Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Change of Heart

There was a time when I thought less of long-distance relationships (LDR) than I do now. It’s not that I didn’t have them, because I’ve had them since the earliest days of my kinky life.


When I lived in Ft. Wayne, I had a part-time slave in Akron. Later I had one in St. Louis. I’ve had a few part-time relationships with guys in Chicago as well, though I tended to call them “fuck-buddies” rather than slaves. The local part-time slaves were more of the “temporarily part-time until they could move in” variety, though to be honest, none of them ever moved in.


While searching for a blog topic for this week, my new slave James suggested that I write about long-distance relationships. The reason for calling this blog “A Change of Heart” is that I find myself actually enjoying the fact that I have two slaves who live somewhere else. James, a slave of some five months, lives in Manhattan and Craig, who has served me long distance for more than three years, lives near Sioux City, Iowa. Patrick, of course, my slave of nearly 15 years, and I live together.


Although I’m prone to thinking that living together is the ideal, there is part of me that actually doubts that idea. Most LDRs are such because of some necessity. Craig is the primary care-giver for his 85-year-old mother, and James has a career in Manhattan that can’t be easily left behind. Both of them, therefore, have reasonable constraints that prohibit their moving in with us, though there is at least one spare bedroom waiting for either of them.


Considering the fact that there is always slave-sleeping-space available on the floor, finding room here in Chicago isn’t a problem. That said, the dungeon doesn’t have a view so dilettantes among the slave-wannabes might complain, albeit to no avail.


LDRs work for many reasons, accommodating necessity being only one of them. For me, they offer variety, since I believe in the maxim “The more, the merrier.” Since every relationship varies from couple to couple, I get to have three completely different master/slave experiences. Nice work if you can get it, isn’t it? Of course monogamists wouldn’t agree with me on that point, but that is their right.


Patrick enjoys the fact of my having other slaves as well. First, it gives him “time off” to pursue his own projects and to relax without having to cater to my every whim. Last week, James feted me to five days in Manhattan, leaving Patrick home alone to sleep and to finally do some household renovation that he has wanted to do for nearly seven years. Needless to say, he was pleased to have the time to himself.


Just as importantly, a visiting slave often gets assigned chores that take a few things off of Patrick’s to-do list, such as vacuuming the stairs or folding laundry.


The genesis of the multiple-slaves idea obviously arose from the fact of my high libido and my inability to be a one-man man. There is an added dimension to it, though, that I discovered only later. Some point in time, I realized how much I enjoyed being a master. I also came to the conclusion that I wanted to be more masterful, more controlling and more sadistic. More of a good thing, I concluded, could only be better.


It was clear to me that any relationship has limits. There was some amount of mastery, of control and of sadism that transgressed lines of reason, safety and health. For example, one can only beat a slave so hard before what is pleasurable becomes dangerous. The solution I arrived at was to beat two slaves, thereby expressing twice as much sadism while only inflicting half as much pain on the individual slave.


Craig and James, therefore, afford me the pleasure of increased mastery without the danger that would affect Patrick if he had to bear the full brunt of my desires. The fact that their physical services are limited by time and distance, also means that they can “enjoy” a weekend intensity that is impossible to maintain on a 24/7 basis.


There are, I should point out, practices that make a LDR work. Each slave has protocols that remind him of his servitude even when he is absent from Chicago. Primarily these have to do with his own sexual freedom, such as needing permission to masturbate or to play with others.


Each has developed the habit of frequent phone contact. James has been ordered to keep a journal. Another LDR applicant is under orders to send a daily email of devotion.


Though there are some LDR couples who have never had physical contact, I do expect that we meet and that we do so on some regular basis. With James, this has evolved into a once-a-month practice, while Craig has been averaging six-to-eight weeks between visits. The regularity of physical service is highly depended upon the constraints of distance, cost and time.


In the final analysis, I have to agree with my mother who said “Half a loaf is better than none.” Having James and Craig in my life is certainly a case of “Having my cake and eating it too.” Now I only have to ask “Where are the other 14?” — and when I have an answer to that question, all will be well.


Have a great week.


Jack

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Ancient and Primitive Connection

An applicant asked me recently, “Sir, if you don't mind me asking, I was wondering if you would explain to me Bacchanalian celebration and Dionysian initiation. I am vaguely familiar with the celebration and the gods, but not as it would relate to slave training.”

To translate this into a broader BDSM context he is asking “What do primitive cults have to teach us today?”

Though it is true that my educational and religious background, beginning in early childhood and proceeding along right into seminary and Christian ministry, colors (to say the least) my kinky life, my more recent studies of primitive societies, ancient mystery cults and Jungian psychology have shown incredible similarities between those three topics and what it is that we do (WIITWD).

