Thursday, 17 May 2018

Service Submission Series: History and Importance of Service

As a caveat, I will be speaking of the leather lifestyle, which is the forerunner to the more laissez-faire pansexual kink genre we see in mainstream today. Service submission has roots extending back as far as the initial existence of leather. To understand service, let's take a brief look at the history of the leather lifestyle.

Leather, as it was first expressed, was highly disciplined, with rules, rituals and protocols. Having been born in the military, motorcycle clubs became a natural almost organic continuation of the lifestyle returning gay war veterans had come to know. It was the uber masculine sexuality of leather clad brothers in arms that drew many to the clubs. The discipline, rules, rituals, and protocols that were commonplace during their military service, found a new home and new expression in Old Guard leather.

One of the cornerstones to this lifestyle was service - to your Top, to your family/club/tribe, to your community. At a very basic level, a boy - since the lifestyle was predominantly but not exclusively gay male oriented - would do as instructed by his Sir/Master. This would often be whatever was needed, sexually or non-sexually. This could be some sort of domestic chore, or perhaps something of honour such as caring for a Top's leathers or boots. There was also service to the club and community, when there were gatherings or events.

These tasks, these forms of service, were thought to give training and understanding to a boy, so that when he was one day raised to be a Top/Sir/Master himself, if that was the chosen path, he would understand what is required of his property, and what his responsibilities might be. Service didn't need to be discussed, or introduced, it just was - it was as much part of the lifestyle, as instructed or passed down by the Top. Just as protocols and etiquette were passed on, so was the concept of service.

During the 80's, the leather lifestyle began to change, due to two main factors: HIV and fractioning of the community. When HIV hit the leather community, the ideas that had guided the communities and the families in the leather lifestyle, were either lost, or started to fade. The community started losing the elders who would have passed on the 'traditions' of this underground, outlaw sort of lifestyle. There were no manuals, or books, or widely published manuscripts about this life - it was passed down, Sir to boy - in leather clubs and leather bars - anywhere where leather men would congregate. As well, the community was growing, and also changing. So called protocols, which might be strictly enforced and observed by certain factions, were only loosely observed if at all by other leather communities. While the core values such as loyalty honour, and trust were still held, the execution of many other ideas, such as earning your leather, started to become optional rather than mandatory.

So where did this leave service? Well, as leather, and leather sex, started to move into more mainstream areas, foundation cornerstones started to become misunderstood, even seen as antiquated. As leather was replaced with BDSM and D\s, the focus moved from being a disciplined social construct, to a more bacchanal kinky sex fest. Sex has always been very much a part of the leather lifestyle, but the lifestyle moved from being a taboo act of rebellion, to being a peccadillo at a key party.

Moving forward even today, due to the changes in the lifestyle, where the pendulum has perhaps swung too far, service is very often no longer understood, and at times treated with such suspicion. It is viewed by many as some sort of click-bait - something shiny to lure someone into an uncomfortable and non-negotiated situation. For Dominants, they may no longer know how to actively participate in receiving service - they may not know how to hold up their end of the power exchange tango. For a submissive, they may view it as merely foreplay to the "real exchange", be that play or sex.

I am not one to bang a drum with some sort of campaign slogan like "We need to get back to traditional service submission values", but I firmly feel it is a tragedy that the structure of the lifestyle as it largely exists today, views service submission as an anomaly, or for many, a whimsical oddity, rather than a core foundation. Before furries, ponies, littles, primals etc., there was service, and if for no other reason than that, service submission deserves acknowledgement and respect.

For many service oriented submissives, service is the core of their identity, it IS their expression of submission. It is not merely a shiny pair of leather boots, it is not merely fetching tea - Earl Grey - hot, it is not merely moping a floor - these are just physical expressions of a complex dance of emotions. Service is both an expression of respect - for the lifestyle, for the title, for the hierarchy that is implicitly or explicitly established - and an expression of affection - for the community, for the lifestyle, for the person being served. It is a basic acknowledgement and acceptance of one's place and space in the community, in the lifestyle.

Forget play, forget the theatrics, even forget the trappings that the lifestyle affords, but without service, there is no lifestyle. For that reason alone, service needs to regain a place of honour, if for no other reason than to keep the cohesion of WIITWD for future generations.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Service Submission Series: How to Host A D/s Meal (Dinner, Tea etc.)

To start, there is no set “way” to hold a D/s dinner/tea/gathering.  As with many other things in D/s - BDSM etc., there is no governing council, only ideas that someone, somewhere, came up with, and they sounded pretty good.  There is no standard for such things, but I’d like to lay out some ideas that worked for me and/or my tribe, and perhaps they will work for you.

There are a few decisions to be made when holding a D/s dinner/tea:

1. Will it be female Dommes, male Doms, female subs, male subs, switches, a mix?  All of these options have their pro’s and con’s - and it is totally up to the host or hosts (keep in mind, the host need not be a Dominant) as to the make up of the attendees.  The one thing you need to keep in mind, especially if you know who the attendees will be, is personality.  If you have a number of alpha dog type personalities, the more introverted type members might shrink and fade away.  Conversely, if you have a large number of introverted shy types, this can make the more social extroverts go ballistic to overcompensate.  

2. Are you inviting couples, some couples and some singles, all singles?  If you have all couples and one single Dominant and one single submissive, that can be a bit awkward - better to have a good mix.

3. What will the rules be?  Will submissives be punished for mistakes in serving?  If so, this requires quite a bit of leg work as you need to get the consent of the submissives, you need to know what their limits are, this needs to be communicated to the Dominants present etc.

4. Will submissives be available for play or sexual service?  Same caveat as with point 3.

5. What will be the tone of the event - formal with high protocol, semi-formal, casual, relaxed - this might dictate as well who you invite, and what happens throughout the evening.

