Playing Dress Up

I rarely have any reason to dress up in formal attire, but to my chagrin I got invited to an event that demanded a suit and tie. I find that type of clothing fussy and uncomfortable, and I particularly don’t like the feeling of a shirt collar done up around my neck – ironically enough, considering that I wear My Lady’s leather collar whenever I’m home alone and not in the shower. It’s the only thing I wear to bed at night, and I can feel its slight weight on the back of my neck as I type these words. However, I’m allowed to keep My Lady’s collar quite loose, and I’ve had nearly a year to get used to its presence. By contrast, I’m definitely not used to shirts that have to be buttoned up all the way.

So, I was trying on clothes in front of the mirror one night, trying to work out what to wear to the event. The dreaded top button posed even more of a problem than usual, and in most cases I literally couldn’t push it through the hole. Had my neck somehow become thicker in the many moons since I last had to perform this ritual? It seemed unlikely. Perhaps I simply wasn’t putting enough effort into my attempts?

I did get the top button of one shirt done up, but then found I couldn’t easily undo it again. As I flirted with a deeply non-erotic form of asphyxia, however, I suddenly realised that the collar I had just fastened around my neck with considerable effort wasn’t the only one I was wearing.

My Lady has never explicitly said that I’m allowed to temporarily remove her collar when trying on dress shirts. However, I think she’ll forgive me for unbuckling the thing and setting it aside for the remainder of my sartorial session, which went more smoothly with the impediment removed. If I’m lucky, she’ll even take this incident as a pleasing indication of how accustomed I’ve become to the band of tough leather that symbolises my acquiescence to her firm and intimate control over my life, rather than merely the latest proof of her boy’s absent-mindedness. Either way, I hope that she – and you – will find it amusing. Surrendering to a woman like My Lady can lead to pain, pleasure and submissive ecstasy, but it can also lead to moments that seem more like a brief comedy sketch than a page of Venus in Furs.

BDSM Vignette: A Knight Offers His Sword

Writing the previous post about chivalry got me musing about an alternative model of knightly service, in which the knight’s “lady” was more of an active taskmistress and tormentor than a passive recipient of adoration and protection. What would that look like, and how would it play out? Read on for a quick fictional sketch.

***

The knight had removed his helmet but was otherwise in full armour when he walked into the throne room of a high lady of the realm, accompanied by a squire who was hardly more than a boy. The lady received the knight courteously, before various servants and assembled lesser nobles, and listened without saying a great deal as he explained that he wished to offer his sword to her in appreciation of her beauty, grace and wisdom. Eventually, however, she decided it was high time to warn him about what being in her service would entail.

“If you swear your oath to me, sir knight, I will require from you not only devotion but also humility and obedience. I will not send you into battle lightly, but when I do you must fight and kill for me with the utmost courage. Otherwise, your sword will remain in its sheath, no matter how provoked you may feel. If I command you to undertake long journeys through the perilous wilderness, it will be for my own purposes, which I may not fully reveal to you. If I find fault and choose to punish, you must bear it manfully and without complaint. If I set you to any task, however menial, dirty or degrading, I will expect you to bend to it with alacrity. My courtiers know well that I am a woman of strong appetites, which extend to watching men writhe in my torture chambers, and you will be at my disposal in both the dungeon and the bedroom.”

The knight flushed red, not angered but certainly confused and disconcerted. “With due respect, my lady, do you desire a knight or a slave?” he asked finally.

“I would not ask a slave to fight my battles and defend my castle, just as I would not ask an ordinary soldier to toil in my fields or submit his body to my lusts. To do all of those things is the place of a knight, or at least of any knight who wears my favour on his lance. Do not think that you are the first man to dream of offering me his sword. The others merely took to their heels when they heard what I intended to ask of them, and if you do the same I will not hold it against you.”

The knight thought for a long moment, while the servants and courtiers exchanged nudges and whispers. When he spoke, however, his voice was firm and clear. “I will not take to my heels, my lady. My sword is yours, if you will have it, and I will serve you in any manner you might require.”

She nodded slowly and turned to the squire, who could not help flinching slightly when her sea-grey eyes suddenly bored into his. “And you?” she asked. “I will not try to make a plaything of you, except perhaps if you choose to pledge your own sword to me after you win your knightly spurs. If you wish to be a squire in my household, however, you must obey me and assist your master in every aspect of his service, whether that might mean polishing his armour or helping him prepare for a night stretched out in my bed.”

“I will be honoured to obey you and assist him in every way, my lady,” the squire replied, though he trembled a little as he spoke.

