Archive for June, 2011

smutlets
June 19, 2011

Well, it worked. You guys are awesome. I got a steady stream of erotica theme ideas from you all of last week and they were definitely inspiring! Thank you for all the great ideas. I may well use more of them for writing fodder in the future. For now, though, this week I wrote up seven short-short stories which I am calling “smutlets.” They each took between five and fifteen minutes, no more. I read three of them tonight at the Boston launch party for Issue 2 of Salacious Magazine to some very kind applause. And money. I’ve never had money tossed at me at a reading before, but I could get used to it. And I didn’t even have to take off my clothes!

As promised, I’m posting all of this week’s stories below, each prefaced with the theme idea that inspired it and with thanks to the person who submitted that idea. Warning! They are explicit, at least some of them – so if you’re not up for reading smut, stop now. For the rest of you… I hope you enjoy. If you don’t like one, scroll down a paragraph or two and try the next one!

***

Innocence (Thanks Kitty!)

She’d never found innocence to be particularly sexy. It was always so much more interesting when the person she was currently pursuing was in fact older and more experienced than herself. That way, she could be relatively certain that he or she would be unlikely to find her exotic tastes entirely surprising; she would not put someone off by the sheer force of her imagination. Consequently, she’d never attempted to demonstrate any sort of innocence herself. In fact she had endeavoured, since age 12 or thereabouts, to be as worldly as possible. Even when it meant engaging in sexual antics that were not particularly to her immediate taste, she made a point of trying just about everything at least twice, sometimes three times, before deciding whether or not she’d add it to her growing list of proclivities. Knowledge, after all, was power.

But this one, the gray-haired dyke she’d spotted hanging out at the hotel bar at lunchtime, appeared to be of a different sort. In fact the woman looked oddly familiar, and Elizabeth realized it was because the woman’s face had appeared in the paper not terribly long ago. She was a private college teacher and had been brought up on charges of sexually harassing a young female student. Barely eighteen. It had all blown over fairly quickly, but not before her face had been plastered on the front page—turns out the girl’s parents were very short on tuition payments and, in a display of shameful cowardice mixed with the confidence that homophobia would still be effective in 2011, had concocted the whole accusation as a way of trying to get out of their debt. But Elizabeth sensed there might be some truth to the story.

Thank goodness she’d grown her hair. Thank goodness there was a secondhand store just down the block, where she’d managed to quickly find a kilt and a burgundy blazer. Thank goodness she could pitch her voice a little higher than it naturally fell, widen her eyes a bit, pretend to be young and shy. She was only 25, so it wasn’t too terribly much of a stretch.

She waited outside the bar. Innocent young things didn’t hang about inside places like that. She pretended to read a battered copy of The Catcher In the Rye she’d snapped up at the bookstore on the corner. She made sure her lipstick was shiny and pink—no blood-red today. She made sure her kilt revealed just enough thigh. She made sure to drop her book just as the grey-haired dyke stepped out of the bar.

The old dyke was innocent. But Elizabeth? Not a chance.

***

Unreachable (Thanks Matthew!)

I tried to call you. I swear I did. First your land line, two or three times. Then I realized it was Wednesday night so you might be at poker night with your friends. So I tried your cell phone. I left a message, but I know you don’t usually check them. I called twice more. Then I texted. “Met someone. Want to get to know them. Please call.” No response. By that time she was pressing herself into me, and my back was up against the bar. I broke the first rule, I let her kiss me, I knew you might be mad but her lips were chiselled and smooth like warm stone and her tongue just melted inside my mouth and I couldn’t stop myself.

I made an excuse, I went to the bathroom, took my phone with me. I looked you up on Facebook, waited the agonizing seconds as I pissed hard and hot and the app took forever to load. I found your profile, sent you a message there. “Situation dire. Please call. So turned on.” For good measure I also DMed you on Twitter: “Trying to respect our rules. Please call.”

By the time I got back to the bar, that song was playing, you know the one that really gets me going. And she was there waiting, with her mouth still wet and her fingers curling impatiently, waiting to dart under my skirt.  And they did. Right there at the bar, she slid them up under the fabric and fucked me, and I let her, I let her do it, and she did it fast and skilfully, and I moaned in her ear and came with her two fingers hooked inside my cunt and her thumb pressed just hard enough against my clit. She pulled out and licked my juices off before taking another sip of whiskey and kissing me with the burning liquid still in her mouth.

