Category: D/s


So! I just watched Ten’s first youtube video in their I’m Having A Feeling series. It’s a good time. It’s a short vid about, basically, Using Your Words. It’s a good video, and I’m looking forward to more.
I’m also using their video – or a specific part of it – as a jumping off point for my own ruminations. Because, guess what? I’m having a feeling, too!
 

“Undine” by Arthur Rackham (1909, based on the story by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué)
Public Domain via Wiki Free Images
A Watery Tart in romanticized Medieval garb stands by a river (her own, one presumes) in a dark wood, her hands pressed to her face and her expression distressed.


 
Something my lovely wife and I periodically have discussions about is that I don’t tell her when something is bothering me.
Which, like, obviously this is not ideal. She loves me and would rather know when I’m getting upset about a thing that she is doing, or not doing. Which is part of why she is great.
It’s also part of why she is unusual if you look at my dating history. Whether for reasons of being selfish assholes or for reasons of unexplored and definitely unresolved traumas/Mental-Health-Stuff of their own, or for reasons of A Little Bit Of Both, most of the people I’ve developed attachment bonds with, over the course of my life, have been people who wanted me to just shut up and stop having a problem with Whatever It Is. See also: “Why are you so sensitive/needy?”
 
Now. Because I’m human, and I have this pattern, perhaps it’s relevant to ask: Hey, Ms Syren! What are you getting out of these relationships? Because it’s obviously something, or you wouldn’t keep repeating this pattern!
 
Good question!
I don’t know the answer. Though I have some theories:

1) Mommy Issues. One of the people who pulled the Why U So Sensitive on me, for the better part of 30 years, was my own mother. Which sucks. At this point, I’m pretty sure that my mom has the same kind of fight-response-oriented generalized anxiety crap that I do, so most of her jerk behaviour is/was probably due to her own undiagnosed and unmedicated weasel-brain winding her up into a state of anything from “twitchy and irritable” to “lashing out pretty harshly in order to bleed off the excess panic”. So I don’t hate my mom over this (uh… any more) BUT I do recognize that, since our first attachment bonds are generally with our adult care-givers AND since those bonds tend to set our expectations (<– see what I did there?) about what attachment bonds look and feel like, there's a solid chance that my relationships with both my frequently unavailable (he worked in a different city and was home on the weekends) Dad and my reliably available, but frequently (and somewhat randomly) emotionally-violent Mom maaaaaaaaaaaaaay have some effect on how & why I develop attachments to people who, surprisingly often, are both (a) not around that often, but also (b) can't really be trusted not to treat me like crap and then tell me it's my fault that I feel bad about it.
 
2) Shame/Low Self Worth/Indispensability. Call this one what you like, it basically boils down to “If so-and-so NEEDS me, they will never abandon me”. Which… isn’t entirely correct. They might never abandon me, but they will probably resent the heck out of me if I keep wanting to have a relationship based on mutuality and So-and-so really just wants me to endlessly take care of them without having any pesky needs of my own. (I may be a little bit bitter about some of my former romances). Basically, the idea is that For Whatever Reason, I secretly believe (have a personal cosmology that tells me) I’m unworthy of love and belonging, and so constantly need to be “earning my keep” by being necessary/indispensable lest I be cast out into the cold to die, frozen and alone, in the snow. (For real. That’s literally the end-point where all my fears are aiming. Dying, frozen AND alone, specifically in the snow).
 
3) Issues Around Vulnerability. This one is pretty heavily related to #2. (It’s also something that Ten talked about in their video. AND it’s something that Brenee Brown tends to talk about a lot as well). BUT it may also have some relationship with #1. If I need less than a given co-attachment-bondee, they will be leaning on me more often than I am leaning on them, which will mean I’m not being Too Needy (note: in situation #2? Needing anything is needing Too Much, so… this doesn’t actually work) and will – hahaha – not be abandoned or cast out due to being too much work, and similar. But also: If I need less, just in general, then when my co-attachment-bondee is… not available, or reacts with outsized anger at my expressing wants and needs, then I won’t have to deal with personal disappointment, or exposure to outside threats, nearly as often.
 
4)Saviour Complex. Otherwise known as: I actually get a lot out of looking after people, so maybe I fall for people who want/need a lot of looking after. I don’t know how much of that is due to items #2 and #3, versus how much of that is just, like, the Gender Programming just took really well over here, versus how much of it is actually me getting something genuinely fulfilling (Oh, hai, Cancer Moon) out of mending my partner’s dresses or bringing my friend a casserole. But let’s go with “at least some of it”.

 
So. Those are my theories about why I have this particular pattern going on.
But! That whole list is really just kind of a tangent because what I was saying was: It’s not typical, in my relationship history, for my bringing up unmet wants and needs to be met with a willingness on the part of my partners (mostly) to try and meet them.
Which brings me back around to those discussions that I have with my wife.
 
