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Powerful People Are Subs

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"I don't want to hear another sound out of you, not a moan, not a grunt, nothing. But if you can be good, I might just have a little treat for you."

Luke Skywalker: He kept calling me "Skywalker". Because I don't have a title — I'm not a senator, I'm not a general any longer, I'm not an ambassador. He used the word like an insult.
Mara Jade Skywalker: He could have called you "Master". Like I do sometimes.
Luke: I don't think it would be the same as when you do it.
Mara: It better not be... Skywalker.
Two married Jedi Masters, Star Wars: The New Jedi Order — Destiny's Way

There's an old cliche that people in positions of authority tend to be submissive when it comes to sex. For one reason or another, they prefer being subs in BDSM or are otherwise submissive during sex. This often relates to power-play. Another reason why this trope can occur is that the person is a leader most of the time so they enjoy having someone else take the role instead.

This often pops up as a joke as well. For example, the serious executive, or another high-ranking individual, has a secret thing for dominant females. This is to a certain extent Truth in Television, much to the delight of unscrupulous journalists everywhere (many a politician has had their career ended after being busted with a dominatrix). Of course, this is not always the case. Indeed, many people are very consistent: wanting to be either leaders or followers in all aspects of their life.

Compare to Aggressive Submissive for when someone has an aggressive personality but does a 180 when it comes to anything sexual, and Brains and Bondage for when BDSM is favored by smart people (who are often powerful as well). For the non-BDSM variation, see Authoritative in Public, Docile in Private. See also Best Her to Bed Her and All Amazons Want Hercules, where the person is only willing to love someone that's stronger than they are.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Nana & Kaoru: Female lead Nana Chigusa is the vice president of the student council and aspires to be an attorney, but you wouldn't know it when she's having one of her "breathers" with her boyfriend and dom Kaoru Sugimura. It's in large part a stress relief outlet for her from the expectations of being the school's star student and athlete.

    Comic Books 
  • At one point in The Losers, Aisha follows her target (the immensely feared warden of a Hellhole Prison) to the brothel where he goes to be dominated. She waits until the dominatrix has him tied up before entering, chases the woman out, and takes a moment to note the irony of a man who is so feared and has literally decided if others live or die on a whim being in such a predicament. Then she goes to work on him Jack Bauer style.

    Fan Works 
  • The Harry Potter fic “Different manor” explores the idea that Harry fundamentally resents the responsibility he’s been forced to take on due to the prophecy and his status as the "Boy-Who-Lived", to the extent that one of the reasons he falls for Daphne Greengrass is that she takes charge and just asks him to submit to her, basically allowing him to get away from his responsibilities and let her deal with things. Even when presented with the power of the Elder Wand (which is noted to have a corruptive influence on most of its wielders), Daphne reflects that the Wand can’t work on Harry because all he truly wants is to submit to her rather than to rule on his own (Daphne is tempted by the wand herself but is able to put that desire aside by focusing on her desire for Harry himself).
  • In the Star Wars Legends fanfic Encounter on Myrkr (NSFW), Mara accuses Luke of being one and claims she knows the type (in the end, it is revealed to be a little role-playing, so the veracity of her statement is unknown):
    "I saw men like you - powerful, rich, men with connections, men who held the power of life and death over others in their very hands. They would come to the lowliest and vile drinking establishments to slum with the locals. They came for one reason, one particular kind of woman... These powerful men who had others trembling at their feet wanted a woman to dominate them. They wanted to feel helpless at the hands of another. They got a sick sexual arousal out of being abused and degraded. That is the kind of type I think you are."
  • A Fire Emblem: Three Houses fic So Let's Go Home and Draw the Curtains set after the Crimson Flower storyline has Edelgard publicly as the powerful, strong, and independent emperor of Adrestia, who keeps Byleth merely as a lowly advisor and aide that nobody acknowledges. In private, they are secretly married and he is unquestionably the dominant in their bedroom, as she finds joy in letting go of her responsibilities by submitting to him and treating him as her master.
  • Implied in A Good Compromise, which opens with professor and combat veteran Captain Tyria Sark engaging in some light bondage with her husband where she's the one tied down.
  • My Pain, My Thrill revolves around Princess Peach finding out that she's a masochist. The problem is that her lover, the equally powerful King Bowser, isn't a sadist. He Does Not Know His Own Strength and tends to leave scars during sex, but he hates seeing Peach injured, even if she consents to it.
  • Luo Binghe in A Thorn Amongst The Flowers is a fearsome Demon Emperor that won't hesitate to lord his authority around. However, he happily and rather eagerly allows his First Consort to bind him in rope and verbally dominate him — said Consort notes that even if Luo Binghe intended for the session to be some kind of apology towards him, the guy is a little too into it.
  • The RWBY fanfic Vale's Underground makes Cinder an example. She's a psychopathic, sadistic mob boss who keeps everyone under her thumb. However, she also seems to enjoy it when guys are rough with her during sex.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The General's Daughter: Colonel Moore is shown to have been the submissive party in the late Elizabeth's BDSM play, inverting their official mentor-protegé relationship.
  • Jason X: The sleazy college professor is not only shown being seduced by one of his students in exchange for a higher grade but dresses up as a woman and engages in submissive roleplay.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005): Jane disguises herself as a dominatrix to get close to a mob boss. He likes it when she ties him up and whips him, not so much when she breaks his neck and escapes out the window.
  • In Undercover, a policewoman goes undercover as a prostitute in an upper-class brothel to investigate a murder. Many of her "clients" are high-powered men who are submissives in the bedroom.

