There are as many ways to do D/S as there are people, so you really need to know what your partner wants, doesn’t want, is comfortable with, is afraid of, and so forth. A lot of submissives will have great trouble telling you what they want. For some of them, this is because they don’t really KNOW what they want. Or, perhaps, they know how they want to feel, but they aren’t sure what it is that will make them feel that way.
Other submissives do have at least some idea of what they want, but they’re too embarrassed to be able to tell you directly. And some submissives know what they want but feel as if it spoils things if they have to ask for it, they want the impetus for the scene to come from you, and if they ask for something, then it’s as if they’re controlling the scene, when what they want is for you to control it. And of course, more than one of these can occur at once. A person can know only what it is they want to feel and be too embarrassed to talk about it and feel as if it gives them too much control over things if they tell you.
There are a couple of ways around these problems, but they all take a bit of work on the Dom part. For the sub that isn’t all that sure what they want, you get them to describe how they wish to feel. You ask them what things in their past have gotten them to feel this way, even if it’s only a small and mild version of what they really want. And of course you also use your knowledge of your partner to guess at what you suspect would make them feel what they want. You get them to tell you what they fantasise about (bearing in mind that fantasies are often more intense than anything a person would like to do in real life).
And you experiment. A scene doesn’t have to last for hours. In the early stages, when you’re just figuring out what works for both of you, you can try something for five minutes. (But just because the scene is short doesn’t mean that you take it less seriously. You have to make these mini-scenes as real as your usual ones, or they won’t work as a testing ground. Put your all into them, just keep ’em short. Say you suspect that your submissive would enjoy wearing a collar, then put one on him, do a few things with it, then take it off and ask them how they felt about it. If you both liked it, you can always do it again for longer. But these mini-scenes let you try out things in the knowledge for BOTH of you that if you hate it, it only lasts for a short time, this takes some of the pressure off.
When Subbies say they do not want to use Safewords in certain scenes, use an egg timer. Why, because many will not admit to having never been cropped, whipped or used anally. They want you to deliver the fantasy that they have with no thought of their own safety. So I tell them that I shall do something for three minutes and then after that we are going to find out how they feel. Three minutes is not very long, objectively speaking. But it can be a very long time to someone who’s never played but is living in the dream world and has no idea what the reality is like.
For the sub that has at least some knowledge of what they want but who is too embarrassed to tell you what it is, there are a couple of routes to go. You can ask them to write it down and give it to you, since a lot of people can write things that they cannot say. You can also try dominating it out of them, try winding your hand in his hair, pulling his head into a position that lets you stare into his eyes, and demanding that he tell you what you want to know right now. Or you can threaten some sort of physical punishment unless they divulge the information. The punishment isn’t really intended to be a motivator, it’s intended to be a way for the sub to save face. They can tell themselves that it’s not greedy or forward or too bold or whatever to tell you what you want to know because you’re making them tell you. Sometimes just letting them tell you in the dark, when you’re snuggled up with your arms around them will be enough.
The sub who doesn’t want to tell you anything because they think that means that they are controlling the scene or that they are forcing you into something you don’t really want tends to be a somewhat harder case, but there are a few things you can try. You can tell them that you aren’t promising to do any of the things that they ask for, you’re just asking because as the Domme, you have the right to ask any damn thing you please and to get an answer. “Since you are my property, the contents of your mind are also my property, and you will give them to me when I ask” is something I tell my submissives. You can tell them that you want the information for your own selfish pleasure, “Making you be submissive in a way that’s good for you is likely to be more fun for me than making you be submissive in a way that’s bad for you, because the second way makes me work harder for less return. So give me what I need to know to get what I want.”
Oh, yes, and a type I forgot to mention. Some submissives think that no one really wants to dominate them, that you’re just humouring them, and leaving you to your own devices is sort of a test. It’s as if they’re saying, “If you really want this, you’ll figure it out on your own.” My ex submissive had a touch of this, so I just jumped in and started ordering him around, and once he was assured that I wanted it, too, his fantasies started pouring out