A friend of mine was playing the other day and sprained her foot. This happens, it is part of any contact sport whether it is football, soccer, Quidditch or sex. Like most of these sports, BDSM participants often wear their wounds like badges of honor. They are the physical reminders of what we have been through. Covered up or explained away when in vanilla public; bruises, cuts, sprains and little marks are like a secret code, a signet rings worn and recognized only by the initiated.
The problem is that it is not fight club. There is no first rule. The public walks in on violent and twisted acts without a complete understanding of what they are seeing and freaks out. People who feel they know what is safe, what is sane, and what is consensual become helicopter parents. They hover over their friends, ready to swoop in at the smallest misstep or miss-cued point on the learning curve. People who have read an idealized version of BDSM, of Master/slave relationships feel that they know best and see growth (especially in the Top) as a sign of weakness, as reason and proof why the concept of power exchange is dangerous. A bottom should not give up control because the top is only human. The Top should never demand control because he will never understand every variable. These kinky Gladys Kravitz not only spoil the fun for their neighbors but are harmful and potentially dangerous. If people do not feel they can explore the power exchange in public they will explore it in private. This is not a new thought. We have seen it with almost everything forced underground whether that is kink, or sexuality or Christianity. Outlaw it and it will survive in the shadows and underground. As a member of the community I think it is important that we give people a safe place to explore these urges safely. But that means letting people learn.
Working on My Backstroke
One of the most amazing things about the BDSM community I have seen is the number of free educational events there are. Kinksters are some sexy, pervert mixture of gamers, mechanics and librarians. They know everything about what they love and will tell you all the while hiding their growing erection. They are well springs of information and love to share it but often that information is limited to the physical play. I can go to any given club on a Friday or Saturday night and find someone who will show me the right way to flog, the right way to use a bull whip or a paddle. I can a girl who will be glad to hold the St Andrew’s cross while I work on my swing. Power exchange is not so easy to find. Emotional and mental lessons are not as easy to find. Part of the reason is because these are systems, ways of playing and interacting that take finesse and an attention to detail. Part of the reason is because not many are comfortable playing with intense emotional scenes. Most of all most people do not want to feel responsible for the outcome if their advice is followed and the whole thing goes up in flames. The problem is that people are going to do it. The need for an exchange is there, it is in the physical play and will continue to come out and until we start facing it, it will continue to be misunderstood and shunned.
Boyfriend/girlfriend, Master/slave or Both?
If I give you advice on how to be a better boyfriend and you try it and your relationship falls apart am I to blame? No. If I give you advice on being a better Master and you try it and your relationship falls apart am I to blame? The challenge of Master/slave (Dominant/submissive, Owner/property, which ever power exchange label you wish to use) dynamics is that an assumption of omniscience runs through everything like gravity. It is not only seen in the interactions of the Master and his slave but also in the interactions of different Masters. One person will look up to another because of years of experience or skills demonstrated at the club.
This is what we are looking for in the dynamic in the first place. We are looking to find perfection, to strive for perfection, flawlessness in our interactions with others and within ourselves. The problem is that we are all human and are learning as we go. So how do you reconcile these two ideas? How can you be an unerring Master and a human being? Go back to the point made earlier about kinksters. We are all reference nuts, we are collectors of information. We are both the librarians and the libraries. For one person you are a well-spring of information, for another you are an avid reader of their actions. For some people you are both. Remember that as you interact with others and act accordingly. Do you rely on a single source for your news? Do you take it without the appropriate grain of salt given any source? People (yes, even Masters) are sources that have to be vetted and understood. This is not to say you have to choose un-opinionated sources. Fox news and MSNBC are both very valid news sources and loyally followed by millions.
Cultivating a Cult of Personality
There are slaves, peers and mentors. Each level has way of perceiving you and of you perceiving it.
Slaves must see you as in control. This is not to say you must act with precision and grace at all times. Even the most Domly dom will slip on the ice and break his tail bone. One of the few universal truths I have ever come across was that it is not the perfection that makes a capital letter but the willingness to work with whatever comes from his actions. I have broken ribs while playing and while I would have rather they not broken — it ended my scene before sexytime 😦 — I was not afraid to spend the next morning driving all over the western suburbs looking for an urgent care clinic open on a Sunday. I was not aiming to break her ribs but I also was not ashamed. Shit happens. You let someone punch you, you run the risk of getting a broken rib. You punch someone, you can break a rib. Try not to, and do not fall apart when it happens. It will. Man up, take responsibility and move on. This is what a small letter wants out of their interaction. They are not looking for perfection (if the are: BIG RED FLAG) they want to know that they will be taken care of. She wants to know that when shit hits the fan, as it so often does in real life, that she can rely on you. That is not too much to ask and something you should consider before trying to Capitalize your letter.
