Masculine Submission

No greater love has a man than to live his life for the one he loves

How shall I describe your skin color?

Some time ago, I began to follow Debbie Reese’s blog because the way she raises awareness of how indigenous people are treated in literature – well, woke me up to how poorly indigenous people are treated in literature. This has made me consider how inclusive my own writing is (or isn’t) and the extent to which characters are reliant on outdated stereotypes. As is typical when one is confronted with the social privilege that is woven into the background of our reality, I’ve been uncomfortable with some of the things I’ve read…but I’ve not yet found reason to disagree.

This post is particularly hard for me to handle. First of all, it’s a question I’ve considered myself. I am planning out a story where the main character is a Black man. I want to write about him in a way that is authentic to the experience of being a Black man in our society – and that means describing both himself and other characters as they would be seen by a Black man in our society.

This is how insidious our conceptualization of race is. From a scientific viewpoint, it’s practically useless. From a social viewpoint, it’s sometimes hard to overstate – mostly because we keep insisting that it’s so damned important. From a literary viewpoint, I think it is important because we often use it as a lazy way to denote someone’s otherness. Outdated stereotypes persist, not because they are in any way accurate, but because they convey the sense of otherness that is sought after (in probably the laziest way possible).

There is nothing wrong with wanting to portray people as they see themselves. The problem is that most of us don’t see race in ourselves. I don’t generally see my skin color. I notice it in relation to how it appears normally – so when I get a sunburn, I see it is a bit extra red; when I am sick, I see it is paler than normal; etc. I suspect this is also true for people whose skin color differs from mine.

I also suspect that the reason the question, well-intentioned as it is, feels “icky” to Debbie Reese is that is a question no one would think to ask a white person (I could be wrong, of course). So here’s an exercise for those of us who have skin tones that fall under the heading of “white”: How would you want someone to describe your skin color? After all, “white” is no more accurate than is “Black” or “Brown” or “Red” or “Yellow” or whatever other big headings you want to throw up to gather people under. (Just to be clear, if I am right at all about the source of the icky-ness; then this won’t less it at all.

For me, I would say this:
“At its palest, it is a pale khaki with the light orange of an oak leaf in late September, when it has lost its red and first begins to fade towards yellow. It fades towards translucence at the sheltered joints of the elbow and knee and inner thigh, where faint blue lines of blood vessels fade into view. When it is first exposed to the sun, such as after a long winter, then it quickly turns the bright red of a cloudless sunrise before quickly darkening towards the warmth of freshly turned clay. Where it stay exposed to the sun throughout the summer, it darkens through golden hues to a medium polished bronze with undertones of sun-baked cotton fields before the plants push through the soil.”

It really feels weird to talk about my skin that way, and I’m not sure I’m totally accurate or giving a good indication of what it actually looks like. I think most people would see it as say, “He’s a white guy.” I think that’s the point I want to make – that seeing our own skin through someone else’s eyes is not a natural thing.

You don’t have to be like that

I have always loved books. I don’t remember what age I was when I learned to read, but I remember being surprised when I started school that there were kids who couldn’t. For as long as I can remember, I have read anything and everything I could get my hands on (Note: There IS a short list of books that I have tried and could not finish for one reason or another.)

Not all books are created for the same purpose, obviously. Some I read to acquire knowledge, either general or applied. Some – most – I read because it gave me pleasure to read. A very short list of books I read because they elevated my soul – they made me realize something about the ways of the world and they altered the path of my walk through life. There is a difference between Conan the Barbarian and Of Mice and Men.

Books can change the world. While Upton Sinclair never was able to convince Americans that capitalism necessarily brings out the worst in men, he was able to get some health and safety standards implemented in the meat-packing industry. Ayn Rand, whether you like her or not, continues to have an impact on American politics. Even a book like Farenheit 451 has impact on the world, if only to bring up a yardstick against which our world and our society can be measured.

The thing I’ve learned from reading so many books in so many genres is this: Everyone depends on stereotypes. Even if a character is built to specifically challenge a stereotype, it still depends upon that structure for its existence. Stereotypes are nothing more than expectations of individual behavior based on group membership. They make the world predictable, and we couldn’t function socially without them. To do so, we would have to build an understanding of every individual we meet from the ground up without reference to how other people in society behave.

The problem with stereotypes is that, because they are accepted as true and accurate, they can lead us to misjudge people. In exactly the same way, we can misjudge ourselves because we believe the stereotype to be “more of what we should be” than what we are. Stereotypes are hurtful, to other people and to our selves.

For example, I was referred to this page on “alpha male” characteristics by an acquaintance of mine on Twitter. I responded by saying that it was simply reinforcing toxic gender roles, and he explained that he thought it was still a good resource for writers to base romance characters upon. As I look over the page, I have to admit that it is the stereotypical basis for A LOT of literary characters across every genre. To that extent, my acquaintance is correct – it’s a good resource to understand how many successful characters are put together.

My point still stands, however. Taken as a whole, the characteristics add up to a stereotype of masculinity that is toxic. Conan, Tell Sackett, and Sherlock Holmes would all score highly on this scale. But they are characters in books and any problem they encounter is, almost by definition, surmountable. These are huge, heroic figures, so they can overcome challenges no one else can – but they can only do it because the author is pulling the strings behind the page.

Real life isn’t like a story book. Take, as an example, the very first characteristic of an Alpha Male:

An Alpha male is very comfortable with himself. He always radiates confidence. He does not fear anyone – and MOST IMPORTANTLY does not really care what people think of him.