I swear I tried. I didn’t want to break our rules. But she was so damn hot, and I tried for seven whole minutes, and you were just unreachable.

***

Sexy male librarian (Thanks Tomasz!)

It was always especially nice when they came with specialized training. The carpenter had done wonders in her kitchen; the mechanic had her motorcycle purring like new after the first two visits. But she’d never expected to get the chance to enjoy the services of a hunky man with a master’s degree in library science.

Too bad he was gay. On extended loan to her from his master, who was working abroad for his straight job for a year and unable to justify bringing his boy-toy along. So, by all rights, hers to use as she pleased. But yes—gay as the day is long, and none too fond of women, either.

Still, that was hardly sufficient to deter her from fully enjoying her new toy. She told him he was expected every Sunday afternoon at four for two hours of service. His task? To design and implement a cataloguing system for her extensive and eclectic library on sexuality and gender. If he performed it to her satisfaction, she would reward him with a treat. That his “treat” was at least as much her own was none of his affair. His new mistress, of course, held the key to the cock cage imposed by his master that kept him from beating his meat the other six days of the week. So really, it was best that he concentrate.

He hated her.

The first time, after dealing with the biographies and autobiographies, he earned a half-hour of simple masturbation, under her watchful eye. The second week, working on the pre-1940 sexology section, he performed his task in nothing but a rope harness and a rather uncomfortably large butt plug, after which he was permitted an attempt at self-fellation. He failed, predictably. That’s what you get for including Kinsey, he snarled at himself later that night as he performed an online search for nearby yoga studios.

The third and fourth weeks, he did well enough with the French erotica and the Japanese bondage porn, and was permitted to masturbate to near-orgasm three times each before she allowed him, finally, a blessed explosion. The fourth time, thanks to his deft distinction between the traditional and the modern Japanese-American hybrid styles, she was even so kind as to carefully place clamps on his nipples and rip them off at precisely the moment he lost control, so the sweet pain sent him over the edge. He could almost begin to forget she was a woman, with that disgusting gash between her legs, so badly did he begin to crave the release she offered.

And then, one day, when he arrived, she had him strip, administered an enema (oh, the painful, delicious fullness, and the utter humiliation of having it provided by a feminine hand) and waited until he was clean and dry. When he reached the library, naked but for the cock cage, there were five other men in it already. Thick-bodied, muscular, dark-haired men.

His mouth began to water.

“Get it right, you’ll be fucked into next week,” she explained. “Make a mistake, and they’ll fuck each other while you watch, and you’ll be sent home untouched.”

And, with a grin, she set him to work on the female arousal and anatomy section, and settled in to watch.

***

Surprise! (Thanks Nick!)

Even if he knew it was coming, even when he’d done everything short of beg for it, the slap always felt like a surprise. It made his breath catch in his throat, his ears ring ever so faintly, his skin tingle and redden.

Malcolm was usually so reserved. When Jay had first met him, he’d been dressed in a grey suit, a pale blue shirt, a conservative tie. Their first few dates had been traditional almost to the point of being quaint—a Fellini film, dinner at the Carlton, the new season’s ballet. Jay never would have expected Malcolm to have a wild side. Well, he wasn’t really that wild. Not for him the whips and chains; the only leather he wore was his autumn coat, a rich chestnut brown lined in fine silk. But he was… well, something, all right.

His first surprise came a few months into their relationship. They were well on their way to moving in together. They were getting together for dinner and Jay, for the third time that week, had forgotten to bring the wine. Only this time, they’d had two conversations about it already, and Jay had promised he wouldn’t do it again. Not only that, but it was Emma’s birthday—Malcolm’s sister—and Malcolm had ferreted out her favourite grape, and asked Jay to pick up a bottle as a surprise for her. When Jay showed up empty-handed, Malcolm’s jaw set and those little lines formed between his eyes. Jay instantly felt terrible, and began to apologize profusely. Malcolm told him to stop. “I don’t want to hear any more apologies,” he said in a clipped tone.

Jay moved in closer. “I’ll make it up to you,” he said. “I’m so sorry, I—“

And he was abruptly cut off by Malcolm’s palm as it connected, quick and hard, with his jaw. Jay was so shocked he immediately fell silent. Malcolm’s face fell, and a look of horror began to dawn in his eyes. But Jay was at least partly in shock because, as the crack of skin against skin still reverberated in the air, he was realizing that his cock had sprung up so desperately hard it was almost painful.

