Tag Archive: D/s


Orange rose - A dark orange-red rose in full bloom, surround by green foliage. Photo by Sabina Bajracharya, via Wiki Free Images.

Orange rose – A dark orange-red rose in full bloom, surround by green foliage. Photo by Sabina Bajracharya, via Wiki Free Images.

So it’s October. Samhain is coming. And I’ve started listening to Pavani Moray’s podcast, Bespoken Bones (also linked in my Blogs And Pods list, on the right).

It’s a podcast about (1) sexuality, sexual healing, and sexual pleasure, but also (2) ancestors, transgenerational(?) sexual mores, and practices like ancestor veneration. I find this just an absolutely fascinating combination for a bunch of reasons. So I thought I’d just use this as a jumping off point and talk about this stuff for a little bit.

First thing, you may have seen on my instagram a few days ago that I posted a cover shot of Jane Meredith’ and Gede Parma’s book, Magic of the Iron Pentacle: Reclaiming Sex, Pride, Self, Power, and Passion. In the post, I mentioned that I wasn’t too deep into it yet. What I didn’t say was that the reason I wasn’t too deep into it yet was that I got part-way through the first chapter, the Sex chapter, and just started balking.

And I was balking, for the most part, at Jane Meredith’s essay about birth as part of sex.

And, like, yes, part of that was that there was some biological reductionism going on there which, particularly in a book with at least one queer author, I found more than a little disappointing, but I want to try and unpack what else was bugging me about that chapter.

So, to begin: My understanding, such as it is, of the Iron Pentacle, is that the whole point of having those specific five things as its elements is that they are things that are often demonized (literally or not) by Christianity, and as such by cultural-Christianity, particularly when it comes to marginalized people who are expected to feel shame around their own existence in the world for their (our) “failure” to be Real Human Beings (cis, het, abled, neurotypical, white, men).

And, I mean, I do realize that I’ve spent a long time conflating Feri – the magico-religious tradition where the Iron Pentacle comes from – with the Radical Faries, who are a queer new-age-ish, contemporary-pagan-ish, secular-spiritual-ish bunch of loosely-affiliated counter-cultural groups that reject homonormativity and the idea that gay people are Just Like Everybody Else (Everybody Else meaning straight, monogamously-married, would-be parents).

Like, yes there’s definitely overlap between those communities.

But also my long-time assumption that Feri came from the Radical Fairies is (a) maaaaaybe not actually the case, but also (b) kind of colouring my expectations for what I’ll find in a book on the Iron Pentacle.

Secondly: I’m a cis lady. More specifically, I’m a cis, white, middle-class-raised, university-educated lady. Which means I spent the first 28 years of my life under the expectation that, between the age of 20 and 30, I would get pregnant and give vaginal birth, ideally 2-3 times, and that if I failed to do this I was somehow both failing to Gender Correctly and letting a bunch of people down whose own identities, for some reason, were heavily invested in my reproductive capacity.

At twenty-eight, I came the conclusion that (a) I didn’t actually want to have kids, (b) my bisexuality was way gayer than I’d initially thought, and (c) I would be better off in non-monogamous relationships. So I got the heck divorced and started dating other polyamourous women and, while this didn’t mean I got to stop being vigilant about avoiding pregnancy, my various girlfriends and other partners have never seen my intentionally-child-free status as some kind of a deliberate afront to their own life goals or gender identities. Thank all the gods.

What I’m saying is that, while having my own sexual desires (let alone acting on them) was, for a long time, something that I was taught to keep my mouth shut about and to sort of go along to get along, if you will, my early belief that I did want to birth babies and raise children was always treated by others as a part of myself that I should embrace, and it was my rejection of that belief, when I realized that it wasn’t true, that was “radical” or “subversive” or otherwise pushing outside of what Gayle Rubin calls the Charmed Circle of Acceptable Human Sexuality.

Seriously. Dating women, and being fairly loud about it, is probably the main reason I’m not getting any questions from random co-workers and/or relatives about “So… why don’t you have kids yet??” because being a big homo also puts me outside of that Charmed Circle AND, up until very, very recently, would have meant that any children I did want to have would have been forbidden to me by the state due to lesbianism making one an unfit mother.

