So. I would have written this up something like two days ago, but I went Splat instead – heck, I’m still feeling fairly splatty – and gave myself three days to write it in (woops).
It’s been a long week for both me and my beloved/servant. Which, in a way, makes this a sort of timely post.

Basically, a while back, someone left me a comment about how, typically, when he considers 24/7 power-exchange, he wonders why anyone – any D-type, I mean – would want to take on that much work.

So I thought I’d talk a little bit about that today.

First thing is “what do you mean That Much Work?”
At first glance – and maybe this is because mine is a service dynamic (as opposed to, say, a Mommy/girl dynamic or a pet/Owner dynamic – to pick the two alternate examples I’m most prone to siting) – it probably looks like there’s very little work involved in a 24/7 power-exchange for the domme. I mean, really, don’t we just sit back and eat bon-bons while our People do all the work? Isn’t that the point??

Yeah, no.

I remember being part of a discussion group on protocol a while back, and mentioning that “protocol isn’t something that only subs do”. The metaphor of “The Dance” that I see turning up, over and over, in discussions of D/s and O/p is an apt one because both partners really do have their own steps to follow. It’s not a solo done by the submissive with the dominant acting simultaneously as both the choreographer and the audience (although, in a shorter-term situation, I can see how that could work). The example I gave in the discussion group was that, if my servant’s protocol is “carry the grocery bags” then my protocol, as the dominant, is “hand the grocery bags to Ghost, so she can carry them”.

But that’s only part of it.

To use another metaphor, my Ghost has described an O/p dynamic as being like a nuclear reactor. The dynamic itself is the reactor – the building in which the reaction takes place. The submissive is the nuclear reaction, the energy expended and generated, and so on. The dominant is the work crew that keeps that reaction contained, directs the energy effectively, and doesn’t let the reaction get out of control.
I thought this was a really neat metaphor because it draws attention to what the dominant is actually supposed to be doing within the context of hir dynamic. When she first started breaking the metaphor down for me, I was totally expected that I, as the domme, was suppose to be the reactor-core due to it being my Job (so to speak) to contain my submissive. But the concrete structure of the reactor is passive. It may have thick walls and cooling towers, sure, but it’s not the building that prevents the reaction from getting out of hand. It’s the crew, the people on the ground who know what they’re doing, know what they’re working with, know what the Danger Signs are, and know – one hopes – how to prevent those danger signs from coming up and, failing that, how to mitigate things if, and/or when, those Danger Signs arrive.

That’s a big chunk of what being a 24/7 domme is about. It’s about running the Reaction (your submissive) in a way that keeps hir useful. And I really do mean “useful” in this case. Because “useful” includes things like “healthy” and “stable”, but it also includes a recognition of what – in my service-oriented dynamic at any rate – is what the dynamic is “for”. My submissive wants to be useful to me.
I don’t know if every submissive would word it that way. For example, I don’t know if a sexually-oriented submissive would say he wants to be “useful” to his dominant. He might or might not say he wants to be “used”. I don’t know. But in the case of my dynamic, keeping my servant useful is pretty paramount.

So what does “useful” mean?
It means two sets of things:

On the one hand, it means “maintaining the property” – which includes things like ordering her to drink two litres of water per day, or telling her that she’s required to go and lie down now if she’s falling asleep on her feet. (My Ghost, who is also in a – currently fairly low-level? – dynamic with a submissive of her own, has commented that there are parts of being a domme that are a LOT like being a parent in the sense that, yes, actually, it is your job to make sure that they get to bed at a decent hour, have all their homework done, and know how to play well with others).
Your servant[1] isn’t going to be any use to you if zi’s having a nervous breakdown or on bed-rest due to burn-out, or whatever.

On the other hand, it means actually making use of your Person. This can take on a lot of forms. The obvious one, in the example I’m using, is things like getting the house-work done or having a chauffeur on call. But it can also take on the much broader terminology of “using them according to your will”. Which can be tonnes of stuff – determining their hair colour or style. Picking out or approving their clothes every day. Allowing them to use certain pieces of furniture but forbidding them to use any others. Deciding what their career path, or extra-curricular activities, will be. Deciding where and/or when they sleep (or eat, or use the bathroom, or whatever). It can – and does – extend to how and when you touch them, speak to them, let them speak to you, and all sorts of really core things about basic interaction. This is the stuff that makes your submissive feel Held. That is: The stuff that lets hir feel, in no uncertain terms, both your influence in and over hir life and that you want to have that influence.

