Funny about service: it is one of the more complex and intimate aspects of power exchange and also one of the most basic. I am, and always have been, service oriented. Since childhood I did whatever I could to be entertaining to my parents, to be pleasing to my teachers. I found that necessary and fulfilling. In high school, once we started experimenting with substances a little ahead of our chronological legality, I was the one who learned how to mix dozens of drinks and played “bartender” at the cool kid’s parties. Being cool, being funny, being useful, this was a way for me to guarantee a comfortable social place and to meet that need to be pleasing.
One of the first reactions triggered by my first encounter with kink, “rough sex” and submission was what seemed to me then a rather fucked non-sequitur. The man who’d just performed upon my hapless body Things That Seemed Terrible, said Bad Words of Cruelty, and all without asking, became my focus in a way that drove me to confused, overloaded distraction. I fell over myself trying to figure out how to engage his attention, please him sexually, take whatever he was dishing out and, in return, wait on him hand and foot. Unthinkingly. Reflexively.
Fast-forward to today where I have now processed 18 years of thinking about and unpacking that interaction and actively seeking out the energetic counterpart to my desire to be pleasing, my need to serve. For about 15 of those years I’ve spent a great deal of time engaged in internal discourse about what all of this pomp and circumstance means, and written and spoken for countless hours about it all. But sometimes it just takes something as simple as a glass of water to underscore how complex a texture yet how simply reinforced a power dynamic can be.
I was conducting a classroom session on service this past weekend at the 2011 Southplains Leatherfest. It was my second class of the day, and the room was full. The discussion was going well and I was at the point where I wanted to demonstrate the impact of energy and focus on service. I identify neither as a dominant nor a master, but I know a bunch of people who do. And I know a couple of truly exceptional humans who who fall into that category. These creatures consistently fascinate me with the ways in which they exert their power, and accept the power of others organically, and seemingly effortlessly.. I observe them closely. Not only as a slave and submissive trying to get the sense of what it is about the rare people whose dominance I find palatable, palpable and powerful, but also (and reflexively) as an actor.
See, a lifetime of training pushes me to “inhabit the character” of people I find interesting. I project myself into who they are, filter a few moments of sensing what motivates them, and by proxy understand a bit more of what about dominance draws me inexorably towards it, like a hipster to a cup of hand-brewed fair-trade coffee.
I tend to take a deeply empathetic and realistic tack when it comes to absorbing the energy of those I observe, and it permits me to be a better slave. Seriously. Look. If I can imagine what it is like from the other side, I have an insight as to the motivations and processes of those I would serve. It can feed my capacity to be open to that energy and develop the capacity to provide predictive service.
Pretty cool, huh?
So though I’m not a dominant, I can certainly step into the stream of dominant energy, wiggle into that skin, play one on TV, and see what it is like. I know what feels good and nurturing to me as a submissive, and I know how to project that.
Now, towards the end of the class, I’d powered through 2 bottles and 2 glasses of water and was needing another drink. I’d noted on the way in that there was a water station at the back of the room and was about to go fetch 2 glasses of water and use one to demonstrate the focus shift that can happen depending on intention and focus when Bubbles, my Own Personal Demon snapped “For fuck’s sake, make the fucking room monitor bring you a goddamned glass of water. Shit. That IS what they’re there for.”
Fair enough. Hyena are notoriously not service oriented, so I should not have been surprised.
The room monitor was a cute redhead who’d been very diligent in their room monitoring duties. I waved “Hey could you do me a favor and bring me a glass of water, I’m hella dehydrated…” and they nodded and got right on it. I turned my attention back to the class, making some banter about my incapacity to remember this important aspect of self-care (“Bad submissive!”) as the room monitor brought me the water. “Thanks!” I said, taking it and turning away from them, gulping half the glass in one go.
…I said, shifting my tone down a bit, making an assumption of command and compliance that I hadn’t previously, and directing my focus and energy towards my room monitor’s retreating back. They paused.
“Bring me another.”
