:: Edgeliving: Master Jim and slave marsha ::

A periodic account of edgeliving as practiced by Master Jim and slave marsha, including their thoughts on M/s relationships and a calendar of their speaking engagements
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:: Monday, August 04, 2008 ::

A New Forum

If you've been following this blog.... wow. Thanks.

For ease of use, Master Jim and I are moving our space over to LiveJournal. The username you need to look for over there is mjandsm. All posts are public, and I've moved the posts from here over to the new site.

So this will be the last post here at Blogspot. Any questions, please feel free to email me directly at slavemarsha@gmail.com.

See you on the flip side! And thanks.

--slave marsha

:: 3:00 PM [+] ::
(0) comments

:: Monday, October 08, 2007 ::
What’s in a Name: Submissive v. Slave? [Part 1- The Disclaimers]

If you’ve been in the leather/SM community for more than 5 minutes, you’ve probably been on an email list, visited a website or sat in a group where someone asked the fateful question:

“What’s the difference between a submissive and a slave?”

And after you’ve seen the question argued, hashed out, discussed thoughtfully, flamed, revisited, beaten into the ground, answered from a perspective of personal experience, answered by people who have never had ANY experience, and generally looked at from nearly every conceivable angle….

Well, your first reaction is to cringe when someone asks it one more time. At least, that’s my reaction.

But it shouldn’t be. The question really is an important one.

I know there are lots of people out there who will disagree with me – because the first answer that’s always given/posted to the question of what is the difference between a submissive and a slave is something like, “What does it matter? Why do we have to label everyone? Why can’t we just be who we are?” I’m sympathetic to that approach, I really am. But for me, a huge part of living as a slave is discovering and defining and understanding who I am – and doing that is going to require using words to describe and yes, to “label” me. It means understanding how I am similar to others – and how I am different. Remember – “different” doesn’t mean “less” or “worse.” It simply means “not the same as.”

At the end of the day, for my journey as a slave, I need to be able to explain (if only to myself) what I view as the difference between that identity in the leather/SM community known as “submissive” and the one known as “slave.” In fact, I actually believe that for those of us who identify as submissives/slaves/boys/bois/girls (and any other variation I left out), engaging in an honest and thoughtful examination of what makes us different can be a unifying experience. Because as we identify those areas where we are different, we also will identify those areas where we are the same. And at the end of the discussion, if we’ve been “generous” in the way we listened and spoke, and did it with the goal of understanding ourselves better, my bet is that we’ll find we have more in common than we think --- and that we can be comfortable with, even supportive of, our differences.

Of course, what I have to say about the difference between a submissive and a slave is not holy writ, not the last word, not revealed wisdom, and possibly not even “right” (whatever that means). What I will share are simply the definitions Master Jim and I have formulated, to help us make sense of our own Master/slave journey. If something I say helps you, great! Use it, with blessings. If nothing I say speaks to you, not a problem. Develop your own definitions, ones that work for you. The important thing is to be able to speak your truth when someone asks you, “Who are you and why do you do what you do?”

So with that, and some trepidation, I’ll move to Part II: Defining the Terms. Wish me luck, and a flame free post!

--slave marsha

:: 12:18 PM [+] ::
(0) comments

An Anniversary

In the category of "better late than never..."

On May 1, 2007, i celebrated 10 years as Master Jim's slave.

(Believe me, the anniversary was acknowledged by me on the date! i just never got around to posting here.)

Master Jim apparently thought for a long time about what might be appropriate to give a slave to honor 10 years of service. His choice?

A simple St. Andrew's Cross, for his home dungeon. With a plaque that says, "The Cross of a slave - May 1, 1997-2007".

Thank you, Sir, for the honor of serving you for 10 years. With your leave, i look forward to many more.

--slave marsha

:: 12:13 PM [+] ::
(0) comments

:: Tuesday, October 02, 2007 ::
i've been asked by several folks for a copy of the keynote speech i gave at the GWNN Bash 2007. So, here it is -- but i have one favor to ask. Please do not copy, reprint or forward the speech without express permission. Thanks -- slave marsha

All I Really Need to Know about Leather/SM I Learned in Kindergarten
slave marsha, in service to Master Jim
International slave 2001
Keynote Speech -- GWNN Bash 2007

It is my great pleasure to be here today, serving as the keynote speaker for this year’s GWNN Bash. Giving a keynote address in Austin is particularly special for me since this is, in many ways, my leather/SM city of birth – the very first leather/SM educational event I ever attended was Texas Leather Pride. And as some of you know, I have another close connection to this city’s leather/SM community – I’m proud to be a member of the Austin-based women’s club, Bound by Desire.

But what you may not know is that Austin also is the birthplace of my Master/slave relationship with Master Jim. On May 1, 1997 – over 10 years ago, I gave myself to Master Jim as his slave, here in Austin. There was no one else present at the ceremony – just the two of us, one giving over control of her life, one accepting total responsibility for that life. And shockingly, there was no hot scene afterwards. In fact, I think we followed up the ceremony by going out to dinner! How kinky is that?

But the long journey as Master and slave that Master Jim and I are still on today began right here. So for me, being in Austin with you is very much like coming home, very much like getting back to the basics of my leather/SM life.

And getting back to the basics is at the heart of what I want to talk with you about in the time we’ll share this morning. So let’s start with one of the most basic questions of all:

What words come to mind when you think about leather and SM?

Go ahead. Think about it. I’ll wait.

So what did you think about? Pain? Pleasure? Maybe obedience? What about service?

Did thoughts of floggers or singletails dance in your head? Did the word play come to your mind? Fire play? Needle play? Edgeplay?

Maybe you daydreamed for a moment of chaps….or corsets… or stilettos… or boots.

