VMAP – BDSM and Power Exchange 1

Episode HeaderIs there a tie between BDSM and mental illness?  We investigate in VMAP – BDSM and Power Exchange – Episode 1

What are the hidden needs that drive humans to want to be hurt, confined, or suffer emotional pain?  Can these be healthy in a relationship?
In the next several Episodes VMAP looks at the core link between BDSM and Power Exchange, starting by understanding what BDSM is, and the needs that drive it.
PLUS!  Rebecca Doll does the FU Dance


Our Schedule

Calendar with "our schedule"

August 2020

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  • TTO Leadership Meeting

Our Educational Classes and Seminars

Graduation cap on Leather Pride Flag Background "Education"

Class List:

  • Being Barbie: An Introduction to Dollification Fetish
  • Selling Sex: Kinky Cam Whoring for Fun and Profit!
  • Mind Control and Brainwashing, Truth and Fiction
  • Dark Side of Hypnosis – Edgeplay, Mindfucks and Trauma
  • Beyond Pirates and Schoolgirls: Kinky Roleplaying
  • “My ass is sore…you take out the fucking garbage…” – the realities of power exchange
  • Death Fetish: the ultimate taboo
  • Mind Reading on both sides of the slash
  • The Hierarchy of Needs and Power Exchange
  • “I want you to run my life!” – Negotiations for Power Exchange
  • “I’m not sure this relationship is good for me”…when power exchange is unhealthy
  • Social contract as a concept in Power Exchange
  • M/s without a Tradition – Power Exchange for the rest of us

Being Barbie: An Introduction to Dollification Fetish
Does dressing up get you hot? Is objectification one of your kinks? Do you dream of being played with? Or maybe you’re interested in owning the most versatile of toys? Whatever your interest, dollification fetish presents a myriad of opportunities to explore kink in fun new ways. In this class we will explore what dollification is, the dynamics that can exist between an Owner and a doll, potential types of doll play, and useful tools and resources for building a better doll.

Selling Sex: Kinky Cam Whoring for Fun and Profit!
From exhibitionism to extra cash, there are numerous reasons why cam work is an appealing option. But how do you go about getting into the field? What makes for a successful cam whore? What features and qualities do you look for in a host site? How does an online scene differ from one in person? In this class, we’ll discuss methods to attract and retain customers, developing an online presence, anticipating and navigating potential difficulties, activities and options for things that work in front of a camera, and run through some practice scenarios with experienced cam whore and internet slut Rebecca Doll.

Mind Control and Brainwashing, Truth and Fiction
To be “fully controlled” or to control is a passionate desire so common that no personal ad is complete without it, but talking about the actual techniques of mind control and brainwashing is forbidden mental edgeplay. We’ll look at BDSM “myths” as well as the realities of changing the way the brain works – forever. Subtle and invisible, mind control leaves a permanent mark that is the mental equivalent of branding. We’ll focus on understanding positive and negative reinforcement, drivers, and the extinction of behaviors, leaving you with a clear understanding of the mechanisms behind using both reward and punishment to create permanent change in the human mind.

Dark Side of Hypnosis – Edgeplay, Mindfucks and Trauma
Visions of erotic violence or sinister control dominate our movies and fantasies. From chainsaw disembowelment to death to formative sexual trauma, many of our most delicious fantasies are unsafe or inaccessible. While we may visit these things under the aegis of “pathworking” or “ritual,” one of the most direct and controllable forms of visualization is too often off the table. Learn the use of hypnosis to go with malice aforethought into those dark recesses only touched before, and take edgeplay further than the physical. Note that this is a workshop about brutal edgeplay, not about healing psychic trauma. Learn techniques for transferring pain, creating artificial sensation, and controlling orgasm. While we will discuss how to create informed consent for this type of mental play, this is not an ethics workshop and it may involve references or demonstrations centering on psychic trauma which may be disturbing.

