Sunday, 5 August 2007

Superiority

I've been hanging out on a BDSM community on LJ for tops/dominants/masters/etc. and predictably disgusting "superiority" discussions are going on now. "A dominant should be more intelligent than his slave. She's looking for someone who's better than her," etc.

Basically this guy is claiming that dominants need to be "superior" to their charges, such that a slave feels "he's always in my head," etc. He defended "manipulation" and "opaqueness" on the part of the Master (hiding his intent from the slave, basically, because he knows better) while of course "transparency" in all things is required of the slave.

He mentioned also that dominant partners (men, of course, in his wording there) need to be more intelligent than their slaves (women). When I called bullshit, asking "hey, what if my slave has a degree I don't, or kicks my ass at chess?", he picked at my examples, saying I should know that "smarter" != "more educated."

(This is of course true, but I do think it gets used in some discussions as a way for the unintelligent to defend themselves. "Oh, I didn't mean THAT kind of smarts. I meant THIS KIND, the rules of which I've just set up myself so as to exclude you! HAH!")

And I'm wondering -- I do seem to see this line of thinking a little more in M/f online circles than the reverse. (And, well, I note that I only see it online for the most part -- offline I don't see many people who like "superiority" notions or claims.)

But... does it come from sexism? Or is it simply a warped mode in which "dominance" is taken to mean "superiority of smarts", a kind of nerdy spinoff of "might makes right"?

I mean, we've discussed "female supremacy" into the ground recently. So that made me think. My initial reaction was that this fellow is very sexist, just buying into the "men = logic, women = mysterious emotion you can manipulate for control, mmm!" but then thinking of femsupremacy made me wonder:

Sexism, or just your standard assholery that goes with believing D/s is about "superiority?"

Anyone with more familiarity than me with gay/queer circles and heavy D/s: does the same stuff get bandied about, or does this stuff tend to happen with hets?

59 comments:

SnowdropExplodes said...

I'm just going to go back to the same thing I say every time I see this debated.

There is only one thing at which a Dominant (of either gender/sex) needs to be better than her or his submissive partner. That is decision-making

I always quote Richard Feynman on this, who describes how he had a huge admiration for a high-ranking army officer who was able in 5 minutes to make a hugely crucial decision about the Manhattan project (namely, whether or not the workers in the bomb factory should be told what it was they were building). Feynman described how he wouldn't have been able to make that decision if he'd been given the whole day.

It seems to me that if a submissive is better at making decisions than her or his Dominant partner, then he or she will eventually lose respect for the decisions made by their partner, and will not feel bound by them.

Incidentally, this explains why a submissive has to be totally open with her or his Dominant partner: without the best possible information, the decisions will tend not to be as good as they could be.

It is possible to limit even further the need for a Dominant to be "superior". For example, it may be that a submissive is better at choosing which holiday to go on than her Dominant partner; in that instance, the Dominant partner (with knowledge of this talent of his partner's ability in this respect) instructs his submissive partner to make that decision. In this scenario, the Dominant simply needs to be good at making decisions about how best his partner can serve him!

There are other dimensions to all this, of course, but there is certainly no absolute need for the Dominant to be "superior" to the submissive.

Cassandra Says said...

I really have to wonder how many of the people you're observing are only "doms" on the internet. What I mean is, do these people have any actual, offline experience? Because I've known a few femsubs, and I can't imagine any of them being very enthusiastic about a partner who thinks she's an imbecile.

Trinity said...

Cassandra: On this discussion, I got ripped into by so-called subs. I'd send a link but the LJ community is friendslocked. It's "viewsfromthetop", if you feel like bothering.

"There is only one thing at which a Dominant (of either gender/sex) needs to be better than her or his submissive partner. That is decision-making"

Y'know, I don't think even that's the case -- if it were, I'd go right on back to saying I'm not dominant, because reasoning like this is why I did.

The difference I see between a dominant role and a submissive one is service vs... eh, I've never been sure of quite the right word for the dominant correlative.

But decisions can be one of many chores: Manage my Xxxx for me, because I don't want to have to, and this is the service you provide.

*Anything* can be service.

Dominance is something different, to me, than wisdom at decision making. A person can have a deep desire or even a need for control and be bad at that.

In most setups this would lead to flaming doom, but in setups wherein the person submitting has organization as hir duty... no, I'm not so sure.

But as far as "better" at making decisions, I'm not even sure what this means. Some people use it to mean "willing to make snap decisions."

Which I can see having its use in D/s, but the thing is the vast majority of snap decisions are poor.

That's why I thought I was bad at dominance at first -- my partners were constantly badgering me to decide quickly, and no matter when I tried this, the resultant decisions always lacked the necessary thought behind them and were bad. But if I took time to think, I was "weak" -- no matter how good my well thought out decisions were.

So yeah... I don't tend to follow decision models. D/s is about service, not command.

Well, maybe it's about command, but in that case what I'm doing is totally different than the normal people. But in that case I reserve the right to call it what I like, so THERE. ;)

Trinity said...