Of course WIITWD varies from group to group, scene to scene and locale to locale. Nevertheless the basic similarities such as hedonism, altered states and sadomasochism remain wherever kinky people play or Leathermen work or whatever appellation you want to use.

So whereas in most public play spaces alcohol is forbidden, there are a few where it is not. Therein lies at least one Bacchanalian connection. Its use is significantly more tolerated and even at times welcome in private activities, as is the use of recreational drugs. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

There, I’ve gone and said it. Yes, there is some illegal drug use in our subculture but that is merely a reflection of the greater society in which we live. One of the few things more prevalent than illegal drug use in America is the hypocrisy that denies its prevalence. But I digress.

So then what are some of those similarities? Fertility rites; initiatory practices; worship; theater that leads to catharsis and/or an altered state; altered states themselves; inspiration aka revelation; bonding; and the transference of cultural values, to name the ones that come to mind most quickly.

Fertility rites

Though there is a minority in the BDSM community who deny that their BDSM is sexual in nature, for most of us kink and sex are inseparable. Now I admit that most of us don’t have sex in order to procreate so fertility in its strictest definition may not be appropriate. On the other hand, if we understand the word in a broader context, then it applies, as in developing a fertile imagination or freeing us to become more creative.

We can also simply look upon the physical similarities between what happens in the dungeon and what might happen in ancient and/or primitive fertility rites. My readings suggest a great number of similar events. Might we not learn from those rites in order to improve and perfect our own?

Initiatory practices

The same can be asked about rites of initiation. It is probably true that initiatory rites, in that they are generally more trauma-producing, sadistic, and physically dangerous, are even better examples for our instruction and edification.

It is my opinion that whipping, needle play, and impact play may be found, in one degree or another in many cultures that initiate. Even the Roman Catholic sacrament of Confirmation involves the Bishop slapping the face of the initiate, though the slap is only the shadow of a real one.

Our initiations are generally not recognized as such but certainly have the effect that the ancient and primitives ones have, namely, greater bonding with the community and a sense of personal achievement that leads to “adulthood” within that community.

We can also look at the more recent (within the past 60 years) practices in the Gay SM subculture of Leather clubs. Though in many ways the practice has declined, men who joined such clubs usually had to undergo a period as a pledge (six months to a year) during which they were taught and tested. That experience ended with an initiatory experience, such as the bestowal of a vest, being tied to a motorcycle and being pissed on by the members of the fraternity. Hence the phrase, earning your leathers. Welcome to the club!

Worship

OK. Many of us don’t want to mix religion with our sex. It is my conviction that sex and spirit, and therefore spirituality, cannot be separated, pretend as we might that such is not the case. Look at the face value of our language. Cock worship? Goddess worship? What do they mean if they don’t mean worship? Differentiate as much as you like between the worship of God in the traditional Judeo-Christian sense and the worship of the dominatrix or the master in the BDSM sense you still have those similarities .

You can, and many do, make those distinctions but I wonder if at some point the distinctions don’t get blurred. When the newly-wed man says to his bride “I adore you,” does that make God jealous? I don’t think so, but maybe. Is adoration akin to worship? I think so, as is praise and devotion.

Theater that leads to catharsis and/or an altered state

It may appear dismissive to call WIITWD “theater” but if we recognize it as the best of what theater has to offer, then I think the name applies. When the actor’s acting is excellent, he or she ceases to “act” but becomes the character being portrayed. When the cast is excellent, the script well-done, theater-goers find themselves transported, perhaps even transfixed by what happens on stage. That is when true catharsis takes place and the play becomes not merely a show but a deeply meaningful experience and a close identification with what is happening on the stage.

Altered states themselves

What we most closely share with ancient and primitive societies is the experience of having our consciousness altered, subspace if you will. I came to this conclusion when I realized that a childhood experience after taking communion, my experience as a Pentecostal believer, and a very powerful SM scene all had the same result on my consciousness. I was transported, albeit only temporarily, into a powerful realm of light and peace, perhaps infinity, the void, or bliss.

Inspiration aka revelation

Our best experiences lead us to various forms of intuited knowledge, most often of oneself but in other areas as well. Much of what we learn, of course, is experiential, but there are times when we transcend the physical to discover the infinite and eternal.

Bonding and the transference of cultural values

Just as primitive societies rely on initiatory experience to both celebrate and induce changes in a member’s place in that society, so does our “play” in the dungeon create deep inter-personal bonds and deeply transmit the unique social values of WIITWD. We can, you’ll admit, talk about a flogging all we want. It still remains that experiencing the flogging is the only true way to experience its possible life-changing effect.

Those, my friends, are the reasons I see that knowledge of whatever our Dionysian and Bacchae ancestors did has some thing, if not a lot of things, to add to what it is that we do. We may not know much about their actual rites and ceremonies, but I bet they’d feel right at home in any BDSM party that we’d host.