Long before I met my wife, I got to have “counseling in exchange for odd jobs” and, during these sessions, I started addressing my tendencies to lean towards martyrdom through Not Using My Words to express my wants and needs. So I’m better at expressing that stuff out loud than I was. I still have a tonne of fears around “asking for too much and thus losing everything”, and I still tend to get kind of choked up and… unable? to talk about stuff when someone asks me directly about what I specifically want, especially if there’s some kind of audience involved (because the only thing worse than being vulnerable in private is being vulnerable in public, am I right?), so I’m not exactly out of these particular woods. But I’m far better at it than I was.
 
Which brings me to the point of this whole post.
The reason (the other reason?) why I have a habit of not bringing it up when I’m having The Feels around something that… maybe?… pertains to unmet wants or needs, is this:

When I find myself experiencing feelings like resentment or consternation or frustration or anger or disappointment around A Thing that is or is not being done, I have trouble discerning WHY that feeling is happening.

 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because my liquid anxiety is sloshing around trying to find something to define itself by, and so I’m aiming my anxiety-derived irritability/snappishness/frustration A Thing because it’s conveniently available and I can tell myself “Oh. See? I’m not upset because my idiot brain is convinced that Some Nebulous Bad Thing is going to Happen. I’m upset because of This Specific Thing that pertains to one of my attachment relationships. I’m not a high-strung mess because I’m a high-strung mess! I’m a high-strung mess because Co-Attachment-Bondee is mistreating me in some way!
E.G.: Back when I worked for Rainbow Health Ontario, I generally had a couple of all-staff meetings in Toronto every year. This meant that I generally went traveling on my own while my wife stayed home. Around about the second night in TO, I would get ridiculously angry/frustrated with my wife over some dumb thing like “She says ‘um’ a lot on the phone”. This is something which I fervently hope never actually showed up in my behaviour, but which was definitely going on. It took me a few rounds of this to realize that this was actually a mix of (a) stress due to interacting with a LOT of people for many hours a day, and (b) anxiety around having deprioritized someone else (my wife) in favour of myself (by traveling and not being available by text for a lot of the day) which, as we know, is The Worst Sin according to my own shitty metanaratives/cosmology. This was 100% coming from inside my own head, a preemptive “Fuck you! I don’t need you!” born of a fear that Someone Will Be Mad At Me For Letting Them Down.
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because I’m Hangry.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory.
See also: I need a nap, or a shower, or some introvert time, or to know for sure that I’ve got enough money for the heating bill this month.
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because I’m not nearly as self-aware or good at self-soothing as I’d like to think, and this is actually a problem I can solve myself by taking a bath, doing some anti-panic breathing, eating some protein + having a glass of water, journaling to try and figure out why this call might actually be coming from inside the house, and otherwise doing self-care and self-work rather than expecting other people to manage my feelings for me.
E.G.: I am, by now, well aware of how threatened I regularly feel when a partner gets a new partner, or when one of their already-existing partnerships levels up or becomes more entwined in some way. But, as recently as five years ago, I didn’t really know that my generally pretty negative feelings about new metamours were at least in part due to my own fears of abandonment and being replaced. Learning how to better self-sooth, as well as doing a bunch of self-work to figure out where those feels were coming from, went a long way to smoothing my relationships with my metamours.
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because A Specific, Concrete Thing that I asked of a co-attachment-bondee, in order to meet a particular need… isn’t actually doing the trick, BUT I can’t figure out why, and so can’t articulate a new Specific, Concrete Thing to ask for that will better meet that need.
E.G.: I once asked a long-distance partner to text me when they got up in the morning and when they went to bed at night. My live-in partner does this pretty reliably with most of her non-live-in sweethearts, so it seemed like a very reasonable thing to ask of someone one theoretically would be missing me as much as I was missing them.
I thought the need I was addressing was for contact. The kind of thing that might be named “quantity time” and that might be related to stuff like the “parallel play” of two adults hanging out on the couch next to each other, each one reading a book, not interacting much but being close together and getting something out of that proximity.
I was SO wrong.
Which is maybe (or maybe not) why a couple of auto-texts per day were really not doing it for me.
The needs I was actually trying to meet were
1) The need to mutually affirm “I’m here for you. I’m listening and will be as available as I can be given stuff like work hours, other partners, and life in general” in the morning, and to assure each other “I’m still here for you, I still care about you, even though I’m sleeping and/or on a date and will be mostly not available for the next 8-12 hours”. I wanted to let my partner know that stuff. I needed to hear that kind of stuff from them, too.
and
2) The need for frequent, albeit brief, emotional connections at regular intervals. My primary love language is touch. In a long-distance relationship, I don’t get to speak, let alone hear, that language very often or even very reliably. Which means I need to lean more heavily on secondary love-languages like “words of affirmation” or “quality time” or the kinds of “caring actions” that can be done by text/phone such as asking me about my day/life, listening to the answers, and then responding to what I’ve said as though it matters.
But it took me until several months after that partner and I broke up for me to understand why my Specific, Concrete Action (text me at regular intervals) wasn’t getting me what I actually needed (affirmation of mutual love and care; reliable and frequent-ish moments of emotional connection and mutual support through the gifts of our respective time, energy, and attention).
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things for the reasons Ten talked about in their video: I don’t feel like I have the right to ask for my partners’ time, energy, and attention.
E.G.: Because demanding those things makes me a shitty metamour or Bad At Polyamoury. Because if she really wanted this power exchange, I wouldn’t have to ask for X Task to be completed anywhere near as frequently as I do. Because they’re going through a really hard time right now and don’t have the emotional energy or attention to offer, even if I psyche myself up and ask for it. Because if they wanted to prioritize spending time with me, they would take some initiative and ask, instead of leaving it to me 100% of the time. Because, if she wanted to spend more time with me, wouldn’t she be kinder to me on the phone? Because if I keep reminding them about X Significant Date in my life, they will feel stupid or like I don’t think I can trust them to remember stuff that’s important to me. Because asking for stuff, when that stuff isn’t forthcoming after asking once, is being a pest at best and being abusive at worst, and I don’t want to give them reasons to be uncomfortable with, or irritated at, me. The list goes freaking on.
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because I have asked for The Thing, and my co-attachment-bondee is dismissing my want or need by telling me that I over-think things, or that my emotions are exhausting, or that I’m too needy (or too sensitive), or that expecting fair treatment and basic kindness from someone who says “I love you” to me is expecting waaaaaaaaaaaay too much. Or whatever. (Which, btw, is why I was having such a feeling of Consternation while watching Ten’s video). Maybe my co-attachment-bondee’s behaviour is not matching up with their stated feelings/intentions, and I’m feeling Actually Fucking Bonkers on top of feeling frustrated and angry.
 
