So, early in October, I led a discussion group as part of Unholy Harvest 2011. It was on Cultivating Entitlement – how to do it, what makes it difficult, and where our various stumbling blocks end up falling, just to name a few of the points we wandered through during the discussion. I offered the discussion because, in my (limited, granted) research, there isn’t a whole lot of information out there on how to actually get a handle on entitlement in a power exchange relationship. I find that the information available on Being The Boss ends up in a number of different, and frequently unhelpful, categories.

You can get Kinky Books – like SlaveCraft, The New Topping Book, or The Loving Dominant – which deal with erotic power exchange, most frequently from a scene-based or erotic-play (rather than a 24/7 “lifestyle”) perspective.

You can get D/s-specific books – like At Her Feet or Dear Raven and Joshua – IF you know where to look and what to look for. But there are precious few of those around that actually talk about 24/7, non-sex-centric power-exchanges, and they are hard to find amid the rest of the kink-related literature.

You can get office-oriented books on management that will give you tips on how to be the boss – and those books aren’t useless. But, while they do touch on things like “how to be an effective leader” or “how to deliver constructive criticism” (both useful things), they definitely don’t cover stuff like “how to avoid falling prey to imposter syndrome” or “how to maintain other people’s work-life balance for them”, let alone more intimate stuff like “Personal Space: Getting comfortable with not letting them have any” or “How to be your spouse’s spouse, AND your spouse’s boss, when your spouse is also living hir life as your dog”.

All of these sub-groups have their uses. (I, for one, am definitely looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of At Her Feet). Most of what you’ll find in them, however – whether it’s vanilla stuff or Leather-oriented stuff – is written from the presupposition that the dominant member of the dyad is already comfortable with (a) making demands on someone else and (b) expecting those demands to be met, possibly even with a smile.

There are a couple of reasons for this, some of which I’ve talked about in bits and pieces before, and some of which I haven’t (I don’t think). I’m going to try and get into one of them a bit here, now.

The first reason for this is that BDSM is, in the vast majority of cases, all about fantasy.
For an extremely high percentage of kinksters, D/s and the rest of the acronym live in the realm of scene-based erotic play and are all about giving up, or taking up (or both, if you switch), control in order to get off (or get on, as the case may be).
And part of the fantasy – for everyone involved – is that the Person In Charge is actually in charge; the person in control – whether they’re playing a character like a pirate or a teacher, or just letting their inner diva out for a stroll – is comfortable with, and competent in, that role.
And for a short period of time, or under a very narrow set of circumstances, it’s possible to be just that without a lot of trouble. Being The Boss for a ten-minute dungeon scene, or a couple of hours in the bedroom; telling your partner exactly how you’re going to fuck them – or how they’re going to damn well fuck you – or deciding which implements of torture are coming out of your toy-chest after the general shape of the scene has been negotiated… that’s easy. Not because the actual act of Being The Boss is easy, or even because the things involved in a ten-minute dungeon scene or a couple of hours in the bedroom are easy – they can be very, very grueling for everyone involved. No. A short, time-encapsulated scene is easy because the heightened power dynamics, with their accompanying vulnerability and responsibility, are temporary. They aren’t the “new normal”, so to speak, but rather take place in a cordoned-off area of space and time that allow the participants to return to “normal” after the fact in order to be able to process their experiences, come down safely, and figure out what to do (what to keep, what to avoid, what to add, how to take things higher or deeper – or not) the next time they’re in that cordoned-off area of space and time.
It’s easy to be The Boss for short periods of time. To use a fairly – but not completely – unrelated example, it’s why we let twelve-year-olds look after other, younger kids for an evening but would never, EVER let them be the sole guardian of another child permanently.
Being The Boss can be all about fantasy, can be All Domme, All The Time, when “all the time” is synonymous with “date night” or even “the duration of Tease”.

But if you’re part of that remaining corner of the kink community, the part for-whom power exchange dynamics don’t just get you off, they make the whole world a happier, more sensible, better-grounded place… it’s not about fantasy anymore. It can’t be. 24/7 – or 12/7 or 24/3 or any other configuration of full-time, on-going power exchange – doesn’t allow for it. For the same reason that we don’t walk around (most of us) in a state of religious euphoria 100% of the time.

