March 18, 2012

A Taxonomy of Bad Apples

By Marc Esadrian

Females unfit for submission & males unfit for dominanceIt perhaps goes without saying that the domination-submission (D/s) collective is vast, incorporating in its fold every conceivable combination of themes, methodologies, and intensities. Within this ocean of mass relativity swim a minority searching for a certain something that isn’t merely written in water and, along the way, truths by which to abide in separating the wheat from the chaff, the false from the real, and the halfhearted from the resolved where good dominance and submission is concerned.  The often lonely search for authenticity involves getting certain math right as you travel down a vast Fibonacci spiral of pattern recognition, migrating from the overall braid of the collective to the strands, then the yarns, and eventually, the precise threads. Finding others who seek those very same threads involves a tremendous amount of searching, both of the world and of the soul, as well as time and patience. Within this collective and upon its fringes lies a dichotomy of what could be called bad apples, those who may on the surface reflect a desire for consensual servitude, but ultimately use it only as a means to other ends. Yet still there are more innocent wanderers, led astray by BDSM mythologies, who crash randomly into the more serious “hunters”—the contrast between the two not always apparent at first meeting.

Yet still there are more innocent wanderers, led astray by BDSM mythologies, who crash randomly into the more serious “hunters”—the contrast between the two not always apparent at first meeting.

Be that as it may, it stands to reason (and the empirical experience of the author) that if there is an extreme difference—however well hidden—in the motives between both parties in the relationship, the dynamic will inevitably falter and suffer. Nowhere is the contrast more stark than between the authentic seeker and the less critical player (who comes in many, many forms).

The consumption of the sage wisdom and glitzy “lifestyle” misinformation recanted by so many does not stand alone as the only obstacles to overcome; societal conditioning, excessive prurience, romantic infatuation, human manipulativeness, egocentricity, and gross narcissism are the garden variety tragic flaws of our kind conspiring to bloat the population of unsuitable candidates for consideration, who may nonetheless in their own minds have the best of intentions from the outset. There is no easy formula to use in unmasking the potentiality of such defects/incompatibilities within others, aside of relying upon one’s own intuitiveness, wit, and patience. It is beneficial to familiarize oneself with a base taxonomy of questionable dispositions and profiles, however. Below are just a few of the more common I can describe, along with their respective caveats, in recognition that fortune sometimes favors the second glance.

The Novice
Novices can be any age and any disposition, but their lack of experience is what universally marks them. Entertaining the novice is inherently a gamble, depending upon age and disposition. There is, of course, always untested potential in a newcomer and her untested and unstained interest—even if naive—is potentially beneficial, but with so many unknowns, the novice must be approached and observed carefully in the beginning. To determine her worth and suitability to the ideals of a functioning master-slave relationship, she must be vetted methodically and educated gradually to disabuse her of the illusions that, ironically, likely brought her to pursue the dream of servitude in the first place.

Inverse: The novice may be nothing more than a product of common thinking, trading in her traditional convictions for experimental ones to playfully dabble, or she may be just the right raw material from which to build a perfect servant, for experience is not so valuable as natural potential. The risk is entirely up to you; proceed slowly and reservedly and put contingencies in place, should the test tubes shatter. Don’t lean too heavily on the newcomer. Be a little suspicious of her motives and prepare for potential fallout by thinking ahead. Novices who feel hurt or betrayed can suddenly lash out. Guard your deeper secrets, connections, and overall image well by revealing only what she has earned. Time will test her true mettle and trustworthiness.

The Prurient
Most who inhabit the world of domination and submission inevitably become acquainted with the BDSM subculture and its inherent trappings, of its mores, its common effects and numerous implements. The prurient (also known as “fetishist”) eroticizes these trappings and personal fixations on body parts to excess, putting more focus upon the ornamentations and symbolic actions than the meanings (that should be) behind them. Inherently a case of cart before the horse—or rather a cart without a horse—the prurient contains no driving motive aside of the all-consuming hunger to indulge in sensual theatrics, hallowed perversity, and/or a self-centered masochism or sadism. Your part as servant or master may be utilitarian to their disappointingly shallow theater.

