The Charm City Fetish Fair is my super-local kinky con, being held in Baltimore itself instead of DC or northern Maryland. It is entirely slave-run, which is unusual for these things; dominants and switches volunteer in various ways but do not hold positions of authority in the actual running of the thing. The brilliant orja and her hardworking associates put on a great, small con that brings together a decent mix of speakers, attendees, activities, vending, and play. This weekend was its fourth year, and I had also attended its first and second years.
I attempted to go to the mixer on Friday night, but had a bout of social anxiety and ended up hiding in the bathroom for most of it. It was frustrating because I had put together an outfit that I loved but made me unrecognizable to the few people that I knew so no one approached me, and I didn’t know any of those people well enough to feel comfortable approaching them. CCFF came out of the Baltimore Education and Social Society, one of Baltimore’s kinky discussion and learning groups, and I had not been especially involved with BESS in a few years. I know some of the members remember me, and others would probably remember if I showed up with Rainbowzia. Reminding them myself was beyond my social capacity that evening.
After it ended and I went back to my car, I just sat there crying for awhile. My friend Syr Kris passed away in August two years ago, and the last time I came to CCFF she gave me her vest to wear for the evening. I miss her.
I went home and went to bed. The Captain called at 2:45 AM so he could crash after the party he had been tapped to manage, so I stumbled blearily down the stairs to let him in. Then up at 7 AM. On a Saturday. (What was I thinking?) I decided to remix my “glam queer schoolboy” outfit that I sported at Momentumcon last month: burnt orange sweater over pinstriped white dress shirt with rainbow tie and Tie Clip of Rassilon, brown corduroy short pants, short black boots, and harvest rainbow thigh high socks.
First session of the day, “Designing Practical Protocols” with Master Griffin and slave ann, the Northeast Master/slave couple for 2011. They had outline handouts on the chairs so I snagged one in a bright orange folder—I’m predictable like that. My main takeaway from the class was that effective protocols mean something to the people using them. An arbitrary protocol is much less likely to be remembered or enforced than one that serves the needs of the relationship. Sometimes that need might simply be creating a submissive or dominant headspace, reminding each person of their role when the outside world intrudes. They mentioned the importance of writing your protocols down so you can remember them, but not letting that keep you from remaining flexible and changing things if they aren’t working. Context can also be important; one’s standard protocols might be modulated to be more subtle or more intense based on environment and desire.
They also talked about not dominants not wasting their resources, in particular their submissive’s brain. Most M/s relationships may not be a democracy, but the dominant can request the submissive’s input and take advantage of their skills. Humiliation play notwithstanding, healthy people don’t enter into relationships where they think one or more people involved are worthless. The dominant should also take into account the submissive’s needs, because you shouldn’t break a toy you expect to continue playing with. Just because a submissive has given a dominant power to push their boundaries, doesn’t mean the dominant should do so without carefully considering the consequences, which might be anything from an unhappy submissive to friction with other people in the household to loss of the relationship to jail time on the negative side, or from a deeper bond to a strengthened relationship to more confidence on the positive side.
After sitting in this class, I understand the purpose of protocols better. I had heard of things like “high protocol dinner” and not really understood what the point was, but the appeal makes more sense to me now. I also have a clearer idea of how protocols might function in a relationship, whether it involves power exchange or not. One comment that stood out to me was that some people have protocols for themselves, either in preparation for having an M/s or D/s relationship in the future, or just for their own well-being and discipline. I’m still not sure if M/s or D/s are for me, but I might want to explore setting up some protocols for myself as a way of strengthening my relationship with me.
- “I think most doms have frozen knee syndrome.”
- “The bathroom thing isn’t so much about him controlling my bladder, because at my age no one controls my bladder.”
- “Submissives can be very powerful scary people when they’re not happy.”
- “Sometimes I come home with groceries and I will say to him with my arms full, ‘I’m kneeling, Sir!'”
- “Are you allowed to say no?” “…only if it pleases you, Sir.”
The second session I attended was called “So You Have a Sub…Now What?” I was delighted to discover that the presenter was a submissive, Divetta. She started out with the differences among the perceptions, expectations, fantasies, and reality of D/s lifestyles, and how feelings of frustration, anger, overwhelm, and pressure are normal when confronted with those differences. As an illustration of the effects of perception, she asked the audience what our initial impressions of her were, with her enthusiastic manner and light grey business suit; she received answers like “professional,” “passionate,” “attractive,” “dominant.” She then began to remove her clothing, and the impressions called out began to change as she revealed a black leather corset over black leggings and finally asked her dominant to put on her collar: “brave,” “kinky,” “like you belong here,” “submissive.”
Divetta emphasized the “why” much like Griffin and ann had. What appeals to you about the rules, or having rules at all? What are your expectations, and your partner’s? What do you want to get out of being dominant? What do you want to communicate with your name? She also spoke about exploring your personas, so you can play with them instead of them controlling you. What is your style as a dominant? She proposed three roles a dominant might occupy, the Villain (“you’re a bad boy”), the Hero (“I’ll take care of you”), and the Victim (“why do I have to do all the work?”); a dominant might thrive in Villain or Hero but without an understanding of their motivation and capacity will eventually burn out into Victim. On the other side of that, much like some people prefer submission because they’re in charge all the time in the other parts of their lives, some people enjoy dominance because they feel powerless elsewhere.
Again, not having a submissive myself or knowing if I want one, I still have a lot to think about after this session. There was a worksheet with some exploratory questions relating to persona, role, communication, and expectations which I may use in stone skipping. I think Robin Hood would be one of my ideal dominant personae (social justice ethic, pack loyalty and support, mutual service, fealty, non-icky chivalry), but I’m afraid to tap into that side of myself because I don’t want to end up as Prince John or the Sheriff instead. Other people might be totally fine going to that place, but I still have a lot of things to work through before I can be comfortable risking it. It’s possible that because I strictly avoid the negotiable, consensual monster, those impulses still come out but in unhealthy ways, which only makes me hold on to them tighter, continuing the cycle.
- “I just gave you Communication 101 in like fifteen minutes. Good luck with that!”
- “If you’re inconsistent all the time, you can never do a mindfuck.”
- “Boy, the more [rules] you have, the harder it is to enforce, and that’s your job.”
- “I outsmarted my parents for god’s sake. I don’t want that to happen again. I don’t want to relive my childhood!”
For lunch I walked a few blocks to Carma’s, a cafe I adore for its Icelandic style yogurt and veggie meatball sub. That day, however, they had a special of a Belgian waffle with lemon curd and whipped cream, so of course I had to have that instead of my usual. I have been experimenting with externalizing my menu indecision by asking servers for a recommendation between the two things I can narrow my choice down to, and it has been going quite well. It also helps me practice making connections by showing vulnerability in low-risk situations. I suggested Carma’s to a few attendees that complimented me on my socks before I left the hotel, and I was happy to hear afterwards that they had a delicious experience too.