Have a great week.

Jack

Monday, December 13, 2010

Do I Care?

Not only do I write as a career, I write to seduce men into my dungeon. As I cruise, I’m very liable to suggest that a potential sex partner read one of my books or (more often) give them something I’ve written that details my desires. I recently sent a potential slave applicant an essay that characterizes me, the kind of slave I am seeking, the rules he will live by and the fetishes that will be part of his service to me.

Now this guy holds a higher-than-usual level of attraction for me because he is a professional freelance editor and therefore can relocate relatively easily (all his work is done with a computer and his client interactions are most often done online). He has just the talents I need to take care of my ever-demanding clerical chores.

The editor-in-him wrote: “it is having difficulty fully squaring the following two statements: ‘I am in multiple relationships each of which is clearly defined. We are a leather family of respect and care. [and] I am self-centered and can be a mean and demanding son-of-a-bitch. Though I am generous and protective, in most cases I don’t care about a slave’s feelings.’”

The word “care,” used in two different ways, caused problems for him. If he had picked up the same dictionary that I did, the “American Heritage College dic-tion-ar-y,” he would have seen that there are 15 definitions for the word. So get your dictionary, and look them up —or if you want to take it from me, then I’ll use the two that best explain the seeming discrepancy that he pointed out. The first is “A burdened state of mind, as that arising from heavy responsibilities; worry.” The second is “Caution in avoiding harm or danger.”

In the sentence, “We are a leather family of respect and care,” I mean that we use caution in avoiding harm or danger. We care for each other in a supportive and protective way.

On the other hand, I mean it when I say: “I am self-centered and can be a mean and demanding son-of-a-bitch. Though I am generous and protective, in most cases I don’t care about a slave’s feelings.” My slave’s feelings are not important to me.

I say that because one of the most important tasks that a slave faces is to align his (or her) will and desire to those of his (or her) owner. It is exactly this synchronization of mind that facilitates the creation of a deeply intimate bond between master and slave. Of course the same can be said of any human relationship. When two people agree, they become like-minded, of one mind. The deeper the agreement, the stronger the one-mindedness.

This requires surrender on the slave’s part. Without surrender there is no possibility of voluntary servitude, which is what we masters and slaves practice. Remember, our “slavery” is not the chattel slavery of enforced servitude, imposed by the threat of punishment and/or death. It is the true surrender of one to another that transforms the slave’s feelings into alignment with the master’s feelings. Hence the slave’s feelings become a reflection of mine. The feelings he has are mine. When that happens, I care how he feels because he feels as I do — and I care about my feelings.
I guess I don’t worry about his feelings because I’m too busy worrying about my feelings, which, because we share them, are really our feelings.

In regards to the phrase “a leather family of respect and care,” I am merely reaffirming core principles of the master/slave dynamic. Masters must be responsible. In other words, we have a duty to protect our property. What owners don’t want to do so? We wisely invest our dollars; we make sure our homes are kept in good repair; we feed our livestock and manage our businesses so they prosper. How can we not do the same for our slaves?

Also, as my New York slave James notes, there is a “mutuality of interest.” Unless I care for my slave as I would for any other piece of property or any relationship, I will quickly lose the property and therefore the benefits that the property affords me. In that regard “taking care” is simply a selfish act since it ensures the continuity of the service and pleasure that I get from the slave.

I want my BDSM to be fun but I also want it to be intellectually satisfying, rational and healthy. In order for that to be so, we must spend time on the essentials. There is an important need to consider these two important definitions of the word “care.”

And without giving “care” its full range of meaning,  our play will cease to be fun.

It is as simple as that.

Have a great week

Jack

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More from the Master

Monday, December 6, 2010

Discernment


One of the perennial problems that we kinksters face is the question, “How can I tell?” —especially when it comes to the reliability of a potential playmate. This is directly related to last week’s column on Gnostic BDSM in that “private revelation” also needs to  be vetted as reliable.

The theological answer is that we need to use discernment in our decision-making processes, that is “the act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.” On a more mundane level, this process can be looked at as a combination of several things to do, namely: get references; trust your gut; check out your past; interview the player(s); research; reflect; pause; watch; and listen.

Get references

In the good old days I was taught to get references. In fact, what might have been called the “S&M” subculture was based on a rather dependable and covert network of references. You didn’t get in without someone vouching for you.

There were several ways to get a reference. Among gay men, the leather bars of their time were the easiest venue. You’d go to the bar, meet someone, gain his respect, probably by playing with him and then he could become a reference for you.

That meant that you could (with permission) ask to use him as a reference for yourself or ask him whether others whom you might meet were reliable. The Chicago Hellfire Club still uses that system today. No one is allowed to attend a party unless a member serves as his sponsor. No sponsor means no invitation and no admission. No exceptions.

