The Benefits of Silence

When I was fifteen, I decided to take a week long vow of silence for a school project.  It required a bit of negotiating with other teachers, and writing was deemed necessary, but a week without speech was deemed doable.  I carried a small makeshift whiteboard mostly to maintain participation points in class, attend extracurriculars, order lunch in the cafeteria, and talk to my parents; a note on the back quickly explained the project in case of question. 

I had no strong urge to break my silence, though I remember once I started to speak, forgetting as I was startled.  (I believe it was an exclamation as someone dropped something). 

The silence gave me a week of focus.  When other people spoke, I wasn’t necessarily expected to respond—they understood the awkward effort and timing of writing out a reply on a whiteboard, so unless they truly wanted to hear what I had to say at length, they settled for my nodding and smiling.  Not listening to reply, I listened to listen and got to hear what they had to say without my planned response playing over it.  In some cases, maybe what they had to say when they didn’t have to fear an immediate reply.  It was an important experience for me, both then, and now—as a slave whose response might not even really matter to begin with. 

Since conversation wasn’t available as an easy pastime, I dove into my schoolwork and personal writing and reading.  Words were and are a huge part of my life.  I’m a ten time NaNoWriMo winner (four of them before this vow); large amounts of words are my thing. There seemed to be more time to spend with my words, so to speak, in my favorite forms, when I wasn’t using them for speech.  

In some mindfulness pieces I read, including BDSM ones, there’s a tactic mentioned called choosing silence.  At a time when you could speak, choosing silence.  This can be an act of kindness—if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  As a slave, it can keep you out of trouble.  But it can also be an act of purely mindfulness—stop thinking about what you have to say back; just listen.  Often, if you don’t listen just to reply, that eventual response is something slightly different and more insightful. 

My silence that week also created a bit of a frame for when I did bother writing something out on the whiteboard.  If I bothered, it seemed important, and people often read whatever it was twice.  On my side, I was more mindful of my words—which is a good skill to retain as a slave with speech protocols—and was a lot less negative—a good thing in general. 

A friend from the scene once commented that he sometimes didn’t know if I was actually as knowledgable as he thought I was, or if I was simply good at not talking about things I didn’t know about.  Funny how even the admittance of not knowing, saying I don’t know; tell me more or I don’t have enough information for an opinion; I’ll have to look into that can somehow make it sound like you know more than throwing out guesses does.   

Think of a book or show where the author wants to show a character is unintelligent or not knowledgable—they almost always have to do so through having the character speak.  It is a very hard assumption to get from silence.  It is also hard to convey a specific strong opinion or passion of theirs when it is buried in endless dialogue—though that can be an interesting characterization choice. 

This can all be achieved without even a short term vow of silence.  Listening primarily to hear people, not just to form a reply, means you will hear what they are saying and not what is easy to answer.  Choosing a moment of alone time lets you process.  Not talking just to talk clears time and energy for projects.  Admitting what you don’t know adds credence to what you do claim to know.  Focusing on talking about what you know and care about will bring more passion and personality to a conversation. 

Just a few words on a lack of words.  

Uniforms and Challenges, the Literal and a Metaphor

Our contract is a simply formatted, single spaced seven or so pages, and this one phrase in it sometimes gives me more conundrums than any others: nice, clean, and of an appropriate size.

This phrase is in the uniform section, and the fact is, being a slave, as wonderful as it is, is messy.

Cooking or food prep multiple times a day, untold coffee fetching, cleaning up after the cats—litter, water, fur, other messes—handling dirty dishes, trash, laundry—doing wipe downs, taking care of plants, working with cleaning chemicals, giving pedicures with a splashy foot bath, cleaning toilets…

You get the idea.

A lot of it is pretty easy and mundane stuff.  Stuff almost everyone does.  I might do it a little more frequently as our chore split is basically 100/0, or, as such service is luckily my full time occupation, I keep up with certain schedules and details a little more than typical, but none of it is truly out of the ordinary, and they’re simple things I’m happy to do.

Another factor, though, is that since I wear a uniform, I don’t own a lot of clothes, so rotating the same few days’ worth of the clothes means the same items take the toll of the day’s work again and again, versus the clothes of people who have a longer rotation, or different clothes for different occasions.

The clothes I wear when I’m cleaning, exercising, anything else, are the same ones I wear to parties; a dip in the pool usually just means I remove a few items; I don’t have a summer and winter wardrobe, just layers; I don’t wear pajamas; I wear the same clothes when I’m just kneeling on the floor and when I’m scrubbing at it, and so on.  It’s blissfully simple, but the all in one of it adds up, and I often change clothes multiple times a day.

I’ve gone up and down on the number of sets of clothes I own at once, but never so far up or down it’s seemed to make a huge difference in the amount of time before I have to order more, too many irreversibly stained or whatnot, despite my best efforts with the laundry, or, more preemptively, wearing a pre-approved apron when I’m doing something I know will be messy.

It also means that when I change sizes, everything in that category has to be replaced, no leeway in brands or items or fabrics.  I’d healthily gone down a few sizes since I started wearing a past uniform in Fall 2018 (and since I changed to only one color of it in Fall 2019), meaning everything failed to fit me at once when I crossed that threshold.  The same happened with the uniform I wore previously, which eventually provided a good time to switch.

So, nice, clean, and of an appropriate size provides a small daily challenge.

But I like that.

I recently rediscovered some of my slave journals from 2016, an interesting find as I start reading Slave Patrick’s Slave-ography, which began as a journal.  The fun part of this is that I was unowned in 2016, and really just getting going in the BDSM scene.  They were journals I kept mostly for myself, with the vague idea of showing them to a future partner—writing prompt answers, checklists, experimental erotica, art journaling, resource reading lists, event logs, research notes.  They’re currently on Mistress’ desk for her to peruse.  A lot of it is out of date now, and won’t be illuminating most likely so much as fun, or a marker of progress.

