Long before we grew up to become the wonderful kinky adults we are now, we had our first run-ins with Someone Telling Us What To Do. There were parents, grandparents, babysitters, and teachers. As we grew older we added coaches, politicians, and bosses. All these people have something in common – to some degree, they have authority over us, govern us. Sometimes, we become the person who governs others. This can happen a lot when we emerge into our kinky power-exchanging lifestyle, and start organizing events, or forming relationships where your partner really wants you to tell them what to do.
This can be exhilarating, and often is terrifying. How do you know what sort of dominant, or leader, or master you should be? What kinds are there? Lao-tzu knows.
When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.
If you don’t trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.
The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, “Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”
We’ve all experienced the “despised” leader or master that Lao-tzu is talking about here. I remember a particular middle school teacher of mine who almost never recognized good work or achievement, and who was very quick to single students out for overblown slights to her authority. She was universally loathed by the entire class. Many of us had trouble with the particular subject she taught that year, including me. I worked hard with a tutor to learn the material on my own, and at the end of the year, got a very good grade on the final without any help from her. In fact, when the head of the department compared the way she scored my exam to the way my teacher did, the teacher wound up losing her job. She had lost sight of the truth about being in a position of authority over someone else – it’s a complimentary relationship, not one of opposition. Much like yin completes yang, as opposed to being its opposite.
Even a fair master is ineffective, if they are cruel to the point of inciting fear. I used to spend a fair amount of time with a male dominant/female submissive couple, many years ago, who were experimenting with introducing age play into their relationship. “Daddy X” was used to relationships which were informed by harshness and cruelty. He used to give her savage spankings, on her bottom and her vagina, to the point that I couldn’t bear to watch them. She said it was what she wanted, but I wasn’t so sure. One particular punishment he developed was to put icy hot on her clit, for failing to follow rules he’d set for her. She most definitely didn’t like that, in even the “like not liking it” way that I myself have “enjoyed” being punished, myself. I have trouble even to this day with the memory of her agonized screams when he did that to her.
But, whenever she and I were together, and he wasn’t around us, she would go out of her way to contravene rules he’d set for her. We’d stay up late, eat poorly, and she would sit on the furniture, something he’d expressly forbidden her to do. If I pointed her rule breaking out to her, she’d roll her eyes at me, and say, “He’s not here, and it’s not like anyone is going to snitch on me, right?” I nodded, complicit aiding and abetting her poor behavior, against rules I found arbitrary, and punishments I found over-the-top cruel.
Over the years, as I moved from being a submissive to a switch, and became dominant over submissives of my own, I was determined to not be the sort of dominant who was overly feared or cruel. As a Big to my littles, I’m often gentle, nurturing, caring, and even silly, while still being firm.
Being loving to them is often quite fulfilling, but it’s also not a panacea for resolving all conflict, or meeting our mutual needs.
My little girl, Rachel, has a fairly deep need for discipline and accountability, as well as a fairly heavy service fetish. These two things are often somewhat at odds with one another within the confines of the age play relationship we have. One big rule we have at my house is that none of the littles are allowed to diaper or change themselves, unless specifically given permission by me or my wife. But because Rachel has this enormous drive for service, is unfailingly generous, and is always looking to make our lives easier, she went through a big phase of changing herself whenever she thought it would be more convenient for us. I spanked her for it, many times.
She still kept doing it, for a while, but then something happened which changed everything. I sat down with her and had a discussion outside our established roles. I told her about how changing her diaper meant a lot to me, not just because I enjoy doing it, but because it fulfills a deep need of my own, to be responsible for her. Her fetish might be peeing in her diaper, but as her big, mine is taking caring of her when she’s done it.
We went beyond the love we have for one another, into a place of deeper connection, through trust. I began by trusting her with some of my most vulnerable, innermost feelings about why I want to be in a d/s and age play relationship with her in the first place. Then I trusted that she’d value those feelings, and heed them. We trusted one another, to do what was mutually beneficial for one another.
In doing so, we acted much like the Tao itself. The Tao isn’t a conscious entity. It’s a unifying principle of the universe, the movement of all things, as one. It cannot be despised, nor feared, nor ignored, nor even loved. It does not speak to us. What it does do is act, and chief among those actions, is that it trusts. It is our trusting master, in all things.
And it is us. Every thing in the universe, acting in concert is the Tao. The Tao does nothing, yet leaves nothing undone. This is why the sun comes up, gravity works, living things are born, and die, each day. Change happens, too, at just the right pace it needs to. When I look back upon my own changes from submissive to switch, and the maturing relationships I have as a dominant, I can see the Tao’s subtle, trusting hand. I have been shaped by each experience I have had, and in my relationships with others, we have shaped one another.
These days the relationship I have with Rachel has matured, deepened, and become more authentic. As our mutual trust has grown, so has the fulfilling way we interact. I won’t say I never have to spank her for taking her diaper off herself anymore, but those times are few and far between. Rachel, once solidly an age player and nothing else, has gone into the dungeon at play events, and found she really enjoys a nice flogging. We often talk about experimenting with new styles and kinds of play, too.
Recently, one weekend she was staying over, she came and stood obediently by the side of my bed as I was waking up, waiting patiently and quietly for me to take off her diaper, so we could get our day started. I marveled at her wonderful obedience, and then quietly laughed to myself as I realized we were both being obedient to our trusting master, the Tao.