A Fragile Balance:
Reality, Fantasy and SM

Author: Bob Harris ©

used with permission. This article was originally written for the section of Gloria Brame's website called "Perspectives Of A Male Submissive".


There was no mistaking how proud the Mistress was of Her new slave. How pleased She was with the progress he was making in realizing the full extent of his submissive nature. After a slightly rocky start, including a brief separation, the relationship was beginning to blossom. The Mistress, a veteran of several slave training relationships with boys of various experience levels, could not contain the smile on Her face or the glow in Her eyes when presenting him. She literally beamed, much like a mother would when the child who had to struggle the hardest to succeed graduates at the top of the class.

Only a brief conversation is needed to realize how deeply caring, devoted and dedicated this Mistress/Teacher is with Her slaves/students. How patient. Willing to give them the room needed to make mistakes and the time to learn from them. Yet all the while, a high level of expectation is maintained in the learning and performance of the proper behaviors and the duties of service that She requires. The look on Her face was immediate evidence of how well She felt this young slave was meeting those expectations.

The boy, several years his Mistress' junior, had been in the lifestyle for less than a year. A growing awareness of the curiosities which he first discovered a couple years back, and the increasing desire to experience the kink he was now coming to realize as being within him, had led to his recent divorce. A strong need had developed making him want to fully explore, at last, the lifestyle that had until now, been unobtainable. He needed to know if his desire to serve was real. If it was innate, undeniable, essential to his achieving a complete personal happiness and satisfaction.

He came knowing little of what would be fully expected of him, but eager to learn, and to please. Familiar with only the very basics--the popular notions of the dynamics involved in D/s situations--his preconceived expectations of the requirements essential in determining a submissive's quality of service far exceeded what any Dominant would realistically demand. Unable to understand the difference between fact and fiction, these expectations would ultimately defeat him.

Six months later, the Mistress would be just as incapable of masking Her emotional disappointment and sense of inadequacy in having failed him in his education of the lifestyle. Honoring his request to be released from his collar had produced a hauntingly visible sadness in Her expression. Painfully evident was the sorrow of having to let go. Letting him follow his decision to end the relationship derived from feeling incapable of meeting his own pre-set, completely unrealistic perceptions of what being a slave entailed. It was a decision he made by, and for, himself without giving Her the opportunity to be part of the decision process.

A similar situation surrounded the boy's leaving the first time. The Mistress felt then that in time, he would return, for She could recognize how much a part of him submission had become. And She was there for him, willing and eager to continue his education, hopeful that he had discovered, or would be more willing to listen and accept, the difference between popular fantasy and hard reality.

This time, She again feels that at some point, he will once more return. But, this time, She cannot be sure that She will be willing to accept him back. She has gone through the pain of separation with him twice, and does not feel a willingness or desire to risk a third time. She is deeply hurt, plus frustrated and disappointed by the growing number of failed attempts being experienced not only by Herself, but by Her friends and other Dominants She knows. At this point, She is not even certain that She is willing to try any such training arrangements at all, with anybody, no matter how promising they seem. The disappointments and emotional let-downs are getting harder and harder for Her to process and put behind.

More and more i hear experienced Dominants questioning their capability and willingness to take on the teaching and training of a new submissive. One reason being that many are beginning to question their ability to distinguish submissives who are truly interested in learning, driven by their recognition of their very strong inner desire to serve, from those who are interested only in learning enough to appear serious and well trained as a means of merely finding an occasional play partner.

While this is a problem that seems to be becoming more and more prevalent, it usually appears quickly before a great deal of energy or effort has been spent. By itself, it's not a major concern: if they've been around long enough, most experienced Dominants are, to some degree, accustomed to it. But, when considered along with some of the other growing concerns and frustrations, it can become the deciding factor.

However, something that appears to be increasingly taking its toll is the confusion between the 'fantasy" and the "reality" of what being involved in BDSM in general--and particularly in any of the various forms of a D/s relationship--entails. This lifestyle, probably more so than any other, is built around fantasy. No matter what the relationship is, from a weekend collaring, to a 24/7 lifetime Master/slave contract agreement, both the mix of, and balance between, fantasy and reality play a critical role. Too much of one or too little of the other can quickly spell disaster. Likewise, not knowing one from the other can lead to any number of insurmountable problems.

So many of those entering the lifestyle today are like the boy in my example. They come with little or no knowledge beyond their perceptions, often derived solely from reading erotic stories. They come believing these stories to be accurate, at least in the descriptions of the characteristics defining Dominants and submissives; they believe that these stories portray realistic situations depicting how a Dominant and submissive really interact. Depending on what they have read, their perceptions, when compared to real relationship situations, can be overly romantic or gruesome, portraying an image of D/s relationships as being overly brutal. That some actually come looking for the brutality, especially submissives, is frightening.

As unfortunate as these fantasy vs. reality problems are, for many, the blurring of these two concepts enhances the enjoyment of the lifestyle and far outweighs any problems. For them, without the fantasy, there is no SM. Some fantasy exists in just about, if not every, aspect of the lifestyle. From the roles of Dominance and submission, the making and observance of protocols, much of what surrounds dungeon play including many of the instruments used, right up to many of the provisions found in typical Master/slave contracts, really heavily on the mixture of what is real and unreal. At times the blend is so complete that it's difficult to know for sure: "is it real or is it Memorex?"
For the next couple of months, i will attempt to sort out some of the more persistent misconceptions, explaining how they differ from what one commonly finds to be the reality and pointing out typical problems which arise when one believes in the misconceptions. On the other hand, i will also attempt to show how much incorporating some of the fantasy into day-to-day life can enhance the D/s aspects of a relationship.

By the way, curious as to what exactly caused the problem for the boy in this month's example? The story is based on an actual situation where the male slave in the relationship could not get past his misconception that once you accept a position as a slave, and in order to completely fulfill the definition of the "perfect slave", all natural hormonal and emotional responses are somehow supposed to automatically be totally eliminated or at least totally suppressed. That he had not been able to do so (who can? Better yet, who would want to and who would want somebody like that?), and concerned that he never would be able, made him decide that he was not worthy of being a slave.
Reassurances from his Mistress that such requirements were not realistic, not expected and most of all, not wanted, went unheeded. Although very much satisfied with every other aspect of the relationship, this one concern was enough to destroy his confidence in himself as a slave, leading to his decision to request being released.

And no, i did not embellish the description of the Mistress. She is very much a caring, loving woman, and at this point, very much questioning Her desire to take on another full time submissive. If so, what a great loss it would be to our community. Unfortunately, this is not isolated case and our community can hardly afford to lose any more of its teachers. Especially ones as caring as this one.






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