Roles and Responsibilities
I’ve been hearing lots of discussion lately about roles and responsibilities within the context of power exchange, and I’ve found it very heartening. I’m thrilled whenever there’s discussion (or even debate) about these things because it shows that people are putting real thought into their words and actions and relationships.
For instance, one friend interested in exploring his submissive nature recently questioned whether someone he’d been corresponding with online should be considered as a playmate. He didn’t ask me specifically for a reference as much as to offer a gut-instinct check... was the feedback that he was getting typical for Dom tops? Was this to be expected, or was this an anomaly?
In my friend’s case, the dom was very upfront about his expectations (so I give him points on his honesty) and being a longtime player, he also seemed very certain that he was an expert on all relevant matters (minus points for humility).
And for the record, experience does not necessarily make you an expert; some people can make the same mistakes over and over and never learn-and never even realize there was a mistake to learn from!
The Dom essentially informed my friend there was to be no real discussion or negotiation for play, because the Dom would determine which of my friend’s limits were appropriate and which are "stupid" and not to be followed (minus points for not respecting limits). This dominant not only dismissed concerns that my friend expressed, but also dismissed via online correspondence the guidelines that my friend and his partner had constructed when they playing outside their relationship. Indeed, this dom went so far as to encourage my friend to be dishonest with his partner in order to satisfy his own sexual needs (notice how those minus points just keep adding up?).
While there is no iron-clad proof about these things, I do encourage people to go with their gut instinct. Fight-or-flight instinct has saved us for thousands of years. Erring on the side of caution might make us lose out on a hot scene, but discounting those instincts and warning signs could cost us our health, our relationships, even our lives. I say if you have red flags raised over mediated communications (phone, online chat, emails, texting, etc.) about the respectfulness or the honesty of a potential hookup, you should just say no. No matter how hot he is, no matter how compelling the scene. The more you shouldn’t do it, the more you probably will want to... and uncaring, self-serving Doms know it. They know that when you are there, within their space, under their charms, and perhaps (but not necessarily) under their restraints or otherwise captive, you will surrender to their (and probably your) lower instincts.
And if you’re not being respected when you’re not in the same room with him, why would you have ANY reason to believe you’ll be safe and respected when you’re together?
I think my friend was smart to ask others for feedback on this potential playmate. I think general feedback is always smart, and asking for personal references can be a powerful tool to not only keep us safe, but to build trust that will lead to hotter sex and deeper levels of power exchange. (If a longtime player who prides himself on being a player can’t give you a handful of references that should tell you something!)
The thoughtful approach and consideration that goes into power exchange and leather play reinforces my un-PC belief that leather folk are not only equal to our non-kinky counterparts, but often superior to them.
But, of course, being dominant or submissive does not, in and of itself, make us wise.
And if we are not wise, as I suggest above, there is the potential for our natural dominant or submissive personalities to lead us to unhealthy situations or dangerous behavior. An unwise and/or untrained dominant is more likely to cause irreparable harm to a sub out of ignorance than he is out of malice. Likewise, a submissive who puts his desire to submit over his common sense may be finding himself submitting to a fool (and not suffering fools easily.)
On the Keystone Boys of Leather yahoo group, I recently saw a reprint of a popular (very short) essay by J. Mikael Togneri entitled "Seven Pillars of Dominance." (Although it also appears on several sites on the internet, I saw a whole collection of essays by J. Mikael Togneri available on the Leather and Roses website, http://www.leathernroses.com/mikael/mikaelindex.htm, which I recommend others check out.)
In his "Seven Pillars" essay, Togneri (who describes himself as a "born dominant") writes of what he’s learned after over 20 years of being an active member of the BDSM lifestyle:
- A dominant is a ruler, but never a tyrant.
- But to rule requires understanding, and understanding requires humility.
- A dominant has pride, but never arrogance.
- But pride requires dignity, and dignity requires humility.
- A dominant commands respect, but never fear.
- But respect requires serenity, and serenity requires humility.
- A dominant employs strength, but never force.
- But strength requires knowledge, and knowledge requires humility.
- A dominant criticizes, but never derides.
- But criticism requires insight, and insight requires humility.
- A dominant receives, but never takes.
- But receiving requires giving, and giving requires humility.
- A dominant completes, but never tries to alter.
- But to complete one must be able to see what is there, not what is missing, and this most of all requires humility.
- In short, to use an archaic phrase, noblesse oblige. If a dominant is the centre of a submissive’s universe, it is because he thinks so, not because He does. No one is respected, let alone obeyed, just coz. The truth of the matter is that owning is at least as much work as being owned.