In one of these journals, I found the phrase a challenge to challenge, as something I wanted to be, in an entry on what I wanted to be in the eyes of an Owner.

It was a bit of a side note in that entry, but it caught my eye more than a lot of the rest of it at this point; I reflected on it and found it still true, just a useful phrasing I hadn’t come back to in a long time.

The idea of it is basically the goal of providing poised service—calm, patient, the unperturbed servant trope.  Experimenting with mantras before I found that entry, I had come up with one about serving with patience, poise, and serenity,trying to address struggles in that arena.

The thing with keeping my uniform presentable was a very simple but literal metaphor for that.  After running around cooking dinner, in a hot kitchen with bubbling sauces and such, I try to wait behind my chair in the assigned position for Mistress to tell me I can sit patiently and not looking worn out from the cooking—including wearing a clean set of clothes.  It feels better for me, looks better for her.

It’s trying to give it a bit of magic.  This food?  It just appeared!  With less sense of the behind the scenes chaos of timing all the sides and close calls with spills.  It’s kind of like not leaving the wrapping paper roll next to the Christmas tree, or that moment in shows where a third party comes in and simply enjoys a flawless looking meal, event, so on, after an episode showing all the chaos of getting it that way, and two parties from behind the scenes of it look at each other knowingly.

A bit of undisturbed poise, a bit of magic—since that’s what I’m going for, the uniform is both literally a small part of it and also an easy metaphor for the bigger picture—despite all that messy work, my uniform is magically still clean every time you see me.  Despite all the chaos, I’m put together every time you see me.  Ta da.  Am I perfect at it?  Of course not.  But I can and do try.  That’s what counts.

Why I Chose Irrevocable Consent as a Label, What It Means to Me, and Why I Write About It

TPE, TAT, no safewords, no limits, no way out, no “no”, owned, CNC, irrevocable consent, blanket consent, slave, property— 

There are a lot of words, phrases, and acronyms used to talk about this area, many of which have other definitions, too. 

It’s a lot to sum up.  It can sound simple, but the totality of it, minding any loopholes, can be difficult to cover. 

I use slave, owned, property, permanently collared (physically and mentally), as labels, but they don’t necessarily cover this area, as many use those labels for other pieces of this relationship, with a very different model of consent, so I use them separately. 

Conversations on TPE and TAT that I saw emphasized the all areas part, but some held the idea that there could still be limits—there was just power exchange, or authority transfer—in all areas of life.  Sex, finances, lifestyle, time, service, anything.  Sometimes it simply overlapped strongly with 24/7.   

The PE versus AT conversations focused mostly on the idea of it not being much of an exchange—what power or authority does the slave get back, after all?  Transfer—definition: make over the possession of (property, a right, or a responsibility) to someone else.   

Some got into the idea of personal power and strength versus the idea of the authority to make decisions.  To me, both can be transferred—or at least owned.   

Personally when in search of a noun I err towards dynamic—definition: a force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process.  Mostly because transfer’s definition that includes ownership doesn’t have as neat a translation to nouns. 

No safewords, no limits—is very simple, straightforward, and I like that, but it’s perhaps overly simple.  Bright side, nearly everyone in the BDSM scene for more than a day knows what those words mean.  No way out was a little vaguer—no way out of the relationship.  No dissolution clause.  No exit plan.  Which many don’t spell out to begin with, so—more importantly: explicitly not allowed to leave, by contract, agreement, etc.  For a while I favored the no safewords, no limits phrase, sometimes including no way out.  No “no” was simple, too. 

Blanket consent is a useful phrase, but some definitions leave the possibility of it being revoked.  A standing assumption of consent, for either pre-established activities or pretty much anything.  But perhaps just that—an assumption.  But plenty do use it to mean irrevocable. 

CNC is a lovely acronym that rolls off the tongue and I have to admit that when I talk to people who already know my dynamic that I’m referring to, especially out loud, I use it very frequently.  With people who know me less well, or in a semantics driven context, or in writing—I try to use it carefully, because it can contextually mean anything from a once off rape roleplay scene with both a fake and real safeword to that 24/7 lifelong dynamic with no safewords, real or fake. 

Irrevocable consent is pretty straightforward, I think.  Consent is offered once, not to be revoked.  Safewords, limits, ability to leave the relationship—all are forms of revoking consent, and are nulled by the phrase, as is the potential issue I have with blanket consent.  Using the phrase in isolation I think is enough to imply the total and all areas parts from TPE/TAT, and if in a summary of my dynamic, I’d also be using 24/7, which is often a strong indicator in that direction anyway.  I acknowledge that no label is perfect, and I’m happy to talk more at length, but for now, this is my go to quick explanation. 

Admittedly, this makes some people uncomfortable.

The very reason I run that blog is because I know I can be a little niche.  On the matter of consent and on the ways Mistress and I do other things.  Descriptions of my dynamic are sometimes met with flattering envy and are sometimes met with horror and declarations of preferring death.  To talk about my uniform means getting a response of either, “So practical; I hate having to think about clothes,” or, “I’d rather die than not be able to express myself with fashion.”  To talk about service as my only full time occupation also meets statements of either envy of the opportunity (and privilege is a factor here) or of death by boredom.  “Oh, me too!” is exceptionally uncommon on some issues, but always refreshing. 

