SlaveCraft: A Book Review

July 14, 2012 at 22:45 (M/S) (, , , , , , , , )


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I just finished reading SlaveCraft: Roadmaps for Erotic Servitude, and while there was not much new information in it, nor did I agree with all of it, it did serve as a useful base not only to explore my own thoughts and feelings but to start a running dialogue between me and Angelflare.

The concept of the book is excellent.  While there are plenty of books on how to be submissive, dominant, or kinky in general, there are few books on how to be a full-time slave written by slaves.  Jumping into a 24/7, M/s relationship can be intimidating, as I’ve discovered these past few months.  A slave runs into emotions she doesn’t know how to process while fulfilling her role as slave, fears and insecurities she didn’t know she had, and situations she is unprepared for and unsure how to navigate.  These things can be a distraction, a hindrance, and a detriment, and the stress of balancing them with new rules and protocol has the potential to bring down the entire relationship.  Having talked about it all with Angelflare, I know that Masters often feel just as frustrated by these roadblocks.  It’s new territory on both sides, and no matter how much experience either person has, each one is different, and each one has its own unique challenges and weak points that need to be addressed and fortified.

SlaveCraft gives refreshing assurance to new slaves and a much needed reminder to those with experience that the things they are experiencing are normal, that they can be worked through, and that in the end they will strengthen both the slave and the relationship.  It offers ideas for solutions and methods to help the process and gives a little insight into why some of these issues exist and arise when they do.

In lieu of writing out a litany of likes and dislikes, I’m going to lay this out the way the book is written, essay by essay.  I will also state now that most of my “dislikes” are not aversions.  They’re simply either not how I view my service or myself as a slave or not how Angelflare has structured our relationship.  There are also certain differences that come with being married to my Master that are not considered in the book.

Essay 1: The Call to Submission

This essay reminds us that slaves come to the lifestyle and decide to be slaves in as many ways as there are slaves, but its main message is “Slavery requires bravery”, something that is often overlooked by Masters and slaves alike.  I have met potential submissives who believe that all they need to do is do everything I say, and that’s it!  I have met Masters that feel the same way and don’t feel that slaves should have any sort of adjustment process or they must obviously not be meant for slavery.  This essay reminds us that it slavery means facing and overcoming fears and insecurities.

Essay 2: The Myth of “Slave Training”

I can understand where the author is going with this essay, but in my experience he is a little off base.  While he has a point that there are many Masters who do not understand what goes on inside a slave at the start of a M/s relationship, some take a very vested interest in it.  Like the author, I do believe in a tiered household situation where novice slaves are trained by other slaves, but I do believe a Master has to have some involvement as well in order to know how each of his slaves operates and each slave’s unique strengths and issues.  I do not, however, agree that Masters are looking for “already up to par” slaves.  Maybe some are for short-term reasons, but I believe that, if a long-term relationship is going to exists, a Master needs to shape his slaves the way he wants them, not the way someone else had at one time.  Angelflare has been very open with me about how he is shaping me as a slave, and it has helped me understand a little what I believe every good Master should go through with each slave individually.  My biggest issue with this essay was the statement that “Love, if it happens, is not usually enough to ensure that we’ll be kept around.”  As Angelflare’s wife I firmly believe that it is our love that keeps me around whether this works or not.  I do not receive special benefits or leniency because he loves me, and I am doing everything in my power to make him happy as his slave, but I do not believe he will tire of my service and dispose of me as his wife.

Essay 3: Finding My Slavery

I found this essay to be one of my favourites.  In my opinion it brings up one of the most limiting blockages many slaves face, definitely the biggest one I have; Intuition.  The author brings up finding one’s inner slave much as one might speak of shadow self or conscience, as something to be fostered, acknowledged, and heeded.  Too often we let the intellectual aspects of service and what is expected of us as slaves get in the way of our natural tendency to want to serve and serve well.  Instinct is a huge aspect of service as long as we stop overthinking and start letting that instinct take over. In Part II the author brings up the poignant reminder that slavery is an agreement we first make with ourselves.  When Angelflare and I started he made sure it was what I wanted.  The decision to do this was all mine, and I made it on my own.  From there his next point was apparent.  By giving I am more likely to receive what I need.  It was a struggle at first, but I’m starting to understand that on a deeper level.  From there he talks about conditions in slavery, and he’s right when he says that total submission as a slave cannot happen if there are conditions.  Does Angelflare know my hard limits, fears, phobias, and physical limitations?  Of course he does, so there’s no reason to put them in writing and speak of them as limitations.  There is only trust that he values me enough not to cross those lines in a way that will be harmful and only cross them when they are no longer useful and need to be faced and cast away.

Essay 4: The Principle of “Identity”

The very first thing I recognized in this essay was one of the first issues Angelflare and I faced together: perception of effort.  In the beginning it may have appeared to him that I wasn’t trying to get over my internal issues and clear my mental blockages.  In reality I was doing everything I could think of, but much as I find it nearly impossible to use a curling iron on my own head I also found it hard to pinpoint and fix the issues within myself.  It wasn’t until we talked about it that he was able to see just how hard I had been trying all along.  What this essay mostly gave me as a slave was a reminder that who I am, everything I am, is his.  My job, my hobbies, my side projects all exist because they are pieces of me he chooses to keep.  It also talks about Identity Drift and how to recenter oneself, a lesson I’ve been learning over the last month away from home.  It’s actually been an extremely useful separation period but that’s a whole different post.