Beyond Pirates and Schoolgirls: Kinky Roleplaying
We start by dressing up, but called on to play the role of the dastard or the damsel in distress we often feel ludicrous or self-conscious. Learn how to use basic theatrical and writing techniques, as well as character templates and plot outlines, to build a successful roleplay that doesn’t leave you feeling like a fool. Stanislavski’s method and basic plot building are a part of this class, which will end with you designing your own Roleplay. More fun with a partner, bring an open mind.

“My ass is sore…you take out the fucking garbage…” – the realities of power exchange
We all know it happens. The bliss and magic have started to wear thin and the issues of money, other partners, chores and work are closing in. There are rumblings of mutiny. Can this power exchange survive? We’ll present basic techniques for defusing, renegotiating, and surviving when the NRE wears off. Leave the haze of books and movies and join in on a realistic discussion about how power exchange actually works. We’ll look at how partners overcommit and why, and work with participants to graph their own power exchange.

Death Fetish: the ultimate taboo
The seething sexuality of slasher films and Suicide Girls illustrate that concepts of death and sex are inseparable in our minds. But Death is the ultimate “no fly” zone of fetishes, too scary and immediate for many to be comfortable with. We all know that fantasizing doesn’t mean wanting, but when it comes to death too many TV shows have convinced us that we shouldn’t dig too deep, leaving players willing to transgress the taboo without a playbook or the safety tips that routinely cover other areas of fetish. We’ll investigate the roots of our sexualized obsession with death, and look into ways that deathplay can be incorporated into our scenes with a strong eye towards safety, physical and emotional.

Mind Reading on both sides of the slash
“Dominants are not mind-readers.” “I’m a submissive not a telepath.” Maybe. D/s isn’t like figuring out what a boss or parent wants. Often it can be a tiptoe through minefields of explosive sexuality and sexual repression. Humans that want to control or be controlled are not always honest about the reasons and complications. We can’t teach you telepathy, but we can give you seven basic tips for understanding how humans work, how they deceive themselves, and how they respond to control.

The Hierarchy of Needs and Power Exchange
“I’m not just doing this as a bedroom game…I need to be in control/controlled.” “I’m responsible for his/her/their well being.” “I don’t want to be hurt, but I need it.” Power exchange is about meeting the needs of another and having our own needs met. But how do we know what our needs are? How do we tell needs from wants? How do we understand when our partner’s needs are deeply different from our own? Why can our needs include hurting others or being hurt and how can we make that compatible with a healthy power exchange? We’ll work to explore answers to these questions that are right for you, while helping you understand the differences in your partner.

“I want you to run my life!” – Negotiations for Power Exchange
From marks to hard limits you know how to negotiate a BDSM scene. But Power Exchange is not sceneplay. Is their bank account, child, transportation, and job just an afterthought? “Sure I won’t interfere with those.” Often when power exchange collides with real life, we don’t have a plan. This class focuses on negotiations outside of sceneplay. Other partners, time away, safer sex, chains of command, families and finances, approached from the standpoint that there is no “right” and “wrong” only a power dynamic that suits your individual needs.

I’m not sure this relationship is good for me…when power exchange is unhealthy
“I was too badly burned…I’ll never do that again.” Many of the old norms and assumptions about power exchange relationships seem custom designed mask massive insecurity, defense mechanisms, and codependence. For some of us, character or upbringing has made a normal egalitarian relationship difficult, undesirable, or even impossible. Often we focus on “staying away” from “abusive” power exchange relationships but many relationships carry the seeds of unhealthy behaviors, and turn bad as unprepared people stumble unintentionally into pitfalls. If we followed all the safety warnings, many power exchange relationships would never happen. We’ll focus on the technical aspects of how bad relationships form and the personal characteristics such as PTSD, denial, and repression, that work to create them.

