The Poisoned Gift

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “The one with the real power in a D/s relationship is the submissive, because they can choose to revoke their submission any time they want.”

I hear this idea pretty frequently, and it’s always struck me as a really weird thing to believe. Do people think that the dominant partner can’t equally well revoke their dominance any time they want? It’s a consensual relationship on both sides; so if “real power” is the power to end the power exchange then both partners hold it equally. So I could understand thinking that consensual D/s relationships are really, fundamentally egalitarian, but this idea that being able to end the power dynamic means submissive partner holds all the cards just doesn’t make any sense.

Well, I think I’ve got it figured out. I don’t think that anyone actually believes that dominants can’t end their D/s dynamics; it just doesn’t occur to them to think that they ever would. Because they’re imagining D/s as a thing that the submissive partner gives to the dominant one, an idea that often goes by the name the Gift of Submission, or “GoS” for short. Continue reading

Collar Inspirations

Last week I wrote about assumptions and manners for behaving well around collars in kinky community. This week I add some ideas for using collars in your own relationships. It remains a great truth that there is no One True Way to do it, and the best set of rules and rituals around collaring is the one that works best for you and your partner. So the following are not prescriptions but inspirations: ideas for you to take or leave or adapt for your own purposes, and questions for you to answer in whichever way you prefer.

Who Owns the Collar?

One popular tradition is that the collar is and remains the property of the dominant partner. The symbolism here is powerful: the collar is not given to the submissive partner as a gift that they then own, but put around their throat as a symbol that they themselves are owned. The dominant retains property rights over the collar, and sometimes over the submissive as well.

An alternative tradition, most popular among people who consider slavery their vocation, is for the submissive partner to have a collar that they own and that symbolizes their capacity for submission or service. When they enter into a relationship with a dominant partner they can offer up their collar to be placed around their throat as a sign that their service has been engaged but the collar–and the capacity for service–remain intrinsically theirs. Continue reading

Collar Manners

There is no more powerful and widely recognized symbol of submission than the collar. Collars are used in all kinds of different kink communities and in a myriad of styles, from a leatherman’s heavy chain and padlock to a kitty’s belled ribbon, but everywhere they are understood to signify ownership.

Some people, and a few communities, have developed very specific expectations around exactly what sort of ownership a collar ought to signify, how collars ought to be worn, how they ought to be given, etc. Some of those folks will tell you that their set of expectations is the universally correct way to use and understand collars and that if you don’t follow the same rules they do you are doing collars wrong. As is usually the case with One True Ways, this is bullshit. There’s no one correct set of collaring rituals that most kinky people agree on, no standardized criteria for when granting a collar is appropriate, and the really important question is simply whether the way you use collaring works well for you and your partners.

What does really exist are a few common assumptions about collars that are good for folks participating in kinky communities to know about, and a few loose guidelines for behaving in a way that most people who use collars are likely to find respectful. Continue reading

The Imperative Mood

We’re having dinner with friends. She says to me, “Those potatoes look delicious. Would you like to pass them to me?” and I smile.

We’re in the car. I’m driving while she navigates. She says, “You want to take the next left,” and I feel proud of her.

She’s giving instructions for a party game. As each player’s turn comes up she says something like “Draw two cards” or “Move one place to the left.” When she gets to me she pauses almost imperceptibly before saying “The next thing to do is play any card and discard another.” No one else notices the difference, but I do, and what I notice turns me on.

Continue reading

Dominant Technique: Paraphrasing Fantasies

Really powerful dominance is founded on really deep knowledge of our partners. We can rule them and guide them and play them like instruments because we know how they work: what they need, what they fear, what inspires them, what puts a smile on their faces and, perhaps most of all, what gets them so turned on they can’t think straight. As dominants, getting to know our partner’s sexual desires better is always a good investment.