It’s always good to be comfortable with yourself. But does that make someone an alpha? If there is a pecking order in society (there is, but it isn’t this clear cut); then there are people who are not on top. They must either be comfortable with it or live a life, as Thoreau said, “of quiet desperation.”

Being comfortable is not always a good thing, either. Prison is full of people who are comfortable with who they are. Call them a “jerk” or “asshole” but one of the reason people find it difficult to get along with narcissistic people is that the narcissist is fully comfortable with who they are.

Anyone who always radiates confidence is either not being challenged or a fool. I’m a very confident person. But there have been times when a whole hell of a lot was riding on the outcome of my actions. I was nervous. I accepted it and worked through it and did what I had to do anyway, but I wasn’t always confident. There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance, and a big slice of that difference is in understanding the implications of one’s actions and that almost necessitates a level of doubt.

Of course, it is possible to radiate confidence without actually being confident. I’m pretty sure that isn’t really a desirable trait in most situations.

No fear? Only if you live such a sheltered life that nothing bad could ever happen to you. My grandfather survived the Bataan Death March and when I joined the military he told me, “Be afraid of the man who has no fear. That son of a bitch will get you killed.”

Doesn’t care what anyone thinks of them? That person only lives in a state of denial. If that person were real, they would surely not be reading an article telling them how to behave so that people will think better of them. I doubt they would even write an article to tell people how to behave so that people will think better of them. I mean, if you don’t care; then you don’t care, right? To paraphrase and alter the aim of Catholic Priest and addictions specialist Father Martin, “If you didn’t care about green beans; then you’d stop talking about them.”

I don’t care about green beans, really, but I do care about toxic gender roles. I write FemDom erotica, and I do with a political purpose (this is explained here by someone much more talented than I). I want to destroy these toxic gender roles, and I try to do it one pleasurable story after another. I attack them head-on in this forum, and through the social science teaching that I do. But American society doesn’t change because someone said something that made them think – at least, it usually doesn’t.

Art, at its best, nudges society along by showing it where it is wrong. Television is the primary art form in American culture, and I don’t have access to any input in that medium. The same is true for movies. I can’t draw, paint, or dance to save my life, and most Americans are immune to fine art anyway (and confused by modern art). But I can write, and I do so with an eye on overthrowing toxic gender roles.

I don’t believe I will ever write a best-seller that makes me wealthy and opens a society-wide dialogue about masculinity. I don’t believe it is my path to change the world in such a way. I do, however, believe that I might say something in just the right way that someone’s life is changed. Perhaps that person, or perhaps that person’s son or daughter, will then change the world because there was a voice in the past who whispered, “You don’t have to be like that.”

And I’m saying you don’t have to be like that – not because it doesn’t matter what people think of you, but because it does.

Submission: The Ugly Duckling

I got into a bit of a dust-up this week with multiple people over a rather badly worded request for information from a submissive man. Basically, he identified himself as a submissive man and asked, “Where do I go to serve?” Given that this question was asked on a website that exists entirely as a social arena for those in various fetish lifestyles, and it was in a forum specifically dedicated to submissive men, the only legitimate way to interpret this statement is, as far as I’m concerned, “Where do I meet dominant women who might allow me to serve them?”

Of course, it would also be perfectly fine to have responded with something along the lines of, “You are being really unclear about what you want. Can you clarify?” Honestly, that’s pretty much a good response to anyone who asks a question that is overly broad or vague or simply worded badly. That is, in fact, the way such questions are normally answered. Instead, what was offered was along the lines of, “You should look for places to volunteer – like a soup kitchen.”

After a LOT of back and forth, I was able to get one woman to say that the reason she had given that advice was that she would be more interested in a man who was interested in his community and wanted to make the world a better place. That’s fine…if she had also said, in her original answer, “I volunteer at the homeless shelter (as an example) and there are probably other dominant women who would like to see a guy with community interest, plus there are a lot of non-kinky benefits to volunteerism.” Without that context, the exchange of “Where I can serve?” (when asked in a fetish website and a F/m forum) and “Go volunteer at the soup kitchen!” is simply dismissive and insincere.
Read more…

Words are powerful

I was initially happy to see this article purporting to warn about abusive relationships between men. Unfortunately, the author makes too many sweeping generalized statements and other logical errors for the piece to be of much use. It turns what should be a piece that brings light into a dark corner of male existence into a washout, descending into homophobia.

The author, Raymond Bechard, starts out stating that he was abused by women in romantic relationships and that he was slower to realize that some of the men in his life were also abusive, including his best friend. These are both powerful statements that need to be help up, because men are very reluctant to admit they can be victims. We are taught to not be forthcoming about our weaknesses, and far too many survivors of abuse look at what happened to them as being a fault of their own weakness.

Mr. Bechard gives us a list of “warning signs” for abuse in male/male relationships. The list is:
*They take charge of your life
*They have temper outbursts
*They use violent or demeaning language
*They have a sexist attitude
*They insult you
*They establish dependency
*They ridicule you
*They distance you from certain relationships
*They have an abusive background
*They blame other people
*Substance abuse
*They track you
*They are self centered
*They cheat
*They defame you
*They make threats

Full disclosure: I am a survivor a childhood abuse. I am also (in case you’ve never been here before) in a very happy and healthy female-led-relationship (FLR) and am sexually submissive and masochistic. There’s every chance that some of my objections are flavored by who I am and what I have experienced.