“Very well.” She turned away to murmur something to a nearby servant, a dark-haired young woman in a blue robe. The servant favoured both knight and squire with an enigmatic smile, then slipped from the throne room.

“Your first duty,” the lady of the castle told the squire, “will be to help your master out of his armour.”

The court watched in silence, for the most part, as the squire went about the long and awkward business of relieving the knight of his coat of steel. A few minutes later, however, the knight stood before the lady in nothing more than his doublet, stockings and breeches.

“Well done,” she told the squire approvingly. “Now you may help your master out of his clothing.”

“Before all your court, my lady?” the knight exclaimed in shock.

“Indeed. I want them to see you swear your oath naked as the day you were born. Do not protest again, or I shall be displeased.”

A murmur of excitement slowly rose among the courtiers as the knight stripped, handing each garment to the squire to be folded and set aside.

“Kneel, both of you,” the lady told them calmly when the knight was nude. As they sank to their knees she seemed to look beyond them to catch the eye of someone on the other side of the throne room. They glanced cautiously in that direction, and saw that the servant in blue had returned with three powerfully built figures clad and masked in dark leather. One of them was clearly a woman, and in her hands she carried a bundle of glittering metal.

“Sir knight,” the lady said in a loud, clear voice, reclaiming their attention. “Will you serve me loyally, obey my commands, submit to whatever agonies and indignities I might choose to inflict, and defend my person, household and honour even to the death?”

“I will, my lady,” he replied simply.

“I thank you, good sir.” She turned again to the squire. “Will you obey me, and strive to help your master fulfill his duties in my service?”

“I will, my lady,” the squire affirmed, though the words came out in a breathy squeak.

“Thank you, boy.” She looked beyond them again, but only a little beyond, and the knight realised with a thrill of fear that the three newcomers had closed in behind him.

“Clap my knight in irons,” she told them.

The knight had been warned not to protest, so he forced himself to remain silent and unresisting as the two leather-clad men roughly seized his arms and the woman deftly applied heavy steel chains to his nude body. Manacles closed firmly around his wrists and ankles, and a collar embraced his neck.

“Your master will spend the first few weeks of his service in the dungeons,” the lady informed the squire, “partly for my enjoyment and partly to begin a rigorous higher education in the knightly virtues of obedience, endurance and humility. He will find that my guards and I are stern and demanding tutors. If you wish, you may share his confinement and some of its lesser hardships, and be of what little help to him you can. However, I will not force you, and you may choose instead to be put to work in my vegetable garden until your master emerges.”

“My place is by his side, my lady,” the squire insisted, trembling now like a leaf in the wind.

“An honourable choice,” she remarked approvingly, but an instant later her eyes flicked away. “Seize the boy,” she commanded in a very different tone, and the words had hardly left her mouth when one of the masked men took the squire in a tight grip and hauled him to his feet. “Lock him in the cell across from his master’s,” the lady continued. “He need not be stripped or chained, for the moment, but do not be unduly gentle with him.”

“Aye, my lady,” the huge man holding the squire replied in a voice like the scraping of iron on stone. His hands clamped down a little harder on the squire’s arms.

The lady waved a hand, dismissing guards and captives alike. “Take them to the dungeons to await my pleasure.”

The voices of the courtiers faded in the ears of the knight and squire as they stumbled towards the dark stairway that led down to the dungeons, the knight chained and the squire firmly held by a man far larger and stronger than himself. As they crossed the threshold the chill air of the dungeons wafted up into their faces, welcoming them into captivity. Tears welled up in the squire’s eyes, and even the knight – already a veteran of countless battles – blanched in abject fear.

Knightly Chivalry And Male Submission

One idea floating around in BDSM circles is that men who submit to women are like medieval knights, or at least that the knightly ideal defines one mode of submissive masculinity.

Think of King Arthur’s knights, bustling round the country with odd bits of feminine apparel waving from their lances – either running errands for some lady or questing for the Holy Grail (a transparent sex-symbol in itself). Twelfth century troubadours and Victorian pornographers worked with different imagery, but the emotions and archetypes are akin. Courtly love is transparent submissive fantasy:

Noble Lady, nothing do I ask of thee

But that thou shouldst take me for thy servant.

I would serve as one serves a good lord,

Whatever reward I might gain.

Behold, I am at thy command:

Sincere and humble, gay and courteous.

Neither bear nor lion art thou,

To kill me, as I here to thee surrender.

 

Bernart de Ventadorn (fl. c. 1150-1200?)