See?
Sometimes those feelings are a definite indicator that something is wrong in one of my relationships, and/or that I need to talk more explicitly (or even just remind a given partner) about what I need and how to help me get it.
But a lot of the time, those feelings are the result of stuff that I’m kind of doing to myself. Brain weasels. Limited and relatively new coping techniques for dealing with same. Ignoring basic stuff like feeling hungry, tired, or socially drained.
Between that and a history of my needs being poorly received, and often dismissed, when I’ve expressed them?
I find it’s generally a less risky, but also more-likely effective, plan of action to take a look at how I can solve my problems myself.
 
Which would be great, if some of those problems didn’t take literal years to solve.
Which would be great if, by doing so, I wasn’t also reinforcing the hopefully-false belief that “People only want me if I give them things am compliant and low-maintenance (easy to ignore when they don’t want something from me)”.
Which would be great if these behaviours and assumptions didn’t make it easier for other people to manipulate and gaslight me around whether the things I want and need are “reasonable” or not.
 
It’s kind of fucked up. Equal parts necessary self-work and possible/probable self-sabotage, and I’m not sure what to do with it all.
Clearly I have more work to do in this area.

So, yesterday was Queering Power 2016.
It was, surprisingly, an easier day that QP usually is. Which isn’t to say it didn’t have its hard bits.
One of the workshops was on trauma-survival and kink and I was expecting that to be pretty hard. It… wasn’t. I mean, I had my knitting out and was basically listening with half an ear. I have to work at it to remember what people said in the small groups we broke into to talk about stuff. The main thing I remember about it was (a) getting colder and colder and colder during the workshop itself, and (b) This:
Apparently there’s a thing called “hyperarrousal”, which is a thing that happens (or can happen) when you’re Triggered. Hyperarrousal isn’t the same as “hypervigilance”, and it includes a whole bunch of things like a distorted sense of the passage of time, anxiety, irritability, & fatigue (among lots of others). It’s been described as a “chronic state of fight/flight/freeze”. (Particularly interesting to me is that decreased body temperature is – apparently – associated with PTSD. I’m cold ALL THE TIME – like, up to and including shivering in a hot room, under blankets – when I’m freaking out about something).
 
The things you learn.
 
The first workshop I went to was a Facilitated Discussion (we *love* those faciliated discussions in this crowd) about chronic illness – physical stuff or mental health stuff or both – and dominance. I talked a little bit about how (a) I have physical pain that doesn’t go away + a brain that tells me horrible, bullshit stories (that are so easy to believe), but that (b) my Owned Property is dealing with the same stuff, but several orders of magnitude worse than I’ve got it. In that situation, how much of this relationship, where she’s “supposed” to be taking care of me is really going to be like that? And what does that mean?
And, when the link between anxiety and vulnerability came up (again and again and again),the words I put around it were (paraphrasing here):
 

I’m not supposed to want. And I’m not supposed to need[1]. But, as someone’s owner, I am supposed to want. Actively and openly[2]. So what do I do here? The story I tell myself is that how this is Supposed To Go is that I pretend to want/demand only those things that my Person already wants to give/provide[3]. So when I have something I actually want, something that doesn’t fit the script I’m (secretly) assuming my Person is (secretly) following… It’s terrifying. Asking means admitting that I can’t just do it on my own. Because if I could thrive without X, or could provide X to myself without anyone’s help, I would already be doing it. Asking feels like danger. Like “this is me, putting my chips down, and asking”. And I feel so fucking powerless.

 
Which was hard, but good, to say out loud.
By the end of that workshop, I was having my usual reaction to having let myself be “seen”, which is equal parts “I need a hug”, “I need a good cry”, and “I need to remove myself from mixed company before I hit somebody non-consensually”. I don’t know if that’s a vulnerability hangover, or what, but there it is.
 
