Category: unholy harvest

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.
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.

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.
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.

Harvest was (ye gods) a god month ago at this point. It was awesome, as is typically the case.
One of the things that made it awesome, though, was that I finally Played With Other People because I wanted to rather than because they were my Harvest Buddy or it was their first time attending and I wanted to make sure the New Chick got some play eary on, or whatever[1].
It was fantastic. For me, at least, though both of the delightful gals I got to fool around with were interested in doing so again, so: YAY! 😀
I titled this post “upping my game” because, until now (or, well, a month ago), I’ve generally not had the best results when playing with people other than my Main Squeeze. I’m not sure how much of the reason for that has been due to “Playing for the Wrong Reasons” versus “Trying Really Hard Not to Open Up Energetically” versus “Playing With People Whose Kinks Don’t Line Up with Mine Very Well”… but all three of those reasons are involved. I routinely describe myself as “the most mono poly person I know”, so being willing and able(!) to approach gorgeous[2], sweet, fun, thinky, pervy, poly, chicks who are into the same stuff I’m into is kind of a big step for me.
The fact that they both said yes(!!!) and enjoyed what we got up to together(!!!) is just a mile and a half of icing on the cake[3].
So, yeah.
I took a step, and it worked out really well.
Hurrah for everything. 😀
Ms Syren.
[1] Yes, actually, I’m aware of how condescending that is. One more reason not to do it? Definitely. But I also do want to make sure the New People get to try something out, so if someone asks me: Why the hell not, right?
[2] Did I mention Gorgeous? Yay for big, towering femmes. 😀
[3] BTW: The ASL word for “sadist” is “evil-mean”. Apparently this is remarkably accurate. I got called “evil” and “mean” a lot. By people who were grinning at me when they said it. Life is good. 😀