Peers know as much as you and are willing to share and ask questions at the same time. He shows you how to coil rope, you teach him how to knock a bitch out. It is a give and take and a great place to kvetch. If you are used to the leather community, this may be different but since I was metaphorically born and raised in the New Guard, TNG, Kink 2.0 community, the pool from which you pull these peers can be littered with titles and world views. I find this refreshing. The more varied the sources of my information the more comfortable I am with the conclusions I draw. Equals, collaborators and partners in crime all work to see the world with fresh eyes that do not assume one right answer. It helps to reinforce opinions and ideas with debate and discussions. Nothing survives inside a vacuum and to think that ideas can live without being scrutinized and analyzed is simple-minded and dangerous. There is a reason that incest is not practiced more in the natural world. If ideas are kept within themselves they warp and mutate. A group of peers can work to ensure you are making progress as a community in a healthy way.
Mentors are like stones in a pond. It creates the force that makes the ripples but it is the shore that shapes them. A mentor allows a new or learning Master to see what will happen without making the decision for him. It is always your choice whether you follow advice and a good mentor will work hard to make sure you understand that. It is teaching through negative space. It is in the silences a mentor leaves where you will find the lessons. Responsibility must always fall on the decision maker and can never be passed but a good mentor will not only help you understand the consequences of your choices but the natural laws at play. You are learning not only that one plus one is two but why one plus one is two.
All three levels of interactions are important. As you become more experienced, you may find fewer and fewer people to be your mentor and you may take on that role more but all the same all three will play a part in the learning process. What is important is understanding that not one of these interactions leaves the responsibility with anyone but you. You are responsible for your choices no matter what advice or outcome is expected. Perfection is not expected but a willingness to stand up and handle the effects is.
Reviving the Gentlemen’s Club
There is a need for a place where Masters, Doms and others looking to talk shop while maintaining the air of mystery can go. The egalitarian movement has not left much room for the free but unequal exchange of ideas so crucial to power exchange relationships. Tops need to be able to sit together and talk about the issues of import to them without feeling they will be overheard or misunderstood by those they subjugate. They need to be able to hear the stories, the hopes and the fears of others without feeling that what they are hearing, what they are sharing will somehow affect how they are seen by their bottoms, subs and slaves. This is not the place of the clubs that already exist. They fill a vital role of being the centers and hubs for all kink, BDSM, and sex positive people. Fetlife does not have a place for it. The fact that just anyone can join means a lack of control with which comes the risk of leaks that will kill the club before it starts. I think back to the image of the gentlemen’s clubs of England. These were places where the men of society could get away for a while. They were often used as places of residence for young men before they found jobs, homes and families and while I do not think that anything like that is sustainable, I do think the idea of a club that is by invitation only, that is private and intent on remaining that way not as a way of creating superiority but as a way of allowing the growth and education of people interested in the top half of the power exchange while preserving the aesthetic of mystery. It is no longer an idea of keeping someone down because they are not worthy a ranking station but because those of us who enjoy this type of kink want it. Masters want to know that what they are thinking, how they are coming to the conclusions they are coming to, is not being scrutinized by those they control. Likewise, slaves and subs do not want to think their Masters and Doms are not naturally brilliant. They want to keep the feeling of magic and awe. I am not sure what the details would be. I am not sure where switches and others that are not into power exchange would fall. Would they be able to join? Would they be excluded? Is there room for a switch? Would a switch or a sub try to sneak behind the curtain? I am sure these are all issues that have been dealt with before. I am sure this is not the first time someone has asked. I do not feel that I have all the answers but I am sure there are enough of us that this could be made real.
Learning Without Losing Face
No one is born knowing everything. I have seen some amazing natural and raw talent (my seven year old commands as if born into nobility) but even that needs self awareness and actualization A Master wants to be the best Master he can be. He may decide what that is but it is through an understanding of himself and others that he begins to see how he becomes that. We learn from watching, from talking, from reading and from researching. We need to learn and grow as with any person but the roles we have taken on make it important that at least part of that learning process is kept away from prying eyes. Growing within a group of like-minded kinksters not only will help new Owners take better care of their property, it will begin to give credence power exchange as a legitimate kink in this new BDSM community. When we that play together communicate, coordinate, and support each other, we become not only more comfortably represented in the greater community as a whole, but we better understand that which we are doing within our own homes and kinks.