But the part of the day that was the hardest for me was the opening plenary.
The current Ms Leather Toronto, who ran the plenery, included an exercise that was done by a couple of volunteers… They could have been me and Ghost, but they weren’t. In spite of Ghost nudging me in the shoulder and trying to convince me to give it a go.
I didn’t want to.
 
The exercise was that the members of a given D/s dyad would take turns saying:
“I see the beauty of your [dominance/submission] in your [action/characteristic/etc]” + asking if the other person could accept that their beauty was seen and acknowledged. (Each person does this five times, and then they switch).
I did not want to do this. Not with an audience, and not with my wife. Not right then.
 
I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to come up with five things, off the top of my head, and that my inability to do so would reflect badly on me (because I’m clearly not focusing on the good things that my Person brings to our dynamic) and also on her (because what does it MEAN if your owner can’t praise you for specifics??)
I was afraid that, if I could come up with five things in-which I could see Ghost beauty as a submissive, that I would pick the wrong things. That I would spot her beauuty in the ways that I spot it, but that I would totally miss some aspect of her submission that is super-central to her identity and that she needs to have recognized and valued. I was afraid that I would screw it up and/or let her down like that.
And I was afraid of – and overtly hostile towards – having to hear Good Things about myself. The point was that I would have been supposed to accept those things, those “I see your beauty as a dominant in [XYZ]” and… I wasn’t sure that I could. In fact, right at that moment, I was absolutely certain that I couldn’t. That I’d have reacted (or at least wanted to react) with a snarling “Stay away from me!” if someone had tried to show me that much praise.
It’s… telling.
I’m not sure what my shame was, right then, but letting someone be gentle with you, letting yourself absorb that kindness… it means taking off your armour. And I deeply, deeply didn’t want to be unguarded.
Telling, indeed.
 
Someone once said to me that she found it hard to hear me tell her that she’s easy to love.
I think I understand a little bit better now what that was about.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Which is very likely The Patriarchy talking in my head, but is also something that I have huge, vast, awful amounts of shame around. Wanting means I’m Too Demanding, Too Much, Too Pushy. Needing means I’m a burden. Asking, unless I’m considerably more than 90% sure the answer will be Yes, is basically putting social pressure on someone else to do what I want them to do which, in some cases, equates to assault inside my head.
 
[2] My much-neglected-of-late Cultivating Entitlement tag is all about my struggles with this.
 
[3] As if a 24/7 d/s personal relationship was supposed to play out like a paid, time-bound session with a pro-domme wherein all feminization is “forced”, and where one is “punished” with exactly the thing that will get one off. My brain is weird.

Management Tips for Dominants Types

Hi folks.
So, from time to time, I post links to stuff written for the business-suit set because I find that they can be helpful for dominant folks in full-time power-exchanges.
 
With that in mind, here are two such articles. Some of you may find them handy. Some of you may find them kind of old hat. Either way, here we go:
 
10 Rules for Successful Delegation
AND
Giving Constructive Criticism
 
There you go. I hope they’re useful to at least some of you.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

So. Queering Power 2014 happened last weekend almost a month ago, and Ghost, Kitty, and I were asked to facilitate a discussion about overlapping power exchanges in full-time and ownership dynamics. Here’s the description:
Long term, full-time Power Exchange is never simple, but it becomes exponentially more complicated when you add polyamoury to the mix. How do you hold someone firmly while allowing them enough leash to hold power in another person’s life? What authority does someone have over you when they are your owner’s owner? How do you balance the requirements of submission and dominance at the same time? In what sense is someone your subordinate, and in what sense are they your equal, when they’re in service to your servant… but not to you? Open and overlapping full-time power exchanges stretch far beyond occasional extra-dynamic playdates or the running of a staff of submissives by a single dominant. Regardless of whether you’re in charge, in service, or in the middle, please join us for a discussion of the difficulties and delights of overlapping 24/7 power dynamics.
 
Basically this was very much like the Poly and Power salons that I host chez moi periodically, but a bit more specific in focus, both in terms of topic and in terms of how heavily it was facilitated.
Usually, with Poly and Power, the discussion just kind of ambles where it will, and I keep a couple of question-prompts in my back pocket in case things lag or get tangled in the weeds. In this case, we came prepared with a series of open-ended questions meant to get people thinking and talking.
 
Now, granted, the folks who turn up for Queering Power are basically a bunch of nerdy keeners in fetish gear. (Uh… I’ll be in my bunk)… Where was I? Right. They’re basically a facilitator’s dream group: They talk, they listen, and they build on what others in the group are saying. Basically, my job as facilitator was really easy. 😉
 
One of the participants – possibly because he’s a school teacher, but also possibly because he may have been instructed to do so by his Person – took notes. Posssibly I should have done this, too, since it’s now almost a month after the fact, and I’m trying to remember what everybody said.
The main gyst of what came up, though, could – I think – be boiled down to some fairly basic Poly Principals, possibly with a D/s twist on them:
 
(A) Remember your Place. This is an important one, and I don’t mean it in the sense of “bottom of the ladder” hierarchies where the person who owns someone else’s owner gets to poly-veto All The Things and the person who is owned by the ownee just has to suck it up and take the crumbs. I mean it in the sense of things like… Remembering that I am Ghost’s boss, but not Kitty’s boss (therefore, just as I don’t get to boss Kitty around[1], I also have to remember that her Personal Growth is not my Personal Project). OR Remembering that, just because your Dominant is someone else’s Submissive doesn’t mean that you have to, or get to, serve (or answer to) two Keepers. OR Remembering that being In The Middle sometimes requires a lot of triage, but that everything still needs to Get Done.
 
