I’m curious as to what your answer on this is but, who do you think is more dominant in the relationship ship. I believe that Dan is (due to what we’ve witnessed) but I also get the sense that Amy is too at times (and that she might enjoy him being dom at times) 🤔
Oh… this not an easy one to answer.
Simply put, the very thing that makes them interesting to watch – the constant shifting of power between them – is also what makes it difficult to give a straightforward answer on this. Especially because… what is actually going on in their relationship is often obscured by their own perception of it.
In other words…
I think their professional relationship is a useful barometer here. Because from what we see in the show, both Dan and Amy are happiest, and work most effectively together, when she is the one ‘in charge.’ From when Amy takes over as campaign manager their professional relationship is smooth, effective, and almost absent of interpersonal friction, and I think it’s quite clear throughout that Amy is the more dominant one – and Dan likes it that way. Watch the scenes early on in Nev-A-Da – Dan is basically functioning as Amy’s attack dog, and he’s so good at it, he barely needs more than a glance from her to know what she expects him to do. That doesn’t mean that Amy spends all her time bossing him around, but Dan being the kind of person he is, he almost certainly gets off on it when she does. (Note, all of this holds true even after Sophie-gate all but undoes all the progress in their personal relationship – they remain an extremely effective pair).
I tend to think that the natural endpoint for their relationship is for Amy to be the more dominant partner – emotionally, sexually and otherwise – but they’re not anywhere near that yet. I’ve argued elsewhere that Dan is more in love with Amy than she is him, and that has big ramifications for their relationship. Amy has demonstrated that, given means, motive and opportunity, she will walk away from Dan and not look back. We haven’t seem anything to indicate that he would be remotely capable of that. If anything, we’ve seen considerable evidence that Amy fills a need for him that no one else can.
Amy doesn’t know that. Which is where the perception that Dan is more dominant comes from, I think, because Amy clearly feels herself to be at an emotional disadvantage with him.
Whatever happened between them before the show, Amy came out of it knowing that she’d had feelings for Dan, that he knew that, and that not only had those feelings not been reciprocated, Dan had never even been interested in her on a personal level at all. As much as the show tries to minimise the impact of Dan’s behaviour… that’s the kind of thing that plays merry hell with a person’s self-respect. Being used for sex would probably have been less damaging to Amy in the long run, than being used for the sake of Dan’s career – at least in that scenario she would have had some certainty that he was at least attracted to her.
Amy’s reaction when Dan is made campaign manager is quite illustrative here. When she thinks it’s someone else, someone new, she’s…upset, but she manages, she’s okay. When she thinks it’s Dan the entire scenario becomes instantly intolerable and her response is to get as drunk as possible. At that point in their relationship, the idea of being subordinate to Dan is completely unacceptable – I think because Amy had been using her professional superiority to Dan (she’s Chief-of-Staff and he’s not), to compensate for feeling emotionally vulnerable. Having that shield taken away is not something she’s willing to contemplate (and of course, she is a better campaign manager than Dan, and professional success is massively important to her – I don’t want to imply otherwise. All of these things can be going on at once, is my point).
This is also what makes things with Sophie so damaging to Amy – and why she deserves immense credit for handling it as gracefully as she did – because it reactivated all of the feelings she had when Dan dumped her the first time, including the self-recrimination and blame for ever having fallen for him. And Dan contributes to this, by doing everything in his power to convince Amy he doesn’t find her remotely attractive, and finds the concept of anyone else being attracted to her funny.
So Amy certainly perceives Dan as being dominant in the relationship, but I’m not sure that perception is borne out by reality. And what’s more, I can’t help but suspect that deep, deep down, Dan knows that. He spends a lot more time chasing her than she does chasing him – and he very aggressively flaunts his…lack of attachment to Amy in her face whenever he gets the opportunity. (The stupid comments about stewardesses and schoolgirls being neat examples). You have to wonder why he feels such a need to do that.
Bear in mind, Dan doesn’t appear to have any friends. By and large, his colleagues tend to dislike him, and his sexual partners… well the ones who aren’t one night stands are few and far between, and even then… did Brie seem remotely interested in Dan as a human being, on any level? (While I think Brie was pretty odious herself, I don’t judge her for that – Dan is vile. She has no reason to have positive emotions about him). Candi Caruso disliked him so much she wouldn’t even admit to knowing him.
The end result is…in a weird way, both of them feel like the other one has all the power in the relationship – and that drives a lot of their behaviour.
The one place where I would imagine Dan is unequivocally dominant is sexually. (Note, every single fic I’ve seen filling in the blanks of 6.09 has Dan making the first move and being on-top, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence; fic writers are picking up on something at least implied by the show. I actually wrote the Behind the Scenes chapter to imply that Amy was on top, the first time, but I think I’m the only one). Dan has absolute certainty that Amy is attracted to him, and he is very sure of himself around women in general. (And if the way he talked about possibly sleeping with Jane is anything to go by, he seems to consider giving oral sex a standard part of his repertoire – in which case, there is at least a chance he’s as good in bed as he thinks he is).
I don’t think you could reverse either of those statements for Amy. And in some ways, I think being with a man who knows what the hell he’s doing and is at ease being… in the driver’s seat, is probably something of a relief for her, at least at this point in her life. If their sex scene in 6.01 is emblematic (which I think it probably was), Buddy basically demanded that Amy take the lead sexually, and then criticised her when she didn’t live up to his fantasies. It’s not a recipe for Amy feeling confident or at ease sexually, to say the least. Dan taking the lead probably made it a hell of a lot easier for her to relax and enjoy herself when they did sleep together (note, in both 4.05 and 5.02, Dan basically leaves it up to Amy to get things started between them – he puts her in the driver’s seat, and I think it’s clear that made her more nervous than he realised).
It seems reasonable to me that once Amy did feel confident with Dan – when their relationship is more settled and less fraught – that would impact their sexual relationship. Now, it might take a while, because Dan hasn’t done much to make Amy feel desirable and sexy (though I think Buddy was a lot worse in that respect), but once she did start to relax with him… Well, look at the results in 6.10. One night together, and Amy is more at ease and relaxed than we’ve ever seen her. She’s glowing.
Over time, my expectation is that the dynamic would shift, and Amy would start to feel able to be demanding and dominant in bed. Remember, Dan has always seemed most attracted to Amy when she’s at her most confident and at ease – and given how much he enjoys the more…domineering aspects of her personality (including when she bosses him around) in his day-to-day life, I think it’s a reasonable assumption that he would like it if she was like that in bed.
But, as I said, they’re not there yet.