Once you have these questions answered, then you can turn your attention to the more mundane matters:

1. Management: There are two key roles that should be decided upon, or appointed long before the evening - those being the head of the front of house, and the head of the back of house.  The front of house will see to the dining area, ensure it is laid out properly, direct the submissives serving, watch the flow of the evening.  This position is much like a majordomo or head butler.  It may be a Dominant, but it is often, and can easily be a submissive - hopefully one with some experience.  The majordomo might also be responsible for physically correcting the mistakes of any submissives present - depending on the chosen format and style of the evening.  The back of house is most likely the head of the kitchen, or the chef.  The chef is responsible for getting the food out, plated well, on time, hot etc.  When submissives are not attending their designated Dominant, it would be best to have them assisting the chef - either via prep, plating, or washing.  Like the majordomo, the chef may be a Dominant or submissive, and may be responsible for disciplining submissives who err.

2. Menu: Many events do not pay enough attention to the menu, and this I think is as important as the people attending.  It has been observed by myself and my various co-hosts over the past little while, when we have hosted D/s dining events, that if you feed folks a carb rich or heavy meal, very little play will happen after - everyone will be in a corner of the room in a sleepy sugar coma.  So, if the idea is to play etc., as well as have a nice meal, you need to give considerable thought to the menu.  Do any of the guests have special allergies/intolerances/sensitivities?  Even beyond that, do any of the attendees have physical limitations when it comes to chewing or swallowing?  Nothing ruins a meal faster than a trip to the hospital, or having paramedics party crashing.  I would like to challenge my fellow community members that when it comes to food at such D/s events, we really need to raise the bar.  D/s is fantasy, and doesn’t fantasy deserve something better than the dinner special at your local takeaway shop?  If you can’t cook, I guarantee there is someone in your circle who can - be they Dominant or submissive - appoint them as your head chef for the evening.  Also, make it easy on yourself, prep as much as possible ahead of time, so the night or day of the event, it may be a little reheating, but mostly plating.  Which reminds me, give some thought on plating - there are enough examples on Pinterest and the Food Network on how to make a plate look pretty.  Maybe the best you can do is serve up a bowl of Alphaghetti right out of the can, but you add some micro greens, a few dots of chive oil, a dot or two of sesame oil - BAM.

3. Table Setting: There are plenty of examples of table setting on the internet - just Google table place setting and you will find a myriad of examples.  The most common settings being the American style place setting, and the European style, but there are many others - Middle Eastern, Asian (in fact, there are many place settings that fall under the Asian umbrella).  Choose one that best suits your menu, and stick with it - don’t give one place an American serving layout, but then set the next place for a Japanese table setting.  Always have extra cutlery and plates available - you never know what might happen - a fork may be dropped, a plate is chipped (and horror, goes unnoticed).  Give some thought on how the food will be served - individual plates brought to the table, food served around the table, food placed family style, buffet?

4. Seating: Depending on the tone of the evening, and who is present, this may dictate how the Dominants are seated.  Does anyone have physical limitations or needs - do they need to have quick access to a toilet, or do they need extra room for mobility equipment?  If the evening is formal or high protocol, you may want to consider if any of the attendees are titleholders (ie. Mr. or Ms. Leather/Bootblack winners), or the years of experience (notice I didn’t say age) of the attendees.  If you have a small space, you might also want to consider the physical size of the Dominants, or the submissives serving them.  That isn’t a body shaming crack, but nothing interrupts the good flow of service or of an evening when a Dominant or submissive has trouble physically moving about the space - not to mention, it can make your guests (keeping in mind the submissives are guests as well, even if they are serving) feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, shamed - and that is never good.

5. Service: Again, there are no hard and fast rules, but here are some links that give some great ideas:

Meal Service

Table Manners and Serving Etiquette

Allow the majordomo to set the pace - he/she/they will be taking cues from the head of the table/host/co-host.  He/she/they will also provide the instruction to the submissives on how the service flow will proceed.

One idea I will advocate is, position yourself in a way so that you are not towering over the Dominant - no one wants that.  The idea of having submissives serve kneeling, or in a crouch is nice, but again, you have to be aware of the physical limitations of the submissives involved.

A few suggestions/thoughts based on our experiences:

- When submissives do not have a specific job, keep out of the kitchen.  The chef is trying his/her/their best to get the meal plated, on time, at a proper temperature - so he/she/they are moving about quickly, possibly with something hot or sharp in her/his/their hand.  Having a submissive loitering about means besides keeping track of the time, what courses have to go out when, and all the myriad of other things, the chef has to ensure the submissive doesn’t get stabbed or burned.  Do the chef a favour, get out unless you have been given a specific job.  It frustrates me to no end to have to repeatedly tell submissives to get out of kitchen - and that is being nice - because the warning could be a stabbing or scalding - just saying.  The same goes for Dominants - just no - your presence is not helpful, in fact, it adds pressure, and not in a pleasant or even enjoyable way.

- Nothing pleases me more as a chef than to have submissives who are eager to wash a dish for me.  I dirty many a dish when I cook - and if I have prepped food ahead of time, that means many evenings of me cooking, and washing up.  So please, do the chef a favour and wash a dish as soon as they dirty it (so long as you’re not getting in the way).

- Feed your submissive servers.  This could be a buffet style of the food being served to the Dominants, it could be a totally separate meal, it could be a nice cheese and charcuterie platter - something easy that they can pick up with their fingers, munch, and then get back to serving.  Serving is hard work, they are hungry, let them have the time to retire some place private so they can relax and eat.

- Having a submissive kneeling by a Dominant’s chair for a long period of time sounds sexy, but it is not very practical - especially during the main course, when that might be the perfect time for the submissives to relax and eat.  Think of what is practical and enjoyable for all guests - not just the Dominants.  If the submissives aren’t enjoying themselves, you’re not likely to have as many volunteers the next time around - and then it’s just a bunch of Dominants sitting around a table, wondering who will pour the water, and threatening to spank the cat.

- Do not touch the food the chef is prepping or cooking - unless you want to be shanked by a serving fork to the hand - just don’t do it.