And I honestly do suspect that some of these people are one another's partners offline. But the particular couple of people I have in mind... well, I don't want to cause cross-community flameage, but they have a very specific ideal in their heads and seem to think since they've got each other that this is how it works for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I think I know the community you're talking about, and the specific post. That guy sends my hackles arise more than most.
Some extra shuddering/'aha!' might occur if you consider the other communities he's also part of/mods/his sub mods. Especially since one of them is infamous for being a place where misogyny isn't just embraced but *enforced*. Hell, people've been barred from it for belonging to feminist communities.

Trinity said...

"Especially since one of them is infamous for being a place where misogyny isn't just embraced but *enforced*. Hell, people've been barred from it for belonging to feminist communities."

ohhhh, he's the mod of humbledfemales?

or whatever it is?

ha.

damn.

I know I should leave viewsfromthetop, but I so keep thinking someday there'll be a takeover by intelligent people and it'll be a place where tops/doms/masters can actually talk intelligently... o well I can dream :)

Anonymous said...

Hrm. After double checking my own statement (same Anonymous, yo), I'm sending myself to the corner. I was sure there was some kind of mod relationship there, but it might just be that one of the mods seems like a personality clone of lilyinchains. I apologize!
Lets lower it from mods/founded to 'is very active in and seems to completely agree with the comm's spirit/policy'. Still shudderworthy, though.
I really really really REALLY wish there was a third option to both male_dom and viewsfromthetop. I know male_dom's FUBAR due to the weirdness of its own founders (you'd have to get me drunk before I'd get into that eyeclawer of a mess, tho), so that's out. And now viewfromthetop seems like a goner too. Blah.

P. Burke said...

Yech. People trust those guys with weapons and restraints?

snowdropexplodes:
There is only one thing at which a Dominant (of either gender/sex) needs to be better than her or his submissive partner. That is decision-making

I'm not sure a dominant even needs to be better at that (as you suggest in your last paragraph). My partner's an excellent decision-maker, but I top him most of the time with no problem.

I should probably mention that we're in the "tourists who like to smack each other around for sex purposes" demographic, rather than the "24/7" demographic. Outside the bedroom, I don't feel a pressing need to be in charge of the relationship. That might not be everybody's dynamic or cup of tea.

And I agree that dominants need to meet minimum requirements for decision-making in order to be effective. But I don't really see the point of turning it into a competition between the sex partners. (Well, I can see the point of competitions and struggles between sex partners sometimes. But more as a way of getting my personal rocks off than as a test of who's better in some ultimate sense.)

Chewie said...

Like everyone else, I only know a small portion of the infinite number of kinksters born and blooming every day. So, this certainly isn't authoritative.

But...

For many of the gay men I know, the top is the top because it works for those two people (ditto for the bottom). It's less about being better in an absolute sense, so much as the outcome for the couple (or triad, &c.) being the one that they prefer. And so the question becomes somewhat nonsensical for those guys.

On the other hand, in traditional gay leather situations, the top is assumed to be better at being a top, because he's been trained to be a top, and the bottom is assumed to be better at being a bottom for the cognate reason. But even there, you see experienced bottoms with inexperienced tops, and folks who were tremendously talented in one role but have chosen, for whatever reason to adopt the other. So far as I know, it's rarely a problem.

The common link I think I see is that dominance (or submission) is treated, in the gay community, as its own thing, unable to be cashed out in other terms. Dominance and submission are largely taken to be elemental.

For what it's worth.

Trinity said...

"For many of the gay men I know, the top is the top because it works for those two people (ditto for the bottom). It's less about being better in an absolute sense, so much as the outcome for the couple (or triad, &c.) being the one that they prefer. And so the question becomes somewhat nonsensical for those guys."

Yeah. That's how I feel too. I mean, I do think dominance is a personality trait in me to some degree:

I have an internal locus of control.
I tend to enjoy teaching people.
I get off on topping.
I get off on guiding others in sexual arenas.
I like things my way.
I don't back down when something is important to me.
I've had fantasies of "owning" or "keeping" other people since childhood.

But I don't think any of that implies I'm better at any of the above than anyone else.

I do think they imply that I'd be suited well to someone who complements some of them.

(But only some: partnering with someone with a very external locus of control, for example, is not something I'd recommend, from experience.)

Trinity said...

"I know male_dom's FUBAR due to the weirdness of its own founders"

male_dom is farking bonkers.

fem_dom is practically nonexistent, and one of the only notable posters is a scary neocon who tore me a new one when I told him I was uncomfortable with a racist fantasy he had.

P. Burke said...

Whoops. Just realized (via the previous thread) that several of the posters here find the term "24/7" inaccurate and unpleasant. For future reference, is "non-scene-delineated" something that better captures the idea? I'm sensing a difference of some sort; maybe between "dominance (submission) is an activity that I enjoy sometimes and then put away at other times" vs. "dominance (submission) is part of my identity". Is that making sense?

Anonymous said...