Full-time power exchange is hard – and not fantasy-centric – because there’s no Time Out[1]. There’s no “normal” to return to, and process stuff in, when “normal” is the power exchange. There’s no difference between “play time” and “couple time” and “service time” and “day-job time” and “visiting the relatives time” and “socializing with other kinky people time” and “going to the PTA meeting time” and “doing the groceries time” as far as the power dynamics are concerned. The submissive half of the dyad is always in sub-mode (to one degree or another) and the dominant half is (to one degree or another) always in domme-mode.

Consequently, while the vast majority of D-type[2] power-exchanging people are comfortable Being The Boss for a little while, there aren’t that many of us who are comfortable[3] – even among those of us who are actually taking it to this extent – with Being The Boss all the time[4] BUT, because most of the stuff written about Being The Boss is written from/for a temporary/scene-based perspective… the assumption is often that we can all hack it for the duration required since, hey, the duration required is typically a reasonably short one.

Between that – the idea that, for short, scene-length periods of time, anyone can Be The Boss even if they wouldn’t, necessarily, be comfortable (or competent) being a parent, pet-owner, or other 24/7 full-time Person In Charge; and the communal fantasy that the PiC is competent, capable, comfortable, and wickedly enjoying themselves, while Being The Boss; there are a lot of reasons NOT to write out a “how to” on entitlement: It spoils the fantasy if someone has to tell the domme how to fulfill her role, because it could leave her feeling insecure about her abilities and/or her dominance if she “needs to be told” and/or because it could leave her submissive feeling insecure about her domme’s abilities and/or dominance if her domme doesn’t take to it “naturally”. Which I think is a big part of why there’s no “how to” included most of the literature available on the subject of power exchange.

On a related note – and largely due to social factors involving gender, autonomy, and other related stuff that I’ll be delving into later on (oh, just trust me…) – I think there’s a certain amount of personal pride (or at least aversion to shame) tied up in D-type authors’ – and not just authors’ – tendency to avoid addressing the learning curve involved in getting comfortable with, as well as competent in, Being The Boss all the time. Because of the communal fantasy of the Naturally-In-Control Domme, it can perhaps feel a bit like one is letting down the team (or – more distressingly – revealing ones vulnerabilities to a community that, if our history serves to show us anything[5], treats dominance as a delicate house of cards that is completely invalidated at the first sign of being anything but super-duper dommely-domme 100% of the time) by having had to Figure Things Out at all.

That said, this particular post concerns the “fantasy” angle of why this learning curve goes unaddressed, so I’m going to stick to that. To briefly sum up, I think one of the reasons why most of the “how to” literature available on kink-related power exchange doesn’t talk much, if at all, about the process – or processes, since everyone comes to this stuff differently and with their own fears and foibles to overcome – of becoming more and more comfortable with holding more and more power in someone else’s life is because we, as a community, have a shared fantasy that the D-type is naturally, and perpetually, inclined to be (and capable of being) In Charge and – because, for much of our population, the fantasy is both (a) what this is all about, and (b) actually sustainable because the power-exchange is never 24/7 – dispelling that fantasy for the benefit of a very tiny portion of our community is largely not worth the disillusionment for the majority of us who are never going to want to take it this far.

Anyway, those are my (somewhat jumbled) thoughts on the “fantasy theory” of presumed comfort with entitlement. Stay tuned for my next post[6] which will cover the “gender theory” of same.

Cheers,
Ms Syren.

[1] Although there are ways of working around this. I know a couple who, when they need to Talk about stuff going on in/with their dynamic, they go out to dinner. They do this specifically so that, while they have their conversation/negotiations (a) their power exchange can remain in effect – which means no-one feels dropped or abandoned just by virtue of the fact that the conversation is happening, but also (b) their power exchange is ALSO not camped out in the middle of their conversation, impacting how effective said conversation can be, due to one of them being required to do both the cooking and the post-dinner clean-up while they Talk. It’s a good idea, I think.

[2] To use one of the terms from Dear Raven and Joshua. It’s a good term. Gender-neutral and allowing for a wide range of dominance-models to be included under its umbrella. YAY!

[3] As opposed to, say, “capable”, “enthusiastic” or “desirous”.

[4] I mean, heck, even the CEOs get to go home (eventually) at night. Some of them even put a collar on when they get there because it helps to balance them out.

[5] See, for example, Pat Califia’s essay in Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice, or Sex Geek’s blog post on Topping a Top, for more on this subject.

[6] I will be doing one (long-ish) post per day for the next month on a subject pertaining to D/s, O/p, holding power, or something related there-to in an effort to combine Nanowrimo’s write-a-book-in-a-month challenge and BlogHer’s Nablopomo. FYI.