“Oh my god,” said Malcolm. “Jay, I didn’t mean… I’m so…”

But Jay interrupted him, managing to choke out the word “Please…” before falling to his knees and fumbling at Malcolm’s fly. As he tongued the head of Malcolm’s cock and felt it begin to swell in his mouth, his thoughts raced. What the hell was this about? But all he could really focus on was his overwhelming need to swallow Malcolm’s cock, to take it deep down his throat where it belonged, to milk it of its seed, to atone. To atone.

Malcolm spurted against Jay’s palate, and the hot jet of fluid was met with a second one, as Jay’s cock convulsed in his pants without so much as a single stroke. Just then, the buzzer rang. Emma had arrived, and Jay escaped to the bedroom to change into a pair of Malcolm’s trousers before slipping out to the wine store for exactly the right bottle.

They never talked about it. Months went by. But it happened again. And over eight years, it kept happening. Sometimes twice in a month. Sometimes a year between. Every time, the sharp, lightning crack of Malcolm’s sure hand. Every time, Jay’s aching need to make up for a wrong, to please, to satisfy. The act became a ritual. But the slap always came by surprise.

***

Something accidental (Thanks Anika!)

It happened by accident. She ordered the coffee, the server spilled it in a moment of carelessness. There was fumbling, apologizing. The offer of a towel, a firm request for help, a trip to the bathroom. And now they were squeezed into a too-small, neon-lit box, uncomfortably close but still more awkward than the situation really warranted. A soaked shirt was removed, a black lace bra looked cheap in the bad lights. The scent of artificially floral soap was too pungent in the tiny space, the sink was too cramped. She caught the smell of the server’s sweat, nervousness. There was more fumbling. Another apology. And quickly, a kiss. The taste of a new mouth. A release of breath. A groan. A knee gently parting legs, hips coming together, denim against food-stained polyester, tongue stud clicking lip ring, tattoos brushing black and red and turquoise against one another. Smooth palm to shaved scalp, chipped nails against a hard back. A button released, a zipper peeling down like the sound of paper tearing. Brisk fingers sank into juicy flesh, past short-trimmed hair, deeper in, catching metal, plunging past. A groan climbed high near a sensitive ear. Fast thrusting. A word or two, just enough, and a flat, wiry belly clenched between a wall and a soft-curved hip. She didn’t leave a tip.

***
Hot wax (Thanks Aurora!)

The hot wax dripped against her back, burning like liquid fire, cooling instantly but leaving a tingling, wet sensation behind. Hot pain, trickle, breathe. Hot pain, trickle, breathe.  A rhythm began to take hold. She imagined that the wax would soon cover her entire body, a gradual, painstaking envelopment, like being slowly bound in a carefully woven cocoon. She felt the waxen coat begin to form. Hot pain, trickle, breathe. Each tiny flash of heat began to melt into the next one, with the piercing feeling of each new burn overlapping with the blissful relief as the last one dissipated, until her skin felt like a single exposed organ beating to the time of the drips. The melted-together sensations turned into a blur, a floating, a running together. Her body was being encased, bit by bit. Her waist, her arms. Drip after drip. Hot pain, trickle, hot, breathe, trickle, pain, hot. Breathe, breathe. Breathe. Elbows, wrists, fingertips. The soles of her feet. Her scalp, her eyes, the base of her throat, the backs of her thighs. Soon there was no more skin. No sound. Her body was coated, bound, encased, but the rest of her was reborn. Her wings unfurled, she broke free, she stretched. Stood at the edge and leapt. The blur of sensation was an ocean, an empty sky, it became nothingness. She soared, she swam. She left her hardened shell behind. When later on he peeled it off her, using the flat of a knife blade and the tip of a whip, all dominant and demanding, he discovered, much to his dismay, that she was no longer there.

***
Loud high heels (Thanks Ruth!)

The sound is kind of like a click, or a snap, or maybe a quick hard slap. She remembers when she first discovered the power of that sound, the authority it conveyed. She’d been all of eight years old, with brand new shoes, the kind with the hard plastic soles that made a noise when she walked, unlike the sneakers she was used to. She had left French class with a hall pass, and on the way back from the bathroom, the rap of her heels on the flecked fake-granite floor made another kid jump and look up from his locker with a guilty face. Oh, she realized. He thought I was a teacher. And he was afraid.