Or was it a strict Master… a cute boy… a hot butch leatherdyke… who occupied your thoughts?

Maybe you thought of one of the words I mentioned -- maybe you thought of all of them. If you really thought about all of them, see me after brunch. We need to talk.

But I’m willing to bet one word you didn’t think about during that brief moment was…kindergarten. Yes, kindergarten. And as odd as it may sound, it’s a word that should come to our minds when we think about leather and SM. Because I believe everything you really need to know about leather/SM you learned in kindergarten.

As you’ve no doubt guessed, Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” was the inspiration for my conversation with you today. If you’ve read the book, you know that Mr. Fulgham proposes a list of rules we all learned in kindergarten as the foundation we need to live our vanilla lives. In fact, I think many of those rules apply just as much to our leather/SM lives, and I want to share a few of them with you this morning.

You may find some of the rules obvious and simple. Even basic – they are kindergarten rules, after all. But take it from a slave who has served for over 10 years – the very best rules are the basic ones.

So, let’s get started.

Rule Number 1: Clean up your own mess – better yet, don’t make one in the first place.

In kindergarten, we learned to hang up our coats and put away our toys and flush the toilet. We learned that it is important to clean up our own messes, and not leave them for someone else to clean up. And we learned that if we don’t make a big mess in the first place, we can spend less time cleaning up and more time having fun.

Clean up your own mess. Of course, we teach this rule in our leather/SM community, too -- it’s in all of our “intro to SM” classes and books. We teach that you should put your toys away when you’re finished with a scene. Put your bottom away, too. Don’t leave bodily fluids on the dungeon equipment – or on your Top, at least not without permission.

But there’s another kind of mess that we make in our community far too often – and worse, we seldom clean it up. That’s the mess we leave through gossip. Remember your kindergarten class room? It didn’t take too long for a few kids to make a big mess. And it doesn’t take long for a few leatherfolk to make a big mess in our community with backbiting and gossip.

Now let me ask each of you – and myself -- a tough question: Have you ever made a mess in our community and left it in the floor for others to clean up? Have you ever passed along a rumor? Posted a nasty comment on an email list in a fit of anger? Cut loose with criticism about the community without offering to help solve the problem? I’m afraid the answer for most us is… yes.

When Master Jim and I ran for the International Master/slave title all those years ago, a very wise leatherman told us to get ready – that the leather/SM community likes to “eat its own” and when it does, what the community leaves after the feast is a real mess. I didn’t want to believe him then – sadly, after all I’ve seen in the community over the years, I can’t avoid believing it now.

What’s even worse is that too often, we deny that we’re spreading rumor and gossip by claiming we’re only “informing” the community or getting “advice” about a situation. We tell ourselves we’re only engaging in “healthy discussion.” And sometimes, that might even be true. But not always.

So let me suggest a way we can tell the difference between gossip and healthy discussion. If I’m talking about a situation that directly affects me and directly affects you, and I’m seeking a positive solution to the situation, and I’m really willing to act on that solution, then it probably isn’t gossip. If, however, I’m passing along third or fourth hand hearsay to everyone and every list in my email address book, or resolving the situation really is the furthest thing from my mind because then what would we have to talk about? – that’s likely gossip.

As a community, we don’t have to eat our own. Each one of us has the power – and the responsibility – to change things. If you’ve caused a mess in our community with your words or deeds, clean it up. Apologize – without excuses – and that holds true whether you identify as Top, bottom, Daddy, boy, Master, Mistress, slave, Dominant, submissive or Grand High Old Guard Poobah of the Leather Universe. If you make a mess, say you’re sorry. Make amends where you can.

And next time, don’t make a mess if you can avoid it. If you think there’s a problem in our community that needs to be addressed, go ahead and speak up, by all means – but do it by offering helpful and constructive comments, and be a part of the solution if you can. Put criticism and gossip away on the shelf.

Our community is too small, and the harm you can do with a single comment is too big. Clean up your mess – better yet, don’t make one in the first place.

Rule Number 2: When you fall down, the best thing to do is to get right back up.

Remember when you were a child, running and playing on the playground at recess? You were laughing and having a good time. Until suddenly, you slipped on a rock. Or you tripped over your shoelaces. Or you just didn’t see that tree root in time. However it happened, you found yourself flat on your face, dirt in your nose and a scrape on your knee. And if that wasn’t enough, you looked up to see all of your friends laughing at you.

What did you do? Do you remember? Well, if you were me, you probably sniffled a little and looked around for a cute baby butch to help you up. But eventually, with help or not, you picked yourself up, dusted off your hands and got back to the business of playing tag or hide and go seek or whatever the game was.

You may not have realized it, but you learned an important lesson: when you fall down, the best thing to do is to get right back up.

In our lives in the leather/SM community, every single one of us is going to fall down. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are as a Top. It doesn’t matter how obedient you are as a slave. Eventually, life will send a stone or an untied shoe lace or a tree root to trip you up.

And there are so many ways it can happen. A scene goes badly and no one knows how to make things right. We trust someone with our body -- or with our life -- and they hurt us. We disappoint someone else. We disappoint ourselves.

When it happens, we have a choice. We can reject the leather/SM community and everyone in it, or we can take a hard look at what happened and figure out where to go from here. We can give up or we can get up.

I first learned this lesson in kindergarten. And then I learned it again, later in my life, while I was learning to ride a motorcycle.

They say there are only two kinds of people who ride motorcycles: those who have been down and those who are gonna go down. Well, I had only been riding a motorcycle a few months when my turn came, and I went down. I was making a left turn when I was tagged in the rear by a car. The impact put me and my bike down and across two lanes of oncoming traffic. I remember thinking, “Wow. It’s going to hurt when those cars hit me.”

