For the third session, I chose one called “Beyond Deep Subspace: The Spiritual Connection” given by Master Steve and slave tami, the 2009 Northeast Master/slave couple. For the first part, tami sat quietly while Steve discussed the state known as subspace, which depending on the person can involve euphoria, a sense of floating or flying, a separation of mind from body or self from environment, or complete unconsciousness. Some things that can affect being able to reach subspace are distractions in the environment, physical comfort, each partner’s emotional state, and their trust in each other. Many people reach subspace through the application of rhythmic and repetitive pain that triggers the release of endorphins, and a top can control the bottom’s journey by varying the pace or sensation.
Steve then explained that his slave could reach a state of complete unconsciousness when she entered subspace, and he and tami demonstrated it. It was one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen. Within ten minutes of Steve starting to apply pain, I watched as tami went from labored breathing and a tense body to calm breathing and completely relaxed. She had no reaction to ice dumped on her stomach, not even a twitch or small tensing of muscle that bespeaks rigid control instead of otherwhereness. Steve switched from pain to soothing touches and tami started to come out of it, her legs tensing and her hand going to the now-melted ice, and she went right back under when Steve switched back to pain. When he let her up completely some minutes later, she spoke about hearing and feeling nothing when she was in that state. I asked if she had a sense of timelessness, and she said that sometimes it felt like no time at all had passed and sometimes it felt like hours.
I’m still not really sure what my reaction to this session is. I’ve heard people talk about subspace but I’ve never consciously observed it nor felt it myself, and this was not what I pictured when I imagined it. I have no idea if this is a common type of subspace, or something that comes out of Steve and tami’s particular circumstances and length of relationship. It was cool to watch, but I’m not certain what I learned from it beyond “this is a thing that it is possible for humans to do.” Which can still be a good thing to know. I also seem to have missed discussion of a spiritual component of subspace in general, or how this experience might be spiritual to Steve and tami.
- “When [she] and I first met, one of her hard limits was nipple torture. That didn’t last too long.”
- “I never leave her there for longer than twenty or thirty minutes because my hands get tired.”
The next session was “Misconceptions about M/s” with Master Taino. I was excited for this session because I enjoyed his class on leather families at CCFF’s second year. He distributed a handout with many misconceptions listed and anonymous quotes reacting to and exploring those misconceptions, but decided to open it up for discussion and questions rather than following the handout explicitly, which was great. There were comments about Total Power Exchange-style relationships, whether masters had to be assholes, how much power slaves really have, the importance of drawing attention to M/s being used as a pretext for abuse, and what differences there are between the leather community and the M/s community.
One person asked about the necessity of M/s relationships being sexual. Master Taino drew a triangle on the easel and labeled the corners Sex, BDSM, and Responsibility/Surrender, saying that the third of these was the only one required for an M/s relationship. An M/s relationship might have either, both, or neither of sex and BDSM, but the core of M/s is the master’s calling to take responsibility for the growth of another person, and the slave’s calling to surrender in service and obedience. A relationship with sex and BDSM but without the responsibility/surrender is just a kinky couple.
I asked about titles: who uses them, what their purpose is, how you get one, do you start as a slave until somebody graduates you to master. Master Taino explained that it used to be that you could only get in at the bottom because the community was underground, and you had to know someone who knew someone who knew someone to even get in the door. Now the Internet can tell you that you’re not alone in your M/s inclinations, which is a wonderful thing, and it also makes it easy to think you know more than you do. The titles can be a mark of community recognition of your skills, involvement, and merit. It can also be a way to vouch for each other when people are outside their home turf. It’s usually pretty obvious when someone is just taking a title or showing up to meetings to get laid or status because they tend to fade out when it isn’t given to them right away. Your partner might call you Master or slave but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone else will without the presence in the community.
At the end I asked whether someone could be a slave and a master at the same time, and everyone laughed because it was a big question for the “five minutes left” call. Master Taino said he thought it would be difficult for one person to be both slave and master to the same person, but it was not uncommon for a person serving a master to have a slave of their own. They might occupy an intermediate position in the hierarchy of a household, or they want to be a master on their own eventually but are currently serving as a slave, or they might be a slave who is assigned stewardship of another slave by their master.
A couple came up to me afterward to talk to me more about my questions. slave april said she sees M/s as a calling that is distinct from D/s or top/bottom, that one is either called to be a master or called to be a slave, but not both; that there is no category analogous to switch within M/s. This seems to be a common opinion, and M/s identities are seen as less flexible or more binary than some of the other identities within BDSM. Her Sir Tom told a story of his first MAsT meeting at april’s invitation, where everyone else had a title so he thought he needed one too and introduced himself as Sir Tom; it has been two years since that meeting and a few of those people are starting to actually call him Sir Tom, instead of just Tom or “that guy april’s dating.”