From that point onward she asked her mother for only the hard plastic soles. By ten, she’d taught herself to walk with firmer, more certain steps, to take up space in the hallway. At twelve, she stole her mother’s patent leather pumps—already a size too small—and practiced on the patio, learning to trust the heel, learning to flex her ankles, tuck in her belly, hold her shoulders back and her head high. At sixteen, she bought her first pair of three-inchers. By eighteen it was four. By twenty, those twin four-inch spikes had found their way down dark staircases and into dank dungeons, supporting her stride across lumpy concrete floors and, for a few months after she left home and needed some cash, the gleaming marble tiles of some of the most expensive hotel lobbies in the city.

By twenty-four, the heels that cracked the silence of a night-time sidewalk as easily as they clicked against the hardwood floors of the design firm office had also found their way into softer places, like the depths of a rectum, the wet pink of a willing mouth or two, and even, by twenty-six, the occasional dripping cunt. She became a collector. She built extra shelves into her closet. She learned to stretch her hamstrings. She forgot that she was only five foot three. She found the word “femme.”

The sound is kind of like a click, or a snap, or maybe a quick hard slap. It reminds her that she has every right—every fucking right in the world—to walk without fear.

inspire me
June 14, 2011

This one’s a challenge to you, dear readers.

I’ve been invited to read some erotica at this Sunday’s Boston launch of the second issue of Salacious Magazine, the new queer porn mag on the block. I said yes, but the thing is, I haven’t written much of substance in quite some time, and I feel funny recycling older (if still unpublished) stories too many times.

Now, one of the things I’ve very much enjoyed doing in the last couple of years is writing super-short stories on a given theme, with a five- or ten-minute time limit. For some reason that particular exercise stokes my creative fires. (You can read the results of the last two times I did this here and here.)

So with that in mind, I’m inviting you to contribute your ideas. Give me a theme – one word is best, but no more than three. You can tweet them to me (@sexgeekAZ), e-mail them to me (veryqueer3 at yahoo dot ca), or post them in the comments here. Every day from now til Sunday, I’ll collect your themes, and I’ll take the three most inspiring and write a five-minute piece on each of them. If you leave me an e-mail address and I wrote on the theme you gave me, I’ll send you what I wrote, so you get it all to yourself for a few days. On Sunday, I’ll pick the best of the best and read them at the launch. That night, I’ll post them here.

Over to you, dear readers. Hit me with your best shot, and I’ll see if I can hit you back!

words fail, or, trying to talk about power (part 2)
June 5, 2011

(Read Part 1 first!)

Now, the next question is, why do I feel the need to write about what these relationships are, and make a distinction between that and what they’re not? The answer is a multiple one. One of the big reasons is that within the vastly complex world of consensual power dynamics, I often notice that people have conversations, write blog posts and even author entire books using the set of terms as I’m deliberately avoiding here (master, slave, submissive, dominant, etc.), but meaning completely different things. (I detail some of the ways this can play out in another post, whose topic is mainly the ways in which contradictory expectations are placed on dominants but which nonetheless addresses this question in a few examples.) I think a lot of misunderstandings occur within our communities as a result—never mind the vast amount of misunderstanding that happens outside them.

Unfortunately these misunderstandings, and even the attempts to rectify them, often end up becoming acrimonious. It’s incredibly difficult, in the English language, to talk about difference without implying hierarchy. So if, for example, I talk about these relationships as being “full-time” as opposed to “part-time,” it’s very easy for that to come across as, or be understood as, “real” versus “fake,” or “serious” versus “just for fun,” or “meaningful” versus “silly,” or any other number of things. It’s difficult to talk about the specific concerns or experiences that come with engaging in a full-time power dynamic (which sometimes resemble those that come with part-time or occasional dynamics but are sometimes completely different), without being perceived as somehow elitist—or, on the flip side, being judged as sick, unhealthy or wrong, even (and sometimes especially) by fellow kinksters.

Why is this the case? Well, I believe that it’s because the concept of a full-time power dynamic is very charged. It is fraught. It is frightening, and in some way all the more so the more personally interested one might be in such dynamics—and with reason. Most people, avowedly kinky or otherwise, have feelings about this topic, or would quickly discover they have feelings about this topic if you were to ask them.