But for those who say—I wish I could do that, but I don’t know all the details, or, I like the idea of that, but I really want to pin down what it means for me, or, I want to live this, but I don’t know what it looks like day to day, or I’m curious, but I don’t know where to start, or I want to be of service, but I don’t know what to exactly do, for those who say, I want to learn more, I want to find people like me—those are who I write for.  I’m not an expert, but I like to think I have a few useful or thought provoking things to say. 

I try to somewhat focus on that niche of things where I know it can be unpopular and that there may be unfriendly tides around it elsewhere.  Or even friendly to the idea tides where it’s hard to find someone who’s done it.  To tell the people who might need it the most that they’re not the only one who wants this, does this, lives this. 

Besides the popular idea that consent is always revocable, thinking about the phrase can lead people to other uncomfortable ideas.  Any other popular ideas of consent can be erased by the irrevocable part.  Aftercare or sobriety, for instance, cannot be conditions of irrevocable consent. 

There’s the popular, “Well, what if they decided to chop your arm off?” argument.  I posed a similar question to Mistress once while discussing this philosophy, to which she replied that I could beg her to chop my arm off and she still wouldn’t, let alone do it of her own desires.   

Chopping my arm off sounds dangerous, expensive, and time consuming, and would lead to some hard questions at the ER, and who wants responsibility for that?  Mistress’ occasional joke about such things is usually something I respond to with, “But then you’d have to get your own coffee,” at least while I was figuring out having one arm, and the joke ends with: 

“Well, can’t have that.” 

Yes, my consent was irrevocable once it was given here—but it was all around carefully considered before it was given, including pondering the mind of who I was giving it to.  She’ll do things I don’t like, things I would’ve called limits if I currently defined them, go past when I would safeword if I would use one—but she’ll only do things she is willing and able to take responsibility for, which doesn’t include chopping off my arm.  This is what really keeps her from things that are overtly illegal or sometimes just extremely risky. 

Still—there’s the claim that such ownership is just a fantasy.  It’s not legal, so what’s backing up the dynamic with this consent model? 

I recently had some M/s characters explore this in my fiction.  The slave says: 

“[Our contract is] honor bound, and it says you own me, and I can’t change that. If I go back on it, I lose that integrity. It’s like a lien. I either honor the agreement or lose something momentous. Telling someone they own me really meaning something, ever again. […] I said that—anything you wanted to do—I’d let you. And if you don’t abide by the law or religion or social pressure, that doesn’t change what I said. So if I break the contract and leave and say it was because you were doing something illegal—I’m still breaking the honor ties. So I forfeit my right to leave with that integrity, to you—because the only way to leave with that is if you release me. You have a lien on my integrity with my debt being lifelong obedience. To include forfeiting all other rights. Unless you release me. If, when, I die, you die, or you release me—the debt is paid; my integrity is something you can’t take at that point.” 

This is generally my own real world philosophy on it.  My honor and integrity backs it up—no small things by my values.  Also, internal enslavement can alter what your mind can truly wrap itself around, to exclude disobedience—this can keep you bound in a way, too. 

Beyond the law, there can be other pressures, lessons built in from preschool and beyond. 

In a previous post, I pointed out something about this:

“If Mistress were to say yes to everything I want, to give in every time I was suffering in any way, we couldn’t have a functional M/s dynamic as we define it. She has to be able to pick her own methods over what society teaches us about courtesy and compromise. She can choose to observe those things if she wants, but if she feels bound by them every time, she’s not actually controlling things.

For my part, I have to be able to deal with it in a way that makes it easy for her to choose her own methods, not fixate on the concept of fair or treating others as you want to be treated. I can’t just technically never say no but try to whine and wheedle my way out of anything and everything I don’t like. It helps to be flexible, able to find things to like in a situation and handle it even if I can’t.”

I think some do picture something slightly different with irrevocable consent to the reality—they picture the screaming no, the being held down, all that.  Realistically, things don’t look like that here—I’m expected to just not say no, not to say it or complain and be overpowered.  It looks a lot more peaceful and the reality is that even if my knee jerk reaction is no, I always want to obey more than I want to say no, and if I can’t quite bring myself to say yes, I want to be pushed there.   

Also, you can’t really effectively hold someone down screaming no when what you told them to do is the dishes or the laundry.  Irrevocable consent goes far past things where holding someone down would work and that underlying desire to always say yes, and to say yes and just do it even when you don’t want to, is an important part.  If communicating about actual wants is desired, it can be done at a time not directly after an order. 

I will also say, I think it’s often valuable and important to read differing opinions on these things, avoid the echo chamber, and it can be thought provoking to read pieces with similar opinions that explain it in a new light.  I spend a lot of free time pouring over anything from academic articles to books to FetLife writings, going to classes, taking video courses, and practicing, on the subjects that interest me, often regardless of the conclusion of another’s content. 

It was this that allowed me to choose the label I felt was right for me—watching others theorize on what possible labels meant, how they were used, why they were selected, when and where and by who.  After that, it lets me figure out more about what it really means to me, how to explain it, how it fits into other pictures.  And if I think I have something to add, I write pieces of my own, like the ones mentioned above, or even this one. 

On Service Settings and Headspace

My service research brought me to Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service in April 2019, and parts of the book have stuck with me ever since.  Basically the manifesto of customer service at Disney, it has many points that can be applied elsewhere, and that was what I was hoping for as a service slave going into reading it.

One such point was this: setting changes expectations.

The manifestation of this belief at Disney resorts is obvious.  Almost anyone who’s ever just realized they stepped over the border between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland could tell you that a different set of things now seems appropriate or out of place.  Disney’s underground tunnels to keep cast members in costume from going through the lands where they don’t belong—no Buzz Lightyear in Frontierland—are somewhat legendary.

