Changing from Vanilla to the D/s lifestyle
(Original article from http://kinktoychest.com/index.php/castle-realm-archives/87)
Ready To Make the Change
Here's the scenario: You and your significant other have been living the "vanilla" life since you first got together. You've been happy, for the most part, but for a long time you felt there was something missing. Maybe you couldn't put your finger on what the problem was, but you sensed there was more to you than you'd ever admitted. One day something pointed you in the direction of the D/s lifestyle. It could have been a picture you saw of a woman kneeling with her hands cuffed behind her back, that paperback novel you picked up and couldn't put down or one of the feature shows on late-night HBO that dealt with dominance or submission. Since that day, or night, you haven't been able to get it off your mind. You've browsed the web and seen various articles on the subject and said, "Yes, that's how I feel" or "I've had those feelings all my life and didn't know what they were." You agonized about telling your lover, spouse or partner about this hunger you had to explore a part of yourself you'd hidden for so long for fear of being rejected, or worse. Finally you couldn't hold back any longer. You made your feelings known, perhaps using one of the techniques found in "Introducing Your Mate to D/s" and were surprised when your mate confessed they'd felt the same way but were afraid to admit it too. Suddenly the whole relationship changes and you're both eager to begin this new exploration together. But there's one problem: "Where do we start?"
If you're like most people, you've been reading everything you can find, searching every fetish store and site, talking about it non-stop but you don't know where to begin to make this dream a reality. One thing you've noticed is you've been talking more than you have in a long time. It feels great to be able to communicate these feelings openly and you're both hopeful that you can find ways to incorporate all the things you've read and seen into your life. It can be overwhelming when you want to get started but you're not sure just how to do that without making a terrible mistake that will shut the doors on your dream before it got off the ground. Here are a few things that might make you feel a little bit better about your situation.
1. There's no time limit on learning the ropes. You have the rest of your life to enjoy and explore all the things that the D/s lifestyle encompasses. Rome was not built in a day, but it did burn down in one. Take your time and take it all in as you go along. Don't expect to grab a flogger and whip things into shape, so to speak.
2. No one but you knows what's right for you. You and your partner are the only ones who can and should decide what activities and regiments are ones you want to include in your own version of dom/me and sub. It doesn't matter what Harry does or Suzy likes, it's what YOU do and enjoy that counts.
3. Keep it simple. Don't start out by purchasing 35 whips, floggers, paddles and slappers. Don't draft out a set of rules that took up two large spiral notebooks. Sitting there and looking at a gigantic pile of butt plugs, dildos, nipple clamps, hoods, cuffs and spreader bars is only going to add to your confusion and fear of doing something wrong. Start out with the basics and slowly build up your arsenal. Try one or two rules and see how those work before co-writing the D/s Manifesto. One or two things at a time. Complexity doesn't make it "more real."
4. Do it all together. If you don't have a willing partner, you don't have much of a relationship, D/s or otherwise. Talk about things. Get to know each others fears, hopes, turn-ons, turn-offs and feelings. D/s is a lifestyle that needs total commitment from both people. It's kind of like a three-legged race. Neither of you are going anywhere without the other, so get in step.
Roll Up Your Sleeves and Let's Get Going
You already know this is going to take some work but you're not too sure just where to start first. Here a some ways to get you off on the right foot.The first thing you're going to have to do is find out just what you're both interested in doing. Not everyone is going to like the same things and unless they're mutual interests, you're going to hit a few snags. There's a little creed we all live by and it's called the Safe, Sane and Consensual Creed and there's an excellent description of that creed written by Tamar Kay that you should read and UNDERSTAND. Read it together, talk about it, discuss the issues and questions you have and be honest with each other as you do. OK, now you know it's wrong to do things that are not mutually acceptable, but how do you know what you and your partner really want or don't want? This involves a bit of work on both parts and it's known as setting limits. Limits are lines that are drawn by either or both people in a power exchange. I guess you could say they're the "field rules" you play by and live by. Limits are often expanded as the relationship grows but they are NEVER crossed. If you want to destroy a lifetime of trust, just do it once. The relationship may never be the same again.One of the best tools for establishing your "limits" is the BDSM Activity Checklist and it can be used as a way to learn and explore also. Here's how it can be used. Print out two copies of the checklist from the nice page that Lord Colm created. It makes a lovely form and it's very simple to use. Sit down together, each with their own copy, and start at the top. Look at the activity. Do you understand what it means? Is it something you'd be interested in trying? Does it turn your blood to ice water? Well, let's take a closer look at how to use the list correctly and perhaps warm up the water a bit.
Using the Checklist
Put your list in front of you and make sure you understand how to rate your answers. The instructions are right there in the beginning. What I'd like to show you is how it can be used for a few other things besides just filling in the blanks. You need to do this activity together when you can communicate without interruptions.If you begin at the top you'll see that the first word is "Abrasion." Discuss the word and it's meaning within the D/s context. If you're not sure what it means, look it up.
Activity Yes No 0-5
Abrasion Anal sex
Arm & leg sleeves Asphyxiation
Bestiality Beating soft
Beating hard Being Blindfolded
Being gagged Being serviced (sex)
Biting Breast bondage
Branding Boot worship
See if you can find any references to the activity in one of the books on the lifestyle such as "Screw the Roses" or "SM101." Use the rating method to give an idea of how interested in trying the activity you are. It may take some time to go over all the things on the list. (Be sure to check the Castle Library for articles on these activities to aid in your understanding.)
