mundane and not particularly intense or delicious. It’s their D/s dynamic and the meaning they both bring to these acts that make them feel charged and full of intensity and pleasure.

I wanted to frame this as a moment of joy, of electric anticipation, a dearly desired experience that would open things up for Liliana, give her a space to touch new parts of who she is. This story is about her self-discovery, the way she seeks it out for herself, asks for help in facilitating it, and opens to it when it’s in front of her. My hope is that I was able to depict the intensity and pleasure in being held and met and treasured in who you are by someone you trust and care for, of trying something that you have deeply desired for a long time and finding out that it is as wondrous as you had hoped. Here is a taste of the beginning of the service in this story:

 “Okay, girl. I have a job for you.”

Liliana smiled. A job specifically for her. It was amazing how lucky that made her feel.

“Sit up for me now.”

Liliana extricated herself from Roz, and sat, waiting. She breathed it in, the waiting to hear how she could be useful. This moment was good all on its own, full of anticipation and purpose and clarity.

“You know Femme Brunch is tomorrow. I need you to iron my dress, and pick out the right accessories for it.”

Oh, my. Liliana’s hands started fluttering and a smile burst onto her face. Yes, she wanted to do this. To do it right.

“Oh you like that, do you girl?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 3 ed by Sacchi Green“Trying Submission” has the honor of appearing in Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 3, edited by Sacchi Green, published by Cleis Press. That collection is out now, and available at all retailers (including Amazon where sales have a great impact), but your best deal is to purchase it at Cleis Press. There, you can get 40% off print books with the code HOLIDAY2018, and the ebook is substantially cheaper (over $4 less) on the Cleis site.

“Trying Submission” is a stand-alone excerpt from my WIP queer kinky polyamorous romance novel Shocking Violet. Find out more about Shocking Violet, along with more excerpts, here.

I am elated that reviewers are enjoying my story. Here are some quotes from reviews that discuss it:

Publisher’s Weekly:

“the real gems in this anthology are those that eschew the usual pert, young, able-bodied subjects of erotic fantasy in favor of more thoughtful, relatable portrayals, and are all the sexier for it. Of particular note… [is] Xan West’s ‘Trying Submission,’ which flagrantly challenges all the old standards of the genre to celebrate a fat, disabled, autistic trans woman of color as she finds satisfaction in service.”

Library Journal:

“Xan West’s ‘Trying Submission’ examines the first taste of submission for Liliana, who has autism, to gentle power-house Roz and offers a lovely depiction of power play that might be an introduction for some to service-oriented submission.”


“one of the best D/s pieces I’ve ever read…I fell in love with the story in the first moments of reading it. The main character, [Liliana], is a fat, femme, submissive that speaks to my heart with her Ursula t-shirt and joint issues (knee). Even her dark lipstick and the way she imagines her barriers strengthening through tentacles made me grin with joy when reading.”

Note: This story won the 2019 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award.


One thought on “The Alchemy of D/s

  1. Pingback: 2019 National Leather Association Writing Awards | Kink Praxis

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