Social contract as a concept in Power Exchange
“She can do anything she wants to me, I have no volition.” “He could cut my arms and legs off…he has that power.” “She was abusive to me.” “They violated my trust as property.” “He went too far.” The most detailed power exchange contract cannot cover everything and many partners have no contract at all. Many do fine without “rules” and others feel violated and betrayed even when the rules said their partner had “all the power.” Social contract is the way in which people make implicit statements about who they are and how they will behave, and most feelings of betrayal in power exchange happen when that unwritten, unspoken, contract is broken. Yet fuzzy statements and fiction often invite us to cross those lines. Understand what social contract is, and how it relates to consent and all relationships, even those without written rules.

M/s without a Tradition – Power Exchange for the rest of us
I don’t feel a connection with leather tradition and I’m not interested in Gor. Is there M/s for the rest of us? Traditions of power exchange with a strong ownership or master/slave dynamic tend to emphasize tradition, to the extent some people don’t feel they can “belong.” Nobody has a copyright on the concept of personal, consensual, lifestyle Master/slave relations, but fictional models such as 50 Shades fall well short of delivering a viable framework. Personal M/s is an a la carte tradition, but you’ll walk away with a gameplan for defining your needs and style in M/s. Great for those who are thinking about taking the step into M/s and useful for anyone who isn’t quite sure if their current dynamic “fits.”

VMAP – Is there a wrong way to do Power Exchange?

Is there a wrong way to do Power Exchange, and non-consensual ice-cream! On YouTube

Intro Photo For EpisodeJoin us for VMAP’s latest “Fetching Mettle” side episode on YouTube, in which we take questions and answers and expose some of our most ludicrous outtakes! See Rebecca Doll subjected to non-consensual ice cream music!

  • We’ve said there’s no right way to do Power Exchange? But is there a wrong way?
  • Can marriage and M/s Co-exist?
  • What is the connection between Power Exchange and BDSM?

We explore these and other questions as we gear up for a multi-part series on BDSM and Power Exchange!

Definitions of “master, slave, submissive, dominant”

Books and the word "Definitions"

Definitions of “master, slave, submissive, dominant” particularly with regards to valid definitions that distinguish between them.

Also available on Fetlife

Since it seems to be a popular topic, I’m going to polish my thoughts and put them in a writing so I can just point to it in the future, rather than repeating thisad nauseam

These terms are real and can be useful, but there are no valid definitions of them. That breaks a lot of people’s brains. If we talk about a thing, they reason, it must have a definition.

That’s not the case most of the time. Think about a word like “cool,” or “modern.” Neither word has a strict definition. Depending on context a painting from 1921 might be “modern” in one frame of reference but “a valued antique,” in another. Nobody knows what constitutes “cool,” but most people have had valid conversations with peers in which they discussed what was and was not “cool.” Most of us immediately understand why trying to make a list of factors that constitute “coolness” even for a given area like film, let alone for everything is an exercise in futility.

The point is that we often use terms with an inexact meaning to convey useful information.

Attempts to define “master, slave, submissive, dominant” tend to fall into one of the following categories:

  • Appeal to a nonexistent standard
  • – or a nonexistent general understanding
  • The “Personal Definition” that isn’t personal
  • Dictionary Definitions
  • Fictional or Group Definitions
  • Historical Definitions
  • – or the historical meaning of the word “slave”

Appeal to a nonexistent standard

In many walks of life, and business, there are bodies that set standards. Those standards may not be accepted by everyone, and may even be the point of argument, but they exist. For example someone in another thread suggested that definitions were important, because for example, without them, someone could say a golden retriever was a poodle and nobody could say otherwise.

By way of illustrative example, for “Golden Retriever” that authority is the KC in the UK and the AKC in the US. There’s a breed standard, and even if you don’t adhere to it, how likely you are to be able to describe something as a Golden Retriever without making yourself a laughingstock is intrinsically based on how far it is from that standard.

NIST, IEEE, and many other agencies, groups, boards, committees, and ministries make standards. Other groups set standards that aren’t binding on everyone but adhere to industry norms. For example SFWA sets the length of a Novella as being 17,500-40,000 words, and while other publishing industry or writing authorities might differ slightly that standard comes from discussion with many people in the publishing industry and is probably a good general guideline.

