(don’t) assume the position

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

I stumbled across a blog post from a het male dom the other day, about the eight slave positions that he thinks “most dominants” train their submissives to do and have them do regularly. Of course what he really meant was “the het male dominants who think exactly like I do, and their gender-normative female submissives.” So not exactly my thing.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with these positions, I just bristle at the idea that “most dominants” do anything specific when it comes to physical play styles, movements, positions and so forth. It’s a serious pet peeve of mine, as it makes it seem as though “we” all have access to some sort of mystical repository of knowledge about How This Is Done, and every once in a while we’ll deign to share it with the rest of you who haven’t figured out where that knowledge comes from yet. We do not. There is no repository. Unless you count a couple centuries’ worth of porn. We make this shit up as it pleases us. Sure, we might get our ideas from within a particularly protocol-oriented local or regional community, if we happen to be part of one. Or we might cleave to a particular tradition that has a lot of written documentation we can follow to the letter—but frankly, most of those are also just porn (Gor, anyone?), so born out of someone’s fantasy brain, not from some sort of Grand Official Manual of Dominance. But the vast majority of dominants, if we use “slave positions” at all, simply grab ideas that happen to give us a boner and get our submissives to perform them because they work for us personally. And we must, of course, accommodate the individual needs of a given person—bad knees, bad back, what have you—and the particular flavour of any given relationship.

Anyway, all bitching aside, the post got me thinking about how I do use a fairly specific range of positions and commands—not randomly or for the fun of displaying people, usually, but because some positions are useful. I am realizing more and more how my preferences are often about solid functionalism and pared-down elegance, rather than anything explicitly sexual. I mean, I like looking at sexy people as much as the next person, but I don’t actually need to, for instance, “inspect” someone on a regular basis unless we’ve agreed that this would be hot and fun. And while hot and fun are, well, hot and fun, they don’t get the dishes done or my feet rubbed, and as such are not likely to be required every time someone enters a room. So this “present” position that the poster writes about, for instance, is frankly of very little use to me—though it’s obviously of great interest to him. See what I mean? If you like the idea of using physical positions to reinforce or experience your D/s dynamic, go right ahead, but please, please, please… make it up. Just make the shit up. Find inspiration anyplace you please, but don’t go out looking for the Right Way. Don’t get invested in what this mythical Everyone Else does. They do not exist. And what’s in your own head, fulfils your own fantasies, and fits into your own life and relationships and physical condition is way more important anyway.

So just to present an alternative to this mythical “most,” I took a moment to write up the positions I have been known to ask my submissives to use. They look a whole lot less like “please show me your sexual availability as much as possible in every random situation” and a lot more like “be graceful, be polite, and be useful to me.” I never set out to develop a list of positions—but I realized recently that, having been in one form or another of D/s relationships for the past decade, I do indeed get people to assume certain positions regularly, and it is helpful to be able to tell people about them. Bear in mind that the majority of people who’ve submitted to me are somewhere along the masculine spectrum, so the body language I prefer in these positions tends toward the broad and masculine. Nothing wrong with the femmier side of body language—I’m just stating my own biases up front, so that there’s no mistaking them for anything but personal preference.

Note that some people get very, very excited about positions. They have exacting standards for them. Some dominants can spend hours training a submissive to be able to execute a range of precisely measured postures, much in the way one might train to hold a complicated yoga pose or perfectly perform a synchronized swimming choreography. Some submissives get into the process because it takes them into such a tightly focused, totally blissed-out and intensely turned-on headspace, sort of like meditation but with a giant throbbing boner. These are the people who daydream about doing military drill, or get off at the physical discipline and concentration required in their Tai Chi class. I think that is awesome, and have even been able to get into it on occasion when I’m in the mood for super-high-control kinds of play. But most of the time, I couldn’t be bothered. That level of exactingness is just too much work. For me, outside play situations, that just gets in the way of whatever it is I’d like to accomplish—refer back to my principles of “functional and elegant.”

If this kind of thing appeals to you, in your own D/s arrangement, it can be useful for the submissive to spend a few minutes each day practicing them for a little while. Not because they are difficult, but because it’s nice for someone to be able to do them smoothly and gracefully—so the submissive can think about those two criteria as they work to integrate them into body memory, much the way you might practice basic dance moves in order to not have to think about them so you can just move with the music. I would encourage the submissive to think about economy of motion (a term I borrow from Midori’s “Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink”), and seamlessness of transition between one and the other. If you want to play with them, or with your own variations, I would encourage the submissive to string them together in one way or another, and also do them separately from standing. If you’re inclined to do so, the dominant can drill the submissive, for fun, but it may not be necessary.