Same Anonymous yet again: speaking as a person who's got english as a second language, 'non-scene-delineated' only makes me feel confused! At most the mental image involves a lot of powerpoint displays.
Maybe.. Uhm. Nigh constant? Almost always? More often than not? Heck, I don't know.

ellefromtheeast said...

p. burke - I think "non-scene delineated" is an excellent term. It's a bit of a mouthful, but it's very good at avoiding the pitfalls of "24/7", and is nicely neutral.

snowdropexplodes - What, exactly, constitutes a "better" decision? Many of the decisions most people make everyday are either 1) about trade-offs between different goods or 2) impossible to evaluate relative to the alternative without going back in time and trying the alternative or 3) both. What this says to me is that the submissive just has to share enough values and understandings about how the world works to think that the decisions of the dominant are good enough. If the submissive is constantly convinced that the dominant is making crappy decisions, then the couple has incompatible values and should break up.*

I think the idiot referenced in the original post is just looking for a submissive without enough gumption and/or resources to ever leave him.

Trinity, I'm with you - whether you're a dominant or a submissive (or a switch) is about what gets you hot, not about your capabilities. Off the top of my head, I can think of two prominent queer couples in my community- one gay, one lesbian - where the sub/bottom partner has substantially more education/a more prestigious job than the top/dominant partner.

*There is, of course, a difference between "unwise, crappy decisions" and "Sir/Mistress's preferences mean I'm not getting my way."

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Quick checkin from vacation --

My best guess is that this is someone who is dealing with a sub as someone who at some level needs to be guided or coerced or otherwise looked after, or else they wouldn't be a sub.

Which is an old rant of mine at my place, the way people basically figure that only incompetents, idiots, or people who aren't qualified for anyone else would choose support roles or service jobs.

So of course one needs to be better/smarter/more cunning/superior to one's sub, because otherwise they will clearly not recognise dominance and will stop being a sub.

Or something.

Trinity said...

"Trinity, I'm with you - whether you're a dominant or a submissive (or a switch) is about what gets you hot, not about your capabilities."

I'm not sure it's all *hot* -- for me I really also feel like there are kinds of relationship I prefer that have some (admittedly not the kind of uber-polar, constant thing one finds in stroke books) aspects of possession and service.

But yeah, I think a lot of people do find that sexual but feel a need to disavow the sexual aspects and that is just silly to me.

Trinity said...

"Which is an old rant of mine at my place, the way people basically figure that only incompetents, idiots, or people who aren't qualified for anyone else would choose support roles or service jobs."

Exactly. Which is why even Snowdrop's "be a better decision maker" rubs me the wrong way.

That and... why would I want someone who is a poorer decision maker, in general, than I am?

And why would someone's penchant for support roles or need to serve indicate poor skills at decision making? It doesn't compute to me.

ellefromtheeast said...

"I'm not sure it's all *hot* -- for me I really also feel like there are kinds of relationship I prefer that have some (admittedly not the kind of uber-polar, constant thing one finds in stroke books) aspects of possession and service."

Point taken - I really should have said that power orientation is about what one finds satisfying, and there are many, many different types of satisfaction - including, for example, the satisfaction of serving beautifully.

Lindsay1984 said...

"I know I should leave viewsfromthetop, but I so keep thinking someday there'll be a takeover by intelligent people and it'll be a place where tops/doms/masters can actually talk intelligently..."

Yeah, same here, but the other side. There aren't many places that are remotely tolerant of female subs commenting on male dom posts, not that viewsfromthetop is much better. When he's not deleting people's comments and booting them from the community, he occasionally has some nice insights, but his response to the public is rooted deeply in asshattery.

Anonymous said...

Any of you lovely non-asshatted people up for starting another community? ... Please please please with whipped cream and a cherry on top? :(

SnowdropExplodes said...

A quick analogy to clarify what I was getting at with my "decision-maker" thing:

Lots of people these days have sat-nav, and the reason they have sat-nav is because sat-nav is incredibly good at deciding how to get somewhere.

Some would say that makes sat-nav a good decision-maker.

But, no sat-nav in the world is going to be able to decide where you want to go. You have to be able to make that overall decision yourself; and furthermore, you're capable of overriding the sat-nav's decisions if you're unhappy with the suggested route.

In the same way, "decision-making" can for a part of a sub's chores, but ultimately the Dominant has to decide that it should be, has to decide what service he or she wants from the submissive, has to decide what service he or she can expect from the submissive (which to my mind can be the hardest part). I just can't see any way to separate "receiving service" from "decision-making".

While it's true that it shouldn't be a competition, I find it hard to imagine how service or submission could be satisfying if there's an underlying feeling of, "that could have been handled better", even if the "minimum requirements for decision-making" are met. Maybe it's just me who would get that feeling (I'm far from being typical when it comes to submitting)? Maybe this is more personal to me than I realised, but that's why I think that a Dominant needs to be a "better decision-maker" at least by the shared values of the couple in question.

P. Burke said...

Snowdropexplodes,

I still disagree. When I bottom, I don't care how well I *could* outdo the person topping me. The point is that I'm *not* topping; I'm enjoying the suspense and the odd sort of freedom of letting somebody else be in charge. For that I need to trust them, but I don't need them to be better than me.