  • In Cryptonomicon, an extremely wealthy character known only as "The Dentist" opposes the protagonists because he is a submissive under the control of his Filipino dominatrix wife, who in turn takes orders from conspirators opposing the protagonists' attempt to recover gold stolen by Those Wacky Nazis and create an Internet data haven.
  • Pecora is the Demon King in I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, which makes her one of the most powerful individuals in the world. Yet for years, she has been looking for a Cool Big Sis figure to boss her around, which she finds in Azusa. Playing into this, she will reject Azusa's requests if the latter politely asks, but she will eagerly oblige if the witch outright demands her to do so. While it's unclear whether being domineered is sexual to her, she does get blushed when domineered.
  • Played for Laughs in The New Jedi Order: Destiny's Way. Luke complains to his wife Mara Jade (both of them senior Jedi Masters) that Fyor Rodan, a New Republic politician, addressed him simply as "Skywalker" during a discussion about the Jedi Order's role in the Yuuzhan Vong War. In response, Mara cracks that he could've addressed him as Master, "Like I do sometimes."
  • In Polystom, one scene reveals that Cleonicles, the governor of the Moon, has a fetish for being ordered around and sodomized by his servants.
  • Ernie bemoans this in These Words Are True and Faithful:
    "I'm not really sure how to put it. I know you liked playing the good-boy role, but for you, it sometimes seemed like just a role that you liked playing, like a lot of you educated professional types—whether gay, straight, or 'straight, but…'—do, and then when you're done playing, you put your expensive Italian suits back on and go back to being yourselves. That's not what I wanted. I wanted something that was really real."
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: Deirdre Fou Roseblade is one of the heiresses of House Roseblade, which has a fearsome reputation. She likes men who have spines, which are very rare considering the general submissiveness of male nobles in the Kingdom. Hence when Leon stands up to her, she is immediately enticed by his brazen attitude and vows to make him "her pet".
  • Prevalent in The Wheel of Time, its author Robert Jordan having a flair for the kinky. Specifically, it's actually invoked by the Sea Folk, whose marriage vows include a requirement that one member of the couple is always in command while in public, and always submissive in private, something that Lan and Nynaeve don't realize when they ask the people to perform their wedding ceremony.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Alienist has the unnamed brewery foreman who is one of the clients of the professional dominatrix Mrs. Williams. In her own words, he's "used to giving orders", but "in here, he prefers taking them".
  • Angel: Despite being his "sire", powerful vampire Darla enjoys being abused by the villainous Angelus, Angel commenting that she actually likes pain in the episode "Quickening". Similarly powerful vampire Drusilla seems to enjoy the same kind of treatment, asking Darla to hold her head underwater when they bathe together and Spike in "Lover's Walk" commenting that he intends to tie Dru up and torture her until she loves him again. Wesley also hints at this, implying he knows someone who can provide them with handcuffs and later referring to "Miss Spanksalot".
  • Assistant United States Attorney Chuck Rhoades on Billions is a sub; his wife Wendy is his dom.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In the episode "Dead Things", despite declaring she will never trust him, hugely powerful vampire slayer Buffy allows herself to be handcuffed during sex with her vampire lover Spike. She later comments "He's not getting any gentler" whilst rubbing her sore wrists. He subsequently seduces her into having exhibitionist sex with him on the balcony at The Bronze, Buffy eventually breaking down and tearfully telling the truth to her friend Tara, asking "Why do I let him do these things to me?".
    • In the episode "Dirty Girls", hardcore warrior slayer Faith recounts to Spike how she used to enjoy dressing up as a schoolgirl and being whipped by an old boyfriend.
