Monday, August 30, 2010

Sensuality Azure: Accepting Offers

If we want to be better role-players, we can find inspiration and guidance from many sources. I've found some guidance from improvisational comedy, or improv. Ideas, exercises, and practices of improv have crossed over into many fields, from business courses (where entrepreneurs need to "think outside the box") to video game companies (where designers need to understand flow and reactivity). I bring them into RP and D/s. Here is another notecard from my Sensuality Azure training materials.

4.1 Accepting Offers

The best role-play flows smoothly. Words and poses echo and intertwine. It's like a good French kiss. Unfortunately, flow is difficult to achieve. There are many obstacles. Yet some of these obstacles can be removed, when the players practice a habit from improvisational theater ("improv").

Role-play is a process of co-creation. Books or plays are written by a single, all-controlling author. The author is allowed to smear his ego over everything, and the reader or audience only consents to be present.

In contrast, role-play emerges from multiple authors sharing the same page. This can be a delightfully intimate experience, like having sex in a narrow bed. (Remember your dorm room?) But it can also be crowded, like trying to sleep together afterwards: all elbows and knees.

Improvisational theater is a relative of role-play. The players consent to a simple sketch, perhaps a location or a brief back-story, and then together they play a scene (tell a story). They follow a basic rule, which is sometimes called Always Accept Offers. Everyone agrees to accept any new idea someone adds to the scene, rather than ignore it, reject it, or argue about it.

Always Accept Offers is kind of like prostitution, only instead of whoring yourself, you're contributing to the flow. (If the scene involves whoring, then the metaphor is doubly apt.) It's a matter of etiquette: respecting your partners' creativity. It also improves the scene. It's hard to achieve dramatic momentum--flow--if someone keeps swerving or hitting the brakes.

The rule is sometimes labeled "Yes, and..." since that's the attitude each player should have. I particularly like this label, since it suggests how to role-play: agree with the choice your partner makes, and build on it. It's also a good attitude for playing a submissive or having sex. A submissive should obey a command, and strive to do more than was ordered, like adding extra sensuality to the action. And in bed, when your partner initiates a position, it helps the flow if you say, "Yes, and I could grip your [body part] while you do that." (Or lick, suck, pinch, etc.) The point is to honor the choice by embracing and expanding it. Expanding is good, right?

There are many ways to reject offers. Two of the most common are obsessing on details, and obsessing on the “rules” of a setting. Details are essential to making a scene vivid, and a rich setting can help define roles. For example, Gor is a rich setting with lots of “rules.” Suppose your slave kneels before you and tells you that a strange Master flirted with her in the marketplace. The Master claimed to be a scribe, and he was dressed all in black. You might be tempted to criticize the slave or her player, IMing her to say that she's kneeling wrong or that all scribes wear blue in Gor. But before you do, consider the creativity she's offering you, and whether you want her to keep making such offers. As artists and lovers, our egos don't heal easily.

To be clear, accepting offers doesn't mean ignoring your preferences or kinks, or worse, risking your safety. Role-play should always be satisfying and safe for everyone. If the offer turns you off or is unsafe, clearly you shouldn't accept it.

Ballroom dancing or domination may be about leading and following. But flow in role-play depends on sharing the power.

Sharing These Materials

This notecard is part of a collection called "Sensuality Azure by Kandr Newall". This collection is licensed as Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike ( Please don't sell this notecard. Please distribute and modify this notecard freely. Please credit Kandr Newall as the original author.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Slavecraft: Surrender, Work of Slavery, Obedience

Here are more provocative quotes from Slavecraft.

Outsiders are not prepared to understand that the passion of surrender has the power to take hold of us by the throat and fire our imaginations to the white heat capable of fusing sexuality and surrender into such a lens--a tool powerful enough to comprehend anything worth knowing (p. 35)

There is a myth that D/s relationships are simpler or easier than vanilla relationships. Alas, no. On the other hand, D/s can be a powerful tool for perceiving and processing on relationship necessities and skills, like trust, communication, willingness, selflessness, chemistry, and compatibility.

