Tag Archive: Reviews

Review…esque? Dear Raven and Joshua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go and read this book.

Ms Syren.

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

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

[3] Also, I believe, known as “Them”.


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

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

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

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

So I splurged and ordered a copy.

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

So. Is it any good?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Syren.