Tag Archive: D/s

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.

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
Giving Constructive Criticism
There you go. I hope they’re useful to at least some of you.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.”

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.
“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. 🙂
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.

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. 🙂