Training

From SlaveCraft: Roadmaps for Erotic Servitude _ Principles, Skills and Tools”, by Guy Baldwin:

Training means something more than giving orders and correcting compliance. A sadly small percentage of the Masters i know savor the often delicately balanced orchestrations by which a slave does truly develop a deeper level of surrender under Their direction. These Masters delight in devising subtle situations and conversations that challenge and guide us. They watch us closely to see how we wrestle with our inner struggles with surrender, and then determine the best way to coax, tease, kiss, lure, argue, reason, support, reinforce, hurt or love us onward past our sticking points and into doing or accepting exactly what They want from us…AND, making us love Them for it! This is the REAL craft of “slave-training,” and lucky is the slave who comes to the attention of these rare Masters.

If you are not feeling like this is what your dominant/master is doing with you, and you don’t end up loving him for whatever he is doing in the name of training or anything else, there’s a very good chance that you are in fact experiencing abuse.

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The fact of the matter, as Guy says, is that such “masters” are in fact rare.

Just because someone calls themselves a dominant, a master, or SirWhompum, or whatever, does not automatically confer any level of skill upon him – be it with toys, or relationship skills.

In fact, a shocking number of dominants are exceptionally unskilled in these ways.

Which we could then look at as being the norm – and in the sense that there are more who do not have these skills than who do, that is true – but the story doesn’t end there.

In a vanilla relationship, neither party has deliberately taken on the responsibility of owning another, controlling or directing what they do, etc.  It’s not part of the fundamental relationship paradigm.  There are good lovers and there are bad ones, and leaving aside the abusive, that’s not such a big deal in and of itself.

When a person takes on the responsibility of dominance or mastery over another, however, it becomes exponentially more important that he ensures that he has the skills, both technical and personal, with which to ensure not just the submissive’s safety, but to seduce her submission.

Even with subs for whom being pushed is a big part of their kink, there is still the need to seduce compliance – and many times, it is precisely that seduction that actually constitutes the desired pushing, or at least a big part of it.  It’s the being cajoled to take just a little bit more – for him – that does it, not heavyhanded punishment for not living up to what he wants, etc.

When people who lack these kinds of people skills take on such responsibilities for another human being and her life, it is really incumbent upon them to learn how to do this – and to do it damn well.  To make sure that, at the end of the day, she still wants to come back for more.  That she is left in better condition than he found her in.  That she feels that her life has been enhanced because of her overall experiences with him.

Not all will have equal skills in this regard, and not every one of them will be a good match for each seeking submissive, but unless there is a substantial element of ending up enhanced overall by the experiences she has with her dominant, then something is seriously wrong.

If the overall feeling is one of being torn down, denigrated, injured, etc., vs being uplifted by the whole relationship, then it’s quite likely that there is abuse happening and not dominance.

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Thanks to Mollena Williams for posting this snippet on FetLife, which got me thinking about how this definition of training and mastery relates to abuse.

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Being An Asshole, or Topping From the Bottom?

Thank you to Devastating Yet Inconsequential for permission to repost this post.  My comments are below the double line.

topping from the bottom

Can we please, please retire this concept?

Listen, there is such a thing as being an asshole in bed, no matter what kind of sex you’re having.  These types of behavior might make you an asshole (depending on context):

  • constantly insisting on getting your own way
  • not letting your partner finish the sex equivalent of a thought before correcting them
  • trying to force your partner to do things they don’t like and don’t choose
  • pouting or whining that things aren’t exactly to your liking
  • giving your partner long lists of changes you’d like them to make
  • refusing to play along with any idea you haven’t thought of yourself

When bottoms do things like this, it’s sometimes called “topping from the bottom.”  But the behavior listed above is equally obnoxious from a top or dom.

Listen to your partner.  Give them space to try things.  Be “good, giving, and game” (as Dan Savage puts it).  Be willing to try things yourself.  Prioritize your constructive criticism and give it at a pace your partner can handle.  Recognize your partner as a fellow human being with their own needs and desires, which have an equal claim to be fulfilled.

And, whatever side you are on, don’t worry about “topping from the bottom.”  If you’re worried that you’re impossible for your top to satisfy, work on that.  If you’re distracted by your bottom’s constant comments, talk about that.  But let’s get rid of this concept that I’m pretty sure causes a lot more stress, grief, and reluctance to communicate than it could ever possibly be worth.

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First of all, I quite agree that the whole concept of topping from the bottom needs to go away, largely because of what Dev says, namely how badly it (and the fear of being accused of doing it) interferes with communication and the ability to resolve problems.  Even in a D/s relationship, you have a right to have your needs heard and respected, and that means you’ve got to be able to communicate them to your top without fear of this kind of nonsense.  Even in the most extreme M/s, TPE, etc. relationships, you ultimately still have those rights as a human being, even if you’ve negotiated them away.  A smart dominant will listen to them and take them into consideration no matter what the form of the relationship, just as any intelligent partner in a vanilla relationship will.

On the face of it, and without context, this list of behaviors can indeed be quite obnoxious.  I’d argue, actually, that many of them are considerably less appealing when a dominant does them than when a submissive does – and they are very much part of where BDSM may, and often does, cross the line right into abuse.

What the concept of topping from the bottom does is obscure this distinction, and that’s part of why it’s such a bad idea, because far too many people on both sides of the slash cannot tell the difference between topping from the bottom and protecting their own selves from abuse, between a healthy interchange of thoughts and respect for limits as well as attempts to accommodate a partner’s needs and desires, and outright abusiveness.