Perhaps I embrace this essay as wise for completely self-centered reasons-namely, I fully agree with all that it says and implies (and I marvel at how concisely he does it).
I don’t know a lot of dom tops, and I often hear people complain that there aren’t many of them, and yet I’ve also heard a lot of horror stories about them (perhaps we’re just recycling stories about the same handful of men?). Where do the Dom tops in your life fall in the seven pillars?
Surprisingly I know men who are versatile not only in sexual position but in power exchange position (often called "switches"). Although I’ve often decried the theory that it takes bottoming to know how to be a good sexual top (probably to satisfy my own ego I’ve convinced myself that reading a bottom and his satisfaction is more important than taking a dick up my own ass just to see what it feels like), but I do tend to wonder whether switches tend to be more empathic playmates-knowing how it feels on both sides of the power exchange dynamic may make you more sympathetic in the sub role. Of course, it could also just give you some insight on how to be more manipulative and self-serving.
But I do like to think of myself as a wise judge of playmates, capable of administering play that is tempered by empathy.
The same week that they posted the "Seven Pillars of Dominance" essay, the Keystone Boys yahoo group also posted a "Submissive’s Creed" by an unknown author:
- I will communicate with complete honesty my needs, desires, limits, and experience. I realize that failing to do so will not only prevent my Top and I from having the best experience possible, but can also lead to physical and emotional harm.
- I will not try to manipulate my Top. I will not push to make a scene go the way I feel it should. In other words, I will not top from the bottom.
- I will keep an open mind about trying things that I am not comfortable with and expanding my limits.
- I will continue to grow as a submissive and as a human being.
- I will accept the responsibility of discovering what pleases my Top, and will do my best to fulfill his wishes and desires.
- I will not allow myself to be harmed or abused. I know that submissive does not equal doormat.
- I will be courteous and helpful to my fellow submissives. I will share my knowledge and experience with others in the hope that they will learn and benefit from where I have been.
- I will take the time to help those new to the scene start out on the correct path.
- I will be responsive to my Top. I will not try to hide what my mind and body are feeling so that I may assist him in his responsibilities as my authority.
- I know that Dominants are not telepaths, and will not expect my Top to know thoughts or feelings which I do not share.
- I will accept in the responsibility of a scene or relationship gone bad. I will not place total blame on my Top when it is not warranted simply because he is the Dominant. I realize that things may not work out as they should at times, and will do my best to put it behind me and move on.
- I will give my gift of submission only to those that can responsibly accept and desire to receive. I will not place anyone in the position of Topping me non-consensually, nor will I give my respect to someone that has not earned it.
- I know that D/s is not a contest, and will never think myself a "better" submissive because I choose to submit on a different level than another.
- I will not be boastful of the experiences I have had as a bottom.
- I will be obedient to my Top even if I disagree with what he is requesting. I realize he has my best interests at heart and often knows better than I what I need in a particular situation.
- I know that my actions reflect upon my Top, and will do my best to help others see him in a positive way. I will not intentionally embarrass or displease my Dominant.
- Above all, I will wear my title of submissive with honor. I will never cause others to think that being submissive means to be weak or sub-human. I will take pride in who and what I am and will never show myself in a negative way.
Whereas the "Seven Pillars" essay may be considered shocking to some in the humbling nature and responsibility that the dominant assumes and accepts, I equally appreciate this "Submissive’s Creed" for representing subs as intelligent, thoughtful, caring, with strong self esteem.
Simply put, if you think you’re a piece of shit, then offering yourself to someone is to offer them shit.
But in a society where manliness is often defined in terms of power and influence, I’m deeply moved by the courage and strength of subs who feel positively about themselves and who wisely decide to accept what is core to their nature and to serve others to get the most satisfaction out of themselves.
There is one tenet in the above creed that may be controversial-namely, the "being obedient to my Top even if I disagree" section. I don’t believe any of us is perfect. Because a man identifies as a pup or a boy doesn’t make him one-and if his brain is functioning soundly, and he disagrees with a request, I believe in the right to say no. A top may have best interests at heart (and he may not); he may know best about what’s needed in a particular situation (and he may not).
It may be heresy to some, but I believe that the person who has to live with the consequences is the person who should ultimately make the decision. I think that particular tenet would be better phrased:
I will be respectful to my Top even if I disagree with what he is requesting. I realize he has my best interests at heart and often knows better than I what I need in a particular situation, but I will be true to be self above all, and in being true to myself, will have more of myself to offer Him.
I welcome your feedback to this and my other writings at firstname.lastname@example.org