I was at Unholy Harvest over the weekend. As usual, the largest leather-dyke event on the continent was awesome. I sang at the opening cabaret (“Fly Me To the Moon”) in a beaded Barbarella dress (harness? I’m not sure how much fabric you need for it to qualify as a dress) that I’d spent the past week sewing. I ran a foot-fetish workshop that was as much an ideas-sharing discussion as a chalk-and-talk “lecture”, took in two discussions on leather identity and one on navigating the pitfalls and boundaries of being a kinky health-care and/or mental-health-care service provider (who may run into both colleagues AND clients at parties or other community events). I missed out on a D/s and Mental Health discussion; a workshop on sex with trans women[1]; and watching my lovely wife teach a big chunk of her community how to repair minor issues with their gear (think popped grommets and un-stuck soles) and give a dozen eager people speedy stitchers of their own. I stretched my sadistic, poly wings a little and played with a couple of people whom I’ve been interested in for ages but was only able to ask (have the gumption to ask) to play with me this year. (It went well. It sounds like they’d both be game for playing again, so YAY! :-D) I saw Jacqueline and Andrea break down in tears when they were gifted leather by Everybody at the closing ceremonies.
It was a good weekend. A weekend where we – not just me, but *so many of us* – disclosed our vulnerabilities (past traumas, current pain, deep-seated insecurities and fears about what it is or isn’t okay for us to be) and walked out again feeling heard and less alone.
That’s a big deal.
Let me be clear on this – none of this, that I know of, was Ordeal Ritual (although those came up during the Health Care SPs Circle, and someone came and talked to me about That Stuff a little later on. I suggested a book – not an ordeal-focused book, but The Twelve Wild Swans: A Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing, and Action by Starhawk and Hillary Valentine – as something that might be useful for crafting some rituals she’s been working on).
But it’s still a Going Through with the arms of your community around you, and that matters.
Which, in a sloppy, abrupt way, does segue into what I want to blog about today.
One of the workshops I went to was about Leather Phamilies – it was facilitated by a couple of people who are creating an anthology about such things, and who were looking for further perspectives on the subject.
Some of the things that came up in the discussion (when we were trying to come up with a working definition of “Leather” before we went on to “Leather Phamily/Family”; but also much later in the car, on the way home, when the same question came up) were as follows:
Leather as a culture – with regional variations, a common value system[2], rites of passage (collarings and uncollarings, the gifting of leather, the earning of club colours), and even “traditional dress”.
Leather as a community that hangs out and/or interacts beyond the party circuit or the bedroom[3]; a community that is primarily queer or queer-focused
Leather as a grass-roots social safety net (Mama’s Family is one example, but there are also examples of social housing for trauma survivors, and less formal situations like: I moved cities and suddenly lost my job, and this community of people who I didn’t even really know yet stepped up and filled my fridge, helped me find new work, renegotiated my rent, held me while I cried, did concrete things that literally kept me going)
Leather as a (working) classed identity[4]
Leather as a community that is very centered on knowledge-transfer
And, perhaps weirdly, that’s the one I want to talk about right now.
Because I never thought of it like that. I just assumed that everyone was a huge nerd when it came to kink. But, on the way home in the car, one of the gals – who used to run a club that primarily catered to the pansexual bdsm scene – said that the leather dykes are all about workshops and education in a way that the pansexual bdsm crown… isn’t.
And, having since heard a quotation from that Robert J Rubel book (see [3]) siting the dual origins of the broadest iteration of North American kinkdom, I can’t help thinking that this makes a lot of sense.
We have in our queer, leather community a history and, I think, a mythology about knowledge transfer.
Weird? Maybe.
But think about it.
Pre-internet, you actually did have to know someone who knew someone to find out when the events were or where they were happening, or even to be allowed in the door. There was no fetlife. There were no youtube tutorials to teach you (oh, for example) how to do a brand safely. There was word of mouth and, if you were lucky, a newsletter on paper that you might be able to sign up for if you found out it existed. By that token, we have a real history of teaching each other in a hands-on, in-person fashion.
But we also have a mythology – and I mean this in the anthropology/religious-studies sense of the word where “mythology” means “our deepest truths; the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, where we came from, and how to live and fit in the world” – about kinky, erotic apprenticeship. Think Mr. Benson or The Marketplace series for example, but also think about the stories and protocols of the Old Guard, of learning to top by bottoming and doing your first topping scene under the supervision of your master.
Hands-on thinky-types who learn by doing as much as by checking out the theory?
I hadn’t thought of it that way – or at least I hadn’t thought that we were unique in that way. Maybe that’s a better way of putting it.
Anyway. Those are some thoughts (or some more thoughts) on leather as a culture.
Ms Syren.
[1] I regret missing this. Apparently it was EPIC. It took seven years for such a workshop to be offered (and, yes, it was taught be a couple of trans chicks), but it was really, really popular when it was. I think this bodes well. 😀
[2] If I were to take a guess? Honesty, loyalty, pleasure (!!!), honour, kindness (and/or compassion?), respect, joy, endurance (meaning both “I can take it” and “I can make/fix something so that it doesn’t fall apart”), really good food (maybe that’s just the dykes?), trust, flexibility/willingness to stretch and grow (physically but also in terms of skills, experiences, and understanding), knowledge + expertise & thinky-thinking (possibly also just the dykes?), connection(!), DIY and/or self-sufficiency, and got-your-back-itude (support for community / helping when called and stepping up without being asked).
[3] Robert J Rubel (author of Master/slave Relations, fyi) offered a distinction between what he called “leather” and “not leather” (but which I’ve also heard described as “leather community” and “bdsm community”) that was based on history and origin – “leather”, by his definition, grew out of gay veterans communities and motorcycle clubs in post-WW2 United States (1945-ish to 1960-ish); while “bdsm / not-leather” grew out of the swing community (of the 1960s but also much earlier than that).
[4] Which, itself, does tie into the queerness and the motorcycle clubs in our history. Both of those populations have historically been working class and/or poor, have done primarily service-industry jobs, have been sexworkers (men and women), have been able to afford the cost of a motorcycle but not a car, have been working through multiple levels of trauma and/or marginalization and needed capital-C Community to help with that, have joined the army for financial reasons, have been Kicked Out and making a buck in the bars shining boots and hoping to hook up with someone at the end of the night for a place to sleep, have appreciated donated, second-hand, durable clothing like, say, leather jackets or boots or chaps.