Like all consensual slaves, i am a work in progress; always pressing on towards perfection with no thought of ever achieving it. Good Masters are a dynamic bunch and so, They grow, evolve and develop as people. When that happens, the definition of slave perfection shifts as They shift. For that reason, the notion of a "complete" or "finished" slave is temporary and illusory, and so must be viewed with suspicion. (p. 66)

The work of slavery, however, does not "show" for the most part because it happens in our minds, our hearts, our guts. Masters don't usually recognize that we are working at surrender because They don't really know what our "working" looks like. (p. 67)

I found this last idea worth remembering, as someone practice dominance. Both my slaves have recently had the pleasing assertiveness to remind me that there are aspects and experiences of being a submissive woman that are beyond my comprehension. I'm a smart, creative man, and I believe imagination is vast. But wherever we are on the spectrum of dominance and submission, there are some things beyond even imagining.

The slave in perfect obedience neither offers nor reserves anything. His only obligation, his concern, his evaluation criteria, his only question, his only satisfaction is from determining if he obeyed. (p. 81)

The grateful slave who wrote Slavecraft spends many words trying to distinguish a submissive from a slave. Principles like this quote about obedience are compelling reference points for making the distinction. Over time, I've become far less concerned with definitions and ontology, like "submissive" versus "slave". The women I respect and crave tend to be more complex than labels. On the other hand, it can be a valuable conversation to discuss what the labels mean to each partner, and what their desires and goals are.

It is only the slave's obedience that enables a Master to control and, therefore protect, a slave against the most damaging threat possible, the slave's thoughts. (p. 81-2)

I've heard many bottoms express this idea. Several women have emphasized the relief and freedom that comes with obedience. Vanilla sensuality and sex can be stressful, as they strive to be desirable and pleasing: to make the right choices. If they can give up some authority, responsibility, and attention to the "big picture", they can relax and indulge more. It's part of the beauty and splendor of D/s: the dom takes what he wants, the sub gives it, and both can leave some fears and anxieties behind.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Be Fabulous

I enjoyed watching the movie Akeelah and the Bee. The quote below is taught by a strict teacher to an insecure student. I encourage you to apply it to another context: to ourselves, as we practice sensuality, sexuality, dominance, and submission.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson

I remember a paraphrase from a profile: "Most players live Second Lives of quiet desperation. Take a chance." Men and women who present as submissive often confide in me that they feel very shy and nervous in SL. They crave to be dominated in ways that liberate: ways that coax or force them to overcome their fears, insecurities, and scars. They want to be More, and they want help achieving it. At it's best, D/s is about bringing out the best in a submissive (and a dom). The bonsai metaphor applies here.

Those who present as dominant can veer too far the other way, and come across as presumptuous and abrasive. Ego is sexy in a dom, but in excess, it can verge on hysteria. We can try too hard to be fearless and self-assured, and reveal ourselves to be anything but. (I've done this.) It's hard for a bottom to trust a top who isn't even in control of himself. Needless to say, trust is essential to deep D/s.

We should all dare to fabulous, with whatever sparkle and volume is truly ours. We should seek those people who want us to be brilliant, gorgeous, and talented. People who won't be threatened by our radiance, but instead delight in it. Those are the people to whom we should submit, or who we should claim.

Our playing small does not serve SL.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Good Reads: Vox; Merry Gentry

I want to share a couple recommendations in adult fiction. The first is Vox, by Nicholson Baker. This is a "realtime" story of two people having phone sex, almost like a transcript (or log). I was drawn to it, because so much of SL is essentially a conversation. This particular conversation is intriguing and varied, as the man and woman share some lush fetishes and fantasies. The hot talk moves smoothly through both pornographic imagination and gritty realism. If the woman was a player in SL, I would be smitten. I particularly enjoy the contrast between the sexual tastes of the man and woman, and where they find overlap. One fictional character doesn't tell me all I want to know about women, but I do appreciate every lesson I can get.

My second recommendation is the Merry Gentry series. The author, Laurell Hamilton, is more famous for her Anita Blake vampire novels. (I haven't read them.) Merry, or Meredith, is a faerie princess/detective/hedonist, living in the contemporary USA. Over time, the author fills in some of the history and details of a world in which the Seelie and Unseelie Courts live openly, kind of like Native Americans on reservations (or District 9, complete with weapons you shouldn't take lightly). I would have enjoyed more about the world, but it's mostly a backdrop. For better or worse, the focus is Merry's extraordinary destiny, and the dozens of men she needs to fuck along the way. She has to be a slut, but it's for good reasons, see, and the faerie are cast as very sensual, sexually-liberated immortals. (Substitute Second Life for the Faerie Courts, and many of the lines still make sense!)

