D/s is an abbreviation for Dominant/submissive – often linking to the nature of a relationship between two or more people; of any sexuality (ex: Dom Male/ sub female, Dom Female/sub male, Dom Male/sub male, Dom Female/sub female, etc.) If somebody identifies as being into D/s, or having a D/s relationship, then they probably include power play in their sex life, and perhaps in other aspects of their relationship. Yes, D/s is a subset of BDSM.
Please note that dominance does not equate abuse and/or violence, while submission does not equate weakness and/or pliability – you’ve got it all wrong.
Dominance/submission relationships are based entirely on trust, Dominants love the thrill of control while submissives adore that of giving up control – Dominants don’t harm submissive or hurt them – verbally, emotionally, psychologically, sexually, or physically – they aim to please their submissive and give them what they need while subs are not pain sluts, or whores or any other derogatory term you can think of – rather they are people who enjoy the mindlessness and rest that accompanies the thoughtless pleasure they receive, pain is in no way a necessary aspect, though a bit of humiliation and degradation are (with someone you know and trust it’s quite different that you think)
Contrary to popular belief D/s relationships don’t really differ much from normal “vanilla” relationships. The main difference between both is the amount of communication. Most people involved in BDSM stress the importance of everything being ‘consensual’ so there will probably be much negotiation at the start about the things people do and do not enjoy, and the ways in which the relationship will be D/s. It also involves a lot of reflection and a lot of care, being a sub myself I can easily recognize my needs today due to all of the reflections my past Doms had me write and discuss with them. I’m the type of person who needs reminders to eat, sleep, relax, etc. so a good Dom put in a situation with someone like me would end up caring for the sub outside of their sex life – “eat an apple once you wake up, and show me” for example, and due to a sub’s hatred of disappointment, she’ll do it. While in vanilla relationships it involves so much “please”s from a partner, so much begging and refusal that fights break out half the time – in D/s it is quite simple to fully care for someone and not worry about them not complying.
Honestly, people have given BDSM and thus D/s a bad rep – the media portrayal of BDSM has been terribly negative; only focusing on the extremes and associating it with violence, anger, danger, abuse, and criminality. Research has shown that people who are who are into BDSM are no different from others in terms of emotional well-being or upbringing, and that they are no more likely to get serious injuries from their sex lives, or to be criminal, than anybody else.
Often the media also focuses on the most extreme examples, such as very heavy and/or 24/7 D/s arrangements, rather than the more common relationships where there are simple branches of D/s. That is exactly why there are so many misconceptions – people truly are afraid, or they think they’re into it when they’re not or they believe it to be something and enforce it on someone without consent and cause trouble. There’s so much diversity in BDSM from leaving love bites and light bondage to roleplay and extreme hogties – similarly from simple humiliation and teasing to outright tear inducing admissions and punishments. It has reached the point where some people think that the light D/s isn’t D/s at all – that’s how negative of an influence media has on people. D/s isn’t black and blue skin or bullet like words; it is a form of care and there should be no judgment or reservations about anyone who chooses to fulfill their own needs.
At the end of the day; it’s all about power play and power dynamics.