I used to act in a small theater company, and everybody knew all the parts. Sometimes the logistics of a performance required a bit of role-switching, and sometimes we would switch the cast around just to give people a chance at different parts. Somebody else playing my favorite role didn't mess with my headspace (even if I would have made different decisions about the characterization), but if anybody wasn't fully into their role, it was extremely distracting. I feel pretty similarly about BDSM. (Except with BDSM, it's a lot easier to say "stop" in the middle of a scene instead of gritting your teeth and making the most of it.)

Renegade Evolution said...

Sounds Sexist to me. Esp., if he disregards females as tops, flat out...

not that I'm an expert or anything, most D/s relationships that I know work because the people in them are comfortable and enjoy the roles they have within that relationship...be they male, female, dom, or sub...not because of some difference in intelligence or other such thing. Heh, why, oh why, when I hear of men like this, do I have the sudden SADISTIC desire to lock them in a room with my ex gf?

Trinity said...

"For that I need to trust them, but I don't need them to be better than me."

Exactly!

Trinity said...

I mean, I think part of this is just that I view D/s as about creating a dynamic, where other people think of it as "she makes the decisions." I never liked that framework. (Of course, in both, the dominant person IS making important decisions. But I never liekd hearing it discussed as if those decisions were somehow oddly free-floating, rather than made in service to the dynamic.)

Chewie said...

Maybe I'm trying to cut the baby too much here, but are snowdropexplodes, Trinity, and p. burke (apologies for the awkward third person construction -- I've just spent seven minutes playing with it and this was the best I could do) really saying meaningfully different things here? I mean, trust has to come from somewhere, right?

In that spirit, could everyone get one board with something like this:

Tops have to be able to offer something to their bottoms that the bottoms want (and, of course, vice-versa), and, over time, the less a top is able to offer (again, vice-versa), the less likely that arrangement will continue. Thus, it is likely that, at least in stable power-exchange relationships, there will be something that the bottom values which the top has.

The advantage of the above formulation, from my point of view, is that it's agnostic about what the top and bottom offer, while still explaining why someone might be a good top or bottom in a given relational context. Thus, rather than worry about what makes a good top, you worry about what makes a good top for a given bottom. To return to the post that started it all, some bottoms might really prefer tops who are more intelligent than them. But not all.

I'm not deeply attached to the above, though; first draft and all. Any thoughts?

Kramnik said...

I'm not deeply attached to the above, though; first draft and all. Any thoughts?

It's really broad and thin and porous, as it would need to be to encompass as much as it does.

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kramnik said...

Not to open myself to more baseless and stereotypical name-calling, but I'll note that some people get off bigtime on the idea of being superior or being inferior.

(Evidently not people who post here, but lots o' lots o' people.)

It tends to be radical feminists who hate superiority intersecting with sex in any way, and I'm puzzled why a feminist who rejects radical feminism would have a problem with superiority as a fetish, especially when it isn't gendered or directed exclusively at women.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I think the one-sentence summary of my last post would be:

"Dominants have to be able to make decisions, and for me personally, a Dominant has to be good enough that I won't question her decisions."

Which to me, implies that in one aspect only (that of decision-making in a scene with me as the submissive) she needs to be better than me. Maybe all that means is that I find it hard to let go and trust someone?

Somebody else playing my favorite role didn't mess with my headspace (even if I would have made different decisions about the characterization)

I think this is important: there's a world of difference between "I would have done that differently" and "that was a bit sub-par". When I choose to submit, I don't want to be able to predict what's coming, so she has to be able to do things differently from how I would do them; but if I'm left feeling like it was sub-par, or if I end up questioning everything, then I think it's not going to work out.

I noticed something else: you used the term "bottoming", which I understand as something distinct from "submitting". When I bottom (as opposed to submit) there really isn't the same need, because in that situation, I feel that it's a joint effort - decisions are made together rather than by the top alone; when I submit, I am letting someone else guide or take control of me; in other words, letting them make the decisions. And I need to be able to be confident in that, to the extent that I won't question decisions she makes.

Now, that statement "good enough that I won't question her", is slightly different from "better than me" but for me personally, they carry a similar standard. Maybe other people are different, and maybe when I sub I am just very demanding in this respect; but personally, I just can't quite get my head around the idea, from an emotional standpoint, of not having that standard as the basis for submission.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

While it's true that it shouldn't be a competition, I find it hard to imagine how service or submission could be satisfying if there's an underlying feeling of, "that could have been handled better", even if the "minimum requirements for decision-making" are met. Maybe it's just me who would get that feeling (I'm far from being typical when it comes to submitting)? Maybe this is more personal to me than I realised, but that's why I think that a Dominant needs to be a "better decision-maker" at least by the shared values of the couple in question.

One of my duties in my d/s relationship is to point out when my master is stuck in a mental loop and help break him out of it. There are times he gets stuck in places where he's flatly a terrible decision-maker because he gets hung up on stress or frustration and needs to be prodded to put it down.

