D/s and M/s Relationships: An Annotated Reading List
This is my annotated reading list of books about power dynamics. Note that, with one or two exceptions, I’m exclusively reviewing books that are about conscious, chosen relationship power dynamics. Many other book deal with power dynamics in other situations (the workplace, spiritual paths, etc.) and you can learn tons from them that cross-apply to D/s and M/s, but my purpose here is to focus on the ones that are directly and openly about these kinds of relationships and require no inference. Also, please note that just because a book appears here doesn’t mean I recommend it. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from the reviews themselves.
Last but not least: yep, I’m writing my own. Stay tuned. :) In the meantime I’ve included links to a couple of my blog posts on the topic, and I may add a few more yet.
Everyday-life power dynamics
General (for both sides of the slash)
- Partners In Power by Jack Rinella – A wonderful 101-level exploration of the nature of kinky relationships, how to meet people and how to get what you want.
- 10 Principles for Healthy 24/7 D/s and M/s (okay, I’m biased, I wrote this)
- Projects, Structure and Protocol: Three Mechanisms for 24/7 D/s (this one too)
- Leading and Supportive Love: The Truth about Dominant and Submissive Relationships by Chris M. Lyon – Lyon avoids all discussion of kink, fetish and BDSM, and eschews Master/slave language in favour of terminology that registers as more classically psychotherapy-ish. But this is all good stuff; it keeps the focus exactly where it needs to be as opposed to muddying the waters as so many resources do. It lays out the basics of how chosen power dynamics work, and describes the general personality types of those who engage in them in a healthy way. (How amazing to see oneself as “typical” for once!) It suggests potential problem areas and gentle solutions for them, and above all, it validates the great potential for these relationships’ strength and durability.
- Building the Team: Cooperative Power Dynamic Relationships by Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny – An excellent overview of how to move away from an adversarial dynamic and into a cooperative one. The idea of an adversarial M/s relationships seems oxymoronic to me, but the book does detail the ways in which they can be useful, or for whom they might be suited. Mostly, though, this book describes how to engage in a mutually beneficial, collaborative partnership that happens to be based in chosen inequality, and it does an excellent job. In some ways it all seems terribly basic, but having the basics laid out in such a clear, practical fashion is useful, and it’s telling that these foundational concepts aren’t easy to find in other books.
- Dear Raven and Joshua: Questions and Answers about Master/Slave Relationships by Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny – The single most down-to-earth tome on full-time M/s relationships that I have ever had the pleasure of devouring. Answers the questions you didn’t know how to ask and in so doing provides an excellent jumping-off point for many a rich discussion.
- Master/slave Relations: Handbook of Theory and Practice by Robert J. Rubel. This is a great book to get you thinking about how to structure your D/s relationship. He’s quirky and some of his personal values may not resonate with you, but he’s extremely clear and logical in his thinking and writing.
- Delving Into Power: The Workbook by Lee Harrington – As this workbook is designed to accompany Harrington’s weekend intensive, it may be best read when you’ve done the intensive, but I think it holds up quite well on its own as well. Primarily a think tool focused on rituals and protocols, it has some useful concepts, especially his use of the classic “love languages” as applied to power relationships, distinctions between process and outcome in task accomplishment, and approaches to apology and reconnection once mistakes have been made.
- The Control Book by Peter Masters – Exactly what it sounds like. And therefore, mostly pretty off-putting, at least to me. Masters has lots of well-developed and well-articulated thoughts on the how-tos of control, but very little on the ethics of it, or the motivations for it. In fact he doesn’t discuss consent at all, and some of his recommendations veer heavily into the manipulative. It’s not a useless book – his section on the process of giving over and taking up control is interesting, to be sure – but it’s very narrow in its focus and oddly joyless.
- How to Capture a Mistress by Karen Martin. Sage (and sorely needed) advice for gentlemen who are looking for a mistress, and while it’s fairly gender-specific in its target audience, it could be quite useful for any gender combination. A very enjoyable glimpse into the mind of a mistress, minus all the posing and preening one sometimes finds in such manuals. Practical, down-to-earth, and funny, if not hugely groundbreaking – definitely worth a read.
- At Her Feet: Powering Your Femdom Relationship by TammyJo Eckhart and Fox – A solid walk-through of a female dominant / male submissive relationship. It covers all the requisite ground, and does so competently, with the occasional genuine gem of wisdom thrown in. I particularly like their breakdown of the various types and meanings of love, for instance. And I definitely appreciate their discussion of how illness and disability have impacted their relationship. But oddly, the authors’ focus on the how eclipses a deeper discussion of the why – what is so satisfying, what motivates them, what made them choose this in the first place? I want more.