There was a low chuckle through the room, and my room monitor paused, seemed nonplussed for the briefest of moments, and then they continued to the back of the room. I put down my glass and turned to watch them walk back up the aisle to the water station.
I took a deep breath and focused.
Feet on the floor.
Thought about how wonderful it was to have someone there to help me.
Remembered how thirsty I’d been and thought about how refreshing this water was going to be.
Listened to the cascade of liquid as it hit the crystalline container, the tone changing as the fluid level rose.
I felt the energy in the room sharpen with me, and I pulled that in, too. It was suddenly hushed, the people in the class watching me watch the progress of this person fulfilling my request. As my room monitor turned to return to the front of the class, I opened myself to them, smiling, gratitude for the focus they were bringing to this task. Their pace slowed a bit as they looked up at me and caught me smiling, sensing the energetic shift in the room, and as they looked away, a bit nervously, I smiled even more deeply, from far within my heart, and reached out to them, welcoming this service with gratitude and in a focused, present mindset.
They reached the front of the room, and offered the glass to me. I paused long enough for them to realize I was pausing deliberately, and slowly extended my hand to accept it, watching their face, (now blushing quite furiously I might add) and waiting, the glass between both of our hands, until they renewed eye-contact with me.
I felt their energy, embraced it, relished this exchange, and let them feel how happy this made me as this simple moment unfurled in the stillness. I fed back my own peace, my centered quiet, nodding almost imperceptibly and smiling. I absorbed the weight of the glass, the slight beading of moisture on the outside, the spots where their fingers had been moments before, and was honored that they would do this for me.
I looked up at them.
“Thank you. Very much.”
I inclined my head and took a step back, maintaining eye contact as I took a deep sip of the water, relishing the coolness of the drink and the grace and dignity with which they’d brought it to me.
My room monitor, bright red, nodded and turned back to the class, which opened up into murmurs and chatter almost immediately.
“Y’all see what I did there? And that was easy. Did you feel the difference?”
General Immediate Consensus:Uh, yeah. Big time.
“And really what did I do differently? What I did differently was to be present. Focused. Grateful. That goes both ways, yanno, if you want this shit to work. And to be hot, right? And I think they felt the difference there, too.” I grinned, nodding towards the room monitor.
They nodded vigorously, still flushed.
I want on talking, and soon wrapped up the class. I found out later that my unwitting demo partner identifies as dominant, and I thanked them for being so game. Willingness to be flexible and to maintain humility as well as a sense of humor are vital traits in a dominant person, in my not at all humble opinion. I appreciated their sharing that moment with me, though it was outside of both of our orientations.
The funny thing is? Despite the fact that I don’t live in that realm? That two minute exchange reminded me how vital are The Small Things in our lives. The smile, the energetic connection, the fulfillment one obtains not only from service well given but service well-received.
I felt a bit of a head-rush after that. Not only because I forget that, after a lifetime of stage-work, it is pretty easy for me to pull focus and energy from an audience. But first and foremost was the way that I reacted, the room monitor reacted, and the people observing felt when that simple act of focus was invoked.
That’s a pretty big goddamned payoff for a little attention, folks.
I realized how much power happens in that exchange, and I thought about how much power I, as a submissive, as a slave, bring to this equation. I felt very proud of myself in that moment, and felt a fierce surge when I though how kick-ass it was for me to be able to lay that wild ferocity at the feet of someone I trust enough to say “Here I am, take care, this much power isn’t to be lightly played but use it well and it is, for you, limitless. Boundless. Pure. Free. Yours.”
I know this sensation better from the water-bearing side. I know how much like a benediction it feels to hear “Good girl.” when I have been pleasing. I know that I am profoundly energized when I feel my dominant relishing my service, my energy, my submission. I know how, with graciously accepted service, with disclosure of the vulnerability present in truly grounded dominance, I find that my present journey towards slavery and submission becomes more precious and effulgent every day.
And I think I’d make a damn fine dominant.
But I think I’ll stick to striving to be a fucking amazing slave.