Before I go on, let me make a quick disclaimer. Many people engage in occasional or part-time power dynamics and are perfectly happy with that; their desire for power-based interactions or relationships is easily satisfied in the context of an occasional scene, a weekend contract with a mistress, a session with a pro-dom/me, or an ongoing relationship where power is enacted only when the partners are in direct contact.

However, I believe—and I recognize that in saying this I may upset some people—that many of the people who do part-time dynamics actually would like to do full-time ones, but cannot for one reason or another. They haven’t met the right person yet (and may never). They are too frightened of what it would mean—of who they would be if they gave up ownership of themselves to another human being, or of who they would be if they took up ownership of another human being. They don’t believe it’s possible to do this and still be healthy and whole. They’ve seen others do it, or at least something that looked like it, and they didn’t like what they saw (and if you’ve spent any time in the BDSM/leather community, this is probably true for you). They were hurt from a bad experience (and when it comes to power relationships, who hasn’t been?). They don’t know where to start. They don’t know who to ask, or even what to ask; they might simply not have the words. They can only bear to be that vulnerable in small bursts, even if they secretly—or not-so-secretly—wish they could sustain that vulnerability and take up that degree of responsibility 24/7. (Note that I’m NOT talking about vulnerability as being the exclusive province of the POA, or about responsibility as being the exclusive province of the PIC.) Often, they simply don’t have anyone in their worlds who would have the interest in holding up their end of the deal, or have the ability to do so in a healthy manner even if they were interested. And perhaps most often of all, they don’t even realize they’d like to be in a full-time dynamic because it doesn’t even register as a remote possibility—it’s quite simply beyond their wildest dreams.

Now, some people for whom this is true are perfectly nice about it. Others, however, deal with it in fully human ways we’ve seen a thousand times over. They scoff. They judge. They say it’s impossible, it’s unhealthy, it’s wrong, it’s inherently abusive, it’s the stuff of delusion and fantasy, of narcissists and doormats. As soon as I hear this kind of discourse, it makes me wonder: What are you so scared of? And how badly do you want it? How far do you have to distance yourself from it before you will feel safe again? How many times have you seen oozingly unhealthy power relationships that are ultimately destructive to one or both participants, and how has that perception dashed your own perhaps not-fully-formed hopes of happiness in power? This is much like the world’s general attitude toward SM as a whole, only in microcosmic form: desire and fear come together in the form of loud, vehement rejection.

On the flip side, some practitioners of these relationships hold them up as being the be-all and end-all of kink. The apex of perversion. The coolest, sexiest, edgiest, most Real True kind of intimacy you could ever possibly experience. As soon as I hear this kind of discourse, it makes me wonder: If you’re really doing this Totally Awesome Thing, why are you so insecure about it that you need to boast? When you make this much noise about how great something is and how great you are for doing it while implying (or outright saying) that anyone who’s not doing it is therefore not as great, it usually means you’re trying to convince yourself of the truth of your own statements. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to say that talking about these relationships is a bad thing. For all that we live in a power-soaked culture and power gets talked about all the time—in the form of management strategy, personal empowerment motivational lectures, leadership theory, social justice, feminism, government policy, self-help books, and any number of other areas—there is a dearth of intelligent discourse about intense, chosen and pleasurable power-based relationships. But self-aggrandizement does not solve this problem. It only serves to make the speaker look like a bit of an ass.

I certainly don’t think everyone in the world wants to or should do this kind of relationship, nor that everyone who’s doing it has a corner on The Real Bestest Kink/Relationship/Sexual Proclivity/Spiritual Practice Ever. But it’s clear to me that the things people say about these relationships usually tells me a lot more about what their fears are than about what they are actually doing.

Perhaps that’s part of why I’m putting this post out there. But mostly I think I’m laying out a basic set of parameters because I think that if the people who do this kind of relationship want to be able to talk to each other or share resources, it helps to have some common ground to start from.

In addition, while the BDSM/leather communities are sometimes good places to find like-minded individuals and resources, lots of people who do this kind of relationship don’t gravitate toward membership there because the activities that bind BDSM (and at times leather) community members together—SM play, enjoyment of fetishism, cruising for new play partners, and learning new play techniques, among others—aren’t necessarily of primary interest. By definition, people oriented toward this kind of relationship don’t end up looking for a new partner every weekend, or at least not for these purposes; and when we are looking for new partners, the way the BDSM and leather communities employ terminology and engage in power connections can be confusing and difficult, as we lack the language to easily make clear what we’re after and how it differs from play-based connections.