The lack of referencing in today’s scene is an important loss of a very helpful tradition. Referencing might not be perfect, but it sure adds a margin of safety rarely equaled.

Trust your gut

Our materialistic and scientific culture has done a great deal to trivialize our “gut feelings.” That still small voice that speaks to us from within is too easily and too often ignored. It takes practice to regain the art of hearing and heeding that voice, but as Pinocchio learned the hard way, listening to Jiminy Cricket has its advantages.

 Check out your past

What does your experience tell you about the situation? Over the years I have adopted a number of rules for my own life. I don’t mind saying that they were taught to me in the school of hard knocks. The sad truth is that failure is often the best teacher, i.e., go home with a trick who is drunk once and you’ll learn never to do that again.

This suggestion is based on my belief that there is no such thing as failure. What we might term failure is in fact an opportunity to learn what not to do, a strong indication to do something differently. By analyzing our lack of success we become more capable of succeeding the next time. In other words, while two wrongs don’t make a right, they just might show us how to do it right the next time.

Interview the players

Be bold, even (especially!) if you are a sub, to ask questions of your partner, host, or enquirer. The idea is to get to know him through meaningful dialogue before you find yourself emotionally involved  or, worse, in trouble. Getting all the particulars of the scene is hot and probably important, but not nearly as important as getting to know him as a person.

In this regard consider his veracity; i.e., is he telling you his real age? We often asked about a person’s experience but do we ask enough? When doing so, the questions should include descriptions of what happened and with whom. Who taught him and when and where?

Go further with this and ask some or all of the following: What is his educational level and career path? His family situation and a short history of his relationships? Who are his references? Check them! What clubs is he a member of? What events does he attend and does he volunteer? What is his health status and financial situation? What are his hobbies and favorite pastimes? How does he approach the use of cigarettes, alcohol and recreational drugs? Now you might not need details, but an overview of answers on at least some of these topics will shed  a lot of light on the character of the person you are contemplating for play.

Research

Do your homework. Read up on the fetishes and relationships you desire to have. Attend seminars, and when you do, ask questions. This presumes that you are doing research in reliable venues. The Internet may be an easy place to do so but is the source you are checking a reliable source? How can you tell? How credible is the presenter, the website, the chat room typist, or the book? Be able to answer those questions if you want to use the information you’ve gained.

Reflect

None of the above is in any way helpful unless you think about it. How does it all fit in with what you want to achieve, and can you trust what you’ve learned? Only you can answer those questions. So do your damned best to answer them well.

Reflect also means to analyze. Does it all make sense? Fit together? Feel right? Think about it, because if you don’t you’ll be the fool rushing in where angels fear to tread.

Pause

Simply put, “Haste makes waste.” Take time to do it right. A good decision is never a rushed decision. Be very wary of partners who demand you decide now “or else.” If there is the potential for a great scene now, there’ll be an equally grand opportunity after you’ve done your homework.

Watch

Actions speak louder than words. So watch, be alert and pay attention.

And Listen

It is your responsibility to care and protect yourself, so do it well and take both the time and effort necessary to discern the right from the dangerous or erroneous. It really isn’t all that hard if you simply take the time to do it.

Have fun and a great week.



Monday, November 29, 2010

Gnostic BDSM

Though I’ve never heard the term used in our subculture, I think it’s safe to write that sub space is a “Gnostic experience.” For those looking for a definition of Gnosticism, this one is from Wikipedia: “Gnosis (from one of the Greek words for knowledge) is the spiritual knowledge of a saint or mystically enlightened human being. Within the cultures of the term's provenance (Byzantine and Hellenic) Gnosis was a knowledge or insight into the infinite, divine and uncreated in all and above all, rather than knowledge strictly into the finite, natural or material world. Gnosis is a transcendental as well as mature understanding. It indicates direct spiritual experiential knowledge and intuitive knowledge, mystic rather than that from rational or reasoned thinking. Gnosis itself is obtained through understanding at which one can arrive via inner experience or contemplation such as an internal epiphany of intuition and external epiphany such as the Theophany.” (from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosis).

In other words, when in an altered state (sub space or top space) we experience in some way (through pain, bondage, surrender, etc.) the divine (i.e., the infinite, celestial, transcendent).

This is one of the frameworks, then, in which we can consider the role of spirituality in what it is that we do. Please note that it is only one framework, as it should be obvious that there are many ways to understand our BDSM experiences.

The world is replete with Gnostic religions, Buddhism being perhaps the most notable. Early Christianity, and many of the mystery cults of the Roman Empire, had strongly Gnostic practitioners. In fact Gnosticism was one of the earliest controversies in Christianity and was eventually considered a heresy and suppressed.

With the discovery (between the years 1947 and 1956), study and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there has been a resurgence of information about Gnosticism.