This feeds directly into (B) Use your words. But also use your ears. I’ve got a friend who, at his day-job, recently acquired some Minions. And, as he is familiar with KinkyLand, we’ve had a couple of conversations about management and about the responsibilities that one has to the people over-which one holds power. One of the major ones – and one that I fall down on a lot is making sure that your People have enough direction to keep them busy, but also to keep them interested and engaged and developing. It’s the counter-balance to all those job-descriptions that require you to be a self-starter or good at working independently, rather than being the kind of person who either needs someone standing over their shoulder going “Have you finished that project yet? How ’bout now?” in order to actually get anything finished, or else who can finished Assigned Task X just fine, but won’t independently go looking for Task Y on their own.
This is Polyamoury’s “Communicate, Communicate, Communicate” blended with the multi-tasking long game of the Master, the attentive, multi-layered listening of the Servant.
S-types need to listen for instructions, sure, and not just the kind that are phrased as a formal request/expectation (see: Self-starting), but they also need to be careful not to volunteer, unasked, on tasks that they know they’ll resent doing, but feel like they “should” do without having been asked for them. On a similar note, presuming to clean the leather of your master’s master might wind you up with a sharp talking-to along the lines of “That is not your privilege!” rather than a “Thanks for taking that task off my hands” from your boss.
D-types need to offer instructions, sure, but we need to determine those instructions based on both our goals (for ourselves, our dynamics, our People, and our to-do-lists) and on the needs, spoken or unspoken, of our People. I can want to instruct my Servant to whip me up a new pair of leather sandals this evening, but that doesn’t mean I get to ignore things like (a) paid cobblery work that needs to get done, (b) pain flare-ups, and (c) social/emotional responsibilities to her own servant and any other partners who are in the mix. Sometimes Using Your Words is going to feel less like Issuing Decrees and more like parenting an easily-distracted kindergartener[2], but you (in theory) figure out how to make it work.
People in the Middle need to be aware of what they can/should deligate to their own servant(s) – and how frequently they can do that before said s-type(s) start feeling like they’re primarily serving a master-not-their-own – versus what needs to be done by them-specifically in order to continue providing the service (the relationship) they offered to their d-type. A big balancing act, to be sure.
No matter what position(s) we play in a given overlap, we all need to remember to talk about it when we’re swamped with Fill-In-The-Blank and need some help or some slack on This or That responsibility/task.
 
This, in turn, feeds into (C) Be generous with your heart. This means… assume the best of the people in your constelationships. Nobody’s in competition. Nobody is trying to gain control of All The Time, Energy and Attention (even if your Jerk Brain is saying that they are[3]). Sometimes creative solutions (like sleeping three to a bed once a week so that the ownee’s ownee can make everybody coffee in the morning) will be necessary to keep things running smoothly for everyone involved. Something unexpected relationship twists (an owner’s owner becoming – formally or informally – a mentor/teacher to their ownee’s property; a switch in which member of a given diad is Holding the Power) will happen, and the ripples from those changes will also need to be navigated by everyone else involved in the overlaps.
 
So there you have it.
Some thoughts on “D/s Cubed” and what I learned while discussing the specifics of overlapping 24/7 and O/p power dynamics at Queering Power 2014.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] …Ish. I use the analogy of “auntie/neice” to describe the kind of authority (or “authority) I have where Kitty is concerned. I’m only Tthe Boss Of Her when GHost (her “mom” in this analogy) is out of the house.
 
[2] Even when you don’t have a Mommie/girl relationship there are still going to be days where you have to say “Okay, no more TV, it’s time to Tidy Up” or “I thought I told you to Clean Your Room” or whatever.
 
[3] Just me? Okay.

So February 10th marked four years in Dynamic for me and my wife/property.
We win! 😀
 
Given the title of this post, maybe I should point out that this doesn’t mark four years in collar (that’ll be May 7th, 2015), and we don’t actually have a contract, per se. The gyst of it is: “Ghost takes care of Ms Syren. And Vice Versa.” And we just sort of take it from there.
Regardless, she signed on for another 40 years, which sounds pretty good to me. 😀
 
So… other than going “Squee!” about the whole situation, why am I bringing this up? (Okay, I admit it, it was mostly about the Squee). My question is: what do you do with a dynamic like this? How do you deepen it? It still feels… weird? Presumptuous? To be thinking “How do I want to focus my property’s development this year?” but I’m still doing it. It’s still my responsibility to do it.
I look at people who’ve been in dynamic for twenty and thirty years, and I have no idea what that looks like from the inside. Do you just keep claiming more and more of your territory? I keep reaching for the metaphor of cultivation – rather than that of, say, teaching someone new tricks. Where do we go from here?
 