Beyond that, the people who start out with a BDSM play-based connection and discover that they have fallen into a power dynamic that’s more ongoing and binding than they had expected often lack the language to frame that dynamic in their own minds, let alone discuss it with their partners, because the ways that power is most commonly discussed in BDSM assume a temporary or play-based connection.

Put it all together, and this makes it very difficult for us to find each other. Written resources are scarce to help us learn how to build, sustain and, if necessary, gracefully end these relationships.

I don’t presume that a single blog post will do much to change that situation broadly speaking, but I do think that it’s worth laying out my own ideas in case they resonate with you. Anything that can help us begin to better frame and discuss what it is that we do is a step closer to getting what we want—and figuring out when we’re not getting it.

So… let the discussion begin.

words fail, or, trying to talk about power (part 1)
June 5, 2011

Hey, everyone. So it’s been five months since I last posted, and eight since the one before that. Thanks so much for sticking around. I’ve missed you.

In the last two years I’ve started and finished a master’s degree, started a PhD, saw a partner through a tour of duty in Afghanistan, went through a very sad breakup, found new love, dealt with four deaths in the family and two health crises (one that’s ongoing), kept up with my freelance writing/translation/editing work and my travelling sex educator career, continued to co-organize An Unholy Harvest as well as running a pervy book club, and done a whole fuckload of yoga to keep myself sane. Had I known how tough these years would be, I think I’d have made some different choices, but hindsight is 20/20… and the universe has given me a lot of joy along the way as well. (And who better to appreciate the pleasure/pain combo than a sadomasochist?) In the meantime, as I inch ever closer to finishing with the gigantic backlog of work that’s plagued me since late 2009 (!!), I hope to start posting more regularly again.

First up: a post I’ve been working at off and on for a few months now. It’s long – ha! There’s a big surprise. So I’m splitting it in two, just to see if I can hold your interest.

Beyond that, if you’re curious to know what I’m up to, sign up for my newsletter by sending me an e-mail at SexGeekNews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com—I’ll be starting that up again soon too. Or follow me on Twitter, @sexgeekAZ. If you’re interested in taking a workshop with me, check my workshops page; it’s fully up to date with my upcoming visits to Amherst, Boston, Vancouver, Whitehorse, Victoria, San Francisco, Berkeley and more. Drop me a line anytime at veryqueer3 at yahoo dot ca if you’d like to book me—I’ll be scheduling for the fall/winter season soon!

It’s nice to be back.

***

This post is, more or less, about defining M/s (Master/slave) relationships. I realize that I’m treading into very treacherous territory by attacking this topic. Recall the classic question, “What’s the difference between a submissive and a slave?” Throw that one into any BDSM discussion group, wait five seconds and watch the fur fly. It’s inevitable. Why? Because the terms “submissive” and “slave” mean different things to just about every person who uses them. Same with “master.” And, well, just about everything else.

So let me get some terminology out of the way. First of all, I don’t like the terms “master” and “slave.” Well, “master” I have less of a problem with as it has a number of general usages—among other things, I’m officially a master myself now, with the paperwork and everything, thanks to finishing a graduate degree. “Slave,” on the other hand, sits very uncomfortably for me, and I explain why in a fair amount of detail here for those who are curious. The basic gist is that it’s just plain inaccurate when it comes to describing the kind of power dynamics engaged in by most people who use the term in the realm of kink.

This all being said, I don’t actually care what terms you use if you’re in such a relationship, or for that matter, even if you’re not. My point is that in the vast realm of consensual power-based relationships, there exists a very tiny minority that function according to a set of basic parameters that makes them quite distinct from the rest, even though they may share many surface characteristics with any number of other types of power-based relationships. For the purposes of both broad scope and clarity, then, I’ll use PIC (for “person in charge”) and POA (“person obeying authority”) in the rest of this post.

Let me describe the kind of relationship dynamics I’m trying to talk about. This is not intended as a formal definition, in the sense of “if you don’t do this you’re not a TRUE (insert term of choice here).” It’s more like the common features I’ve observed that create a baseline common ground among people doing a certain fairly specific sort of relationship.