Creative Mythology, Vol.IV, p. 179

Joseph Campbell

That poem is very sweet, and echoes a good part of my feelings towards My Lady (I’m particularly glad that she isn’t a bear or lion). However, the surrender that knights traditionally offered to women seems incomplete to me, or even insincere. A knight was supposed to uphold his lady’s honour, undertake quests and perform glorious deeds in her name, and if necessary defend her to the death – but listening to her and doing what she said appeared to be a low priority. Guinevere didn’t get to tell Lancelot to stay home and muck out the stables of Camelot rather than going off to joust with yet another black knight. She didn’t even get to make him fight the people she considered enemies, as opposed to the ones he thought she needed to be protected from. She certainly didn’t tie him up and torture him for her pleasure, a point that doesn’t necessarily detract any further from her authority (perhaps Guinevere just wasn’t sadistic enough to be interested in doing any such thing) but does show that this “courtly love” business left out a facet of D/s that’s pretty important to some of us.

If I were going to dress up in armour and offer my sword to a queen or baroness, I’d want her to be more than a passive object of adoration and provider of a scarf to tie around my lance. Devotion and willingness to fight her battles would be important, but far from the whole story. I’d want the bejewelled lady in question to also be a firm and assertive taskmistress, prepared to decide whether I was going to spend a given weekend besieging Lot of Orkney, jousting with Uriens of Gore, looking for the Holy Grail, or indeed mucking out the stables. If I ignored her instructions or carried them out poorly, I’d expect to be taken out behind those same stables for a good thrashing, something else I don’t think ever happened to Lancelot. Ideally the bejewelled lady would have a wicked streak, like the enchantress Morgan le Fay, and would occasionally have me spend one of those weekends writhing in a torture chamber deep below the halls of Camelot.

As it happens, I’m not the only one who finds the idea of chivalry a bit lacking as a template for male submission.

Chivalry (and romance, which always seems to be monogamous) puts Woman, The Object of Desire, shiny, “pure,” “virginal,” and “good,” on a pedestal, only to be taken out by a man to sing odes to, to lay flowers at the feet of, to make promises to, until he no longer needs her and locks her back in her bower.

When described in those terms, chivalry doesn’t sound very submissive at all. I’m not surprised that there are dominant men, such as one Sir Real, who find the ideal of chivalry inspiring:

Second, I pride myself on being the consumate gentleman. I ascribe to the knightly principles of chivalry which include bravery, truth, honor, integrity, courtesy, and gallantry. In this context, the “Sir” aspect of the name appeals to me.

Bravery, truth, honour, integrity, courtesy and gallantry are great, but I’m sure Sir Real would agree that they don’t make a person submissive. Neither, really, does putting a woman on a pedestal and writing odes to her beauty. Submission is what might happen at the end of a long day’s ride, when the shadows were growing long and a brave knight errant was looking around for a likely place to pitch his tent. Seeing a faint light in the distance, he might spur his mount towards it, finding himself outside a little cottage with a thatched roof and a heathen rune scratched into the door. A hard-looking woman in a tattered cloak would appear when he knocked.

“Madam, kindly ask your husband if I might spend the night here before riding on at first light.”

She would look him up and down, eyes glinting.

“I have no husband, but you may share my bed if you do exactly as you are told and stay long enough to make breakfast.”

Part of him would be infuriated, of course. How dare a woman of low birth, some peasant slattern, presume to even contemplate taking him to her bed as an obedient plaything? It would hardly be unchivalrous to clamber back into the saddle and ride off to pitch his tent in some convenient clearing. But if I were writing the story, the knight would thank the woman for her hospitality, bow to her in all humility, and ask if he might take the time to see to his horse’s needs before going inside to see to hers.

Am I a Pervert?

To support my habit of making naughty doll scenarios, I’ve recently made several eBay purchases. The latest was a large collection of clothes for a certain 12-inch female doll. As I took this outfit out of the bag, an image of a rattan cane sprang to mind.

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Never Say Never — Defined

nsn-0838 excerptDefinition 1: My guiding principle for most matters of sex and sexuality. I’ve been wrong more than a few times when I’ve thought I’d never do or be something.

Definition 2: A generally useful principle that doesn’t apply to some forms of BDSM play. There are many things that shouldn’t be tried, for safety and other reasons. Go quickly in the opposite direction if you encounter a “no limits” player.

Definition 3: Theme song of the movie, The Karate Kid (2010 version), performed by Justin Bieber. I stumbled upon this when searching for something else.

And, most importantly,

Definition 4: The title of Alison Tyler’s new book. The subtitle, Tips, Tricks, and Erotic Inspiration for Lovers, and the book’s awesomeness distinguishes it from other books with the title.

