Like a broken record, I’m back on the topic of dominance and submission. My apologies to all the vanilla readers out there who find this stuff utterly boring. I often wonder who reads the stuff that spills out of my brain – if someone were themselves queer, kinky, trans or trans-positive and poly, then they’d conceivably at least have some draw to most of it, but anyone who’s only interested in one of those things must find the rest awfully tedious. Ah well.

I am privileged to be engaged in D/s, and conversations about D/s, to varying degrees with a number of wonderfully interesting and intelligent people, among them my live-in boi, M, and my long-distance boi, L. So I can’t take credit for all this. Really, in some ways, it’s all their fault, particularly those last two. If they’d just stop being so damn sexy and smart and service-oriented, I’d stop wanting to torture and fuck them and get them to cater to my every whim and brand my initials into their intestines (metaphorically speaking, of course). But you can hardly blame a girl for indulging when the candy is this good, y’know? And because my brain is apparently welded to my libido, when I do it, I think about it; and when I think about it, we talk about it; and when we talk about it, I write about it. So blame the bois.

Today’s musings are about control and ownership.

To anyone who’s offended by the very idea of one human being owning another, stop reading right after this paragraph. This isn’t for you. I’m writing on the premise that we’re talking exclusively about consensual, deeply desired and mutually agreed-upon ownership situations that are pleasurable and enriching to all concerned, and into which the participants have entered as full social and legal equals, of their own free will and in a fully competent state of mind. If this seems like an impossible thing to you, the rest of this post will just upset you, so g’wan and go elsewhere to read something that won’t.

Disclaimer, check.

In my past, I’ve been a little bewildered by the idea of controlling other people. I know, most folks assume that dominant people are thirsty for control. Me, not so much, despite the fact that I’ve had a dominant personality for my entire life. I think I’m “naturally” dominant, whatever that means, but I don’t feel urges to dominate people all the time. Only very specific people appeal to that part of me—much like I’ve naturally got a high libido but that doesn’t mean I want to fuck everything that moves. Just because dominance flows in me doesn’t mean it spills all over anyone who crosses my path. Far from it.

Somehow, for me, my dominance has just never translated into a desire to make decisions for other people. Make me someone’s boss in the workplace, and I will provide support and guidance to help them get their job done effectively. Put me in charge of an organization, and I act as a facilitator for group decision-making. Put me in a group of friends on a Saturday night, and I’ll take the pulse and figure out what everyone’s in the mood to do, and then we’ll do that. I don’t micromanage, I don’t make unilateral decisions, and I don’t steer people to doing the stuff I find fun. To me those things would just feel pushy and overbearing. Not qualities I find appealing in anyone, and certainly not ones I want to cultivate in myself.

As a result, the idea that because I’m a dominant, I’m supposed to want to micromanage someone’s life… well, that has simply never appealed to me. What do I care if you show up for our date in leather pants or a suit and tie, or what colour of boxers you have on underneath? What difference does it make if we go out for Italian or Thai? Show up looking hot (and if we’re going on a date, I assume I already think you are, so that shouldn’t be a stretch) and let’s do something we’ll both enjoy. You’re an adult. Make your own decisions. Of course, if you’re going to provide service to me, I will tell you about my preferences… but that’s assuming you want to do things in ways that please me. It would be just plain silly to let you fold my socks all wrong and then re-do the job myself later if your desire is to do it my way in the first place. It only makes sense to explain how I like things done; we both get more out of it in the end that way.

But from there to telling you what to eat for breakfast? Ummm… no thanks. That’s yours. That’s not mine. You serve me, you do it my way; you serve yourself, you do it yours. Logical, right?

Needless to say, for someone who desires to be controlled, I can be a bit frustrating to deal with. Control for its own sake feels like a chore to me. It feels like management, or babysitting, or… I dunno. Certainly nothing hot.