So, for all of these reasons, I was surprised and frankly put off by seeing “Let’s reclaim birth-giving as part of sexuality!”

And yet.

My culture tends to go really hard on the idea of separating “mother” and “whore” or – to put it more broadly – “virtuous woman who genders properly” and “unvirtuous woman who breaks femininity through her unladylike behaviour”.

All that ways that Black and Indigenous women are hypersexualized by white people, have their sexual consent ignored, have their children stolen from them in a million directly and indirectly lethal ways, have their motherhood disregarded or else treated as pathological or even parasitic. All the ways that poor women are characterized as slutty, how deliberate sexuality is cast as “low class”, how the lives of sexworkers of every gender, are treated as utterly disposable, how women with a history of sexwork, or sexual voraciouness, are often fired, or won’t be hired, how they lose class mobility and economic security if their sexuality is seen as not belonging to one specific male individual. How sexworkers have their kids taken away. How little girls are held responsible, and characterized as sluts, when grown adults rape them. How a million, zillion “sex after parenthood” books have to address the “but I’m a mom, I’m not supposed to want that…” element of getting your (monogamous, vanilla, hetero-married) sex life back once there are kids sleeping down the hall. The way that birth is sanitized in pop culture, having all the (vast, vast) sweating, bleeding, shitting, bodily messiness of it airbrushed right on out.

So it’s not entirely weird that one might want to write, or build into one’s spiritual practice, a reminder that “birth is part of sex”.

And it’s not weird that “Sex”, when defined as (among other things) the Creative Power of the Universe, would include the actual creation of other lives.

But it still felt really weird to run into this so directly.

 

Sliding back to Bespoken Bones for a bit, and the way that sacred sexuality can be related to ancestor veneration.

So, this is kind of two things.

Like, we have our ancestors of biology – the literal human, and otherwise evolutionary, lineages that resulted in our respective living human bodies. The story that Starhawk tells, in Earth Path about The Oldest Ancestors, and they way they shared breath, green to red to green, and the way we still do that with out plant-kingdom cousins every time we, ourselves, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in. The way I wonder how my pre-Christian, and even just pre-Reformation (pre-machanized worldview) folk-Christianity-practicing, ancestors related to and with the other lives around them. The way my wife told me that she could smell the earth on my maternal grandfather – not in the sense of literal dirt, but in the sense that my mom’s dad, even after he stopped farming in his mid-60s, spent his whole life in a relationship with the ground under his feet. The way I can see my ancestors faces in my own reflection and in the ways people paint and draw me in their art classes.

That I wouldn’t be here if not for these specific chains of birth and sex and birth and sex and birth that have resulted in me, that continue to result in my nibblings and second generation cousins.

But there’s also our ancestors of spirit, to use (iirc) Lee Harrington’s term. What Katheryn Payne is talking about, in her Brazen Femme essay, “Whores and Bitches Who Sleep With Women”, when she asks “Do you know your lineage?”

The queer femmes who came before me and gave me words for what I am. The leather dykes and the femme dyke sex workers who kept a space for me to step into when so much of the rest of feminism was trying really hard to make us disappear. The second wave feminist, lesbian goddess worshippers whose writing – so much of it published right around when I was born – I found in my local public library and read over and over again in my teens. The poets, almost all of them queer as hell, who taught me how to be a poet. The kinky spirit workers and ordeal facilitators whose work introduced me to the whole realm of sacred sexuality that exists beyond the chalice and the blade.

Ancestors who I trace through communities of sexual affinity as much as I trace them through anything else.

So these are two ways that sex and ancestry are related to each other.

 

And then I listen to Lee Harrington’s interview with Pavani on this podcast, and he talks about making explicitly sexual offerings, on a regular basis, to spirits and deities who have traditionally watched over queer people or who have been called to in queer ritual and queer mysteries.

And I wonder if my own lady of sexual sovereignty would enjoy something like that (and then I get an immediate answer of Yes flashing through the back of my head, more than once, so… apparently I have something to add to my practices).