The publisher, Cleis Press, says: it’s a blissful blend of Tyler’s wisdom, expert advice and scintillating erotic scenarios guaranteed to liven up your bedroom. Finding the true object of your lust is only the beginning. The sizzling stories and helpful tips in Never Say Never will help you discover exactly what sets your pulse racing for a lifetime of satisfying sex.

It’s your erotic one-stop shopping: for each technique, toy and theme, Never Say Never offers advice, ideas, illustrative snippets from erotica authors, and a short work of erotic fiction — contributions from over forty authors! Snippets from my erotica appear in the chapters for blindfolds and ménage. While BDSM is well-represented, the book includes vanilla (sort of) and other flavors.

As some of my readers know, I love creating erotic scenarios with my toy action figures and stuffed animals. My models were especially excited about shooting the enactment of Never Say Never. This photo first appeared on Alison Tyler’s blog, where she had some extremely nice things to say about my “cleverosity”. Thanks, Alison!

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It’s Always Submission O’Clock

Some time ago I made a video of myself performing an obscene, degrading act and sent a brief clip to My Lady. The obscene act was one that I’d been ordered to perform, but the video was my idea. My Lady is usually satisfied with written descriptions of the things I do in response to her instructions, and in this case she’d left the method of documentation up to me. Nevertheless, ambition got the better of me and I decided that a video would be just the thing.

The video didn’t work out especially well. The big problem was that I practised a key part of the obscene act with my right hand while I was figuring out how to position the camera, but in the heat of the moment I performed the same action with my left. As a result (I’m skipping steps here, but the details aren’t important) the climax of the obscene act wasn’t fully in the camera’s field of view. I presented the botched clip to My Lady with a wry comment about not being a cinematographer.

I’m under orders to show My Lady different views of my slave quarters (that is, my little apartment) when taking photos and videos for her, and in this case there was a clock in the background as I performed the obscene act. Unlike the act, the clock was clearly visible in the video. It wasn’t – and isn’t – anything fancy, just a plain, cheap, round plastic wall clock that was there when I moved in. However, My Lady noticed it in the video, and mentioned that she felt more connected to me because she could see what time it had been when I was carrying out her instructions.

Despite being rather touched by that thought, I had to reply with a confession. The clock ran out of batteries fairly soon after I moved into my slave quarters, I explained sheepishly, and I never bothered to put new ones in. I have a wristwatch, an alarm clock next to my bed, and a clock on the laptop I’m using to type this blog post; if anything, I can hardly escape knowing what time it is, and the clock on the wall has always seemed superfluous. I was more than content to have it be right twice a day (at 12:13). This prompted a rather curt response from My Lady:

Even so, I like analog wall clocks. Get a battery for it.

Nothing could be more mundane than putting a battery in a stopped clock, but that instruction made me feel the weight of My Lady’s yoke. There was no “please” or “if you don’t mind”, no choice in the matter, just a blunt command issued in the full expectation that I would obey. My own feelings about analogue wall clocks (less than enthusiastic, as it happens) were totally irrelevant, because My Lady is the dominant and I’m the submissive. In other words, I’m the one in the collar, and I do what she says.

It turned out that the clock only needed a single AA battery, and I happened to have one on hand. It’s been running fine ever since. When my slave quarters are otherwise silent I can hear a very faint electronic ticking, which I could live without, but it doesn’t bother me much and is completely inaudible when the air conditioning is on. When I want to know the time, I still look at my computer, my wristwatch or my alarm clock, depending on exactly where I am. But the wall clock is there, implacably ticking off the seconds, minutes and hours, reminding me who’s boss. Around here it’s always submission o’clock.

BDSM Vignette: Danielle and Martin

The following vignette is meant to illustrate a certain kind of hypothetical BDSM relationship, regarding which I’ll have more to say at the very end of this post.

***

“I wondered how long it would take you to come crawling back for another ass-kicking,” Danielle said, washing down the thought with a swig of her beer. She hadn’t bothered to offer him a drink, or a chair, but it wasn’t like he’d been expecting either.

“I’m not exactly crawling,” Martin protested mildly. “Just showing up for something I think we both need. I’ve been distracted with my job, and a new girlfriend.”

“Another one?” Danielle sniffed. “What’s she, the third this year? Anyway, you’re going to be crawling pretty soon, if you’re serious about needing it.” Danielle had never been much for small talk. She knocked back more beer and rose to her feet, a hard-looking woman in jeans and a shapeless black sweatshirt.