Now, this is not to say I have no desire for control. I just desire it when it relates directly to me and my own life. My agenda is colour-coded. My clothing is perfectly folded and stacked in a very precise order in my drawers, and I choose and wear it each day with a very deliberate (and distinctly un-sloppy) style in mind. My filing system is so anal-retentive it frightens people. I notice it when a single book is out of place on my shelves. I match my Kleenex boxes to the décor of each room. I work for myself and I run a tight ship. I do not miss work deadlines. I don’t miss dates either. I am staunchly loyal to friends and loved ones. I live my life by some incredibly strong and rather unforgiving ethical principles. This isn’t to say I’m this strict about everything – I could get to yoga class more often, and I’ve been known to forget my RRSP exists for a couple of years at a time, and I don’t sweep my floors every second day, and I’ve definitely been known to show up 15 minutes late for brunch. But as a general rule, I like order, I like discipline, and I hold my own actions and decisions to stringent standards.

In other words, if it’s mine, I control the hell out of it, from big picture down to nitpicky detail. If it’s not, well, it’s none of my business, and applying that kind of attitude to anyone other than myself and my life would be presumptuous, irritating, impractical and downright disrespectful.

A lot of people seem to assume that a dominant must want to be in control of everything and everyone all the time. To be sure, there are definitely dominants out there who approach things this way. To me, that just looks like poor boundaries. Especially for those of us who are inclined toward leadership, it’s just good form to be attuned to what’s going on around us, and to be aware of when we, in fact, are not the person in charge, especially when someone else is in charge. There’s nothing more obnoxious than a person who tries to run someone else’s show. In other words, those of us who like to operate in hierarchies would do well to understand that sometimes this means we’re not the person in charge, and to respect and support (rather than brush off or undermine) the person who is.

For most people in the D/s world, it seems that control is the first thing they think of when a dynamic comes into play. But for me, much like I have no particular hunger to be in charge of every group situation I encounter, I have no particular hunger to be in charge of every person I play with. You wanna flogging, and I have a half hour to spare? Sure, let’s go. To me, that in no way implies that I’m your momentary master – unless that’s what we’ve decided. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. In short: control for its own sake doesn’t turn me on.

But control to reinforce an agreed-upon dynamic or a mindset… now we’re talking about something very different.

In D/s, when I have appetite and desire for someone, I like control a whole lot. In an ongoing D/s relationship, that control is a mark of my ownership and it’s a deep turn-on to all concerned even just thinking about it.

The distinction here is one of desire and ownership. When I don’t desire someone’s submission, then I have no interest in owning them; and if I don’t own them, I have no interest in controlling them. Why should I care what someone wears to work, if they’re not an extension of me? What difference does it make if they have an orgasm in my absence or not, when I don’t own their cunt or cock? If it’s not mine, it’s none of my business.

That’s what it comes down to: if I own something, part of someone, or a person as a whole, I control it or them quite tightly, much as I control my own stuff and my own self and hold it and myself to high standards. If there is no ownership, then it control would be inappropriate and disrespectful, and therefore simply uninteresting to me.

It might be fun to play with a “lending” scenario on occasion. Certainly I’ve enjoyed various situations lasting anywhere from an hour to a day in which I’ve got temporary ownership of someone, whether that looks like orchestrating a scene with them on the bottom or contracting someone’s service for an evening’s worth of my own pleasure.

But generally speaking, when I desire something, I want to own it all the way, not borrow it. This is why, for all that I’m totally behind the politics of libraries, you’ll rarely see a library book in my hand. I buy my books so I can keep them and do with them as I please, even if they stay on the shelf for months at a time before I open them and use them. I only borrow books if I don’t expect to want them around for long. That’s not how I feel about my bois; I want them around for a very long time indeed. So as a result I’m not interested in borrowing pieces of them and giving them back by the due date.

Once a submissive gives me a piece of themselves, or full ownership, of course I want to exert control over them. I want to hold them to very high standards of self-care, of self-presentation, of ethics and manners and service, and I enforce those parameters through coaching, correction, and occasionally punishment. I fully expect that the reason they gave themselves to me in the first place, as fully capable agents of their own lives, is because they want to align themselves with the values I espouse and want to feel like, and be, my treasured property.