The problem is that there is no valid authority on what constitutes slavery, let alone dominance, submission, etc. Not even a little. There is no body, commission, committee, club, review board or any other organization that has any plausible claim to the right to define what the term means to anyone but its own members.

Maybe a general standard? Guidelines?

But, you say, even if there is no industry committee, we can find some general agreement on what slavery or submission means.

In fact, you only need to point to threads on Fetlife and other discussions on the internet to see, immediately that there is no consensus

I will challenge that there is no one thing that you can put into a major discussion forum and say “this distinguishes slavery but not submission” and not have someone come back and say “I’m not a slave but I do that,” or “I am a slave but I don’t do that.” Nothing. If you found some condition or statement that was valid “only slaves have slave contracts because the term slave is in them” or “only slaves call themselves slaves” it would be so specific and pedantic as to be useless as an actual definition.

Sure you can do a power exchange version of a Jeff Foxworthy routine and say “you may be a master or slave if…” That’s perfectly valid. But that merely makes the point that terms can be useful and valid without a precise definition. Because like Jeff Foxworthy’s routines, the “if” can be infinitely expanded.

The Personal Definition

I understand that many people in the M/s Community try to avoid conflict by saying “this is just my personal definition” and then proceeding to explain some narrow, specific, version of what they think a slave is and a submissive isn’t. A slave knows to scrub the floors a submissive has to be told. A slave has a slave heart, a submissive is merely playing. And so on.

So, sure. You can have your personal definition. I have my personal definition of what constitutes an “ethical person.” But be aware that you are appropriating common use terms, assigning your own meaning to them, then pushing them back on other people in a way that is inherently judgmental.

Imagine for a moment that you told someone you considered yourself to be an “ethical person.” They said. “Well, of course that’s all well and good, but I have a personal definition of what constitutes an ethical person and if you don’t go to Church, confess weekly, and love the Blessed Virgin Mary you are not an ethical person. Moreover if you are gay, or befriend gay people, or have sex with someone with whom you have not been wed before God, you cannot possibly be an ethical person.”

Of course we recognize they are entitled to that opinion. They are after all a free person. Yet we don’t consider them tolerant, and we generally reject their evaluation out of hand. Obviously we occasionally find versions of it that we agree with more than others, yet we recognize that personal ethics are personal and that venting them on others who see things differently is not only nonconstructive, but prejudicial.

It’s possible to express a personal definition in a tolerant way. “This is what I do,” or “this is what slavery, submission, mastery, etc. mean to me” are fine statements. I have a lot of opinions on what mastery means to me. But I try to avoid telling people that they are “not a master” if they do this or that thing. They may, of course, be a master I don’t think much of, but they have as much right to the word as I do.

So, let’s understand that a “personal definition” is just that. When it immediately assumes the form of “you should” rather than “I do” it becomes pejorative.

I recognize that some people in the M/s community pride themselves on their excess of curmudgeonly behavior and iconoclasm. They are happy to be the M/s equivalent of the judgmental churchgoer, inflicting their personal standards on everyone and judging them lacking.

Honestly that’s fine with me. Just say so. There are writers who say “this is my personal standard, and if you don’t measure up to it I think you’re a poser.” They don’t get much traction, and most people ignore them. But don’t candy coat it and try to cleverly play both ends. Either be the difficult iconoclast and risk being ignored, or stop being judgmental. Don’t try to say “this is just my personal opinion but if you put your cock in someone’s ass you’re going to hell” and act offended if people think you are difficult, judgy and self-righteous.

If not consider making your personal opinions…well…actually personal, not glancing judgments of the worth and value of the relationships of others.

In any case, your personal definition is exactly as binding on anyone else as some fiction author’s definition, which is to say, not at all.

Dictonary Definitions

The next wave of efforts at definitions appeals to the dictionary. Obviously there are definitions for these words, right?

Unfortunately that is equally useless, because we use “submissive” and “slave” as jargon, not according to their dictionary definitions.