But some are not. Some are based on the idea that words are powerful things. There is an ocean of difference between “fucking” and “making love.” There is a difference between someone being a “jerk” and being a “complete asshole.” “Abuse” is an incredibly powerful word, jam-packed with emotions. It has come to encompass a lot more than it used to – and deservedly so. However, if we widen its meaning too much; then it becomes a useless tool of empty rhetoric. If, or when, that happens, then it becomes a tool of oppression instead of liberation. All people of good conscience should be able to clearly see why that would be a tragedy.

Nothing I say should be taken to defend anyone who is abusive in any way. What I am trying to do is to take an imperfect tool and improve it. There are three major problems with this list: 1) It is redundant; 2) It includes character traits or actions that are (or often can be) unrelated to abuse; and 3) the following paragraph shows it to be incomplete.

The redundancy is a technical issue, and a minor one. The problem is that it undermines credibility. For example, is it possible for someone to “take charge of your life” and not “establish dependency?” I honestly don’t see how that’s possible. What about “distance you from other relationships?” It seems like they are all part and parcel of the same process. Similarly, “they insult you” and “they ridicule you” are pretty much the same thing…if we want to get really technical, then ridicule is a type of insult, isn’t it? Let’s put “they defame you” in that same category.

Other things on the list really have nothing to do with abuse and everything to do with just being a regular jerk. “They have temper outbursts?” Really? Is there anyone short of the Dalai Lama who doesn’t have angry outbursts SOMETIMES? Being angry is not being abusive. Being so mad you yell and wave your arms isn’t abusive, if all you do is yell and wave your arms. I would argue that hitting some inanimate object isn’t being abusive, though I know there are plenty who disagree with that.*

The same thing is true for the next one “the use of violent or demeaning language.” So…can we talk about boxing without using violent language? Probably not. Is everyone who talks about boxing abusive or potentially abusive? Categorically not. Is everyone who doesn’t talk about boxing non-abusive? Categorically not. I have family who regularly talk about “mamby-pamby, bleeding-heart liberals.” As a person with fairly liberal views, I find that demeaning. But it isn’t abusive. I also have friends that regularly talk about “brain-dead, Fox-News-fed Conservatives.” On behalf of my family, I find that to be demeaning. It still isn’t abusive, though.

The same thing is true for the next item, “they have a sexist attitude.” Look, our entire freaking culture is a tangle of interlocking sexist attitudes. If we take this at face value; then everyone is abusive. Believe me, I will scream with the loudest that gender roles are restrictive and damaging. They hurt people. I could even be persuaded to say that they are abusive – but, again, if we expand the word to mean everything then it means nothing.

And if someone cheats on his wife or girlfriend, he isn’t abusing me. He’s abusing the trust she gives him. He’s setting everyone up for a world of hurt. He’s being an asshole. But he isn’t abusing me – particularly since I’m not involved.

I’m not going to catalog all of the issues I have with this, because I’m not trying to write a book. I will bring up one more, because it’s used in two places: “Abusers were bullies as kids” and “They have an abusive background” are variations of the same thing, and they are simply not true. Not all abusers were bullies, some were victims – as the second sentence indicates. Plus, the vast majority of people who survived abuse do not become abusers themselves…unless Mr. Bechard is also warning that he is abusive to others.

The last point I made is that the list isn’t complete with its own discussion. Immediately following this list is this:

And one other thing . . . They may want more than friendship. Does your friend want to become physical with you? Keep in mind, he is coming from a place that is not clear to even him. His desires to control, manipulate, and express his idea of a “Bromance,” may include an unwanted physical relationship with you, however fleeting.

I have gay friends. Without sounding narcissistic, I would guess that some of them find me attractive. Perhaps some – maybe one or two – even want to have sex with me. This is not abusive! This is people responding to their own innate desires! To imply otherwise is simply as abusive as anything the article warns about. Even if some random gay dude were to try to seduce me, it wouldn’t be abusive. If he continues after I turn him down or he tries to force himself on me; then yes, it is.

Beyond that, our culture is homophobic. I know grown men who have never gotten a hug from their father or brother. Statements like Mr. Bechard make support this emotionally-damaging distance. There is nothing wrong, and nothing even sexual, about a guy putting his arm around another guy’s neck in friendship.

In my own struggle to come to terms with abuse, I’ve had to face some horrible truths. The people who were suppose to protect and nurture me as a child, didn’t. I carry within me a skewed sense of what a normal relationship should be, because I learned dysfunction in place of normalcy. I’ve had to unlearn many things in order to purge myself of potentially abusive actions. My sexuality also forced me to put serious thought into some actions that were abusive at the hands of one person but not abusive at the hands of another. In other words, some characteristics of an abusive relationship are shared by non-abusive relationships. I don’t know that Mr. Bechard has fully learned that lesson.

Click here for a much better warning list of abusive behaviors.

*If I get mad, go downstairs and hit a punching bag until I work off the steam; then go back up and say, “I’m sorry I got so upset, can we get back to talking about it?” THAT isn’t abusive. If I come back up and say, “I did that so I wouldn’t hit you! In fact, I pretended that I was punching you in the face the whole time!” – well, that is another story. That is clearly abusive.

From the beginning

Anyone who has read very much of what I’ve written here will know that I’m not a big fan of the prevailing gender roles for men. I consider them to be a prime reason why men suffer from so many mental health issues – and an major reason why men don’t seek help for mental health issues sooner and more often. This post explores how gender roles set me back three decades in the journey to finding myself.

