Category: Books

So. It’s been a while. Things are heating up around here, what with VERSeFest, numerous modeling gigs, the upcoming No More Appologies conference (Ottawa edition), and my impending trip to the Maritimes. BUT I wanted to chatter about something:

I recently picked up a copy of Dark Moon Rising: Pagan BDSM and the Ordeal Path. It’s a book about the use of BDSM in NeoPagan ordeal rituals. (As such, I’ll probably end up talking about it on Urban Meliad as well).

I got this book because I am trying, to use an already-overused phrase, to “get my groove back”, S/M-wise.

I’m finding that I only Play Hard – or do actual scenes as opposed to “one-sided rough sex” (as we’ve jokingly called it) – once or twice a year, typically in a public setting. And I have some recurring worries about how safe it is to do public blood play (in a venue where, for example, other people are also doing blood play, flogger-falls are whipping through the air, and everyone’s fluids are flowing).

Beyond that, though… waaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond that… I want my monster back.

I feel like – Well, it’s like anything that’s hooked into one’s sexuality: Insecurities, fears, and lack of practice, can become a self-perpetuating cycle. I value my Ghost. I don’t want to damage her. But my sadistic side does want to damage her (and my carebear/mommy side is more than a little horrified when I see the damage I inflict). I worry that our appetites aren’t as well-matched as they once were, that I’ll be worn out and/or overwhelmed by the time it’s starting to get good for her. I worry about being too easy. I fall into the mental trap of feeling like “you-want-fries-with-that-flogging?” because my fears about not being good enough, not being vicious enough, are putting a hell of a damper on my own enthusiasm for S/M.

I’ve spent something like two thirds of this past year thinking really, really hard about O/p and 24/7 power-exchange dynamics – about how to be a responsible steward, about how to run a submissive effectively and efficently and concientiously… and I’m wondering if my sadistic side has suffered for it at all.

When I told Ghost that I’d bought a book called “The Ordeal Path”, she looked at me askanse and said “What are you going to do to me??”
But I didn’t buy it as a how-to for what I could do to/for her.
I bought it because I needed to find another way to hook myself back into myself, to bring myself back, to let my monster surface again in a situation where it’s okay to be violent and enjoy it, rather than having her come out when I’m feeling angry/threatened/protective about something that (often, though not always) is related to D/s rather than S/M.

I want my monster back.
I’m hoping that, through reading this book, I’ll find a way of calling her up and out into me again.

Here’s hoping,
Ms Syren.

So, as you know bob, I picked up a copy of At Her Feet: Powering Your Femdom Relationship a while back. I’m pretty close to the end of it now, so I’m going to talk a little more about it.

The main thing I’m getting from this book is a lot of common sense. There’s stuff in here about how to keep your intimate (sexual/kinky/romantic/etc) relationship going for years rather than months. There’s stuff in here – not a lot, but way more than most other places – about how dominant women and submisive men[1] both get to deal with the social expectation that women be submissive and men be dominant (both within the hetero kink scene and within the larger culture) and how that can make things difficult. There are a lot of reminders to the readers that a long-term, 24/7 dynamic isn’t going to look anything like a kinky weekend.

From where I’m standing, I grant you, this is a no-brainer. But my dynamic began as a service arrangement that existed outside of both S/M and sexuality/romance, and I didn’t have a lot of experience in the kink community before it started. For someone else – someone who’s spent years going to play-parties, or doing short-term or context-specific D/s on weekends or in the bedroom, moving into a 24/7 model is going to be really different. Scene-based D/s tends to come with an intensity that’s pretty-much impossible to maintain over the long-haul when dealing with vanilla family, work obligations, and so on.
… Which kind of brings me to something that I found particularly helpful in the book.

See, in spite of my dynamic’s very mellow beginnings, I spend a lot of time wondering if I’m being “too vanilla” in my D/s relationship. I have to give myself little pep-talk reminders, every so often, just so I don’t forget that I don’t have to be all “On your knees, slave!”, or even just peppering the day with ten thousand little rituals and protocols, in order to effectively run my sub. None the less, reading the authors’ description of a “typical day” in their dynamic was immensely relieving for me.
Because it was so Normal.