- Have the drinks area or bar separate from the kitchen.  Having less bodies in the kitchen ensures no one is hurt and it keeps folks from loitering in the kitchen.  

- Nothing is appreciated by a submissive more than hearing “Please” and “Thank you”.  Yes, they are submissive, yes, they are serving, but manners, especially coming from a Dominant, is sexy.  It can be the difference between being served with grace, and being attentively served with grace.

- Cleanliness can not be stressed enough.  Touched your hair?  Wash your hands.  Blew your nose into a Kleenex or hanky?  Wash your hands.  Touched the counter?  Wash your hands.  Smoked a cigarette?  Wash your hands.  Gone to the toilet?  It shouldn’t need to be said, but yes, wash your hands.  Food borne disease or illness is not fun, it can be deadly, it can mean a hospital trip for a guest.

- If the Dominants are seated, if a multi course meal, designate one submissive as being responsible for water.

- Service is not complete until all food items have been put away, dishes washed and put away, and the Dominants lack for nothing.

- If conversation seems to flag, or seems to be dissolving into a beef fest, why not have the Dominants and submissives submit questions that can be discussed by the group.  You might even have previously prepared discussion topics taken from the web, for example, that you could draw upon.

- It is nice to have a printed copy of the menu at each place setting, as well as having a name place card for every Dominant.  Maybe you are serving the Dominants a bowl of Alphaghetti, but it can be the niceties that make the meal memorable - and that’s what you are creating, memories.

- For the Dominants, with much respect, don’t try to outshine or out Dom/me your peers - you just end up looking like an ass.  Also, if you make the event unpleasant by being cruel, rude, or excessively hard on the submissives, you won’t be invited back.  For the submissives, with respect as well, don’t go out of your way to foul up.  Accidents will happen naturally, and you may or may not be punished for them, but don’t go out of your way to drop a plate, or spill something - that is just some selfish behaviour and not at all attractive.

Whether formal, high protocol, casual, or even just a backyard BBQ, a D/s meal should above all else be fun, and a showcase where both the Dominants and submissives can shine.  Stay shiny my friends!

Service Submission Series: Service Drop

I'll be honest, I get service drop. It's not a failing, it's not due to anything bad that happens during service, it's just how it is. There are a few reasons why it happens, based on my experience in this BDSM life, I'll use the example of cooking for an event:

- When I say cook for a service event, it usually involves weeks of prep ahead of time. It involves researching recipes or ideas online, or thumbing through my actual hard copy recipe books. Sometimes I'm given a theme, so I have to work with the theme, and as always, I have to work with the allergies, intolerances, sensitivities of the folks attending (are they vegetarian, are they allergic to shellfish, allergic to gluten?). Finding out something last minute when I have a menu all worked out in my head can alter the entire menu, and then it's back to the drawing board. Once I have the menu set, there's sourcing the ingredients or tools needed, and sometimes this is the hardest work. I wanted to serve a cheese platter once with Marcona almonds - imported from Spain - rather easy to find back home, but hard/impossible to find in Australia - I looked for like a week to try and source them. I wanted paper Sno Cone cups to serve an items in, and have you any idea how hard it is to find them in Australia? I'll tell you how hard, so hard I had to look them up on eBay, and I had to buy a whole sleeve of them - anyone up for a Sno Cone party - I have 190 cups to spare.

- There is the shopping for ingredients - this involves several trips to the store, or possibly multiple stores. This time around, I couldn't find avocado's anywhere - not at Coles, not at Woolies - I could only find them at the Farmer's Market. I also couldn't find the type of buns I wanted, that would go with the cheeses I was serving. Usually I go after work, but sometimes I have to slip out at lunch time and keep the items chilled at the fridge at work until I can get the items home. I like to serve chilli jam with my cheese platters, but I can only find it at one store.

- There's the actual cooking, which can be alot for a very complex meal, or very little, especially if there are many cold serve items. Again, the cooking occurs after work, or the day before - hopefully never the day of. I take chances sometimes, because if something goes wrong at this stage, I usually don't have the time to start over. I once fell asleep while slow braising some lamb shanks. I woke up to find a good portion of the sauce burnt, and at least one or two of the shanks beyond salvaging. That meant a trip to the store in the morning, and starting a fresh batch of sauce.

- Finally there is the packaging and accounting for everything I will need - this includes ensuring garnish are on hand, ready to go, tools and dishes are clean and packed. I have learned the fine art now of making a list, after forgetting some key items once too often - my memory isn't what it once was.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Why in the hell would you do all this - it sounds like insanity!"

Sure, it may sound like insanity, but it is a type of insanity I happen to enjoy. I do enjoy every step of the way, even though yes, it does use my mental and physical energy. I like pushing a shopping cart around listening to RuPaul on my head phones, I love finding that little bottle of oil that I know would be perfect for my salad, I love looking at '70s recipes and giving them new life, and I love the idea of a group of Dom/mes sitting down and eating my food. It is my own personal symphony, my own personal love letter to each and every one of them. Eat my food, and you eat me.

Okay, that didn't sound right.

What I mean is, every dish is my personality, it is me making a statement, it is my interpretation, it is me attempting to do my best to honour the ingredients, the event, the people, by giving my all, balls to the wall effort on a plate.

It is very nerve-wracking.

The next day, I am usually very tired - sometimes physically, but more so, emotionally. I usually start the next day by cleaning my kitchen - if the past me hasn't been a dick and left it as a complete disaster zone, otherwise I might book a cleaner - and I usually have to go find food - because the past me is usually a dick and hasn't left me any food or filtered water. At some point, I usually feel a tinge of sadness, or like there is something missing, the world and everything in it seems a little grey - maybe the fact I just spent some intense hours in the company of members of my community I care for, and now there's just me and the cat - though sometimes that is a blessing, because I'm not really that verbal the next day, and sometimes I'm down right cranky.