So I got the news the other day that one of my workshop proposals has been accepted for this year’s Unholy Harvest.
I will be presenting Soles, Toes, and Heels: An Erotic Introduction to Feet and Shoes.
As implied by the title, this is definitely a 101 workshop. I’ll be talking a little bit about foot and shoe fetishism plus what Midori refers to as “foot hedonism”, as well as what I think of as “the axes of desire” (masculine/feminine, feet/shoes, active/receptive… and how “top” and “bottom” run counter to their more typically assumed dynamics in a lot of foot play). Following that, I’ll be getting into the basics of various types of foot-play (the bare-bones basics of foot-massage, polish, great places to put your tongue, how to go down on a shoe, mixing feet and food, and safe ways to fuck with your feet.
Things I won’t be covering (in this workshop) include bastinado and other foot-focused forms of S/M.
I have to admit I’m excited about doing this. Partly because, duh, I’m into feet, but also because this workshop (I think) has the potential to be offered in more spaces than Unholy Harvest and for audiences that aren’t limited to queer chicks. (Not that the other ones necessarily were, but… this feels more broad-spectrum, I think).
Anyway. That’s my big news. 🙂
See you in October (I’ll be doing a take-off on Barbarella for my costume. How ’bout you?)
Ms Syren.

Yesterday was spent geeking out about Power Exchange, and various aspects there-of, with a group of thirty or so like-minded individuals, at Queering Power, a fundraising event for Unholy Harvest.
The workshops I attended included:
Powerful Communication – in which the presented taught us about ORID-style communication and empathic listening (very handy no matter what the situation).
The Princess and the Puppy – which was about finding one’s way in a multi-leveled, more-than-two-people-involved power dynamic (extremely handy, particularly given my own situation).
Discernment in D/s: Pushing, Pausing, Pulling Back – which was about different kinds of actions one can take as a dominant (or not, but it was aimed at a dominant’s perspective) in a power exchange, and what those types of actions can look like.
M/s Mindfulness – which was about techniques one can use to open up and further deepen a D/s connection.
Some things I took away from the day:
“What does D/s do for me, what does it mean to me, and how/why is it important to me?”
This was a question posed to us by the facilitator of the Powerful Communication workshop. I had the rare (we live in different cities) opportunity to sit and chat – or take turns speaking and actively listening, as the case may be – with Andrea Zanin[1] about this subject, and it was absolutely lovely to both (a) be able to answer those questions in a context where my Property wasn’t part of the conversation[2], and (b) to hear/see the overlaps in our experiences, understandings, and desires as dominant, service-receptive women.
Much of what she told me, in answer to those questions, can be found on her blog (this link, in particular, but others as well) – she’s given this quite a bit of thought over the years, so I do recommend you check out what she has to say.
What I told her included (i) my inner dominant is a seven-year-old Princess who loves her dolly and wants to get her way; (ii) an anecdote about my high school grad dance wherein, upon looking at a picture she’d taken of me drinking (non-alcoholic) champagne in the back of a limo, my mother said I looked like I’d been “born to it”, and how I had agreed that, yes, I had been born to it, actual up-brining notwithstanding; and (iii) the feeling that This Is How It [a Relationship] Is Supposed To Go… even if I have no idea how to keep it going like this[3].
Things Get Way More Complicated When You Have More Than Two People
This isn’t actually news. Having been living in Poly Land for the past five years or so (has it really been that long?) I know from experience that adding more people means that Coasting is no-longer an option and there’s a whole lot more juggling going on.
It was really interesting to hear The Princess talking about her experiences as a very slave-identified person learning how (and understanding why) to pick up and carry the power that was being offered to her. This feeds back into the above-mentioned idea of “this is how it’s supposed to go, even if I’m not sure how to keep it going like this” quite well: I have a lot of self-doubt, tend not to be confident in my commands, and am more likely to back down than to push for What I Want if it looks like pushing is going to be an exercise in frustration or else might provoke some kind of fight or resentment or something on the part of the push-ee. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the possibility of someone both wanting to be commanded and held but, at the same time, balking at those commands and imposed boundaries. It helps to hear things from the perspective of someone who does both.
There are a number of people in our wee community who are “in the middle”, so to speak. It was good to hear from them, and I look forward continuing those conversations.
For my part, as someone who is on top of someone who’s on top of someone else, I brought up the way that, since Kitty isn’t mine, I try very hard not to horn in on Ghost’s dynamic by ordering Kitty around but that, because Ghost is also my beloved, I actually find it easier to be unquestionably demanding of Kitty than of my wife.
”Push, Pauseor Pull Back” can be a more conscious version of “Fight, Freeze, or Flight” but… it can be other things as well
As I’ve talked about before (mainly, I suspect, on Urban Meliad), my default action (if it can be called that) is “Pause”. In some cases, what this means is “try it and see” but, frequently, it tends to mean “frozen with indecision”… at least in my case.
My take-away from this particular workshop was: How do I push – that is, make decisions for, issue commands to, and impose limits upon – someone else consistently without becoming exhausted? That one will, I suspect, be the jumping off point for further ruminations on this blog, so… stay tuned?
The last workshop, M/s Mindfulness I actually missed, because I’d gone and made myself sick trying to do something extra during the opening guided meditation. I wound up hiding out in an empty spare room at the venue, instead. I’m glad that I did, too, as it gave me a chance to recover and find the energy to attend the post-event dinner and then have a visitor over to our house after the fact. But that was Queering Power, or my experience there-of. 🙂
It was lovely. I’m hoping that it becomes an annual event. 🙂
Ms Syren.
[1] I told her that, while I wasn’t quite having a “fangirl moment”, I did rather like her brain and it was nice to be able to get her perspective on things.
[2] Ghost asked me, later, why I had wanted that – was there something I didn’t want her to know, essentially. And I told her that, basically, I have Meta-Insecurity: I worry that my worries (about my own abilities) will worry her (about her place in my life). Strictly speaking, neither of us has anything to be afraid of, but it’s still nice to be able to talk about my experiences and only have to think about me while doing it.
[3] This actually relates to something I told Ghost, around the about the time I was deciding to collar her: My romance and my power dynamic are very bound up with each other, partly because they began very close together in time, but also because (I had realized, as I was trying to figure out what “to collar” meant to me) my idea of a Good (Vanilla) Relationship was, actually, an O/p relationship. That kind of dynamic is what I *want* in a romantic relationship, even if it isn’t one that I ever expected to get or was even able to put words around before meeting Ghost and becoming involved with her in all these various ways. I think that says something. 🙂