Socialization is simply the sum total of processes and people that teach a child how to be a member of society. Primarily, socialization is accomplished through the family. School and church also played a heavy role in my socialization. My family life varied through degrees of neglect punctuated by abuse. That meant “being a man” meant taking care of myself when no one else would and being able to withstand whatever punishment was thrown at me. In the 1970s, schools weren’t big on special services, but I was good enough at academics (and sometimes at athletics) that my odd behaviors were overlooked. We cycled through a series of uber-conservative churches – the kind where women are supposed to wear dresses and a minimum of make-up/jewelry and men keep their hair short and their voice soft, with a hint of authoritative threat.

Because television and movies were rare in my life, I missed out on the messages from those medium. However, I made up for it through voracious reading – and my favorite type of book was heroic fiction of any genre (science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance…). I identified heavily with the outcast hero who stands against society and evil to stand victorious: Conan, John Carter, Sherlock Holmes, the Hardy boys, Tom Swift, Thomas Covenant, Frodo Baggins, William Tell Sackett, Dan Frontier, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, Jim Lassiter (Riders of the Purple Sage) – men of action who were quick to stand up in a fight, no matter the odds. This heavily colored my idea of what it meant to be a man. How could it not? These are, after all, archetypes for masculinity in our culture. The names are damn near interchangeable. The details vary, but they stick to the tried and true hero schtick.

My teenage years were spent in semi-seclusion. We lived in West Texas, nearly a mile from our nearest neighbor (which happened to be a couple in their 70s). I saw people my age at school. Once I was able to drive, I developed some close friendships with other guys my age, but a farming accident and death left us all reeling. I don’t know if the others have regular contact with each other, but I haven’t seen or heard from any of them in years (not even on Facebook). Since I had moved around to a dozen (literally) small towns, I was constantly the outsider. I fell in love hard, and there was a window for it to bloom, but the only way I knew how to get a girl (from my books) was to rescue her from danger. There was simply no danger around, so I watched her end up with someone else.

I spent six years in the Navy. I wasn’t the roughest and toughest son-of-a-bitch, but I was badass enough to be both respected and feared. Truth be told, I was a bit of a bully, but I got the job done when others couldn’t. I turned into one of my literary heroes, in some respects – to think was to act and I would endure anything, pushing myself harder and farther than anyone around me. I raced to the brink of emotional collapse and beyond. It was my first lesson that heroics are better left for books, but it would take many more hard lessons before I began to question the masculine mythos I had grown up worshiping.

If you go back and read the books that I grew up reading and closely examine the romantic subplots; then you’ll notice that the heroes always get the girl, but they are always beaten and bruised by the time they get there. There is an implicit link between masculine sexuality and suffering – though the suffering was never at the hands of the love interest. The important thing, for me, was that this link was as attractive as any other part of heroic fiction.

Like most teens, I was fairly self-unaware. I never noticed this linkage between pain and sex/love, and therefore I never understood that this linkage is a primary part of how I experience romantic love. In my adolescent fantasies, I would fend off attackers with my fists just to get a single kiss from my latest crush. Or I would rage against the unfairness of society, fighting an entirely different kind of battle, to unite with love across boundaries of class and race. The important thing was that I ended up suffering in some manner, and the love and affection of my desired woman was the reward for that.

Even more importantly, this was not something I ever thought of consciously. It is only in retrospect that I can so clearly see what I was all along: submissive and masochistic. It wasn’t until the internet came along in my thirties that I discovered BDSM, and then it was discovered through MaleDom porn. After a period of denial, I embraced my desire for BDSM. I even started a few BDSM-based relationships with submissive women.

Anyone who hangs around BDSM folks for a while will hear the term “topping from the bottom” referring to a person who takes a submissive role while trying to direct their partner. It’s like a car telling a traffic cop when to wave his hand. For obvious reasons, this irritates Dominants and results in no small amount of derision from submissives. Well, I entered BDSM as a Dominant who was actually “bottoming from the top.” I arranged things so that what happened was exactly what my submissive partner wanted.

This is not simply “staying within boundaries.” That is, as far as I’m concerned, a basic requirement for any and every healthy BDSM relationship. Mistress Delila has never violated a single boundary with me. She has, however, withheld something I wanted at a particular time. I might want a spanking, as an example, but if she isn’t feeling it at the moment, it doesn’t happen. This is exactly how both of us want things. It is what D/s means to us. When I was playing Dominant, it didn’t really matter what I wanted – even if I didn’t want to do something, we did it.

It felt good, however. I got to associate my sexuality with suffering and pleasure. It filled all of the social mores I’d learned about men being in charge and being the one who…well, the one who metes out punishment. The problem was that it was exhausting because I was constantly feeding someone else’s needs and never really getting what I needed back.

It was a process for me to realize what was wrong. It took time. In the process, I ruined a marriage. Understand, I didn’t have to just question if I was dominant; I had to question everything I knew about masculinity – and if I was, in fact, really masculine at all. In the midst of this, I fell into a heavy spiral of depression. It was hell.

I came through it, though. And I came through with a much better understanding of who I am. I am, in fact, a pretty masculine fellow. I like being a man. I also enjoy and need a romantic partner who is both a woman and dominant over me. I need someone who will enjoy hurting me. I need someone who will push me to the point of tears and then hold me and take pleasure in every tremble of my body. I need to trust someone so fully that I can let go of everything the rest of the world wants of me and simply be a lump of clay to be molded to meet her needs. (This someone, for the record, is Mistress Delila – duh!)