Inverse: A fetish can be a very useful tool and driver through which one controls another: through its carnal influence you can wield incredible power, but it’s important to not allow the one in your thrall to loose sight of the bigger picture: your pleasure, authority, and gain. So long as this is observed and implemented, the fetishes of your servant can be used to effectively control her. For the submissive female considering the tenacity of a man who seems more moved by acts than anything else, a question of compatibility inevitably arises. Do his penchants and fixations match yours? Further, is there potential in him to embrace the authority of master if they do? Is his dominance more than just sexual scenery? The answers to those questions should determine the path taken.

The Change Agent
The change agent explores the world of domination-submission often as a newcomer, searching for something new. Traditional romance has left her dispirited and unimpressed, but this new world of “masters and slaves” seems rife with thrills. She puts down the ordinary ways of her past, launching headfirst into a newfound dark love with a man who captures and consumes her. Her life becomes deliciously intense, passionate, and even scary, but eventually, the momentum begins to wane and as she gets more comfortable, other motives intrude. As the relationship progresses, she seeks to lay claim upon her “master,” gradually becoming more territorial and possessive over his time and attention. Her flaw becomes painfully clear through her conventional attitudes about fidelity, reciprocated love, and romantic commitment. Feigning submission, the change agent is in reality a jealous and opportunistic appeaser; to secure the relationship and her position in it, she attempts to manipulate him to commit to the relationship paradigm she’s truly more comfortable with, all the while retaining the air of servant.

Inverse: The change agent can sometimes hold vast potential: her submission remains tied to a culturally coached alter ego of sorts, but the core of that alter ego can be dealt with, so long as she is disabused of her fears, doubts, culturally enforced mores, and most importantly, the idea you as master can be changed to suit her needs through manipulative appeasement and the sticky traps of romanticism. Measure well her potential before such an undertaking. If she is otherwise generally honest, she may be salvaged, but if deceitful and stubbornly jealous by nature, it’s best to move on.

The Princess
Histrionic, narcissistic, and vainglorious, the princess is hungry for your attention and praise. For a season these attributes can be smuggled convincingly under the guise of submission. Before long, however, something begins to feel amiss about her loyalties; she insinuates herself into the limelight of your space too often, re-engineering her servitude as a stage for attention getting and psychodrama. Much like the change agent, the princess eventually shows her hand as the relationship progresses and the boundaries expected for a committed servant become unbearable to accept. Lazy beyond her own interests and unendingly self-obsessed, if it doesn’t feed her penchant for attention in some way, she will slowly subvert your authority and seek it elsewhere in another.

Inverse: The defect of the princess can in fact also be a boon, so long as it’s not so pronounced that it consumes nobler qualities of her personality. The need of attention, approval and validation can seem childlike, and may well have a similar innocence. If not too deeply ingrained, the mild princess tendency can be cleverly redirected as a plus rather than a negative with a paternal-like influence that burns away and rebuilds her self image. Be realistic about this, however. Make certain she has the mettle to trust in your control and allow herself to be truly shaped. Otherwise, her submission will become a pretty facade and one she’ll wear like a fur coat.

The Wounded Fawn
Cursed with some tragic character flaw, the wounded fawn latches on like a parasite to men throughout life. She drifts through relationships, using them up, one by one, always seeking the next savior around the bend. Needy and addiction-prone, she eventually finds herself prostrating before a chosen messiah, a god, the new found cure for all her woes.  Under him, she is safe from the world. Under him, she can shirk her responsibilities in life with impunity. But the foundation upon which she built her servitude is rotten, for it was built not with the love of serving in mind, but largely to insulate her from the world and escape responsibility. The mistake in this premise is obvious: she must now answer to a master, one who will demand performance and obedience from her, who will shake her out of her comfort zones and lazy, self-serving games to now serve him. Hopelessly irreparable and blind to the virtue of real and lasting fulfillment in service, her “slavery” is nothing more than cleverly disguised predation.

Inverse: Sometimes wounds can be beneficial to exploit. Keeping your needy sycophant sealed off from the world and dependent upon you can be an exercise in control and psychological ownership of another human being. Be careful not to become a junk collector: some wounded fawns are simply too toxic and not worth the trouble of keeping around. Find out if there is something under the tarnish that makes the effort of buffing it away worthwhile, for a servant must bring something to the table outside of a warm body, no matter how pretty that body may be.