So, when I first conceived the Greater Granola Blog Project, I had expected to wind up writing “H is for Harvest” and doing a post on what-all went on at Unholy Harvest 2012. To that end, I’m dropping a Very Short Synopsis here for your reading pleasure. The longer H-prompt will be coming to you in a few hours. Stay tuned. 🙂

Harvest was awesome (big shock). I dressed up as the Prom Queen of Harvest High and sang opera (the Flower Duet from Lakme) with The Lesbian Gym Teacher. I won the “best legs” competition (and was really happy to see “legs” and “back” be up for the “best of” prize because, y’know, not everyone is hella endowed in the tits department, as a for-instance, and it was nice to see other body parts getting recognized). Ghost and I did our first-ever branding scene. I played with people other than my own girlfriend (not something I do very often, so it’s kind of a big deal for me). Ghost, along with a heap of other faboo dyke bootblacks (organized, iirc, by Tarna – YAY!), raised a heap of cash to help keep Unholy Harvest running. “Femme-ily” got mentioned during the closing ceremonies as “What Harvest Means to Me” – which I love. I pretty much cried when I heard it, because Yeah. I got some new lingerie at the gear-swap AND flirted with a cute redhead at the post-clean-up brunch. AndGhost proposed to me on the drive home, when we stopped by the side of Highway Seven to admire the Northern Lights (which I’d never seen before).
So, yeah. Short version is: Harvest 2012 was FUCKING AMAZING and I’m seriously looking forward to 2013. 😀


Ms S.

Hey there.

So, I facilitated a discussion at Harvest this year on the topic of “cultivating entitlement”: Specifically, how do you develop the chuzpa you need to be a confident domme – the kind who puts her servant(s) to good use, gives them good limits/boundaries, and directs them in ways that will be fulfilling for everyone involved – if you balk at the thought of acting like you can just expect people to do what you want?

It’s a situation that I haven’t seen discussed in much of the (small amount of) literature I’ve read on the subject of BDSM. And, granted, a big part of why that’s the case is because most literature that talks about leather, kink, bdsm, and even D/s in specific, is talking about scene-based dynamics rather than 24/7 dynamics — and it’s much easier to take on the role of entitled autocrat for an hour, or even a weekend, than it is to Be In Charge for the foreseeable future. As such, there’s not a whole lot (that I know of – if you’ve got suggestions, do please throw me a link) out there that addresses the learning curve involved in holding power. Thence: my discussion group (I figure, there’s got to be more than just me struggling with this, right?)

See, a lot of the stumbling blocks I’ve personally encountered when it comes to entitlement are tied up with my understanding of “entitlement” as a Bad Thing. Something that makes me either a Bad Woman or a Bad Activist.