And then I wonder about my lady of queerness – who for Reasons that I’ll get to in a second – would also want something like this. And then I think about the ways that I recognize her as sensual, and recognize some of my interactions with her as sexual or sexually charged, but haven’t tended to think of her as explicitly a Goddess of Sex, even though she is both a goddess of queer desire AND a goddess of birth (and aiding in birth), which kind of does bring me back to that whole Iron Pentacle situation again. Oh, hai.

So that’s something to think about.

 

To take things (maybe?) a step farther:

Back in… late August, iirc, I got to take an online workshop with Lee Harrington about sex magic. One of the things that came up, however briefly, in the discussion was the possibility of using sex magic specifically as a battery for destructive magic. For letting go, for releasing (hahaha…) people or events or emotional/physical/somatic Stuff. Storm Faerywolf describes the point of orgasm as the moment when we enter into constant dance of creation-and-destruction-and-creation[1], so I can see how that would work.

And I think about this, and about the ways that sexual trauma can be intergenerational whether or not incest is a thing in your particular family.

I think about how, after a particular relative died, my grandmother felt at liberty to tell my mom The Family Secret (in-so-far as it was a secret, which apparently, not so much). And my mom told me.

And I thought: That explains a LOT.

I think about how, years and years and YEARS later, the ritual I did using sex magic to “puncture my tank” in order to free up space for a better relationship to my own sexuality unexpectedly, wound up including me making a heartfelt phone call, if you want to call it that, to my maternal great-grandmother (who at least knew me in life) and to her mother, my great-great-grandmother, and telling them:

This shouldn’t have happened to you. I’m glad I’m alive, and that I’m the person I am, and that I have you as ancestors, even though it means I also have a rapist as an ancestor, but that doesn’t make your rape your fault, it doesn’t mean you deserved it. And it doesn’t mean you deserved to have your mother-daughter relationships fucked up all the way down our whole family line. None of us deserved that, and that includes you. That shouldn’t have happened to you, and I’m sorry it did.

I really hope they heard me.

And I really hope they believe me.

 

… So.

Not exactly sex magic. But a ritual that involved it, and also involved talking to my biological ancestors. So… they can be combined. Apparently.

And then.

And then I take this a step farther. A step farther in a different direction, maybe, but still a step farther. And I think about age play. How being a Mommy, in the D/s sense, is having a net-positive effect on my own attachment Issues when my relationship with my Actual Mom was pretty fraught for about 3/4 of my life-to-date and has only recently started feeling comfortable after decades of feeling anything but. How, too, being in this explicitly sexual – and spiritually-sexual – relationship with someone who calls me “Mommy” is also potentially a path towards understanding and better-relating-to my Fetch, which is to say the part of my soul who is my inner child, my sexual self, and my shadow (all the parts of me I reject or keep hidden) all wrapped up in one gangly, adolescent-looking being.

Not entirely sure about that last bit, but… it feels relevant. It feels likely.

So I’m going with it.

 

Anyway.

Obviously this is all rambling Things And Stuff. But it was on my mind, and I wanted to talk about it. Maybe I’ll talk about it more later on.

But, for the moment, thank you for listening.

 

Cheers,

Ms Syren.

 

[1] Now I’m thinking of Neil Gaiman’s Endless, and how Destruction went off to build stuff, saying that every act of creation is also an act of destruction.

So, I’m most of the way through Sacred Power, Holy Surrender (Ed. Raven Kaldera), and I thought I’d post some thoughts.
As a kinky witch who does power exchange, magico-religious sex, and – on occasion – gets to do the doing a religious ritual involving body modification[1], this book is very much in line with my interests. Raven’s one of the few folks I know of – the others being Lee Harrington and Thista Minai – who’s putting books out on this subject, so I was happy to have the chance to read it. I was also fairly unsurprised to find pieces from Lee’s “Sacred Kink” book included here.
 
