I hope you have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all my articles in KinkWeekly!
In the relationships that I’ve developed over the years, either in my own dynamics or helping others with theirs, I’ve come across a lot of folks with a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, and approaches. The only thing they all have in common, is an interest in engaging in power dynamics of various sorts.
When you’re dealing with a substantial number of people, you begin to see certain tendencies, habits, and beliefs that transcend backgrounds. These are things I identify as “trends”. One of those trends is how folks fill-in for the lack of standardization of terms and definitions surrounding power dynamics. They invent their own definitions…and it has impact on relationships.
I’ve written before on how – as a consequence of not having mutually understood standards for the practices of BDSM and D/s – terminology, identity, and even basic definitions are left up to the individual’s interpretation. Consequently, everyone has their own meaning for what a dominant is, what dominance is, what submission entails, etc. In fact, there are entire groups of people formed by a few folks, choosing a single definition and protocol to be put into play, and giving themselves a label and rules to follow to “belong”.
From the perspective of communications, particularly with new potential partners, this lack of structure and definition can wreak havoc. Assumptions as to what a partner means by a term, no matter how common, can lead to gross misunderstandings and unfulfilled expectations.
To compound this communication challenge, the lack of standards allows individuals to mask their experience and knowledge levels. People without any real-life experience serving or being served, can talk about power dynamics, based only on their exposure to videos, written porn, or virtual realities like Second Life. The number of “Cyber-Only” players, espousing their knowledge as if it’s gospel, is frightening. Even Fetlife.com, which is a terrific resource for discussion and knowledge sharing, is littered with inexperience masquerading as mentorship.
It helps to be able to quickly identify inexperience. Luckily, there are a few “tells” that immediately inform you that the person to whom you’re speaking is pretending.
The “Do Anything” Mentality
First off is perhaps the most obvious. The sub who claims they will “Do Anything” for you, Mr/Ms Dominant! Only inexperience will make this claim. People with experience will talk to you about those experiences, and will discuss what they liked / disliked about them. They will make suggestions based on what other dominants have liked in the past and inquire as to whether the suggestion has merit for you. The “Do Anything” submissive seems incapable of speaking about their own desires – until the dynamic no longer matches them – and then they are ready to complain about the quality of domination. When you ask a sub for a suggestion or an opinion and they answer with “You’re the dominant, you can do anything you want” – it’s inexperience talking.
The “All the Time” Commitment
Next up is the person – dominant or submissive – who believes that they will be able to maintain a protocol always and forever. They lay out how they will act, how they will respond, how they will live – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It’s just not possible. Life gets in the way. Reality happens.
In my second book, “Uniquely Us”, I introduced Sean and Dave, a couple who took the time to write down every single action they could imagine happening and what would happen next. They set protocols for every conceivable situation. “The Book” served them for about half a year, then modifications started overwhelming them. After a while, “The Book” fell into disuse, as they could no longer keep it up to date with all the changes they were experiencing. Eventually, they wrote a new “book”, which was only a couple of pages long that talked about their INTENT of service rather than specifics. That became their bible. Armed with experience, they were far more practical and realistic about their expectations.
The “I am nothing but a dominant / submissive” Claim
This is the person who thinks that dominants and submissives are defined entirely by their role. They are not a partner in a relationship who is the dominant…they are not a school teacher or a bus driver or an executive – who also is the dominant in their home life. They are “A Dominant” or “A Submissive”, as if that fully defines them.
The inexperienced person idealizes the roles. They focus on the roles first and the person later. In the fantasy, they see the person as being dominant or submissive every moment of every day. They are super heroes, impervious to the mundane life the rest of us share.
Experienced people understand that their dominant or submissive is a person – who is also dominant/submissive. They look for relationships with people first, and focus on the bigger picture – assuming they want more than a session-based relationship. Their experience tells them that what lasts in a relationship, are the sum of ALL of your dynamics and connections.
People will come up to you and start talking in labels, without describing what they mean. “I’m a submissive”, they’ll say. “Really? What kind of submissive? Do you mean ‘bottom’? Oh wait, ‘bottom’…does that mean you like to be whipped? Oh…tied up and tickled? Wait, master…slave? Property or servant?”
The label dropper is likely inexperienced… At a minimum, they’ve never experienced anyone outside of their definition-circle and therefore don’t realize that other folks could have a different definition for a label than they do. They blindly believe that their limited contact is all there is to know.
More likely, they are truly inexperienced, and are simply assuming that the definition for the term that they read is widely accepted and that they are safe to repeat it, without really knowing a broader meaning.
The “All Dominants/Submissives Do ‘X’” Instructor
This is the person who “educates” others on what “ALL” dominants/submissives do. They are the person who tries to pressure their partner into doing the things they enjoy, because “that’s what all dominants/submissives do!”
This is a BIG indicator of inexperience. Though experienced people might make assumption about what their partner wants – based on their experience with others – their answer, if called-out on it, is, “This is what others I’ve been with enjoyed and I assumed you might like it too”. Its not, “This is what all dominants want”! The experienced response acknowledges that their frame of reference is limited by their experience and that their new partner might not be the same as the old. They know that different people like different things and it’s best to learn about your unique partner and avoid assumption.
The “All Do ‘X’” instructors are often well-versed in videos and written porn – they’ve learned by watching media. Media has a remarkably homogenous storyline – and it truly appears as though ‘all dominants/submissives do ‘X’. The ‘instructors’ have read what others are saying about what it means to be a dominant or submissive and are regurgitating it verbatim, as their knowledge. They want the lifestyle they’ve seen, and try to find partners who feel the same way – often being disappointed when they find that all dominant/submissives DON’T like ‘X’!
There’s nothing wrong with being inexperienced. Everyone was inexperienced at some point in their lives. When I meet someone who demonstrates their inexperience, possibly in one of the means I listed above, I attempt to help to educate them. They are often trying to appear more experienced than they are – and in their attempt to appear experienced, they are revealing their inexperience. I want them to accept their inexperience and work to gain real experience – just as the rest of us did – and continue to do (because learning never stops). ‘Fake it until you make it’ can have some serious implications when the cost of the façade is someone else’s happiness, emotions, sense of self-worth, or worse, safety. It is far better to admit one’s inexperience and work with a partner to gain it mutually.
There are no experts. No one who knows everything. For certain, I don’t know everything. Experienced people know that learning continues, forever. Remain a student forever.
As always, ‘define before you opine’ – recognize that there are no standards, and if you want to have meaningful communication with someone, you’re better off sharing your definitions first and avoiding labels. Look out for inexperience masquerading as mentorship. Help those who show their inexperience by trying to appear more experienced. It’s OK to be inexperienced.
Ms. Rika is a lifestyle dominant, educator, and author; living in the suburbs of NYC with her husband/slave. She has written several popular books on her approach to adding Dominant-Centric, Service-Oriented D/s to relationships. You can find her books (in both print and eBook formats) at Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/msrika), or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iStore, Books-A Million, Kobo.com, or anywhere books are sold. Search for “Ms. Rika”. Write to me at Ms_Rika@hotmail.com