Whether or not this is counter-intuitive for any D-types, or possibly-D-types, reading this, it’s these two complementary (and occasionally conflicting – more on that shortly) ways of keeping your submissive “Useful” that let your sub know zi’s valued and wanted AND keep your dynamic running smoothly.

Right. So I can’t help hearing a few of you saying “Wait a minute—Conflicting? What’s that about?” That is a tricky one, isn’t it?
What I mean is that sometimes “maintaining the property” and “putting the property to use” run up against each other. The case in point, of course, is my own girl. She works long hours at a physically demanding job – and she does this for me[2] – but the trade-off is that, frequently, I have a servant who needs rest-and-recovery time at least as badly as I need the dishes done or the bathroom cleaned and – being as she is – my young lady will often push herself (in too many directions) farther than she really should. Which means, as her dominant, it’s important for me[3] to, basically, to know what she needs better than she does – or at least to know what she needs and be able to see through the various levels of what she wants and make sure it’s the need that is met.
To use the example of dishes and tiredness.
On one level, she wants to soak in the tub and go to bed because she’s sore and tired and feeling run down, and she really does need to rest;
On another level, she wants to be a Good Servant and make sure her chores are done and be of use to me in that particular way, which will feed her soul;
On a third level, she wants to avoid sticking a needle in her leg because it hurts and she’s already achy and tired and feeling vulnerable and a needle in her leg will just make it hurt more;
On a fourth level, her body needs to take the weekly dose of meds that keep her physically well-functioning;
… And so it goes.
As her domme, it’s my job – my duty – to know which of those wants and needs can be prioritized at any given time.
It’s desperately easy to listen to that third level. To see my girl in her shaky, run-down, obviously exhausted state and say “go to bed, worry about the meds, the dishes, the fill-in-the-blank in the morning”. But mornings come and are rushed, and evenings come and she’s more worn-down than ever, and I have to know when to put my foot down and Be The Boss and, essentially, override the Tired with her own duty to do as I say.
Similarly, I have to know the difference between “Tired as physical exhaustion” versus “Tired as emotional lethargy”[4] versus “Tired as meds-are-overdue” and so on, as well as what to do when those things combine.

For example, if she’s physically drained (such as if she’s been sick or has, as has been the case recently, been recovering from a medical Thing) and can’t do the “do this, do that” chores that are part of how I Hold her, but also needs to know my metaphorical hand is on the back of her neck… what do I do? In my case, this typically involves things like Making Executive Decisions about how she needs to be in the bath right now, or telling her to come and sit at my feet[5].

And that works just fine, most of the time. Most of the time, a balance can be achieved between keeping your Person in good, physical working condition (getting enough sleep; eating regularly; getting mental and physical and emotional relaxation time) and actually getting some use out of them qua your servant/property[6]. The trick, of course, comes when there’s a sink full of dishes and the house is a mess and I need my servant to do the Chores… and my servant is having an arthritis flare-up and the repetitive elbow motion involved in scrubbing (both fixtures and dishes) and vacuuming and mopping is going to make it worse[7] and, and, and… then what do I do?
That’s when the chips are down – not the big chips, by any stretch of the imagination, but chips none the less.
And the truth is, I’m not sure what to do in that case.
I wish I knew what to do in that case.

I can speculate, sure. I can look at where my own insecurities and wobbles live and know that, probably, getting more insistent about The Chores might help to put her in the habit of doing them in spite of tiredness. Running more heavy protocols might help her to drop more deeply into that space where she’ll put my wants ahead of her own. But how does that balance with preventing her from burning herself out for me?
Remember the metaphor of the nuclear reactor? Part of my duty as a domme is to literally contain her, to prevent her from getting “out of Control” (meaning, specifically, my Control) and causing damage (in this case to herself) as a result.

Okay. Backing up for a minute.
There’s this book. It’s a brutal, brutal book which some of you may have heard of, and – for a long, LONG time, it was one of the only ones I knew of that talked about O/p service relationships at all. It’s called To Love, to Obey, to Serve: Diary of an Old Guard Slave, and it’s literally what it says on the tin. It’s the unedited daily diary of a woman in an M/s relationship… with a mistress who runs her servant into the ground and pays NO attention to the mental, physical, or emotional[8] states of her property. My Ghost gave it to me in order to give me an idea of what a service-oriented submissive’s head-space looks like. What she (I assume) wasn’t expecting was that, when read from my perspective – that is, from the perspective of a new, clueless and very insecure dominant – it would read as an utter nightmare. A veritable “What NOT to do” for the D-type set, but with the added confusion of being written from a PoV that kept reiterating “this is what I want, this is what I need”.
All I could think was “how could anybody WANT this abuse???”
Because, of course, that’s what it was.