It’s about more than theme, though.  It can also mean convenience, organization, flow, cleanliness, formality.  Things placed without thought can mean they are inconvenient to find.  Lights on and doors open in certain rooms and halls can guide guests to where they should be.  A cluttered and slovenly front entry makes a certain impression.  A well set table can give an air of formality.  Even virtual spaces aren’t immune to the need for a good setting.

I think about this frequently when I’m serving brunch.  Here, brunch is supposed to be light and simple.  The big question almost every day is, “Toast or bagel?” and it’s usually served with something on the side along the lines of strawberries, homemade applesauce, or bacon.  Really nothing complicated.  Something that could easily be eaten at one’s whim on the couch, at the kitchen island, at a desk in front of a computer.

But that’s not where we eat brunch—we have brunch at the long dining table, covered in a clean tablecloth, bathed in morning sunlight from the windows, with fresh flowers perched in the middle.  Everything is served on real dishes, table set properly, with napkins I crocheted myself.  Every morning, at 9:30, excepting conflicting circumstances, with conversation as the main entertainment.

This makes some toast and bagels feel a lot more significant.

Even time can be a part of setting—the consistency of meal times can add a bit of ritual.

Recently someone mentioned being charmed by the fact that we always had a bouquet on the table, citing that it was something she did only for special occasions, and it felt like adding a special touch to the everyday.

All of these are pieces of setting and atmosphere.

To keep a good environment for service, I try to keep things clean, organized, intuitive, and err on the formal side.

To keep things convenient, we have clearly labeled stations.  In the kitchen, one for coffee, tea, cocoa, and general hot drinks, and one for soda, with straws and napkins.  A guest manual in the living room, with local recommendations and a guide to household features.  A box of first aid supplies and toiletries in the guest bathroom.  

Maintaining this environment means it sets the expectations for me, for Mistress, for guests.  Our friends, kinky and otherwise, know what to expect when they get here.  Mistress knows what the brunch table is going to look like.  I know what my standards are to maintain.  And with the expectations of environment change the expectations of service—lackluster service in a sparkling environment wouldn’t be the expectation and would be even more out of place.  

In a well maintained environment, it is easier to feel that need to maintain other standards as well.  

There’s also something to be said for the headspace of the actual tasks of maintaining that setting.  Cleanup from brunch sometimes includes changing the tablecloth and pruning the bouquet, and those tasks themselves are a reminder of the setting.

It feels different to kneel at the end of an unmade bed than it does to kneel at the end of one carefully made with hospital corners and fluffed pillows, and it feels different to know that you made it that way yourself.  It makes keeping your posture just so a little more intuitive.

I think Be Our Guest was right—setting does change service expectations—and it might be an underestimated headspace game changer. 

What Protocol Really Says

A question that comes up about specific protocols (rules, guidelines, rituals, anything else in that umbrella) is:

Who cares?

Which means—

What’s the real difference between, “Yes, Mistress,” and, “Yeah?”

What does it matter if your hands are boxed behind your back or palms up on your thighs?

Why dinner at six and not maybe six-ten? 

Why have the house at 73*, not one up at 74*?

Why not make that second of eye contact during that trip into her office to grab the label maker?

Are the tweezers during shaving inspections really necessary? 

Well, the answer in a way is simple: the M-type cares.  Maybe a little.  Maybe a lot.  But they care.  That is why that rule got set and that is why they bothered to express that preference.  And when it’s laid out like that—the M-type who cares about that gives the s-type the gift of having something to obey.  A way for them to say back, in words or action or mannerism or timing or choice or meticulousness—I care.  About you, about our dynamic, about adhering to your preference, authority, power, will.  I care about showing you my love, respect, submission.  

It doesn’t have to be a strong feeling or opinion.  The slave’s purpose and personal desire, here at least, is to give the M-type as much of what they want as possible—so the more wants expressed, the more to give.  Nothing is too insignificant to bother with—that’s a slave’s job and joy.

Protocols are a how—how to express devotion to the dynamic, love for the person.   

And if those wants aren’t laid out—the messages can get a little messier to send and receive.  

Protocols (or rituals, rules, guidelines) enhance the bond of a dynamic.  They’re the language those in it speak to each other.  They set the tone of dominance and submission (and sometimes set a subtype of it, too)—and let you, and all involved, know your place in it.  

Dictating the little things allows focus—maybe the clarity of mind to focus on the big things, maybe the peaceful mindfulness for the little actions—depending on the situation.  

The thing is that caring about a small thing—a word choice, a posture, a time, a degree—isn’t so small when it’s a chance for communication.  

A chance to say: I care.  I’m yours. 

On the Linguistics of Being a Kinky Author, Regardless of What You’re Writing

“Would you like to share?” 

I… would not. 

I’m on the weekly video call with my teacher and classmates for an online class offered through a writing workshop.  We’ve just done a freewrite, and what came out on the page this time was the beginning of a new plotline for an in progress work of BDSM fiction. 

I have never finished a BDSM related writing piece longer than a few thousand words; I’ve written a small handful of shorter fiction pieces mostly by request, and write my blog posts, and compose love letters to Mistress that are seen only by her and the filing cabinet, but this longer work is something new.  I’ve written plenty of vanilla novels, but…  

Not today.  And this is not a kinky class. 

“I… kind of got inspired for something in the middle of a big project; it won’t make much sense out of context.  And I kind of misinterpreted the prompt,” I say, which is all true.  “I’ll pass.”  

Like with others who said, “I’ll pass,” though, the teacher is overly encouraging.  “That’s okay.  It doesn’t have to make sense.  It’s just a freewrite.  We don’t need to know what it means as long as you do.  And the prompts are open to interpretation!” 

