On Knights, D/s and Service — Guest Post by Xan West

GDP022-ShowYourselftoMeCover (1) (1)One of the first people I ever did D/s with as a Dominant was j., a sweet and earnest boi who thought of hymself as a knight. Hys submission was based on hys conception of chivalry. That particular masculine archetype was where hy found honor, pride and strength in service to a Dominant. Hy was the first of quite a few submissives that I’ve known who found the knight/chevalier archetype a way to access their submissive masculinity.

There is a huge fantasy of feudalism that many find deeply compelling: the rigidity of hierarchy, a time when masculinity was honorable, pride in service to a monarch, the romance of a knight carrying a lady’s favor, trial by combat, the ordeal of knighthood. So many stories have been written about this, a horde of fantasy, romance and legend that feeds this archetype of submission. I’ve read (and loved) a bunch of them myself.

These stories and this archetype obfuscate the realities of medieval feudalism, and ignore the complexities of the ways power was working at the time. For example, the concept of honorable knighthood ignores the historical role of knights in colonialism. And, I was recently informed by a medieval historian that current historical scholarship shows that relationships among folks of the same class were so much more important in people’s lives than the class hierarchy that is often romanticized.

Fantasies of knighthood are refracted through desire and wishes for a redemptive masculinity, a way of being powerful in submission, a way of enacting kink with honor. Many of the folks I know who evoke knighthood or chivalry in their kink (and there are a whole host of Dominants who do this as well), do so out of a desire for an ethical framework, a way to enact power that feels honorable and consensual and romantic. These are often folks who know what abusive and oppressive power and masculinity are like, and are attempting to craft a way to play with power and gender that does not reproduce abuse.

So when I was imagining a time travel story about a Dominant finding his way back to submission again after giving it up for many years in the aftermath of an abusive D/s relationship, it made sense to take him back in time to a fantasy of medieval feudalism. To create an opportunity for a cathartic scene that would give him a framework for choosing service again, through an ordeal of knighthood.

“My Will” is told from the perspective of that Dominant. It begins with him meeting a man that he can’t stop thinking about kneeling for, even though he gave that up long ago. They talk kink ethics for hours, and become friends. Then Preston (and yes he is named after John Preston, in homage to the way these two characters are enamored of old school leather) offers a scene for his birthday, and he cannot resist trying submission again, rationalizing that it’s for a limited time, kind of like a vacation.

For the first half of the story, you witness this Dominant kneel for the first time in fifteen years, and fall back in love with submission, again. He reclaims his own desire, and revels in the beauty that can be D/s dynamic. You get to savor the intensity of a deep D/s dynamic, slow and languorous and drawn out in full deep strokes that reach into his heart and hold. Preston is ruthless in his expression of Dominance, and that’s exactly what he aches for, is so sublimely what he needs that he is so overwhelmed he passes out, and is transported back in time, to face a knight’s ordeal.

Just as Preston pushed him to admit his desire to be under his boot, so does the priest require him to verbalize his desire for service before entering the ordeal. That is a theme throughout Show Yourself To Me, scenes where submissives are required to own and verbalize their desire, and both of these choice points are essential in “My Will”. The title is based on that moment of choice, the question he faces: “Is it your will to pursue service?”

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Get the book:

Ebook and print copies at Go Deeper Press: http://godeeperpress.com/projects/show-yourself-to-me-by-xan-west/

Ebook on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Show-Yourself-Me-Queer-Erotica-ebook/dp/B015RVWLGM/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1443534316&sr=1-2

In Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, Xan West introduces us to pretty boys and nervous boys, vulnerable tops and dominant sadists, good girls and fierce girls and scared little girls, mean Daddies and loving Daddies and Daddies that are terrifying in delicious ways.

Submissive queers go to alleys to suck cock, get bent over the bathroom sink by a handsome stranger, choose to face their fears, have their Daddy orchestrate a gang bang in the park, and get their dream gender-play scene—tied to a sling in an accessible dungeon.

Dominants find hope and take risks, fall hard and push edges, get fucked and devour the fear and tears that their sadist hearts desire.

Within these 24 stories, you will meet queers who build community together, who are careful about how they play with power, who care deeply about consent. You will meet trans and genderqueer folks who are hot for each other, who mentor each other, who do the kind of gender play that is only possible with other trans and genderqueer folks.

This is Show Yourself to Me. Get ready for a very wild ride.

Join the blog tour — see schedule below, or go here for a list that will have updates.

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Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, a recent transplant to Oakland from Brooklyn, who has been doing community kink education for over ten years. Xan has been published in over 35 erotica anthologies, including the Best S/M Erotica seriesthe Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since,” won honorable mention for the 2008 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Xan’s work has been described by reviewers as “offering the erotica equivalent of happy ever after” and as “some of the best transgressive erotic fiction to come along in recent years.”

Xan refuses pronouns, twists barbed wire together with yearning, and tilts pain in many directions to catch the light. Xan adores vulnerable tops; strong, supportive bottoms; red meat; long winding conversations about power, privilege, and community; showtunes; and cool, dark, quiet rooms with comfortable beds. Find Xan’s thoughts about the praxis of sex, kink, queerness, power, and writing at xanwest.wordpress.com.

Show Yourself to Me blog tour:

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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.

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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.