- The Master’s Manual: A Handbook of Erotic Dominance by Jack Rinella – This book is in fact not a manual, nor it is a handbook, nor is it for masters. What it is, in fact, is a collection of 40 of Jack Rinella’s columns about leather and kink from Gay Chicago Magazine, and while it does seem intended for a leather/kink-oriented readership (a gay male one, most particularly), it’s fairly general-interest in scope within that realm. Still, his sections on equality, power and civilization are excellent, and very on-topic for an M/s readership. See my full review here.
Focus on submission / slavery
- Slavecraft: Roadmaps for Erotic Servitude – Principles, Skills and Tools by a grateful slave with Guy Baldwin. This book is written from the perspective of a gay male slave who occasionally says things in a way that betrays a certain amount of misogyny, and the copy editing is enough to make me gnash my teeth (same publisher as Midori’s book). Nonetheless I strongly recommend it. It’s extremely insightful when it comes to mindset and emotional dimensions of submission, and presents a number of very useful concepts.
- Real Service by Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny – Tightly focused on service and the mindsets and concepts that underpin service-based relationships, this book skips over fantasy-style rhapsodizing about “fetishy” service and goes straight to a pragmatic discussion of the everyday, all-the-time kind. So useful! I personally find the sections on the qualities of a good master and a good servant to be absolute gems, and I think they should have been placed at the very top of the book to set the tone for the rest. The authors’ concepts of styles of dominance and submission are also classics, and I love the detailed lists of types of service that can be offered, neatly divided by category and then by skill level. You may or may not want to use them directly, but the structure lends itself well to adaptation, so take them as a starting point for writing up your own.
- Butlers & Household Managers: 21st Century Professionals by Steven Ferry. This book is intended for professional butlers, but is very useful in establishing the “butler mindset” in an everyday way for people who wish to serve as part of a D/s relationship.
- Lessons in Service from Charlie Trotter and Lessons in Wine Service from Charlie Trotter by Edmund Lawler. Two great books on the art of service based on the renowned service of restaurantier Charlie Trotter. They take a business-oriented tack on things but the lessons are valuable for personal relationships too.
- This awesome article about service on kinki_wiki, complete with embedded video clips from various TV shows featuring service dynamics – really fun.
- Two of my own posts about service: Service Beneath the Surface, which explores a range of ideas about service, and The Many Facets of Thanks, about how to acknowledge and receive service.
- Protocol Handbook for the Leather Slave: Theory and Practice by Robert J. Rubel. An excellent practical follow-up to the Relations handbook. It was originally written with female submissives in mind, and even though he has taken pains to alter it to suit any gender combination, the female-sub focus still shows. Still, well worth a read.
- The essay “Ritual, Ceremony and Protocol in SM” in Midori’s book Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink. It provides some helpful concepts to frame your approach to protocol. Also, the rest of the book has gobs of intelligent stuff about kink in general, some with a focus on power exchange, so it’s definitely a worthwhile read. Ignore the bad copy editing and read it anyway.
- Creating a Personal Protocol: A Workbook of Exercises to Help You Create Your Personal Protocol by Shannon Reilly – A slim volume that’s mostly blank pages for you to fill out. Pretty basic, but if you’re looking for a place to start in terms of setting up protocols and behaviours within a D/s or M/s dynamic, you might find the structure useful.
- Etiquette:17th Edition - The Definitive Guide to Manners, Completely Revised and Updated by Emily Post/Peggy Post. This is a huge tome, and its approach to etiquette is both open-minded and highly conservative. It presumes a class situation that may or may not be true for you. Nonetheless, some elements of it are extremely useful, if only for getting into a somewhat formal mindset.
- The Bride Wore Black Leather… And He Looked Fabulous! An Etiquette Guide for the Rest of Us by Drew Campbell. This fills in all the bits that are missing from your standard etiquette guide when it comes to dealing respectfully with people who live in unusual relationships, including non-monogamous and D/s ones.
D/s and non-monogamy
- Power Circuits: Polyamory in a Power Dynamic, edited by Raven Kaldera. Buy it here. I’m biased here too because I have an essay in here, but even if I didn’t, I’d recommend checking it out. The book is the only one out there to address this topic in any depth, even though it is hugely relevant to a very large percentage of the people who do D/s and M/s relationships.
It’s unfortunate that two of the three books I’ve read that provide personal accounts of slavery/full-time submission are both highly problematic. The following two are valuable reads if you’re looking for what NOT to do (and also for a sense of history):
- Endless Knot: A Spiritual Odyssey through Sadomasochism by Mathew Styranka. This guy stayed in an abusive relationship for years because he was convinced it was slavery and that’s what he wanted. Worse yet, he still doesn’t seem to see it as abusive, and seems to think he’s now “cured” of his SM desires. Oy. Read my review here.