By way of example, I use the word “enterprise” at work all the time. I use it, correctly, to indicate a variety of machines and servers. I say “that package is not running our our enterprise.” None of my peers has any trouble understanding what I mean. But that matches none of the dictionary definitions, as I don’t use it to mean either a business or an undertaking. It’s jargon. I’m aware that the term descends from the bastardization of “enterprise-wide IT” to a utilization that indicates the IT hardware and software itself, so it has an origin in one of those definitions, but doesn’t match either of them.

Likewise, our use of the words “master, slave, dominant, submissive” are rooted in dictionary definitions, but our usage is jargon, and doesn’t match any of them.

Fictional or Group Definitions

There are fiction books that depict slavery. They have rules and concepts. Some are closely enough defined that you can say “I practice that kind of slavery and you don’t.” That’s all well and good for people who care, though even the adherents of fictional systems often tire of nitpickers who want to judge and define. Obviously your favorite fiction author doesn’t define M/s any more than George R. R. Martin defines medieval warfare.

There are clubs and groups that practiced or practice M/s in a way that has specific rules and concepts. Those rules and concepts apply to that group. They can certainly go into the Jeff Foxworthy pile of “you might be involved in M/s if…” but they don’t constitute definitions binding on anyone else.

Historical or Linguistic Definitions

Finally there is the argument that “slavery is a real thing, practiced by people in the past, so surely we can define it based on that.” Generally dominance and submission don’t get dragged into this, since they don’t happen to share names with historical institutions.

Let’s agree not to get too hung up on the fact that there is a term for the exploitative sexual and economic slavery of the past as it’s practiced in the present and that term is “human trafficking.”

Modern M/s and D/s are things unto themselves. They have historic roots and antecedents, but not in any actual practices of slavery, but rather erotic depictions that borrowed the terms from history, romantic paintings, and hareems. There are no “famtrad” slaves in the M/s community who have maintained M/s relationships going back to the era of the vikings. We made it up based on books, stories, historical writing and movies, and the need to find terms to put on certain human relationships.

I could, and in the future will spend several weeks outlining the evolution of the concept of modern slavery, from roots as diverse as Larry Townsend and Venus in Furs. But that can wait.

Some people do practice M/s as a sort of “recreation,” though usually of 1950s marriage or Victorian Households rather than any actual slavery. Let’s assume that there are people who practice M/s in a way that they try to recreate say, Roman, slavery. That doesn’t make their version of M/s a valid definition for me, it means they are Roman recreationists.

To go a little deeper let’s explore the fact that “slave” doesn’t have any definitive meaning in history. It doesn’t denote a particular institution, but rather a class of institutions. It’s like saying “military” or “religion,” it meant grossly different things to different people at different times.

The Etymology of Slave

If you think that slave must be an ancient word handed down in some form or other from the Greeks, Romans, or earlier people we consider to have had slaves, you’d be wrong. In fact our word slave is medieval slang, and there is no strict classical equivalent.

Historically the lack of a generic term for slave suggests that it is not slavery that was seen as unusual, but the situation of freedom or citizenship. It’s notable how many cultures have a term for “free men,” which suggests the condition was special or unusual, not the base state of humankind. Words to distinguish citizens and nobles were specific and careful while words to describe unfree laborers often amount, etymologically, to “and the rest of those people.”

The Romans called slaves servants or servusand the medieval word serf comes from the Latin, which makes it a little facile to say serfs aren’t slaves, while saying that Roman servants were slaves since they’re both conceptually and contextually identical.

We can get some sense of how the Greeks thought of slaves by the words they used for what we call slavery. There is a specific term for war prisoners, a term which basically translates as “bipedal livestock” and doulos, which more or less means “a worker who is under dominion,” and is used as the opposite of is used in opposition to eleutheros, or “free man.”

So where did slave come from?