The notion of topping from the bottom is often pulled out by abusers to justify running roughshod over their submissives, and used as a bludgeon to shut them up and beat them into greater submission, even when so doing is clearly harmful to the sub.  It’s also used as a measuring device to compare one’s own submissiveness to that of other subs, by both subs and doms, when the reality is you simply cannot compare two people or situations, because of differences in individual needs.

Topping from the bottom is a concept that is not limited to what happens in bed, but is also often pulled out by dominants to justify all manner of abuses of their submissives in the rest of life as well, and to stop the sub from objecting.

If we remove the concept and term from our vocabularies altogether, the realities of what may be happening in a given situation are much easier to sort out.

Here are some examples of things that might look like TFTB, or being a jerk on the bottom, but aren’t – and are in fact much more abusive on the part of the top than anything else. Continue reading

Dealing With Anger While Playing, and By Playing

How do you deal with anger when it comes up in a scene?  Or when wanting to find a way to release it to start with?

My friend DaddyDarin weighed in the subject in a thread entitled How to release anger? It started as a question about how a sub can release that anger, perhaps in  a cathartic scene, but it also raises the questions of how a dominant should deal with his own anger, and indeed the fundamental importance of his ability to control his own self.

This is a relatively long post, with my comments interspersed, but the most important questions of how the dominant should address his own anger are towards the very end. Continue reading

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On the Use of Labels in the BDSM World

This has become more and more of a pet peeve for me over the past several years.

No one fits neatly into any of these little boxes, in my experience. Even those who most seem to always have elements that don’t fit what someone else sees as “the definition”, once you get right down to it.

The older I get, the more I realize this – and the crankier it makes me to see everyone else and their cousin still wanting to stuff everyone into the same little boxes, and to make those boxes and labels mean the same thing to everyone – or more precisely, the same as it means to them. I’ve ranted about this publically for years in a variety of locations, but I’m crankier than ever about it.

We are much too complex to be reduced to one or two word definitions as labels to fully describe who we are, whatever those labels may be – at least any of us with more than a few functioning neurons who aren’t so completely damaged that we let anyone kick us around any way they want. The more neurons, the more complex, and the less well these labels generally function as definitions or descriptions.

Even doormats have limits and issues that may often belie whatever simple label anyone might hang on them. And God knows that even the most fully M/s-identified people certainly do. It’s never, ever as simple or clear-cut as it may look from the outside.

These labels are, at best, starting points for a discussion. Shorthand, if you will. Continue reading

Does the BDSM Community Enable Abuse?

In a post entitled Evidence that the BDSM community does not enable abuse, Clarisse Thorn posits that the existence of several different initiatives outlining the differences between BDSM and abuse indicates that we do not enable abuse.

While many such initiatives and lists demonstrating the difference between wiitwd and abuse certainly do exist within our “community” (and there are a number of others listed in the Links section on this blog), I have to conclude from my own experiences, observations, and the experiences and comments of many others that we may not actively condone abuse, but the very nature of BDSM relationships encourage it.

This is not a conclusion I have come easily to, but has become inescapable the more I talk to others about their experiences, the more I read on various social networks like Fetlife, and so on.

Unfortunately, the very nature of wiitwd, in this day and age, encourages and provides a haven for abusers.

No, it’s not officially sanctioned.  No, properly done, BDSM by itself is *not* abusive.

However, the very structure of a power exchange-based relationship and SM play sets up a situation in which abusers do indeed thrive, hiding much of what they do behind that cloak of D/s or SM, TPE slavery, etc.  It’s a perfect cover, for those who are inclined in an abusive direction. Continue reading

A Slave is Not A Submissive

By Deborah Teramis Christian

A submissive explores the piquant terrain of the surrendering of power. It is not surprising that folks engaged in D/s often spend a fair amount of energy determining what are the appropriate bounds of submission and control to incorporate into their play. For those for whom this kind of power exchange is a lifestyle expression, the scope of dominance and submission excercised may be quite extensive.

Into this mix then often comes the tricky word of “slave” – a concept which never fails to muddy the water, especially in discussions on the internet or among kinksters with limited D/s experience. While some people insist that the word “slave”, like the word “submissive”, can mean to the individual anything they want it to mean, it is nevertheless a fact of the established and more experienced leather community that slavery in an M/s sense of the word has specific connotations, and that slavery differs from submission in significant ways. I want to explore those differences here and illustrate why I believe that a submissive and a slave are two entirely different creatures, as unlike as apples and oranges.

Definitions

To start this conversation I will offer a definition of submissive and slave first put forth by Steven Davis on the old alt.sex.bondage newsgroup on Usenet in 1995, paraphrased here with permission. (Also, when speaking of D/s which is a gender-neutral endeavor, I tend to use the gender neutral pronouns of sie and hir in my discussion. I write for an audience that spans many orientations and I find it helps avoid the pattern of thinking of D/s as happening in any one set of gender configurations). That said:

A submissive renews the choice to submit every time a demand is levied upon hir. A slave makes a one-time choice to submit, up front, and thereafter it is incumbent upon hir to obey.

I am fond of this definition because it describes not only my personal experience of submission and slavery, but with some minimal qualification also applies to every submissive or slave relationship I have known of. To elaborate, then…. Continue reading