Here’s a simple technique that’ll help you learn to push all your partner’s buttons with confidence and grace. I call it a fantasy paraphrase, and it’s a three step process. Continue reading

Negotiation Tip: Get to the Heart of Desire

I have a bone to pick with negotiation checklists. Anyone who’s looked for education or advice on how to negotiate for the kinky experiences you want has seen these things recommended. They’re these multi-page lists of every kinky activity the list author could conceive of, where you’re supposed to rate each one on some scale of desirability. Like:

  • Flogging
  • Flogging, Hard
  • Flogging, Twizzlers
  • Bondage
  • Bondage, Rope
  • Bondage, Chain
  • Bondage, Red Vines

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

And okay, I see how they can have some utility for some people some of the time. But I think they promote a fixation on toys and techniques that doesn’t get at what’s really most important for many of us to negotiate. Continue reading

Going For the Brass Ring

Whenever she sat down in a staff meeting, the slave liked to imagine that everyone in the room could hear her rings click. A big part of her wanted them towanted the professional mask she wore five days a week to be humiliatingly shattered, revealing her true nature to the world. But that was not allowed. Her orders were to keep her job and support herself in service to her master. And besides, the rings were far too small to actually jingle and clank. It was only in her mind that they loomed large, each one huge and heavy with its own significance.

The highest one on the right side had been the first, anchored into her flesh after she had first truly surrendered her body to master. She remembered the moment with fond amusement now. How startled she had been that he hadn’t asked; he just ordered her up onto the table, spread her legs, and informed her that he was putting a ring in her. Until that moment the full meaning of having given him her body to do with as he liked had not fully sunk in. And afterward… Afterward she’d thought that she was at the end of the road to slavery. Master owned her body and had modified it to his liking. What else was there to surrender? Continue reading

Protecting Yourself From False Allegations

Do you worry about false accusations? Maybe you’ve seen someone get drummed out of some kinky community with no trial, no police report, no physical evidence, and maybe even with no chance to tell their side of the storyjust because someone accused them of violating consent. What if the accuser was just making it all up, or if it was a misunderstanding or an accident, or if maybe they said they consented at the time and then changed their mind later? We might never know. Does it seem like maybe that could happen to any of us?

The preponderance of the evidence suggests that false accusations are quite rare, but they’ve certainly happened more than once or twice in the history of kink. So yeah, there is a non-zero risk. But there are also some straightforward things that any of us can do to reduce that risk.

Here are four ways to reduce your risk of being branded a consent violator. Continue reading

Five to One

There’s this pop-psychology idea running around that a healthy relationship has five positive interactions for every one negative one. I don’t know about the exact math, but I love the general insight that negative and positive interactions balance one another in a relationship, but they don’t balance one another evenly.

If your partner forgets to take out the garbage and you snap at them for it, just having them remember once and you thank them for doing it once doesn’t bring your relationship back to the same place it was before. You’re both likely to still have wee little lingering questions and concerns that will persist until and unless you see several more confirmations that you aren’t going to make a habit of lashing out, and that they can be relied on to do their share. Even small signs that a partner is pulling away from us, or angry with us, or disapproving of something about us loom large. It takes a bunch of affection and intentional connection and positive regard to really put those doubts to rest and get back to feeling confident and happy with the relationship.

What that gets me thinking about is that D/s dynamics work the same way. For every interaction that undercuts, questions or diminishes the power relationship that you and your partner want to create between you, you need to have five that feed it, reaffirm it or take it deeper. Continue reading

Consensual Dominance

What is Consensual Dominance?

The most concise definition of consensual dominance I’ve ever been able to come up with is that it is the exercise of interpersonal power by the mutual agreement of and for the mutual fulfillment of all involved. Consensual interpersonal power is expressed in the hot, complicated space between what someone wants to do on their own and what they want to do for you. That space can extend in a wonderful variety of directions. It can mean taking someone down to where they beg permission to perform degrading acts they would normally find repugnant, but it also encompasses building them up to achieve heights of discipline and accomplishment that they would not have reached without firm encouragement.

Some people are very specific in which directions they prefer to take their dominance: interested only in degradation, or only in receiving service, or only in nurturing and guiding, or some other particular flavor of dominance. Others are more flexible, exploring different sorts of dominance at different times or with different partners. Regardless of the style, the essence of dominance is in the “because I said so” or the “do it for me.” It’s in the influence one person wields over the thoughts and actions of another.

It is a misconception to say that dominance is about making a person do things, though. It’s impossible to really make another person feel, think or do anything, and competent dominants tend to understand that fact better than most. Dominance works by inspiring, seducing and enabling submission, not by forcing it–it’s dominance driven by an engine of consent. Continue reading