And I mean that in two senses of the word. I mean “normal” as in: low-protocol, easily mistake for vanilla in a lot of ways.
But I also mean it as in “this looks like us“.

And, for me, that’s a big honkin’ deal.

So, yeah.
That’s where I’m at with At Her Feet. If you are a dominant woman, or wish to serve one, you may want to grab yourself a copy of this book (although if you’re a submissive chicky, the pronouns may piss you off). It’s got some good sense in it and it’s written in a very approachable way. Most of it isn’t stuff that you couldn’t find in a (good, non-stupid) book about vanilla relationships, but that bits that are D/s-specific are handy and gentle, and I liked them.

That’s it for me, for the moment. I’m off to eat dinner with my girl.

Ms Syren.

[1] This book deals exclusively with hetero dynamics where the woman partner is the dominant and the man partner is the submissive. On the one hand, this is dandy. Because the authors actually say as much on the cover and, honestly, they might not have talked about those social expectations if they’d been aiming for a more gender-neutral book. Also, it bears repeating, it is awfully nice to read something where the default pronoun for “dominant person” is “she”. That said, as a domme whose submissive partner is a woman? It makes me twitch a little every time I read a sentence like “[…] you may actually have one relationship in your lifetime where you feel fully both a man and a slave”. It leaves me wondering if she’s going to feel as twitchy/uncomfortable/invalidated/irritated about the default pronoun for “submissive person” being (in this book – unlike many others) “he”, as I do when “he” is the default pronoun for “dominant”.

Playing catch-up on the nanoblopo front. Not that I can really do that, but a girl can dream. There’s a long one on its way about “usefulness” in the context of power exchange, but for the moment I’m advertising.

Specifically, I’m advertising the book launch of How to Be Kinkier: More Adventures in Adult Playtime.

I am – in theory – one of the models featured in this book; which was written by a fellow in Toronto who goes by the name of Morpheous. It was a really fun shoot, which happened about two years ago, and I’m looking forward to seeing which shots made the cut. (I know which ones I’m hoping for, but I won’t know until I see the finished product).

I also figure that the launch (or pre-launch, I guess, since the book won’t actually be out until 2012) will also be an excellent kick-off to my birthday weekend extravaganza (there will also be dancing, sushi, cake, and a romantic dinner for two, over the course of the next three days).

The launch is happening at Collected Works (queer-owned, independent bookstore in Ottawa), this evening at 7pm.

Looking forward to seeing people there.

Ms Syren.

Review…esque? Dear Raven and Joshua

So. Not that long ago, my copy of Dear Raven and Joshua: Questions and Answers About Master/Slave Relationships arrived in the mail.

I’m not even halfway done it, but I thought I’d talk a little about what I’m picking up so far.

Basically, I’m very used to (and more than a little frustrated with) BDSM books that purport to be about mastery or dominance or slavehood or whatever but which never take those themes very far (if at all) beyond a scene-based way of doing them.

Now I haven’t read a heap of stuff on this. Partly because I’m pretty broke-ass, but mostly because, by this point, I’ve honestly started scanning the back-blurbs and Tables of Contents in the books I find and not bothering with them if they’re pinging the wrong set of key words. (A book that tells me it will help me, as a dominant woman, explore the lengths to which I’m willing to go to ensure the erotic fulfillment of my “slave” is… probably fine and dandy for what it is, but isn’t actually something that’s going to help me hold power in day-to-day life for a devotional service-oriented submissive in a 24/7 long-term relationship).

That said, the above-mentioned devotional service-oriented submissive has been learning and exploring and searching for this kind of relationship for about twenty years (which is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than I have been), and she says that Dear Raven and Joshua is maybe the second book she’s found in all that time that actually addresses 24/7 service dynamics as a day-to-day way of living one’s life (the other one being To Love, to Obey, to Serve: Diary of an Old Guard Slave by Vi Johnson).

Personally, I think that’s both high praise for DR&J, and a reminder of how rare it is to have these kinds of dynamics addressed in depth and in an accessible way[1].