In grid view, a few classmates nod sympathetically. 

No, you really, really don’t want to know what this means, I think. 

But it’s going to get even more suspicious the longer I try to pass.  And this class is in part about overcoming writer’s block and doubt and self consciousness, even if those aren’t the parts I’m here for.  I could pass, but it’s not worth it.  Next week maybe I’ll watch what I write.  

So I start reading. 

I censor.   

It was only a five minute exercise and so there isn’t anything terribly long or elaborate on the page.  

But in a small page and a half of handwriting, there’s a clear power imbalance, honorifics, the implication of permission required to leave someone’s presence, kneeling, and a final sentence about that new plotline that I just have to eliminate altogether. 

I take out words as I find them.  Cut honorifics off the ends of sentences.  Soften up some phrasing.  Put less correlation between one’s action and the other character leaving the room.  Change “went and knelt next to her” to “went and found her”.  I have to think fast; I’m used to much slower proofreading and revising, for myself or as a service. 

I’m still paranoid by the time the next person starts reading, thinking that something has slipped through my filter that I’m too immersed in my own dynamic (and writing) to notice, something that I think of as perfectly normal, something that would raise some eyebrows.  

No such looks from the people in my computer screen, though. 

Not that I am so afraid of being out in this group, but I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, either. 

Still, I ponder my choices on what to cut or modify. 

The vast majority of my writing over time has been vanilla fiction.  My interests and knowledge bases seep in, but aren’t overt. 

Recently, I was writing a scene amongst a vanilla fiction project in which a character is being whipped, among other things.  None of the characters involved are so much as really BDSM aware, and while it would take a long sidetrack to explain here, there was dystopian interrogation context.  No one was having fun.   

But, as a kinkster, I’ve experienced pieces of some elements happening in the scene I described, in a fun way.  I know a thing or two about being whipped and restrained. 

While the scene was appropriately vanilla, I knew that if I was reading this with a different author’s name on it, I would be going, “Well, that author’s kinky.”

Mostly, it was the word choice that gave it away.  I had to edit.  The scene was in third person, and not so limited that the words really had to be the choice of someone involved, but still.  

My experience added some realism, whether a vanilla reader would know it or not, and I had a lot of phrases in mind to describe elements of the scene that I hear used mostly in BDSM circles, but are perfectly acceptable words in the vanilla world.

But, knowledge shows up in little pieces.  Types of whips.  Which ones are more, or less, common.  Where on the body being hit hurts more or slightly less.  Basic impact techniques.  What draws blood.  The concept of sting versus thud.  Where to grasp for best control when pulling someone’s hair.  The parts of a single tail.  What you can do with a knife to threaten but not yet hurt.  How it all feels in detail.

While at least one character in the scene might have researched parts of those—with different reasons in mind than a kinkster—word choice counts.  They might have, in choosing and purchasing a whip, had to know exactly what kind it was.  But in this moment, would they make that distinction?  Probably not.

In the actually kinky scene I wrote during that writing class, it was much more the power dynamic elements of the scene that were overtly not vanilla, not any sadomasochism. Dialogue and actions were the giveaway, not descriptors.  And I may have even been overly cautious—honorifics can be perfectly vanilla, for starters.

As I set out on writing BDSM fiction, a place to let those dynamics and that knowledge run free overtly through characters and relationships, I’m interested to see what I write for the first time, and what I find surprisingly familiar.

For the curious, that fiction work can be found here.

Service Is an Ephemeral Art

Service is an ephemeral art.

I was thinking this recently as I realized exactly how much of my job is doing the same thing over and over again.  Not so much one special project so much as do the dishes, every day.  Do the laundry, every day.  Cook brunch and dinner, every day.  Make the bed, every day.  When there are more dishes or more laundry, do them again.  When it’s nine-thirty or six again, cook again.  When someone gets in the bed and out again, make it again.  So on.

The effects disappear quickly and that is why the service here is really doing it every day, not once.  I’ve talked about the real burden of little tasks being that they add up and that they recur—and it’s true.  In the end, they add up to quite a bit to be allowed to take off an M-type’s plate.

As an example, Mistress likes to cook.  She doesn’t like to cook to have dinner on the table at six every day, but she likes to cook.  So I have dinner on the table at six every day, because I am more comfortable with those routines.  And she gets to have the energy to cook when inspiration strikes.

The book Cooked by Michael Pollan talks about the idea that when something is mandatory, it’s work, and when something is an option, it’s leisure—that the distinction is not innate to the task itself.  So when you had to hunt your own food, cook your own food, so on—it was work.  In a world of pre-packaged meat and even frozen dinners, those become leisure activities. 

So for me, cooking (having dinner on the table at six) is work.  Required.  Not because I live in a dimension without frozen dinners, or because I don’t enjoy it (I usually do enjoy it), but because it’s a requirement that Mistress set.  For her, cooking is leisure—something she doesn’t have to do, but sometimes does.  And when I bake cookies from scratch in the middle of the afternoon without being ordered to, it’s leisure, and my job is to shift as many things as I can from being work for her to being potential leisure.

And in that example, it’s easy to tell when the leisure task is done.  A once off meal you were just inspired to make, once eaten, is done.  The work version of a meal being on the table at a certain time is also kind of done when eaten, but it’s only done until you need to start the next meal, which might vary based on what you’re making or how far ahead you’re prepping, and that feeling of being done is a lot more ephemeral, a lot more caveats of for today or for this meal

Meanwhile, I was reading Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing, and it mentioned the Manifesto for Maintenance Art.  I looked it up, and noticed a quote:

“—after the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?”