Fortunately, they didn’t. As you might imagine, when Master Jim realized what had happened, he hauled his bike over to the side of the road and ran to help me. After he got me and my bike off the road, he told me he would ride his bike home and get the car so I could drive home while he rode my bike back.

Let me tell you… I was tempted. I was terrified at the idea of getting back on that bike. But I knew that if I didn’t, I’d never ride again. So I said, “No, Sir. That’s my bike, and I’m riding her home.” And I did.

It’s a lesson we learn in kindergarten -- and then we get to practice it, over and over again, throughout our lives. When you fall down, get right back up.

Rule Number 3: Take naps often.

I think we really had it right in kindergarten – a little nap in the afternoon (preferably after a snack of milk and cookies) is a key part of physical and mental health. Our kindergarten teachers understood that our bodies and minds need time to rest and recharge, time to just be quiet.

But somehow, many of us in the leather/SM community have lost sight of this basic truth. Take a look at your local community’s calendar – I bet that if you live in or near a city of any size, there’s probably something leather/SM related you could go to almost any night of the week. If you aren’t in a big city, there’s always the Internet, just waiting to keep you occupied with SM websites and chatsites and email lists for a minute…or for hours. And if you can travel, there’s at least one major leather/SM event somewhere in the country every single month – and often more than one. I know. I think I’ve been to most of them.

All of that action, all of that excitement, is seductive. After all, many of us came to leather and SM later in our lives. We’re looking to make up for lost time – and some of us are really succeeding!

Take a look at your calendar. Are you on the verge of suffering “leather melt down?” Are you so immersed in the community that there’s never any time for you to rest and recharge?

You don’t have to go to every munch, every meeting, every bar night, every benefit, every event in order to be a member of the leather/SM community. Of course, that doesn’t apply to South Plains Leatherfest in Dallas in February – you’re all required to attend that one!

But really -- take time for yourself. There’s nothing worse than a cranky Top or a burned out bottom. Listen to your kindergarten teacher -- you’ll all feel better after your nap.

On to Rule Number 4: Not everyone is going to want to play with you all the time.

At some point, every child is told by another, “I don’t want to play with you!” Remember when it happened to you? I do. It hurt. I didn’t understand – what was wrong with me? Why wouldn’t everyone want to play with me?

When I asked my Daddy (being a good Southern girl, he was and always will be my Daddy) this question – he had an answer for me, as he always did. He told me, “marsha, not everyone will want to play with you all the time. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t your friends. It just means that some times the boys want to play together and sometimes the girls want to play together. Sometimes you want to play with just your very best friend, sometimes you want to play with all your neighborhood friends, and sometimes you want to play by yourself. It’s a good thing that you don’t all have to play together, all the time.”

How often do we hear the same question I asked my Daddy asked in our leather/SM community? We hear:

“Why won’t the gay leathermen come to our pansexual event?”

“Why do the women need a club of their own?”

“Why are there private parties that I’m not invited to?”

“Why should we have separate play spaces – can’t we all just play together?”

I believe the answer to each of these questions is the same as the one my Daddy gave me, so many years ago. As a leather/SM community, we quite rightly celebrate the incredible diversity of our community. But the lesson we have to learn and accept is that this diversity means not every part of our community is going to want to play together or be together or socialize together all the time.

Sometimes a group will need time and space apart to meet its particular needs – and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, if we as a community support the need of our diverse groups for time and space apart, we’re likely to find that those groups will be more willing to come together with the community as a whole more frequently and when it really counts.

So rather than wonder why we can’t all play together all the time, let’s celebrate the fact that our Texas leather/SM community is so diverse and so thriving, it can support separate time and space for its different groups. Rather than see the desire for time and space apart as a rejection of the larger community, let’s embrace and respect it, and see it as a healthy expression of diversity.

We don’t have to play together all the time to be a part of the same community, all the time.

Rule Number 5: Sometimes it’s hard to be brave (but holding a stuffed animal helps).

As children, we’re taught we need to be brave. We’re schooled not to show fear. We’re told not to cry when we’re scared. By teaching us these lessons, our parents were trying to do their best. They knew then what we’ve all come to know, that the world is a tough place, and we’ll need courage to go through it, and still be able to laugh and smile and love.

Courage. What exactly were our parents and our kindergarten teachers trying to teach us about the need for courage? What did they mean by courage– and more importantly, what does courage mean for us today in the leather/SM community?

I’ve read many definitions of the word, but today I’d like to share one written by journalist and activist Dorothy Thompson. This is the definition of courage that I’ve adopted for myself… because I believe there is a real lesson in it for us to learn both as individuals and as a community.

Ms. Thompson wrote, “Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, and injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.”

Choosing to be a part of leather and SM requires that kind of courage. It takes a brave person to step onto this path. It may mean a long and lonely search for someone to walk the path with you. It may mean risking your job. It may mean losing the acceptance of your biological family.
Without a doubt, it will mean getting more honest with yourself about who you are and what you need – and that will require the most courage of all.

If you are new to leather/SM, let me tell you a hard truth about the need for courage in this life: if you choose to walk this path, the time will come when you will wonder if you have the courage to go on. You will have nights, like the ones I have had, when you stand alone in front of your bathroom mirror and you look into your own eyes, and you say to yourself, “What the hell am I doing?” -- and there is no one there to answer that question but you. I can’t tell you why that moment will come to you, or when it will come to you. But I can tell you this -- it is in that moment that you’ll need to hold fast to what it means to have courage.

Those of you who have walked the path of leather/SM for a while, do you remember your dark nights? What did you do? What did it take to get you through them?

Well, for me, holding a stuffed animal helps. Remember when you had a favorite stuffed animal as a child, and holding it made everything seem a little better? My stuffed animal is a llama, named Harley.