- To Love, to Obey, to Serve: Diary of an Old Guard Slave by V.L. Johnson. Vi Johnson is still an active and vocal member of the American leather community and from what I understand she’s pretty cool. Her diary comes to a positive conclusion, but you’ll cringe at some of what she went through in her early days as a self-identified slave. Still, very thought-provoking and a great discussion starter.
… But this one is great!
- Ask the Man Who Owns Him: the real lives of gay Masters and slaves by david stein with David Schachter. This book features interview-based profiles of over a dozen long-term M/s couples and triads, providing by far the highest number of experiences and opinions on M/s I’ve ever seen gathered in one place. It’s exclusively focused on men, but it’s not hard to extrapolate from there when considering the principles each interviewee discusses. Despite the narrow demographic, there’s quite a diversity of approaches outlined here. The format can get a bit repetitive, but if you’re looking for vocabulary, ideas, and a sense of what’s out there, this is definitely worth a solid read.
Note that tons of workshops are available on these topics. I teach a bunch myself, and there’s a whole conference devoted to M/s, and numerous others that include strong M/s or power relationship tracks. I’ll update this as I come across new ones, but for now suffice it to say the offerings are expanding, so keep your eye out.
- “Passionate Bonds” – This is a weekend-long intensive course held by Midori and Marketplace author Laura Antoniou. The description: “A special weekend intensive designed for people who enjoy authentic power dynamics and D/s, who want to consciously create quality relationships that suit their personal hungers and needs in the context of the real world. Through the unique curriculum and its innovative tools, each individual or relationship unit will create their own customized manual of effective protocol, rules, etiquettes and codes of conduct.” More info here.
- Any protocol workshop offered by Laura Antoniou. She doesn’t give classes often, so grab one when you can get it! Most specifically I recommend “The Way of It: Establishing and Maintaining Protocol Within Relationships,” but she has several other D/s and protocol workshops too. Details here.
- Lee Harrington also offers a weekend intensive, called Delving Into Power. Details here.
Fantasy- or fetish-oriented power dynamics
- Miss Abernathy’s Concise Slave Training Manual and Training with Miss Abernathy: a Workbook for Erotic Slaves and Their Owners, by Christina Abernathy – These two books are now available condensed into a single volume, as well. Abernathy’s flavour is very Victorian and proper. She writes very clearly and presents many intriguing ideas and tons of practical suggestions. Her breakdown of “types” may or may not suit you; I would suggest taking the parts you like of her instructions rather than trying to follow them like a rigid program.
- The Mistress Manual: The Good Girl’s Guide to Female Dominance by Mistress Lorelei. I disagree with the book’s idea that female dominance is something essentially and classically feminine, and I dislike the archetypes she creates as they seem constructed with men’s pleasure in mind rather than aiming to help women find their own inner sense of self within dominance. Still, Lorelei writes well and some of her points are very insightful. The book might give you some interesting ideas, just take it with a grain of salt!
- The Marketplace Series (The Marketplace, The Slave, The Trainer, The Academy, The Reunion and a forthcoming title we’re all waiting for with bated breath) by Laura Antoniou. She writes fictional works but she lives the real thing, so while the premise and setting of the books may be out there in fantasy-land, the flavour and essence of the relationships she presents rings very true. Inspiring to read, it’ll really get into your head!
- The Leather Daddy and the Femme by Carol Queen. It’s not heavily protocol-focused, but you will certainly get a strong sense of what a submissive mindset looks like and how D/s-flavoured relationships play out.
Not yet reviewed
I’ll post short reviews and add these to the appropriate sections when I’ve read them!
- Living M/s: A Book for Masters, slaves and Their Relationships by Dan and Dawn Williams
- BDSM Relationships Books 1, 2 and 3 by Peter Masters
- Master/slave Relations: Solutions 402: Living in Harmony by Robert J. Rubel
- Art of Slavery by slave lara
- Protocols: A Variety of Views by L.C. Morgynn
- The Compleat Slave: Creating and Living an Erotic Dominant/submissive Lifestyle by Jack Rinella
- The leatherboy Handbook by boy Vincent L. Andrews
- My Mentor, My Guide by Blade T. Bannon
- Order for Discipline and Service Handbook by the Order for Discipline and Service
- The Leatherman’s Protocol Handbook: A Handbook on “Old Guard” Rituals, Traditions and Protocols by John D. Weal – Guy Baldwin’s very powerful critique is here. I’ll write my own when I’ve read it!
- Extreme Space: The Domination and Submission Handbook by F. R.R. Mallory
- Becoming a Slave: The Theory and Practice of Voluntary Servitude by Jack Rinella with Reflections by his Slave Patrick
- Conquer Me: Girl-to-Girl Wisdom about Fulfilling Your Submissive Desires by Kacie Cunningham