Perspectives of a
Male Submissive

by bob harris

a monthly column on the experience of
being in a real-life SM relationship



(that is the question)

by bob harris

As submissives, we are expected to be courteous and respectful when in the presence of a dominant. This is considered the basic, proper submissive behavior no matter what protocol you follow. It's even considered basic, at least during play sessions, by those who do not follow any other rules or protocols of SM.

Generally, always addressing every dominant as Sir or Ma'am , is considered a basic part of being courteous and respectful. But is it really? Some doms, especially those who are not educated in any particular protocol style (the polite and courteous way of saying they haven't taken the time to learn), or who don t even know that other protocols exist (the courteous and polite way of saying dom wannabe's), will tell you they expect to be addressed that way all the time. They expect, and sometimes demand, every submissive to address them as such from the very onset of being introduced. Doesn't matter if they deserve it or not. Doesn't matter that they have no idea what it stands for: they still expect it.

Deserve it? Isn't a dominant supposed to actually have to earn the right to be treated respectfully? Actually, yes. Even in the supposedly stoic, protocol-laden Old Guard," a submissive was not expected to automatically refer to every dominant as Sir . Only those who had proven themselves to the Community as a whole, over time, to be honorable, trustworthy, skilled practitioners of the SM arts, were awarded the honor.

Not that it is particularly wrong to always use the terms. For some of us, it is just a natural extension of what is considered to be good manners in any situation, lifestyle-related or not. Consistent use of the terms, especially in public settings, along with proper appearance and general attitude, can be a useful tool for an unattached sub trying to catch the eye of a skilled d om.

However, there are certain precautions you need to keep in mind. As we are all too well aware, in public forums, especially leather bars, the numbers of those who know nothing about our lifestyle except what they have seen or read in some porno flick or erotic story, far outweighs those of us who have chosen this as part of our lives. Referring to one of these dress-ups as Sir/Ma am, feeds into their fantasy image. Sometimes, they can respond in a way that makes them appear to be that ideal Leather Master/Mistress of our own fantasies. They appear to be--that is, until a situation finally comes along and we find out it was all just a game. Hopefully that happens before they get you into some dangerous situation, or worse, cause physical injury. Luckily, most of us catch on long before this happens.

But what about a new sub who isn't quite so street-wise? What if they are aware of you, know that you are an actual participant in the lifestyle, and even though you are completely unaware of their existence, are watching you in hopes of learning how to be a proper submissive? What if they hear you refer to someone you don't know as "Sir" or "Ma'am"--someone you can't say for sure knows anything at all about being a leather top, much less being a dominant?

What if they then assume--from your use of those terms--that this person is trustworthy? How will you feel if you find out that a new sub went with that person--based on the assumption that they must be okay since you called them Sir/Ma'am--and then wound up getting seriously injured?

Worse yet, what if you know that person is unsafe but still call them Sir/Ma'am? By your doing so you give them credibility as dominants and put a lot of others at risk of being injured by them.

Be careful. You never know who is watching you. You never know who is looking to you to help them learn how a submissive is expected to behave by a real dominant. And most of all, you never know who is watching you and relying on how you interact with a dominant to determine if they should trust them or not.

copyright © October 1999 bob harris
No portion of this article may be reproduced
without the written permission of the author.

Send commentaries to Master Doug and bob harris



by bob harris

A boy died tonight. You won't find anything about it in the local papers. You won't hear anybody talking about it around town. You probably won't even notice anyone missing. But he died just the same.

Sitting at a dark corner of the bar, the boy looks at the reflection staring back at him from the mirrored wall. He looks tired, drawn, defeated. His eyes, that once caught everyone's attention because of how they sparkled with laughter and just a hint of mischief, now were puffy, barely half-open, devoid of spark.

The collar and lock that seemed permanently attached was missing. Once it had been of symbol of who he was. A source of pride and identity, marking him as the property of his Master, a role he cherished. Now he hardly seemed to miss it. The boy in him had died.

Looking at his reflection, he wondered just what had happened? How did that part of him which he had worked so hard to develop just suddenly fade away? He had come to be respected as one of the best boys around. Unequaled in the devotion and service he lovingly gave to his Master. Looked up to as a role model, he had gained the respect of Dominants and submissives alike. But now it was gone.

Actually, it had been a gradual death. One he had been fighting for several months. Growing pressures from the outside world, his job and family, plus increasing pressure from the "lifestyle" community to give more and more, had finally taken its toll. His outside responsibilities were causing him to feel that he was not giving his all to his Master. That he was letting Him down, and letting Him down was the one thing the boy could not forgive himself for.

Despite reassurances from his Master, try as he might, the boy could not get over feeling inadequate. Master tried to help by relaxing some of the boy's duties. But to the boy, this just meant that Master didn't think him capable. The more Master tried to help, the more inadequate the boy felt.