In fact, the rest of my leather family has stuffed llamas, too – Master Jim’s llama is named Davidson (get it – Harley-Davidson). Cougar’s llama is named Trooper.

Yes, you heard right. Master Jim and Cougar. A gay leatherman and a leatherdyke, two of the biggest, baddest, don’t fuck with me-heavy SM- leather Tops in entire great state of Texas… have stuffed llamas. And you heard it here first – Master Jim makes them talk to each other!

Admit it – that information alone was worth the price of your brunch ticket.

And finally, Rule Number 6: When you go out into the world, hold hands and stick together, so no one gets lost.

When we were in kindergarten, we learned that being in a group meant we were safe and that we belonged. We went out to recess together. We cleaned up the classroom together. We ate our snack together. We took naps together. We went to the bathroom together. In fact, based on what I’ve seen at my home leather bar, some of us still go to the bathroom together….

Then when we went out into the big, wide world, our teacher told us to hold hands and stick together so we wouldn’t get lost.

Hold hands and stick together. I intentionally saved this rule for last. All the other rules we’ve talked about are important and helpful – but in this one, final rule, I think we can find everything we really need to know about leather and SM.

Human beings have a deep, fundamental need to be a part of something, of some group. We need to find other people like ourselves. It makes us feel safe. It makes us feel connected. That need for others causes us to join together in communities, like the one we call our leather/SM community.

But what do we mean by a “community?” After all, isn’t “community” another of those words like “respect” and “honor” that we use all the time, without quite knowing how to define it? It is. So to make sure we’re all on the same page, let me tell you what the concept of “community” at its best means to me.

A community at its best creates a safe place for us to learn and grow. It’s where we find our best friends and our closest lovers.

A community at its best accepts the differences and diversity of its members while at the same time reminding the members they all have things in common that have drawn them together. These things are the community’s traditions. At its best, the community is made up of members who value and respect those traditions -- and who pass them on to new generations in the community, while also understanding that those traditions may change over time.

A community at its best will support and stand by its members. A community at its best does away as much as possible with gossip, criticism and backbiting, and replaces those things with communication, encouragement, and guidance.

Those of us who have chosen the path of leather and SM need to be a part of a community, in the very best sense of the word. Acknowledging who we are, whether it’s to a small group of close friends or the whole world, is hard. It’s dangerous and sometimes lonely. And sometimes people get lost.

Several years ago, I came up with a theme for South Plains Leatherfest that we still use today – that theme is “We will not forget.” I wanted to send the message that those of us involved with South Plains promised we would not forget those people and ideas that have been and still are important to our leather/SM community.

So what do I believe we are in danger of losing in our community? What do I believe we must not forget? As our time together today draws to a close, let me suggest a few things to you.

We will not forget those in our community who we have lost to the plague of AIDS. We will not forget that the plague is still among us, and that members of our community are still being lost to it. We will not deny the seriousness of this plague by claiming that because of our sexual orientation or gender, AIDS is not a threat to us personally or our concern. If you believe that, please – reach out to others in this leather/SM community and get the facts. We don’t want to lose you.

And we will not forget what it was like when we first found leather and SM, how we were afraid and overwhelmed and excited, all at the same time. We will remember, and we will hold out our hands to those who come to us, and offer to teach them and mentor them in the ways of our community, so that they are not lost.

And we will not forget those men and women who came before us, whose lives and work helped form the leather/SM community we live in today. We will not do violence to the truth they lived by creating stories around them or the way they did things, then claiming our invention is the one true “old guard” way.

Instead, we will respect our leather elders for the work they did and the risk they took that laid the foundation for the community they have gifted to us. We will pass on their truth to our new generations, accurately.

We are so fortunate to still have some of those elders among us. To give you one example, Bound by Desire has two members who were a part of the club at its very beginning more than 15 years ago and who are still active in the club today. I’m proud to say that one of those elders is my mate, Cougar, who first came into the community through the gay leathermen, and then embraced and worked wholeheartedly for the dream that leatherwomen needed a home of their own.
Another example is Hardy Haberman, one of the presenters here this weekend. You all know Mr. Haberman is an outstanding teacher of SM techniques – and is without question one of the finest SM tops I’ve had the privilege to watch in the dungeon – but you may not know he also is a long time member of the leather community, and is an incredible resource for learning our history from someone who experienced much of it first hand.

I bet if I went around this room, many of you could name others among us today who are our elders. Our elders are a precious resource to this community for what they have given in the past and for what they still give. We must honor them. We must seek out their counsel. We must pledge we will not toss their experience to the side by flippantly saying, “We need a new direction for the community!” without even taking the time to learn and understand where we came from.

If we do all of these things, our leather elders will continue to reach out to us over the years and over the miles, take our hands, and keep us from getting lost.

And so… that’s it. All the rules you need to know. Of course, there will be a test. But you won’t receive a grade. You won’t get a gold star for good work. And no, you can’t take the test over. Because the test is simply this: to live what you’ve learned. To live your life as fully and honestly and joyously as you can in leather/SM.

So before we go, let’s review the rules, one more time:

When you make a mess, clean it up.

When you fall down, get back up.

Take naps often.

Not everyone is going to want to play with you all the time, and that’s okay.

It’s hard to be brave, but a stuffed animal helps.

And most of all… when we go out into the world, let’s hold hands and stick together.

You see – you really did learn all you needed to know about leather and SM in kindergarten.

:: 2:46 PM [+] ::
(2) comments

:: Sunday, September 16, 2007 ::
The Test of Service

Not too long ago, someone said to me, "You say you've put your life in Master Jim's hands. But what makes you feel like you want to put your life in HIS hands?"

Good question. Tough question.

Truthfully, I don't think I can do this question justice in a blog post. i could write for hours -- maybe days -- and still not cover everything that i'd really want to say. So let me just say this.