The White Knight
In legends of old, the white knight was a male figure who rescued a princess or beautiful maiden from harm or distress. Posing as a benevolent paternal figure, the white knight seeks to lend help with a big, bleeding heart, though in the process he ultimately helps you to help himself. Self-deluded into thinking his moralistic opportunism equals or justifies dominance, what he doesn’t see is how transparent he really is. Arbitrary in thought and action for his own self-interest, it won’t be long before you see the predatory opportunist behind his selective heroism. His ability to dominate is hamstrung by his big teddy bear pride and all too easily he finds himself exploited by a clever manipulator who has learned to play the perfect victim.

Inverse: We often have an instinctual suspicion in the unexpected gift of help given by an unexpected giver; why are they doing this and what do they want in return? A new admirer who falls over himself helping you can be endearing in the short-term, but vet his motives and character carefully for the long-term. A man worthy of serving shouldn’t have to exploit your desperation to prove questionable mettle; that mettle should easily be self-evident. If it is, accept his help with open arms.

The Sugarbaby
A sex capitalist at heart, the sugar baby searches for a “sugar daddy,” a man who will protect and provide for her, shielding her from the burdens of responsibility and enriching her material security. Often young and physically attractive, the sugar baby uses her sexual appeal to get what she wants in a flimsy, yet outwardly convincing iteration of submission. She views her sexual submissiveness as essentially a commodity, a bargaining chip by which she can get what she wants in an exchange for services (sexual compliance in return for material favors). This is an old relational archetype between male and female, no less so than “the oldest profession,” finding its way into the world of domination-submission quite easily when seductresses engage easily flattered and self-impressed “alpha males.”

Inverse: Like the wounded fawn, sometimes addicting the sugar baby to the benefits of your security can lead to finding submission within her, but this can only be achieved through the subtlety of using her own opportunism against her. The flaw with this notion is obvious: such a tactic is not aimed at the spirit of actualized submission much at all, and thus, has a shelf life. She may be loyal for a season, but only because she’s getting what she wants materially, or there’s distant hope of it. Rest assured she will be inclined to stray when easier and more fruitful opportunities arise, for in reality she is servant only to herself. For this reason, the sugar baby should be avoided if her avarice and manipulative behavior runs too deep.

The Fantasist
Fantastic scenarios permeate the fantasist’s motives, where stark visions of servitude and fantastic scenery are branded as the ideal. Unfortunately, the slave or master within this fantasy, in all likelihood, does not exist in the real world; if either ever did exist, they would no doubt be inhuman. The fantasist idealizes and objectifies to fastidious excess, and much like the fetishist, often finds him or herself falling in love with particular trappings of “the idea” to the exclusion of the human element—an element which is, inevitably, imperfect and incapable of competing with the flawless muse spun in dreams. Haunted by a need for reality yet unable to accept its limitations, the fantasist is cursed to wander in the half-light between failed real-life relationships and the world of glittering ideal.

Inverse: Dreams and fantasies power—and are powered by—desire. On some level, we’re all dreamers, compelled to turn our visions into flesh. Fantasists have taken the dream to a level of excessive idealism, living in the world of preferred scenery. The realism of that scenery depends solely upon the nature of the dream in question. It’s no secret that compatibility is important in relationships; if the pieces fit, a grand experience may await, but make certain the one you seek to serve or ensnare isn’t rooted only in sensual ideals. Be certain they can handle the flaws and imperfections inherent in life.

The Figurehead
The preference BDSM enthusiasts have toward married or otherwise attached couples “in the lifestyle” is baselessly optimistic, yet it prevails nonetheless, and much to the benefit of those who claim to practice master-slave relationships—no matter what the nature of those relationships may really be. The man who appears to be a master of the household takes in a new girl, and in a gradual turn of household politics, is eventually revealed to be a false king: the new addition to the household or group realizes the “master’s” power is not as absolute as it should be, but exists at the overarching behest of his wife or significant other who masquerades as servant. Dependent upon her affection and approval, the master becomes nothing more than a figurehead to the sexual politics of the harem leader, otherwise known as the “alpha slave.”