  • Castle: Zig-Zagged in "The Mistress Always Spanks Twice". The BDSM club where the Body of the Week worked is patronized by various powerful men, but on the other hand, the domme who runs it is herself a retired attorney. And then there's the various Casual Kink moments this episode where Beckett, the homicide detective, acts domineering over Castle, the millionaire crime novelist, as well as a male suspect who was a sub client of the aforementioned BDSM club.
    Castle: My safe word is "apples".
  • The trope shows up occasionally in Criminal Minds:
    • When the protagonists visit a BDSM event while trying to track down a killer using not-Fifty Shades of Grey to lure his victims, the woman they talk to says that the people she sees most are high-powered women looking for a submissive outlet.
    • In another episode, they suspect a school principal who's introduced being very aggressive and authoritative in punishing one of the students, to the point that Blake feels the need to step in and stop him. When they discuss his habits with the prostitutes who've been killed, he admits that he pays them to cut him, rather than to let him cut them, as they'd assumed.
  • Desperate Housewives: Eminent doctor and pillar of the community Rex Van De Kamp likes being dominated in bed. When his Dominatrix Maisie Gibbons is arrested he asks his Stepford Smiler wife Bree to take over the role. She agrees but insists on rinsing the handcuffs through the dishwasher first.
  • Feel Good: George, a high school teacher by profession and generally sane and responsible, is this in the bedroom. Mae lampshades it when she's amused by the fact that George's new boyfriend Elliot wants to talk about his feelings.
    Mae: You hate talking about your feelings! Doesn't he know that you just want to get pushed around like a slutty bag of beans?
  • Forever: Invoked in-universe with the victim in "The Ecstasy of Agony." The victim was a high-powered executive in a job where any weakness will be exploited. In his private life, he lost the ability to open up to his wife, until he went to a domination therapist where he could let go and let someone else be in charge.
  • Las Vegas: At one point, based on some suggestive camera footage they stumble across, Danny and Mike (mistakenly) believe that their boss Ed, a hard-ass ex-CIA agent who runs the casino, was having an affair with Monica Mancuso, an ill-tempered Gold Digger who bought the casino and regularly feuded with Ed. In an Imagine Spot, both Ed and Monica are in turn portrayed as submissives to the other behind closed doors.
  • Nip/Tuck: A powerful CEO who comes into the McNamara/Troy practice for surgery turns out to be the sub to a ridiculously aggressive dominatrix. Sean walks in on the guy being tortured with fish hooks and immediately threatens to call the cops. The man claims it's a way to punish himself for having to fire people constantly.
  • The Punisher (2017): Colonel Morty Bennett, who participated in helping smuggle heroin out of Afghanistan inside the corpses of KIAs, commands a base of troops by day, then at night engages in submissive roleplay with a dominatrix. Resulting in Frank giving a hilarious line when he shows up:
    Frank Castle: Well shit, Morty. Looks like I got here just in time.
    • Following Frank's visit to Bennett, Billy Russo proceeds to kill Bennett in a run-down motel room alongside the dominatrix who was there when Frank made his visit to the base and makes it look like a sex-related incident.
  • In the episode "Change" in Silent Witness, the Body of the Week is a wealthy CEO whose secretary tries to cover up that he liked being tied up, gagged and whipped in the bedroom to avoid tarnishing his reputation.
  • In Twin Peaks, the manager of Horne's Department Store, who secretly recruits underage girls into prostitution/drug rings, turns out to enjoy being bound and gagged.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: If Iron Bull is romanced, he decides the Inquisitor has so much on their plate, they'd appreciate someone else taking charge in the bedroom.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • In Pixie Trix Comix, it turns out that scheming corporate executive GiGi (who was introduced in Ménage à 3) is not only in a sexual relationship with her secretary FiFi, but clearly enjoys being tied up and spanked. All this comes with overtones of Bondage Is Bad and Depraved Bisexual.
    FiFi: Naughty CEO...

     Web Video 
  • This TikTok video details a theory about how Liz Truss, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is a submissive in a 24/7 collared relationship and her various day collars worn in public.