The truthful answer isn't pretty and it isn't one people usually want to hear. In fact, it's an answer that is very difficult for me to share.

When things are going well, when i'm getting my needs (and a lot of my wants) met as a slave, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing and Master Jim has done SM with me and i'm allowed to serve in a way that makes me feel good and useful and slave-like, then it seems right and proper that my life is in his hands. Those are the easy times.

But I've come to believe that my slavery isn't defined by the easy times... instead, what defines it are the times that are tough.

So the fully truthful answer is that sometimes i *don't* want my life in his hands. Sometimes that's the LAST thing that i want.

But i leave my life in his hands because that's what i promised to do. To give him control, not just when it's easy or convenient, but through everything. i guess the truthful answer is that i believe if you really live as a slave, there will be times you don't want your life in your Owner's hands.

But if you meant your promise, if your word is your bond, you find some way to hang on. You remember all the times that the fact you put your life into your Owner's hands made you feel safe and complete. You remember that Owners are human, and bad stuff happens, but it doesn't mean you run away. You think about the fact that if your life fell apart, your Owner would be there for you.

You tell yourself that the real test of service is serving when it's tough, not when it's fun or easy. You remember telling him you would die for him. But now you understand that dying may not be the hardest thing a slave can be asked to do.

In fact, the hardest thing a slave may be required to do is to continue to live as a slave. Through doubt. Through fear. In times when you don't get what you think you need.

And so you do.

And so i do.

--slave marsha

:: 5:27 PM [+] ::
(2) comments

:: Thursday, September 28, 2006 ::
Below is the text of the keynote speech that I and slave marsha recently co-delivered at Folsom Fringe 2006. The parts we each presented are prefaced by our names in [brackets].

In leather,

Master Jim

The Road Goes Ever On: A Master/slave Journey

[Master Jim] I and slave marsha are honored to be the keynote speakers at this year’s Folsom Fringe -- especially this year, as you join the International Master/slave family of contests with the Northwest Master/slave Contest.

The theme of Folsom Fringe this year is “Get Your Kicks at Folsom ‘06” – which of course is a play on the 1940s song sung by Nat King Cole – “Get Your Kicks On Route 66.” For those of us mature enough to remember the days before interstate highways, Route 66 – beginning in Chicago and ending 2,400 miles later in Santa Monica -- always represented the open road and the freedom to travel. On Route 66, the destination wasn’t nearly as important as the fact that you were on an amazing journey across the U.S.

[slave marsha] The concept of “journeys” is an important one to us as leatherpeople and as Master and slave. The idea that we each are on a journey as we explore leather or SM or Dominance/submission or Master/slavery is one of the things that we all hold in common, that unites us as a community. Because no matter who you are in the SM/leather community, no matter how you identify, no matter which part of the community you call home, we each have been and are on a journey.

Everyone’s journey in this community is different, and each of our experiences will be unique. It’s much like two people riding side by side on their motorcycles – even though they’re riding on the same road, at the same time, each person will see different things, feel different things, remember different things – they will have a different journey. (You’ll find that as Harley riders, we use motorcycle references whenever we can!)

[Master Jim] So we asked ourselves: if our journey in this community is unique to us, and our journey really is all that we can speak about, what could we say about that journey that would be useful – and hopefully interesting – to all of you?

In the end, all we can do over the next few minutes is share some of the parts of our Master/slave journey and the things that we’ve learned from it with you, and we hope that something we say in some way speaks to you.

[slave marsha] So where do we begin a journey? At the beginning, of course. And whenever we talk about the beginnings of our journey into Mastery and slavery, we think of the poem by Robert Frost that many of you probably know, “The Road Not Taken.” The poem goes like this:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

[Master Jim] Just like the traveler in the poem, one day we stood at that fork in the road, that place where we each had to decide whether or not to explore the interest – maybe even the longing – we had in leather and SM. We had to decide whether or not to take the road less traveled.

For me it began in the 1980s as a bottom. I had no connection with leather, but I knew that the thought of SM was very exciting to me. I found a person – a much younger woman – to top me and I experienced SM for the first time. After two or three sessions, she looked at me, and with wisdom beyond her years said, “You do know that if you keep on this SM path, you will soon reach a door. And if you cross the threshold you will never want to go back.” To be honest, at that time I probably hadn’t reached that door, but I knew I did not want to go back even then.

Not too long after beginning and experiencing SM, I began seeking instruction on the top side. While I very much enjoyed the sensation of pain – and still do today – I felt more comfortable working from the top than from the bottom. I wanted to become skilled. I wanted to acquire equipment. And most of all, I wanted to find bottoms.

On into the 1990s I continued the process of developing my skills. During that time, along with many others I was introduced to the Internet and soon discovered an active on-line community of like-minded people. Soon after that was when my path crossed that of slave marsha.

[slave marsha] For me, it began (as I suspect it did for many of you) in an Internet chat room. I lurked in the room for a while, “watching” and “listening” to people talk about things I had only half imagined. Although I had taken one or two very long looks down the road less traveled already – I had read SM101 and a friend had gifted me with my first pair of handcuffs – I was a long way from really starting my journey. I didn’t really understand any difference between SM and Dominance and submission, or how I might find a place for myself in this world.
But eventually, I found my courage and typed in a single question – my first real step on the road less traveled. I asked: “What is this thing called submission?”

I thought it was a pretty good question. It was met with absolute silence.

Except for one response, that went something like this: “If you’re interested, I would be willing to talk with you about it.” You guessed it – that was Master Jim.

From there, my pace down the road quickened. I became Master Jim’s mentee and his bottom in a pure SM relationship. Several months later, together we began to explore Dominance and submission. Finally, a year or so later, Master Jim and I stepped onto the path of Mastery and slavery.