Trinity said...

"One of my duties in my d/s relationship is to point out when my master is stuck in a mental loop and help break him out of it. There are times he gets stuck in places where he's flatly a terrible decision-maker because he gets hung up on stress or frustration and needs to be prodded to put it down."

This is why I love you. :)

EVERYONE needs that kind of care at least on occasion. Including the dominant people...

SnowdropExplodes said...

One of my duties in my d/s relationship is to point out when my master is stuck in a mental loop and help break him out of it. There are times he gets stuck in places where he's flatly a terrible decision-maker because he gets hung up on stress or frustration and needs to be prodded to put it down.

I definitely get this! In fact, it's one of the things that I've had subs do for me before (I've talked a lot about my sub side earlier, but actually I'm mostly Dom with just a touch of sub for spice).

I think there is stuff happening in my head that just isn't making it onto the page (or rather, screen). I guess I'll just have to accept that other people see things differently from me, even though I really can't get my head around it.

P. Burke said...

I noticed something else: you used the term "bottoming", which I understand as something distinct from "submitting".

This is a good point. I'm actually a lot better at bottoming than submitting, hence my subconscious attempt to reframe the discussion.

I do see where you're coming from now, but I think we may just be different in this respect. For me, if I'm asking the question "Is he better than me?" it's usually a good indication that I'm way off in the wrong headspace. A dom can trigger that problem by being irresponsible or lousy at their role, but that's not always what the problem is.

It might be that I in fact only submit to people who are better decision makers than me, but that's not really the standard in my head.

(My brain is now spouting Monty Python at me.
Me: Hello, my name's Thinktoomuch.
Dom: Well, you'd better cut down a little then.
Me: What? Oh, I get it! I think to much, so I'd better cut down a little! [nervous laughter])

verte said...

Hmmm.

I've begun to understand my submissiveness a little better of late. It's all about the mentor/guidance/nurturing stuff for me, so I can't imagine feeling submissive to someone I didn't think was capable of doing those things, or who was easy to manipulate, but I'm not sure that feeling of wanting to submit to someone is really quantifiable in terms of education, confidence, etc.

I've also seen the idea of 'superiority' kicking around far more in M/f circles, though. I do think much of it's sexist, and most of those assumptions come from some dodgy Norman-esque idea of the 'natural order'.

Trinity said...

"I think this is important: there's a world of difference between "I would have done that differently" and "that was a bit sub-par"."

But the thing is, in a relationship (we are talking relationship d/s, rather than scenes, here, yes?) everyone is human. Everyone's going to make bad decisions sometimes. To hold the dominant partner to "hmm, subpar! Unit of resentment!" just sounds like... waiting for the relationship to explode.

Obviously someone who's generally horrible at ever deciding anything is a bad partner, but is that because of something special about D/s, or is that just because people who are generally bad at stuff suck?

Trinity said...

"For me, if I'm asking the question "Is he better than me?" it's usually a good indication that I'm way off in the wrong headspace."

Yeah. I wouldn't want anyone to feel I'm better than him/her.

I want hir to feel safe, cared for, protected. But not like "I can't figure anything out for myself and that's why I submit" or "Well, I'm reasonably good at running my life but Trin is better."

That's not someone I'd ever choose to be with at all ever.

SnowdropExplodes said...

But the thing is, in a relationship (we are talking relationship d/s, rather than scenes, here, yes?)

To be honest, I'm not sure - if I write as though we're talking specifically about relationship/"24/7" (sorry, but that other term means nothing to me, I can't figure it out) D/s, and people seem to include scenes as well; I modify my language to try to include scenes as well, and you say "we are talking about relationship D/s here?" Right now, I'm trying to encompass both, but my focus was always on the relationship side.

everyone is human. Everyone's going to make bad decisions sometimes. To hold the dominant partner to "hmm, subpar! Unit of resentment!" just sounds like... waiting for the relationship to explode.

That just looks like a parody of my position. You make it sound as though somehow I'm suggesting that a sub (or possibly, that I when I submit) is waiting to pounce on the tiniest flaw. Now, if that sort of situation develops, then obviously it's bad, but how would such a situation develop unless the sub already felt that things were not right? (it also seems like passive-aggressive behaviour or something similar)

I feel like I'm struggling to get my ideas across here, and I'm not sure if it's because I'm doing a bad job of putting them into words, or if maybe I haven't got the emotional stuff straightened out in my head to make sense of it in writing, or what. But I'm pretty sure I'm not talking about something that's a conscious, calculated situation, but rather a gut feeling, something subconscious and emotional.

I'm also absolutely certain I'm not talking about expecting a perfect record, either. I maintain that a Dominant has to be able to apologise to a partner, and if a Dominant never made mistakes then that would be meaningless!

But it comes down to this standard again: "good enough that I won't question her decisions". If that standard is there, then those occasions when it doesn't work out seem to me to be just "one of those days". But if there are too many such occasions, or if the general quality is questionable, then I don't see how it can hold up.