We take it for granted that Europe was historically Christian, but northeastern Europe remained pagan into late medieval times. While Richard the Lionheart was crusading for Jerusalem, the Teutonic Knights were crusading by butchering pagan Lithuanians, a Slavic people.

Through most of its history, but especially after the 11th century, the Catholic Church frowned heavily on Christians enslaving other Christians, but was ambivalent about the enslavement of pagans, and the Slavs were accessible targets to abduct into slavery. Sclava became a Medieval Latin word that implied an unfree laborer. Slavs were sold into bondage by their non-Slavic neighbors, and rival Slavs, especially into the wealthy Byzantine Empire.

Eventually the Lithuanian-Polish forces adopted Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 shut down the Holy Roman Empire, but that didn’t completely change their luck. The collapse of Byzantium at the end of the 15th century meant the rise of Islamic powers which didn’t particularly care if their slaves were Christian. The Crimean Tartars carried out raids from the late 16th to 18th century which may have resulted in the enslavement of about three million people, mostly Ukranians, but also including a number of other Slavic and neighboring peoples, a fact which may shine some light on the strong tensions in that part of the world today.

Medieval Europeans used sclava as slang for “unfree” in the same pejorative way that various words indicating non-white lineage were later used as offensive slang to convey inequality and bondage in the Americas. We get the Middle English slave from sclava through Old French.

As you might guess, the Slavs themselves didn’t take a name that meant captive. In their own language Slav is from a root that means to hear and means roughly “the people who are heard of” in modern terms “the famous people.”

Of course you don’t mean “Eastern European” when you say slave, but it’s an absurdity that makes a point. “Slave” is a slang term that has no particular meaning There is no state of being unfree that is, especially and specifically, slavery. There is no “official threshold” to distinguish being a bondsman of any kind from being a slave. You can delineate specific institutions such as Barbary Coast slavery, or Roman slavery which had over time various specific customs, rules, and laws, but there is no uniformity. In America slavery, without a modifier, is usually understood to mean the enslavement of African-Americans, one of the more appalling and odious occurrences of historical slavery, and, as things historians call slavery go, a fairly radical, cruel, and extreme version.

There is no central historical model for slavery. It’s a catch all classification for a variety of cultures

Often the application of the term “slave” is simply cultural prejudice. Some writers like to use “thrall” when talking about the white people they are most closely descended from, or use “bondsman” or “land tied” to represent relationships in cultures close to them which they’d term “slavery” in cultures that were not their own. “Indentured servitude,” for example, is identical to arrangements we call “slavery” when talking about classical Rome and some Medieval apprenticeships would be considered “slavery” by the UN today.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights forbids “slavery or servitude” in “all their forms.”


“master, slave, submissive, dominant” do not have a valid definition.

There is no standards body that can set a valid definition of what “master, slave, submissive, dominant” mean.

There is no general standard. There is significant disagreement on practically any point that can be raised.

Personal definitions are real, fine and valid, but to express them prejudicially and judgmentally is to be prejudiced and judgmental. There is no basis for saying “I’m not judging you but I apply these standards to judge the validity of your relationship.” You can be judgmental or not, but you can’t use “personal definition” to allow you to play both sides of the coin.

Dictionary definitions don’t apply because we use the terms as jargon, not in their dictionary sense.

Fictional or Group Definitions are only valid for adherents of the fiction or group

Historical or Linguistic Definitions are generally wrong, and rely on the concept there is some historical “norm” that is agreed to constitute slavery. In reality slavery is a “catch all” term that is applied widely and indiscriminately and has little specific meaning.

The term “slave” itself comes from a medieval corruption of ‘slav’ and merely denotes that a lot of slavs were made into unfree laborers.

Summary…there’s no valid definition of what master, slave, submissive, dominant mean but the terms are still useful in a general way. They become useless when we try to define them too closely or use them to show why we are better than others.


D/s Position Training 

by James Gordon

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Download the Position Drill Chart

Most of our experience has been with female-bodied persons, and a focus on feminine presentation.  These positions may be adopted for use by anyone, and are shared as a reflection of our experience, and a workable system of position training.  It is designed as a set of possibilities to be adapted and expanded on, not to present a definitive system.