I have been on the road less traveled now for over 11 years, with almost 9 ½ of them spent as Master Jim’s slave.

[Master Jim] So what do our stories of how we began our journeys mean for you? Perhaps some of you here today are still standing at the fork in the road. Maybe Folsom Fringe is your first time to venture into the leather/SM community. Maybe you are excited – and afraid. Maybe you feel a tremendous relief to discover that you are not alone in what you think and feel. But maybe you don’t really know yet whether you want to step out on this road. You don’t know if this is the right path for you.

Or maybe some of you have already traveled a far distance down the road. Maybe you have seen your community change – sometimes for the better, and sometimes, you think, for the worse. Maybe you’ve worked hard for this community, and you’re tired. Maybe you’ve seen too many of your leather family pass on before you.

[slave marsha] Wherever you are in your journey, we ask today that you join us in remembering your beginning. Remember when you stood at the fork in the road. Remember that taking that fork has made all the difference.

But please -- remember your beginning honestly. You don’t have to have been trained in a European house of domination or have been kidnapped by a group of hot Old Guard masters who whisked you away to serve as a slave in order to remember and share where you began.

One of the greatest gifts we longer time members of the community can give those just starting out on the road is to tell them how we started – to help them understand that being in this community truly is all about the journey, that experience doesn’t come overnight, and that EVERYONE is a beginner at some point.

And one of the greatest gifts the newer members of the community can give the rest of us is helping us remember that sense of wonder and amazement – that feeling of finding “home” in this community, even as we knew our journey was only beginning.

[Master Jim] So now you know the beginning of our journey into leather and Mastery and slavery. I’d like to tell you that ever since then, our journey has been smooth and uncomplicated. I’d like to tell you that as the Master, I have always known which direction to take, and have always chosen our path with great wisdom and deliberation. I’d like to tell you that the spirits of the Masters who have gone before me have guided my steps, casting light along my path, each step of the way.

I’d like to tell you all those things. But if I did, the guardians of the secret European House of Dominance where I received my training would come and take away my Master’s certification.

[slave marsha] Going on a journey is a dangerous thing – especially a journey that may call on us to change the way we see ourselves.

So as I walk my path of slavery and leather, I look to a wide variety of sources for the wisdom I need. Not too long ago, as I was rereading “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, I stopped at a particular paragraph – one that I know I must have read 15 or 20 times over the course of my life. But this time, I read it with new eyes, thinking about my journey – and in it, I found great wisdom. The paragraph will be familiar to many of you – in it, Frodo is relating to the other hobbits Bilbo’s thoughts on journeys and what he called “The Road” -- and I think it offers something for us, today. Frodo says:

“[Bilbo] used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.’”

[Master Jim] How true. When I stepped out onto “The Road” of leather and SM, I never intended to become a Master. And yet, the Road – or was it the Universe -- took me there, first as a top, then as slave marsha’s mentor and Top, then as her Dominant, and finally as her Master and Owner.

Your road may be similar or it may be very different. Perhaps you began as a Top and are now walking the path as a submissive or slave. Or maybe you began as a slave and discovered that Mastery and slavery did not speak to you and you are now honing your skills as a leather/SM bottom. There is no one way… there is no mapped out travel plan. One journey is not better than another. What is most important is being open to who you are.

So you’re on the Road, you’ve left Chicago – after seeing the Leather Archives and Museum, of course – and you have your sights set on California. It’s a long journey. Will you be the same at the end? Even when you think you have found your identity – Master or slave, Top or bottom, Dominant or submissive, boy, girl, puppy or pony, you simply have begun another phase of your journey. My relationship with slave marsha as Master and slave has changed tremendously as we have traveled the Road.

Shortly after I and slave marsha began our journey as Master and slave, I drafted a detailed, carefully thought out 13 page contract that I was very proud of. A few years later, much to my dismay, I found that my prized contract no longer fit the relationship, thanks to the fact that my slave-lawyer kept finding loopholes I it. I realized that because of where we were in our journey, a new contract was needed, one that in a few simple words would sum up the changes and growth that had taken place in this Master/slave journey. So I
drafted a new contract, the one that governs this relationship today. It is, quite simply:

[slave marsha] I will obey and I will serve.

Hard as I’ve tried, even I haven’t been able to find the loophole in that one.

Like Master Jim, I’d like to say that I have never lost my way as a slave. I’d like to say that once I entered into service, everything fell into place, I became perfectly obedient, and I never second guessed my choice to take the road less traveled. I’d like to say that I have never doubted Master Jim. I’d like to say that our path has been smooth and the way has been clear.

But if I did, those hot, butch leatherdykes who captures me long ago and carried me protesting into slavery would come back to haunt me.

The truth is, I have struggled as a slave. The truth is, no journey is complete without its struggles. People on a leather/SM journey stray from the path they started on. Sometimes they find a better one, one more right for them. Sometimes, they just lose the way.

[Master Jim] The truth – my truth and slave marsha’s – is that at times, this Master/slave relationship has been terribly off course. At times, it has hung by a thread. At times, it has been placed under such tremendous stress, it could have crumbled at any minute.

Over the past two years, I and slave marsha have been through nearly every stressful life event you can imagine. I faced a serious illness. My youngest son committed suicide at the age of 23. Our original leather family broke apart. I made the decision to allow slave marsha to enter into a committed lifetime relationship with a butch leatherdyke named Cougar – and I conducted a Union Ceremony for them in July. While that relationship is, I believe, a good thing, allowing it and adjusting to it has not always been easy.

Any one of these life events could have swept our feet out from under us. But we have stayed the course and continued our journey.