I think I’m going to go the route of “bad activist” on this one, for the moment. Entitlement, according the the thesaurus function on my word processor, is all about power and privilege.
And that’s pretty accurate.
However. If you’re an activist, particularly if you’re a social-justice activist right now, you know that “power” and “privilege” are things that oppressors have, unearned, over everyone else (none of whom volunteered to be oppressed).

So, while my sweetheart/servant effectively volunteered (very enthusiastically) to allow me to oppress her… I’m still dealing with the bit where, in my world, “power” and (even more-so) “privilege” are kind of dirty words.

So, what do I do about that?
The answer, more or less, is to remember that “bad activist” power and privilege are typically both unearned and unacknowledged. The trick, then, is to acknowledge that you have power and privilege in someone’s life – by putting that power and privilege to use; and to also recognize that said power and privilege are earned things.

Enter: Consc(ient)ious Entitlement.

This is a no-brainer from the submissive side of the dynamic – or so I gather. But, for me at least, I frequently wind up trapped in a cycle of circular logic that says I have to be worthy of Picking It Up before I can do so, BUT I won’t Be Worthy unless I’ve already done the picking-up in the first place.

Completely unhelpful, I know. So how do you get out of such a circular brain-trap and get on with holding power?

In another post, I referred to this as “fake it ’til you make it”. What I mean is: You prove yourself worthy of holding power (to yourself, and to the person who judged you as being capable of this in the first place) by picking it up and holding it.

Every time you pick up a little bit of power in someone’s life and act in ways that take that power into account (making sure they stick to a given task, expecting a particular kind of treatment from your Person, making a decision in a particular area of your Person’s life where you have the power to do so, and then following through…) it confirms, for your Person, that they can trust you with that power. Over time, both you and your Person will develop a self-reenforcing cycle of deepening trust and confidence in yourselves and each other within the context of your dynamic.

That trust and confidence are what let you know that you are earning your power and privilege, that you’re being a conscientious owner, rather than a douche.

At least that’s where I’m at right now.

Ms Syren.

So, I was just reading an advice column which was talking about how to be more dominant. Except that it was scene-based S/M-centered dominance, rather than the 24/7 Owner/property dominance that I’m currently trying to figure out.


Seriously, I feel like I’m trying to find my way by feel through a pitch-dark room that I’ve never been in before and, while I’m trying to do that, I’m also trying to lead someone else by the hand – someone who, whether or not they could find their way through here blind-folded, is counting on me to do the leading right now.


So, with that in mind, I thought I’d write down some Things I Need – things I need to do AND things I need to hear/receive – in order to develop my own comfort with, and proficiency at, Holding Power. It’s a short and, I have no doubt what-so-ever, incomplete list. Bear with me, and do feel free to make suggestions.




I need confirmation/reassurance from my submissive that, yes, when I’m doing it right, they feel capable and powerful and strong, too: I’m not a switch. If I were, I think I’d have an easier time understanding that “Power Exchange” does not equal a Zero-Sum Game. When it works, everyone involved feels empowered, stands taller, and moves through life with a sense of personal pride and fulfillment. (Which, I realize, isn’t giving anyone any idea of how to Do It Right. Bear with me on this one). I have a lot of trouble hanging onto this fact, in large part because my own experience of (unhappily) giving up power and taking on someone else’s needs and wants in place of my own has been entirely negative, disempowering, erasing, and painful. When my submissive lets me know that this is, in no uncertain terms, good for her sense of self and her well-being, it reminds me that what I’m doing with her is not at all the same thing as what, say, my ex-husband did to me.


I need to know that it’s okay for me to be demanding about superficial things: Meaning both that I need to know it’s okay for me to say “I want you to rub my feet again,” for the umpteenth time in a given day AND that it’s okay for me to say “You do the dishes while I read my new novel”. Essentially I need to know, through consistent affirmative behavior (getting on that right now, ma’am), that my being served, my being allowed to continue to hold power for my Person, is NOT reliant on a traditional (dare I say Patriarchal?) notion of morality-based merit. I am allowed to have seconds before she has her firsts. I do not need to be “using my time wisely” or “working towards a Higher Purpose” in order to be allowed to have someone else do my drudge-work for me. (I didn’t feel that way when I started out – still don’t, the vast majority of the time. This thing where I’m supposed to be enjoying the fuck out of myself while guiding my submissive in ways that will help her to become her own best self… That’s still a bit of a mind-fuck for me. But at least now I can manage to noodle about on the internet while my Ghost does the dishes. When we first started out, I had to assign myself a Task of some kind or another, just to be able to justify having someone else cleaning up after me).