Martin didn’t much like Danielle’s coarse, abrasive ways, or her apparently unrelenting disdain for humanity in general and him in particular. The two of them had almost nothing in common: not their politics, not their hopes and fears, not even their taste in food or movies or music. They had both, oddly enough, been raised in Pentecostal congregations before rebelling as teenagers, but that really was more or less the only significant thing they shared. But God, he needed what she could offer on these long Saturday nights, the pain and degradation that she inflicted without the slightest apology or hesitation. For her part, Martin knew she thought he was a pompous, overeducated weakling, an overgrown boy who put on airs (though Danielle would never have phrased it like that) and needed to be slapped around for his own good. Nevertheless, some quality in him also appealed to her predatory side and made her see tormenting him as a pleasure and privilege. It wasn’t, she had told him in a moment of candour, just that he could take what she liked to call “a good ass-kicking” – there was something about the way he responded to her canes and paddles that delighted her and made her ravenous.

“So, what’ll it be?” Danielle asked bluntly.

Martin lowered his head. “I think we both know what I’m here for,” he murmured.

“Okay, then. You ready to get started?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good.” She gulped down the rest of her beer, then slapped him fairly hard across the face. “That’s for making me wait so long,” she announced, and her voice held an undertone of something like tenderness.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” he gasped, resisting the urge to put a hand to his stinging cheek.

“Don’t worry, I’ll find ways to make you pay.” Danielle plucked at his shirt, now all business again. “Hurry up and strip.”

He shed his clothes efficiently, well aware that Danielle had seen it all before. When he peeled off his boxer shorts, revealing his full erection, she glanced pointedly at his crotch, then up at his face. Then down at the floor.

“Hands and knees,” she told him curtly. “Go straight to the studio.”

She followed closely, kicking him now and then to hold him to a pace that hurt his knees and shins as he crawled across the bare hardwood. Once she leaned down and slapped his right buttock, her heavy hand descending with enough force to make him whimper in pain. Martin heard Danielle laugh as she drove him, slippered foot prodding relentlessly at his intermittently exposed scrotum, to the spartan little room where she did her woodcarving. Her small figures of people and animals were uninspired and kitschy, as far as Martin could see, but they apparently sold well enough to make the difference when rent came due each month. The studio was also where Danielle did her boys.

When he was roughly in the middle of the floor, she grabbed him by the hair and pulled him to a kneeling position. The familiar leather cuffs were already dangling from the ceiling on their long chain, waiting for him. She buckled them quickly around his wrists, then surprised him by hobbling his legs with another pair of shackles whose connecting chain passed through a ring in the floor. Usually she trusted him not to kick or jump around, and the sensation of leather firmly enclosing his ankles unnerved him. What exactly was Danielle planning to do to him? It was already too late to back out, too late to resist.

Martin knew that the long chain that dangled from the ceiling was attached to a winch, which Danielle had once told him rather gleefully had been installed by a friend of hers in exchange for a couple of blow jobs. She seemed interested in his own genitals only to the extent that they were more sensitive to pain than most other parts of his body. Martin could not, in fact, remember a time when Danielle had touched him except to hurt him, restrain him or push him around. Even when they had first met, after a few weeks of correspondence that had begun on a kinky website, there had been no hug or handshake – just a firm instruction to take off his shirt and get down on his knees if he wanted to stay.

Now the winch was pulling him inexorably to his feet, and finally to his toes. Danielle locked the apparatus in place and then came over to him, grinning and clearly in no hurry. She grabbed his chin.

“You little shit,” Danielle said amiably enough. “Time for you to find out what happens when you let my urges build up for too long.” Her hand dropped to his scrotum and clamped down, nails digging in hard. Martin moaned and writhed, which made her grip all the more painful. He sighed in relief when she let go, only to whimper in consternation when she took down the longest and cruellest flogger from the studio wall and swung it viciously through the empty air.

“You’re going to scream, boy,” Danielle promised as she moved in on him, flogger raised and ready.

***

I’m fortunate enough to be the plaything of a woman that I can like and respect, in addition to appreciating her sadistic and dominant streak. After all, My Lady and I were internet friends and fellow writers well before I started taking orders from her. However, I can’t help being intrigued by the idea of submitting to someone whom I genuinely disliked apart from her qualities as a dominant, and who disliked almost everything about me apart from my submissive side. Our mutual antipathy would only make me feel more helpless and subservient, and might inspire on her side a certain harsh, businesslike domination style that I would probably respond well to. The whole thing may be one of those scenarios that works better in the realm of fantasy than in reality, especially for any arrangement involving more than occasional sessions, but I have nothing against indulging in a good fantasy now and then.