So. Let’s jump right in:
As much as I love finding books that reflect my own experiences back at me, in a niche market like this, I’m unlikely to find something that matches me to such a degree that I Feel Seen while reading the majority of it. Which is fine, and to be expected. Reading this particular book is, instead, serving as a jumping off point for sorting through my own wants interests, and blank spots when it comes to the intertwining of kinky sex, D/s, religion and spirituality.
 
One of the things that comes up in this book, and others like it, is the question of “Do you want to make your sex more religious? Or do you want to make your religion more sexual?” Or, in the case of Why Not Both?… which contexts are better suited to which approaches?
Years ago, when I read Dark Moon Rising (likewise Raven Kaldera’s work), I found it was mostly, if not entirely, geared towards the “making your religion more sexual” end of that dial. And I find that now, as then, I seem to fall at the other end of things, wanting to make my sex that much more religious.
 
I was chatting about this with my wife/Horse/voluntary-property a while back, and her take on it basically boiled down to “Just because you geek out about both religion and bdsm doesn’t mean you have to combine the two”.
And she’s not wrong.
However as both someone who geeks out about both of these subject and someone whose more profound and fulfilling kinky experiences have been ones where I’ve actively cultivated ritual (head)space and/or a mix of emotional-physical and energetic/spiritual connections between myself and the people with-whom I’m engaging? This is kind of my jam, and I’d like to do/have more of it.
 
To that end, I find myself asking: “In what ways can I, or do I, make my sex (and my power exchange dynamics) more religious?”
Some of it… isn’t religious, per se. It’s energy play. Striving to deepen the effect I have on my scene-partner by actively pouring my energy through the vessel of her body. Sometimes this is through breath, sometimes this is through song, sometimes it’s through the palms of my hands. Seeing a given partner react to that energy – an arched back, a return to earth, a shudder, a high note – is gratifiying, for sure, but it’s also reassuring because it’s confirmation that I’m Actually Doing Something, that I can potentially Actually Do Something, cause an effect through energetic direction, in other contexts (like, say, spellcraft). But it’s also a really lovely way of topping people, and claiming them, that isn’t going to damage their bodies and that, when it’s Actually Doing Something, leaves me feeling more deeply connected to my People.
(This is where I get all Religious Studies 101 on you and enthusiastically point out that “Religion” comes frm “re-ligio” or “to re-link”. Religious ritual is all about fostering and strengthening connections between people and their communities, deities, and environments! Isn’t that so fucking cool???[3])
 
Tied to this, while technically being a different situation, is something I’m increasingly understanding through a vaguely-Feri-informed lens. The ideas of “Fetch” and “Godself” as aspects of myself that aren’t the part that speaks in sentences and thinks it knows everything about everything. I do things to reach out to those aspects of myself. (Realistially a lot fewer things than I personally think I should, but that’s a whole other essay for most likely a different blog). And one of those ways is through sex and s/m. The aspect of myself that I describe as “Godself” is what [a friend of mine] describes as Your Personal Union of Opposites: All of your “good” (easy to like, valued by society, etc) bits and all of your “bad” (uncomfortable, difficult, overwhelming, hard-to-fit) bits.
My godself is basically a nurturing predator. So maybe it’s not surprising that she comes out most easily and most readily during intimate, violent S/M interactions.
There’s a passage in one of the last essays in the book that says “Let our work be our offering” and, while I’m not sure that my own experiences on this front are what I would think of as an offering, per se, they are very much a means of communing with, embodying, or allowing-out-to-play my personal aspect of the All That Is.
Which is pretty great, and I’m glad I get to do it.
 
But that isn’t necessarily how my D/s becomes more religious, or even more mindful.
And, when I say I want my power dynamics to be more “religious”… I think that’s what I mean. More thoughtful. More deliberate. More imbued with intetion in both the literal and magical senses of the word.
 
In terms of the book, itself, I found a lot of the writing contributed by folks speaking the the s-side of the slash to be really thoughtful. Meditations on the spiritual nature of surrender, for the most part. A lot of the writing contributed by people speaking from the D-side was… Look, I’m not sure if it was “less thoughtful” so much as it was just… You know that thing? The thing where [“the top ‘facilitates an experience’ for the bottom” https://xanwest.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/i-talk-a-lot-but-not-about-that/%5D? A lot of the essays in this book kind of lean into that space, albeit through a spiritual lens, and talk a lot about being some variation on the theme of a “spiritual guide” for their s-types.
 
