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Archive for the ‘Explainers’ Category

I made an announcement recently that I’m quitting the domming business. So, you might ask, what am I doing now?

I’ve added a new permanent page to this blog which describes the services I’m currently providing in some detail.

Check it out.

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I’m answering one question today, since its content seems to have launched me into a complete post about the topic. Given my general long-windedness, this may become a pattern. But please: do continue to send your questions to delilah@dommedelilah.com , or comment here with your kinky queries, and I will answer them in due time!

Dear Delilah,

As a dominant woman, frequently I get approached by guys who think the experience should be all about them and what they want. “I want you to do X, then Y, then Z!” You’ve probably had this experience too. Obviously, I know what I think about it… but what would you say to these guys about why this tactic may not work? What would you suggest they try instead?

This is an interesting question, since it’s more asking me to pass along advice to unnamed submissives than to help you with this problem, which you already know what you think about. But thanks – it gives me a chance to think about this, and pass along my thoughts. Hopefully they’ll be helpful to you as well, but I think you’ll find that answers to this question vary for different people.

For one thing, it is – or at least can be – very different to approach a professional dominatrix as opposed to a dominant in the scene. For me, I rather expect – and even appreciate – a submissive who tells me what he likes and what he hopes I will do to him up front. One of my clients even arrives with a kind of script, which – guess what? – makes my job easier.

However, I don’t like a potential client who approaches with demands and entitlements, which makes me feel like a kinky jukebox and not a human being. Nor do I enjoy clients who pretend that they’re all into only what I like, and then don’t enjoy the session or get upset that I didn’t do x, y or z.

But what you’re talking about is being a dominant woman – someone who lives the lifestyle and only plays that role. As a switch, I can often have a very good time with someone who approaches me and says “I want you to do x, y and z.” I can also imagine that people new to dominance might enjoy the input of a more experienced submissive when planning scenes within a new relationship. But I can well imagine that a “true dominant” would find that really annoying.

So, submissives: some tips – both for approaching professionals, and for approaching dominants in the scene.

Figure out if you really only want particular things done to you, or if you really want to play with a particular person. This can be tricky, since usually it’s a synergy of both. I have often found, both from the dominant and submissive perspective, that I’ve been willing to do something I wouldn’t ordinarily do for the sake of someone I was truly interested in. I have only occasionally found that I really just wanted a particular thing done to me/to do a particular thing, and it didn’t really matter much who the other person in question was.

If you can untangle this, however, here’s what I recommend: if you want acts, go to a professional. A professional dominant is more likely to be able and willing to accommodate your particular kinks and execute them well. When you approach them, however, do so with respect and with an eye to what they might be interested in doing, too. Tell them what you’re interested in, but don’t make it a list of demands.

I absolutely love Mistress Matisse’s page on “slave training.” Read it for a great explication on different types of submission and how to know what you’re really asking for when you approach a professional.

If you want to play with a particular person, well then, that’s a different story: you have to know how to approach them specifically. That’s hard to know, but there are a few rules with which you probably can’t go wrong:

Do not throw yourself at someone’s feet. The last thing a dominant, professional or otherwise, wants is for some yahoo they’ve never played with before to drop to his or her knees and start hurling honorifics like Mistress, Sir, or Supreme Goddess. If you want to play with someone, you need to approach them as a human being first.

Strike up conversation first. How do you know if you want to play with someone if you don’t even know anything about them except how hot they look? Find an opportunity to start a conversation about something ordinary – preferably something that doesn’t have to do with kink. If you’re in a kinky setting, this might be difficult; on the other hand, it might lead into hotter topics sooner if the chemistry is there. If you’re not in a kinky setting, ease into it.

Observe them playing. If you know a person you’d like to play with, and know that they do in fact play, you should find an opportunity to observe them doing so. If this isn’t possible (you/they don’t do play parties or go to clubs), then find a way to slip it into conversation once you’ve opened up to each other a bit. Find out what they like doing. If you can get them talking about it, there’s a good chance of your getting a sense from their tone about whether they’d like to do it to you.

Talk about what you like without demanding it. This is likely to come late in the game, when you’ve already started talking about playing together. Before you start, or when you’re planning your session, talk a little about what you like. This can be difficult and embarrassing, but sometimes that can be part of the fun. I know I enjoy watching a submissive blush and stammer as s/he talks about his or her kinks.

Talk about what you don’t want. As a submissive seeking to play with a new partner, what you don’t want can be even more important than what you do. After all, if you get to play with that hot new person, and you already know that they’re into some things you like, then it’s probably going to be good for you so long as they know what to avoid. Make sure you make your hard limits – things that you absolutely do not want – clear, and also mention things that you don’t generally like, with the caveat that some dominants will enjoy pushing those boundaries for their own amusement.