Obviously, I have wants and needs and desires of my own. I have fantasies. I’m not an empty-headed buffoon who simply yes-ma’am’s his way through life. What I am is secure in the knowledge that I am ultimately safe with my lover – She will meet all of my emotional and physical needs if I simply focus on giving Her what She needs and wants. This is, in my mid-forties, the most wonderful relationship I’ve ever had. I feel loved and treasured and desired as I never have because Mistress Delila isn’t interacting with the masculine facade I built to pleasure our damned-to-hell-and-back culture. She is interacting with me as I truly am. Because I am more truly myself with Her, I can love and accept love as I never have been able to before.

This is why I hate the gender-based messages that our culture straight-jackets us with. Playing that gender role image cost me three decades of life that I can never get back. Don’t get me wrong – there was a lot of good in those years that I wouldn’t change. But if I could have lived authentically through those years – if I’d just realized that it was possible to be both submissive and masculine – I would not have forced two women to suffer through a marriage to a man who couldn’t understand and accept himself.

Incidentally, I know that a lot – a whole lot – of women struggle with similar issues because of the gender-based restrictions society places on them. There are, however, a lot of voices calling that for what it is and forcing society to give women more space to develop in whatever direction their soul leads. As Gloria Steinem said, “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” I’m trying to find that courage, and to lend a bit to other men, too.

Subspace and consent

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen online discussions pop up that centered on the shouldn’t-it-be-simple concept of consent. Quite honestly, a lot of it sickens me. There is a LOT of blame-the-victim stuff that is sadly reminiscent of what I heard when I assisted a licensed psychologist in his group therapy for sexual offenders. And by “sadly reminiscent” I mean “exactly the same.”

For the record, my discussion of BDSM matters, unless I specifically state otherwise, takes place in the framework of my monogamous relationship with Mistress Delila. I do not play casually, and never have. I don’t go to play parties and have no interest in doing so. I don’t care if there is a “scene” because I wouldn’t be part of it anyway.

So why should I care what scene-players are saying? Beyond the “no man is an island” thing, there is the fact that what public or semi-public players do and say impacts the way society will view me. I don’t want to be associated with rapists or psychotic abusive assholes. I want my love-style of BDSM FemDom/malesub to be understood and appreciated for what it is – the way Mistress Delila and I express our love and mutual arousal.

Consent, to me, is simple: It’s me giving permission for a person to engage with me in a particular action. It is not something that can be given for future acts, nor can it be revoked or altered retroactively. It is present-tense, ongoing, moment-by-moment.

My power-release to Mistress Delila is complete in that I surrender everything to Her that is possible to surrender. I worded that carefully, because I want to stress that there are some things it is not possible to surrender. For an extreme example, I could not surrender my life (meaning, offer to be killed). In a more realistic fashion, I cannot consent to abandon my parental duties to Her – I continue to be a father according to the best of my ability (though She is a valued partner and advisor). For my purpose here, I cannot surrender my ability to consent – and therefore to not consent – because it is an innate part of being a human in a free society.

There is, however, such a thing as “standing consent.” This is consent that is continually given until actively revoked. This is given with the understanding that Mistress Delila will behave as a sane person and not, for example, try to ass-fuck me in the middle of Piggly Wiggly…or any other supermarket. Our list of activities that are allowable mesh well together, and I know where the lines are drawn for Her and She knows where the lines are drawn for me. This is not the outcome of a single conversation or checklist, but the mutual understanding gained for a long-term and ongoing relationship.

I don’t like the term “enthusiastic consent,” though. In my mind, that would preclude entering any activity that I am not sure I would enjoy beforehand. Can I be enthusiastic about…I don’t know…making woodchuck sounds during orgasm? I’m not sure. Is it something I’d do if She wanted? Yes, without a doubt. But I couldn’t be enthusiastic about it, and I wouldn’t try to fake it.

One of the activities that Mistress truly enjoys is to roll a bit of ice over my skin. It makes Her giggle. It makes Her aroused. It is not something I am enthusiastic about. It makes me cringe to think about it. I hate the feeling of ice on my skin. Mistress does not have to ask for consent every single time, though, because it is part of the standing consent we maintain. For me, it’s kind of like if She wanted me to have dinner with a friend of Hers that I don’t like – I’m not going to enjoy it, but I’m going to do it because I love Her and want Her to enjoy it. Having been married twice, I can speak with some authority when I say that married couples make that sort of sacrifice for each other often.

It also neglects the power-arrangement of our relationship. I thoroughly enjoy getting a spanking and am generally enthusiastic about receiving one. However, early in our relationship, I violated a rule and received a spanking as punishment. I was not enthusiastic about getting it, and I didn’t enjoy it. I consented to it because it solidified and upheld the dynamic that both of us wanted to have.

I say all of this because I want to address the idea that it is always the responsibility of the submissive partner to use safewords and to actively withdraw consent. In short, that is a stupid idea. It totally neglects the dynamic that I want to achieve.

A big part of the ongoing consensual nature of our relationship is that She will continue to seek consent on an ongoing basis. It continues to be my responsibility to give it. But it is Her responsibility to make sure that it is given. This is not splitting hairs. It is being realistic.

I enjoy sensory deprivation and bondage. The purpose of this is two-fold. First, it allows Her complete control over what I experience and where the activities lead. Second, it takes away even modest attempts on my part to influence what She does. If I can’t even beg with my eyes; then I am truly vulnerable and She is truly in charge. It is physically impossible for me, at times, to speak or to communicate in almost any way. THAT IS THE POINT OF IT.

So how does She maintain consent? A good part of it is that She knows what my boundaries are, She knows what Her boundaries are, and She is willing to maintain control over Her own desires. She checks on me constantly – sometimes through touch, sometimes verbally, sometimes by lifting the blindfold for a moment or two. It is one of the reasons I feel comfortable with giving blanket consent to Her – I know She is not going to abuse it. I know I am safe. I know She will deprive Her desire of going further for the sake of being safe. I know that our continued loving relationship means more to Her than ANYTHING She could possibly want to do to me.