Using the Results as a Guideline
Once you've both filled in all the blanks you should have a pretty good idea of where you both stand and what your mutual interests are. From the list you see there are quite a few things that you both checked "No" and rated very low, 0-1, and other things you both rated very high, 4-5. There's little value in wasting time on the low interest activities, so make a list of the things that you rated the highest. Once you have the list completed, start finding the tools and information you need to get started.Perhaps you both share an interest in "being blindfolded." Very little special equipment or skill is needed to begin to experiment with this activity, so it might be a good starting point. Use a silk scarf or soft cloth and see what kind of reaction you have. Discuss the feelings it evoked in you and what you liked or didn't like about it. If it had a positive effect you may want to purchase a well-made blindfold to add to your toy collection. One activity at a time, you move down the list of your favorite activities. If you're unsure of how to do something, practice it, read about it, do what it takes to get the skill you need. There are many good books that give you a more detailed description of ways to practice your skills. No one was born with the ability to use a flogger effectively and safely. They got this talent by practicing for a long time before they actually put the leather to anyone's backside. A dominant can use a pillow to learn to hit his target safely and should always test the feel of any toy on his own flesh to learn how much force is needed to give a good feeling without inflicting too much pain. The idea is to give excitement and not injury. Another tip would be to have the submissive wear heavy clothing, such as sweats, while you practice. Covering sensitive places with padding also helps and reduces the anxiety level of submissive and dominant. It's not only the submissive who may have some misgivings about trying new things. Dominants also have grave concerns about their capabilities and need support and reassurance when attempting to add new tricks to their repertoire.
Trying the Subtle Things
While the dominant is honing his/her skills, there's a lot of work for the submissive to be doing. Learning the behaviors and courtesies that help the power exchange to flow also takes time. The submissive must practice giving over control of certain areas of their lives, within the boundaries agreed upon by the couple. Again, this takes communication and negotiation to establish some guidelines. As nice as it sounds, no one hands over control of everything to their mate by falling to their knees and saying, "Oh, Master, you are the boss of everything. Just command me to do your wishes." It takes time and lots of patience, love and trust to surrender even the small things. You can't imagine how difficult it is with the important things. Also consider that the dominant is not ready to take on all that control in the beginning. As big of a head rush as it sounds to be handed over the reins, it isn't all fun. You are going to become responsible of the health, happiness and well-being of another human being. You have to start with one or two things and move on to bigger ones as you feel confident and the submissive feels safer to relinquish more control. Another list just might be in order. Identify the areas in your lives that you'd both be willing to try the power exchange, such as speaking or selecting your clothing while at home. One of the first sexual control issues that arises is usually the control of the submissive's sexual release. As a way to experience how the dominant is truly in control of the body of the submissive, requiring the submissive to withhold orgasm until given permission to release is probably the most effective. It gives the dominant a tool to use to deepen the submissive feelings of the submissive and aid him/her in coming to grips with their sexual nature.There are many places to begin and each couple has to experiment with those things to find what works best for them. What one may willingly give up, another may struggle and fail in surrendering it at all. Like everything else, you have to go slow and not take on too much too soon. Try setting a time limit at first when working on control issues. For example, you might decide that for 2 hours you'll allow your partner to make all the decisions about what you do or that you'll ask permission for anything you wish to do (such as getting a drink of water or leaving the room to attend personal needs). You could try one whole day where you'll faithfully promise to do anything that you're told to do by your dominant partner. When the time has ended, talk about the things you learned or had questions about. Discuss the difficulties you experienced and what you might need help with overcoming. The dominant should give the submissive positive feedback on their successes and offer some suggestions on the things that were obviously not accomplished in the experiment.
Cutting A Deal
You've read the basics on the dynamics of a power exchange from various sources and you've tried an hour or two at a time of assuming your individual roles of dominant and submissive. It's gone pretty well, so you're eager to expand the time limits and are wondering how this could be accomplished. At this point you are going to need to consider negotiations and begin drafting a contract. It would be helpful for you to read the two articles on contracts (Contracts 101 and Signing a D/s Contract) and refer to Scene Negotiations for a little insight on the processes.Typically, you might want to try a 2-3 day period of putting your new skills into practice. A simple contract that would be limited in duration to a weekend is a very easy way to define your expectations, limits, rights and needs as you learn and grow into the type of D/s relationship you're seeking. A contract does not have to be written in fancy words or terms, nor does it require every detail of every act or situation that might come up during this time period. Its purpose is to provide some guidelines for you both to follow as you grow and learn together. Negotiating the contract can be an excellent way to open up communications and set the tone or mood that a formal agreement lends to your relationship.
Work Together in Love and Respect
When you first begin to establish the fundamentals of a power exchange, you're both going to make a lot of mistakes. You can't be critical or judgmental with each other. A great deal of the success or failure of this endeavor hinges on the way you deal with your own failure and the failure of your partner to meet your expectations. This is where love and open communication are a must. Take time to put away all the roles for awhile and talk as a loving, devoted couple. In spite of all the new things you're going to learn, you still have to keep those bonds of friendship strong and active. When all else fails, love and friendship will get you over some pretty rough spots. Never lose your ability to laugh at the absurdities of the situations you'll encounter. Laughing together is one of the best things that two people can share and if you do this all right, you'll have a lot of love and laughter in your life.