1. Full-time. As in, 100%. The power exchange reaches well outside the bounds of the time that the two people in question spend directly (physically) or indirectly (phone, e-mail) in one another’s company. It is not something you do; it’s more like something you are, and you then align your actions with that state of being. You don’t take breaks from it; I’m not even sure how you would attempt to do that. It’s not about stepping into a persona or character and it’s not about narrowing or reducing one’s scope of being or interacting. Rather it’s about integrating the power dynamic into every facet of life. This requires deep desire, discipline and mindfulness on both parts. Especially intense moments within the relationship may be framed by rituals, symbols, items of dress or the like; people who do this kind of relationship are of course fully able to engage in temporary role-play as they please, within or outside the relationship; and some people simply like to engage in a lot of ritual and costume in their day-to-day life. But these items, rituals, clothing and so forth are in no way required in order to make the thing itself real, and there is no need to get into a certain headspace in order to do it, much like you don’t need a wedding ring to be married.

2. Broad-based. The PIC’s authority is not centred on or limited to sexual or erotic matters. In fact the PIC’s authority is not limited to much of anything at all—it’s extremely broad and basically encompasses pretty much every facet of life. Let me be clear, though, that authority does not mean control (as in, the micromanagement of someone’s entire roster of everyday activities), although control is usually present to varying degrees in different areas depending on the particular dynamic at play.

Let me also be clear that it doesn’t mean the PIC makes all sorts of arbitrary decisions without consultation. Hardly. It’s just a question of where the final say lies. And for all that I said this broad authority extends beyond sex, this doesn’t mean sex isn’t part of the deal—most of the time it is. But I’ve met pairs who are not engaged in sexual relationships, and in some cases are not even compatible in terms of sexual orientation (i.e. a lesbian slave to a gay male master), who are still doing This Thing together. In no way am I trying to say this is more “evolved” or “pure” than relationships that include sexual activity. Far from it. In fact I can tell you from personal experience that it’s a lot harder to do this without the handy tool of sex. Sex and sexual energy are extremely well-suited channels for expressing and experiencing a power dynamic, and when they are not available, great creativity must be exercised in order to make up for their absence. What I’m getting at here is that the power dynamic does not depend on, and is not enacted through, sexual and erotic energy alone. It’s about life as a whole.

3. Time-consuming. I mean this in two ways. First of all, it usually takes quite a long time to establish the kind of trust it requires to enter into this type of relationship—as well it should. I’m talking months, even years of slowly moving toward the kind of dynamic that’s all-encompassing. Even once a state of what I would call ownership is reached, that becomes a starting point for deepening the relationship; it’s a process, not an achievement. I don’t have a fancy name for the often quite long in-between stage where you’re definitely doing This Thing but the one-hundred-percent-ness of it hasn’t been all the way established quite yet, but many people refer to these relationships (or simply their existence as a PIC or as a POA) as a path, which seems accurate to me. And once you pass through the doors of ownership, guess what? The path keeps on going.

This is not to say that “instant” dynamics of this kind don’t exist, because they do; sometimes, the chemistry, trust and readiness line up and everything falls into place quite rapidly. Nor do I mean to say that they can’t develop very quickly, because even outside “instant” dynamics, they can. Still, I would assert that time is a crucial element in solidifying and deepening these relationships, even when a solid baseline of power is established right away. That leads to the second element of the “time-consuming” idea, which is that This Thing requires a substantial time investment for development and maintenance purposes. A lot of that time investment will be spent talking. Y’know, sitting around a meal and having conversations. Getting to know each other at an incredible depth of intimacy and detail. Learning each other like a favourite book.

4. Earned. The PIC and the POA earn each other’s trust—they do not simply assume it, even though trust-building by its nature requires occasional leaps of faith. (Sometimes trust is enacted before it is earned, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing; trust is, after all, a choice.) The particulars of how this happens are radically different from one relationship to the next, but there is no question about the degree of responsibility each party holds. What I’m getting at here is that trust must be maintained with care and attention on both sides, or the dynamic will crumble very quickly—or persist in existing despite wreaking great damage on one or both participants. If deep trust is established, things that from the outside might look like a PIC’s arbitrary decisions or cruelty or even neglect, or a POA’s thoughtless obedience or, on the flip side, presumptuousness, are in fact carefully considered actions born out of the extensive knowledge of one another’s desires and needs.