Does “subspace” change this dynamic? Well, first, I want to say that “subspace” (as I’ve heard it described – I’ve never experienced it) sounds a lot like a dissociative fugue state. I think the term gets used incorrectly a lot. I have had a dissociative episode (relating to childhood abuse), and it is not something I would ever want to repeat. I have also been so taken away with the experience of masochistic and submissive pleasure that I was blissfully non-verbal. However, I was (in my mind) very affectionate and cuddly during that time. I didn’t want it to end, and I would love to go back there.

However, Mistress Delila was uncomfortable with it. When I sensed Her distress at my non-verbal-ness, I reassured Her that I was okay. She trusted my self-awareness enough to allow me to have my bliss. She didn’t understand it, and I don’t know exactly how to explain it to Her. What’s important for this discussion, however, is that She stopped and immediately went into care-mode when I entered unfamiliar territory.

It is conceivable that persons in this situation could find a spot where the non-verbal-ness allowed things to progress to a point where consent had not been given. In that case, it is absolutely the fault of the Dominant for pushing that far – even if the activities were things they had discussed and both of them thought were hot…even if they were things they had done at other times!

Consent cannot be given – even standing consent – if it cannot be revoked. This is what Mistress Delila understood when She shifted into care-mode. I was fully conscious of what was going on, and I wanted more – but She refused to go on until She could be sure that was actually what I wanted and WHAT I WAS CAPABLE OF CONSENTING TO. It was my responsibility as Her lover, as Her submissive, and as a human being, to shake off the non-verbal blissfulness and make sure She was in a place where She could enjoy my reaction. That meant saying that I was okay and struggling for the words to explain it, even if it wasn’t a good description.

It doesn’t mean that Mistress Delila would have been a bad person to continue with things She knew I enjoyed or things I had previously consented to do. Good people can make bad decisions. A single consent violation, under the circumstances I’ve outlined here, do not throw everything into jeopardy. BUT a good person would figure out the consent violation and try to make amends – and then figure out how to make sure that consent violation didn’t happen again. Someone who blows it off as the sub’s fault for “spacing out” or being non-verbal isn’t being a good person. They are blaming their misdeeds and mistakes on someone else’s temporary state. Even then, they aren’t a “bad person” until they laugh it off, shrug it off, and set about doing it again.

This should be simple stuff. It really should. But it is something that most people don’t stop to think about because you can’t understand fully what it’s like until you are there. Contingency plans are only as good as foresight allows. I understand that. I believe in second-chances, when warranted. But I also believe permission is better than forgiveness. I believe that, when doubt sets in, it’s okay to stop and get more information. Yeah, it may “break the scene” but the people in the scene are more important than the scene itself. Broken scenes heal faster than broken people.

Today, I ache

I miss Her in every way a man can miss a woman…

…the soft touch of Her fingers on my skin.
…the sound of Her laughter in my ears.
…the gentle kisses She peppers me with.
…the way our fingers entwine as we walk.
…the way Her collar feels as She fastens it to my throat.
…the sharp pressure of Her teeth digging into my flesh.
…the sting of Her riding crop across my bare ass, thighs, back.
…the way Her eyes twinkle and shine when She edges me.
…the soft huffing sigh of Her pleasure peaking.
…the scent of Her arousal.
…the sticky heat between Her thighs as it coats my fingers.
…the complete feeling of surrender when She takes my ass.
…the feeling of rightness when She snuggles into my arms, Her head on my chest or my chest pressed against Her back.

I miss Her in every way a man can miss a woman.

I ache.

The Best We Can

I don’t remember when the first time I heard about a school shooting was, but I remember the one that hurt. The Newtown shooting hit me like no other for several reasons. First, it is a place I know – not well, but I pass it on the highway often. Second, the children who were killed were the same age as the offspring I had just dropped off at school that morning. Even as I write this, my eyes burn with tears as I have to brush close to the awful reality that too many parents were forced to embrace that day. I don’t let myself think about it much, because it is a yawning chasm of pain that is just too real for me to consider. 

Two weeks ago, another event hit me in a similar way. I was watching my kids at swimming lessons when their mother turned to me and held up her smart-phone. “Robin Williams is dead,” she whispered. “Suicide.” At the time, I shrugged and shook my head, and I turned away from the chasm that yawned at my feet, submerging myself in the glee of seven-year-old boys splashing in the water. In the days since then, I’ve heard and read a lot about Robin Williams. While I never met him and have little connection to him other than loving everything I’ve seen him in, his suicide hurts in a way no other death hurts. 

Several times, to several people, I’ve said this: I’ve never considered suicide. For me, it simply isn’t an option, and it never will be. But I live with the horrifying understanding of why suicide is not only an option for some people, but why it comes to be the only course of action that makes sense at all. That still holds true. I can’t – and won’t – speak for Robin Williams. But I know what depression is. It isn’t just a companion I’ve walked with my entire life; it’s a part of what makes me recognizable to my self. I just wouldn’t be me without this dark shadow on my soul.

Perhaps a bit oddly, this post isn’t about depression, or death. It’s about my friend’s post on the subject of empathy, and insight. Too often, we believe that the two things must go hand-in-hand. Certainly, it is easier to understand someone when you have walked a mile in their shoes, so to speak. But it isn’t necessary to do so.

