Master/slave Conference (MsC)

Wow, what an excellent event!

We arrived on Thursday, settled in, and then enjoyed the Meet-n-Greet and karaoke.

Friday was an wide array of Service oriented classes, followed by the official opening ceremony Friday night.

Saturday and Sunday were jammed full of classes, primarily around Master/slave relationships, with no play parties or skill-based workshops (like spanking).  The feeling was very much like Power Exchange Summit (PXS) but with more Leather, and more specific focus on Master/slave relationships specifically and not Power Exchange in general.

One of the highlights for me was the presence of the Science of BDSM team.  They did a couple of wonderful presentations on their recent research, collected some surveys from volunteers, and even let us participate in a cool experiment.  (But I can’t tell you about it, because SCIENCE!)

The other amazing experience was, obviously, getting to be on a panel with Raven Kaldera, Joshua Tenpenny, Sir Stephen, and Catherine.  We spoke on the topic of “M/s but not Leather.”  It was an interesting challenge, because anything we said related to not being Leather could potentially be interpreted as critical of Leather by someone looking for a conflict, or anyone unfamiliar with our character.  We worked hard to continuously reinforce/restate our respect for Leather culture.

katie and I offered this:

Let us be super clear: We admire and respect Leather. We had almost zero exposure to Leather until the last 2 years. We thought it would be pretty damn presumptuous to arrive in a Leather culture and say “Hey, guess what?!?! We’re one of you!”

So we felt we were being respectful of the culture. We thought we were choosing to not appropriate a culture where we had no blood or sweat invested.

The feedback we have heard from some folks, is that by saying “We are not Leather” we are in some way rejecting Leather culture. That we are slapping away a Leather hand.  And that has never been our intent.

When asked how to we integrate with the Leather culture while still not “joining” it, we answered:

katie and I are aware that Leather is a tight-knit family. We are aware that there are cultural expectations and norms that we only barely perceive. We work really hard not to break protocols that we don’t understand. As “outsiders” we are at least culturally aware and cautious explorers.

For that reason, we do our best to notice new folks at the events we attend. People that might be Kinksters, or 50-shaders, that bought tickets and are a bit overwhelmed. We love approaching those people and helping them find a path that allows them to be Authentic, but still share in the rich culture and community that Leather has created.

Our conclusion:

We want to be authentic to our own Power Exchange, while embracing and validating all the other cultures and enactments of Power Exchange that are not our own.

We want to respect and honor those that have built the amazing community from which we benefit. We want to serve and participate in that community to share in its growth and stewardship.

We want to be included, and to include others. We want to teach and be taught. We appreciate the opportunity to be here, and to share in this experience with you today.

Great Lakes Power Exchange (GLPE)

Great Lakes Power Exchange

Why have we been so busy lately?  Part of it is family and life and business… the priorities that must co-exist and harmonize with Power Exchange and service to the community.  Those things have required a lot of attention recently.  And those who cannot find balance, who cannot flex and adapt, who cannot make priorities a priority – they are sure to fail eventually.  <Ooops.  Insert personal philosophy statement and get distracted from intended update… right about here.>

Anyhow, super busy and mostly none of your business.  However, some interesting developments in the GLPE contest are relevant and are your business:

  1.  They shifted the contest forward two month, to move the event to a new venue and coordinate it with another event.  That means that our title year would be a total of 10 months.
  2. The shift also shortened the timeframe for accepting (finding/supporting/arm-twisting) applicants for the 2017 title year.  Which meant that as the time of the contest approached they were missing an important component: contestants.

Obviously, 1+2=12.  We had a short title year, and they preferred not to let the title sit empty, so they asked us to continue holding the title for 2017.  We are very excited and honored to be asked to continue.  It feels nice to know we did enough with the 10 months we were given that they felt comfortable entrusting us with another year of service to the region.

The GLPE contest is now in August.  Because the Producers had already done all the work to arrange a venue and gather judges, they asked us to perform our Presentation (10 minute), Fantasy (6 minute) and Interview (20 minute) for a mock-judging.  That would give us the opportunity to have some feedback, and give others that might consider a title run the opportunity to see a contest.

The result?  We had a little over one month to prepare for the mock-judging.  Had first-time contestants applied, we would simply have stepped aside.  It was odd – we had to be 100% prepared, but didn’t know, for certain, that we would be called on to carry the title until just a few days before the event, when the application deadline passed.

