Reflections on service
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I am a service-oriented dominant. That is to say that I like receiving service. Offer to give me a good backscratching or to fetch me a chocolate biscuit (Arnott's Mint Slices preferred) and I'm all yours.
Many years ago I went to a BDSM party in the company of a fine, submissive female with whom I was well acquainted. What we negotiated beforehand was that she would be attending me for the duration of the party. I had visions of good company, ready obedience, immediate availability, intelligent conversation and more.
Early on during the party, and while I was watching another couple intently involved in some rope-and-leather-action, I sent my submissive-of-the-evening to fetch me a drink.
And I waited.
And I waited.
And she didn't come back. So I went to find her.
When I found her, she was standing, with my slowly-warming drink in her hand, talking to two of her friends.
I was initially puzzled about why she did this, but it was here that I got my first inkling that there are at least two different types of service:
- Reciprocal service, and
- Self-sacrificing service.
It occurred to me that my role at this particular party was that I was actually supposed to be serving my submissive-of-the-evening. I was involved in a reciprocal service deal. This hadn't dawned on me earlier. Even though it hadn't been discussed or agreed, my implicit role was that I would be her dominant for the evening and that I would, at the very least, do "things" so that she could feel submissive. In return, she would bring me drinks which were still cold, delight me with enchanting conversation rather than talk to other people and so on. When I reflected on this I realised that I hadn't been doing "things" and she had probably experienced the equivalent of subbie boredom or subbie restlessness.
For this type of submissive service is reciprocal - a sort of barter arrangement. If I want a backscratching, then she'd be wanting the equivalent of having her back scratched in return. When my service to her deteriorated, so did hers to me.
On the other hand, there are some submissives and slaves who get all the reward, pleasure and satisfaction they need simply from the service itself. These are self-sacrificing folk - it is the act of giving that is their reward. The more they give of themselves the better they feel. The role of the dominant or master is very different here. It is to ensure that there are opportunities where the submissive can serve and know that their service is useful, valued and appreciated. This isn't just make-work. It isn't just trying to think of things to keep the submissive busy. It needs to be valuable.
I think that we could argue about whether my party submissive was a bottom, a submissive, a slave or something else, but an important point is that bottoms, submissives and slaves of all flavours are never there to simply give, regardless of whether we're talking about reciprocal service, self-sacrificing service, or some other type of service. There has to be something they take from it. There always has to be some positive outcome for them.
Importantly, they - like many dominants - don't always know what they need and oftentimes might only realise that something is missing. This realisation might not even be conscious. It might be their unconscious mind which responds to the lack of whatever-it-is: pain, surrender, duties, discipline, whatever. The acting out we sometimes see can actually be their unconscious mind trying to provoke us to give it what they need.
Dominants, too, can get into this situation where everything looks OK between them and their submissive, but at the same time something still feels missing.
When we set up shop with a D&s partner, even if just temporarily, there's an implicit expectation on both sides that needs will be met as a result of this pairing. While we often might negotiate beforehand what each of us is going to physically do, we don't always say which wants and needs we are actually trying to satisfy. In the case of me and my party submissive, this is something I neglected to ask, and in the absence of her telling me I should have made the effort to find out.
When we receive service from a household domestic we know that they get paid a salary and probably get some measure of pleasure from doing their job well. When we have a submissive or slave serving us, what do they need? They don't get a salary. What is it that they look for, consciously or unconsciously, which motivates them to serve? If they don't consciously know the answer themselves, how can we work it out?
My takeaway from this is that even with the best will and intentions in the world we aren't always going to find out from our partners everything that they need from us, and they probably aren't going to know everything that we want or need from them. Whether it is because we forget to mention something, or because it's something that our unconscious mind has yet to fully reveal, there will always be things to learn about ourselves and our partners.
We might enter a BDSM relationship thinking that we both are only interested in bondage and it turns out that something much more rich, interesting and complex is lurking beneath the surface. It pays to be open and ready to probe that little bit deeper if there are any signs at all that there's an itch that's not being scratched. Be attentive for this.
I guess that being attentive in this way is also a type of service - a service we perform for each other.