And that's why I agree with the statement, For me, if I'm asking the question "Is he better than me?" it's usually a good indication that I'm way off in the wrong headspace. If the question is addressed consciously, then to me that means that there's already doubt about whether the person is good enough, which has to end up eroding trust.

But I still can't see how you can get past that "good enough that I won't question" test on some level. Maybe "good enough" in that context means something different to other people, but again, it's something that I might accept intellectually but have real difficulty understanding emotionally.

I want hir to feel safe, cared for, protected. But not like "I can't figure anything out for myself and that's why I submit" or "Well, I'm reasonably good at running my life but Trin is better."

See above re: parody, and re: not conscious thought but gut feeling.

Quick note: "I can't figure out anything for myself" to me equates to "not capable of submitting in a D/s sense" because it implies a lack even of the ability to give informed consent whether or not to submit.

As for, "Well, I'm reasonably good at running my life but Trin is better." You might not want someone who takes that attitude, but if you want your partner to be "safe, cared for, protected" then why would you take responsibility for (i.e. take control of/make decisions concerning) any part of that person's life in which you didn't feel you could do as good or better?

Even if we're just talking about scenes here, why would you play as a Dominant (as opposed to a Top) unless you felt that you had the ability to make the better decisions? If you didn't feel you could (that is, if you weren't confident you could), wouldn't you have performance anxiety, be afraid of going wrong, or of being a disappointment to your partner?

I don't know, maybe it's just my own insecurities and problems coming out here, but that's how I feel about it.

Kramnik said...

That's not someone I'd ever choose to be with at all ever.

Really? I find that interesting. In every relationship I've had, I was better than her at some things and she was better than me at others. It was part of the attraction.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I really, really, really don't parse d/s in terms of "decisionmaking" at all, as far as I can tell. So questions of whether or not a dom should be better at decisionmaking make about as much emotional sense as questions of whether or not a dom should look better than their sub in orange -- I not only don't get the relevance, I don't see how to get the relevance other than to specify "Well, okay, that matters to you and your kink." Which isn't comprehension so much as positing a fact and seeing what falls out from it.

For "decisionmaking" to be of critical importance, there has to be something critical to the relationship that engages with that. And I'm having a hard time seeing where it comes in; there isn't that much of a difference between, say, "Would you touch me here for a bit?" and "Touch me here for a bit" that touches on decisionmaking prowess; in both the vanilla and d/s-framed requests, one person wants something (arguably a decision) and the other party has the option of complying or not.

I have commitments of various forms of support and service to my master; in those commitments, the only decisions that are relevant to me are my continued decisions to uphold those commitments. That he sometimes chooses to use my offered service in ways that are not important to me on a personal level is an expected consequence of having a master who exists outside my head; I don't care as much about carpentry as he does, but my service there is extremely useful.

What is important to our interactions is, hmm, trying to abstract out:
- that I can trust that the service in realms that do not feed my personal quirks will be rewarded with things that do, service or otherwise
- that my limits will not be tested to the point of breaking, though they will be tested
- that our support is mutual, ongoing, and both important and valuable to both of us

There's something else, the sort of ineffable bit of dynamic that goes something like, "I respond to him as a dominant partner", which is not reducible because it depends on personalities and their interaction, which is more insoluble than the multi-body problem.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I really, really, really don't parse d/s in terms of "decisionmaking" at all, as far as I can tell.

And I can't seem to parse it without decision-making.

there isn't that much of a difference between, say, "Would you touch me here for a bit?" and "Touch me here for a bit" that touches on decisionmaking prowess; in both the vanilla and d/s-framed requests, one person wants something (arguably a decision) and the other party has the option of complying or not.

Now we're on the scene-based thing again? Well, it seems to me that the difference lies not in what is said but in the dynamic in which it is said (for example, I almost always use the first formulation, which you seem to have characterised as "vanilla", even though I'm not at all interested in vanilla sex). In a D/s dynamic, both forms surely carry the weight of expected compliance, whereas in the vanilla context, the first one carries the expectation of negotiation, while the other carries the expectation of either compliance or a telling-off (depending on the mood of the person receiving the request).

Yes, in a D/s context, the person hearing the request has the option of refusing, but if that option continues to be exercised, then I fail to see how the D/s dynamic is maintained. If a submissive partner repeatedly said to my requests, "no, I don't feel like it" - sooner rather than later I'm going to question that she wants to play a submissive role with me; if, on the other hand, she withdraws consent using a safeword, I'm going to question my ability to be a good Dominant for her, because I keep triggering her safeword which means that my decisions are bad ones (because they are harming her).

- that I can trust that the service in realms that do not feed my personal quirks will be rewarded with things that do, service or otherwise
- that my limits will not be tested to the point of breaking, though they will be tested


To me, these points both depend on qualities that I think are part of good decision-making. I can't make sense of either of them without coming back to the idea of decision-making. In fact, they're part of why I think good decision-making is important!

