Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Makes A Good Follower?

Another blog post inspired by a conversation with the boy.

There's a lot of literature out there about leadership and how to be a good leader; but frustratingly for the boy, there is not much (if anything) out there about how to be a good follower. Most good stuff out there on being a good follower is actually already about BDSM; there is a large and wordy focus on submissives in BDSM and Leather (and Gor, and FemDom, and all those other related subcultures) about what it means to be submissive and what it means to be a good submissive.

But in broader strokes, what makes a good follower? Well as a leadery sort of person, here are some of my thoughts:

* Observation and attention.

* Listening skills. Being a good listener is vital to following instructions and interpreting them correctly. Being a good listener is not just hearing the words; but also taking the time to register them and all the circumstances surrounding them. To think about what is heard as much as hearing it.

* Good feedback skills. The ability to acknowledge instructions or criticism in a meaningful way, and make it clear to the leader that they were heard. Nothing worse than a snipped "yep" in response to an instruction, and nothing worse than "it's fine" in response to "what do you think of...".

* There's a phrase we have in Leather, "anticipatory service". It means knowing what your top wants before they know they want it. It's getting their favourite drink into their hand and lighting their cigarette without them even noticing that you're there, let alone asking for anything. While I don't think anticipatory service (or any related vanilla concept) is *necessary* for being a good follower, it sure is impressive.

* Being able to work without micro management. Not that micromanagement is a bad thing, but I think being able to work well without it makes an excellent follower.

* Going above and beyond the call of duty, without treading into territory that isn't theirs to tread into.

* Enthusiasm.

* Being able to be honest about their skills and competence. I would rather someone tell me they are unable to do something, or even do something well, than to attempt and fail with no communication on the issue. Likewise, they need to know themselves well enough to know this sort of thing in the first place.

* Good self-knowledge and self-awareness, though honestly I think those are the sorts of things that are good for everyone to have.

* Being observant and attentive! (Yes I know I'm repeating myself, but I think these two things are the most important things, in my humble opinion.)

I'm sure there's plenty more and this is probably something I will revisit at some point, but that's all I got for now. :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What Do I Bring to the Table?

Boy recently wrote a very good blog entry about what he brings to the relationship. It was spawned due to a discussion that we were having about leadership and followership and what is valuable in a follower, and that sort of thing.

So I thought I'd do a companion post, and have a think about what I can (and do) offer those in my care. What do I bring to the relationship as a dominant?

(A quick note - this is not the time for humility, that would defeat the purpose of this exercise, so please bear with me as I put on my arrogance hat for a few minutes.)

* I'm very laid back and very flexible. This can be a flaw in a dominant, admittedly, but it can also be a strength. I am good at working with what I am given. I am good at adjusting things when they could be improved.

* I'm a very good cook and I enjoy cooking for people. It is one of my favourite ways to nurture and comfort people.

* I'm very good at organizing if given the chance, and given control of someone's schedule I will make them so damn efficient (and still include time for rest and recreation) they won't know what hit them. Similarly, I can organize for any fantasy someone wants to live out. I know how to translate fantasy to reality.

* I have a wide array of BDSM skills, some of which I am considered an expert in.

* I am a nerd for psychology and self development and thus am an excellent life coach. I am very good at coaxing introspection rather than projecting.

* I have good connections and basis in the BDSM and Leather communities (as well as the queer community and trans community(ies)). I love my communities and consider them an important part of my life; and thus try to contribute to them as much as I can. Involvement with me is almost automatically involvement in my communities.

* I'm a very caring and determined person; and thus, when I decide that I am in on something, when I make a promise, when I decide to invest my attention in a person or activity, I do it with my entire being.

* I am not judgemental; pretty much about anything. I find it very easy to accept things and move on if they are not to my taste or desire.

* I constantly strive to be a better person, to improve myself.

That's all I can think of at the moment. But it's a good start and a good exercise to do.