It would be so easy to finish right here, to say “I guess we’ll find out” as if that were some kind of a Really Profound Statement. And it’s not like we won’t find out, over time, as our dynamic continues to develop. But I’d like to have some kind of a concrete plan for what direction to take.
As it stands, I find myself casting around for a focus-point. Like, “This is the direction we’re going to work on this year”. Given how things are going already, I’m guessing that this is going to be a year of “spiritual stuff” (for lack of a more appropriate catch-all). And part of that’s me, because that’s where I want to focus my energies so, hey, why not focus hers there, too? But that’s not all of it. Where do we go from here? I guess we’ll find out. 😉

So… I was originally going to use my “B” prompt to talk about Blood and Branding – two points on the S/M (or, well, “S” in my case) spectrum where I like to play because (a) they tend to involve inflicting a lot of pain on my co-player, and (b) they let me make art using my co-player’s skin as a canvas/medium. They’re faboo.
HOWEVER.
I’ve been… not “playing around with”, exactly, but… increasingly aware of how my body-language or physical actions can ‘cause my Servant to Drop.
I’m fascinated by this, partially because the “big as the cosmos” feeling that I associate with embodying my own power in a Very Aware Way (uh… for lack of better words) is… rare. I think I’ve only experienced it (at least in a heavy enough way to really go “Wow… I know what this is – Woah”) a couple of times and, typically, it’s happened by accident. I have a little bit of that awareness going on now – nothing like the Full Effect, but noticeable – sitting in my ribcage and across my shoulders, and tingling in the curves of my ears. I don’t entirely know if those locations are significant, but I figured I’d point them out.
Seeing someone else drop into their headspace like that, at the touch of a hand, is kind of amazing, in large part because I don’t know how to do that to myself. I have theories. But they are theories and I don’t have a tonne of practice (lately) in making that happen[1].
 
So, right. Body Language. I figure, if I can’t (or am not sure how to) tweak my own body language to be able to (ful)fill/embody My Place, as it were, I can at least put more attention into how and when I am dropping Ghost into hers.
So far, I grant you, it’s been largely accidental. Trial and error, and sometimes what I think will work doesn’t do anything, and sometimes what I think is just a nice, gentle way to touch someone I care about will wind up Dropping her unexpectedly.
But I’m keeping a mental list of what works and the circumstances under-which it has that effect. It’s interesting… Anyone else seen/experienced stuff like this?
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] It tends to happen – frequently, though not 100% of the time – when I’m doing something that is both fairly emotion-heavy and fairly artistic/creative. It has usually involved some sort of significant prep – however unintentional – on my part, to the tune of an hour of vocal warm-ups, days/weeks of anticipation, or three hours of soul-searching followed by Spontaneous Poetry. That kind of thing. :-\

Management Techniques for Dominants?

I think a lot of us are the kind of people who either (a) were always that one member of the group-work team in high school who actually bothered to do the project, and/or (b) are creative/knowledge-hungry types who tend to self-start[1] on things that we’re passionate about or fascinated with.
It wouldn’t shock me a whole lot to find out that some of you folks who are reading this are the kind of people who really do believe that you can get something done faster and “the right way” (that being my way, of course) if you just do it yourself.
 
I’ve talked before about Service-Oriented Dominants, and I’m going to talk a little bit about a related topic.
 
Punishment.
 
I don’t “do” punishment.
To me, it feels like I’m rewarding bad behaviour with undeserved attention, whether that’s using my Very Disappointed Voice – a tone of voice that feels anything but sexy, but that I’ve learned is a bit of a turn-on… and thus backfires completely when I employ it – or doing something corporal that I’d really rather keep as something that’s enjoyable for both of us.
Likewise, having the give someone a punishment like writing lines where I then have to stand over their shoulder to make sure that they actually do it? Why am I wasting my time and energy on this?
Having the wheedle and badger and, let’s just drag that loaded, gendered term right out into the open, nag a servant to get shit done or behave appropriately… it feels incredibly demoralizing and disempowering.
 
So if I want to avoid using a “punishment model” (or a “carrot and stick” model where you punish for fuck-ups and it requires fucking bribery to get something done right), what can I do instead?
 
That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it?
 
I’ve started reading “management” literature. Tips for small-scale entrepreneurs who have a couple of employees working for them, stuff about how to manage effectively, keep lines of communication open, work towards solutions for existing problems while avoiding The Swamp Of Shame and similar pitfalls.
 
Much as I’m embarrassed to admit it to The Entire Internet, I am a really terrible manager.
I put off bringing up Problems because I know what their sources are – meaning that if I know my managee is overwhelmed in X part of their life, or has emotional issues around Y situation, I’m more likely to cut them some slack when Task Q isn’t getting done to the standards, or with the frequency, that I would prefer – and this means that I wind up with these, just, laundry lists of “Things That Need Improvement” and no clue how to adress them effectively, efficiently, and in a successful fashion.
 
So I’ve started poking at the idea of seasonal performance reviews.
 