To be honest, your piece read to me like a description of D/s but with references to decision-making (except your own) deliberately removed or passages rewritten to get rid of it - like an artificial attempt to prove a point. I am sure that if I tried to explain in more detail where I thought the decision-making stuff came in, that would look to you like an artificial attempt to prove my point instead. And I am equally sure that we are both 100% genuine about our understandings of the same thing.

I don't know how to explain this difference, or even if it can be explained. Maybe there is some synthesis of both views that forms a better picture, I don't know. Whatever the case, I'm stuck: I just can't get my head around your point of view, it seems you can't get mine either. This whole thing is beginning to mess me up, so I'm going to have to ask that we agree to disagree.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

No problem.

Trinity said...

"Really? I find that interesting. In every relationship I've had, I was better than her at some things and she was better than me at others."

kramnik, you've completely misinterpreted me if you think I said something that conflicts with this. I said:

"I wouldn't want anyone to feel I'm better than him/her.

I want hir to feel safe, cared for, protected. But not like "I can't figure anything out for myself and that's why I submit" or "Well, I'm reasonably good at running my life but Trin is better."

That's not someone I'd ever choose to be with at all ever."

If you interpret that in any way conflicting with certain people being better at certain things, I really think you should work on your reading comrehension.

Trinity said...

"I really, really, really don't parse d/s in terms of "decisionmaking" at all, as far as I can tell. So questions of whether or not a dom should be better at decisionmaking make about as much emotional sense as questions of whether or not a dom should look better than their sub in orange -- I not only don't get the relevance"

Same here.

Trinity said...

"If a submissive partner repeatedly said to my requests, "no, I don't feel like it" - sooner rather than later I'm going to question that she wants to play a submissive role with me"

Of course; I've been there too. But that may well have nothing to do with judging your skill at making decisions as poor. It seems far more likely to me that the person in question is simply unwilling or incapable of making or upholding a serious commitment.

She may think you're a great decision-maker and simply have been mistaken about really wanting D/s. She may want it badly, but be bad at making and keeping commitments. She may be a jerk or a flake.

And she may think you make bad decisions.

One possibility among many.

And even then -- if she IS in fact serious about her commitments, she won't likely be passive-aggressive and simply not obey. Rather, she'll tell you "This isn't working for me" like a mature adult.

The people I've seen who balk in that sort of passive-aggressive way at serving are people with commitment issues more than they are people judging decisions. "You can't make decisions" is, yes, something they SAY, and they may be right in some cases.

But I find they're also generally (and more seriously) commitment-phobic and try to get past that phobia by idealizing the dominant person and telling themselves "if ze were only the perfect decision maker, it would MAKE me be good!"

It gives them a way to avoid responsibility for putting actual effort into serving well.

Kramnik said...

If you interpret that in any way conflicting with certain people being better at certain things, I really think you should work on your reading comrehension.

Perhaps you should work on interpreting tone and not assume I don't know exactly what I'm doing.

By the way, "I wouldn't want anyone to feel I'm better than him/her." is not a statement with qualification. Note the period.

Trinity said...

And well -- I've been thinking last night about protocol, due to a discussion in the MAsT group that moved that way a bit

and one thing I'd definitely want on that score from a long-term partner is my glass of water prepared before bed.

and, well, yes, if I want to make that a rule I've got to enforce it. But what I don't see is... how would things like that (which to me are huge pieces of the supports for the power dynamic) require good decision making? It's not a huge decision.

What kinds of massive decisions are you making for others, SD? Because to me, big decisions would be most likely to get made together, as they have more impact.

Small ones and sexual ones would be ritual or acting out of the power dynamic. But surely "no coming without permission" is, for example, not something that requires decision making skill beyond the average person -- hell, it's in tons of people's rules by default!

Dw3t-Hthr said...

One of the things my liege and I have discussed on occasion is tea.

When I know he's coming by, I try to put the kettle on, and try to time it so it will boil at about the time he arrives. (I don't always do this, but it's one of those fair fraction of the time things.)

I know that if he's going to be here for any length of time, he's going to want tea; that the odds are good that he'll want tea soon after getting here. So I set things up so that he can have his tea. (Once he opened the side door, which goes into the kitchen, and was greeted by an immediate kettle-whistle. I was pleased with that round of timing.)

He was surprised the first couple of times I did it, I think, but it was such an obvious bit of service I could choose to offer. And his comment was that I didn't need to do it, but the fact that I frequently chose to do so supported the relationship, the power dynamic, and the sense that he was perfectly welcome in my home. (Which are all slightly different things.)

belledame222 said...



Perhaps you should work on interpreting tone and not assume I don't know exactly what I'm doing.


Well, it's in the right topic, at any rate.

Okay, kramnik, I assume you do know exactly what you're doing. Which makes me have less patience with you than ever. Getting perilously close to Bored, Now.

EthylBenzene said...

"Well, it's in the right topic, at any rate.

