December 23, 2012

Deconstructing Obedience

Jessica M.

deconstructingobedience

Artwork ©Steve Hanks

Obedience, to me, is a living breathing thinking creature that, like any animal, interacts with its environment in complex ways. Deconstruction suggests tearing off the wings off a bird in order to learn how it flies. And that’s not a very “constructive” approach, is it?  I don’t want to deconstruct living obedience in that sense but I do want to examine more closely what it is. I think that by understanding obedience better, I can better serve a man someday.

What inspired me to write this? Well, to be honest, certain discussions I read on the web really bother me. I cannot name who or where because when consulting management about writing this article, I was told to avoid “naming names,” but I can characterize them a bit. Maybe some of you have read similar threads and will know exactly what I am talking about.

In such threads, someone asks questions like these: What does it mean to serve a man? What does it feel like to you? How does it make you happy? How does it make you sad? Some women answer these questions with answers that seem superficially profound in their simplicity. But to me, such answers are more often profoundly meaningless. Take this response, for instance:

Being a man’s servant means to obey.
What makes me happy is to obey.
What makes me sad is to obey.
What makes me (anything) is to obey.

While everyone else seemed utterly awed by the elegant Zenness of this oversimplified proclamation, I was personally groaning in pain. I was so tempted to write back:  Oh. Well. If that’s all there is to being a humble servant of one’s husband or master, then I might as well just kill myself and get it over with! To think all this time I believed  that there was something more to obedience than “just obey!” So silly of me to think there might be something a little more complex, like thinking, involved! 

I know, I’m being a little sarcastic. Maybe more than a bit! Responses like this just strike me as incredibly vapid, and I couldn’t believe that all those otherwise intelligent readers actually fell for it. Something in such writings must be incredibly tempting to inspire all of the blind head-nodding that went on in the thread. I now think I know what that something is. It’s the kind of idea, that, like any good slogan, inspires “feel good” emotions and entirely shuts off thought and the need to take action as well:

I just obey. Yep, indeedy I do! Now I can go back to sleep. Snore! I know that even in my sleep I am obedient because I just obey!  

People like slogans precisely because these hypnotic phrases sound so right. Slogans do indeed allow people to “sleep” or coast unthinkingly on automatic through life while feeling at the same time that they are doing something great and wonderful.  I don’t have to figure out anything, work at anything, overcome anything, or learn anything. I just…obey. And anybody can do that because everybody knows what obeying means, right? Well, not exactly.

You see, unless someone is living in a very predictable rut where everything always remains exactly the same and she habitually obeys the same set of orders over and over again with no variation, it seldom works out  that “just obeying” is just, well, obeying.  The thoughts and feelings a person has around the act affect it in ways that make it more than just the action of a simple machine. For a thinking, feeling woman, each act of obedience is different than the next. “Just obeying” may be fraught with doubt (can I even begin to do something like this?), confusion (did he really mean I should do it that way?), motivation (this seems tough, but I can do this, I can find a way!), and fantasy (Of course the great and wonderful me can do this. I can do anything I set my mind to. No Problemo!).

Unfortunately, by encouraging athletic-style “don’t think, let your body do it” advice toward something that often requires thought in order to be done best, it presents what should be (and is) a living, breathing process as something very flat and shallow, and subsequently, not very helpful for those attempting to get at the core of things where obedience is concerned.

Machines don’t think or feel so they don’t add any of this mental or emotional background color to the act. When you push the candy machine’s button, the candy drops down into the slot, provided you’ve added the right amount of money. But people aren’t vending machines, despite what Little Miss Just Obey suggests! People are far more complicated, and every act they do, whether they are aware of it or not, is laden with meanings, unconscious assumptions, attitudes, responses, associations, and all sorts of other mental and emotional overtones that change a simple melody into a complex (although sometimes cacophonous) symphony. It is that symphony that interests me. So without further ado, I’ll dive into it.

For me, obedience breaks down into three major components that, while separate, are also intimately related: the act of obedience itself, the mindset behind the act, and the consequences of the act. I’ve already discussed the idea of looking at just the act of obedience in isolation, so I’m going to move on to the next two elements.

Mindset

It seems to me that why you obey and how you feel or what you think of as you obey are all very important elements. Some might argue that they do not matter, that “just obeying” is all that counts and in one sense they are right. When given an order from her man, a good woman obeys quickly, gracefully, and, if needed, with the appropriate degree of competence or skill. She does not argue back, balk, over-question, stall for time, ignore the command, present alternatives, or hesitate. I suspect that this is what the “Just Obey” crowd is trying to get at with their oversimplified Nike-like ad slogan. Unfortunately, by encouraging athletic-style “don’t think, let your body do it” advice toward something that often requires thought in order to be done best, it presents what should be (and is) a living, breathing process as something very flat and shallow, and subsequently, not very helpful for those attempting to get at the core of things where obedience is concerned.