5. Bound. The PIC feels honour-bound to care for the POA, and the POA feels honour-bound to care for the PIC. Honour and ethics are prime factors here. This binding may or may not be physically marked (collar, ring, tattoo, whatever) and if it is, that marking may be one-way or mutual (though nobody talks much about the ways in which a POA might mark a PIC and in my experience it is not nearly as common as the reverse).

Regardless of physical marking, though, the binding exists and often outlasts the duration of the relationship itself. In a sense, this binding is consensual but not chosen. I know that’s a weird thing to say, and I’m struggling a bit with how best to explain what I mean. My former boi came up with the concept of antennae. As in, a POA’s energy can sometimes come to agreements with a PIC’s energy completely independently of what the people themselves decide to do about it—as though they each have antennae that hone in on each other and have entire conversations and decide what’s going on while the people themselves figure out how to catch up, get used to the idea and put it into action. I have often observed that the people who do This Thing don’t decide to turn the power on, and they certainly couldn’t decide to turn it off, even by splitting up. Assuming nobody does anything that breaks it—as in, betrays trust in an irreparable way—I’m not sure it ever really goes away. Sometimes power fades over time, but boy, does it ever take a long time, and it rarely departs without leaving a permanent mark that shapes the POA, and usually the PIC as well, from that point forward in terms of how they move through the world and how they engage in future such dynamics.

I won’t go quite so far as to say that this binding is permanent, though others have said that or similar; I’m a great believer in impermanence, and I haven’t been on this earth long enough to be able to certify the permanence of this type of bond in all situations. But it may be awfully close.

6. Spiritual. This one’s a bit iffy, because the idea of spirituality is awfully slippery, and in some cases the spiritual aspect of these relationships is not clearly articulated even between the participants. But I’m including it anyway because the vast majority of the people I’ve met, seen and read about who do This Thing seem to have some understanding that they’re part of a larger system than the closed circuit of their individual relationship—that they answer to a higher spiritual force, whether they conceive of that force as God, Buddha, flow, spirit, “what is right,” or something else.

Note that in no way am I using the term “religious” here—this is not in any way obliged to be about a formal belief system. And I’m not talking about the temporary states of ecstasy or transcendence that can be reached through intense SM play, although those may happen too. It sounds dreadfully vanilla, but rather than thinking “constant sex party!” we might be better off drawing comparisons between these dynamics and monastic religious or spiritual practice (tip of the pen to Raven Kaldera and Josh Tenpenny for that concept), or intense, immersive and emotionally compelling artistic, scholarly or physical pursuits.

7. Humble. With that spiritual thing in mind, I think a key piece of these relationships is humility. If you’re going to take on an extremely broad authority-holding or service-providing role in the life of a fellow fully competent adult, you need to be well aware that you aren’t perfect and don’t have the answers magically inside your own head. You need to make judicious use of the resources available to you, and that includes people and information sources well outside your own areas of expertise. You need to recognize your limits, keep your ego in check and understand that you are only entitled to that which you can properly hold—and proper holding takes work. You can’t just stand around and be fabulous.

With this in mind, as soon as people start to behave in ways that show they believe in the superiority of this type of relationship, or in their own personal superiority to others because of their participation in this type of relationship, or (worse) by their station as a PIC within one, it instantly makes me suspicious that they’re not really doing This Thing I’m talking about at all. I’ll own that this may be simply a case of me noticing behaviour that I find personally distasteful and imposing my judgement on the “truth” of such people’s relationships because of that. If that’s the case, I’m torn between wanting to apologize (since, after all, I can’t know the internal reality of anyone’s relationship whether I like their behaviour or not) and wanting to say, so be it—I really do think that if you’re too self-satisfied you can’t possibly be listening as carefully as you need to in order to do a full-time power dynamic well.

Note that none of this has anything to do with the sex, gender, age, ethnocultural background, ability, perceived attractiveness, employment status, or sexual orientation of the people involved. This is no small thing—far too many people in the world at large equate social capital with the ability to hold power or the suitability to give it over, and far too many perverts equate the object of their personal fetish with those same things. (Needless to say, the “All women are goddesses!” line of thinking makes me a bit ill, for example.)

Read on for part 2!

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