Inverse: Not all those who keep households of multiple females (harems) are so manipulated or subverted in their power. While many people find it difficult to navigate the life of a polyamorous household, some are indeed successful in the endeavor without breaking the nature of authority masters have over their obedient females. Approach couples and harems with caution, however; preexisting members of the household are entrenched in their positions and may hold manipulative powers over the supposed master of the home. Vet each situation and the man himself as carefully as you can before making a commitment in flesh and blood. In short, choose a man you cannot manipulate. If you do so, the chance he’ll be manipulated by others will be lessened.

  1. Julia says:

    I’ve seen plenty of “figureheads” and “white knights” in my lifetime without a doubt.

  2. captive.mind says:

    Fascinating typology and another great article Mr. Esadrian. Thank you for writing it. I think you’ve nailed most of the types I’ve seen. I’ve also seen more than my share of figureheads and white knights. And definitely lots of wounded fawns. My former master used to attract the latter in droves, sigh.

    I have a question: if you try to provide the Fantasist with anything close to their ideal, do they like it and want more or do they run away?

    Oh! And I thought of another potential type. What do you call the sort of person (they come in both dominant and submissive varieties) who thinks “I want Very Good Thing X, therefore I am, just as I am without any work on myself, eminently deserving of Very Good Thing X.” In practical life this sort doesn’t get very far: the high school student who applies to be CEO of a large corporation, for example, doesn’t usually get the job, no matter how well-qualified he imagines he is. But I frequently see wannabe slaves or wannabe masters who demand they be noticed, accepted and adored by the best slave (or the best master) they can find, they won’t even look at anyone less, but they have nothing whatsoever in terms of quality or abilities in their dominance or their submission to offer to that individual. They bring little to the table but their eyes are very greedy and their hearts inflated with empty pride at their imagined self-perfection.

    Is this a type or is this just human nature for 99% of us, lol? I guess someone like you would just avoid such a person, but have you experience with them? Maybe they are a form of “star collector” or groupie?

  3. MarcEsadrian says:

    @captive.mind:

    Fairly good category suggestion, and one I agree with. I might just add it to the list!

  4. redbottomgirl83 says:

    I joined this site because I am of course, if nothing but a curious type of person. I had written to humbled females before, though mostly under a more feminine presence in the atmosphere. Still, I try to find value in new things, or I like to believe in the best qualities first. I can be a bit of a cynic or at the very least skeptical, but always first…is wanting to believe in the better qualities in people. This article was nicely written, very clear, and even very observant about personality types. Some argue, there is only a finite number of personalities, so of course, some people will be more alike or different than others.

    However, here is the main problem with labeling categories & people as mere personality types: the main problem is that this is limiting a person’s growth potential to be more than they are or could be. It is true, underneath you did acknowledge that people who seemed to be in one personality type, could have many advantages or strengths that they are not catering to currently. Yet, always there seemed to be a hinge of it being “only” for the benefit of the dominant or Master (that he is only interested in these personality types, in order to figure out how to glean something extra from said type of person).

    Granted, even I know there are types out there best left to avoid, but I judge that based on an individual basis,not really lumping people into a said group just based on how they talk or type (but more like, how they are in real life, how they act, what they say, how they correct, or don’t, etc).

    I suppose if I ‘had’ to label myself in a category, it might be under the fantasist category…mostly because I do find fantasy to be extremely comforting, yet I do understand the hardships of trying to make reality live up fantasy, or fantasy to the reality. I see it as the less destructive of most of the personality types, and the personality type that has the most potential for growth, since it hinges on dreams & future success. The biggest downside is living in the present in the fantasist arena. However, I’m not exactly crazy on labels, a label is really only useful for understanding the beginnings of something tough to understand. At some point, people should actualize that humans are far more complex than labels you place on them or ones they place on themselves.