It speaks to a very real thing: that to change the world, you need the basics taken care of.  That to keep that change made to the world while it keeps going even further, someone needs to maintain it. 

And this makes that maintenance a world changing thing in itself, because it enables that change.

It enables leisure activities instead of work, and world changing instead of world maintenance. Because world changing might happen at once—but world maintenance happens every day, or else that maintained state fades away—an ephemeral way of being.

I find it very satisfying to be that enabling support.

It does mean, however, that your work never really feels done, because it’s only done until a point where it is undone that could come at any moment, especially when it’s domestic and thus you live surrounded by potential tasks.

On the other hand, it can be nice to always be able to find something useful to do.  There isn’t room for terrible boredom or feeling unhelpful.  The reason the effects disappear quickly is because the service is engrained in a person’s life that is an aggregate of all of those quick little tidbits—and the privilege of making all of that flow smoothly is something to be valued.

Invisible Anticipatory Service, Setting Your Own Recurring Tasks, and Some Advice

Recently I proposed extending our meal plan, currently based around dinner, to include a light brunch.

Like dinner, on the dining table at the same time daily (9:30 AM instead of 6 PM).

I came up with this independently, though when Mistress approved, she said she’d been thinking of dictating something similar in the future anyway, once she thought of the way to do a brunch plan.

After a day or two, she mentioned my proposing of it as, “Anticipatory service on a new level,” being anticipatory setting of a new recurring task rather than taking a single action.

I thought about that distinction and said I might do more of that behind the scenes than she realizes, but that I got the idea.

“Do you like that most of your work goes unnoticed?” 

“Yes, Mistress,” I smiled.  

And I do—I hold that good service—in most of the types I provide—should be unnoticed.  Not that it’s always bad to be noticed, but that the point is to quietly handle and prevent problems and smooth out friction points, thus sparing the annoyance of noticing the problem.  To be noticed, much of the time, means that something went wrong or didn’t get done.  Of course, sometimes it just means a touch was appreciated or something was done especially well.

I found a quote recently while reading Butlers & Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals that says: “A butler exists essentially to smooth the lives of his or her employer and/or family by taking over many household and personal functions they would otherwise have to perform themselves, thus freeing them up for more worthwhile pursuits.” 

Slaves, too, I think.

Which means you don’t want your M-type still paying attention to those things in just a different way—managing you—but to take them off their plate altogether.

And the very reason a lot of those little tasks are nuisances to be delegated is frequently that they are recurring.  It’s not arduous to do some things once.  But those little things add up, day in and day out.  Restocking items, cooking, cleaning, making coffee, mending clothes.

So those problems can get solved sooner by a slave—but ideally, also solved for the long term.  

This requires the room in a dynamic to do these things, the right permissions—but assuming those are in place if this is desired, it also requires a few skills.

Mostly, routine observation.  To get ahead of a problem you have to notice it before it happens and before the M-type notices.  It might not even be a problem to you if you were acting only for yourself, so you have to look from their perspective as well (and maybe know them better than they know them).  An eye for detail, the memory to do something with that information, the system to keep it in long term.

Then, effective problem solving.  Something to keep in mind—it helps to have a willingness to implement an imperfect solution sooner rather than an obsession with the perfect solution that will come late or never.

For example, the brunch idea I mentioned above.  I had the idea, and pretty much immediately came up with an approximate time, made a list of recipes, printed off new meal planning templates, etc.  Ready to go to pitch the idea, knowing there might need to be modifications in the future or unknown problems might be found early on, but it was worth a go (and it solved the problem long term—it wasn’t “making brunch that day”).

Mistress, as said, had noticed the same need for a brunch meal plan, but was waiting for the exactly right idea, which in the meantime, meant no order given to handle brunch.

Which worked out perfectly fine since this time I got ahead of it.  If both of us had been doing that, however—no brunch.  Problem/need still in place until Mistress came up with something, and thus no anticipatory service happening. 

One other thing to keep in mind—saying, “There is a problem,” is not problem solving.  That’s an observation, and possibly not a new one.  Offering to help doesn’t really add much to it since that’s your job and is just another form of observation.

So, a piece of advice: offer help specifically.

Avoid lines like, “What can I do?” or, “I’m here if you want anything.”  This still leaves problem noticing and problem solving and then communicating that on the other party, and if an M-type had an answer to something like that, they could and likely would say it regardless of your asking.

Instead, offer something specific they might not have thought of.  Come equipped with both the notice of a problem and a proposed plan to solve it (long term).  When someone’s just having a rough day, offer a specific drink or meal or helpful task rather than, “Whatever you want”. 

It leads to less looping conversations of bringing things back into being noticed, and to more potential action of getting things solved for the long run.

Which is, here at least, the overall goal. 

Balancing Control and Decision-Making as a Service

I’ve touched on the spectrum between control-oriented and service-oriented dynamics before.  Dynamics based at their core in the active exertion of power, authority, and structure, enforcing rules, protocols, and routines, versus dynamics based on the idea of being useful, helpful, and completing tasks, chores, and assignments.   

There is no reason a dynamic can’t include all of those things—I know mine does—though it’s a useful distinction when talking about M/s philosophy and can have an influence on how some things get implemented.  And some dynamics do skew a lot more one way or the other.

However, there are some trade-offs to be made that fall under this spectrum, and here is a big one I see:

Decision-making.

A lot of s-types talk about wanting their M-type to decide everything for them.  Everything.  What they eat, when they eat it.  What they wear.  When they wake up, when they go to bed.

And a lot of s-types (including a lot of overlap) talk about wanting to be as useful as possible for their M-type.  Cooking, cleaning, managing a calendar, doing the shopping, making travel arrangements.

