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With thanks to david stein for permission to use this essay.  david's thoughts on D/s relationships and culture never fail to interest me so I was delighted to find that he had written the following.  AJ.

 

Portions of the following essay appeared in slightly different form as the guest editorís introduction to Issue 14 of International Leatherman magazine, August/September 1997, which was devoted in its entirety to real-world gay Master/slave relationships. Copyright 1997 by david stein; all rights reserved.

Getting Over Mr. Benson



Remember Mr. Benson? John Preston's popular Drummer serial from 1980-82 established a paradigm for Master/slave relationships that we're still bewitched by today -- just look at the personal ads in gay erotic magazines, or online. Many guys who want to be slaves are still looking for Mr. Benson, and many who fancy themselves Masters are still looking for slaves like his Jamie. So what's wrong with that?
    What's wrong is that Mr. Benson doesn't exist, and pinning your hopes on finding a real-life equivalent is self-defeating. And while guys like Jamie exist in abundance, by and large they're not likely to succeed as slaves in the real world. i've met or spoken with a large number of Masters and slaves, and none of them much resembles Mr. Benson or Jamie.
    Mr. Benson, the archetypal fantasy Master, is very tall, very strong, extremely wealthy, extremely intelligent and discerning (almost a mind-reader, in fact), ruggedly handsome, totally self-confident and assured, a 110% Top adept in all the SM arts, cultured, sophisticated, equally at ease in formal evening dress, full leathers, and butch sleaze gear. And, not at all incidentally, he has a dick of death.
    As for Jamie, he's the archetypal slacker with a decent body, a pretty face, a great ass, and an empty head. His job is inconsequential, he lives in a rooming house, his friends are other bar-flies, and his relatives are out of the picture. Becoming Mr. Benson's slave is clearly a step up, and Jamie knows it. He submits totally in a heartbeat.
    Does all that sound familiar? It should. Other, lesser authors have been recycling this tale for almost two decades, drumming it into our heads that a "real Master" is godlike and a "real slave" a blank slate. Over and over again we read about a no-account boy-man who trades his meaningless freedom for the floor beside Master's bed, scraps from Master's plate, and all the cock he could want (and more). Kept busy as Master's go-fer and boytoy, and otherwise locked away or chained up, he'll never again have to worry about paying a bill or negotiating relationship hassles as a responsible adult. Master will take care of everything, decide everything, and do the thinking for both of them.
Sound like a good deal? Want to know where you can sign up? Take a reality check!
    While real-world Master/slave relationships may include some elements of this paradigm -- some slaves are forbidden to use the furniture or wear clothes at home, and some Masters do have big dicks or handle all the finances -- the whole nine yards is far from typical, and i doubt it's even possible. Above all, men who succeed as slaves aren't blank slates. They usually have jobs, and some even have demanding professional careers. They have families and friends who'd miss them if they just disappeared, and they invariably have interests and hobbies they'd be loathe to give up. Succeeding as a slave in our society, with no legal, social, or cultural support for that role, takes above-average brains and determination. It needs all the skills required to be a successful lover, partner, or spouse, and more. A lifetime of happy slavery isn't something you stumble into; you need to work at it.
    Being a Master is no easier. Judging from the personal ads, a lot of guys seem to think that a slave is like a household appliance: Turn it on when you need it, and shove it into a closet the rest of the time. But even appliances need maintenance, and a consensual slave is perhaps the highest-maintenance possession anyone could have. Slaves need training, discipline, care for their needs, and at least some affection if they're to fulfill their part of the bargain. Hot and heavy SM play can be part of it, too, but only part -- you can't turn your whole life into playtime, not and still make a living.
    The stereotype is that guys become slaves when they've exhausted their other options. But for the successful slaves I know it was the first choice -- something they wanted so much and were willing to work so hard for that they wouldn't allow themselves to fail. And the Masters I know are not self-indulgent layabouts eager to be waited on hand and foot but men who have mastered themselves first of all.
    It isn't primarily about sex, on either side. Sex may be the fuel that keeps the motor running, but it isn't the purpose. What voluntary slavery is about, i think, is self-transcendence. Through surrender, obedience, and loyal service (sexual and otherwise) to a Master, a slave discovers the ecstasy of losing himself in something greater. And through accepting a slave's gift and taking responsibility for his very being, a Master discovers the joys of "living large," transcending his innate resources and accomplishing more than he could ever do alone.
    i am filled with respect for these virtuosos of dominance and submission. And for those who have not yet succeeded in living these roles, here's some friendly advice: Examine your image of a Master/slave relationship carefully, and think about what you'd have to do to make it real for you. If serious reflection shows that your image is an impossible fantasy, then reshape it into a goal that can be realized.
    Reality may be less exciting than fantasy, but in the long run a real life is more satisfying. After all, the "real world" is where we live. Fantasyland is for vacations. 

david stein.

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