Something that came up at my last Poly and Power Salon was the idea of service-oriented dominance. This is something that, I think, gets ignored in a lot of writing on D/s and O/p. It’s… Okay. This is me talking, so you know I’m going to connect this stuff with gender norms and expectations in orver-arching/mainstream society and how they trickle-down to affect/infect kink and leather communities and subcultures as well.
I find that, even when the gender configurations of D/s dynamics and scenes aren’t pre-determined as man=dominant and woman=submissive all the time, the gender-roles and gendered-bahaviours still line up like that. Uhm… What I mean is:
Feminine is coded as “subservient to masculine”, it’s coded as “receptive”, “passive”, “obedient”, and “anticipatory”. It’s expected to manage social calendars, social niceties, and hospitality.
Masculine is coded as “firm”, “in control”, “giving orders”, “takes/states what it wants”, “pro-active”, and “managerial”. It’s expected to manage people, to take charge, but also to be served by (and expect to be served by) The Feminine.
If you take out “feminine” and put in “submissive”, take out “masculine” and put in “dominant”, you’ll find that the social expectations line up remarkably well.
And this has some very… Inconvenient? Unintentioned? Irritating?… repercussions.
See… Look. I may not be a huge fan of Raven Kaldera. But he got something really right when he talked about “rock star” dominants and “parental” dominants as two styles of dominance that line up with being “service oriented” and “control oriented”.
I think that the way we have, however accidentally, coded “dominant” so that it lines up with “masculine” gendered behaviour expectations, and coded “submissive” so that it lines up with “feminine” gendered behaviour expectations, has basically lead to an expectation that dominants are (or are supposed to be) control-oriented, and that submissives are (or are supposed to be) service-oriented.
And some of us fit those expectations to a tee. Fantastic!
But… most of us don’t. Most of us are somewhere between the poles of “control” and “service” in terms of what we want/crave/need/enjoy/desire in a D/s scene or dynamic, and some of us are firmly rooted at the end of the spectrum that we’re “not” supposed to occupy.
Control-oriented submissives who crave rules, rewards, punishments, consequences, orders, rituals, protocols, and even micromanagement. Who can’t do anticipatory service to save their lives, and who get frustrated all to hell with D-types who expect their properties to be “mind-readers” and do everything “auto-magically”.
Service-oriented dominants who crave self-starting subs, anticipatory service, the luxury of Having People To Do That so that they can concentrate on all the other stuff they need to get done. Who embody/experience their own power most of all when they are at the center of a well-run household and can beam with pride at how well and consistently their properties perform their assigned tasks. Who feel disempowered when they “have to” bribe (rewards) or threaten (punishments) in order to get anything done, and who are frustrated all to hell with s-types who need constant management and who ask, literally or figuratively, “which two eggs do you want me to scramble ma’am?”
I suspect that, in most dynamics (although maybe not most scenes, given the difference in time-requirements), you need to balance the desire for service with the desire for control, regardless of which part of the dyad wants what in which ratio.
But I think it’s extremely helpful to know where on that particular spectrum you (and your dynamic-partner) live most comfortably, so that you know best how to articulate what will feed you when you’re depleted, and so that you know where you need to throw extra energy/effort in order to keep your dynamic functioning well.
I am a service-oriented dominant. Some ways that this can manifest are:
Someone who shows up at my house and sweeps my floor uninvited is making a very rude comment on the state of my home. But someone who shows up at my house, unexpectedly, and sweeps my floor because they’re in a service arrangement with me or mine and this is part of it? They are wonderful and a gods-sent and make me extremely happy. Because they’re doing what they’ve been told, without having to be micro-managed, rather than making assumptions about appropriate social boundaries.
My “Inner Dominant” is a seven year old princess. Which basically means that (a) she’s a child and feels safest when she’s being reliably well-taken-care-of, (b) she’s royalty, and knows it’s her birthright to be obeyed, and (c) she’s royalty and, therefore, expects The Staff to just get on with it, rather than having to be looking over their shoulders all the time.
I enjoy bestowing the gift of Something I Know You’ll Like onto people in my care or in my community – whether that’s deciding to make a Nice Dinner for my phamily; opting to do a scene that will get us both hot and sweaty and happy rather than just diving in and biting my Person hard in a tender spot in order to hear her yelp; making a particular resource available to my community; or inviting someone into my home and granting them my hospitality. I like the giving. I like the making someone smile because I got it Exactly Right. But I also like being in charge of what gets given and when and why.
For someone else who orients the way I do, their orientation might manifest as:
Being an event-organizer;
Feeling confident, appreciated, and appreciative when someone offers to make dinner or do the laundry (and follows through) during a busy/stressful time;
If the person in question is an educator, they might be more inclined to facilitate discussion groups or run hands-on/experiential workshops (where the participants do most of the work) rather than offering lecture-style or chalk-and-talk-only workshops (where the educator/lecturer has a lot more control over what happens during the class);
They may interpret the work they do in their communities as organizers, educators, and volunteers as service to their communities even as the service they provide involves being in charge in some way;
Lots of other stuff, fill in your own blanks. 😉
Thoughts? Observations? What do you think?
Ms. Syren.