I also realized, as I was writing this up, that I use hand signals for most of these positions. They’re pretty intuitive and frankly I never set out to develop them; they just kinda made sense in the moment enough times over the years that they became second nature to me.

So here they are. Have fun with them, or don’t, as you please. They’re mine. Make them yours, or make your own, or don’t bother.

1. Wait. Submissive: Start from standing. Shoulders are square, legs are slightly spread apart and the hands are clasped behind the back. Kind of like a military “at ease” position. (Pro tip: I got this from working in retail for a long time, where it’s good to look like you’re available to customers but not just lounging about.) Dominant hand signal: looks like a stop sign, palm facing forward, or possibly just the first two fingers, as though you were indicating “hold on just two minutes.”

2. Kneel (also known as “kneel down”). Submissive: Shoulders are square, legs are slightly spread apart, butt rests on your heels, and the hands are either clasped behind the back (when told to wait) or palms up on the thighs (to be ready to be useful). Dominant hand signal: put your hand out at waist height, palm facing the floor, and press down a bit. If they don’t go down far enough, press further down.

3. Kneel up. Shoulders are square, legs are slightly spread apart, thighs are at a 90-degree angle from calves, and the hands are either clasped behind the back (when told to wait) or palms down on the thighs. Dominant hand signal: Same as for kneeling down. If they go too far down, or start from kneeling down, beckon slightly to have them come back partway up. If they mistake that for a signal to rise, use your stop sign. Or just use your voice. Meh. This is not an exact science.

4. Down. Start from kneeling down, then put palms, forehead and as much of upper torso as possible to the floor. Similar to child’s pose in yoga. Good as a lead-in to boot licking, for instance. Dominant hand signal: anytime you’re indicating to someone that they should do something which will directly result in them no longer being able to keep their gaze on your hand, then your hand signals become useless. For this one I find that simply pressing down on the middle of the person’s back or gently on the back of their neck clearly indicates where I want them to go. That can be done with a hand or a foot.

5. All the way down. Flat on your belly, legs slightly spread, palms down, arms in cactus shape (out 90 degrees from the body and bent 90 degrees at the elbows), forehead to the floor or head to one side. Dominant signal: just keep pushing down. Kick a knee out of the way or something if they seem attached to the basic down position. Did I mention this isn’t an exact science?

6. On all fours. Submissive: uh, just do it when told. Dominant hand signal: I haven’t figured one out for this, though I’m sure I could. Seems easier to just say something like “I need a footstool” or whatever.

7. Bend over. Submissive: Palms on the table or other available surface, or on your thighs just above the knees if no surface is near. Legs slightly spread. Dominant hand signal: hand up like a stop sign, then bend your hand forward flat at the wrist, or bend your fingers forward. Helps if you’re holding your stop sign so that the edge of your hand faces you, rather than the flat of your hand, so the person looking at you can clearly see the bend. Either that or just put one hand on the front of a thigh to keep them standing, and push their upper body down using your palm against the middle of their back or gently against the back of their neck.

8. Sit comfortably / be comfortable. Submissive: Transition in some graceful way from kneeling to sitting on your butt with legs to one side or cross-legged, whatever’s most comfortable in terms of sitting on the floor. Don’t grunt and thunk. Think fluid and smooth. The idea here is to get off your knees, if kneeling for long periods is difficult but you need to be on the floor for a while. It’s also lovely as a transition to curling up and putting your head on the dominant’s foot. Dominant hand signal: I dunno, I usually just kinda wave in a general way to indicate they should chill out down there.

Have fun with all that. I will say that, while everyone who does D/s will have their own preferences (including having no preferences at all, or not having developed preferences yet, or not caring one whit about positions), I have observed that D/s-oriented people often notice when someone has basic “training” in these things. It’s as though the spirit of them is apparent even though everyone has different preferences about exactly how things should be done, and about what would appear on this list. There’s a certain flavour about how some people move through space and interact with the world that is related to the body awareness and economy of motion inherent in regularly taking or requiring others to take positions like this—a developed instinct, you might say—and it can be sniffed out. I know that I personally do notice these things when I’m in leather/kink/BDSM spaces and when I do, I end up feeling a little more at home, even when that body awareness is in no way directed at me, but just because it feels like I’m around others who on some level do “what it is that I do.” So if you do this stuff often enough, you may find that others begin to approach you for advice or out of curiosity. All I ask is that you tell them what I am telling you here: that you made shit up that worked for you, and that they can do the same.

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