For further thoughts on this, see this marvelous recent post about communication between kinky partners. Remember that sometimes you have to talk to each other, especially at the beginning, even when it’s embarrassing or uncomfortable; even when it sucks.

It all kind of boils down to the usual: don’t be a dick. Treat other people like human beings, not machines. Have respect for other people’s desires and boundaries as well as your own. But it’s amazing how often some people need those simple reminders.

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One of my astute readers pointed out, in response to my post yesterday about SexinChrist.com, that Dan Savage ran a contest just a couple of months ago to find a meaning for the word ‘saddlebacking.’ His purpose was to protest Rick Warren’s (pastor of Saddleback Church) inclusion in Obama’s inauguration; the man is apparently a right-wing homophobic freak.

The winner “by a gaping margin,” as Dan had it? “The phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities.”

Dan’s explication is awesome, too, so I thought I’d share it here so you don’t even have to clicky linky if you don’t want to:

Here’s why this definition is perfect: Saddlebacking, like barebacking, involves one person riding up on another’s backside. But in this case, it’s not the bare-naked cock-in-ass that’s the most important feature of the ride, but the fact that the person being ridden has been saddled—thanks to the efforts of the Rick Warrens of this world—with religious hang-ups and serious misconceptions about sex. Like the barebacker who casually tosses away his health—or his partner’s health—because he believes, quite erroneously, that “risky = sexy,” the saddlebacker offers up her ass because she believes, quite erroneously, that she can get fucked in the ass—vigorously, religiously—and still be considered a virgin on her wedding night.

Rest well, all you freaks. Have an excellent Friday night – and wear your condoms!

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Someone asked me recently how I set my rates, and whether it’s appropriate for people to negotiate with me on them. It’s a complicated enough question for me that I thought I’d blog about it, since that seems to be what the cool kids are doing these days.

For various reasons, it’s traditional for dominas to call their payment “tribute.” I’ve never been sure exactly why, but my guess is that it’s some combination of legal concerns and wanting to make it sound more ritualized. It may also be yet another way that dominas sometimes try to separate themselves from other sex workers – which is a subject for another post.

I set my tribute according to the going rate in my state; when I was starting out, I asked around and found that the hourly rate was fairly consistent. It was difficult in the beginning, though, asking for that much. When I first started out I had serious imposter syndome, and asking someone to pay a three-digit fee to see me seemed ridiculous. But I quickly got used to it, and after a short time could rattle off my tribute amount without so much as an “um” between the question and the answer. It still occasionally fascinates me, though, how clearly rare and desired the services of a professional dominatrix are. Are there really so few dominant women in the world, or even so few women who are willing to play the part with their partners from time to time? Or is it more reflective of the male need to stay in control and not reveal their vulnerability to anyone they have a stake in?

Again, a topic for another post.

I don’t want to speak for other women, but I believe it’s generally bad form to negotiate on tribute, especially if you’re a first-time client. Some of the more common annoying versions of this are people who try to offer me gifts instead of money, people who see if they can get a lower rate for multiple hours (only over 3 hours, for those who are curious), or who simply directly try to talk me down, as if I were a used car. It’s fairly simple: when a domina sets her rate, she believes that that is what her time is worth, and attempting to talk her down is likely to come across as if you think her time is worth less than that. I don’t recommend it.

I do occasionally, though, have someone approach me respectfully (usually via email), and tell me up front that they can’t pay, but would love to serve me in some way. For a long time I told these people, “Sorry, I don’t keep personal slaves,” but these days I often see if they would like to model for me. It’s a nice way for someone to get some scene time with me without paying the full tribute.

Once in a great while I will barter for session time, but only if the service you’re offering is very specific and something that I very much need. For the most part, though: I know it’s a lousy economy, but if you’re in need of the services of a pro domme, ante up. Anything else will probably not go over well.

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My basic informational post about safewords is here.

There are a few notions about safewords, however, that I’ve come across and would like to take a moment to dispel.

Myth #1: Safewords are only for players who don’t know each other well.

While it’s true that in part, the use of safewords is for the purpose of communication when one might not know another’s reactions well enough to judge, it’s not always the best idea to drop safewords even when you’ve been playing together for a long time. There are a number of reasons to keep safewords in place, even in a long term D/s relationship Perhaps the top wants to regularly push the bottom’s boundaries and help him or her to grow. Having a safety net can really help when you’re trying to push past limits together. If there’s no way for the bottom to say no, the risk is much higher that someone will get physically or emotionally harmed. Also remember that people change, and relationships shift. What might be okay one day might not be okay the next, and safewords are excellent shorthand for “oh hey I thought this was okay but right now it’s really not and could you just stop it and hold me?” While in longer-term relationships people are more likely to “feel” or “know” when something is wrong by reading body language, it’s by no means foolproof, and without a safeword option, a bottom – particularly a submissive – can easily go silent and feel trapped, and that’s where a lot of damage can be done. More on this below.