I’m not jealous, but I am possessive; once I own something I do consider it mine, and I am loath to give it back and picky about the particulars of sharing. Why? Because if I bothered to make it mine in the first place, it’s because I wanted it badly enough to go after it, and I value it enough to take good care of it. I’m not going to lend a prized first-edition copy of a rare book to someone I just met who might, for all I know, read it in the bathtub (horrors!) or leave it open face-down on a table. (Yes, I am comparing my bois to books. Luckily they find this flattering.)

The ownership process has progressed differently with my two bois.

With Boi M, very early on in our relationship, he gave himself to me entirely, and quite explicitly, in a way that to this day makes my heart beat faster to remember. I don’t think either of us had conceived of the full extent what that meant at the time, but every time some new example came up and we looked at it together, it felt right for me to take up those things to control as I see fit, and that process has simply continued ever since. It’s not so much that we keep finding new pieces and placing them under my control; it’s more like we keep finding new pieces that already belong to me, and we simply make them explicit and discuss them so we both understand what that ownership looks like in each context.

Owning the whole package doesn’t mean taking up every piece of it all in one shot. The latter would be overwhelming to both of us, and I might even say impossible. It takes most of us a lifetime of evolving self-understanding to take up full control of our own selves and our own lives; there’s just no way to do that with someone else in a way that’s quick or simple, and certainly not if it’s to be effective and healthy for both parties. Fortunately the ongoing process of discovering what it means to own Boi M is one that keeps us both pretty darned happy, and very much in love.

With Boi L, we came at it piece by piece. When our relationship began, she was committed to a relationship with someone else as well, and I placed certain limits on what I was willing to take up because I didn’t wish to be “stealing” from her other partner. (Please note that this was particular to the situation—in no way am I saying that ownership is incompatible with poly relationships.) As time went on, we added more and more things to the list of what I owned. We joked about it at the time, with me saying that eventually I was going to buy up enough pieces to be a majority shareholder. Eventually, her other relationship ended; in the months that followed, we went through a process of intense evaluation and discussions about the nature of our relationship, and moved into full ownership.

A discovery of a “piece” often begins with one of the bois asking me if I have a preference in a given area—what they wear, how we operate together socially, the specifics of their service to me, the manner in which they tend to their other life responsibilities, when and where they sleep, when and how they orgasm, the particulars of safer sex with other lovers, what commitments they make outside school and work, and so forth.

If my preference is a solid one, as opposed to situationally specific, then I set it as a rule. For example, if the bois need to step outside my presence when we’re together, they’re required to ask permission. I don’t want to find myself casting about to figure out where they are; I want them to be either right nearby and accessible, or away for a set amount of time in a place where I can find them if I need them. That goes for everything—from a quick trip to the bathroom to an afternoon run to the grocery store.

If the situation is more fluid, then it’s understood that they will continue to ask for my preferences in that area in the absence of a consistent rule. For example, with Boi M, when he wants to make a time commitment to an extra-curricular activity, he asks my permission. He trusts me to make the decision based on what I know of his existing commitments and needs (i.e. what I felt he could realistically fit into his schedule and energy levels), in combination with my own needs for his presence, time, focus, energy, and so forth. With Boi L, her career takes her to far-off places, at times on short notice, and with variable access to communications technology and variable degrees of privacy, so some of our specific rules and methods of contact need to be kept quite fluid, but the areas of control are consistent.

It also happens that I’ve simply taken control of something and told the boi in question about it. This is the case, for example, with our collaring rituals, Boi M’s use of French in conversation with me, Boi L’s coffee-drinking habits, and various other things. Sometimes we discuss it to make sure we’re on the same page, or they ask me questions to make sure of where I’m coming from or what my intentions are, but generally they simply agree.

