What exactly is a Master? (Or Mistress.) I have been asked this question so many times (almost as many times as slave vs. submissive!) that it demands an answer.
Only in the world of BDSM-D/s is the title “Master” self-anointed. A Master Electrician is one who is certified by a mobster-controlled union. A Master Auto Mechanic is one who is accredited by the ASE. (I said a Master Auto Mechanic, not an honest one!) To become a Karate Master you must win a black belt from a reputable Dojo (karate school). Only in BDSM can someone simply go online and instantly proclaim him or herself a Master! Until Kink Weekly offers a course for “BDSM Master” certification, I can only offer some guidelines as to what I believe a Master is.
A “Master” is a skilled, experienced and knowledgeable Dominant with the capability to own, train and command a slave or submissive. Even if one is a natural Dominant both in abilities and temperament, being a Master requires more than just that. I believe there is a list of things that a Master must know before he can call himself – and be called by others in the lifestyle – a “Master.” I will try to codify them. Since many people meet online – I think giving some guidelines as to what a Master is would be helpful. . Both for those who aspires to be a Master and for the slave or submissive who is looking for a Master.
A Master must have certain personal traits. Honesty, strength of character, the ability to communicate, the ability to inspire trust and respect, good judgment, self-control, patience, self-confidence tempered by dash of humility and a sense of humor are essential elements for a Master to possess. No one person can possess all of these traits. But a Master should have most of them and strive to work on those areas where he/she might be deficient. To be able to own, possess and control another person will require more than just proclaiming “you are mine.” This can work in a one-night stand; it will not work in a Master/slave relationship. Without these character traits, all the technical BDSM skills in the world will not a Master make.
Before I get into specifics, I would like to address two character traits I believe are critical to becoming a Master. One is “sense of humor.” I know it is fashionable for Doms to put on their “Dom face” and look as tough as possible. Even I wear sunglasses at night. And though a Master should not be cracking jokes like Louis C.K. (“This Dom walks into a dungeon…”) while training, scening with or when punishing a slave, a Master should still make the overall Master/slave experience fun. If a Master treats this whole process like an extension of the Inquisition, I believe that he/her will not be able to keep a slave for very long. Nor have much fun attempting it.
The other trait is being able to admit you made a mistake. Many Doms seem to think they cannot make – much less admit – a mistake. Everyone makes them. Everyone. There is no Doctrine of Dominant Infallibility. The ability to admit error, gracefully and without making excuses, is critical to the development of a Dom into a Master. Take this to the bank.
Now onto the technical requirements I feel one would need to get my accreditation as a BDSM Master, if such an accreditation existed.
One must be knowledgeable in BDSM and D/s. If there were a written test, it goes without saying that a Master would know every term in “Where Do I Begin, Part 1.” A Master should have read a lot about BDSM. (Amazon.com – search “bondage books.) The more you read, the more you know. And reading is still the best way to understand the mental dynamics of the Master/slave relationship – which is what a Master must have an understanding of.
Realtime experience is crucial. Even if one knows everything bookwise, he/she is still not a Master. I would think that some years experience in the lifestyle would be necessary. It has been said that the best Dominants have had experience as a submissive. This is open to debate. But what is not open to debate is that realtime BDSM and D/s experience is essential. It is one thing to know things theoretically – let’s say by extensive reading, online chatting, etc. – but there is nothing like “hands on” experience. (And in BDSM, “hands on” can be a lot of fun!)
A Master should have mastered (there is that word again!) many essential real time BDSM skills. At the very least, a Master should know proper and safe flogging-caning-cropping-paddling-spanking techniques, and know how to use most BDSM equipment (like the Saint Andrews Cross) safely and skillfully. A Master should know how to put a submissive into subspace and provide the proper aftercare. Although some Masters eschew public play, a Master should have gone to a bunch of play parties to get a feel for what others in the lifestyle are up to. Observing others at play parties – and joining local BDSM groups in your city and meeting others in the lifestyle – is the best way to learn these techniques.
I think a Master should have at least one specialty that he is truly an expert in. It might be fire play, breast bondage, wax play, caning, wielding a single tail whip, rope bondage, mummification, cupping, electric play or any one of a myriad of BDSM skills. (We will cover the how-to’s of most of these skills in future issues of Kink Weekly.) In this way, the Master not only earns respect from his/her peers, but can also teach these skills to others on their road to becoming a Master. Obviously, no one can be an expert in all areas. But a Master should strive to keep learning.
Finally, a Master should always practice safe sex and safe play. Keep in mind that becoming a Master is not a destination but a step in the BDSM journey. A fun journey.
Since we just covered the essential qualities a Master or Mistress should have, our next article in Kink Weekly will be “Submissive vs. Slave.” Between these two articles, you will start to grasp exactly what Masters and slaves are – and are not.
Do you agree with my definition of what a master is? Does it fit with the people you’ve met who describe themselves as masters or mistresses? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
After a ten year run as head writer for the legendary bondage.com, and an equally long run as the host of the hit internet show “Baadmaster’s Dungeon,” we are pleased to welcome the one and only Baadmaster to KinkWeekly. His thoughts about all things BDSM will now appear regularly on these pages. From the mental aspects of D/s to the nuts and bolts of S&M play, Baadmaster will cover every facet of this ever expanding lifestyle.