A lot of this is compatible, especially given just a little bit of compromise.  Say, I wear a uniform, and that doesn’t stop me from cooking dinner.  Now, if Mistress had wanted my uniform to be something too impractical to have me cook in, there would’ve had to be a trade-off.  But we went with something simple I can wear equally to volunteer at the library, go to my mom’s house, or attend a munch or play party.  That little line about keeping it neat means general permission to wear an apron when cooking, though.

But some parts of this are not necessarily going to be compatible.  It is unlikely you will give up all decision-making and remain equally useful, or that keeping the power to make too many decisions will give much of a feeling of being controlled.

The service of meal planning is not going to be compatible with very tight control over someone’s diet.  The secretarial task of making appointments is not going to happen easily with the s-type never being allowed to speak for their or the M-type’s time.  The s-type managing the shopping is not going to be any more convenient than the M-type doing it themselves with purchase-by-purchase financial control.

Now, there are still some things in between.

I do meal planning as a service, but there are loose limits on what I can do, like keeping dinner healthy, homemade, and protein-based most of the time.  I have to have it on the table at six o’clock and be waiting behind my chair in a specific position, the table settings have to be done a certain way, and the kitchen has to be cleaned right after for evening inspection.  But at the end of the day, I chose what we ate.  And for Mistress, not having to do the meal planning, shopping list-making, cooking, and associated tasks herself is well worth giving me the choice of what we eat.  Of course, she retains the power to tell me to change it if she wants to.

Besides the feeling of looser control, there can be other complications in handing some decision-making back to the s-type.  In a lot of the examples I gave, the M-type basically wants the decision made by the s-type to be the same decision they would have made themselves, or at least within certain guidelines (making that appointment at a time that works for them, for example), simply so they don’t have to make that phone call, that trip to the store, that meal plan, moreso than they want to hand off the decision itself.

This means the s-type has to learn what those preferences and guidelines are.  They might even be things the M-type doesn’t consciously know, themselves, to teach.  Things will be learned along the way by trial and error and observation and so on.

However, this learning process can lead to another trade-off:

The question of why.

There are a lot of mixed feelings out there about s-types asking why.  On the one hand, there’s the belief that the s-type should never ask why, that they just need to follow orders and the reasoning behind it is irrelevant because, “My M-type said so,” is a good enough reason to just do it.  And, if that’s the dynamic agreed to, so be it.  However, that may be best suited for the control-oriented.

Even in some very low protocol and loosely-structured service-oriented power dynamics, certain whys would be out of place.  The whys that aren’t a genuine question of trying to understand, but a way to argue, a way to say, “Convince me,” a way to stall, an opportunity to find a flaw in that reasoning, something that gives the implication that you won’t do the task without knowing why.

Those aren’t the whys I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the whys that become a practical matter to know when the M-type isn’t going to be constantly available in the future.  The whys that would let the s-type make smart substitutions or changes in a pinch, knowing the spirit of the law instead of looking at the suddenly unhelpful letter of it.  The way that a general knowledge of cooking will help you successfully swap an ingredient in a recipe when the last of something runs out, cut a step you correctly recognize as not necessary, or change a temperature and cook time to a different equivalent when dinner guests are stuck in traffic.  Rather than fail to realize that baking soda and baking powder are not the same thing, or that turning the oven that low will not get that meat up to temperature in the right amount of time, or anything else the recipe itself might not tell you how to modify in a conundrum.

Saying, “Always buy this specific brand of disinfectant spray,” is fine and good and if you want the s-type to unquestioningly buy that brand, then that can give you that control-oriented rush.

But… what about when you’re out of that spray, and you need more, and the store is out?

If your s-type has to call you to ask what to do now, that can continue that little control rush of thinking about your s-type running down the specific shopping list and be a nice call to get.

But it is probably an inconvenience if what you wanted was to be able to deeply focus on another task while your s-type was making the list and out taking care of the shopping to give you that free time as a service, with only that one item or a few others specifically dictated.

So in the case of the latter, knowing the why might be useful to avoid that phone call.

Do you buy that brand because it’s the cheapest?  Because it’s one whose ingredients don’t irritate an allergy you have?  Because it cleans the best?  Because it comes in the easiest spray bottle?  Because it’s the only one available in that bulk size? 

Each of those whys quite possibly leads to an entirely different substitution. 

The spirit there might be, “It’s not your place to just ask why, but it is your place to provide the best service possible.” 

A lack of that why shouldn’t impede quickly doing the task with a smile.  Sometimes the why is going to be just momentary, or far less urgent than the task itself, or evident later, or simply not shared or shared right then.  And a negative answer to, “May I know why?” is still to be accepted.  But to prevent the question at all rules out the sometimes practical nature of it.

Yet, allowing it regularly may feel like a lot of freedom for the control-oriented.  

That’s a trade-off.  

And of course there’s an in-between.  Carefully sharing that why only when it is practical, rather than getting into the habit of always answering.  Perhaps changing whether or not asking is allowed between time periods or protocol levels.  Allowing the question only once the task is complete.  So on.  This can get you that balance between the joy of control and the practicality of service, the balance between decisions as a form of power and decisions as a form of service.  

I know I’m allowed to ask why for practicality (not for any of the disingenuous reasons I mentioned above), and sometimes I hear a useful-for-the-future why to note, and sometimes I hear, “Because I said so.”

Sometimes whys get figured out almost accidentally over time, or with a little bit more discussion.  My main kneeling position has my hands placed behind my back.  I wouldn’t really feel the need for a why on that since it isn’t really something I might face a conundrum on, but a surface why of, “It looks more submissive to me,” became, “It implies physical [and emotional] openness and availability to me rather than defensiveness,” in a relatively short philosophical conversation.

