In the vanilla world, you often hear a conundrum like this. “No one will hire me because I have no experience. I have no experience because no one will hire me.”
I see many s-types take this perspective to the world of kink as well. Whether or not those new to the scene have an advantage or disadvantage, some people make this conundrum inside their head in slightly different words.
“I can’t become a service slave because I don’t know if I’m a service slave. I don’t know if I’m a service slave because I’ve never been a service slave.”
I will admit that I am lucky in the sense that I have never had reason to doubt my side of the slash. It all adds up neatly from my earliest memories forwards. Some do have real doubts. Some I think might benefit from learning to translate their vanilla experiences into a kink mindset, realizing that the underlying ideals might not be so different after all. Doing this is what allows me to say, “From my earliest memories forward,” not, “From when I entered the scene,” or, “From when I entered an M/s dynamic.”
On the more slave side of service slave, it helps to think of how you have generally reacted to authority figures. The younger crowd might think mostly of their teachers or parents. Some might have more extensive work experience to draw on. What happened if they made a rule you didn’t like, or set an expectation slightly hard to meet? What does that tell you about you coping with it in M/s?
Some think of their favorite teacher from their school days as the one who let the class largely run free, was ultra understanding and gave a reasonable workload, perhaps a creative type, perhaps willing to improvise when authority wasn’t looking, themselves, someone who curved the tests and gave you two redos.
Some think of their favorite teacher as the one who ran a fairly tight ship, a kind nature but a desire to push their students, who gave two times more homework than anyone else but you learned four times as much, who earned respect with the example they set and while less forgiving with their deadlines, more prone to give praise that really meant something.
There’s no archetype your favorite schoolteacher has to fit into for you to fit into any role in BDSM. But, it’s an interesting exercise for many, and perhaps telling about what you respond to in an authority figure, what you don’t—and if you do respond well at all, or if it’s something to work on or a start of reconsidering.
As a general note, thinking of your interests in the media you consume or have consumed can also be telling. Not just what you overall choose, but which parts, characters, and more draw you to it—and I’m not talking about erotica here (though that also says something), but even the vanilla-surface dynamics you have liked seeing in any books, television, movies, so on, throughout your life.
Service-oriented tendencies can also be spotted in vanilla situations. A tendency to go above and beyond when able to help is a good sign of a service-oriented personality, as is a desire to be useful to family, friends, perhaps acquaintances. Are you always volunteering to help with the dishes after dinner at friends’ homes, or hoping no one will ask? Do you complain extensively to yourself or say something to them if they do ask—how would you overcome that? Were you one of those kids who liked to do miscellaneous tasks for the teacher when you finished your work early in school? Circumstances allowing, have you been drawn to things like volunteer work or taking on responsibility in hobby-based groups? And what drew you to them? A feeling of helpfulness being a draw is one good sign, though certainly not the only.
Look through your memories for notable incidents, but for those looking for 24/7, especially, look for something else, too: consistency.
Do your tendencies change when you’re tired, somewhat emotional, a little under the weather, not fond of the task itself? How will you overcome those things if they do?
I feel like I’ve posed a lot of thought experiments or questions here, so let me address some of them for myself.
My submissive tendencies, in hindsight from the scene, are extremely hard to overlook. I was always overly eager to please if anything, as in perhaps to a fault. The man who I consider to be the best teacher I ever had provided an insane workload, was relentless in critiques, brilliant in his craft, and taught me more about the subject in half a semester than some people would get out of a Bachelor’s in it.
Some of my earliest memories are of watching and re-watching the late 90’s made-for-television adaptation of Little Orphan Annie. I was always suspiciously fond of A Little Princess as well. Not the parts of the movie most kids would get excited about, but a fascination with the bits of servitude the movies would show.
Volunteering has always been something that sates my desire to feel helpful and of use. Hospital, school, food bank, transitional program for the homeless, my current position in a library, etc. Most had some kind of draw that got me there in particular—like knowing people involved, or having a love of books—but the general concept was always something I liked, too.
As far as consistency, I’m not a saint, but I’m pretty decent at keeping up my better tendencies even when half-asleep, and can usually find something to get out of a task that might not generally be my idea of a good time. Scrubbing down the hardscapes of the backyard with dish soap and water, say, is exhausting and leads to dripping sweat rather quickly—but damn, that before and after is satisfying, and pushing water around with a long brush has something fun in it, too.
I’m apparently consistent enough that, as a funny aside anecdote, Mistress once had a dream in which several things were askew—like an added story to our house, having friends she didn’t know in real life, etc. When she encountered me in the dream, she told me to do something, and my response was sticking my tongue out at her. Apparently that broke the reality line and she quickly realized it was a dream, and it briefly became a lucid one before she woke up.
Breaking back away from me and into a conclusion—nothing above is meant to be universal, but perhaps a starting point for some who are questioning. Kink experience is unquantifiably valuable, but is not the only source for some answers.