Myth #2: If I don’t use a safeword, I can be pushed farther.

I have had a number of people contact me requesting – nay, demanding – that I do a scene with them without a safeword. Usually these people also want some kind of intense corporal punishment – like paddling, caning, or whipping – or to be severely trampled, or to have some other scene that involves a great deal of pain-endurance. They often have a story of the mistress who did this with them and how it was all fine and dandy.

To these people I say: Good luck with that. I won’t be visiting you at the hospital.

Doing a scene with a total or even relative stranger, that could involve physical harm, without a safeword, is just. plain. stupid. What these people seem to think is that if they have a safeword, they will call it, plain and simple, and thus they won’t be able to get past their own pain limitations.

First of all: fucking weh. I’m not here to risk criminal charges so you can push your limits. But second: you’re wrong.

If you do an intense scene without a safeword, the top, if he or she gives a shit about your safety or his or her own, will hold back. You won’t get the incredible, limits-pushing ball-busting you were looking for if the top doesn’t have an idea of how to know when to stop. And you, the bottom, may also get pushed where you don’t truly want to go, and get harmed in the process.

I did a scene with someone who was insistent about not using a safeword. I told him tough nooggies, and we did it with one. Guess what? He discovered that he was too proud to use the safeword, and so he got the intensity he was looking for, while always knowing that he could stop it if he really needed to. One way to combat the desire to play without safewords is to make the safeword something really stupid-sounding, or difficult to say, which may make the bottom less likely to want to use it. But if push comes to shove and the bottom needs an out – that sub will be screaming “I want a pomegranate enema!”

Myth #3: As long as I use a safeword, I’m totally fine.

This is the caveat to what I’ve said above, and it’s a tricky one.

Safewords are useful, yes. And as I’ve said, I don’t play professionally without them, and I usually don’t play personally without them, either. But it’s worth noting that sometimes, they don’t work.

Having a safeword in place, for example, is no excuse to engage in activities that you don’t know how to do safely. It’s all well and good if the bottom can tell you that the caning you’re delivering is too harsh; it’s rather unfortunate, though, if you’ve already struck him in a major organ at top force.

It’s also worth knowing that, for some submissives, it’s possible or even common to go non-verbal during a good scene. This can also happen during a bad scene, and if the submissive can’t drag herself up out of headspace to utter her safeword, she’s likely to endure something that she never wanted to endure – and that’s where harm gets done. If you top or dominate people, be sure that you develop good people-reading skills, or if you don’t have them, know that about yourself. It’s easy, in these intense emotional and physical spaces, for a scene to go wrong and for a submissive to feel trapped like a patient under surgery whose anesthesia has left them paralyzed but awake and unable to call for help. Safewords are great tools, but they are by no means perfect: keep your eyes open and your other senses alert for when a submissive may be in trouble.

Myth #4: It is never, never okay to not honor a safeword.

I’m probably going to catch a lot of shit for this, but here goes: sometimes, for certain experienced players who know each other well, it may be okay to play with ignoring safewords.

I’ve seen this posted in play party rules before: “If you’re going to be doing a scene where the safeword will be called and ignored, please inform the Dungeon Master beforehand.” Seriously? I thought at first. Somebody would do that?

The answer to that is always, of course, that yes, somebody would. But I want to emphasize here that what I’m talking about and cautiously condoning is a planned scene that contains layers of nonconsent play: probably the top will be doing something that will strongly encourage the bottom to call the safeword, and the players are eroticizing the idea of nonconsent even further by having the safeword be ignored.

My sincere hope (and my strong recommendation) is that those engaging in such scenes would have a “real” safeword underneath the ignorable one, that either party could call in case of real trouble. But I can see the power in enacting the scenario where the bottom calls the safeword and the top just keeps going. It’s terrifying, and thrilling, in the way that all the best BDSM scenes are.

But remember: if you are playing with someone who ignores your safeword, and you haven’t previously agreed to it, that is simple abuse. Mistress Hypatia out of the UK has a great piece on this and on the topic of safewords in general.

It’s a complex thing, this kinky world. It drills right into our psyches and our hearts and our deepest fears and desires. Remember that, revel in it, and play safe.

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Seeing as my most recent advice column mentioned safewords in both answers, I figured it was time for me to do my philosophizing about safewords – mostly for future reference.