While I wander through the day in this sort of post service haze, the Domme in my head is very harsh, telling me I should have been nicer to the subs helping me - because they were pretty outstanding, jumped in to help, and tried very hard to work within my vision. They inspire me and make me hopeful that perhaps others will find the joy and love in service events like I do, and hopefully they too will one day understand why I morph into this knife wielding Service Top Gordon Ramsay knock off bitch in the kitchen. She tells me what worked and what didn't, and how I can fix it next time, and don't make the same mistakes again! If I'm lucky, she is pleased with me, and is happy that I didn't have a Guy Smiley meltdown because the parsley was chopped rather than chiffonade.

I know now I need to do certain things for me - like go to the movies, or play pinball for an hour, or build Lego, or play Minecraft, or write essays while listening to some contemporary Tibetan music - which is what I am doing as we speak. Maybe I'll fall into a Fetlife hole of reading and liking - but that doesn't mean I want to engage, or jump on a thread. Today, I just couldn't give a shit about another predator being named and shamed, and I just have no fucks about another consent violation. Today, I just want to sweep my floor, lay out my clothes for work tomorrow - Monday is back, best break out the favourite underwear, pack my lunch, and fall into power watching South Park.

Tomorrow, I'll start thinking of new recipes to try and serve and wonder when might be good to schedule the next event, and the process will start all over again. For now, it's eating Macca's on the couch, drinking cheap sparkling wine, relating more and more to Eric Cartman, and not wearing pants.

Service Submission Series: How to Request, Accept, Offer, Refuse Service

The basic purpose of service is to make someone's life happier, easier, more pleasant, and any activity should be offered unselfishly and without any pre-conceived ideas or notions. I say someone as service is not always just given to a Dominant, and service is not always given by slaves or submissives.

Service should be offered with the best of intentions, the purest of motivations, with no hidden agenda or ulterior goal. Most of all, service should be offered with kindness and compassion, with attention to detail, and a dedication to do a good job.

Know that If you are with someone who is truly interested in service of some sort, he or she will want to do a good job. Any sort of play that may occur is viewed as a reward - there will not be any breaking of your fine bone china in the hopes of provoking you into some action. The individual giving the service is occupied with doing what needs to be done well, with style, to the best of his/her ability, in the hopes that you will be happy, and you will be pleased.

That’s not to say all will go well - there may be bumps in the road - but this shouldn’t deter you from voicing your thoughts and feelings as the service progresses. Feedback, both good and bad, is very important - it not only indicates that you are present in the moment, but that you care enough to keep the provider engaged. There is nothing more distressful to a service provider than to realize you are not enjoying their efforts, and with the appropriate feedback, there is no reason why any form of service can not get back on track if it should happen to jump the rails. You should feel free to speak your mind and to voice your pleasure or perhaps displeasure with the efforts being made, and trust that any criticism or praise will be taken in, measured, and efforts will be adjusted accordingly.

With that in mind, there are four actions that are key in regards to service - how to request service, how to accept service, how to offer service, and how to refuse service.

***

Request service with polite confidence, with a clear idea of what you want. Accept service with the trust that it has been offered with the best of intentions and the purest motives. Offer service with a good heart, and sincerity. Refuse service or service requests with kindness, without guilt, and accept the refusal with grace and understanding it is not a personal rejection or personal reflection.

***

Requesting Service

If you see someone in the community, who clearly has some sort of service to offer, there is nothing wrong with politely requesting service. It can require some delicacy, for instance, a service submissive might be collared - either on a consistent basis or for a fixed term - to someone. Requesting service would then be best asked of the Dominant. If you are asking a service Top, he or she might have power dynamics with others that might be ruffled if not given their due respect.

Best approach to an individual would be something along the lines of:

"Pardon me, but I have seen that you have X service to offer. Is this correct?"

If that is correct, and you sense that further discussion is welcome:

"Might I ask, would you consider negotiating performing this service for me?"

If someone approached me in such a way - though it doesn't need to be that exact wording - I would be very much inclined to hear what he or she had to say.

When you do request service, be very clear as to what you are asking for, and what you are offering in return. Yes, we would all like to think that service providers are these endless fountains of giving, but sadly, that is not the case. As well, if multiple people want service from the same provider, one might be more inclined to fulfill a request for service from one in particular if the person requesting the service had an enticing offer.

Now, when I say offer or service, it need not be something like play, it is definitely not a euphamism for money, and majority of the time, is not something sexual. If that is something negotiated, because you are both like minded individuals, that is great, but I would caution that approaching someone and putting sexual favours/play on the table as either a request for service, or expecting sexual flavours/play as a reward for service.

Once you have established that both of you are interested in this exhange, it would be good to begin negotiations, like you would for any play scene - limits, hopes, what you truly enjoy, how to call the scene if need be etc.

If a request for service is met with a refusal or rejection, know that it is not a rejection of you as the requestor, it is merely that your offer is not feasible, for whatever reason at that time. I don't think it would hurt to politely inquire if there might be future opportunity, but know that while your attention is appreciated, any offhand remarks or pressure could ruin what could have been an otherwise beautiful exchange in the future.

I know I keep focusing on being polite and gentile, but honestly, I think many service providers are highly attuned to etiquette. I personally know I am like a Hippogriff - like from Harry Potter - I am easily offended by boarish behaviours and attitudes.

***

Accepting Service

First off, let me share a little secret – those who perform service get off on making you happy. Yes, giving good service does stroke the ego, and it is addictive. I know I get a high out of giving good service – like I’m Christopher Columbus discovering the New World, and bringing back riches for my Queen Isabella – minus the raping and colonisation.

That is not the sole motivation for service – I was once asked to attend a Dominant because as her Dominant friend said, she needed someone to ‘be kind to her’. Having had a dynamic breakdown, this Dominant I was going to give service to, needed a submissive to show her gentleness – bringing her a plate of food, something to drink, giving her a foot rub. Sometimes, when Dominants have been hurt by their submissive partners, it takes another submissive to demonstrate that yes, we are not all the same, and yes, you do have redeemable qualities as a Dominant.