So, there is a lot of sex, including exhibitionism, multiple partners, orgasms that produce epic magical effects, and (occasionally) some sort-of force or fleeting D/s. The erotica tends more towards poetry than anatomy, and that's OK. But combined with the first-person female point of view... what should have been stimulating scenes sometimes left me impatient for the next plot twist. Or maybe I just wanted more repeat action, rather than yet another combination of hair color, latent demigod, and position. I'm being picky, but with affection. Sometimes the sex is very, very good. Overall, the series held my attention for four books. The insecurity and emo dialog of the men eventually cooled my interest. Apparently, even if we're immortal and we can have messy supernatural sex with a royal hottie, men need a lot of ego stroking. (Another SL parallel!)

I cheerfully welcome recommendations on reading, in comments here or IMs in SL. I'm currently rereading The Fountainhead for several reasons, including now being knowledgeable enough to understand and study the D/s relationship between Howard and Dominique.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Slavecraft: Being a grown up; Myth of training

I'm reading Slavecraft, written by "a grateful slave, with Guy Baldwin." This book came highly recommended by a submissive woman for whom I have great admiration and affection. The focus is deep 1L "erotic slavery", and the writer is a gay male slave. ("Erotic" is a nice adjective to add, to distinguish the glory of D/s slavery from the evils of nonconsensual slavery.) Of course, many of the ideas and arguments are useful in other kinds of relationships, in 1L and SL.

I'm not sure I agree with the slave on all things. But I find his perspective provocative. He describes the experience of being a slave in ways that help me better understand the challenges and joys. Here are some sections that stand out.

Sad to say, there are some who call themselves "Master" who are undeserving of the label. Some in need of an emotional hiding place will shield themselves behind the "Master" label. Lift the shield and one can often find those who shun real intimacy, self-disclosure, commitments of any sort, responsibility, honesty, their own vulnerability, self-knowledge, and yet, nevertheless, fear abandonment. (p. 15)

One in search of a Master (or a slave for that matter) is certain to encounter such people, and the challenge will be to discern the pretenders from the authentic. It is not enough for Masters to thrive on control; They must also crave responsibility and approach ownership with integrity, honor, honesty, common sense, and balance. There is no place in ownership for consuming rage, narcissism, viciousness, or other childish behavior. Ownership is for grown-ups. (p. 15)

The traditional slave-training myth asserts that: "Any self-proclaimed Master can teach a slave all he needs to know about surrender." (p. 39) of the great ironies in all of this is that the training myth is often responsible for impeding both Masters and slaves in the refinement of their respective callings. Masters who feel insecure with Their abilities because of their ignorance about submission, or for other reasons, will often seek an inexperienced slave precisely because he won't know much. This allows the insecure Master to hide His ignorance from the slave and be superficially impressive. The irony is that such Masters could probably learn much more from experiences with already skilled slaves because then They could see how a well-developed slave functions, and thus learn the crafts of how to enjoy and develop a consensual slave. (p. 45-6)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Apology & Drama Control

Yikes. I owe AvaAvadore Cabassoun an apology. In my post about drifting from Dark Den, I praised Cara and YT. I didn't mention Ava. I'm very sorry. During my three months in DD, Ava was consistently positive, friendly, and supportive. I admire her as a leader, and as a mediator in some of my drama.

Also, a clarification... I was praising Sir Defiant's Profile when I posted it. I have almost no sense of his excellence in dominance. I just love the attitude in his Profile.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Profile Pieces: Sir Defiant

More than anything, dominance is an attitude. I prefer a shade more subtlety than naming myself "Sir" or "Master" (although I did flaunt a title for a time). But if you're going to go big, then go this big.

I am the reason for your wife's secret smile, the one who gives her what you cannot. Don't despair, if it weren't for me she wouldn't be so attentive to you. It isn't love, it's a guilty conscience. She would choose you over me, but silently hate you for it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My wedding ring

I want to share some history about my wedding ring, and its significance in 1L and SL. I'm sure it hasn't escaped most of my partners' attention that the hand gripping their hair or spanking their ass has a gold ring on the significant finger.

As a character for RP, Kandr's state of matrimony is usually in the background. I'm not in SL for dating, romance, or a girlfriend, but neither do I want to foreground a sense that Kandr is cheating. I'm partnered to my wife's avatar, and I wear my SL wedding ring whenever possible. (It's not possible in some inhuman forms.)

