A while back, a friend of mine asked me if my bois experience their service to me as a sort of eroticized labour. I thought the question was pretty intriguing, because I’d never thought about it in quite those terms before.
I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate to say that their labour is eroticized… I suppose it is, on some level, or to varying degrees depending on the type of service in question. But it’s more like… they feel a deep desire to be in a relationship of power, and in a situation where they are held in the mindset of that relationship at all times. There’s no better way to create a sense of hierarchy than by an ongoing set of expectations that one person will tend to the fairly mundane needs of another, and that also provides opportunities for correction (another reminder of the power hierarchy) and praise (same thing, different flavour).
My reliance on their service also demonstrates my trust in them – something else that feels good and healthy to reinforce – and gives them the opportunity to express their submission in an active way (back to those reminders again). In the years before I understood just how deeply submissive desires sometimes run, I didn’t get why so many reminders would be necessary or desired. If you know the hierarchy exists, is that not enough? Why does it require constant reinforcement and reminding? It felt kinda pointless, like an exercise in repetition. But these days I understand. It’s not because of the possibility that a submissive will forget about the power dynamic, though I suppose that’s always possible and probably does happen – after all, as Laura Antoniou says, “What’s the number one reason given for dissatisfaction in an ongoing formal SM relationship? Lack of consistency from the top.” In other words, when a submissive is not actively reminded of the relationship’s hierarchical character, it can start to feel as though the hierarchy might not actually be there anymore.
But to put a different spin on it, I’d say that reminder and reinforcement are needed because every reminder produces a subtle thrill that affirms and actively plays with the power dynamic that’s so craved. It makes that power dynamic real and lived instead of theoretical. Is that thrill an erotic one? Sure, sometimes, but I don’t think my bois actually spend the bulk of their time in a state of active arousal. Perhaps more in a state of potential arousal?
One of my leather family members often talks about how power lust and sexual lust look similar and operate in very similar ways but are in fact not exactly the same thing. I agree with her, in that I think they are distinct. But I also think they are so tightly intertwined for some people – probably more people than would ever identify as kinky – that they cannot easily be separated. Witness so much pop culture association of violence and sex, not to mention classic hetero courtship rituals both real and fictional, with damsels in distress and powerful male saviours, or aggressive male pursuit of a female vixen. Women who bemoan the existence of the SNAG (Sensitive New-Age Guy) or consistently pursue dangerous-yet-sexy “bad boys” are on a quest for a form of the power/eroticism combo that is most palatable to the mainstream. It may not trip into SM per se, but the general framework is awfully reminiscent.
So in a sense, if we think about power-desire and erotic desire as being similar and often deeply meshed, then yes, doing the laundry or repairing the bathroom cupboard or cooking dinner are erotic acts for my bois. And in that same sense, choosing their clothing and authorizing their use of their spare time is an erotic act for me. But on a day-to-day level it’s more like just the way it is – it feels good and right to interact this way, like the most accurate and sincere way of expressing our mutual care for one another.
That’s not to say the erotic potentials of labour are lost on me though. Making someone do chores while wearing a butt plug definitely keeps things interesting, and I can certainly admit to occasionally requiring that dinner be cooked by a lovely boi sporting nothing but a pair of pink flowered underwear. Heh.