I wrote this entry over a couple of days, so I've pretty much run out of steam at this point. But this is an interesting idea and one I feel pretty confident that I will revisit in future posts.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: Manual Creation

I haven't had a lot to say the last little while, as you may have noticed. But I did recently buy a book, and it occurred to me that I could blog about that.

I might review a few books in future; I buy a lot of books. I enjoy owning books (and the sorts of books I want to read I can't find in the library anyway), I enjoy being able to lend books to friends, and I enjoy reading books. I dream of having a little library of alt sex books to be able to lend to friends as I feel so inclined. Non-fiction is where my interests lie at present, and probably will for a while to come. Fiction doesn't really hold my interest these days.

Anyway, onto the book.

Manual Creation: Defining the Structure of an M/s Household is a book by Machele Kindle, aka Master Fire. It looks at M/s household manuals, yes, but also contracts and to a lesser degree, protocols and rituals. Its form is very similar to that of a educational textbook, with each chapter beginning with theory, followed by an exercise, and completed with an example.

The first thing I noticed about the book is that it is very casual in tone, which is fantastic because the subject matter could easily be boring and difficult to read. Machele's authorial tone is light hearted and friendly, which makes the book easy reading. It very much feels like having a conversation.

There is a heavy emphasis on introspection, which I thought was wonderful. Rather than trying to tell you how to do things, the author gently coaxes you into finding out how you want to do things yourself. This is excellent teaching and guidance.

Some parts of the book I found repetitive, but your mileage may vary on that one. It may be that what I find repetitive, you find simply a reinforcement.

My one big problem with the book is that while Machele never hides the fact her spirituality is an important part of this lifestyle for her, she was clearly trying to write this book for the everyperson... and fails, a little, there, as I felt that the constant discussion of spiritual matters made me feel a bit like I was being preached at. But, I am also a spiritual person, albeit differently from the author, and honestly I can only imagine how infuriating an atheist might find some parts of this book. The spiritual aspects - particularly the author's spiritual aspects - need to be cut down a little in this book for it to be easier for people to consume, I feel.

Normally I buy my books from The Book Depository, as their prices are good and they have free delivery worldwide (which is a big deal, when you live in Australia). However, I couldn't find the book there, so I had to order it from, which once you include shipping, doubled the price for me.

I do feel that it's a good book, and one I'm happy to have on my bookshelf... but I don't know that I'd necessarily recommend it to others to buy. To borrow? Absolutely. It is definitely worth a read if you are in or are considering M/s relationships. Perhaps if you live in the USA and getting it isn't much of a hassle, then it's probably worth the investment. But for those of us for whom shipping costs are a problem, I wouldn't encourage people to rush to get it. Focus on other books in a similar vein first.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bad Puppy

Something I've discovered in the last few days...

You know that "ahhh!" Bad Dog noise you make when you catch your dog doing something naughty? Then the dog gets that guilty expression and seems to shrink in size?

Mine works on people. :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New little rituals.

Okay, one new little ritual. I recently introduced a new rule/protocol for the boy. Whenever we eat together now, whether it's at home or not, he's not allowed to start eating until I either:

* Pick up my utensil with the intent to eat.
* Pick up the food with the intent to eat.
* Tell him he can start.

I never used to be into this type of protocol, but all of a sudden, I'm all about it. Isn't it funny how tastes change over time. A bit like food really. I hated avocado once, too, but recently I eat it on everything.

This habit of things shifting as our tastes change is very healthy, I feel. Relationships should be fun and improve the happiness of the people in them.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A quick guide to flagging.

This blog gets a lot of search hits for things like "hanky code" and "flagging hunter green" and things like that, so for those of you stumbling across this in your search for flagging information, here is a short, quick guide to flagging.

First, a disclaimer, flagging does change from region to region and subculture to subculture (flagging in queer circles is different from flagging in Leather circles, and that's different from flagging in mainstream gay circles, etc). So just be careful of that. My knowledge is all from Australian flagging, and the closest thing we have to global Leather flagging (thanks to the internet!).