I wish there was an example (somebody? Fill me in?), a written down and published example, of someone’s life as an owned service submissive whose owner actually had a clue and did it well. I wish I had an example of “This is what a service-oriented submissive’s Brain looks like, this is what we crave and what it gives us” that wasn’t tangled up with horror and the kind of abuse and neglect and utter, utter burn-out that should never be heaped upon anyone.

And I guess that’s kind of my point. I don’t know where the line is, in this kind of relationship – even in my specific relationship, sometimes – between “appropriate use” and “abuse” of property. Not really. I know what I think is abusive, what I would feel was abusive if it was being done to me. I also know that a number of the things on that mental list are also things that are part of my dynamic with Ghost and which she suggested or offered to me long before I’d have got up the nerve to consider them, let alone ask for, or (ye gods) expect, them.
So, yeah. I’m a bit… confused? Unsure? Perplexed? About what I can actually get away with in my dynamic[8] and, more to the point, when it’s appropriate and The Right Thing to decide that “Today, you’re cleaning the house from top to bottom” or “Come here and paint my toenails” versus when The Right Thing is to decide that “You’re taking you meds a day early because you’re not going to take them while you’re out of town”.

Which, in a slightly clunky way, brings me back to why it’s important to make decisions that will keep your submissive “running smoothly”. I opened this (long and rambling, my goodness) post by bringing up a question someone once asked me. Which is: “Why would anyone want to take on that much work?”

There are lots of fairly simplistic answers to this. The ever-present “control” answer, where the work – the containment, the constant decision-making, the micromanagement – is its own reward and if said reward also happens to come with a clean kitchen or your favourite beverage brought to you in bed every morning, then bonus.

It’s not like that for me.

Sure, I like “control”. It’s why I like being the “active” partner in sex, and it’s why (in part) being the “receptive” partner is kind of a stressful situation for me. But “control”, for me, always (always) means that I’m the one doing the Doing.
Which means that “control”, when it comes to house-hold tasks, is actually what I don’t want to have. Being a service-receptive dominant means that I actually get to be the “receptive” partner in a situation that feels safe for me. It’s a giving-up of control more than a taking of it, if you follow my (possibly bizarre) line of thinking.

If I accept the work-load – the control aspects of being my Ghost’s dominant – what I get from it (in theory) is a chance to be the receptive one. If I run my Ghost in a way that habituates her to performing the services I want to receive and which, simultaneously, keeps her energized and healthy enough to be able to carry out those services consistently, then I get the life I want, and the freedoms I want, and the relationship I want.

It’s not that it will ever “run itself”. That’s not the point. The point is that, if I do it right, the work isn’t arduous and the returns are immense.

Anyway, that’s my rambling for the day. More tomorrow (probably).

Ms Syren.

[1] And I’m totally going to stick with a service-centric or service-oriented dynamic model for this post because I really don’t have a clue how “useful” manifests, or gets articulated, in ongoing Parent/little-one or Owner/pet dynamics. For those of you who are in, or who have been in, dynamics like this: PLEASE feel free to leave comments about how the concept of “useful” works, and gets articulated, in your situations.

[2] Or at least the thought of doing it for me – using her salary to get things that benefit me (like yoga classes, for example, or the chance to work as a writer rather than an office drone) – helps her to keep at it when all she wants to do is go home and soak her aching joints in the tub.

[3] And I fall down on this a LOT. It’s something I’m working to get better at, but I’m still pretty slow on the up-take here. 😦

[4] At which point it’s typically best to set her to doing her Chores – provided I’ve read her right at least, and this is actually what’s going on – because that gives her some meditation time and the emotional lift of being grounded and centered in her Place and a sense of action and accomplishment when she sees the clean kitchen/floor/bathroom.

[5] Which is a way of holding her in a physical space, using body position and proximity (and, typically, a literal hand on the back of her neck) to put her in Place, while simultaneously giving her a chance to take a load off, so to speak. It doesn’t, granted, get the dishes washed (alas). But it does contribute to the upkeep of my property in a couple of different ways.

[6] A sports car a fantastic, but there’s no point in having one if all it does is sit in the garage and get dusted. You have to take it out for a drive every now and then, otherwise (a) you don’t get to have any fun and (b) the engine seizes up and it’ll never go anywhere if you do decide to try it out for once.

[7] Which will lead to the same chores piling up again, sooner rather than later, because she can’t bend her arm to do the washing up.

[8] As opposed to theoretically. Theoretically I can get away with, and Have Permission to do/demand, EVERYTHING unless it leaves her maimed, unable to go to work the next day, or involves needles in her feet or poo.