Position Training

It is probable the idea of having servants stand in specific positions goes back thousands of years and is mixed in with the history of ritual. Many cultures required the assumption of some more or less formal position of submission or acknowledgement of respect as a matter of class distinction, particularly with nobles. In Western culture elements of this broadened through dance to manners in which men and women greeted and acknowledged each other. Some gestures were further refined or ritualized through their inclusion in dance.

I’ve collected positions specific to women in the context of power exchange. Clearly they aren’t specific to cisgender women, and there is no reason they could not be used by men, however the aesthetic is specifically oriented towards an idealized “feminine” aesthetic.

The positions gathered here were garnered from several sources:

The Debutante Tradition

To “debut” was for a woman to be presented by a patron among the aristocracy at the Court of St. James in England. The custom came to Philadelphia around 1748, and correct posture was always a part of the training of debutantes. . The “St. James Bow” and a focus on proper carriage are certainly key to the concept that a “well trained” young woman is taught to move property and stand in certain ways. In the US the concept was broadened to mean a “formal coming out into fashionable society” in a given town or city. A curtsy is common in these circumstances. Texans developed their own extreme curtsey called “The Texas Dip” which is one of the most widely known modern “positions” outside of BDSM.

Modeling and Fetish

Many of the poses here are common to the modeling industry, or are variations on poses common to models. A position we call “the pose” is supposed to have been popularized by foot fetish shoots in the 1950s and 1960s, though it can be seen in many pinups. Some of our positions may have originated with posture training of the sort given to debutantes, however there is little question that our versions are fetishized and have a “pinup feel”

Military/Gay Male Leather Culture

Probably the single strongest influence on the concept of modern position and posture training is the Military. We know from sources like Larry Townsend’s The Leatherman’s Handbook that significant elements of modern “leather” BDSM culture came out of the Gay Male community from 1945 to the present. In particular most traditions that focus on “discipline” rather than “kink” have antecedents in Gay Male leather culture. Position training such as standing at attention is key to military discipline, and it seems likely that many other positions are logical extensions.

John Norman’s Gor

Probably the single most coherent and widely recognized reference for ritual position training of female slaves is found in the Gor Novels of John Norman, published from 1967 onward. While Norman may not have invented the concept of position training for female slaves, I think we have to acknowledge that he heavily contributed to popularizing the concept. The term “nadu” is so universally used for a particular submissive kneeling position that it is referenced by name in dozens of books, and indeed in our guide.

Traditional BDSM “Houses”

It’s worth noting one influence that never really existed but still fired imaginations. Author Laura Antoniou says “the existence of so-called ancient European houses of SM, one of the more persistent cultural myths of our community.” Still we can find references to the concept in literature going back to the 1930s and earlier, most notably in the 1954 Story of O. Yet while kneeling and bowing are commonplace, we don’t really see any focus on carriage or posture, and there is precious little reference to specialized positions. Women who are to be fucked are described as being told to get into certain positions, but they are seldom ritualized. Without question though this influential literature suggested certain positions, and those wishing to play it out in real life needed to invent them or cull them from other sources.

Modern Position Training

Modern trends tend to combine various sources to present a slate of positions that encourage girls to carry themselves well and politely, and give their Dominant or Master a wide variety of positions for imposing control.

James often gets asked “why do you do position training”

I remember being a young Dom trying desperately to come up with things to command a woman to do. Often defaulting to little more than “what should I tell you to do sweetheart,” or “well, let’s relax and I order you to do what you want.” The fact was that I was often dealing with people who didn’t know their own limits, I was afraid of breaking them, and needed “things to do” other than fuck and flog as I got to know them and learned their capabilities.

There are certainly bottoms who like to start out fast and hard. There are times when a scene can consist of “I throw you against a wall and fuck you brutally,” or “I hit you suddenly and hard with a cane.” But for many partnerships it would be an exhausting and unwelcome element on a day to day basis. For that reason we included warmups in BDSM and foreplay in sex.