Now all of this might seem irrelevant to dungeon play but I believe that there are many reasons to explore what theology has to teach us concerning BDSM, even if we approach it from a non-religious viewpoint. Among them are: (1) an understanding of what happens when we enter subspace; (2) a greater recognition of the historical roots of BDSM activity as a spiritual practice; (3) a frank discussion about the role of power and of personal revelation; and (4) the dangers to our subculture that Gnosticism can present.

What Happens When We Enter Sub Space

My newest book, More from the Master, has concluding chapters about the psychological phenomenon that we call sub space, so I will refer you to that book for a more detailed explanation than what I can give you in this blog. Let me remind the tops reading this that top space is a similar, if less discussed, experience.

Simply put, our brain wave activity slows from beta (the normal, awakened state) to alpha and eventually to theta (a dream-like state of reverie). Numerous activities can induce these states, even one as simple as going to sleep. As most of us know, the stress of a flogging or spanking does the same, as do many of the other fetishes that we enjoy.

More easily entering these states can be accomplished with practice and attention to the skills that induce or enhance the experience, such as using breathing and relaxation techniques. Other environmental and relational factors contribute to successful "trip" as well.

That is why playing with a trusted friend or having the right kind of music in the dungeon are the kind of factors that need to be looked at when negotiating a scene. Learning, knowing and using religious practices can also be part of a successful scene. There is, for instance, something to be said for the use of Gregorian chant in the dungeon.

The Historical Roots of BDSM Activity

In general the ancient mystery cults of the West, i.e., Dionysianism, Mithraism, Eleusinianism, were substantially eradicated when the Roman Empire was Christianized. Much of this had to do with the burning of manuscripts but the fact that only the initiated were allowed knowledge of these cults was certainly another contributing factor. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to know exactly what those secret rites entailed.

On the other hand, there are more than several primitive cultures whose initiatory rites are well documented such as those of Native Americans and aboriginal tribes of Africa and the Pacific Islands. Many of these cultures used pain, deprivation and vision quests to induce mystic experiences into the adolescents who were entering adulthood in their tribes. Such activities, I believe, have strong similarities to what happens in an SM scene.

Understanding shamanistic practices, then, could well endow our play with another venue for success.

The Role of Power and Personal Revelation

Mysticism, of course, has always held a high place in Judeo-Christian practice, there being high regard for contemplatives, saints, and aesthetes in many of the sects that derive from this tradition. The same, of course, can be said of Eastern practices. Nevertheless, Gnostic experience is very often closely guarded, as many religions are skeptical and fearful of "private revelation." I believe that this is the result of the power that priests, and ministers, rabbis and imams gain by being "protectors" of the faith. Those who challenge their authority are often labeled heretics, unbalanced or fanatical.

That leads to a consideration of the place of private revelation within the context of our subculture. That sounds high-falutin’ until we put in into the context of an ego inflated by mystical experience.

The Dangers of Gnosticism

That's not to say that there isn't a place for caution in Gnostic practice. After all, we have myriad examples of ideology that becomes destructive. One only need look at the criminal results of Marxism and Nazism to see that discernment of the message, any message, is a critical part of a helpful process towards enlightenment, whatever that term might mean to the seeker.

Therefore it behooves us to discern the value of the lessons we gain in the dungeon, lest we go off "half-cocked" and deluded by the inflated self-images bestowed upon those who have experienced the divine within themselves.

I would refer you to the chapter entitled “True Spirituality” in my book, Philosophy in the Dungeon:
“What we are left with, then, is to find and maintain balance, to live in such a way as to grow in wisdom and knowledge while living a life based on virtue, which directs our actions towards ourselves, others, and our environment. It is more than simply doing good; it is a faithfulness to the self which we know to be authentic.”

Next week: Discernment. Have a great week. Jack

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spirituality in the Dungeon

When 21-year-old Eddie came to us in 2001 he was greatly conflicted between his evangelical background and his homosexuality and it seemed right for Patrick and me to share our experiences with him. Since Patrick had completed Baptist seminary and I have both attended Catholic seminary and am an ordained Pentecostal minister we had much in common with him in that regard.

As part of the sharing process I began writing a short and never-completed biography, the result of which was a unique view into my past. As it happened, the real value in the bio was that I stepped back to look at myself. What did I discover?

My life, when viewed rather casually, may seem to some quite disjointed, filled as it is with a wide variety of jobs, a painful divorce, multiple short-lived relationships, and a poor economic record. My parents always wondered if I would "ever settle down." To his dying day (literally) my Dad despaired of my ever succeeding, though that is another topic and I won't go there today.

Of all the self-revelation that the bio afforded me, the strongest was the realization that the single-most common thread in my life was my personal search to "know, love, and serve God in this life and be happy with him in the next." Time and again my actions strongly indicated a desire for a rich and holy spiritual life, no matter the cost or the meaning of such a search.