Okay, kramnik, I assume you do know exactly what you're doing. Which makes me have less patience with you than ever. Getting perilously close to Bored, Now. "

No kidding. I've long since stopped reading his posts. Yeesh.

dw3t -- I want to respond to your tea anectdote, but I don't wish to sound, er, disrespectful in any way, or clueless, so bear with me. I found that story really interesting because making tea when your SO is coming over because you know they like tea isn't, to my mind, something that is inherently bound up with power exchange. When you care for someone, you do nice things for them. What is interesting is your personal motivation for it -- that you're doing it to please your liege in a very specific way, if that makes sense. I think that these sorts of non-scene-delineated (sorry snowdrop!) power exchanges are where a lot of vanilla people get...confused by things, where they start to wonder if there is "abuse" going on. Does that make sense? Like, they hear service-oriented submissives (sorry again if the terminology is not clear!) saying that they are doing things because Master will be unahppy if they don't and they'll get punished, and it comes across all wrong, you know? I think this might be an important thing to think about, and maybe present more clearly to the "outside world," so that it's absolutely clear that service != abuse. Hope I am making sense!

Trinity said...

"I know that if he's going to be here for any length of time, he's going to want tea; that the odds are good that he'll want tea soon after getting here. So I set things up so that he can have his tea. (Once he opened the side door, which goes into the kitchen, and was greeted by an immediate kettle-whistle. I was pleased with that round of timing.)"

You are so exactly in synch with my mind here.

Your liege = lucky lucky dude.

Trinity said...

"making tea when your SO is coming over because you know they like tea isn't, to my mind, something that is inherently bound up with power exchange. When you care for someone, you do nice things for them. What is interesting is your personal motivation for it -- that you're doing it to please your liege in a very specific way, if that makes sense."

Yeah, you have it right (if I understand her, and I think I do). It's not that it's something "subs do" -- I might do the same thing for someone serving me. The difference is that it's being done as an act of service. It's being done as a token of the power exchange.

Actually if I read her right I might even call it an informal protocol. Because it's an act of service that she usually does.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

ethylbenzene--

This is why I'm prone to commenting that I suspect that when most people have an image of "24/7 d/s" (to use the term that people are most likely to hear for that sort of thing) they probably have something that's much, much more interesting in a prurient kind of way than my life actually is.

I mean, I'm not going to be saying anything like "Master will punish me" because punishment is not a part of what we do. But I'll leave people wondering how tea and carpentry have anything to do with kink -- but these are things where my service is called upon frequently, so if I'm talking about the structure of the relationship that's a much larger part of the daily flow of it than the actual kinky sex.

Last week I got to his house and wandered over to greet him, and the first thing he said was, "Hold this here" (he was building a tomato trellis thing) and he kept with what he was doing without so much as looking to see if I was holding the piece in place properly, because he trusted that I would just do it. (And afterwards we started making tomato bondage jokes as we got the plant properly situated on its trellis ...)

Trinity--

The other informal protocol I can think of is that a good while back, I wrote him an email timed so that he'd get it when he got to work in the morning, and he responded with an offhand comment that it had been nice to have something from me first thing. So I got into the habit of writing him something -- sometimes something substantial, sometimes just an "I love you" -- before going to bed.

After about a week and a half, he said, "... you're sending me email every morning because I said I liked it, aren't you."

It's the little things that matter to me, the small bits of structural shift that have to do with the relationship. The little things that mark the service on my end, mark the caretaking on his. The actual kink stuff tends to get more dramatic behind closed doors and in the bits where the screenplay has a line of asterisks and a fade to black, but there's much more of the rest of life than there is of fucking.

When I was stressed the hell out because I was moving, there were times he'd pause and stroke the back of my neck for a while because it's soothing. Not doing anything, not demanding anything, just knowing that because of how I respond to him that would make it better. Someone who understands that, who understands the tea, understands the power relationship pretty well.

Trinity said...

"It's the little things that matter to me, the small bits of structural shift that have to do with the relationship. The little things that mark the service on my end, mark the caretaking on his."

YES.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I just wanted to point out that the Mods for ViewsFromTheTop are not associated with HumbledFemales nor are any of its sister communities. Amayos is not Orpheus77. Amayos may be SeedDivinus, but Amayos was certainly the founder of Humbled Females. You might find it interesting that he found a mistress, Mistress Dolly who demanded he make amends by creating Humbled Males. So please, if you dislike Orpheus, fine, but do not mar his reputation by confusing him with Amayos please use his own words and attitudes to mar him with.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Amayos and Orpheus confused? Not a chance. Amayos was an original and a well spoken one, too. He inspired a lot of other people (like Orpheus and his girl Lilly) into various forms of me-tooism.

All sorts of BDSM splinter groups formed after Humbled Females, due to either me-tooism or a problem with the heavy-handed way Amayos kept the Humbled Females group on-track. He pissed a LOT of people off! Then again, anyone who is successful usually does...

Anonymous said...

I was in love with Amayos, spent many of wonderful weekends with him. He is still one of the most intelligent males I have ever met. And for some reason, years later, I still cannot get him out of my mind. He haunts my dreams. His presense is still with me even though he has lost his dominant ways.

Anonymous said...

Did he make you bang his dogs?

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