For myself, I’m finding this a particularly… comfortable read because – even though the little voice in my head, the one that tells me I’ll get punished if I come into my own power, is quietly panicking in the back of my brain – Raven is, like me, a Pagan and a non-punishment-oriented Owner and, more to the point, he’s writing from the perspective of someone who is doing This in the same, in-love-with-your-sub, live-in, day-to-day-life way that I am. Which makes reading the book a little bit like yacking to a friend. Much easier for me to do than listen to someone trilling about letting my naughty/haughty side out, or telling me that dominance is all about running a fuck.

On top of this, he’s also (thank all the gods) someone who isn’t afraid of being explicit about caring for and about his submissive. (Which is something that, maybe due to relevance(?), just doesn’t come across as clearly[2] in the books that are aimed at scene-based D/s rather than 24/7 day-to-day living dynamics). It’s a huge relief to know that I’m not somehow Doin It Rong – or doin it weirdly by the standards of Everyone Else[3] – by being all sensitive-new-age-domme at my girl, y’know? (Yes, I’m insecure. It’s still doing me a world of good to hear another dominant talk about insecurity, emotional intimacy, and loving care in the same breath as he talks about how, in an ideal world, “everyone would be submissive to [him]”. It reminds me that it’s possible to have that requisite degree of entitlement without, at the same time, turning into a Monster out of Vi Johnson’s nightmare past).

Anyway. Despite being only about a third of the way through the book so far, I still want to throw my approval at Dear Raven and Joshua. The questions it addresses (at least so far) are relevant to people (on both sides of a dynamic) who are very, very news (think weeks), but that are also relevant for people who have been doing this for a while and are trying to deepen things further. It’s approachable, touched with humour, and it deals with 24/7 Owner/property relationship in a way that is realistically human and very genuine.

Go and read this book.

Ms Syren.

[1] I will point out, as a side note, for the women reading this post: Unholy Harvest 2011 does have two or three discussion groups that focus on topics related to this one, if you’re attending.

[2] Note: Of course those writers address safety concerns, Maintaining the Property, and so on. But scene-based/sex-based interaction doesn’t (I find) translate very well into 24/7 interaction, if only because (a) in 24/7 interaction, it’s never (in theory) “about” what the submissive wants, so you have to find ways of staying abreast of where your sub is at (emotionally, physically, etc) that either go beyond, or don’t necessarily include, a red/yellow/green colour pallet; and (b) 24/7 means nobody gets time off from their “role”, so the people involved have to come up with ways to keep themselves, and each other, balanced and emotionally healthy when neither of your emotional gyroscopes are going to get a “break”.

[3] Also, I believe, known as “Them”.


So it’s been a while. There’s half a dozen things I want to blog about, but they’re all a bit of a muddle in my head and/or I’m not sure I have the right to bring them up.

So, instead, you’re getting a book review. More or less.

Specifically, I’ll be talking about Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice, an anthology of essays on leather history and experience.

Basically, a while back, I decided it was high time I bothered learning some leather history. Part of this is that we recently held Ms National Capital Leather in town for the first time in ages, while I definitely didn’t feel up to entering, it did cross my mind that I might want to one day, so picking up on a little history wouldn’t be a bad idea. The other part is that I’m facilitating a discussion (barely a month away) about cultivating entitlement as dominants in D/s dynamics and I’d heard that Leatherfolk included an essay about bdsm and femininity — a subject that, given the discussion will be happening at a women’s kink event, was definitely relevant to my interests.

So I splurged and ordered a copy.

It arrived a few days ago and I’ve been reading through it ever since.

So. Is it any good?

First thing you have to know is that this is leather history from the U.S. I don’t actually know if there’s a Canadian equivalent (although I know who I’m expecting to write it if there isn’t one yet — no pressure ;-)) so, as far as Canadian Leather history goes, it’s not a great resource (although it does include work by and and about Geoff Mains, who was from British Columbia, so there’s something there).

Second this is: It was first published in 1991. The essays are timely, including bittersweet stories – like Dorothy Allison’s “Her Body, Mine, and His” – about re-finding the joy in fucking in spite of (and I do mean in spite of) the overwhelming waves of death and grief happening in and around the community.

There’s stuff in this book that makes me twitch, and most of that is the “urban primitive” stuff. I was talking about it with my sweetie yesterday — I’m 100% for finding/engaging spirituality through rituals based flesh hooking and other S/M techniques and experiences. But please, FFS, don’t say you’re Recreating a Native American Ritual when you’re operating within an entirely different cultural context and the only thing What You’re Doing has in common with, e.g., the Sun Dance is where you’ve placed those hooks in your body.
I mean, come on.