Certainly the bois have the right to question my decisions, or suggest possibilities, or ask for information to better understand my reasons for a decision; and they are obliged, according to our rules, to inform me if something (either by its presence or by its absence) is causing them distress or otherwise having a negative influence on their well-being. However, they acknowledge that within the parameters of our relationship as it stands, they have no right of refusal. This isn’t to say they can’t say no; but an outright “no” would be a sign that they were rejecting my ownership of them, which would seriously change the nature of our relationship. Given that they both want my ownership of them, as do I, that would be a high price to pay for a preference of some sort on their part.

Of course the basis of their desire for my ownership in the first place is grounded in their trust of my judgment that I will not damage or take advantage of them, so the chances of push coming to shove in the first place are quite slim. As it should be; I wouldn’t want to own someone whose values didn’t line up with mine such that the baseline of our relationship were regularly called into question by either one of us. For me, that would cast serious doubt on our compatibility, and on whether or not my ownership could possibly be a healthy or good thing for either of us.

This sort of relationship is not one entered into lightly by any party, and requires enormous commitment and consistency from all involved. It’s not about control for the fun of control, or to satisfy some pathological thirst for helplessness on their part or dominion on mine. Just think about it: if you’re in charge of something but you’re not allowed to make any decisions about it, and nobody informs you of what’s going on, you can’t possibly fulfill your responsibility. Control is an act, on my part, of fulfilling the responsibilities of ownership to my bois; obedience is the act, on theirs, of confirming their desire for that ownership. In relating to one another this way, we’re all doing what feels exactly right for us.

11 thoughts on “control

  1. Oh yes … coming from the other direction, my giving control and service to somebody that I love and trust makes my head spin with delight and my body breathe easy. What a lovely post to read while I was drinking my morning pot of hot cheap tea. Thanks.

  2. Great post… personally I’m terribly interested in finding out more about D/s dynamics and BDSM in general, so I (at least) am not annoyed about too many D/s posts.

    The concept of ‘ownership’ is still very sketchy/interesting to me… I have a hard time understanding why someone would want to own another person. Stability/power, perhaps?

    I can understand wanting to be owned, because I used to feel that way, but all of my reasons were very unhealthy ones.

  3. I think this is the best description of healthy D/s I’ve ever read. Thanks, Andrea, for sharing this part of your life with us.

  4. Thank you for your blog entry, Andrea. I have never made the big jump into that kind of relationship, and I am not sure if D/s is exactly for me, but I have read a lot about it and I think I understand it from the outside. However, it is the first time I see it so well-phrased by someone who obviously knows what she is talking about.

  5. Fascinating stuff. I’ve been thinking about it lots. Nothing coherent to say really by way of response. Someday maybe. At any rate, thanks for sharing.

  6. medici – I’m glad it brought you pleasure. In return, thank you for the sweet glimpse of your morning and your mind! We really must share a pot of tea in person one of these days. 🙂

    Wilhelmina – Hmm. I’m not sure I can explain it… but I’ll try.

    I don’t have a general desire to own people. It’s something that comes up with specific individuals, and rarely at that. If ever my relationships with Boi M and Boi L should end, perhaps I’d be more inclined to look for another such individual in the future than I would have been before I’d ever experienced this sort of thing, but I think I’d still only actually feel the desire with a given individual where the chemistry is right.

    I guess for me, this way of relating just feels incredibly real and honest – it feels like the greatest kind of intimacy I can imagine. I’ve had many fulfilling relationships that lacked this element, but ongoing D/s allows me to experience and live out all parts of myself at once. Power is a big part of who I am – holding it, handling it, thinking about it, writing about it, reading about it, playing with it, trying to better understand how it operates so that I can use it effectively and ethically, learning how to effectively refuse to take it up when it doesn’t feel right, learning how to effectively pursue taking it up when it does feel right. For me, this is true in all relationships, all the time (professional, familial, friendly, casual, romantic, sexual, …) but the ongoing handling of power in deeply intimate relationships is a space where I can indulge in the experience of handling my own power with only the boundaries of ethics and pleasure in mind, rather than the boundaries of social dynamics. It’s a purer form of the stuff.