It may seem easy enough to accept service, that seems like such an easy concept, but I am finding that it is actually a skill that is lacking. Perhaps it is due to mistrust - why would anyone want to do anything for someone without a catch involved? Perhaps it is due to service becoming an antiquated nicety in regards to BDSM-D/s. I'm not certain what the cause is, but I think it is something that we as a community need to embrace once again.

Receiving service requires practicing the art of allowing - allowing someone else to see to your needs, wants, desires and whims. It may be difficult, it may seem as though you are giving up control, but rest assured, when service is given, if pure in intent, it is done from a place of both joy and pleasure. It requires, at times, opening up your home, allowing another into your private realm, perhaps even sharing whatever is most precious to you, but with practice, this can feel like second nature, if you are open to the experience.

If you are ever approached by someone who wishes to serve you, here are a few ideas you might want to keep in mind:

1. You are under no obligation to accept service from anyone, ever. Yes, the individual (and it could be a service Top making the offer) is offering to serve you, but there is an element of selfishness to the offer – selfishness in that the person offering the service gets off on giving good service. If you don’t feel comfortable accepting, for whatever reason, a simple “no thank you” is all that is required. You don’t need to explain yourself, or your reasons. You are perfectly within your right to reject service, I would just ask that you reject as gently as you would want to be rejected.

2. Without any sort of direction from you, and should the individual in question not think to ask, the individual is going to act as they believe he or she should. If an object is proceeding in one direction, and it is not inhibited by anything, it will continue on the path in that direction until something larger and heavier knocks it off course. If you would enjoy service from a submissive, as an exmaple – having a tea made, having your hands rubbed, having your toys or play station wiped down – if you want it done in a particular fashion, please don’t hesitate to say so. We are still, at the end of the day, service oriented, and it is comforting to be told how to perform an act – because it will please you, make you happy, and we will be doing it right – or at least right for you.

3. Not all service types are seeking something from you – other than your approval and perhaps a bit of praise. I know that for many female Dominants in the lifestyle, being approached by male submissives is akin to being a star ship, in the neutral zone, and a Romulan Warbird just decloaked in front of you – shields up! If you are approached by a service submissive, as an example, please give them a chance, at least hear them out. I can’t guarantee that all service submissives, or all service Tops will be complete angels, I’m certain there are a few who feel if they do you a service, they are entitled to some sort of reciprocal reward, but you can help curtail such expectations.

4. Treat acts of service like a scene - it is a scene! So to build on the third idea, when you are approached by a service provider, don’t hesitate to negotiate and define the terms – just like you would with a scene. Lay it all out – how long the service will last, what is expected – what is not expected, what you are willing to give/do on your part etc. If you feel play is a good reward for service done well, then feel free to say so. If you feel a hug is a good reward, then say so as well. Good service is more than balancing a tray with one hand, or giving a good flogging, it is about making you feel comfortable.

5. If you accept service from a service provider, allow them to do their jobs – but at the same time, ensure you know what they will be doing. I have had the privilege of driving Dominants around from time to time, running errands, and I was grateful when I was instructed by at least one Dominant that I would be opening the doors for her. So every time we stopped, I would rush ahead to ensure the door was open for her, and when we left, I would open the door to the car, closing it when she said so. If this hasn’t been discussed, it may very well be that the submissive will open the car door and building doors for you, I would suggest perhaps giving them the chance to impress you. If you exit the car as soon as the vehicle is parked, they don’t have the opportunity to demonstrate proper manners and etiquette. If you wish to punish a service submissive, open your own doors – that hurts right down to the bone faster than any caning ever could.

6. Just relax – easy enough to say I know – it is making yourself vulnerable to rely on someone else, even for the smallest task, but with practice, this can come easier over time. Start with something small, having someone open the door for you, and progress as fast as you are comfortable. Keep in mind, you need not accept every offer of service extended to you – “Mistress, may I fetch you a beverage?”, “Master, may I rub your temples?”, "Madam, would you care for a caning?" – only the ones you are comfortable with, from people you are comfortable with, in the right setting, at the proper time.

7. Exercise trust/caution at all times. This may seem like an odd concept – but please stay with me. In receiving service, you are placing trust in the provider giving the service – trust that they will not harm or hurt you, trust that they are doing only what is best for you, trust they have only good intentions. Sadly, this is not always the case. I would exercise caution as to who fetches a drink for you, or who you might have cleaning your house, or whatever act of service where your health, house, finance, might sustain damage. Sure, it might seem like a great idea for some submissive to come over for the day to clean your house for free, but perhaps there is an attached cost that you have no knowledge of. How would you know if this person forged a checque and cashed it until weeks later when the bank came calling? Are you certain you want to allow a service Top to scene with you when you barely know them, or know anyone you trust to vouch for his or her skill. Even the simple act of getting you a drink, from a bar, could have a very bad outcome. Know who you are giving access to, and ensure you are comfortable with how far that access extends.

8. Service is in a sense its own reward, but sometimes, there needs to be something more. For some service providers, for some acts of service, it can be very draining. This should be discussed before the service is given – what does the individual require to recharge, is there an expectation for the receiver to give back in some capacity? A service provider should know what recharges him or her, and should state that when arranging any long term period of service. For myself, for example, to recharge me, so I can give the best service, I ask for the four items:

a. If I am giving service away from home, and it is overnight – or over a few nights, I ask for a clean, safe place to sleep with access to a toilet and shower.

b. I ask for a few of my meals to be paid for or provided to me – the rest I can purchase on my own or obtain for myself.

c. A night or two so I might have a break – so I can go see a movie, walk around, see the sights, do some shopping.

d. Hugs and cuddles – not necessarily from the person I am serving, it’s always nice though.

These are the things I ask for when giving longer service – short term service, as long as my bodily needs of having a place to occasionally rest, hydrate, eat, and take care of bio breaks are met, I’m pretty happy. It would be nice to think that a service provider can give and be fulfilled just on the energy of the exchange, but in practice, I have found this to not be the case.