Essay 5: The Principle of Obedience

This essay deals with “becoming accomplished at obedience” as the only concern of a slave.  I do not agree with is the idea that obedience requires all surrender of independent thought, that “the most damaging threat possible” to a relationship is a slave’s thoughts, and that a slave needs to be protected from her thoughts.  While I will put any order I receive from Angelflare first and foremost, if I notice something he does not that could make following that order destructive, dangerous, or costly, I consider it my duty to him to mention it with as much respect as possible, not to blindly follow the order and find myself in a bind.  Of course, this only applies in serious situations, and if I bring it up and he still insists I am to trust his methods and follow the order knowing he is full aware of what I have seen.  The author hits the nail on the head when he says that obedience is more than just following orders.  It’s about doing it without resentment or misery, but with the spirit of service and a desire to please.  This is, admittedly, something I struggle with at times.  I am currently working on finding pleasure in the act as opposed to merely working towards an end.  The final section of the essay addresses working together as Master and slave to fix emotional issues that cause a lapse in obedience, something Angelflare is insistent upon, and I cannot agree more that it has the propensity to strengthen our bond and increase my faith in his role as Master.

Essay 6: The Principle of Transparency

Again I see where the author is going with this essay, but I don’t agree with all of it.  I agree with his point that worry breeds unnecessary paranoia and that I should accept that my Master wants me for all of me.  It also brings up the idea that a good slave lives only in the present state of her relationship, that she should be content that she is what he wants for now and leave the future completely up to him, and as a wife I find it hard to accept that.  I cannot just go blindly into a future with the belief that this is what he wants for now and find that good enough.

Essay 7: The Principle of Humility

This was a long essay, so I’ll try to be concise.  Angelflare is big on pride, but he also wants me to better myself and be the best I can be.  I believe that requires at least a little pride, just not pride that is aimed in his direction.  I belong to him, but outside of that the world is mine.  I can see why the author has his rituals of humility, but I find them hard to relate to.  He strives to remain unseen where there are times Angelflare wants to show me off.  I find it unnecessary to sit in the most uncomfortable seat available as long as I have ensured Angelflare and any guest’s comfort.  I find it wasteful to not finish all the food on one’s plate, and honestly, I don’t think Angelflare cares where I put my clothes in this hotel room.  I don’t think these things foster humility as much as actually practicing humility when dealing with Angelflare and remembering my place in his household.

Essay 8: Permutations

The first thing that struck me in this essay was the discussion about changing a slave’s ideas, opinions, and tastes to match her Master’s.  The example given is smoking, and I’m not sure I’d stay with a Master who made it that important for me to do something unhealthy and detrimental to my health, but I understand the idea.  I am starting to learn this level of adjustment within myself, and it’s getting easier to do so.  The rest deal with attention and sacrifice, something I feel we’ve dealt with in abundance already.

Essay 9: Dealing with Fear

Fear has been one of the biggest things for me to get over as we push forward in this M/s dynamic.  Fear for my marriage, fear for my family, fear for my career, and fear that it would all fall apart if I was inadequate as a slave.  It has never been a fear of public perception.  We’ve been out of that realm for some time now, but I feared losing my self.  I feared losing what Angelflare loved in me.  No matter how many times he assured me that he wanted me as a slave, not just a slave that looked like me, I still held back.  I am still working on what the author mentions in SlaveCraft.  I am still training myself to scan my emotions, find the reasons for my fears, and face them head on.  Only by experiencing what I am afraid of and coming out of it intact can I release those fears.

Essay 10: Using or Processing Pain

Most of this essay is an excerpt from Joseph W Bean’s Leathersex: A Gruide for the Curious Outsider and the Serious Player.  It explains how different people process pain differently and why.  It also discusses how certain means of pain processing can hinder the full experience of a scene, and it’s something I will keep in mind in my next scene.  Dealing with Fibromyalgia I have my own ways to work through pain, but that will be its own post someday soon.

While this book didn’t tell me anything new it did give me a few useful ways to use  information I already had.  I would recommend the book to both Master and slave in any forming M/s relationship, but I would encourage you to read it with an open yet critical mind and decide what best works for your dynamic, your Master, and your inner slave.

To read for yourselves, look for SlaveCraft: Roadmap for Erotic Servitude by a grateful slave, with Guy Baldwin, M.S.  Make sure you read the introduction and afterword by Patrick Califia, M.A.  