And, I mean, sure. Nothing wrong with that. And gods know I do it too:
I was overjoyed when my Horse came to me asking for resources to help her deal with the fact that a deity had gotten in touch. That my weirdo-DIY polytheism had something to offer her. Similarly, when my Little Girl and I first started chatting and getting to know each other, a significant thing that we talked about was ordeal work and how it fits into her particular (also polytheist) religious path and her work with/for her patron goddess.
As I mentioned, above, I’ve occasionally had the honour of doing ritual cuttings or brandings for people explicitely within the context of their respective faiths.
This is all very meaningful for, and important to, me.
But.
It’s also very much within the realm of me as a top (or a domme) facilitating, or at least encouraging, the religious and spiritual explorations of various people who are bottoming for, or submitting to, me (two very different things, particularly in this context).
 
While there were one or two essays where a D-type wrote about their direct spiritual experiences, it seemed like a lot of the D-types were writing from the perspective of someone who acts as a spiritual guide for their s-types. Even in situations where the D-types felt called to be their Best Selves through their D/s relationships or the faith their respective s-types put in them, that was mostly treated as something self-arising, or brought about via the gods or the universe, rather than through the idea that an s-type could be a spiritual guide for their D-type.
Which.
Folks, I am here to tell you explicitely that s-types can provide spiritual guidance and religious education to their D-types. You can think of it as a type of service, if you want to, but you don’t have to. Knowing the small rituals my Horse does to honour and acknowledge her Other Lady, and talking about Good Witching together. Talking shop for an hour or two with my Little Girl over Skype. These are interactions that I learn from. I hope I can bring as much to both of them.
 
So that was a thing.
 
Related to said thing is this: There were a number of essays in the book that talked about the s-type Seeing The Divine in their D-type. Like, quite explicitely and deliberately. And I found that to be largely, if not completely, lacking going the other way.
Which, like… fuck right off?
We’re talking about spiritual BDSM here, people. How many literal gods have sacrificed themselves, suffered and died, for the benefit of others? How many have gone into the depths to learn and grow and return?
Like, come on. Don’t tell me you can’t see the divine in someone’s submission, someone’s willing offering of pain and fear, someone’s receptivity, someone’s bending and shaping of themselves to your will.
“Holy Surrender” was part of the title, but I would have liked to see more acknowledgement of that in the writing included in the book.
Anyway.
I gnash my teeth and get on with things, right?
Right.
 
Okay. Returning to the idea of my “Best Self”.
Maybe there’s a key there. To be more aware of how my Best Self – my Godself – comes out in my D/s dynamics, to ask “How is my controlling-and-caring Best Self best-manifested through this context?”
A question which, in itself, has me concerned about how much the idea of “best-manifested” is tied to “being a guide for someone else”.
So let me chew on that for a bit.
 
Late in the book, there’s an essay called “The Yin Yang and The Tree” which talks about two different ways a spiritual D/s dynamic can function, two sort of underlying structures that they tend to take. The “yin yang” is one where the energy moves cyclically. This is the kind of structure that deepens your connections with and to each other really directly and that makes me think of a really good S/M scene in terms of one person feeding into the other person who feeds back to the one, in this lovely, spiralling loop of mutual fulfillment, and it’s great.
I like those.
But when I think of a D/s dynamic where “bringing my best self to the game” doesn’t – or doesn’t ONLY – mean being a “gods-mother”, if you will, to my Little Girl, or guiding my Horse towards doing The Work set to her by her Other Lady, but means being supported by my People when I do my own Work… I kind of wonder if the “Tree” structure might, at least occasionally, be beneficial.
 