It continues even now, when the outward appearances of my lifestyle might indicate flesh, not spirit.

Last week's blog about change was a prelude to the themes I want to pursue today and in the coming weeks. In one sense there has been no change, in that my quest for the sacred continues. In another sense that quest is full of change, as I take new directions, have new ideas, try new things, and come to new and (I hope) deeper conclusions.

One of the more obvious changes in our house is the renovation and expansion of my dungeon. In doing that work, I had to move many boxes of "old stuff" and decide what I could toss and what ought to be kept. So it was that I pulled an old note book off a shelf and found two pages of entries about "The Regiment."

In 1991 and ‘92, I corresponded with Larry and Mike about the creation of a men's-only sex club focused on the worship of the Hindu god Shiva. It was to be a unique combination of military, monastic, and sexual themes. The notebook documents that "On November 6th, 1992, Larry performed the first Regiment Dedication making [me] a pledge. Mike was witness." The next day Larry initiated me into the Brotherhood.

Please fast forward to this year. From the end of my political campaign in early February until October I plunged into writing my first novel, a story that centers around "The Alliance," a clandestine cult of men and women who worship Dionysos in 20th-century America.

Dionysos, better known as the Roman god Bacchus, was one of the sons of Zeus and the Greek god of wine, orgies, ecstasy, and darkness. Shiva, coincidentally, is the equivalent of Dionysos in the Hindu pantheon. So, across nearly two decades, a thread is connected.

The writing itself was transformative for me as it forced me to more deeply research the archaeological records about this cult, which was banned by the Roman Senate in 186 B.C.E. I created fictional initiation rites, a hierarchy, and Dionysian celebrations. In short, this cult took up a life of its own in my writing. Even more importantly, it has taken up residence in my psyche. Such is the transformative process involved in a writer's work.

What does all this have to do with kink? A great deal, I believe. On one level, it seems to me that Dionysian initiations were in part sadomasochistic, as the famed mural in the House of the Mysteries in Pompeii illustrates a female initiate being flogged. (Please note that this interpretation is debated by some authorities.)

Additionally, though we don't often admit it, there is a strong spiritual content to what it is that we do, including a significant number of "players" who are pagan in belief and both Dionysian and Gnostic in their practice. For more information on the subject I will refer you to my book Philosophy in the Dungeon.

Look, too, to the increasing numbers of seminars about "BDSM Spirituality."

Just as the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom reminds us that "Sex and Politics make strange bedfellows," so do Sex and Religion, at least in Western thought. Most don't realize that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are religions that effectively eliminated the fertility-based religions of the Mediterranean region.

The first draft of the novel may be done, but not the first draft of my life. Is there a Regiment or an Alliance in my future? How does this quest impact my teaching, relationships, and BDSM practice? Where is the line between a fictional work and life lived in 21-st century Chicago?

How does embracing these ideas transform the nature and quality of my life, affect my teaching and writing, or influence my decisions? Where does the thread lead and what will following it reveal?

These are not rhetorical questions. They are the sum and substance of living, if one lives what was called in seminary "The Examined Life." I invite you to come with me on this journey and add your comments below. After all, we're all on this planet together, and none of us really knows where those threads lead.

Have a great week. Jack

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Seasons of One’s Life

As the leaves fall off the trees and the garden plants turn yellow and die, there are plenty of reasons to think of change. Father Alliot always said that the more things change the more they stay the same. Of course he said it in French.

We often forget that change is natural, our only constant. It is irresistible, as predictable as dawn following the night and night following day. For us there is change like the sun rise, the good things that come after a stretch of pain, depression or angst. There is the opposite as well, those wonder days that somehow crash into confusion, doubt, and trouble.

“You have to take the good with the bad,” Mom used to say. Taking, of course, isn’t accepting or liking. Taking it is living through it, though in some rare cases even living through it isn’t an option, since each of us is going to die sometime. The reality is that most change is what it is and we survive, transformed, different, for better or for worse.

It is always a season of change, whether of growth or decline, of life or death, of pleasantry or misery. Sometimes we can’t help but see it; at others it is nearly imperceptible.

My year and a half hiatus from writing this column was sparked by change. It began with a marked decline in book sales and speaking engagements, punctuated by a reduction in teaching income from the college where I have worked for the last 17 years. As many of you know, a desire for a new challenge led to political activity.

A May ’09 to February ’10 run for State Representative garnered me 34% of the vote in a two-way race. Not enough to win but respectable enough (so I am told) to make it noticeable and noteworthy, a possible clue to more of the same to come.

