I read a romance book lately (not a BDSM book) that featured what must be one of those beta heroes I've been hearing about. He was damaged, uncertain, and really had to be drawn out of his shell by the heroine. Now, for the record he was also very kind and loving, and a man of integrity.
But I have to be honest...he didn't do it for me and it was a DNF in the end.
I'm not going to stand here and say that beta men or "soft" heroes have no place in romance or even BDSM romance. I'm sure there's a place for them. But this book made me realize that I need a certain grit in my heroes. And the essence of that grit, I think, is bravery.
Bravado, recklessness, wildness--these are not the same thing. I don't want a reckless hero, only a brave one. I want him to know the danger and wish to avoid it, but face it anyway because he's just that brave. The hero in this romance book I referenced avoided battles and conflict and I think that's why, ultimately, I couldn't feel anything for him. Maybe in the end he did get braver and more assertive, but by then it was obviously too late for me.
I suppose it works both ways. The scared, doubtful heroine only works so far until the readers ask themselves, "when is this girl going to buck up and face her fears?" And I think characters should certainly be able to doubt and fear things--but only if they eventually overcome those doubts and fears. I just need that. Maybe I'm too demanding, LOL.
In BDSM I think bravery becomes even more important. An avoidant dominant OR submissive is a screw-up waiting to happen. But a brave dominant or submissive takes risks, tries new things, and faces the music when those new things or risks blow up in his or her face.
Bravery. I just think it's a sexy thing.