Flagging can be done with hankies (or bandannas), keys, chains, leather straps, cuffs, or ribbons. You can also use other things, of course, but the chances of it being recognized as a flag is lower than it is for these items.

To flag as a top, the item goes on your left. To flag as a bottom, the item goes on your right. To flag as a switch, the item goes in the middle.

There's also the issue of flagging via your neck - in some cases, this simply means switch, but in other cases it means hardcore. You can still flag left or right if you tie a hanky around your neck - the knot goes on the side that you're flagging. In short, be cautious when flagging with your neck.

Some other notes about flagging, before we get to colours:

If you're flagging with keys, some people take keys out to mean "available" and keys tucked into your pocket to mean "unavailable".

You can also flag switch by wearing two of whatever, one on each side. This is most commonly seen with cuffs or leather straps.

Be aware of the culture you're flagging in. You can probably flag whatever and however you like at a queer event, but if you're going to a Leather event make sure your hankies are clean and ironed, and that you're not flagging too many (maximum of two).

Now, about colours.

There are a million lists on the internet about hanky code colours (here are a couple: [link one] and [link two]) so I'm not going to list them all.

Now, some are more common than others. By all means flag whatever you like, but be aware that if it's an obscure one, then people may not know what you're flagging. Not everyone has the entire list memorized, for good reason :) Also the need to know the whole list is unnecessary; you generally only have to know the ones you're into.

Now let's talk about where to get items to flag with.

Most of the things I mentioned are easy to get (like ribbons and chains) or you already have (like your keys). Actual hankies, well, you can get them wherever you like too. I can't speak for other countries but here in Australia there's a certain type of bandanna that is the most common form of colour hanky flagging.

You can get bandannas specifically for flagging from most Leather & BDSM stores here in Australia. Here in Melbourne, mine came from Mannhaus, and I have also seen them at Eagle Leather and Lucrezia De Sade.

On a final note, I've already mentioned different cultures around flagging. Again, I can't speak for anywhere but here, but in the Leather culture here, it is common for hankies to be earned like leathers. They are often given as a gift for actually doing the thing that it flags, and doing it well. Your mileage may vary.

So that's that - I know that's a lot of information, but no one can claim that my introductions aren't thorough. :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2011! I have really good feelings about this year, I think it's going to be a good one.

My new years resolution is to stress less. The last - well, the last four or five years have been pretty stressful for me, so this year I'm focussing on caring for myself, having fun, and generally improving my health via stress relief (after all, stress is one of the big killers).

I used to be very against new years resolutions, saying that people shouldn't only want to change once a year, and blah blah, you've heard all those arguments before I'm sure. But then I came to realize that a) new years resolutions are a ritual, and rituals are important, b) resolving to change something at new years doesn't mean you won't also change things at other points in the year and c) why not resolve to change something you want to change at new years?


Boy completed his year of orgasm denial, and we slipped away a minute or two after midnight for his release. It was apparently worth the wait. :)

The adventure of orgasm denial and chastity was not one I expected. I had no interest in it at first, but it was a big kink of the boy's, so I indulged. Starting out slow, I soon came to learn that I'm actually quite into it. The year of orgasm denial showed me that this is now my kink, as well.

Last night I read through the entirety of my blog, and I realized that I wanted to update you all on the situation discussed in this entry.

The person we helped remove from a toxic situation? Is now not only in a happy, healthy position themselves, but is now set up to begin actively contributing to the community. Without going into detail, I can honestly say they're going to be tremendous help to the community and give a lot to us as a whole. I am so very, very pleased. About all of that.

And finally for this first entry of the new year, on January 1 I received a well written, polite, and charming message in my fetlife inbox from someone seeking to be the best slave they can be. What an amazing start to the new year.

Happy new years, everyone. I hope 2011 shapes up to be your best yet. :)