[slave marsha] If Master Jim and I set out on our Harleys to ride Route 66, we know that if we get into trouble, we likely can whip out our cell phones and call Harley Roadside Assistance – and someone will come and help us. If we get lost, we can stop and buy a road map to get us back on track. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), there is no Leather Roadside Assistance to help us when we break down on our leather/SM journeys.

From time to time, we have probably all heard about some group or person in the community who supposedly has “the map” – the one way to make our journey. Maybe it’s the “Old Guard” and its famed “Old Guard protocol,”… maybe it’s the author of some lifestyle book… maybe it’s some mysterious society that claims to “train” Masters and slaves in the old ways.

It would be wonderful, in some ways, if any of those people really had the map for our journey. But they don’t. The truth is that each one of us on our leather/SM journey must draw our own map. We have to find our own path. When the Road is dark and stormy, we have to find a way to get back up and go on with our journey.

And that, really, is the truth we want to share with you today – you have to be strong enough and brave enough and want to make the journey badly enough to get back up when you fall. Because fall you will.

They say there are only two kinds of people who ride motorcycles: those who have been down and those who are going to go down. I had only been riding a motorcycle a few months when I went down. (Don’t worry – I wasn’t riding the Harley at the time.) I was tagged in the rear by a car, and the impact sent me down across two lanes of oncoming traffic. I remember thinking, “Wow. It’s going to hurt when those cars hit me.”

Fortunately, they didn’t. As you might imagine, Master Jim hauled his bike over to the side of the road and ran to help me. After he got me and my bike off the road, he said he would ride home and get the car so I could drive home while he rode my bike back.
Let me tell you… I was tempted. I was terrified at the idea of getting back on that bike. But I knew that if I didn’t, I’d never ride again. So I said, “No, Sir. That’s my bike, and I’m riding her home.” And I did.

[Master Jim] Why should you get up and go on? Why not just step off of the Road? Well, if any of you have seen the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian,” you know the answer. The movie tells the story of Burt Munro, a New Zealander whose dream is to set the land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats on an old Indian motorcycle. A young boy asks him, “Aren’t you scared you’ll kill yourself if you crash?” Munro replies, “No… you live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in a lifetime.”

If you follow the road less traveled long enough, you’ll go down, and more than once. There’s no shame in that. But get back up and go on. Adjust your course, if you need to. And live more in five minutes than some people live in a lifetime.

And as you travel, don’t forget to see the sights of our leather/SM community. By that I don’t mean doing a tour of dungeons across the U.S. -- although that’s not a bad idea. Nor does it mean attending a major leather event in every region -- although I’m sure you’re all planning to attend South Plains in Dallas in 2007. What I mean by that is -- get involved. Don’t just pass through the community – make the time to become a part of it.

One of the main reasons I and slave marsha are here at Folsom Fringe this year is to celebrate the fact that the board and members of smOdyssey have chosen to make the International Master/slave family of contests a part of their journey.

For those of you who don’t know, the International Master/slave Contest has been a part of the leather/SM community for many years. The contest and title had faded into the background over the course of the years, until the year 2000 when Master Steve Sampson and slave kirk took the first steps to bring it back to the attention of the community.

I always swore that I would never run for a leather title. But Master Steve – and my slave – are persuasive, and so in 2001, I and slave marsha ran for and won the honor of serving as International Master and slave.

[slave marsha] That title year was a challenge: physically, mentally and financially. Master Jim and I traveled 2 to 3 weekends each month, speaking around the country on Master/slave relationships. But through those travels, I learned how many others like me were out there on the road less traveled. Time and again, people came to us and thanked us for being there, because now they knew that they were not alone in this journey.

The travel hasn’t stopped, by the way. We continue to see the sights by visiting leather/SM groups and attending events like this one, to talk about our journey.

[Master Jim] After the title year ended, I looked for another way in which I and slave marsha could continue our support of the leather/SM and Master/slave communities. And so, I and slave marsha, along with our partner, Mark Frazier, obtained ownership of the International Master/slave title and incorporated it into South Plains Leatherfest. South Plains has become a national leather event, with a full track of SM seminars in addition to a full track of seminars focusing on Mastery and slavery. As a part of our ownership of the International Master/slave title, we worked first with Ms. Kendra from the Great Lakes Leather Alliance and Master Steve from the Southwest Leather Conference. Then, Master Scott and slavette from Together in Leather and Master Taino from the Master/slave Conference joined with us to establish a regional system of feeder contests to support the International title and to provide regional support to the Master/slave community. So until recently, we had 4 regions: the Great Lakes, the Southwest, the Southeast and the Northeast.

[slave marsha] And that brings us to today, the kickoff here at Folsom Fringe of the 5th region in the International Master/slave family, the Northwest Region, produced by smOdyssey.

We want to take a moment here to honor all of those in this region who have made this possible. Each of you has made the choice to not just travel through the leather/SM community, but to pause and “see the sights” the community has to offer, and to leave a bit of yourself behind for future travelers.

Being an active part of the leather/SM community can be infuriating and exhausting. Our community, sad to say, is too often beset by petty quarrels and people who care more about their own notoriety than about the good of the community. But being a part of it can be an incredibly exhilarating, rewarding and rejuvenating experience as well. So as you journey on your road less traveled, don’t hesitate to see the sights and get involved in your community.

So here we are in California, north of the end of Route 66. Where do we go from here? Reaching the end of Route 66 does not mean the end of the journey, of course, any more than Master Jim and I have reached the end of our Master/slave journey.

We have gained experience, made new friends, lost loved ones, established new relationships, discovered ourselves, got lost, and then rediscovered ourselves knowing that something was different. We have felt pain, happiness, joy and sadness. We have laughed and we have cried.

But we haven’t finished our journey. We’re still living it – just as each of you is doing no matter who you are or what path you are walking.

[Master Jim] After all… the road is just beginning… the journey never ends….
It really is about the journey, not the destination.