Another pair of structures that I’ve seen Raven, specifically, talk about are the “care-giver” and (vs?) the “rock star” styles of dominance.
A dominant who likes to exert a lot of control might skew towards “care-giver” in dominance style (but so might someone who’s inclined towards a yin-yang style of power structure, so… these aren’t either/or and they don’t map directly onto each other), picking out, or approving, their Person’s daily attire, specifiying which eggs to boil, and handing out expectations about how much time one’s s-type is to spend, per day or per week or what-ever, doing meditation, physical exercise, or specific household chores.
Whereas someone who leans towards a “rock star” style of dominance might prefer their s-types to be more proactive – “See a task and do it” – towards how household maintenance is done, specifically with any eye to being able to leave that stuff to The Minions and get one with their own tasks without having to micro-manage their s-type’s self-care or what does and doesn’t get made for dinner. Someone who leans towards a “rock star” style of dominance might find themselves also leaning towards a “tree” structure in their power exchanges.
 
Maybe.
 
I mean, realistically, people are going to be a mix of both styles and are going to find both “tree” and “yin yang” structures beneficial in different contexts. But having these different styles and structures laid out as options and starting points can be a big help.
They’ve certainly given me ways of thinking about, and articulating, How I Want Things To Go, and for getting an idea of where tripping-points are cropping up in my various Dynamics.
 
So what does it mean?
What does bringing my Best Self, my most powerful/empowered Self, to my D/s Dynamics, actually mean?
I had a lovely conversation with my Little Girl the other day about what “deepening our dynamic” might potentially include, and I find myself mulling over her thoughts on the subject and wondering how they relate to this question I’ve posed to myself.
 
My Most Empowered Self is unapologetically sensual, is playful and joyful, and is at least a little self-centered / self-absorbed.
In the context of D/s dynamics, this means that my Most Empowered Self is unapologetic about directing her s-types to do things specifically for her pleasure. Anything from “make me tea” to “rub my feet” to “wear thus-and-such-a-thing because I like how it looks on you, specifically” to “accept my ministrations because I want to brush your hair or enjoy your skin”.
It can potentially look like asking my s-types to learn things (a recipe, a piece of music) or do things (cook me a romantic meal with flowers and candles and the whole shebang, do the errand-running that would facilitate my ability to make a particular thing for myself), or dedicate time for things (shared dance lessons or regular opera outings or scheduled at-home spa days) that feed and support my sensual self.
 
My Most Empowered Self is… artistic and generative, I think is how I would put it. “Creative”. I remember, long ago now, when I first received the gift of an s-type’s Service and was trying to trick my brain into not feeling like A Horrible Person just because someone else (reader, I married her) was voluntarily doing my dishes for me, I made a deal with myself that I would use the time her Service was giving me to do creative work.
With the idea of the Tree Structure in mind, could I go back to this?
Because as much as I (and my sensual self, tbh) enjoy watching my People do labour on my behalf while I lounge around, sipping tea and reading novels, I kind of do need to ask “Is this a good use of this time that I’ve been gifted?” Even taking into account the whole thing where my worth is (also) not determined by my Productivity. I mean, I could spend my leisure time knitting or blogging instead of looking at internet memes, amirite? So that’s something to consider, even if my “work” is my hobbies as opposed to a personal betterment project, can I use the time I’ve been gifted to do more of it?
 
My Most Empowered Self is confident and a little entitled. She expects to get what she wants – because experience has shown that this will be the case – and so has an easy (or easier) time expressing her desires through both words and actions.
When my desires are prioritized and my requests followed-through-on in a timely and consistent manner, I am able to cultivate that entitlement and exert more control (while managing my expectations and being aware of my People’s capacity and availability) in my s-types’ lives because I see that control being accepted and responded-to in positive and encouraging ways.
Bringing my Most Empowered Self to my D/s dynamics means Being Explicite about my expectations and about the consequences of not meeting them.
(Which I haaaaaaate because it means Saying Something when I’m disappointed, or laying out specifics when I’m afraid the response to my Specifics is going to be defensive or rejecting or some other thing that is definitely not a gracious and grateful acceptance of my Will… but here we are).
 