  5. caringandreal says:

    @redbottomgirl83

    I think that it is rather missing the boat to characterize this article as being about personality “types.” To me, this article says nothing about reducing people to simple “types.” Instead, it is describing attitudes people assume toward slavery, the misconceptions they have about it, and the actions that invariably result from these attitudes and confused frames of mind. Obviously, any single adult individual will have thousands of attitudes about thousands of things. _Bad Apples_ focuses on a mere handful of attitudes about a particular activity (consensual slavery or humble service of a man) that are not very conducive to achieving the goal of full, happy slavery under a strong man. That’s a far cry from describing an entire personality or a “type.”

    If such things as personality “types” even exist, I would imagine they are fixed or at least very resistant to change because they affect the whole personality and one’s general temperament and outlook on the world. (Actually, I do think they exist. I strongly subscribe to Pavlov’s four temperaments, clearly observable in higher mammals such as dogs and humans. These are basic animal personality types that have been verified in countless scientific studies.) What’s being described in this article, however, seems much more finite to me: a liminted number of faulty attitudes you can bring to the pursuit of slavery or mastery that can really screw you over and make you stumble _if_ mastering someone or being enslaved are really your goal. More importantly, as this article clearly points out, these bad attitudes can waste the time and try the patience of someone more sincere and honest looking for someone equally sincere.

    I’ve spent years looking for the right sort of master and I’ve run into the male attitudes (figureheads, fantasists, white knights, daddies, and others) described here numerous times. None of them have been what I needed, which is, to put it very simply, a master, although (and here’s the part where I feel that I’ve had my time wasted) many describe themselves as masters without being able to actually fill that role or without desiring to really master anyone.

  6. slave_rachel says:

    Sir,
    Very true. i think if more people saw this, they might better be able to avoid pitfalls in themselves or others.

    There seems to be also a clique in some places where disrespect is common.
    Pity the Master who dares to confront it or mention it even briefly in those groups. i remember first seeing those posts and wondering why they were acting that way. My first impression was that they were not happy as slaves or subs and venting at a safe target. Perhaps they are in one of the above categories and when they get frustrated with submission and obedience since it isn’t their first “calling” they are lashing out. Don’t really understand it.

  7. wateredges says:

    Such a great article… very insightful and informative. I am a 40-something female submissive and relatively new to BDSM (1 year active over a 3 year period). When I first discovered this I was admittedly a classic Change Agent, in that I thought this would be a pathway to fuller intimacy and expression in the confines of a traditional love relationship. So I put up an ad in a BDSM site seeking “my one true Dom”. I clearly didn’t understand that I was looking at this through a traditional lens and I learned the hard way through disappointment and heartache that this is a different place altogether. I closed my ad, put all this aside and went about my life.

    Now 2 years later, I am entering this with a new perspective. I know that I am sexually submissive and that’s all I need to explore for now through play with carefully selected, responsible Doms. I am not expecting anything but a good experience and education, and it’s actually a relief. I don’t know if I will ever enter into a situation where I’m “owned”, but if I do I’ll have done so by making an educated decision.

    Seeing myself so accurately described here was very helpful (I’m not alone!). I would imagine that it’s common to have difficulty separating the traditional cultural attitudes…especially for a woman of my age who discovers this later in life.

    I love the site in general and am thankful it’s here.

  8. MarcEsadrian says:

    @wateredges:

    Thank you so much for the compliments; it’s great to see how this article was helpful to you. I think many people attempting to enter this way of life import with them a lot of traditional mores and values that are often in contradiction to the reality of what’s being pursued (at least in theory).

    Theory and reality don’t always align perfectly, of course, but there does come a point where one needs a good working theory grounded in self-honesty to begin with. Before you buy a ticket to get on a plane, it’s useful to know where you’re intending to go and what you’ll be doing when you arrive. I see the pursuit of any relationship archetype the same way.

    Marc

  9. alana says:

    This is a truly fascinating article …it has taught me a lot about general types to be aware of in the world of D/s. There is so much here to absorb that I intend to reread it again at a later date to pick up on what I may have been unable to relate to so early on in my journey.

    Also you have an amazing ability to write, sir. Can you tell me where I can find your earlier articles that people have made reference to?

    alana

  10. JuliusP says:

    Another great article that I wish I had read before I learned the hard way. “The change agent” was a particularly painful lesson I learned.

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