Many years ago, I worked in the mental health field as an addictions counselor. In that field, it is far too common to see people return to the same destructive products that sent them to jail and/or counseling in the first place. It is also far too common to hear someone say, “I guess he/she just hasn’t lost enough yet.” The idea is that a person will only “get real” about recovery when they’ve hit “rock bottom.” By definition, anyone who hasn’t been successful hasn’t really been to the bottom yet. At first, I accepted this explanation. But after I read the obituary of one of my former clients who had doused himself with vodka (probably accidentally) and burned to death trying to light a cigarette, I came up with a different explanation.

People are doing the very best they can. If Jack can’t stop drinking; then it isn’t because Jack doesn’t want to or because Jack hasn’t lost enough to make it worthwhile – it’s because Jack is doing the best he can and something is stopping him from being successful. To bring it back around to the preceding matter, Robin Williams killed himself because that was the very best he could do – and that is why he didn’t seek help or check himself into treatment or any of dozens of other less lethal options. From his perspective, the very best course of action was to end his life.

For someone without the insight that I have, that last statement must seem both horrifying and obviously false. I know that Mistress Delila has been struggling with Robin Williams’ suicide, and my statements of understanding have shocked Her and rocked Her. Her love for me gives Her a path to empathy for me, however, so the harshest thing She has ever said is that I’m not allowed to consider suicide (and I won’t). My love for Her also led me to compassion for Her, and I have tried to explain what depression is like from the inside. I don’t know if I’ve been successful…and part of me actually hopes that I haven’t been (I love Her too much for Her to understand depression too well).

Even without that personal connection, a lot of good could be done if people on all sides of this issue could stop and consider the path towards empathy without insight – through the idea that everyone is simply doing the best they can. Not only was Robin Williams doing the best he could, but everyone who has reacted with pain and anger and accusation has been doing their best as well. Some people are teachable, and can move beyond their current best to do even better; and some are not. It doesn’t matter. They are human beings who are struggling with what life has thrown in their path. We all share insight into that particular problem, and we can all offer empathy to every other human being through it.

I’m not Pollyanna. This isn’t a panacea to cure the world. It’s simply a tool I’ve found that helps ease the hurt when people do things to destroy their lives. I don’t have to fix them. I don’t have to save them. I can simply say, “I know you’re doing the best you can. It fucking sucks. I’m sorry. If you need someone; then I’m here for you.”

3 years of what?

WordPress recently reminded me that I’ve had this blog open for three years. It was a bit surprising to me. Time goes quickly, though, and even more so when you don’t do something regularly. It made me think about what I am trying to do here.

I guess the answer is that I’m not really trying to do anything. This blog exists because I like to write, and I occasionally have thoughts about topics that deal with erotic/romantic male submission and/or masculinity as a social topic. It’s really just that: A place to make my thoughts public.

I know that some of my readers would enjoy more frequent and regular pieces. I truly appreciate the sentiment, and I’m a gratified that you find my words worth your reading time. But I don’t want to feel obligated to write in this space. I want it to be where I get things off my chest or where I think things through. I’m willing to sacrifice quantity for quality (I hope).

I went through the blog listings and culled a few that have closed shop. Those voices will be missed. I hope that they are moving on to happier and busier things that don’t leave time for blogging.

When I have something to say that’s important enough to finish saying, I’ll put it up here. For now, I’ll just putter away.

The false dichotomy behind a “natural” dominant/submissive

I want to thank Dumb Domme for this post because it gives me a source I enjoy linking to in order to launch into a discussion that doensn’t immediately fit what she has written. Also, it is my apparent mission in life to separate good science from bad (because I consider myself a scientist and believe science is the inherently beneficial effort to improve the human experience).

When you get into the car, do you put on your seatbelt? I don’t care if you do or not, I want you to consider that the answer you give might have its foundations (but not its complete answer) in your genetic makeup. Go ahead and be skeptical, because I am generally skeptical about such claims. However, after looking at the work of Guang Guo at UNC, I’ve tried to enrich my understanding of that idea.

Prof. Guo (and his colleagues) has found a statistically significant link to whether or not a male wears a seatbelt and a specific iteration (9r/9r) of the DAT1 dopamine transporter gene. In general terms, this specific genetic iteration provides a protective effect against males developing risky patterns, even when controls for social characteristics are implemented. What this does not mean is that whether a man wears his seatbelt or not depends on having the 9r/9r DAT1 iteration. It means that having it, or not, influences whether he does – and at what age he begins to do so (potentially).

I’ll leave that hanging and look at genetics from a different point of view. I have my Grandma’s mouth – the lips and shape are unmistakably passed along from her. I have the body hair pattern of one maternal grandfather and the thinning hair of another. My voice is, at times, very much like my father’s. The point is that physical attributes are passed along genetically. This is undeniably true, and hardly needs even the introduction that I have given it.

If the structure of my hands or of my mouth can be influenced by genetics, then is it not also possible that the structures within my brain are also influenced by genetics? I don’t know if there is a definitive answer, but the answer seems likely to be affirmative. Since different brain structures control different behaviors and thought patterns, we could then infer that some preferences and behaviors could follow lines of inheritance.

For example, schizophrenia is often seen to run in families. So is depression. Is it possible that sexual submissiveness or dominance is also influenced by genetics? This is where I point out that there is a genetic link, through the 9r/9r DAT1 genotype’s protective effect against dopamine, to whether or not a man wears a seatbelt or not. If seatbelt wearing is linked to a specific gene; then why not wanting to control or be controlled in a sexual encounter?