In kink play we don’t just go up to a bottom and go at them full force with a heavy cane, unless that’s the agreed on scene. In general we use a ramp up. Hands…Doeskin flogger…Light caning…Cane taps…Varied sensation. We work to get the bottom to a level where the stimulation is exciting to them.

And some bottoms can drop very quickly, and drop into a heavy D/s “down” state. But in most cases we recognize the need to do some buildup.

That’s where position drill (and to some extent other protocol elements) come in. They’re the equivalent of the doeskin flogger for control. They are the tool that is available to the Dom when the bottom says “tell me what to do, I want to surrender to you,” and you know on a lot of levels that they are not in a headspace where they are ready for that to be sex or heavy pain. It’s a mental and emotional warmup.

For every new Dom who has ever had a bottom saying “take me, control me, tell me what to do.” That’s the key. Having something to tell them.

Positions can be seen as “bread and butter,” or “building blocks.” They are the way to ramp up a control/mental scene. They are the way to build a feeling of surrender and control quickly and recall it with a word. They are the water in the soup. Positions and protocols for behavior are the start to a control scene that ends with a powerful emotional release/exchange/reaction.


James Gordon

James Gordon & Rebecca Doll are partners who share membership in the House of Artemisia.

Holding a Certification in Clinical Hypnotherapy, James belongs to the generation who learned kink on the internet, in the bedroom, and at events. His focus shifted to M/s dynamics in the early 2000s, developing over 15 years into a modern interpretation of power exchange that explores the human need for structure, chaos, dominance and submission.

Rebecca Doll

James Gordon & Rebecca Doll are partners who share membership in the House of Artemisia.

Rebecca enjoys being pretty and pleasing. As an extreme exhibitionist pain slut, she loves being put through her paces publicly. Still, physicality is not the core of her interests. Most of her work focuses on exploring the more twisted desires of the human mind, putting her M.Ed. to use understanding the human needs for control, violence, and self-destruction.

The Laundry List

Graphic of Laundry machine with towels in colors of various pride flags, and title caption "The Laundry List" For Power Exchange Negotation

Negotiation of a Power Exchange is not primarily about negotiating for BDSM play, but a frightening number of books present it that way.   Below we’re going to  present a laundry list of things that can and should be negotiated.  While we’ll go into this in more detail later, understand these are things to work through in the first few weeks or months of a relationship, not something to try and hammer out in advance or in one sitting.

In this PDF The Laundry List we discuss, at length, the potential areas for negotiation in a Power Exchange Relationship.

We’re trying not to take anything for granted.  If your relationship is online, long distance, developing out of an existing marriage, part of a rigidly organized M/s Household, or taking place on a remote farmstead in South Dakota, all of these things may not apply to you.  Focus on the ones that do, and give a second thought before you dismiss the ones that don’t seem immediately applicable. “I don’t care” is a fine answer, but basic disagreements about the nature of the relationship are one of the most common sources of problems and failure.

While the Master has final say on the rules, the submissive has final say about whether or not they wish to be in a relationship…and the ethical principal of informed consent says it’s not okay to trap them at the outset, then expect them to agree to whatever suits the Master with no regard for their own needs.

Obviously while Master may have the “right” to do anything, that doesn’t make it a good idea.  It is amazing how this very obvious fact gets overlooked.  A farmer (in some states) may have the legal right to shoot their cattle in the middle of a field and leave them to rot.  But that does not give them protection from the ensuing bankruptcy as their source of income is lost.  You can be cruel or arbitrary to your slave.  But your partner in power exchange can leave the relationship¸ or become so problematic that they do not actually contribute anything positive to your wellbeing.

While we don’t recommend anyone get into a relationship that can’t meet their basic needs, how inflexible you can afford to be as a Master may have a lot to do with the length of the line of prospective candidates queued up outside your door.