In my experience, a mindset toward obedience is composed of a number of elements. Among the most important are:

Motivation, or why I obey. The reasons I obey and the attitudes that I bring toward the act of obedience.

Method, or how I obey. How I carry out the specific order. This can involve know-how and it can involve attitude.

Mood, or the feelings that arise when I obey. The feelings I have when first given the order and the emotional responses felt during its execution.

Why are these mental and emotional elements important? Because, invisible as they may be except to me, they have an impact. They color and shape my act of obedience. They change it, not just for me, but also for the one giving me the command.

A woman can obey for positive or for negative reasons. A positive reason to obey might be because she wants to please her man, make him happy in general or happy with her specifically. Another positive reason might be because she respects him and is honoring her word to obey him in all things, great and small.  A negative reason to obey would be because she knows she can manipulate a man by doing so: make him think or feel or do what she wants with her obedience. Another negative reason could be because she is too terrified to do anything else. (This is not always bad, but if fear of a man is the only reason why she is obeying, it doesn’t strike me as a very strong basis for continued, lasting obedience.) A third negative reason to obey could be because a woman has turned her “perfect obedience” into an act of egotism. She obeys so she can feel superior in her mind and heart to those less obedient, not because she cares about how the man she serves is affected by her obedience.

The motivation behind one’s obedience affects the experience of obedience and what it personally feels like. Over time that can affect the consequences of obedient acts, but that’s jumping ahead a bit. I think it’s pretty clear that the motivations brought to an act of obedience change the experience of the act, at least for the person doing the obeying. And, over time, those experiences can become habitual. If a woman feels inordinately proud and superior each time she obeys a simple command, it becomes easier to feel that way the next time she obeys a command. As time passes, she becomes prouder and prouder, more entrenched in her own superiority over all those other women she sees who “can’t do it nearly as well as she does.”  But she also becomes, at the same time, less and less attuned to the needs of the man she serves. She barely thinks of him and his happiness when she obeys—it’s all about her, ironically. It’s all about her growth, her superiority, her skills at obeying and being better than the others. She becomes an inward braggart.

On the other hand, if a woman obeys because her man’s happiness is everything to her and because it fills her with joy to see him satisfied and happy then the next time she obeys, she hopes to feel more of that joy. So she tries especially hard to satisfy him. Her focus on him and her exclusion of other factors (fear, doubts, pride, and blind, unthinking habit) makes her love him and want to serve him even better. It makes her pay attention to him and his needs rather than simply perform a mindless act. And that mindful attention likewise grows and grows.

Method is important, too.  A woman can sweep the kitchen floor in a sloppy, fast, careless manner because she’s anxious to get back to her computer game or to her kinky social network where she can boast to others about how obedient she is and post the latest shots of her naked bod, all to garner attention…or she can sweep the floor correctly, slowly, skillfully, thinking about what she is doing, finding better ways to do it, careful to get the crumbs in the corners, able to set aside her other thoughts about what she’d rather be doing in order to focus totally on what she is actually doing. She’ll notice spots on the floor and stop to clean them with a mop or a sponge, instead of ignoring them because she’s been ordered to sweep only, not wash, and she’s in such a great hurry. She can be there in the moment, feeling her obedience, realizing that she cannot disobey anything her man tells her to do.

She can feel her obedience instead of being lost in a fantasy about something else. This helps her to realize that she feels good or bad based on how she performs even the simplest acts.  Or she can be thinking instead about doing her nails or the TV show that’s coming on soon or how she’s going to handle herself at work the next day or what to get her son for his birthday, in other words, thinking about anything except the boring crumbs on the boring floor. Guess which floor will ultimately look better? And guess which mind will ultimately feel better and be better suited to obey the next time?

Sweeping the floor sounds like such a little thing, such a trivial thing, but if it’s an order given to you by the one you worship and obey, isn’t it highly important to perform it right? And if a woman doesn’t regard this as highly important, how can she possibly regard the one giving her the order as highly important?