I want to be clear that I am not arguing that there absolutely IS a genetic component to BDSM. I am saying that it is possible that there is a link. Then I am asking: So, what if there is? Does it make any difference?

Let me leave that question hanging while I talk about Michael Shanahan’s study linking genes to school dropout rates. This study is important to me because it finds two things. First, there is a specific genetic iteration that correlates to academic achievement (through disruptive behaviors – not through innate intelligence). Second, it found that the extra risk this genetic iteration poses towards academic success can be overcome with the right environmental controls. This, put simply, means that we are not slaves to our genes.

Back to the previous question: What does a (possible/probable) genetic link to F/m (because that’s what this blog focuses on) mean? It simply means that there are people for whom dominance and submission is a natural state in an intimate relationship. Shanahan’s study shows that these natural tendencies can be defeated. (What it doesn’t show is if these kids whose environment overcame their disruptive genes ever enjoyed going to school – so we can’t extrapolate as to whether a genetically disposed submissive who is pushed into a non-submissive role is happy about it. Based on my experience, the answer is no (because I believe I’m someone whose genetics orient them towards submission in intimate relationships).

But if environment has the power to overwhelm genetic tendencies; then it surely has the power to shape them. The sum of my life experience has led me to express my submissiveness towards Mistress Delila in specific ways – for example, kneeling in supplication or putting my head in Her lap. What’s more, I am, to some extent, in control of my environment. I can expose myself to various stimuli or cut them out of my life entirely (with limitations, of course). This means I am constantly becoming submissive, even while I am now, and always have been, a submissive man.

This is a sort of reasoning way to get to what Carl Rogers deduced in the 1960s:
This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.

Okay, not I’m pulling yet another string into this tangled mess. This comes from something I wrote a while back. As a summary, I’ll say that the point is that we (men) are immersed in social pressure to be “manly.” (Women face their own set of social pressures.) It begins before we are born and it hits us from nearly all directions at nearly all times. We cannot say that it has no impact. We can only recognize the impact and act to counter-balance it when we believe it is wrong. As I said just up the page a bit, we can have (limited) power over our environment and how it influences us.

Now, I’ve said all of this so I can address DD’s central question: Are Dominants born or made? Then answer, I believe is: The evidence is inconclusive. There is probably a genetic predisposition. However, a person’s life will decide whether that genetic predisposition is activated or not. Just like you may have a genetic predisposition to lung cancer, but if you never smoke it never gets activated. What exact environmental factors activate, promote, and influence sexual domination are unclear, and likely will vary widely across a very large population. More to the point of the question: IT DOESN’T MATTER.

People talk about “natural” dominance and submission, inferring a genetic component, as if it were somehow better than dominance or submission learned through social interaction. It isn’t! In fact, given the fact that humans are inherently social creatures, and immediately set up societies everywhere they go, social influences are just as natural as genetic influences! This is especially true when you consider the multi-generational arch where gene influence behavior which in turn influences gene which influences other behaviors, etc., etc.

Even if someone “has always known” their sensual power orientation (did I just invent a term?) their memory doesn’t include some portion of their life. I have a very good memory, and can vaguely remember some big and scary events that happened when I was three years old, but I can’t remember a lot more than I can. Just because you remember always being one way doesn’t mean that it is because of genetic predisposition. You, too, were subjected to a world’s worth of socialization before you knew what it was.

To me, if we strip it down to its bare essence, sensual power orientation is about control or be controlled. Other kinks may be involved, but the heart of it would appear to be who is in charge. That is best understood, in my mind, as an orientation. As DD says, it is not immutable – it is flowing, changing direction, evolving. For some, it may even switch directions. But for a large number of us, it points in a single direction – though not as deeply in that direction for any two people.

We are all captains of our own life-ship. Our parents laid the basic hull structure of that ship with their own biological material. Then life added rooms and knocked down walls. We floated aimlessly for a while. We went the direction we were told we should go. But the nose of the ship kept turning a certain way. Is it nature or nurture? Who cares? I doubt any thinking individual can swear that it is entirely one way or the other.

Just like the captain of a ship is responsible for its actions, we are responsible for what we do. I don’t care how deeply you’ve sailed into the Sea of Dominance, you better damn well know your ropes if you expect to come alongside my ship – because this ship is the only thing between me and the deep, blue sea and I’m not going under for anyone! The responsibility of knowing what you are doing only deepens if you represent yourself as an old salt when your partner is still green around the gills.

In other words, it’s a damned sight more important that a dominant knows the skills necessary to pull off what they are attempting than it is to know if she has specific genes or just a kinky life. F/m covers a lot of territory, so learn the specific risks and safety precautions you need so that it is rewarding for everyone involved. If you aren’t an expert, start slow and build slow. You can always come back to push a little further – unless you are dead, in which case it doesn’t matter.

I want to revise and extend a specific statement from DD as way to close by way of example: DD wrote: The idea that ‘you have it or you don’t’ doesn’t support a culture where dominants are encouraged to ask questions, admit mistakes, or use caution — and that’s dangerous. It doesn’t promote honesty — I suspect that’s why many dominants lie about their experience — out of fear of not being ‘true’ enough or ‘natural’ enough to be a ‘real dominant.’

My example:
In the history of the NFL, there are few running backs who had more impact that Walter Payton. I heard an interview with him after he had retired a bit and he was asked why he remained at the top of his game for so long. His answer went something along the lines of this:
When I began, I didn’t care about technique. I went out there and I ran. I was fast enough and big enough to do the job. But I made myself a student of my position, and as my physical talents leveled off, I was able to improve my technique. I became a better running back because I worked at being a better running back.

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