Trips to the dungeon became less and less frequent. The Dungeon had always been a magical place for them. Reviving their spirits. Binding them ever closer. But now it seemed that though they both wanted to, both seemed afraid that for some reason, the magic wouldn't be as great. The fear of disappointment froze them.

Falling deeper and deeper into despair, the boy could hang on no longer. He had always been able to reach inside himself to find some extra small bit of energy to carry him forward. But tonight, no such energy could be found. Nothing was left. With one last, gasping breath, he let go.

He was going to put his leather away. Never wanted to see it again. But something kept him from doing it. Looking at the pieces hanging in the closest, each one with their own special memory, the boy couldn't face boxing them up. The first pair of chaps and vest. Hand-me-downs, given to him by his first leather lover. The man who had introduced him to this wonderful world. They had been the man's previous lover's who had died from AIDS. They had two good years before the boy's lover died also.

The vest that held his club colors. Weighted down with the friendship and run pins he had collected. The title vest that had pushed him into the public eye, eventually leading him to his Master. The chaps Master had reworked to please Himself. The vest with the family symbol. All meant too much to just let go. Perhaps all was not dead. An ember, although ever so small, was still there glowing beneath the ashes.

The bar was beginning to fill, mostly with the leather pretenders and wannabes that usually come early. They want the adventure of coming to a "leather bar" but at a safe time, before the "real" leathermen get there. You can always tell them by the way they poke each other and point at anyone who looks "real". The boy knew those looks well. Master and he used to cause quite a stir when they went to the bar in protocol.

As he made his way to the door, he noticed a new boy standing quietly off to the side. He appeared slightly nervous and shy. A lot like the boy was his first time out alone. The new boy had at least done his homework or had some training. Dressed right, being respectful of those who approached him, but not fooled by the "pretenders" who were approaching first. The few seasoned leathermen were noticing also. The looks were not obvious, but they were there if you knew what to look for. The new boy would do alright.

As he drove home the boy couldn't help thinking about the new boy. Something about him was familiar, though he knew he had never seen him before. Something about the eyes. The way they looked eager, yet nervous. Shy but longing. Something about those eyes.

That night, one boy left, one boy arrived. One died. One was born. But did the boy really die? Looks can be misleading. For as long as there is still even the smallest ember burning, no matter how deeply buried in ash, the fire still lives.

The boy will be back. Stronger than ever. Ready to serve his Master again with more spark and drive than ever before. Sometimes we have to lose what we have to fully appreciate the gift we give. The boy will be back. Perhaps he already is. Something about those eyes.

copyright © October 1999 bob harris
No portion of this article may be reproduced
without the written permission of the author.

Send commentaries to Master Doug and bob harris


The Question We All Must Face

by bob harris

Someday, sometime, somehow, it's going to happen. No matter how good your D/s relationship is, it's going to happen. Even if you have the most caring, sensitive, responsive, loving Dominant in the world, it's going to happen. It's happened to the strongest of submissives. It's happened to the weakest. And most likely, sooner or later, someday, sometime, somehow, it will probably happen to you.

Sooner or later, you're going to ask yourself the most challenging question a submissive can face. Have i lost my desire to be a submissive?

There are days when i truly wish that being a submissive actually did mean that you were a mindless robot. No cares. No worries. Just sit around and wait for the next directive. The idea of being the naked boy, sitting at home, waiting on Sir, while He takes care of all the necessities of life doesn't sound like a bad thing at all. In fact, it sounds damn good!

Nice work if you can get it, but that's far from reality for the vast majority of us. So, sooner or later, as the pressures of everyday life make you feel like your ready to explode, that awful question will begin to sneak up on you.

Let's be real. Being in service, to even the best of Dominant, can sometimes be a real pain. We have to take care of all of our own responsibilities that come with having a career, taking care of our house and car, and all the other modern "conveniences" that for some reason seem to make life more complicated than convenient. Plus, we also have the responsibility of taking care of someone else's home, car and modern conveniences. Daily pressure times two. Sometimes it can become overwhelming.

But hey, we're "super-sub." We can handle that and make it look so easy that Sir, believing that the service ability of a good sub is a terrible thing to waste, piles on a few more tasks for you to do in your "spare time," whatever that is. But hey, we're "super-sub," we can handle it. So you reach down inside yourself, find that last ounce of energy that you've hidden away, and keep on going.

But then comes the big one. Naturally, with all that you're trying to do, at the end of the day, you're tired. Sir, doing all He can to be the responsible Master, decides that what you need is rest. No play tonight, or the next night or the next etc., etc., etc. So now you start to think, ok, i've worked my ass off, done everything i'm supposed to, yet i don't get any of the rewards, i.e., play time. What's wrong with me? Am i no longer attractive to Him? Do i no longer spark His desire to play with me? Rest? That's the last thing i want. Want to rejuvenate me? Then take me in and beat the crap out of me. Throw in a little CBT, maybe some single tail, and see how fast i bounce back. After all, a good flogging beats the hell out of any kind of massage or rest when it comes to rejuvenating a boy.