I need to fake it ‘til I make it: This may (or may not) seem kind of counter-intuitive. You have to act like you already have the confidence, good judgment, and know-how to make the decisions in another person’s life, even when you aren’t actually sure that you do. I don’t mean this in the blustering Domly Dom(me) sense of the idea where you make a bad decision and pretend it never happened. I mean it in the sense of Trust Yourself even when you’re trying something you haven’t done before. (This is SO much easier to say than to do, believe me). I wrote, earlier about my experience of Domme Space as a feeling of being bigger on the inside than my skin can contain; a feeling of vastness and capability and, yes, empowerment. I am, in fact, far, far, FAR more experience with its opposite. That feeling of shrinking and shriveling inside your own skin. (My Ghost knows when this is happening to me. She’s described it as seeing my soul go and hide in a corner). That shriveling feeling is all about shame and fear. Nothing else to it. And it’s SO easy for me to slip into that head-space because the path to it has just been worn into a deep groove in my psyche over the years. Related side note: Starhawk, whose work I read frequently because I’m a big old eco-feminist pagan, says that you have to practice and cultivate ecstasy (and fake it if you can’t quite get all the way there yet) so that, eventually, you’re able to step into the ecstatic magico-religious headspace required to do Witchcraft. I think that cultivating dominance requires the same kind of practice. I need to fake it ‘til I make it because, by practicing, by acting like I already am imbued with a sense of pride, confidence and certainty, I will start forging the path to actually feeling those things, with the eventual goal of being able to step into that space with the practiced ease of long familiarity.


I need to act like a Manager: This is a hard one, and it won’t necessarily work right off the bat, because it takes practice. I can’t for the life of me remember where I read this, but when you’re in a managerial position (in an office, was the context in which I read this, but it definitely applies in this situation), you not only have to get your own work done, you have to get it done with enough time left over to help your employees get their work done. Essentially, you have to be mindful (all the time – this is 24/7we’re talking about here) of the fact that Your Needs now include the well-being of two (or more) people. That means things like when (if) you write up a nightly list of chores for your Person[1], YOU (as the Boss) have to remember that, in addition to doing the laundry, mending your boots, and feeding you a delicious, gourmet meal (just as a for-instance), you also need to schedule in time for them to work on That Project you assigned them as a personal-growth exercise and do the Yoga that you wanted them to start doing, AND time for them to pay their cell phone bill, take their kid to saxophone practice, or be a listening ear to the friend/sister/whatever who is having a rough go of it right now. When you’re managing someone else’s life, you have to keep track of all the bits that are needed to make it up, otherwise you’re not really holding up your end of the bargain.


And, at the other end of that spectrum, I need to think like a Princess: This goes back to the Enjoying Myself thing. If all I’m doing is running around, trying to keep my Person organized and on the track to self-fulfillment, at the expense of my own pleasure and joy… Then I’m not being a domme. I’m being a personal assistant to someone to who does my dishes. My Ghost tells me that the thing she finds fulfilling about service isn’t the actual tasks. It’s the fact that what she’s doing is making The Person She’s Doing Them For happy. If the end-result of the direction I give her – whether that’s “Go clean the kitchen,” or “Suck my toes,” or “Write down that story you told me, last night, and bring it to the open mic next week,” – doesn’t include my being happy (or insert other positive, well-being-full, emotion here), then I’m not directing her with an eye to both of us. Your Needs now include two (or more) people. One of those people is YOU. Don’t forget that.




That’s what I’ve come up with, so far.


Ms Syren.


[1] My power dynamic began as a domestic service arrangement. Thus, when I talk about interacting with one’s submissive, I’m going by my own experiences. I do nightly lists. Your power dynamic may be something very, very different – like taking someone out to chase a ball in the back yard and then putting them to bed next to their water dish. YMMV. In that particular case, maybe you need to be mindful of the fact that your Puppy requires X number of walkies per day plus a balanced diet, suitable tasks that make her feel like a contributing member of the pack, toys that stimulate her instincts and intelligence, and an Alpha who will put her back in her place if she’s challenged, in order to be a healthy, well-rounded dog.