Dominant doesn’t equal psychopath, and while I’m at it, submissive doesn’t equal victim. I have recently seen several kinky erotic romance novels where the ‘dominant’ is actually a psychopath. Maybe I get hung up in terminology because of my degree in psychology, but I feel the urge to make this distinction, and to call things what they truly are.
Let’s look at some psychological traits of a psychopath:
- They lie and manipulate people regularly.
- They lack basic morality and are happy to break rules when it suits them.
- They lack empathy and often bully others, blaming the victims for the things they do.
- They are narcissistic, truly believing that they are better than others.
- They lack guilt or contrition, and are prone to violent outbursts.
Now let’s look at some psychological traits of a dominant:
- They’re conscientious, and good at communication and cooperation.
- They have a strong sense of morality and are self-disciplined.
- They have a strong sense of empathy and a desire to help others.
- They are self-confident, assertive, and comfortable taking control of a situation.
- They find value in remaining calm and keeping a level head in stressful situations.
Here are some psychological traits of someone with a victim mentality:
- They lack a sense of control over their own lives and destiny.
- They are pessimistic, and feel that the world at large is against them.
- They desire sympathy for their situation and avoid responsibility for their own actions.
- They are reluctant to try new things, and avoid unusual situations when possible.
- They are passive though life and often lack empathy for others.
And last, here are some psychological traits of a submissive:
- They enjoy voluntarily surrendering control to specific people in specific situations.
- They have greater overall happiness than the average person.
- They feel a deep need to take responsibility for their actions.
- They are more open to new experiences and other ways of life than most.
- They are proactive in trying to please others, and have more empathy than average.
As an example, maybe some of you are fans of the cult classic show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The character Angel has many dominant qualities. He has a strong sense of morality, he has empathy for others, he has no trouble taking charge, and he stays calm in stressful situations. Angel’s alter ego Angelus has the qualities of a psychopath. He loves manipulating, lying to, and bullying people, he has no morality or empathy, and he has no guilt or remorse.
On the flip side, the character Tara has many qualities of a victim when her family finds her. She believes she has no control over her own life, she’s pessimistic, and passive to their demands. But when Tara is with Willow she displays many of the traits of a submissive. She seems to enjoy letting Willow take the lead in conversations and actions, she’s very open to trying new experiences, she’s accepting of others, she shows empathy for her friends, and she’s proactive in trying to please others.
If you’re reading a book or watching a movie where the ‘dominant’ hero kidnaps the heroine, lies to her, manipulates her, considers his own needs to be more important than hers, beats her to get her compliance, and feels no guilt or remorse over it, he’s not being a dominant, he’s being a psychopath.
Now I’m not saying psychopath/victim fantasies are bad. Not at all. They make fascinating stories, and thousands of people love reading about that dynamic. I personally fine Angelus much sexier and more entertaining than Angel. Some of my favorite villains of all time are psychopaths, and the ‘what if’ concept of them finding their version of love is interesting.
For example, the iconic villain from DC Comics, The Joker, often does have a girlfriend. Her name is Harley Quinn, and people love stories about their relationship. But no one is mistaking The Joker for a dominant.
I also think it’s perfectly okay to enjoy the fantasy of something that you’d hate in real life. Man-made dinosaurs that run amok and kill people? Zombie apocalypse full of murderous humans? Psychopath who forces his victim to love him? All great fantasies. I can enjoy those fantasies specifically because I know they are fictional characters in fictional worlds, and not something I have to see or deal with in real life.
I personally haven’t written any books about the psychopath/victim dynamic. The books I’ve written so far are about the dominant/submissive dynamic. So if you’re interested in a story where the heroine is happy voluntarily surrendering her control, and the hero is good at communication, has a strong sense of empathy, is self-confident and assertive, and keeps calm in stressful situations, then please check out my books.
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