So we did our mock-competition this last weekend (August 27).  We have already received a lot of feedback, from the judges, the audience, and the Producers.  The majority of the feedback is that there is very little to improve – and that we will be great representatives at the International Power Exchange competition, at Beyond Leather, in 2017.

Yup.  We are going back.

August 2016 Update

We’ve been crushingly busy the last few months.  I feel like I’ve barely been at my keyboard since International.  Obviously that isn’t entirely true, and this blog needs some updates:

International

We didn’t bring home the title.  I’m not really able to say we “lost” as we made new friends, and got invitations to teach at some distant events, and that was part of our goal for attempting a title run in the first place.  We were obviously disappointed, since we felt like we had a lot to offer the title, but the title is in good hands with another couple.

UnMunch

It is coming up on two years since we began stewardship of the local kinkster group.  While we have managed to have a gathering every month (and often more than one), I’d like to do more connecting, supporting, and educating for the local community.  I’ve not yet figured out how I want to do that, or what it will look like.  Perhaps simply starting with refreshing some connections to other locals?  That is a project for Fall, however.  Our current crush of activity doesn’t leave a lot of space for expanding our activity.

Presenting

We’ve presented 5 times since April, not including the presenting we did at Beyond Leather.  On the immediate horizon is Master/slave Conference (MsC) and Great Lakes Leadership Alliance (GLLA).  That will be our first time attending both events, and we get to go as presenters.

At MsC, we get to have a unique experience!  We will be on a panel with Raven Kaldera, Joshua Tenpenny, Sir Stephen, and slave Catherine.  We will be discussing the enactment of Power Exchange outside of a Leather framework.  In essence, “How can you call yourself Master/slave but not Leather?”

Great Lakes Power Exchange

Our title year has come to a close.  But wait… there’s more.

Garden Variety Power Exchange

Power Exchange happens every day, in all the things we do.  It is so easy to get distracted, or complacent regarding all the ways that PE is part of our 24/7 existence.

It isn’t about her prancing around in slave bells and grovelling at my feet all day.  It is super hard to get shit done that way.

We were out gardening yesterday.  I know, I know!  When you picture the interactions of regional Power Exchange title holders, you probably don’t imagine two sweaty folks looking at each other over top of a rose bush gone to hell, saying “Do you have the pruners?  I was pretty sure you had them last.”  She didn’t have in a ballgag or buttplug.  I wasn’t carrying a bullwhip.

I stopped and noticed a particular PE moment, since I’m trying to cultivate a fresh awareness of all the subtle PE things we now do naturally.  We feel like we are just doing our lives, and others see us as embodying Power Exchange…so we need to pay more attention to our process, so we can share it clearly and openly.

katie is the gardening expert.  I have to consult with her about what to do and how to do things.  I end up asking her “Is this how you would like that trimmed?” or “Would you like me to tie up those Gladiolus?”  To an outsider I am her assistant.  She is in charge of the garden, and I follow.

But from inside our relationship, there is a subtle difference.  I am in charge, and we both know it.  I could ask her to rip out all the plants and plant a thousand Lantana (because I like it) and she would do so.  I could go inside and watch Netflix, and she would continue to serve me by making the garden beautiful.

There was a moment when I was asking katie about what job needed done next, or some other fiddly detail, and she said to me “Tell me what you are trying to accomplish, and I’ll help make that happen.”  That, right there, is the essence of our Power Exchange.  Even when she has superior expertise, it is applied in service.

 

Gearing Up and Gone

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks slowly building up steam toward today.  We’ve been gathering bits and pieces that have to go to Beyond Leather and the International Power Exchange competition with us – silent auction baskets, hiking poles, granola bars…

Today we do the final preparations.  Suits go into suit bags.  Things get checked off the Go List.

Tomorrow we hit the road.  We’ve planned a leisurely drive south, with a nice hike built into the travel each day.  We’ll be down in Ft Lauderdale in about 6 days, hopefully well rested and invigorated from the trip.

People keep asking if we are nervous, or if we are ready.  Our answer is easy:  We plan to be us and do what we always do.  We will teach just like we always teach.  We will live our Power Exchange just like every other day.  It is hard to get too nervous about being who we have been for 14 years.  Our goal isn’t to impress the judges, our goal is to try to make sure the judges get a realistic and honest look at who we are.