In situations like that, finding them out can be fun for the psychology-minded in addition to practical, though that’s just a bonus.

In the end, what’s important for M-types is not sabotaging your own priorities in the name of avoiding any trade-offs at all.  If you’d miss that rush of control more than you mind getting that phone call, you can trade off that practical knowledge for that emotional benefit.  If you’d mind the interruption more than you’d mind handing off that decision, you can trade off that bit of in-the-moment power for the concrete benefit.  There might be compromises to be made, but they’re still yours to make.

On Potato Peeling and Shakespearean Sonnets (Or, “Is It More Submissive to Enjoy Everything You’re Ordered to Do, or to Dislike Those Tasks but Do Them Anyway?”)

It’s amazing how much time I spend peeling potatoes, I message my mom, because her first message of the day, always around the time she settles in at home after work and the time I am beginning to prepare dinner, again has found me peeling potatoes, perhaps the third time in a bit over a week “peeling potatoes” has been my answer to “whatcha doing”.

I don’t mind the cooking of (and certainly not the eating of) the potatoes.  They’re easy enough to wash and peel and cut and then turn into garlic mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes infused with chicken stock, hearty sides.

I like cooking, and baking, and doing things like that in the kitchen.  It hits something in the service slave in me that would rather peel potatoes than use a powdered mashed potato mix, rather cut in butter than buy biscuit dough in a tube, rather set a table than eat on the couch (if I were allowed to sit on the couch).

It takes up a lot of my time and energy: there’s the cooking itself, the increased cleanup after (compared to delivery or something frozen), the meal planning, list making, couponing, shopping, the organization to even get to the part where I’m peeling potatoes.

And much as it’s true that it can be time consuming and energy draining, and the rule about a healthy homemade dinner on the table at six every night (and associated rules) is beyond my control…

I do not consider it to be a particularly submissive act of service.

Technically, it is.

I consider it a service, yes.  And I believe that for some, it would be a submissive act of service.  But I don’t think it is for me.

I started with the fact that I enjoy cooking and baking and doing things in the kitchen.  If all of those rules went away tomorrow, I would still enjoy those things, and unless banned from doing so for some reason, would continue to do them to some extent.

Because of that, I don’t view it as particularly submissive.

I have often seen basically the question, “Is it more submissive to enjoy everything you’re ordered to do, or to dislike those tasks but do them anyway?”  I heavily believe in the latter.

The first sounds very nice in theory.  If you were so submissive, surely you’d just be thrilled to receive an order, and love acting on it.  On the one hand, well, yes.  If there is no part of you that finds satisfaction in doing something simply because your M-type wishes it, even if every other part of you hates that task deeply, I think many M/s dynamics might turn bad for you quickly.  On the other hand, in a 24/7 [Part 1] [Part 2] dynamic where you cannot say no, I think assuming every part of you will be thrilled at every order is likely unrealistic; there are going to be times you are exhausted or ill or in an emotional place.  

I don’t like to dismiss things as simply unrealistic, though, and I have seen many posts on M/s write off as unrealistic what for me are daily realities, so let me address it beyond that.

My other issue with it is this: if you love to do something, is doing it an act of submission, or is it simply doing it?  Are you truly submitting to the order, or following it because you have no motive not to, and enjoy doing the task anyway?  If you’re told to do something you would do anyway, is it submission, or a convenient line up of intentions? 

What about the things you don’t love to do?  Things you might even hate.  Or perhaps even like or simply don’t mind in general, but you’re tired or stressed or under the weather?

When ordered to do those things, what motivates you?  You no longer have the “well I was going to do that anyway” or the “well it’s no trouble” or the “well I enjoy doing it” as motives also present.

At that point, the only motive is submission, and thus, those are the things I view as truly submissive.  Exactly what those things are will change on a person to person basis.

Recently I was discussing love languages (the ways we show love, and the ways we want it shown to us) and brought up the concept of novelty.

If you have a friend who is super touchy, always hugging hello and goodbye and generally cuddly, but who rarely says “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or compliments you, what means more when they do it?  If you have another friend who keeps two feet of distance at almost all times, but says “I love you” and compliments you on three things every time you see them, what means more when they do it?

The answers are likely different for each of those people.  It is the deviation from their personal norm that is noteworthy and meaningful, not the act itself.  A hug from a physically distant friend means a lot, and a hug from a friend who hugs you three times a day might not feel like that anymore unless it has been absent.

I apply the same concept to services and submission.  My cooking isn’t particularly submissive because I would do it anyhow.  Someone else’s cooking might be extremely submissive because they hate being in the kitchen.

I saw a joke about Shakespeare, something like, “If he writes her one sonnet, he loves her.  If he writes her three hundred sonnets, he loves sonnets.” 

You get the idea.

I do think the act of doing something you don’t want to do is only particularly submissive if done without protest or complaint or caviling.  Otherwise, it is probably just grudgingly tolerating being told what to do.

Such arguments can be a symptom of the “have to” (versus “get to”) mindset.

If you want to submit, the task presented is how you get to do it.  You might also have to do it, but if you treat it as a “have to”, you might not get to.  Sometimes listening to complaints is not worth delegating a task.  Consider how you would feel if you didn’t get to do the task.  From a submissive mindset, that will be worse than the feeling of having to do the task.  It can be a motivating thought experiment and change how you feel about it and how you present those feelings rather quickly.

If your motivation is that you get to follow an order, be pleasing, be useful, submit, do as you’re told—I think that is much more important as an indicator of submission than if you enjoy the task for the task itself.