PART 2: Leatherfolk and bringing discipline and clarity into Dom/sub relationships
In the 20th Century USA, returned servicemen and gay BDSM-loving men were amongst those who became part of a sub-culture known as "leathermen", or rather "leatherfolk" to take the more gender-diverse term. (As indeed it came to include a number of queer / feminist identifying participants, as well as heterosexual participants and diversified further over time.) One of the ways they signified their belonging to the sub-culture was in wearing leather - such as motorcycle leathers, as well as chaps and leather strap harnesses, and of course leather boots.
The writings of these leathermen / leatherfolk are very interesting for those who are interested in maintaining discipline and protocol within a Dominant / submissive relationship. The fact that there were so many returned servicemen amongst the 'Old Guard' which meant that their background influenced the high discipline, training and protocol tradition that a number of them extolled and practised. While for others amongst them, BDSM was about getting pleasure and getting off, with less formality and more clubbing. It is often said that there emerged something of a generational and cultural divide, between the Old Guard and the younger generation.
Knowing what you want.
Formal and disciplined, or informal and playful?
Role / activity?
For those pursuing FemDom relationships, these considerations remain relevant.
Are you wanting your own FemDom relationship to be quite formal, strict, clear roles, with discipline and respect? Or are you wanting a FemDom relationship which is less formal, with more joking around and skipping casually into play, and only being in "role" for playtime and events and that be the basis of what you train your partner for, and after orgasm the play is over and roles dropped? (Or by all means a different nuanced understanding which fits neither of these.)
Another interesting thing which came out of the gay S/M scene predominantly, was the use of hankie colours worn to indicate what an individual was in to. If only the world could be so clear about their desires!
It developed into a long list, but to abbreviate some of the key colour hankies and identities:
Black worn in left pocket = S/M topman
Black worn in right pocket = S/M bottom or Masochist
Red worn in left pocket = S/M fistfucker topman
Red worn in right pocket = S/M fistfucker bottom
Dark blue worn in left pocket = Wants to fuck another guy
Dark blue worn in right pocket = Wants to be fucked
Light blue worn in left pocket = Wants to have cock sucked
Light blue worn in right pocket = Wants to suck cock
Yellow worn in left pocket = Wants to give piss
Yellow worn in right pocket = Wants to take piss
Green worn in left pocket = Hustler / wants money
Green worn in right pocket = Wants to hire a hustler
Orange worn in left pocket = Top, into anything
Orange worn in right pocket = Bottom, into anything
Gray worn in left pocket = Bondage Top (does the tying / bondage on someone)
Gray worn in right pocket = Bondage Bottom (wants to be tied up / receive bondage)
(Reference: Larry Townsend 'The Leatherman's Handbook' Updated Second Edition, 1989, p.27, abbreviated further and selectively by me for this blog)
For my 'Art of FemDom relationship training' course, I've included a number of texts from the key figures of the leatherman / leatherfolk scene, as I think they're very useful for thinking about BDSM play dynamics, about discipline and about pleasure, and pursuing and expressing one's own desires.
Tragically, many of the influential writers - such as Geoff Mains, died during what became known as the HIV and AIDS epidemic, which swept through the gay community. It's lovely though that their legacy lives on in their writings, their role and contribution to BDSM, and the changes to society in respect of LGBTQ rights and more awareness and inclusiveness.
Training your dragon (slave): slave positions, protocol, training and reinforcement
One of the other major areas of FemDom relationships is that of slave training. This area owes much to an area known as "classical conditioning", which came out of experiments and writing such as the famous Pavlov's dogs. (Ring a bell, feed dogs a morsel of meat, and the dogs will over time begin to salivate in advance in anticipation of the food coming.)
Knowledge of classical conditioning and behaviour modification is very helpful to training slaves. It is a common discipline of dog training books to include discipline, rewards and punishment, amongst training strategies for reinforcement of behaviour, alongside the use of tools such as collars. However one of the best (in my view) authors on the use of animal training reinforcement and "shaping", is Karen Pryor, who was a former head dolphin trainer at Sea Life Park.
She advocates an approach which is responsive to the individual psychology of the animal you're working with, and their individual behavioral responses - including those which are idiosyncratic and unexpected. I utterly agree, and indeed the best Mistresses are those who don't have a one-size-fits-all approach and get irritated by any aberrant response of a "slave", but rather those who maintain psychological curiosity and interest to get to know their submissive / slave, their quirks, and things that work on them.
Essentially, one can use lessons from dog and dolphin training psychology and practices, to train one's submissive or slave. I've synthesised these practices into three areas: slave training (to reinforce desired behaviour) , slave shaping (teach old dogs new tricks, as it were, wink), and how to un-train annoying behaviour (yes you can thank me later).
Within the class, I also seek to provide ideas and inspiration as to what you might want to train your submissive to do. What's going to please you? (A glass of your favourite wine presented to you on arrival home after work? A bath run to the perfect temperature with bath salts? A foot massage done perfectly the way you like? Oral sex performed the way you like?) What's important to you? (Respect shown in particular ways? Giving you your space at specified times when you need? Devotion and consideration towards you displayed in thoughtful ways? Or something else?) And what does your submissive / slave long for, want and need? (To know their place? To know how to please you? To get their fetish "fix" every now and again? To get respite from being in charge, or counter-balance to their work responsibilities and role?)