****

Offering Service

Offering to lick a Dominant's feet clean with your tongue is only service if it is something he/she would enjoy, and engages in on a regular basis, and possibly requested. If you offer this to a Dominant, and it is not of interest to the Dominant, it is not something he/her would enjoy, and he or she would never engage in this, then it is a selfish action which is only concerned with your self gratification.

If you are interested in offering someone service, you should approach with humility, and gentility. Do not offer any specific tasks, and realize that you are beginning a conversation/negotiation. Begin with an opening line such as:

"Pardon me Sir/Miss, but I would be greatly honoured if I might be able to offer you some form of service. Might we discuss what would be of interest to you?"

If you are granted leave to engage in conversation further, it would be wise to allow the other person to lead into the conversation - remember, you are here to make his/her life more enjoyable. You need to listen to what would make his/her life more enjoyable, because at this point, unless you know the Dominant even a little, you really have no clue. You could find a way to politely highlight your skills and expertise to the person, keeping in mind they may already have a good understanding, as well as having a clear idea of what they want from you.

During this negotiation, once you know what would please this person, you may be asked if you would like anything in return. I would caution being too forward in your requests, asking for an inappropriate reciprocal boon at this point could mean that you are quickly dismissed.

Once service is offered and negotiated, it is upon your honour to fulfill what you have offered/negotiated. The community is not that large, people will know if you do not fulfill what you have said you would do, and you most certainly will not have much credit or favour with that particular service receiver you slight.

***

Refusing Service

Now there are two types of service refusal really:

1. The provider refuses a request

2. The receiver refuses your offer

If a service provider refuses or rejects your request for service, understand there may be reasons for such. Perhaps they are tired - either physically or mentally - how do you know? Perhaps they are not in a good head space emotionally and just want to either recover, or be left alone until they are again fit for human consumption. Pressuring them amounts to harassment, and honestly, do you really want someone who is not in the best frame of mind fetching your drink, or clearing your play space, or massaging any part of you?

We as a community wouldn't stand for someone to be pressured into playing with someone, so service should be no different. No should be respected - whether it is a refusal for service, or a refusal to play.

Now, it may happen that if you offer service, the service receiver may refuse/reject your offer. Again, similar to your own reasons for refusing/rejecting a request for service, the receiver has his or her reasons for not wanting to accept your attentions. You can with much humility and respect clarify if the refusal is based on the offer you proposed, but this can skirt the edge of respecting the intended receiver's privacy.

Saying something like "If it my particular offer that you find unappealing, but would still appreciate my service in some form, I would be most happy to discuss an alternative offer with you.", would not be amiss. If this is refused or rejected as well, it would be best to move on to someone more receptive of your talents.

***

There are many forms of service, as there are many different archetypes of service providers. Not all are equal, not all share the same skill set, and not all have the same experience. Seize the opportunity to avail yourself of the talents of the various providers, and at the same time, assist them in gaining the skills he or she may need to progress further in the lifestyle.

Service providers are just one half of the equation, we need the service receivers to keep us razor sharp, engaged, and always striving for excellence.

Note: Just because someone offers service in general, does not mean they are offering it to everyone, or just anyone. Do not assume that because someone enjoys service, or that they have offered you service in the past, that this is the case presently, or will be in the future. It is always best to check each time, as circumstances may have changed.

Assuming is the fastest way to kill any possibility of someone doing you a service in the future. I had an occasion where someone approached me and said "I know you enjoy service, so you may serve me by making a plate of food for me". Can you see how at best that comes across as rude, and at worst, it is violating consent, because there is no room for consent?

Service Submission Series: How to Build a Menu for a D/s Event

If you’re in the position of either hosting or cooking for a D/s event, the starting point for good food - assuming you’re not putting out platters of sandwiches and crudités (which is perfectly okay) - is in the menu planning.

There are a few ways to take menu planning - but my best advice, work with whatever ingredients are in season at the time. If that is not an option, for whatever reason, frozen is the best alternative.

So, the next consideration is theme. The theme can be a cuisine, or a colour, or perhaps the theme can basically be the season. Keep in mind, even though the theme might be a certain cuisine, which might be very exotic and technically challenging, it is possible to take certain recipes or techniques and apply them to what you are comfortable with.

Now, once you have a theme, the next consideration is the event. Is it a sit down event, is it a full meal, what time is the event being held? All of these factors will contribute to dictating the menu. While this might seem limiting, the type of event can actually be an opportunity to be very creative. A stand up event is the perfect setting for what I like to term a walk about meal. A walk about meal is a number of appetisers served to guests, that actually equate to a full meal, served in bite sized pieces from trays that are circulated around. Dishes that might be considered as only served as main dishes - such as Beef Wellington, or stew, can actually be transformed into hors d’oeuvres.

The last part of deciding the menu is allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. It wouldn’t do to make any of the guests ill - that just makes for a bad time - so it’s good to ask beforehand who will be present, and to ensure any special needs are sent to you. Even if someone has a number of intolerances, that doesn’t mean they can’t participate. It is possible to make someone a special plate that resembles the plates of everyone else, because you want to make that guest comfortable and not stick out like a sore thumb, if you know ahead of time. In a largish group, it may be impossible to know everyone’s intolerances and sensitivities, so it is good to post ingredients if it is a buffet, or if items are passed around by servers etc.

Now that you have all of this information, it is time to do some research. The internet - specifically Pinterest, is a great place for fast research. There are a few books that are my go to for recipes - The Joy of Cooking, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. These are fantastic resources for just about any dish you want to serve, and more importantly, if you want to impress. My other favourite for appetisers is Martha Stewart’s Appetisers. Other than that, cooking magazines and cookbooks from other cultures are always a great resources. Don’t discount some books from say the 50’s or 60’s - some of them are gold. Granted, there isn’t much call for Jello salad these days, and you’re not likely to find onion juice in the grocery store, but some of those cookbooks sold by the ladies’ auxiliaries, they have time tested advice on basic and usually local cooking techniques.

