Tuesday, May 22, 2012


What does control mean to you? Is it mental? Emotional? Physical? Is power a subtle trait or does it declare itself with loudspeakers and riot gear?

I'll tell you the truth: I find genuine control with locks and keys way hotter than voluntary control. Why, I can't tell you. If everything is about willpower, and the sub/slave's desire to serve, it's just -- meh. I know a great many people feel differently, which is fine.

This relates to something I've been pondering. There are a number of reviews and commentaries on As She’s Told that describe Maia as willing to do whatever, to please Anders. And I've had to think about why that doesn't resonate with me. Yes, Maia wants to please Anders; yes, his pleasure makes her happy and secure. He even notices how hard she works to stay open to what he's doing to her, despite her fear. But she isn't choosing to do what she’s told in order to please Anders. She’s not the active party. Anders is choosing what she does, to please himself. She's handed that power over to him, and now if she doesn't fully cooperate, she gets punished. There are consequences. The "doing it to please him" idea is a misreading of the power dynamic.

Both Maia and Etrin struggle against something that won't budge. That is one definition of helplessness, and genuine helplessness...works for me; what can I say? Hardware needs to have a purpose, or it's meaningless. Real locks and keys mean genuine helplessness, not just when the dom is there but all the time.

Of course, there are many other ways to configure a power dynamic. The subtle version can be unnervingly effective, and potentially just as abusive as the physical version. I think sometimes about Grandcourt’s cruel and casual power over Gwendolen In George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. Grandcourt never doubts his right to own and control his wife exactly as he pleases. Nineteenth-century male dominance with a flavour of psychopathy. And he never lays a hand on her, or even threatens violence; he doesn’t need to.

So I do understand power in its subtler versions. It just doesn’t happen to turn me on. Thoughts, anyone?


  1. Very interesting, but paradoxical, because the relationship you depict is ultimately consensual, so that the element of mental control is still there. My taste is exactly opposite. In one of my novels, Loaning Out Linda, I depicted a slave who is in love with the idea of being under her Master’s control 24/7 so that if she were to violate one of his rules when he isn’t around she would feel compelled to confess it. It would be unbearable for her to think she could get away with being disobedient without being punished, because then she would no longer be under his control. He also periodically questions her as to whether she violated his rules and she believes he would see through her if she tried to lie, so in that sense her obedience is not altogether voluntary. It’s true mental enslavement, which I find sexy. (I should add that my other novel about an M/s relationship, Eve: Portrait of a Submissive, is quite different; I don’t have only one kind of fantasy). Use of bondage as an element of punishment is another matter.

    Incidentally, what I find appealing about the whole Master/slave narrative is precisely this mix of consensual/nonconsensual elements. A purely nonconsensual story is essentially a story about kidnapping and rape, which I don’t find appealing. But the TPE concept allows for the introduction of scenes that carry the frisson of the nonconsensual, albeit in a paradoxical way.

  2. Steve, perhaps your Linda and my Maia have more in common than you think. Not everything Maia does is under Anders' eye, and she is also just as transparent to him when she misbehaves. The characters in AST work through the whole issue of consensual nonconsent; it's one of the themes of the book.

    I wrote another post not long ago about the issue of writing about that fine, difficult and ambiguous line between consent and nonconsent. Don't know if you saw it, but it might interest you: http://www.kinkyeverafter.com/2012/03/writing-subs-distress.html