What is the worst that is going to happen?  We don’t win International, so we come home… and garden and fuck and hike and host gatherings and teach at events.  Sounds like a “win” either way, really.

That said, the reasons we chose to pursue this title still exist:

  • We want to be able to represent our style of Power Exchange and bring it to a larger audience, beyond our local region.
  • We want to support others in Power Exchange relationships.
  • We want to help  educate non-kinky folks about Power Exchange.

So even though we don’t have a lot of ego or self-esteem tied up in winning at IPE, we plan to be amazing.  I’mma wear my favorite tie… so you other competitors better watch out.  <grins>

Aspiration or Commitment?

katie and I sponsor a 21 Day Challenge forum, and encourage ourselves and others to find one (or more) things to attempt to accomplish for 21 days in a row.

I was doing some reading that got me percolating a bit. I realized that I treat the 21 day challenges as a set of… aspirations? These are things I value and want to have as part of my life.

But I don’t treat them as commitments! I don’t treat them as if I have promised to do them. I don’t treat them as if I would get a million dollars if I was successful. I don’t treat them as if katie would be disappointed if I fail.

I just list a few things that sound like a good idea, and I poke away at them and make some improvements in my life. And I don’t know if that is actually OK. By placing them in the 21 Day challenge, am I making a promise to do them?

I think if I was listing what I was prepared to guarantee would be done each day, I would make a different list. I would shorten the time-frames perhaps. Right now I have set myself up for 3 hours of daily effort. That’s a bunch.  My current list looks like this:

2/21 Post in “21 Days”, every day

1/21 Read inspirational book (30+ minutes)
1/21 Write (website, presentation, or book) (1 hour)
1/21 Exercise – cardio/resistance (1 hour)

0/21 Water (3 x 750ml)
0/21 Yoga/Tai Chi (30 minutes)
0/21 zero sugar / easy carbs

So now I’m pondering how best I want to use the 21 day challenges, and the actual intent of the challenges. Aspiration or commitment?

Power Exchange and Competence

Some crafty meme-maker took a photo of a woman in a challenging yoga pose and wrote the inspirational:

It doesn’t get easier, you just get better.

Then some fresh meme-maker took that and did some line-through and insertion (oh baby) to make it read:

It does get easier, and you also get better.

I can’t decide which one is actually more inspirational. Or more accurate.

For instance, doing a handstand is hard. I can practice that and get stronger and at some point it would presumably be easier for me. I’ve gotten better. The handstand is still a challenging move – it isn’t like all handstands the world over suddenly got easier.

But the reverse is also true. Handstands are now simple, for me.

So which inspires me more? The message “Keep going, it won’t always be this difficult” or the message “You will become strong enough to even do this hard thing.”

It made me think about the thing I value, and around which I seek competence: power exchange.


I sort of think that people see katie and I do power exchange, and have thoughts similar to watching the yoga expert: “Wow, that is so smooth and easy for them.”

But 12 years ago, it was not simple to be in a power exchange for us. We didn’t know how to do it well. We didn’t have the strength to hold to the dynamic naturally.

So… did power exchange get easier, or not? In either meme above the “get better” is constant, so that isn’t really in question.

I’m inclined to say that relationships are hard. In order to be excellent they require all the buzz-words: communication, focus, patience, etc. And being in a power exchange doesn’t make that less true. With power exchange there is an even sharper focus on trust, discretion, fidelity, responsibility. Power exchange relationships are tough.

Do katie and I suddenly NOT have those same issues? Like with yoga or handstands – do joints suddenly hinge differently? Does gravity no longer apply?

Absolutely not! We still have to be extremely attentive and careful about how we do our relationship. It is still a carefully crafted merger between two souls. Things could still devolve into a relationship meltdown if either of us got stupid or lazy.

But… isn’t it easier, even if it isn’t *easier*? Fuck yes it is. We do all those hard things naturally now. We do those effortful things in a way that seems (and feels) somewhat effortless.

Which message is more inspirational to those we teach?

Power Exchange will not always be this hard. You will get better and stronger, and it will be an easy and natural experience. You won’t have to struggle to find and keep your role. You won’t lay awake at night wondering if you are doing it right.