Then it hits. Why am i doing this? i could find any number of play partners without having to go through all these other hassles. Why did i become His submissive anyway?

Unless there are other, deeper, problems in the relationship, it doesn't take long to come up with the reasons why. Despite all the hassles, all the headaches, all the self-questioning of worth, deep inside you know why. It's because you love doing it. You need to serve and you know you've got the best Dominant anyone could ask for. All you have to do is swallow a little of your pride (all it does is get in the way), talk to Sir and tell Him, "i need Your help and understanding."

Of course, admitting this is the last thing you want to do, being "super-sub" and all. So you bang your head against the wall a few times (damn, now i've got to fix the hole in the wall), slam a few doors (oh no, i heard a crash, what broke?), drop kick the cat across the room (it's ok, he's already deranged, another concussion won't hurt him much) or go shopping (ok, so there is one gay stereotype i fit) until you finally get rid of enough anger and frustration to admit to Sir that you can't do it all.

But it's OK. He understands. Most of the problem could have been avoided if you just hadn't been so stubborn and talked to Him sooner. But you faced the question. You've reassured yourself how much it all means to you. You won.

Just A Thought

Do you really believe the old stereotype of the submissive as being someone of no worth, a plaything to be used and abused at will by the Dominant? Did you come into this lifestyle with an extreme case of low self-esteem, believing that you are so worthless you deserve to be misused? Think again. That stereotype is the furthest thing from the truth.

Being a submissive requires intelligence, a deep sense of self worth, coupled with a strong desire to care and serve the one you love.

If you take all the words that are used to describe the various types of submissives, be it boy, boi, girl, slave, submissive or bottom, you can't find the letters to make up "worthless," "ignorant" or "piece of shit"!!! Remember that!

copyright © September 1999 bob harris
No portion of this article may be reproduced
without the written permission of the author.

Send commentaries to Master Doug and bob harris


Submissives Need to Take A Stand on Abuse

by bob harris

It used to be that leather/SM communities were small, underground groups made up of several households. New members entered as submissives in order to learn what submission was about, meanwhile training to learn the skills needed to be a Dom. Each community monitored and policed itself. Anyone not following the rules of behavior was quickly expelled. Long before the outcry for "safe, sane, consensual," a Dominant who became known as abusive, either mentally or physically, would soon find himself without any submissives willing to go with him. Same for a submissive. Once it was determined that submissives didn't have what it takes, they too would find themselves on the outside looking in.

Today, most communities consist of a large number of players, sometimes covering a large geographical location. There is very little, if any, internal structure or established rules of behavior. There are no recognized elders or leaders who can call a member to task. Training is left up to the individual and no one is there to monitor that training.

The result is that we now have a large number of communities, composed mainly of members who have no clue as to what the lifestyle involves or is about. They often consist of "Dominants" who equate SM with a freedom to abuse, and "submissives" who think submission means being the bottom in a play scene, with no idea of what service means. Worst of all, we now face an ever-increasing incidence of physical and mental abuse within our communities.

Ask skilled submissives, from any community, what their biggest problem is, and most of the time they will respond, "finding a good top". Not only is it hard to find one who is skilled in more than one play area: it is even harder to find one who shows respect for the gift of submission, much less how to give the proper aftercare to the sub once a scene is ended. These are two areas where the lack of training and monitoring has really had a major impact.

The time has come for submissives to take a stand.

As long as we continue to submit to substandard tops--even if it's only for a single play session--we are guilty of allowing those tops to remain as they are: dangerous. If we refuse to submit, even for a single play session, until they learn the proper respect and aftercare, they will be forced to either learn or leave. For what good is it to be a top if there is no one to top?

Now don't go thinking i'm proposing some great submissive uprising. i'm not. All i'm saying is that until we, as submissives, stand up for our historical right of non-abusive behavior, we cannot complain when we are abused.

If we don't stand up and say, "No, i'm not going to let you flog me until you learn not to hit the kidneys!" chances are the top will never know that what he's doing could permanently damage someone, at least not until it happens. And, by then, it's too late.

The drawback to this is that in order for us to know what being a safe, respectful, caring top requires, we ourselves have to learn about it. Beyond just knowing what constitutes safe play, we, as submissives, have to be fully aware of what it is we need and what we are looking for. It means that we must first know, and more importantly, be comfortable with, who we are.

If you are looking at this lifestyle (and especially at being a submissive) because you want a fantasy life where someone takes care of you, or if you're looking for someone to solve your psychological problems--well, forget it. You have no business being here! Come back when you've grown up.

