Slavese And Other Crap

Author: Jack Rinella © 2002

Used With Author(s) Permission


This email from a reader highlights another Internet phenomenon:

"Dear Jack: I am writing you to ask for your input on something I am researching but do not seem to be able to find a lot of information on.

"When I first came online and searched the internet on the subject [of masochism and BDSM], I found websites mainly about Gor and things of that nature. I joined a few *discussion* lists and set back to learn something. Well, all I learned was that people into BDSM wrote funny. All the dominants capped any reference to themselves, submissives lower-cased references to themselves, people used stuff like "O/our" and "this girl." Anything to do with domination was capitalized and anything to do with submission was lower-cased. It did not matter if it was in reference to tops/bottoms, sadists/masochists, or M/S.

"Now, of course, when I was younger I had been around the scene in person, never online. I did not know if people were supposed to be writing this way or not, but was told that this was how it was supposed to be, that this was Old Guard protocol. I was skeptical and have remained so. I told some of the people I met about my experiences in the scene and they said that the community I was involved with had to be New Guard. It all sounded fishy to me.

"To make a long story short, I just decided to do it my way. I write in standard English, do not use slavese (what I call slave-pidgin), and have been happy. I have spent a few years researching this subject and I have found some articles on the Old Guard but none of them address how people spoke to each other, wrote, etc. I did read your article on the Old Guard, and a few others, and from what I have been able to gather, it appears that protocol back then was more on how a person behaved (their manners) and how they dressed.

"It still leaves me wondering though about slavese (slave-pidgin) and how people online (who also do this stuff in some of the groups I have attended) came to this style of writing and if it does have anything to do with the Old Guard.

"Could you please shed some light on this for me? I apologize for the length of this inquiry though, as it appears I became a bit long-winded. I would appreciate any help you could give me. Sincerely, Rogue"

For those who have not yet run into "slavese" it is the use of capitalization and pronouns to indicate one's dominant or submissive status. Based on the protocols of a very few, it has taken on the aura of"Old Guard" validation. Slaves in this situation are forbidden to use the pronoun "I" or if they do, it must be in lower case. Some of this protocol, for instance, means that a slave would ask his or her master something like "Sir, would you like your slave to use the rest room now, Sir?" therefore avoiding the use of I.

There are many ways to debunk this Old Guard myth, much of which has to do with debunking the myth of the Old Guard itself. First of all, it's necessary to reflect on who was the Old Guard, since in fact each of the three major historical BDSM groups had different predecessors. The most strict of the Old Guard protocols, as far as I can see, would have been held not by Gay Leathermen but by the elite heterosexual community generally led by professional dominatrices. A slave applicant in this situation was given his or her list of rules in the form of a copy of Emily Post's Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, originally published in 1922 by Funk & Wagnalls. One can quickly understand that Mrs. Post would never allow such a breech of etiquette as to bastardize our language. Neither would the nuns in my grammar school for that matter. For a better idea of what it was like in the heterosexual Old Guard, I recommend Viola Johnson's, To Love, To Obey, To Serve, Diary of an Old Guard Slave, published by Mystic Rose Books.

In what we now see as the Gay Leather Old Guard, it's important to note that very few of its participants were into dominance and submission. That generation focused its pleasure on "rough sex." They freely used the terms"M" and "S" but meant masochist and sadist, not master and slave. A more appropriate understanding of this Old Guard can be seen if one notes that Marlon Brando in the 1954 movie, The Wild Ones, was akin to being their role model.

Another way to explore the mores and customs of our kinky predecessors is to read the literature of the day. Books like The Leatherman's Handbook by Larry Townsend and $tud by Samuel Steward writing as Phil Andros clearly demonstrate the correct use of our language. If indeed slavese had been used, it would certainly have been used in any or all of Preston's novels about mastery and slavery, but of course it isn't. Not once do we read that Mr. Benson told Jamie to only use the third person or to not use capital letters.

But many on the Internet suffer from a severe lack of historical knowledge. I will admit that you can find websites advocating a submissive 's use of the lower case, but that does not give it historical or even cultural reality. Rogue's decision to "do it my way" comes much closer than anything else in reflecting a true "Old Guard" sensibility. Remember we're talking about rugged individualists here. Men and women who were sexual renegades but who still operated with a great amount of decorum, discretion, and manners.

That's not to say that a master can't determine his or her own slave protocols, though calling them rules is probably much more appropriate. They can and in fact they should. What is unacceptable is the wholesale demand that every submissive, no matter how slightly so, should act like a slave and that every master, no matter how inexperienced or unattached, should be treated as if he or she were everyone's owner. Terms such as"Sir," "Master," "Ma'am," and "Lord" ought to be earned and should not be appropriated by someone for their own self-aggrandizement.

As my slave Patrick is quick to note, he is my slave, not everyone's slave. It is as simple as that. Equally clear is that no person is submissive to any other, unless and until that submission is freely and rationally given. If you want to play at master/slave in a chat room, that 's fine, but that does not make you master and slave until you both freely and knowingly enter into such a relationship. In any case, there is no room whatsoever for treating any member of our community as inferior, even if they are in a submissive role. The continuum is horizontal, not vertical. No master, mistress, or lord is superior to any slave, servant, or devotee. It is as simple as that.

Have a great week. You can leave me email at or visit my website at "Jack Rinella's Weekly LeatherViews". Copyright 2002 by Jack Rinella, all rights reserved.






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