    The specific form this takes, as in my own style of dominance, is probably linked to the shaping of my character over my lifetime in many ways. Among other things, I have three younger brothers, and I spent a lot of time caring for them before I left home. That combination of deep love, protectiveness, care and authority is one that has surely carried over to the way I do things now, with some significant differences of course. 😉

    As for the desire to be owned (in its healthier forms) – I haven’t felt it myself, so it’s hard to speak from that side of the coin, but from what the bois tell me, my ownership feels like a combination of love, support, guidance, desire, authority, and valuing… if you have high expectations of someone, it’s clearly because you think they’re up for the task at hand, so my demands are an indication that I hold them in high esteem. But really, speaking for all of us, it’s just a strong sense of rightness. We didn’t create this; all we’re doing is trying to responsibly frame what’s already there.

    Gentlemantop and zibeline – Thank you.

    Lady Johanna – Wow, I’m honoured! I am not much of a whiz at the technical side of this here blogging thing, so it might take me a while to get the award to appear on this site, but I’ll figure it out. Many thanks!

    Sam – Someday. 🙂 Hope so. I’d love to hear what your fine mind comes up with on this one.

  7. Wonderfully reasoned and expressed. I was particularly struck by the book analogy. I love my local library, but there is a big difference between wanting to read a book and wanting to possess it.

    The one thing I’d add for your vanilla readers is that the idea of ownership has to be consentual throughout these kinds of relationships and consent can be withdrawn by either party at any time. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to dwell on a negative, and perhaps it should go without saying, but sadly I think it needs to be emphasized.

    You have a superb blog SexGeek, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the dynamics of D/s, regardless of their level of experience or how deeply they think they may want to explore.

  8. Thanks very much, bobbymac. I should point out that I did include a major disclaimer at the beginning of the post to emphasize exactly that question of consent, and reiterated the idea a couple of times in the post as well. Not that we can’t say it again (and again, and again…) of course, but it’s definitely in there.

    That said – not directed at you, but inspired by your thought – I gotta say it is sort of tiring to have to ceaselessly insist that what we’re doing is consensual. Sort of like queers having to insist that we’re not mentally ill or defective or psychologically damaged the spawn of the devil… it is wearying to constantly have to restate the obvious. If someone is reading this blog and doesn’t already understand that we’re not talking about abuse scenarios here, all my insistence on consent will fall on deaf ears anyway. And for the readers who get it, then it’s clear that all my insistence on consent is just there to placate the people who don’t. I’m still going to include the disclaimers and explanations, of course, because it would be irresponsible not to, but for crying out loud, sometimes I’d just like it if I could stop having to defend this and just explore it. Ah well. End of today’s rant. 😉

  9. Your point is well taken, and from what I’ve seen of your blog you do diligently offer disclaimers and caveats and neon signage pointing out that it is your opinions being expressed here. Perhaps I’m just reaffirming with myself that I really do want this. Really. I swear. So I resolve to defend less, and explore more. 🙂

  10. Andrea, your posts always inspire me. As the the sub in a D/s relationship, I can share my perspective on the idea of being owned. I don’t consider myself sick, or weak. I have no emotional baggage or childhood trauma. Skeptics will just have to take my word for that, because trying to prove it would be moot.

    Just as Andrea does not want to control everyone she meets, I do not want to submit to everyone that crosses my path. My submission is a gift to my dominant wife. I believe she shows immense commitment to me when she takes the time to control my life. She does not control every part of my life, but for the areas we agree upon; they are hers to manage.

    It fills me with overwhelming joy when she takes time to control me. I feel needed. I feel connected with her when she tasks me to do something for her. Recently, she brought me to the point of tears. It surprised us both, but the emotional connection was more intense than anything we could have experienced when we were a vanilla couple.

    As Andrea said in closing her post, we are just doing what feels honest to us.

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