The part-time teachers’ union for which I have labored for the past 14 years underwent significant philosophical and organizing challenges, the results of which are still undecided. For me though it led to no involvement in negotiating the next contract (I was chief negotiator for the previous three contracts) and a highly contested union election (votes to be counted this week) that may lead to my no longer being in a leadership position. Big changes for me perhaps and they are still in process.

My hot romance with Brian ended, proving that love doesn’t conquer change and instead may be a significant factor in it.

When the political run ended I resumed writing a novel that had sat unattended for more than a year and shortly after that our good friend Master Lynn moved in with Patrick and me.

In no time at all I found myself consumed with writing the novel, an exciting and creative process that was thoroughly invigorating. Lynn added a new dimension to our leather family, especially when he broke his hip. Our daily routines adjusted to his needs and the meaning of family was even more suffused with the ideas of care and service.

In the meantime I began transforming my vegetable garden into a  flower garden, hoping to make it an inner city attraction for butterflies. Lynn and I began an almost daily habit of sitting in the backyard at cocktail time, watching the winged beauties feed.

I also found myself cruising Recon, a Leatherman’s website, and meeting up with an increased number of tricks. One man from New York City, named James, visited for a weekend and quickly found a place in both my heart and my sex life. What began as a casual weekend of sex quickly changed into an experience of mastery and slavery that has evolved into a more structured, committed, and deeply satisfying relationship.

By the beginning of October I had finished the first draft of my novel and finally entered the new world of Print on Demand (PoD) and ebooks. Change long in coming but change nonetheless.

That last paragraph reflects a strange trait in change, namely that it can be long in coming. Becoming a Slave had been out of print for nearly two years -- a really good seller that I thought I couldn't afford to reprint. Something within me resisted the PoD route. Call it fear of the unknown, a feeling of being overwhelmed, or a self-defeating hope that something else would happen.

Then in a matter of the two weeks after the first draft of the novel was sent to an editor, Becoming was on its way to being back in print. Yes, it was a slow, but hardly impossible, learning curve. Yes, it took weeks longer that I had expected, but no, it wasn't all that difficult. It cost almost nothing and the reality was that having done it once, the next time (More from the Master) became much easier.

In retrospect I ask myself, "What took me so long?" Change is what took so long. It wasn't the change in publishing methodologies, it was the change within me. Even during the darkest nights, when dawn is most awaited, it will not be rushed. So, too, is the human psyche. Change it will, but only in its own time.
There's more to say about this. For now, though, have a great week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Notes on a Scene

 I recently found myself in a very hot scene with a man whom I obviously found very attractive and who elicited a great amount of torrid dialogue from me. For those of you who don’t know, I tend to be very verbal in the dungeon, using both flattering and seductive language (“I want to own you for the rest of my life”) and contrarily a great deal of verbal abuse (“Suck me, you good-for-nothing faggot”).

 It all has to do with both creating a good scene and letting a good scene take you even further than you had thought to go.

 That said, it’s important to note that a scene is not a life. Of course one could just as well say that a life is made up of a series of scenes, as in Shakespeare’s quote that “All the world’s a stage.” However that may be, there still remains the importance of understanding that a scene is not a life.

 Unfortunately a good number of newbies, attracted to our dungeons by the hope of having their fantasies made real, also find themselves perplexed by the incompatibility of their fantasy life with what they know about actual living. So it is that I too often run into postings on the internet where someone outlines an impossible fantasy, only to flee from it when the possibility of its being real faces them.

 You know the hype: “Chain me in your basement for the rest of my life” or “I want to be castrated and abused” or “Humiliate and degrade me.” It is these same posers who cease communication when faced with the reality that you really do have a cage in your basement.

 The first note, then, has already been written: “A scene is not a life.” Let us enjoy the play while we do it and when we are done doing it, let’s remain mindful that we also have a life that needs to be lived responsibly.

 As much as we do enjoy scenes the next note brings them into a proper perspective: “Fantasy made real may not be reality.” Take, for instance, the idea that we have slaves in our subculture. It is a hot and enduring desire to be owned, used, controlled; to serve and to belong. Still, no matter how deeply the connection becomes between master and slave, reference to any dictionary will quickly remind us that there are no slaves in our midst. There are, rather, men and women who are in a relationship of voluntary servitude. Consent given can always be taken back. That is the reality and the number of men and women who were once collared and are not now makes that reality very clear.

 Next, then, remember that “Not every fantasy ought to come true.” The darkest of dreams, i.e., extreme degradation, mutilation, murder, and the like, may make (for some) a hot topic for masturbation. They do not make for pleasant reality when disease, death, or the law enters the scene. In that regard, there can be no abdication of responsibility, by either the top or the bottom. Play we can, but we are still required to play responsibly.

 “Not every scene works” is my next note. A scene, a partner, a fantasy may appear to be really attractive yet fail in the delivery. In that case it is important to remember that it is a scene and there is no shame in ending it. If it’s not working, say so.