Sounds harsh? Maybe so, but that's the reality. This lifestyle, and particularly submission, are not mere fantasies. The Lifestyle is not about the story of "O" or about a jack-off fantasy from Drummer magazine. Mr. Benson really doesn't exist.

In reality the Lifestyle is hard work which requires complete and unselfish dedication. You can't offer such a commitment if you're not comfortable with who you are or don't know how you want to be treated. After all, how can you expect a top to respect your right not to be abused if you don't respect it yourself?

copyright © August 1999 bob harris
No portion of this article may be reproduced
without the written permission of the author.

Send commentaries to Master Doug and bob harris

JULY 1999

Communication and Surviving Everyday Life

by bob harris

In an article i recently published, i stressed the need for open, complete and honest communication between the Master and the slave. i believe this to be a very important component in any Master/slave relationship. It is the most important component when it comes to separating out the fantasy of our lifestyle from the reality in order to cope with everyday life.

Both the general SM lifestyle and particularly the Master/slave aspect, has over the years, become increasingly entwined in fantasy.

What began as a way to protect the secrecy of the early communities, has become one of the main means by which our lifestyle is promoted. It has generally been through exposure to the fantasy, be it magazine stories, porn films or novels such as Mr. Benson or The Story of O, that most of us discovered our desire and need for--as well as the joy and satisfaction received from--participation in SM activities.

As one's involvement in the lifestyle increases, so does the desire to learn more about the many and varied aspects of SM play arenas. We also want to explore the many and varied nuances derived from the pleasure/pain phenomenon inherent in SM. Most of us begin to study the various books available on the history, psychology, politics and personal experiences associated with either SM in general or Master/slave relationships in particular.

But newer books, even though providing a more realistic look at life as a participant in an SM-based relationship, still cannot fully prepare us for life in a committed 24/7, SM relationship--be it Master/slave, D/s, whatever else you chose to name it.

We are presented with theories and ideals of what a SM relationship should be. We are given definitions of and the psychological aspects of "headspace". We are shown examples of contracts, instructions on how to negotiate and write them and even guidelines on how to enforce them. Unfortunately, we are given little, if anything, on how to apply those theories and ideals, how to recognize and achieve headspace, or how to make those contracts and enforcement guidelines fit our everyday lives.

With the resurgence of interest in committed SM and Master/slave relationships, especially in the het community, and because of the limitations of the available printed material, many people are entering committed SM relationships without the needed tools and information required to make the relationship a success. Add to that an inadequate number of Community members who are knowledgeable enough themselves or concerned enough to help mentor and teach newer members. Without mentors to help us find the extreme joy and beauty that cannot be found in any other type of relationship between two people, it becomes easy to understand why so many SM relationships, especially Master/slave relationships, fail.

For a successful SM relationship, and particularly a Master/slave type, it is generally agreed that it takes a Dominant/Master (Mistress) who is caring, and sensitive to the needs and desires of the submissive. The dominant must be understanding and appreciative of the precious gift of submission which is being given and must also be willing to accept complete and absolute responsibility for the submissive's welfare, both spiritually and physically.

The Ingredients of a Successful Master/slave Relationship

It takes a submissive/slave who is driven by on innate desire to serve. One who has the internal ability to accept as the reward the extreme pleasure and feeling of accomplishment that comes from willingly providing the best service one is capable of giving.

It takes a Dominant who realizes that it is his or her word that matters. One who knows he or she has the final choice in any decision, but who will actively seek out and seriously consider the submissive's thoughts, concerns and opinions before that final choice is made. One who makes sure that the decision is not benefiting one partner at the expense of the other.

Likewise the submissive/slave must fully trust the dominant's decision-making ability, comfortable in the knowledge that any decision made will be made with the best intentions for both in mind.

Such qualities are not always trainable. They are not always noticeably inherent, either. To develop them takes time, energy, determination and--most of all--it takes desire. It requires the Master and slave to work together to allow each the opportunity to understand, develop and practice these skills on a day to day basis and apply them to every day to day situation that occurs.

It takes trust, commitment, determination and love. But more than anything else, it takes completely open, honest and continual communication. When the lines of communication go down, so too does the relationship.

copyright © July 1999 bob harris
No portion of this article may be reproduced
without the written permission of the author.

Send commentaries to Master Doug and bob harris


boy bob harris is in a lifestyle Master/slave relationship with his Master, Doug Harris, owner and operator of the Sanctuary of a Dark Angel in Atlanta, Georgia. The Sanctuary is one of the United States' best SM party spaces for serious players. The club hosts an its impressive range of parties, educational seminars, fund-raisers, and leather events. It offers a warm welcome to all kinky people, regardless of orientation or style of play.





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