Planning a menu to me is like telling a story, or playing a piece of music. Do I want to make a loud and strong impression right from the get go, do I want to build slow and lingering until the end, do I want something in between? With a multi-course meal, perhaps you want to interject something like a palate cleanser, depending on how long of a time frame you are given.

For all appetisers, you might want to reserve your heaviest apps until the end. For a sit down meal, you need to decide how many courses to serve, how, when, and how you want the meal to unfold.

For a walk about meal, it’s good to have at least 6 or 7 appetisers. There should be a little of everything - such as - one cheese, one veg, one beef, one pork, one seafood etc. If there are any allergies, such as seafood or shellfish, it’s best to double up, or of course, is there a strong vegetarian attendance, it’s best to focus on cheese, legume dips, veg etc. All items should be handheld, and bite size, because if folks are standing or walking around, there’s really no place for cutlery, or plates etc. Be sure to have plenty of napkins as well.

For a full multi-course meal, the basics are starter, main, dessert. There can be variations on this, such as an appetiser or amuse bouche, a soup, salad, main with meat, fish course, dessert, cheese plate. A sit down meal can also involve a series of one bite delicacies - a series of paired down versions - a soup in a shot glass, an herb salad wrapped with a long slice of cucumber, a slice of baguette spread with roasted garlic Camembert topped with mango salsa etc.

One last note, the menu should also keep in mind what the events of the evening might be. For instance, if the aim is play, the menu should not be carb heavy, in case folks end up in a sugar coma in the corner. If the meal is the event of the evening, go balls to the wall, pull out all the stops, and make the meal entertainment. Keep in mind aromatics as well - onion, garlic, curry - these are all tasty, but can leave one with bad breath, or body odour - which might put a damper on the evening.

There are a number of factors that go into planning a menu for a D/s event, but rather than seeing them as limiting, these factors can actually be the catalyst for creativity. With a bit of planning, research, and thinking outside the box, it is possible to have a delicious and very smoothly flowing D/s event. Rather than dreading the next gathering, you will be looking forward to entertaining and eager for the opportunity.

Service Submission Series: A Courtesy, A Command, An Order, A Rule, A Ritual - Explained

In service submission, acts and spoken words can be fit into five main categories:

a courtesy
a command
a standing order
a rule
a ritual

We’ll start with a courtesy. A courtesy is really just being a good host or showing a display of good manners as well as possibly being observant and sensitive. For instance, I have a Domme friend who I know drinks Coca Cola, so if she is coming to visit me, I will most likely ensure there are a few cans of Coke in the house. For another Domme friend, I know how she likes her tea made, the bag barely dragged through the water, so if I have her over for tea, and I’m making her tea, I’m going to remember and make it exactly as she likes. Neither of these Dommes have a dynamic with me, and usually when they visit my home, it is as a friend, but as a good host, and as someone who does derive pleasure from giving others exactly what they want, it is important for me to remember these little details. This is sort of the most basic form of service, and does not involve a dynamic. A courtesy can be shown to anyone, regardless of title, archetype, or station in life. A courtesy does not require any involvement of the other party, it is usually self initiated.

A command is a direction, usually issued by a Dominant, but not always, that should be carried out, within a short time period, and/or specified time frame. A command may or may not rely upon a dynamic between the two individuals. As an example, when volunteering at an event once, a Dom friend turned to me and asked me to perform a task. I did not have a dynamic with this individual, he was not my “supervisor” at this volunteer event, but because of the respect I have for him, I carried out the task. A command need not be as harsh as it sounds - there is no reason why “please” and “thank you” can’t be involved when issuing a command. A command can also be refused, if you are not in a dynamic with the individual, and you are under no obligation to the person. If you are in a dynamic, and you do refuse a command, you do so at your own peril. I would caution refusing a command if you are being considered by someone, usually a Dominant, or you are being observed as a potential service submissive at an event. I have also been issued commands by Dominant friends for my own good. For example, I have had Dominant friends say something like “I’m playing the Mistress card…” or “Mistress says…” usually followed by something like “...please ensure you practice self care.” or “...please go to bed at a reasonable time.” These are things a friend might say, but because they have enacted their title, it carries a little more weight - at least with me. I could still refuse it, there is no dynamic bond to lean on, but because I respect them, I’m more likely to carry out these commands.

A standing order can be found in terminology from government, to the military, to even our day to day banking. It is an instruction to be carried out, either daily or enacted at a certain time, until instructed to act differently. Standing orders should be viewed as the way it is or should be. For instance, a Dominant may say, “I want the kettle water boiling every day the moment I walk in the door”, or “Dinner will be served at 5:00 PM every day”. These orders may be written into a contract, they may be in a manual, or they may be issued once, and understood that is how it will be. Standing orders usually involve a dynamic, and they are generally practical actions undertaken by the submissive. Standing orders can be quite simple as “There will always be a bowl of peanut M&M’s by the door when I arrive” or they can be quite complex as “There will always be a bowl of peanut M&M’s by the door, sorted by colour in a pie wedge shape, chilled, having sat out no more than 10 minutes, when I arrive.” A standing order is repetitive in nature, and spans over an unknown amount of time.

Now a rule is a little bit of a command, a little bit of a standing order, even be a bit of a ritual. A rule is usually between two individuals who have a dynamic - I have not seen a rule standing between two individuals who do not have a dynamic - and involves an order that is enacted usually for the benefit of the other partner. As an example, I have had dynamics where I have a bedtime - this is a rule. This is a little bit like a standing order, but it is for my benefit. Rules can usually be created on the spot, whereas a standing order is usually laid out before a dynamic begins. A rule can be for the benefit of either individual really, but typically used for the benefit of the person serving. A rule might be “At this event, when you are not serving, you will sit as is comfortable at my feet”. Rules, like standing orders, can be repetitive in nature, and span over an unknown amount of time, or they can be like commands, for a fixed amount of time, but rules are again, typically repetitive.