 There is a saying that applies to scenes as well: “Be careful what you pray for.” I say this because it is remarkable to me what people will write in their profiles and say they want in a chat room, when they have no idea what the realization of their fantasy might mean. It seems to me that they are writing their wish list only to arouse themselves and certainly not with any intention to see their prose made real.

 Even with the best of prose and the craftiest of fantasies, “Let there be room for spontaneity.” Going with the flow, after all, is going to be more fun.

 And yes, “Life is a series of scenes.” Just remember when one stops and the next one begins. It’s also an encouraging note that says there’ll be another scene at another time. Until then, play hard and play safely.

 Have a great week. Jack

Monday, October 25, 2010

Change and Growth

A large part of my cessation in writing my column had to do with the personal changes I was undergoing during the Winter of 2009. Change, as I have written often, is the only constant that we experience. Life is a process, a journey, a never-ending experiment. As comfortable as it my feel, the status quo remains with us for too short a time.

It would be nice, no doubt, if change could always be planned for, anticipated, even scheduled. To be pro-active in regard to change would be ideal. Alas, as Shakespeare would say, that is rarely the case. Instead we are often (almost always?) playing catch up in some kind of reactionary fiasco.

The simple fact is that publishing has been hard-hit ever since the first Macs and PCs invaded the world of the printed word, an invasion only made more difficult by the advent of the Internet. Since then we have ebooks, print-on-demand, audio books, and all sorts of blogs, tweets, feeds that only compound the choices, lower the bar to entrance and encourage a free (as in no cost) Free Press.

But I know, as my friend of many years ago said, “A kick in the ass isn’t always in the wrong direction.” It felt right to run for public office and it still seems right to have made that decision. Doing so, of course, only made writing that much more difficult, as my time was increasingly limited and so the column entered Limbo.

Since you’re reading this blog you know that it has been resurrected, though to put it in more correct terms, it has been re-incarnated, since it is now a blog and no longer an emailed newsletter.

That is change for you. New forms supersede old practices. And so I’m proud to say that my book, Becoming a Slave, is now available at Amazon.com as a Kindle Book. In the next few weeks it will also be back in print as a Print on Demand book. This merely proves, of course, that old dogs such as me can learn new tricks.

The learning is a curve and isn’t done all at once or easily. Still learn we must if we are to continue to thrive. New technologies, new fetishes, new circumstances, new partners, new desires, etc. are all part of the forces that drive us to change. That they “force us to change” might even be a better description.

In nearly 30 years of kink I have seen lots of changes and when folks ask me about them I am often at a loss of words to name them all. My early days in “Leather” were practically void of the word protocol. I didn’t know any master and slave couples. Contests were strictly composed of gay men. There was little or no cutting or branding. Fisting was a relatively new craze and few people wore rubber. There was no latex to speak of at all.

Gay groups operated nearly oblivious of pan-sexual events and the number of kink-friendly books on the subject was probably less than ten. The only two I remember were Townsend’s Leatherman’s Handbook and Baldwin’s Ties that Bind.
 Seen in that perspective, it’s a good thing that times have changed, isn’t it? Whether you nodded yes or no to that question makes no difference, as life will change whether you like it or not.

 Have a great week. Jack

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back In Action

 It’s not as if I haven’t been writing, but it’s true that I haven’t been writing my weekly column. So to begin anew, so to speak, I want to thank the many readers who have asked “Where’s your column?” and to answer that question by writing “It’s here at LeatherMusings.Blogspot.com.”

My column’s lapse was due in part to the time constraints of running for public office and then a deep involvement in my latest writing project -- a novel. I’m sure you’ll all hear more about that later, but for now let’s just say that the first draft is done and it’s my editor’s turn to work on it.

The past year and a half have been full of changes and I think that most of them have been for the better. First off, let me assure you that my slave Patrick and I are as well as always and little has changed in that regard, unless getting better qualifies as change. My Iowan slave applicant Craig has become a long distance slave and my former master Lynn has moved in with Patrick and me, which means that I have another official “partnership” to add to my first. For those of you who are wondering, I will note that it is not a master/slave relationship.

For some happy and unknown reason cruising has increased almost exponentially in our household.  I’m sure there’s material for a future post or two in that sentence.

And lastly, most noteworthy is that I have finally entered the world of print-on-demand and ebooks, so you can look forward to Becoming a Slave to return the world of retail sales and the publication of More from the Master, a collection of essays akin to The Master’s Manual. I’ll post the URLs as soon as they become available. Even electronic publishing, it seems, takes time.

 For now though, tell your friends that I’m back online and ask them to go to http://leathermusings.blogspot,com/ in order to sign up to follow my weekly rants, raves, and reports.

 Have a great week, Jack