I know. I kind of loathe the whole idea, if only because “performance review” tends to translate in my head into “job security roulette” or “let’s find out who’s getting fired today”. And yet, I think if I made it just part of the routine, then I could use it as a way to wipe the slate clean a few times a year and, in another way, also track my Person’s progress through the year.
 
Of course, I’m not managing a business in this context – I’m managing a household. This may require some tweaking of traditional techniques. However, that doesn’t mean those techniques aren’t easy to addapt or incorporate into what I want to do.
 
For example, this handy list of tips for building and managing a team has a few things I’d like to work into my own house.
I particularly like Suggestion #5, which is Set a quarterly theme and vision.
A theme and vision might be as simple as “establish routines, train as necessary; goal: well-oiled machine” early on in a dynamic, so that the accomplishment of that goal then serves as a foundation for further themes like “increase luxury skills and incorporate into routine” or “find therapist, work on anxiety issues”.
 
Likewise, the “Recognition” section of this article suggests the (well-known) formula of (1) Highlight something good. (2) Point out what needs improving, and (3) Suggest how to improve. So one might opt for something like: “You’re really putting those cooking lessons to good use. Dinner has been amazing these past two weeks. Well done. I do want to turn your attention to the situation with the left-overs in the fridge. We’ll need to eat those up over the course of the next week. After that, if you can work to cut your recipe quantities in half, that will allow us to enjoy your new sills without having a left-overs pile-up in the fridge every week.”
…Or something. I don’t know.
Similarly, the suggestion to phrase/identify problems in ways that are measurable: Not “Jolene is lazy” but “Jolene typically lets her outerwear pile up in the front hallway rather than hanging them back up in the closet”; not “Frank is disorganized” but “Frank routinely misplaces important documents that need to be filled out and sent off by specific deadlines”. Addressing measurable specifics rather than generalities makes it much easier for Jolene or Frank to suggest solutions without (hopefully) feeling overwhelmed or beaten down by the magnitude and, well, vagueness of the stated problem.
 
Management Tips for Creative Folks offers a variety of management styles (I tend to fluctuate between “tell” and “involve”, and this may be causing confusion or something on the home front), suggests that successes or emplyee effectiveness be measured by achievement (what they are getting done) and not activity (how they spent their time). It also stresses the importance of measurable goals, targets, and stretch-challenges for employees. Their time-division chart is also handy to keep in mind:
 

My time is often split between I and IV, with not nearly enough focus put on II. How ’bout yours?


 
I may have to go and borrow myself a copy of The One Minute Manager, as it might be a handy thing to read.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

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?
 
 
TTFN,
Ms. Syren.

Gifted Leather (some musings)

So. Andrea Zanin has a post about earned leathers that went up back in 2007. Having just spent a weekend having a lot of discussions about leather identity (and also attending a writing workshop, which might have something to do with this, too), I’m inclined to talk a little bit about leather – as in leather clothing – within the context of Leather (as in leather culture).
 
One thing that came up in those discussions was that, as a culture, Leather has symbol sets, rites of passage & other rituals, and in some cases even straight-up religiosity built into it. This is a thing that cultures do, so it’s no surprise.
We have collaring (and un-collaring) ceremonies. People earn club patches or caps. And we give leather.
 
We take this stuff – these marvelously durable, frequently (though not always) practical, articles of clothing – and we give them to each other in ceremony, imbued with meaning that goes way beyond “these will keep your feet dry in the rain”.
 
You can read it a bit like this, maybe:
“You have worked hard. Here is some hard-working gear that can stand up to the wear you’ll put it through”.
“You have created something that lasts. Here is clothing to recognize what you’ve made. It will last, too.”
 
But… Look, kids, I’m a writer. I tell stories. Sometimes I even tell good ones.
Stories about who we are and where we came from and how we live (or should live, or can live) in the world, these are mythology (“In the beginning, there was the Old Guard…” and “Once upon a time, a plauge ravaged our village”), they are the cosmology and axiology that reiterate and reinforce our values and our understanding of how we (as individuals, and as a community) fit into the world. When we give leather, when we recieve leather, when we inherit leather, even when we buy leather (zomg) for ourselves, we are telling stories about who we are, where we come from, and how we fit in the world.
 
I can give you the leather coat he wore for forty years before the cancer or the depression won that war, and the story that goes with it might be “As long as you are wearing the skin that touched his his skin, he will never really be gone”.
 
I can put a collar on you so that you feel my hand on the back of your neck, the expectation and the protection both, even when you’re not sitting at my feet.
 
I can give you my old army boots and tell a story that goes “I am with you every step of the way”.
 
I can grant you the privilege of wearing a Magdaleine’s Army club patch, and the story I tell you is “You belong; You are one of us”.
 
I can wear my leather – my impractical pencil skirt that I found at value village, my “genuine leather” very high heels that I bought from a certain online mega-retailer, the jacket I picked up at last year’s MLO garage sale – and access the iconography of “this is what a leather dyke looks like”. It can be a beacon of acceptance for someone who is worried that her choking fantasies mean she’s a Bad Feminist. Alternatively, it can announce at the dyke bar, sure as a black hanky, that I would be up for doing something rough in the ladies’ room. Either way, I’m making myself known to My People.
 