OR

Power Exchange relationships are extremely hard. Leading and following. Trusting and being trustworthy. Pushing for growth while protecting and providing safety. These things will always be hard, and you must be ever mindful or you will lose that which you value. But you will gain the skills and the strength to do it well, and it will become so much part of who you are that you can’t imagine life without it.

Both are true. Maybe like this:

It will get easy, but it will never be easy.

More IPE Prep

We’ve made progress on preparing for the International Power Exchange competition at Beyond Leather 9 in Ft. Lauderdale.  Some recent stuff:

  • We reviewed our 10 minute presentation.  We still like it.  We think it does a good job of explaining our Power Exchange relationship.  The fact that we are not going to seriously tweak it means that we have less work to do to be ready to present it again.  Just a bit of shine and recollection, rather than starting from scratch.
  • We spoke to a few of the amazing craftsmen in the local community and got a commitment of some extraordinary goods for our silent auction basket.  I am really excited to be offering their wares.
  • katie decided to do a piece of original art to add to the auction basket.  She often does pen and ink, so that it can be reproduced as a limited edition print.  Not this time!  Paint on hardwood, so it is a one-of-a-kind that will never be reproduced. (13×17)

We ended up with a bit of a dilemma regarding our Fantasy Scene.  The IPE producers shortened the time from 10 minutes maximum down to 8 minutes maximum.   However, they will allow those in the contest this year to grandfather in a 10 minute Fantasy if they wish, since the rule change may have caught people unaware.

We  wrestled with this, since our Fantasy was 10 minutes for our Great Lakes regional competition.  We felt that we got excellent feedback from the judges, and it did a good job showing our dynamic.  But, a lot of knowledgeable people suggested that we find some way to trim it.  At this point I have done a quick-and-dirty amateur edit of the music (down to 8 minutes) so that we can try out a shorter version.  If we like it, we will turn it over to our friend who does audio work as a professional.  His work on our 10 minute piece was amazing.

Kinky or Not?

I’m trying to figure out how to write the webpage that explains where katie and I sit in the spectrum from Kinky to Vanilla.  There are several relevant factors that I need to address.

To start with, we are clearly not pure vanilla.  We attend fetish events.  We have a Power Exchange relationship.  We’ve had non-monogamous sex with people.  We invite all kinds of perverts to have dinner at our home.  A few (hundred) people have even seen katie’s breasts.

But we aren’t “Scary Kinky” either.  We wander around kink events and look sort of like the vanilla couple that made a wrong turn on the way to the opera.  We don’t enjoy flaunting our kink, or playing “shock the vanillas.”  We are discreet, and casual.  Stealth kinksters, if you will.

Do we sometimes use intense sensation as part of erotic experiences?  Yes.  But neither of us is very sadistic or masochistic at all.  Am I technically competent in various forms of intense sensation?  Not professional, but not inept.  I could probably teach some BDSM 101 skills classes if I had any interest.

This “defining where we sit” only matters just a little.  We expect to have more and more opportunities to present to vanilla audiences, and we don’t want to be unclear about what they can expect.  When a university dean or producer for a vanilla event considers booking us, they need to know what our authentic life looks like, and whether that will suit their audience.  They almost certainly don’t want to have us speak if the entire audience would find us offensive.

We believe we are a nice bridge between the worlds of vanilla and kink.  We think we have useful things to say to individuals living anywhere in that spectrum.  And I need to find the right ways to say all those things.

The request to blog

We were teaching a class recently at Beat My Valentine, and one of the folks in the audience asked if we were keeping a blog.  I said that we had one available, but that I was somewhat reluctant to make use of it, as I want to carefully safeguard all my best ideas to put them in books.

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that request had some wisdom in it.  Doing (somewhat) regular blogging will allow me to process some of the interesting events and incidents in our lives.  Over time, these writings will help me recognize patterns and solidify my thoughts about the things I encounter.

Did I see a cool Power Exchange couple at an event?  Did I hear their story and want to further dissect some kernel of fascinating deliciousness I stumbled upon?  Did katie and I have a valuable conversation while making soup?  All those things can go here and won’t compromise my book plans.  In theory, those things should continue to take root and grow into more book chapters!

Related to that – I think I’ll provide access to katie and get her to blog too.  She is zany and wise.  It is an unsettling combination, but most folks seem to enjoy it.