And so I will close our time together today with the words of Bilbo Baggins in “The Lord of the Rings,”

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

We wish you all an amazing journey.

:: 10:48 AM [+] ::
(0) comments

:: Thursday, August 31, 2006 ::
Is your heart right?

I received an email from a slave who asked:

“i am curious if you would share you philosophy on how you handle situations where slave marsha isn't necessarily in the right "headspace" as i call it. As relationships evolve, slavery deepens, there are times when the slave isn't doing well, whether it is reacting in fear, or other issues that affect the focus and direction of the slave.”

What the slave in the email refers to as headspace, I call "having the right heart." If I give slave marsha a directive or observe her in some interaction and feel that she is having some difficulty, I will often put my hand on her chest over her heart and ask..."Is your heart right?" The meaning is simple: are you acting from the place of obedience and are you doing so because you want to not because you have to as a slave.

No matter how long a Master/slave relationship exists or how deep it goes there will be times when the slave does not have the right heart or, if you prefer, is not in the appropriate headspace. Instances of not having the right heart may be isolated and short-term, or they may be prolonged. As to what I do, as always, it depends on the situation.

If it is an isolated case where slave marsha simply might be overburdened at work, not feeling well, or is distracted in some way, it may be a matter of more focus on the part of the slave and a simple reminder might be all that is needed.
On the other hand, if the matter is more serious and has resulted in an extended period of her heart not being right, then more work is necessary in order to find out the nature and extent of the problem. Is she reacting in part from fear? Has she lost a degree of trust? Is she angry, hurt, feeling lost?

Once the reason for her heart not being right is identified, the next step is to find out the cause of the feelings? Many times, after the slave tells you what the problem is, the cause is self-evident. The master/owner might have been going through a difficult period and have been distracted for an extended period. He may immediately realize this after talking with the slave. At other times, the cause may not be as evident. At those times I will often go back to my philosophy or code of ethics to see if they point the way to the cause of the problem. For example, one element of my philosophy is providing direction for the relationship. If slave marsha is feeling lost it may be because I have not been providing the needed direction.

After the problem is recognized and the cause is identified, then the situation can be addressed. If we are dealing with the slave’s heart not being right as a result of behavior or actions of the slave, a corrective action that serves to remind the slave to pay attention to her heart over a period of time might be needed. On the other hand, if the cause relates to the master’s behavior, he may have to right himself and, using the example from above, reestablish direction, before the slave can begin getting a “right heart.”

As with all Master/slave issues, there is no blueprint for action or a canned response that works in all cases. Whatever is done, the keys are communication, investigation, assessment, and application. Equally important is the recognition that losing the right heart or headspace does not mean a person is a bad slave. These are natural occurrences that must be dealt with as part of the Master/slave journey.

In leather,

Master Jim

:: 3:37 PM [+] ::
(0) comments

:: Sunday, March 12, 2006 ::
Whips and Chains: Necessary, But Not Sufficient

I am wondering where you began your M/s, D/s, leather or SM journey? I think many of us in the M/s community today began with a primary focus on BDSM. My first tentative steps involved compiling a bag of equipment. I took great pride in going through the contents of that bag with willing bottoms, watching with great joy their interest, surprise and even shock at some of the items therein.

As did many others, I began to hone my SM skills first with paddles, floggers, clamps and cuffs. Later, I moved on to needles, scalpels and staple guns. Somewhere along the way, I developed a curiosity about D/s and then M/s. As time went on, I realized to my surprise that my interest in M/s was becoming my primary focus. That is not to say that SM was not important, but only that it had become a part of a much larger, more complex whole.

As I have recounted here before, my first discussions about M/s were with slave marsha. There was no one else to talk with. The few leather events that existed at the time at best might have one panel discussion on M/s. In fact, one of the first of these panels that I attended was made up entirely of members not currently in M/s relationships and at least two of the panel members stated they no longer had any interest in M/s!

Today, those of us who live as Masters and slaves have a growing community open to us. There are numerous events that focus on Mastery and slavery, and many of those that do not focus on it nevertheless offer a significant number of seminars on M/s topics. As a result, we now have gone far beyond "M/s 101" and are discussing the deeper issues that surround living as a Master and a slave. As an example, at South Plains Leatherfest-International Master/slave Weekend 2006, I and slave marsha offered a seminar entitled "If You Meet the Master on the Road, Kill Him!" This was a new seminar that focused on the philosophical underpinnings of a M/s relationship -- and even though we included some practical elements on structuring and maintaining a M/s relationship, it was much more theoretical than our usual offerings and I was not sure how the audience would respond to it. Much to my surprise, the seminar was well received.

So where does that leave us? As an M/s community are we now at a point where we should move M/s out of the dungeon and into the rarefied area of Aristotelian discourse? Where the only pain that is experienced is the headache we get from trying to understand each other's discussions?

I hope that those of you who have listened to myself and slave marsha speak or who have read the posts on this blog already know the answer. And the answer is -- no. There is no question that I enjoy discussing the abstract issues surrounding M/s with my fellow travelers. But I also need to discuss the practical aspects of ownership, obedience, discipline and punishment. I have always believed that it is important to understand why we are walking this path, but it is exceedingly important that we understand the different ways of how to walk it.

I plan to continue talking about and presenting on the philosophical aspects of Mastery and slavery. In fact, I may even do more of that than I have in the past. However, my pledge to you is that I and slave marsha will always incorporate practical concerns in our discussions. We will not tell you how to do things, but we will share with you what we have done and listen to your experiences.

In the final analysis, I believe it is accurate to say that while whips and chains may be necessary, but not sufficient, it is equally true that philosophical understanding is absolutely essential, but not enough.

In leather,
Master Jim

:: 2:53 PM [+] ::
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