Mood, I think, is something that might arise from motivation or method. It also, in turn, influences them. It’s an interactive thing. We all have experienced how mood affects performance. If you are anxious about something you’re much more likely to perform some nervous act that harms the outcome or even be too paralyzed to act at all. Ordinarily, a woman won’t feel overly anxious about what she does unless it is something new and unfamiliar, something she lacks confidence in doing, or unless she is brand new to submitting. But she will certainly feel other emotions in response to receiving an order or while obeying it.  She may feel irritation, for instance—irritation at being interrupted while in the middle of doing something else (even something else for him) that she considers to be more important or more interesting. She may feel resentment because she is sick or in pain and here he is ordering her to do all this stuff despite how terrible she feels. She may feel eager, bored, curious, angry, expectant of a reward, discouraged, sleepy, happy, grumpy, drunkenly elated (I had to break up the seven dwarves metaphor!) or nothing much at all in response to the command. She may be shutting her feelings down because she believes that servants just mindlessly obey, they do not feel anything when they are obeying. Not if they’re doing it right, anyway.

Most women, by the time they realize they want to serve a man, come with a slew of habits and attitudes already formed. A skillful, controlling male will utilize the good habits/traits and burn or weed out the bad ones.

Why are feelings important when a woman is obeying? Because they color the experience, they make it pleasant or unpleasant, and these experiences, in turn affect how she feels the next time the order comes up. I might remember, for example, how I felt the last time I was ordered to cut my spending and that memory might slightly influence how I feel the next time I am told to cut my spending. I also think that the mood you are in when you do something influences how you do it and how well you do it. If I am distracted and stressed, my focus on the physical act is likely to be spottier than if I am relaxed, open, and just living in the moment. If I associate obeying an order with boredom, I’m going to tend to feel more and more bored each time I do it. Eventually, this may become a part of what I think of as my “root personality”: I am a person who is bored when performing menial tasks.  This sort of stubborn attitude can, over the long run, get in the way of obedience. Nobody likes to feel bored and it’s natural to try to escape boredom, when possible.

Consequences

The most immediate consequence of obedience for a woman is the response of her man. If she obeys well, with alacrity and skill, he will be pleased, or at very least content. She will not be scolded or punished. There will be no dreaded “little talk” later. If she obeys poorly, puts off the command, performs it in a half-hearted or incomplete manner, he may be displeased or disappointed with her. Depending upon the relationship, she might be punished for this, she might lose privileges, or experience other signs of his displeasure. One form of psychological punishment that is very hard for some women to bear is when the dominant man stops issuing the order entirely because he feels she is too incompetent, incapable, or unwilling. This can provoke tremendous guilt in a servant with a conscience. Strangely enough, it can also breed resentment against him:

How dare he feel I am not competent or capable simply because I screwed up this once! How dare he take this responsibility away from me? 

But there are other consequences, too. One that I’ve already touched upon is the tendency for single acts, feelings, and thoughts to become habitual. If it feels good or if it feeds a hunger in someone, even if that hunger is not ultimately a good thing, they are likely to repeat it. Habits, over time, can become quite strong and even morph into rock-hard personality traits. Something that began as a single simple response to a single act can, with constant repetition, become hardened into an unchanging aspect of one’s personality. If that aspect is a good one that benefits the man a woman serves, that is good–great in fact! But if the response is a bad one that hinders, hurts, thwarts, or channels her obedience into something less savory, it can be a terrible or tragic thing if it becomes hardened into a habit.

Most women, by the time they realize they want to serve a man, come with a slew of habits and attitudes already formed. A skillful, controlling male will utilize the good habits/traits and burn or weed out the bad ones. How willing he is to do this second thing, this weeding of her mental garden, depends a lot on how negative and entrenched the habitual behavior is. Some females are beyond hope or help in this regard and it is tragic that they feel they must obey when these very hard, crystallized portions of their personalities prevent that obedience. A woman who is not in that situation, who is actively and happily serving a man, can look at her less-fortunate sisters, the females her man shudders over and says he’d never want them serving him, as examples of what she could become if she is not mindful about the formation of habits, particularly bad habits.

Another very important consequence of obedience is that if a woman obeys in the right fashion (usefully, helpfully, constructively) she can more easily spot it when she’s being disobedient, even in an attitude like boredom. Her sensitivity toward obedience becomes more finely tuned, more accurate, more detailed, and more wonderfully diverse, like diving into a fractal. The simple act of obedience through mindfulness becomes more and more enriched through complexity, not less so. In other words, she is learning. More each day. And her obedience and attitudes during obedience improve as a result. This starts an upward spiral, a momentum, that becomes difficult to derail or sabotage with negativity. Eventually, the serving woman may become so exquisitely conscious of what she is doing as she obeys that she can be said to be “just doing it” or “just obeying.” But she has earned, through her consciousness and critical attention to detail, the right to say she “just obeys,” because within those two simple words there is now in her mind a near-infinite universe of meaning.  Most women who want to obey a man try to run before they can even crawl: they take the easy way out and never closely examine why they obey, how they obey, or what they feel when they obey. Instead, they adopt easy slogans, such as “I just obey.” They may obey, after a fashion, but that obedience is empty and meaningless compared to what it could be.

