James Gordon and Rebecca Doll will be presenting on Hypnosis at Dark Odyssey Summer Camp, 2018. This is the place to look for our class handouts
Is there a tie between BDSM and mental illness? We investigate in VMAP – BDSM and Power Exchange – Episode 1
by James Gordon
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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.
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.
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.