Managing masochists and the fantasy of a Venus in Furs.
One of the most common confusions I see as a Dominatrix and BDSM educator and consultant, is a woman who has a partner who presents as a submissive but is actually a masochist.
What's the difference? Well people often mistakenly think that a masochist is someone who's into pain, and that's partly true but it's not the whole truth. Some of the differences in my view between a true "submissive" and a "masochist" is the following (with some sweeping generalization for lack of space to go into it in too much complexity or depth in a short blog post).
A submissive - wants to please you, and gets gratification from knowing they've pleased you. Is typically very grateful to their Dominant. They may be anxious to know whether they've disappointed you in any way, or if you're displeased with them, following play. They are generally happy to go along with most of what you want, to make you happy. They want to learn how they can please you.
A masochist - will want specific activities that they are into, and will often try and prescribe and script the play they want. They will often send you or leave out particular material as guides or hints to what they want done to them. They will have particular fetishes and fantasies they want fulfilled. They can be grumpy and complaining and negative if they don't get their way, or you disappoint their desires of what they envisaged. In their fantasy, the woman is above them and just out of reach, and is cold towards them and punishes them cruelly and her investment in punishing them shows that she is invested enough to bother spending time and energy on them. However she must seem above them and a bit out-of-reach, and too much proximity and familiarity will result in them devaluing her and getting bored.
In short, a masochist can leave the female dominant (or aspiring female dominant / partner) feeling really unconfident about herself and her abilities, and down that she can't seem to give him what he's wanting.
I would estimate that around 85% of all the consults that are booked privately with me, turn out to be women who are trying very hard to try and dominate their (self-identifying) "submissive" partner - who is not in fact a submissive but a masochist.
The term masochist comes from an author named Leopold von Sacher-Masoch who wrote the novella 'Venus in Furs', based on his fantasy desires for a beautiful cold woman to punish him cruelly, wearing furs (which was his fetish), and to demand he sign a contract to be her slave, and later cuckold him - sleeping with another man. The psychology is that of an inverted narcissist who wants his ego squished down, through cold punishment and humiliation, but is feeding off the attention that she cares enough to bother doing so. After dominating, he will inevitably complain or have some negativity that you didn't do something "right", ie the way he wants.
Sacher-Masoch was in real life a masochist, and tried to get exactly this fantasy from his mistress or wife, throughout his life.
Above: Vintage photograph of Masoch with Fanny Pistor
It is the woman who too often ends up tortured by the masochist, feeling like a failure at dominating him. So if you're reading this - and in this situation - know that it's the masochist, and not you(!).
So how does one deal with this? It seems an impossible situation - no?
It need not be. There are a range of strategies I recommend and discuss in my class, but among these and as "Cliff notes" summary, include:
a) Expectation management - setting expectations low, not promising play and then them getting annoyed if you can't execute on it due to a commitment clash, tiredness, illness or any other reason.
b) Filling up your own cup / energetic tank - as dealing with a masochist can be quite tiring, and psychologically intense, it's very important to take time to look after yourself, and time out doing what you want with your friends and pursuing your own interests separately, take off on holiday sometimes without them (and ironically will see them hold you in higher esteem for being a bit out-of reach and periodically ignoring them, which will have them fantasizing what you might be up to without them). You will need other people, friends in your life, you will help fill needs that your masochist living so much in their fantasy - won't be able to meet.
c) Batting off their greedy / needy fantasy desires, which will come constantly at you if you let them, and warning them of consequences (warn them that you're upping their punishment for the next weekend or event for them being so grumpy, as doing so will keep you elevated and on top of the horse / dragon and in control, and don't let them top from the bottom.)
d) Wearing and wielding their fetish periodically but unpredictably - as it suits you - will keep them ga-ga. Whatever your masochist has a fetish for - be it leather, or boots, or whatever, - if you periodically and unpredictably wear them at your own whim, it will have them go into ga-ga land. And you can grant them some gratification, or deny them to torment them if they've been badly behaved. However don't get into a predictable pattern that will result in expectation that you're going to wear the thing so that it becomes onerous on you, or boring and predictable for them.
It can basically feel like you are in a psychological chess game, if you're with a masochist. The benefits? A masochist will tend to be very loyal to their Mistress if she is meeting their masochistic desires (and is on the horse above them), and if you can manage a masochist - you can manage anything in life.
And if you have a submissive, rather than a masochist, who just wants to please you? Ah well then you're going to have a much easier time. As they're all about pleasing you.
For learning actual BDSM activities, my Dominatrix 'Seven Realm Arts' class is best for that, which I've been running successfully for four years now. (My goodness how time flies.) I have received so much positive feedback from those who have done the course, and their close friends observing them, that their confidence has increased, their knowledge and way they walk and hold themselves, which is lovely to hear.
I hope my new course on the Art of FemDom Relationship Training will help fulfil that gap though, for those that are wrestling with a personal relationship in which they are seeking to dominate a submissive / slave / masochist or other identity (sissy / puppy-dog or numerous other identities, etc).
Happy dominating and training your partner(s) to your pleasure, and practising Mistressery over all areas of your life.
x Anne O Nomis