I'm not the RP characters I play as Kandr. In RP, Kandr has much darker tastes, and he's much more casual about sex and relationships. Kandr and I share some personality traits and some physical features. (We don’t share *that* exact feature, in case you're wondering.) Some emotions can be very real, but the contexts are usually pretend.

A few years ago I learned more about polyamory. My wife and I have an open marriage online, so in the language of poly, she is my primary. I found that too mundane, so I say "my beloved primary", or just "my beloved." In 1L conversations, I sometimes stumble on the words "my wife", since I'm used to typing "my beloved" when I talk about her in SL.

Before we were formally engaged, my beloved and I decided we wanted custom wedding rings. We worked with a jeweler we admired. We had intended for hers to have diamonds, and for mine to just have starbursts cut into the gold, in the same constellation configuration. The jeweler misunderstood us, and crafted two identical rings, both with diamonds. Over the years, we've sometimes worn one another's ring, so it's not clear anymore which is which. I properly proposed using one of the rings. ("Properly" includes down on one knee, in my book.) At our wedding, we made our self-written vows with both rings.

Sometime after we were married, I bought my beloved a bedroom collar. It's a gorgeous masterwork of black leather, purple rabbit fur, and stainless steel hardware. I was very new to D/s at the time (i.e., clueless). I was fortunate that the store I patronized had such quality bondage gear, and that I was bold enough to ask the cute, emo clerk for her recommendation. (She explained that she had a similar collar in her bedroom. Is anyone surprised that I remember that?) There were matching cuffs for ankles and wrists, and I splurged on the whole set. Altogether, it was a landmark day for the junior Dom I was back then. I made my beloved work to find/earn each cuff, and finally the collar. That became one of her favorite memories.

Much later, we wanted my beloved in an everyday collar: something she could wear in mixed company, that silently symbolized our private deviance. After some discussion and shopping, we selected a beautiful gold rope necklace, on which I hung her wedding ring. The canted wedding ring evokes a leashing ring. It looks amazing on her: the synergy of the meanings is profound.

In SL, my beloved is my partner, my first girl, and my first Pick. Not long after I closed her everyday collar around her throat, I wanted it in SL, too. I secretly worked with an SL jeweler to reproduce the necklace and ring, and then surprised her with it. The jeweler also gave me a copy of the ring by itself. Since our 1L rings are identical, the SL ring matches my 1L ring. So I started wearing my wedding ring in SL.

Symbols can be powerful, especially when imbued with sincerity. For me, a collar includes certain promises, including the promise to take care of the bottom. A wedding ring is not a collar, although some of the promises are similar. A collar that includes a wedding ring is a powerful amalgam of meanings.

It's interesting that we call them "wedding rings", since they symbolize the marriage and commitment, not just the event. It would be a mistake for someone to assume much about my relationship with my beloved primary, without knowing us better. I wear my SL wedding ring whenever possible, to minimize such assumptions. Most people understand how the game of hearts and genitals is played in SL, but a prim reminder helps others and me. My beloved will always be first in my life and my heart.

In short, my SL wedding ring has symbolic resonance to my 1L ring and my beloved's everyday collar. It reminds me that nothing in SL will ever matter as much as honoring the trust, admiration, and wellness of the smart, passionate, sensual woman who gets the best of me. I love you, my beloved primary.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Crosspost: Forceme on Isolation

Forceme's post and the comments have some compelling perspectives on isolation in training and training play:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kandr leaving Dark Den

I'm drifting away from Dark Den. I have many reasons. Put simply, there are experiences and relationships I want in SL--ways of being and ways of feeling--that I'm not finding.

If anyone asks, I have many good things to say about the Den. I have a great deal of respect, admiration, and affection for Cara Lionheart and YT "alley cat" Recreant. I expect Cara to be an excellent president. YT's creativity and creations are extraordinary. The community is filled with friendly, playful people. I'm not storming out, and there is nothing gossip-worthy written between these lines.

IC, Kandr was in the PRG on a paid sabbatical. A senior partner in his firm is dying, so Kandr's sabbatical has ended.

I'm stepping down as a D/s Coach for Dark Den. I plan to continue my blog about D/s. I discovered much about myself and my tastes in the Den. I met many intriguing people, and had the pleasure of getting close to some. I found challenge, elation, and growth. I wish everyone in Dark Den a passionate, fulfilling SL.