I still have two more essays to read in Sacred Power, Holy Surrender. So there’s a little left yet, and I may come back to discussing it here, in case something else comes up.
But, for now, this is where I’m at and what I’ve been able to chew on as a result of reading this book.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] I’m not priestessing in these situations. The role is a lot more like “handmaidening”: Making sure things happen in the right order so that the person talking to, or doing for, a deity can focus on that.
 
[2] If you know of anyone else? LET ME KNOW! I want Moar Books – theory and practice books, in particular – written at this particular interesection of the kinky, pagan, and queer venn diagram. Subject me to your faves in the comments, svp.
 
[3] It is definitely so fucking cool.

So, as-you-may-be-aware-Bob, I recently (last October) began a new relationship. What I may not have brought up (yet) (here) is that my girlfriend and I share an age-play dynamic. Which is to say that we have a D/s relationship wherein the power exchange shows up in the form of her being a Little and me being a Care-Giver. This gives her the opportunity to Need Things (including care and reassurance) and it gives me the opportunity to be both (a) bossy[1] and kind of a condescending know-it-all (and, okay, sadistic af), and (b) nurturing & affectionate… with a built-in pause button should I need that stuff to come back in my direction[2].
 
I wanted to try age play – this ongoing dynamic started out as a single scene at a party – because of a lot of things. Stuff that had shown up in an uncomfortable and unplanned, but still very clearly “resonant” way, in an earlier relationship. Stuff about my own ambivalence around the role of explicit care-giving “outsourced executive functioning” on the D side of D/s. Stuff around Glamour Magic, as it happens, and the Union of Opposites.
 
Stick with me.
 
So. If you’ve been following along over at Urban Meliad, you’ll know that, in fits and starts, I’ve been doing the “radical magical transformation” project (again), as well as doing some stuff around glamour as a magical practice. Largely because a friend of mine wrote a book on the subject.
One of the things my friend talks about in her book is how Glamour requires the reconciliation of your easy-to-like parts with your not-so-easy-to-like parts. She has a whole post about it here, to get you started.
 
So, quite some time ago now, I did some thinking about what my “easy to like” and “not so easy to like” parts actually are. And, while I shorthand that stuff as being my “Cancer Moon” and my “Scorpio Sun”, what I’m actually getting at is:
The scary parts of me – the parts that, in a nonconsensual setting, could look like anything from the annoying starting point of “I have kind of bad boundaries and give out a lot of unsolicited advice” all the way out to the extreme end of “I am a violent, controlling stalker” – are, in a consensual context, basically what I do in my D/s relationships and in SM scenes with my friends and romantic partners.
And the easy-to-like parts of me – the ones that my culture tells me are supposed to be the only parts of me, and that are culturally coded as both worthless/valueless and a requirement for me to be Gendering Properly – are the care-giver things I do like cooking, and emotional support, and generally mending people’s pockets. … Which is great, right up until you start noticing how imbalanced the care in most of your intimate relationships has been.
 
So I was taking a poke at age play, at the idea of “Mommy”, and wondering how you can play with that role, without ending up being “Wendy” for your partners at the expense of yourself.
I was prodding at this idea of the Black Swan, this union of my “scary” and “easy” sides, and thinking that maybe – just maybe – having a go at being a “sadistic, devouring, but very nurturing” Mommy might be a way to embody both sides of myself at the same time.
 
It’s certainly feels like a good fit, and a very enjoyable one, so far.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Sensual massages. Eye-gazing. Solo dancing to pop music. Turning the heat up. Getting supportive, comforting snuggles. Sharing body heat. Scented candles. My partners’ respective cute smiles. Coffee with cream and sugar and dark chocolate to dip in it.
 
 
[1] “Because I’m the Mommy. That’s why.”
 
[2] My Little Girl – whose little-ness is wonderfully fluid in terms of moving between being my “kiddo” and being my peer – is actually very quick to offer me emotional support when she sees that I need it (a thing I’m not nearly as good at hiding as I might have once thought) without me necessarily having to say “I need to talk to grown-up you now”. Which is also really nice. But, none the less, the “pause button” language is helpful for me, so I’m hanging onto it for now.

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.