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50 Shades- A Complicated Review

June 3, 2012 at 16:28 (erotica) (, , , , , )


In 1965, ten years after its original publication, a book called The Story of O was first published in English.  It’s reception was mixed, but its introduction to mainstream literature has been regarded as a milestone in many ways for both BDSM culture and literature in general.  In 2012 there are websites, books, and even scenes in movies and television that deal with the lifestyle that have been either accepted or ignored, but none have made as much of an impression on Vanilla America as the 50 Shades trilogy.  I finally gave in to the books when my mother-in law assumed I’d read them and asked my opinion, either giving away some of her clandestine knowledge about my and my lifestyle or letting  out a few secrets of her own.  I had read reviews, but I never form an opinion based on those of others, so I decided to take what the nice boy at Barnes and Noble called “The 50 Shades Challenge” myself.  My impression was mixed, but I was not turned off of reading all three books before forming a final opinion.

As far as its literary merit, the books are not fantastic, but better than most fan fic I’ve read.  The language is a little repetitive, the descriptions in some parts are a little wrote, and while some of the language is phenomenal some of it doesn’t quite to justice to the intensity of the situation.

On the side of accuracy, if Ms. James is not a part of the lifestyle herself she at least did some research or reads BDSM erotica.  Terms are proper and the way Mr Grey conducts himself and negotiates his agreements it pretty standard, and who doesn’t buy supplies at department stores? I got a few funny looks in the break room at work for chuckling under my breath at reading the notorious bad boy’s ” hard limits” list and realized that at least half of it is on my “must-have” list, and there were a few inspiring scenes that I made a note to mention to Angelflare, but this was not a unique experience.  There were points were I was dismayed to get the impression that it was becoming a “these people are broken and need to be saved” sort of story, but in the end I was pleased to see that the last book made a point of including play in a very healthy relationship.  I feel it’s important to show that side of the lifestyle to readers, especially when the fan base is so widespread and mainstream.  It’s integral for people to accept this as a relationship option for happy, sane, consensual people.  In the end it made excellent brain candy and became the catalyst for some interesting conversations, but other than that it was not new information…for me, anyway.

One of the reasons I believe this book has become so popular among housewifes and modern suburbia is the same reason Twilight did, and possibly the same way Story of O did in time.  It speaks to that dark side we all share, whether or not we indulge in the fantasies that arise from it, but it does it in a way that is so over the top and so unbelievable that it’s safe and distant.  In Twilight it was vampires and werewolves.  Here it’s the gorgeous bad boy every woman dreams of, and he’s so unbelievable rich and lavish that he becomes a fantasy creature in his own right.  If Ana had met the guy who works at the local bookstore and they had formed this kind of relationship I do not believe they would be as popular in the mainstream.  These women will never meet Christian Grey, so becomes a safe fantasy.  It doesn’t become a strange and dark prospect until they imagine the neighbours having a basement dungeon.  It’s acceptable for this extremely lucky girl to indulge in play, but it’s weird when it’s me.

I was extremely surprised to find myself so absorbed by the books.  Aside from point where the language made me cringe (who says Holy Cow or Jeeze during sex?), I was completely drawn in to the story.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit I found myself emotionally invested.  I laughed audibly, I cried, I worried, and I found myself anxious to get back to my reading whenever I could.  Friends, it has been a long time since a book has affected me this way.  I was baffled by my reaction.

Then I realized what the root was, familiarity.  Without the bells and whistles this could have been our story.  I had been a part of the scene before meeting Angelflare, but it was the first time I had been in a romantic relationship that included that part of my life.  He was a bad boy with a past.  He was cool, collected, and a bit reckless with his own life and the love of those with whom he had any kind of intimate relationship.  The day he told me he loved me he was torn between unfamiliar emotion and the compulsion to run, and the next few weeks were rocky and intense, mainly because he was afraid to let me in, afraid I would see that darker side of him and ask him to leave.  Being as stubborn as we both have been known to be, we worked through it,  and our relationship grew and spread like a wildfire.  Within two weeks he was living with me, not long after that we were committed, then married.

I experienced many of the same concerns and internal crises Anastasia did, and still do at times.  Now throw in health issues, ex lover issues, real life problems, and our decisions to open our marriage and give this 24/7 arrangement a shot.  We have had some of these conversations about fears and insecurities, but we have also had the same exhilarating moments of clarity and passion.  We have learned how to blend real life, love, and an M/s relationship to make a beautiful marriage that works for us.  It’s taken work, it still does, and it always will, but what marriage doesn’t for one reason or another.  These issues have not been caused by our lifestyle, nor do we suffer them because of it.  In many ways the books reminded me of how far we’ve come as a couple, as friends, as lovers, and as people.  We have  an alternative love story.  We also have a pretty interesting basement.

In the end, would I recommend the books? Yes, if you can suspend skepticism and just enjoy a good story.  They were a quick read with some interesting merit.  I must admit I never made it through the Twilight books, any of them, so I don’t really catch the comparison or the fan fic element, and maybe that’s why the origins of the 50 Shades trilogy don’t bother me as much as they seem to bother other readers.  I’m sure I could have found handfuls of reasons to be critical and  argumentative, but I read the books in the spirit they were written, let myself be immersed, and fell in love with the characters and the story itself. I challenge you all to do the same.

Namaste

Go now, fall in love with something dark.

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