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San Francisco Leathermen's Discussion Group

"Dear Patrick..." (April 2013 GROWING PAINS)

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Everyone says “No touching without permission,” but what about hugging as part of a hello or greeting?  Most times I'm already in role, so is my slave, and it's invasive to be hugged and touched in an unsolicited fashion.  I haven't yet created a snappy, respectful retort to keep my space touch-free.  Got any suggestions? How about “Please don’t hug me”?  Prefaced with a friendly “I’m happy to see you too, but…”?  Your friends cannot know their warmth feels like an intrusion to you unless you tell them.  Until you do, you’re exactly like the scene bottom who complains, the day after, “No, I didn’t tell him to stop, but he should have known!”

I won’t ask why for you being hugged is incompatible with being a Master.  You get to decide that.  I am curious, though, how being “already in role” is relevant?  Sure, life circumstances can prompt some Masters and slaves to toggle the dynamic on and off.  But you don’t really expect your friends to know when you’re “on” and when you’re not?

Repeat after me:  The roles and rules of my relationship apply only to the people in it.  Meaning that if you want a no-hugging policy, it has to be 24/7.  Friends don’t make friends guess which you you are being tonight.

There is a real joy in being able to feel, for a weekend or an evening, that our Master/slave community holds basic values and practices in common; and we can live out that fantasy with close M/s friends, or at “high protocol” gatherings where the ground rules are spelled out in advance.  But even in those situations, people make mistakes.  So it behooves us to remember that nothing is so un-Masterly as losing your shit over someone who’s trying to be nice to you.

 

My Master's follow-through is lacking on the discipline side.  I need the discipline and reinforcement, or why call me a slave?  How can I broach this topic diplomatically?

Discussing this with your Master is not optional.  I don’t think we can quite say that knowledge = power in M/s, but until you speak up, you’re denying him or her the power and the possibility of fixing the problem.

“Diplomacy” is a red herring.  You’re feeling conflicted because you’re forgetting that all you have to (and all you ought to) give your Master is information.  “You’re lacking in follow-through, I want discipline and reinforcement” isn’t information; it’s a demand that comes bundled in blame.

Slaves don’t tell their Masters what to do.  Not because it violates the “128 Slave Rules,” but because it violates their longing for and commitment to surrender.  So what slaves do is to bring reports from the interior, describing as best they can what they’re experiencing.

It will take some introspection for you to figure out what that is.  It’s much easier to find fault with Master than to pinpoint the lack you’re feeling.  Do you feel adrift?  Lonely?  Unappreciated?  Unnoticed?  Bored?  Do you feel futility in your service, that it doesn’t matter if you get it right or not?  Do you feel pressed for time or feel you have too much time on your hands?  Do you feel you’re going to waste?

“Discipline” may mean many things.  It may mean structure:  the rituals, protocols, rules, standing orders that give shape to your role and establish expectations.

It may mean consistency.  Maybe the structure’s in place, but lapses in compliance are shrugged off rather than caught and corrected.

It may mean punishment (or “funishment”), especially if there’s a role-play element in your dynamic, or if you as a slave find comfort in stringent accountability.

It may mean something else I’ll call present attention.  Some Masters think of slaves as wind-up toys:  inform them what their duties are, then Master can go back to channel-surfing.  A slave needs to feel that Master is noticing, commending, interjecting, countermanding, exercising those consensual authorities he or she holds in trust.  My slave puts it this way:  “I need to hear my Master’s voice.”

There’s no guarantee this necessary conversation with your Master will lead to a resolution for you.  Master may be too far away to fix it, too busy, too inexperienced, too indifferent to the kind of control you crave.  What do you do?

You can create your own structures, or try to.  Slaves do this all the time.  Kneel when you enter the room.  If Master doesn’t say, “Quit that,” you have a new discipline.  Give Master a cloth napkin while you use a paper towel.  Set the table with the good silver for Master while you use the beat-up stuff.  Etc.

Anyone who thinks the slave is powerless to shape the dynamic hasn’t been around M/s much.  Slaves are idea-generators, the very best kind:  shoot down one idea and they won’t whine about it, they’ll come up with another.  The worst thing that passes for “discipline,” in my view, is the Master who rejects the slave’s every effort at ingenuity with “Do it my way.”  Hell, man, if that’s all you want, try Burger King.

Patrick Mulcahey

 (First published in Growing Pains, newsletter of the Society of Janus)