  1. zeister says:

    Great article and very well thought out. I think about this a lot: the drive, motivations, and reactions of a woman’s obedience to a man. From a mans point of view there are two words missing in this article regarding the mindset that I prefer to experience and that is enthusiastic and cheerful. A dominant man does not want to be served out of drudgery or disdain for lack of better words that I can’t think of at the moment. An eager, cheerful woman is always pleasing. A child like smile always brightens a room even with a few crumbs on the floor. Hope you don’t mind my interjection.

  2. kseekingwisdom says:

    I really enjoyed this article; it is one I will read periodically as a reminder, and thank you as well to Zeister for his observations. Inspiring.

  3. Undinexx says:

    Hi
    I am very new to this site however your beautifully written post is very close to my thoughts and beliefs.

    Allow me to explain in my every day life I am a Manager, I learned very quickly that there were 2 types of Managers. both are obeyed however the first is obeyed due to fear, the second out of respect. the job gets done in both cases but with different attitude mindset and often result!

    I relate this parallel to serving my Master. My serving him is done through choice, it was my choice for him to own me. I take great delight in making him be happy, and even more delight in predicting his needs. He allows me a lot of freedom to serve him, I like to surprise him. This may not work for everyone but it is perfect for Him. I do not take liberties, I guess respect in Service is paramount to me.

    I know if I step out of line I will be told, in a gentle way, if I did the same thing again I am sure the consequences would be different. I try very hard to be the best girl I can for him and so far have never made him cross, I hope to keep it this way.

    My Master knows very well my feelings towards him and there is nothing I would not do for him, yet things I am uncomfortable with he would not request. Knowing I would obey is enough for him. It’s not a game of testing how we are is very serious.

    Kindest regards

    Undinexx

  4. slave_rachel says:

    i thought it is a great writing. i do think most people have a larger picture in their minds when they say obey and probably assume others just “know” too.

    Maybe some, who are newer to the idea, and some for whom it IS an automatic response might feel it is simple, obey and no other strings attached in the form of attitude etc.
    i like to see the constructive and destructive reasons for obedience mentioned because they certainly exist and aren’t good for maintaining a LTR. The fear factor can actually lead to vengeful acts so it can be a fine line.
    i think fear (excess) provokes circumvention, and a cat and mouse game all too often. It can affect loyalty, and job performance as far as i’ve seen being both manager and staff is more likely to exceed minimal when respect is the motivator. More willing to give 100+ etc. Fear IS a kink for some though and i know some of those into it and it works for them.

    i do think a certain amount of fear is normal in any relationship as most people who care about the other have a certain fear of hurting, displeasing etc regardless of the type of “dynamic””
    i know a woman who told me she and her husband (this is totally odd to me) were discussing who was going to be the slave and who was going to be the Master/Mistress when they were starting up. (Don’t ask me. i don’t get how that was even an issue) She insisted on being the slave because in HER mind it proved she was tougher than her husband. He is quite into degrading her very daringly and uses an electric “wooden pony” as well, so it’s not like it is easy going. But it is an ego thing for her and i am supposing she likes to bottom anyway. i have never heard anyone else say anything like it though.

  5. Brutal Antipathy says:

    The problem I see with the obedience from love scenario is that time and again the world has demonstrated to us that love is not a bottomless well. Love changes, lessens, even runs dry. To rely on obedience from love is to rely on a vehicle with no spare tires. His happiness may be everything to her today, but who knows what tomorrow may hold. I have yet to see any indication of mindful attention resulting in unlimited growth of emotion.

    Likewise, placing fear as a motivator is a bit of a misnomer, as fear does not exist in a vacuum. The assessment fails to give due credit to a multitude of other factors including dependence, repetition, and indeed even respect. I have in fact always made an argument in favor of a multi-pronged strategy, and have often made an effort to point out the fallacy of any single effort approach.

    As for action without thought, we rely upon reflex action in many instances. Combat training and martial arts stress the importance of tuning the body through repetition to perform even intricate actions on reflex. As many tasks are ones which will be repeated frequently, it is safe to say that a degree of mindless obedience can be expected to work quite nicely. I tell my slave to fetch me a glass of tea daily. How often does someone command their slave to prepare their taxes? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess not daily. I am also aware that she is not a brainless robot who will stand dumbly attempting to pour tea from an empty container. She is intelligent enough to spot the absence of tea and prepare more as part of her orders. She doesn’t need to concentrate on this, it is fairly simple and can be completed without a complex juggling of emotions and weighing how much it will please me to make tea. She makes tea and brings me a glass, all without giving it much thought.

  6. Graciously_Yours says:

    What an excellent article. Flawless!

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