When my wife gave me a hat – bought at a store on Church Street that sold mass-produced leather gear for the kinky crowd – it became something special. Whenever people tell me they like my hat, I tell them who gave it to me. Because on its own, it’s just a hat – maybe even a slightly pretentious one – but from her hands, it’s a physical manifestation of our relationship: a counterpart to the collar I put on her years ago.
 
I can gift you with leather, the simplest of vests or the most elaborate, hand-sewn, made-to-measure garment, even just (“just”) a bracelet, and what I’m saying is this:
“This is my pride and gratitude made manifest. This is my arms around you when you are far away.”

Okay.
 
So here’s a thing. Sometimes I get FL messages from people – almost all of whom are male-identified[1] – who I don’t know, who open with something like “Hello, Mistress”, or similar.
I have NO IDEA (ahaha) whether male-identified dominants get unsolicited “Hello Master” messages from female-identified subs with any degree of frequency or regularity (although I can sure-as-fuck hazard a seriously educated guess), so this is a post talking 100% about approaching dominant (or, hell, NOT dominant) women on fetlife.
 
See… I think “Hello, Mistress” is probably supposed to be polite.
More accurately, while I’m pretty sure the majority of people who send me this message don’t actually give a shit about “polite” because, if they did, they’d be not contacting me in the first place, as per my very clearly stated expectations(see footnote [1]), but I’d also like to hope that at least some of the people who send messages like that, to anybody, are trying to be polite, trying to be respectful of someone’s identification as a dominant woman, and are sincerely hoping to interact with the woman they’ve just tried to engage.
The thing is… trying to be polite doesn’t really cut it, and “Hello, Mistress” isn’t actually polite unless the adressee has the words “You will address me as Mistress” written explicitely in their profile[2].
 
So here I am, wanting to explain the reason why it isn’t polite.
 
Have you ever been at a bar (or a bus stop, or a grocery store, or wherever) and seen a stranger go up to someone and address her[3] as “Hey, sweetheart” or some other term of endearment (“baby”, “honey”, “shorty”, etc) that is completely inapropriate due to the fact that they don’t know her at all?
You know how that’s creepy and entitled and presumptouous and, therefore, incredibly off-putting and gross?
 
This is the same thing.[4]
 
When you greet a stranger with “Hello, Mistress”, what you’re actually saying to her is “I’ve already slotted you into X position in my life, and I don’t care whether or not you’re okay with that. Your agency and desire are irrelevant to me.”
 
Which, clearly, is an incredibly shitty way to talk to someone, especially if you’re actual goal is to be polite and respectful.
 
So. I’m going to take a page from Captain Awkward, and offer y’all a (completely, 100% unsolicited, I realize) script for How to Approach Someone on Fetlife.
Caveate: You can’t control other people’s responses. While using language to try and manipulate someone into giving you what you want express your desires and make your case for wanting them fulfilled is totally normal and human, it’s also not actually guaranteed to work. None the less, treating someone as a unique individual with agency, autonomy, and desires of her own… that’s not gonna hurt your chances.
 
Onwards!
 
~*~
 
“Hi, [person’s name],
 
I saw on your profile that you’re into X, Y, and Z. I’ve been curious about Y and Z [for a long time / since I took a recent workshop & decided I wanted to know more / since reading that scene in Kushiel’s Dart / etc] and I’m wondering if you’d be interested in [talking about it / answering some questions / negotiating a scene] with me.
If you are, please feel free to get in touch. Also, if there’s a particular way you’d like me to address you, please let me know what it is.
 
Hoping to hear from you soon,
[Your Name Here]”
 
~*~
 
Now, I do have to admit to a bit of a bias here. The only person who has ever approached me like this? Reader, I married her. So clearly this works for me.
 
Regardless, there you have it. A handy script that is respectful, shows you’ve done rather more than just looked at someone’s sexy, sexy profile pictures, and suggests that you have some kinky interests in common, while also leaving the door open in case someone you approach actually would appreciate it if you called them Mistress during negotiations.
 
Modify as necessary, and best of luck. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] My FL profile says “dudes need not apply”, in an effort to cull the flow of random strangers propositioning me. I think it’s telling, and also upsetting, that damn near every woman I know who has an FL account ALSO has that disclaimer right at the top of their profile. I also think it’s telling, and even more upsetting, that there are still so many dudes who flat-out ignore that boundary and proposition us anyway. It’s fucking RUDE. Stop doing it!
 
[2] In which case chances are good that the Mistress in question (A) is a professional, in which case she’s here to find clients, not lovers, and you will be expected to pay for her services; OR (B) is potentially Lady Dommely-Domme (they do happen, occasionally) and… probably won’t be all that much fun to spend your time with. Just sayin’.
 
[3] Because we’re talking about “Hello Mistress” here.
 
[4] Yes, if their FL name is something like “Mistress Serengeti”, that’s different. Saying “Hello, Mistress Serengeti” is like saying “Hello, Josephine“. It’s someone’s name. That’s fine.