Wtf are emotional labor and weaponized incompetence?

a silhouette of an angry woman crossing her arms and facing away from a silhouetted man, who is on his knees in a begging position because he has upset her.

I feel like this is a topic that frequently comes up in FLR and Femme led D/s dynamics with mostly heterosexual couples.

The truth is a lot of the people who have fantasies of serving women end there – at the fantasy. As soon as it comes time to actually put in work on cultivating a relationship that demands the breaking down of patriarchal standards and practices, there are old habits and social programming that interfere with the growth of the dynamic. It takes hard work to break those concepts down in order to live the authentic life you want.

It takes two to tango, so don’t leave your partner swinging around a limp body on their own, and learn to competently dance in tandem.

In D/s relationships led by women or femmes (Dommes in this example), the terms “emotional labor” and “weaponized incompetence” are frequently used when in reference to their submissives- typically cis-gender, heterosexual men, but not exclusive to them. The effort that Dommes often undertake in relationships or dynamics to manage their partners’ emotional health and to keep the relationship going is referred to as emotional labor. Conversely, weaponized incompetence is the intentional or unintended use of incompetence as a means of evading or avoiding responsibility in a relationship. These two ideas frequently collide in unpleasant ways in female-led relationships (FLRs) and D/s dynamics, leaving the Domme feeling burned out and resentful.

Because it is often taken for granted and goes unnoticed, emotional labor is usually referred to as invisible labor. This labor includes arranging and coordinating play scenes, cleaning up after, learning new skills, investing in equipment, keeping track of crucial dates and appointments, and initiating support for their submissive or partner emotionally. Dommes frequently perform an excessive amount of emotional work in FLRs and D/s, which can result in feelings of frustration and exhaustion. It can feel like a burden for Dommes to carry out all of this labor, and it can be challenging to find time for their own desires and needs. Even while a Domme’s interests do align with these activities and kinds of play, it is tiresome to not have submissives initiate check-ins to see if their Domme needs additional support, or just doing simple tasks without being prompted to do so, as Dommes often do with their subs. No one likes an emotional or sexual “starfish”.

Another problem that can develop in FLRs and D/s is weaponized incompetence. When a submissive deliberately or inadvertently act incompetent as a means of avoiding duty, deflecting blame, or trying to goad their Domme into punishing them (bratting) without negotiating first, this occurs. For instance, a submissive may make excuses for their inability or subpar performance of a task in order to avoid taking responsibility for it. Have you ever half-assed something at work because it wasn’t fun or took your sweet time on an important task hoping someone will get frustrated enough to do it themselves? You shouldn’t want to do these things to a person you revere and respect. If you do, your Domme may feel they’re always picking up the slack and carrying the load in the relationship, which is extremely aggravating and stressful.

The effects can be seriously damaging to the dynamic when emotional labor and weaponized ineptitude collide. For example, a Domme can discover that they are always cleaning up after a sissy maid’s mistakes or having to do damage control when their sub doesn’t take the time to learn BDSM basics and didn’t learn to communicate their boundaries in a clear way. Particularly if the Domme feels like they are making all the effort and not receiving any reciprocation or is being treated like a personal fetish dispenser, this usually results in feelings of emotional fatigue and animosity at best. It will result in the dynamic ending eventually when the Domme has had enough.

Both people must acknowledge the emotional effort that goes into a D/s or FLR dynamic in order to prevent these problems, and they must cooperate to divide responsibilities. In other words, Domme and sub need to be aware of the responsibilities that go into cultivating a healthy dynamic and ready to perform their assigned roles to prevent the issues that arise from disproportionate mental & emotional labor, and lack of accountability.

Finally, emotional labor and weaponized incompetence are two challenges that often occur in heterosexual presenting D/s and FLR dynamics and can happen in queer dynamics. It may be extremely harmful when these two problems collide, resulting in emotional turmoil and an end to the dynamic. To avoid these problems, both Domme and the sub need to be aware of the mental & emotional labor that must be done and eager to perform their part. Remember that anything other than clear, resounding consent is not consent. The possibility of incompetence, intentional or not, must also be understood by both people, and they must be prepared to take responsibility for their actions by making a plan for consequences and solutions. Dommes and their submissives can build strong bonds based on mutual respect, understanding, and care by cooperating to make their dynamic lasting and strong with open, honest, and clear communication, expectations, and check-ins.

Need help figuring out how to approach a Domme in the first place? Check this out!

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