Some of you may be familiar with Jay Wiseman; his SM 101 is a great book for those starting out in BDSM, and his near-paranoia about safety in the scene is legendary. I’m a bit less paranoid, but I do have concerns about novices starting out, especially with stories like this and this.

So first things first –

A Primer

For nearly every novice who comes and sees me having fantasized and scoured the Internet for kinky porn but never experienced the real thing, there’s a novice who’s never heard of safewords. It’s always amazing to me, probably because I learned about kink from people and how-to books, not from porn and kinky novels. Not that there’s anything wrong with porn and kinky novels, but in general they don’t provide a realistic view of how BDSM works. In the real world, cruel yet alluring and fantastically wealthy women don’t abduct unsuspecting tourists, feminize them and keep them locked to the floor by a chain around their balls. Except in my own dreams, when hot leather daddies pick up girls pretending to be boys and find out they’re actually girls, they don’t let them move in with them. And in real-life scenes, most of us use safewords.

A safeword is simply a word, usually but not always assigned by the top, that either/any party in a scene can use to make the scene stop. As soon as one of you says Wienerschnitzel, for example, everyone comes out of role, any potentially hazardous bondage is rapidly undone, and we all check in and find out what went wrong and what needs to happen next.

It’s smart not to pick a word that you might say in the course of a scene: “more,” “harder,” and “ouch,” for example, are poor choices. Something as simple as the word “safeword” itself is a popular choice.

Some also like to use what’s called the “traffic light” system for more nuanced communication, particularly between new play partners. “Red” means everything stops. “Yellow” means “slow down” or “let’s check in.” Some people like to choose a word that fits for the roleplay: a spanking client of mine likes to use “red,” not as in the traffic light but as in, “Ohhhh! It’s getting too red!” This lets him stay in role while differentiating between his usual squirming and crying and when I really am spanking him too hard. This is an important point about safewords: they’re especially useful when the bottom may want to play with resistance or non-consent.

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful in other places. I, for one, always play with safewords with my professional clients, in part because they are often new to me, and I don’t know what their reactions look like. While there are many common physical signs that help me to know whether someone is enjoying a flogging (low moans/shouts, tensing followed by relaxation of the muscles, deep breathing), it can be tricky to know how far to go with someone you’ve never played with before. Psychology can also be very different for different people: one person may want a sensual flogging; another may want to be made to truly endure, and their shrieks, rapid breath, and protests are all part of the scene for them. If I didn’t give them a safeword, I very likely wouldn’t push as far.

It’s also worthwhile to know that safewords aren’t just for bottoms; tops can use them, too. Tops carry the majority of the responsibility in scene, and it’s key for them to have a means of stopping the scene as well. The causes tend to be different, though: once I called “red” on a client who was a landscaper by trade; when I had him turn his back to me to tie him up, I realized he had a tick in his back. I stopped the scene to take care of it, then continued.

It’s my official recommendation that all players use safewords; even when you get to know someone well, sometimes you can be surprised, and having that safety net in place helps maintain trust. Nonetheless, there are also some myths about safewords, and I’ll address some of them: expect Safewords 201 – Not for the Faint of Heart – tomorrow.

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So I’m planning a total rebuild of my professional website, and I’m starting the process a couple of weeks from now. I’m excited about it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I feel that my practice, as I’ve come to call it, is moving in new directions.

When I launched my site back in 2005, I was just a baby domme. I was figuring out who I was to clients, who I wanted to be to them, what image I wanted to project – and for a while, I really wasn’t sure. My process was as follows: I obtained a copy of Dreamweaver. I had a bunch of people take really amazing pictures of me. I wrote some over-the-top, forbidding-sounding copy. I put the whole thing together with some help from some fantastic friends who have greater patience and website-building knowledge than I have. And then I linked it everywhere.

At the time, I was very proud of it – after all, I’d pretty much made it myself! But now when I look at it, it seems slightly childish. While I still dig and believe in the woman in those pictures – she’s still me, or parts of me – I don’t buy the copy anymore. I wrote it, and conceived of the entire feel of the site, when I didn’t really know what kind of domme I wanted to be. I figured so long as I presented a figure of class, and put forth an image that was similar to other dommes, I’d be in business.

And I was, and am. People still love the website. But for a while I wondered why everyone was approaching me with this over-the-top Goddessing attitude. Well, duh. I’d fostered it myself.

My new site, hopefully, will attract more of the people that I like to play with, and also help me diversify the types of sessions I do. I want to educate more people, see more couples and women, help people learn how to do kinky stuff in their own bedrooms. I want more letters asking for advice! I want my site to be listed in places other than free domination directories. I want it to reflect the way I see myself in this work: as a skilled but down-to-earth domina, and as an educator and healer.

I’ll write more about this as things develop, of course. But keep an eye out for my new site in the next few months.

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