M/s is a dynamic that fascinates me, as might be surmised by my choosing All The M/s Things for sessions this year. I’m not sure how to determine whether it’s my thing or not, or what side of the slash I might be on as someone who otherwise identifies as a switch. I’m not even sure if formalized D/s is my thing, and M/s is way intense. I might check out MAsT Baltimore and investigate further, so I can ask people questions face-to-face. Nerve-wracking, but hopefully useful, and good practice.
- “Males are doms, females are subs? Nooooo, I think I last heard that in the Bible or something.”
- “Watch people, listen to them. You’ll know within five minutes if Goddess Mary Hotpants is Goddess Mary Hotpants or Master Mary.”
I ended up in my last session of the day almost by accident. I was thinking about going to the spanking workshop, but my conversation with Tom and april lasted through the session break so I ended up staying in the same room because I didn’t want to be rude and leave right when the next session was starting. And boy, I was glad I stayed. That session was a Q&A with Mama Vi, Viola Johnson of the Carter/Johnson Leather Library, a portion of which was on display at the event. I had never heard of the library or its caretakers before that, but it is an amazing collection of the history of “what it is that we do.” Mama Vi was a powerful, understated speaker. She told some of her personal history with kink and its communities going back to her entry into that world in the 1970s, then opened up for questions and discussion. My notebook is just a wall of quotes.
- “Oh my god, I am going to hell in a pair of gasoline silk drawers.”
- “And he saw us in the doorway and said, ‘Come in, little sisters. You’re home.'”
- “The same rope works whether you’re gay or you’re straight, and the blindfold and the whip have no gender.”
- “We discovered that we could love together without having to sleep together.”
- “We forget that to be a disciple simply means to witness. Jill and I were disciples of so many amazing things unfolding.”
- “There are books in the Library that go back to the 1700s. The only reason they don’t go back to the 1600s is because I can’t afford them.”
- “My story is boring, because I lived it. I watched things. I assisted thing, I bore witness. I didn’t do anything. Boring.”
- “All of you have said something to someone that affected their life. But you don’t think about that, because it’s just your story.”
- “As we share stories, we strengthen the path ahead for other people to live and share their stories.”
- “History is shared experience.”
- “Parents, if they do their job right, become grandparents, and it’s a very different role.”
- “I want the information the Internet can provide to come back together with the hand on the shoulder that only a mentor can provide.”
- “The child needs information from a parent, not just the information.”
- “Information alone can’t give you a reason to aspire.”
- “I do not walk on water, I pass it, and usually with some frequency.”
- “They did that, so I can do this. I do this, so you can go on to do something I can’t even imagine.”
- “Bottom line, this is enlightened self-interest. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s altruism. If I fail to teach you what you need to know, I’ve failed you, and I’ve failed everyone who came before me. Because if you fail your future, you betray your past.”
- “The joy of your generation, your leather generation, is that you’re not afraid of your sexuality.”
- “The vision isn’t mine anymore, and that’s fabulous. Jill and I are only the owners by technicality. We’re its custodians.”
- “If it is not an ever-changing thing, it’s an antique. And antiques look nice on the shelf, but they are not a living creature.”
- “My job is to see to it that you see it. How? That’s a future I can’t even begin to guess.”
- “When I am dead and gone and come back again, I think it will still be there.”
- “Rameses II would give out hand-carved copies of his phallus to favored courtiers.” “National Geographic doesn’t tell you that.” “What, you missed that bit of Egyptian history in school?”
- “It’s amazing what you can find at garage sales. And Grandpa and Grandma weren’t as innocent as you think.”
- “It’s hard to think that your parents had pig sex to have you.”
That wrapped up the educational portion of CCFF. I’m amused that on the whole I chose sessions that were most similar to something I could expect to see at KinkForAll. I stuck around about an hour longer to hear the results of the charity auction. There were some really cool items like a dragon necklace that was also a knife, a stay at the lifestyle B&B in Pennsylvania, hour-long play sessions with some skilled luminaries, a BDSM pride apron, a flogger with a billiard ball on the handle, and a few framed photographs. Sadly, I didn’t win anything. Then I waited for the Captain to finish up his bootblack business as he was my ride. I was rapidly losing focus and fortitude by that point, tapping and rocking much more than usual in a desperate attempt to keep it together until I could get home. A small part of me wondered if anyone noticed and the rest of me was too frazzled to care. Finally home, I began to decompress and prep for the evening party.