A reader sent me this link to self-help "guru" Steve Pavlina's take on D/s and self-improvement.
And first of all, before I rip the guy to shreds, I want to say that I really like it when BDSM gets referenced in mainstream contexts. Every public representative of kinkiness who isn't a pornstar or serial killer cheers me tremendously. Although he does start the essay out by referring to "my consensual slave partner" in a tone that ooks me out with his "you know, not the other kind" implications. Would you refer to "my consensual girlfriend?"
Secondly, I browsed his site a little and I think Steve Pavlina is a crackpot in general. His top article is "10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job" and that's not a cute tagline for a reasonable essay, that's his ridiculously spoiled and naive and loser-enabling screed on why doing honest work for fair pay is for suckers. "But honey, I'm building new media income streams, signing up at the temp agency before we get evicted would make me the housepet of some evil cow-boss!"
Okay. Now shredding. My biggest problem with this essay is: where's the sex?
For example, what if you had a free-working slave at your disposal to help you start a new business, someone who will gladly do anything you ask for no pay? Would that make it easier to succeed at getting the new business up and running? Of course it would, assuming that your slave is reasonably competent. You could focus on making good decisions and command your slave do most of the implementation work. You could be a lot more productive than if you tried to do everything yourself. A free slave would take much of the burden off your shoulders.
On the other hand, what if instead of a slave, you recruited a free manager for your new business, someone competent, focused, and disciplined? Your manager makes all the high-level decisions and tells you exactly what to do step by step. You don’t have to think about strategy. You can simply trust your manager and focus on taking daily action. Your manager observes the effectiveness of your actions and continually adjusts course and coaches you to improve. Might that business also be more likely to succeed?
The whole essay is kind of like that. It's all very sterile and ignoring the elephant in the room that is kinky sex. Sure, being submissive in certain ways can be good for your personal growth and development, but I do it primarily because it causes me to experience tremendous personal development--in my pants. I wouldn't compare it to a manager-employee relationship because a manager doesn't clamp an employee's nipples and fuck them up the ass.
This BDSM shit is a fetish, man, and talking like it's all about the growth and nurturance of both parties is the refuge of the dishonest and repressed guy who can't admit that having a slavegirl gives him a boner. Anyway you'd better hope it's a fetish, because if it's not, it's either institutionalized codependence or emotional abuse. 24/7 D/s is something I'm never very comfortable with--maybe this is just my kink, but I think that allowing someone to be in control of a sex act, or even acting as their servant during certain nonsexual activities, is very different psychologically and ethically from letting someone be in control of your LIFE. If you tell me to suck your dick or get you a drink, hey, funtimes; if you tell me to make a major lifestyle change, I'm going to say "fuck you, who died and made you God?"
For the dominant person, you have the opportunity to wield total control over another person. This means you can create all sorts of new experiences “by your command.” Your free slave gives you more power and more creative options.[...]
But after you’ve done that, if you keep repeating those same experiences in the same way, it will probably become less and less interesting. So you keep adding new things to try. Eventually as you keep going, you hit the edge of your comfort zone. Now you have the opportunity to progress beyond it. Will you use your power to create an experience with your slave that you aren’t sure you’ll like? Will you use your power to explore a whole new world of possibilities? Your extra power gives you the opportunity to do that with much less risk.
With a free slave at your disposal, you can take more risks and try new things that you couldn’t justify trying without the free slave.
He uses the term "free slave" throughout his essay. Now, when I say "I'll do anything for you, master," it is to be understood that "anything" means I'll give you a sexy massage or I'll let you give me a sexy beating. If you respond to that offer with "go paint my house," or "go design me a new-media income stream," we're going to have to start talking hourly rates. I know I'm not a Twue Submissive so maybe I just don't understand, but I'm only turned on by being a slavegirl, not a goddamn personal assistant.
Also, when you have a slave dedicated enough to paint your house, it's crucial that you don't take risks! Because they have no control of the "experience you aren't sure you'll like," you need to take far fewer liberties than you would with an equal partner, or you're a dick.
He's really vague about "experiences," to the point where I'm really not sure if he's talking about sex or not at some points. This boundary-stretching could be piss-play or it could be new-media income streams (ha ha, streams), and that makes a difference, for a variety of incredibly obvious reasons.
[on being a submissive] This is similar to the choice an intern makes. Interns don’t control every detail of their growth experience in terms of what specific tasks will be assigned, but they do choose the overall experience by deciding where to intern. And they may be better off doing that anyway. When entering a new field, someone else may be better qualified to manage the intern’s professional growth for a while, like an experienced manager or mentor.
I've always mistrusted the model of 24/7 in which the dominant helps the submissive "grow" in nonsexual ways. It presupposes that some random nonprofessional with a fetish knows what's best for the submissive, and it seems completely ethically incompatible with the kinky-sex part of the deal. If someone is going to guide and command me through developing better social skills and getting over my self-esteem issues and maybe help me get into nursing school, it's kind of fucked up if that same person is also beating me with a cane and fucking me up the ass. It seems like a serious conflict of interests to be truly controlling someone's life, and having weird sex with them.
I suppose you could do just the low-budget-life-coach parts without the weird sex, and I think some people actually do that, but, you know, booooring. Also kind of emotionally abusive, because the only think I want less than a dominant making me stand in a corner because I embarrassed him at a party, is a vanilla boyfriend doing that.
And then he wraps it up with what I think amounts to "D/s is so cool and I have so little insight into my own sexuality, I think everyone should try it! As a growth experience!"
Perhaps an even more important point is to be careful not to dismiss a potential new growth experience out of hand. Be cautious about judging what you’ve never experienced or what you’ve experienced only in a limited way. If you’ve never experienced a particular dynamic firsthand, it’s safe to say you don’t have a clue what it’s really like. If you cast judgment from the outside looking in, all you’re doing is limiting yourself. I think it’s better to keep an open mind about that which you’ve never tried. Don’t buy into the social conditioning that encourages you to pre-condemn with prejudice. Our society cannot progress much until we drop such limiting thoughts.
Okay, but what if my limiting thought is "I don't have that fetish"? Even the loopiest BDSM advocates I know (and I know some loopers) know that we're a minority not because of evil preconceptions, but because most people just aren't into this shit.
Anyway I do have this fetish. I do love to be commanded around and taken advantage of. I love it for about two hours, maybe four on the weekends, and then I got shit to do, man. Gotta put my clothes on and go out and face the world, on my own terms and under my own power, and learning to do that is what I call personal growth.