There’s also stuff in this book that I really appreciate. Geoff Mains’ “View from a Sling” is one of them. Pat Califia’s “Mr. Benson Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, while it’s weird for me to see him IDing as a woman (1991, remember), talks about the way dominance (like masculinity) is structured as a delicate house of cards — a situation that is still going on twenty years later (we need to smarten up, folks, let’s go). A number of essays address the intersection of Paganism and Leather (frequently through Radical Faeries, but also through Tantra) and how this intersection can be involved in changing the definition of masculinity.
I also appreciate the essays that are explicitly written to discuss leather history — from the 1930s to the 1990s — because they show me some of what went on before, and how this culture came to be what it currently is; and I’m really happy to see a few women authors in there, too. 🙂

Despite the stuff that makes me twitch or roll my eyes or – occasionally – want to smack some of the contributors, I think this book is a really good one to get ahold of. I (and, y’know, everyone else and their neon-pink cat) recommend this one if you’re looking for a good starting spot for learning leather history.

As an end-note: If people want to throw me recommendations for books on Canadian and/or Women’s leather history, do please drop me a note in the comments. 🙂

Ms. Syren.

So, the local sex-positive, woman-focused, queer-friend book-and-toy-store, Venus Envy, has had its ads censored by Facebook.

I know.  WTF.  Granted, this is the same social media platform that freaks out over breast-feeding pics and photos of dudes kissing other dudes.  So maybe I should be surprised.

But not being surprised doesn’t mean I can’t be pissed off.

I mean, really, it’s not like they didn’t specify that their ads should only appear to FB users who are (or at least list themselves as) 18 years or over.  So – leaving aside the bit where youth should totally have access to information on healthy sexuality – basically FB has decided it has the right to be some kind of “moral arbiter” for its adult users.

Um.  Sorry, but NO.

If you agree that FB’s censorship policy is messed up, don’t think sex is a bad thing, and/or haven’t done this already, I suggest that you go to the Venus Envy Ottawa Page and join it by pressing the “like” button.  You’ll get information from them about workshops, events (like the upcoming Reading Out Loud event), and you’ll also be showing your support for sexual education, awareness, and ZOMG pleasure(!) which, frankly, all need more support in this uptight mess of a sex-loathing culture.

– Thanks, and cheers,

– Ms. Syren.



So I’m giving something a try.  There’s a certain well-known online big-box-store that pays people (on commission) for linking to their products.  Basically, if I link to a Thing on their site, and someone clicks my link and buys the product, I get a microscopic amount of cash.


This is a situation that does not suck, particularly since said well-known online big-box-store had a scrap a few years back wherein they were basically hiding their queer, kinky, and erotic stock (sending them to the very bottom of the search results, that sort of thing) on the grounds that it wasn’t “family-friendly” enough and the rotten result (among other things) was that homophobic stuff (information on how to “pray away the gay”, for example) was topping the list when people were searching for information on how to come out to their families or be supportive of their queer and/or trans family members.  Not good.


So I figure I’ll exercise some benign self-interest here and, for the most part, link to queer, kinky, and erotic products at their online store.
There’s a slim chance it’ll help me out financially and, beyond that, I get to talk up books (it’s going to be mostly books) that I think are awesome (or not) to an audience who will (theoretically) find them relevant to their interests.  Hopefully everybody wins.


So, with this in mind, I’ll be uploading book reviews every now and then (ideally more than once a month, but we’ll see — my plan is to keep it proportional to the number of posts I’m making in general, rather than trying to overwhelm the blog with money-making schemes).  Sometimes they’ll be erotica anthologies.  Sometimes they’ll be books about leathersex.  Sometimes they’ll be books about D/s and sometimes they’ll be books about healing from sexual assault.  But not always.  Sometimes they’ll be books about paganism and permaculture as well (just to mix things up a bit. 😉


Anyway.  I just wanted to let people know that was happening.


– Cheers,

– Ms. Syren


[1]  My queer, kinky, porn-positive, sex-working phamily AND family were just SO impressed with this…