Rituals are very personal, and typically only involve those who are involved in a dynamic. They are actions which have meaning, usually meaning for both, and touch on the connection between the individuals, recall a special memory, time, perhaps place. The ritual has benefit for both involved, sometimes physically, or perhaps emotionally. An example could be “Every evening, after dinner, you will pour me a glass of brandy, kneel down beside my armchair with the brandy raised before you, and present the glass using the palms of your hands, with your head lowered”. Rituals differ from standing orders as there is usually deep intent behind the ritual, whereas standing orders are more practical.

As time passes, it may be that commands, standing orders, and rules are either forgotten, disobeyed, or broken. If it is done unintentionally, there could be a multitude of reasons - the individual is not in a good headspace with his/her full awareness, he/she was distracted when the command/standing order/rule was enacted or given. If commands, standing orders, or rules are broken or disobeyed intentionally, it is usually done for attention seeking purposes. Rituals are rarely disobeyed or forgotten - but it can happen that rituals lose meaning over time, or the individuals in the dynamic find the ritual too difficult to enact on a daily basis. Rituals should occasionally be reviewed to ensure both parties still agree to and find merit in these tools. It may be a ritual is no longer possible because circumstances change - health, age, other obligations. For instance, kneeling may be impossible or very difficult as we age, or due to illness or impaired health, constant standing may become difficult. Standing orders are usually dictated by the Dominant, and while it may be that an s-type benefits from this type of instruction, it is usually decreed for the Dominant’s benefit. Rules are usually to the benefit of the s-type, laid down by the Dominant, and usually carry consequences for disobedience. Commands are immediate, can be issued for any purpose, and usually carry immediate reprisal for disobedience.

Whatever your relationship may be, or your current state of attachment, you may run into one of more of these types of structure. Finding how these tools can be used to enhance or define your dynamic is part of the joy of travelling down such a path, and hopefully now you have a clearer idea of what these components might be able to bring to your life.

EDIT: Thank you to @MsLead for the suggestions <3

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Service Submission Series: How Not To Be A Service Black Hole

One of the misconceptions of service submission is service means free labour.  Service, has a cost - both seen and unseen - and it can be calculated.

Easy enough - the costs that can be seen.  Performing service requires making purchases - gas in the car to squire a Top around, or to run errands, or to arrive at their doorstep to perform whatever duties are necessary.  In my own experience, it costs to have a supply of towels and facecloths for massage; to purchase the raw materials to put together a feast (large or small); to purchase the clothing to set the scene or create the fantasy.  It costs to have a supply of oils, spices, salts (yes, there is more than one type of salt), ‘leftover’ wine that quietly sits turning to vinegar etc.  The unseen costs include training - workshops, classes, courses, seminars, online or paper print materials; taking time away from oneself or others to take care of the needs of the Top in question; and what can be the greatest cost of all, the expending of emotional energy expended by the submissive to perform the service.

When a service is performed, it is not merely a pair of boots being shined, or a floor being moped, or a body part being rubbed.  Performing service is a physical manifestation of love - with every sweep of the broom, with every kilometre driven, with every piece of laundry folded - that submissive is showing such care, attention and love for the Top they are servicing.  It is saying “I respect you, I believe you are deserving of my very best, I care for you, I hope I please you, I feel you are worthy of what I have to give”.  This isn’t the romantic variety of love, but more an expression of the bond that exists between community or lifestyle members.

Blessed is the service submissive who can just perform service without any reward - that would be the ideal - someone who could attend to the needs of another over and over without having their own needs seen to.  While every ‘thank - you’ and compliment is appreciated and cherished, there needs to be something given back in the power exchange to feed the soul.  Otherwise, over time, that submissive is just giving their power away, and that can be draining - there must be some form of reciprocity.  If you call on a service submissive over and over again to do your bidding, and you take from them but do not give in return, you are a service black hole.  Words of thanks are again very much appreciated, but at times something must be given in return to feed the desires and needs of the submissive.

Good service submissives are not easily found - it takes time to hone skills, develop talents, inspire creativity, polish abilities.  That is not even counting the other traits that are most important - honesty, being a good communicator, dependability, attentiveness to detail, creativity, being a problem solver.  All of this is not forged over night, so why would you want to contribute to ruining a good or great service submissive by setting up an unequal power dynamic?  They have offered what they are willing to give - dinner on the table, a massage, a car ride, a shopping trip - what are you willing to ante up to not only create a balanced exchange, but to foster the emotional and mental health of this rare breed of submissive?

If I offer to serve someone, I do so either knowing it will be a one way exchange, or I do so because I am already receiving something in return.  With the one sided exchange, I will enter into the exchange because of my esteem for the other person, because it might be a one off, because it might be for an event, because it might be a favour, or because the other person might just really need someone to show them a little kindness.  With Dominant friends, I do so because my relationship with them already feeds a part of me.  If I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend or care for them, I do it out of affection, love, out of the platonic bond we share.  Plus, it’s a good, safe environment to practice my skills or try something new without harsh judgement or ridicule.  If a stranger were to approach me for service, I would very much inclined to attend them if they included in the negotiation something to the effect of ‘And I am willing to offer X in exchange’.  Nothing turns me off faster than a ‘do me and that should be your reward’ type Dominant.

Altruism while a commendable goal, is not attainable - not by any human.  The expectation that a submissive can give their power away infinitely, without something in return is unrealistic.  Play, funishment, sex, cuddles - there must be some reward offered that truly acknowledges the gifts given and feeds the wants and desires of the submissive.  Service is rewarding, but it is not a means unto itself.  It is what we do, what we offer, how we show our love - and feeding love allows it to grow, stronger and deeper.

Do not be a service black hole - be a service patron - nurture the gift of service when you see it to ensure it does not become extinct, and to encourage this behaviour in future generations.