This Is A Conversation About Duties: On M/s Language

Sinclair’s note: rife & I have been gathering and publishing anonymous statements about the impact of using the words “master” and “slave” in a kink context. This one is longer than most others, and elaborate, and I wanted to ensure we all get enough time with it, so I am putting it in its own post.

Thank you to the person who wrote it, who wishes to remain anonymous.

This is not a conversation about rights. It is a conversation about duties.

This whole conversation hurts my heart so deeply because I don’t think it is a conversation about the validity or value of M/s relationships, and yet we seem to have turned it into one. I have been engaged in M/s dynamics since I came out in the public scene in 2006. Before then, I didn’t have language for what I was doing. So much of who we are and what we do is wrapped up in this dynamic and I, for one, am not willing to give up such an inherent piece of myself and my identity. I am and intend to fully continue living, loving and thriving within the depths of the power exchange dynamics that have become the bread and butter of my daily life. However, this conversation has nothing to do with my dynamics. This conversation has to do with the feeling that I, and my brothers and sisters, get every time a white person introduces themselves to me, or expects me to address them, as Master. For me, this is where things get difficult. You are not my Master and I am not yours. So why is this even a part of our interaction?

As a historian, I have understood that the honorific “Master” in the community used to be an earned one. That is how I reconciled the expectation that I would use this very triggering word with the gut wrench it evoked when I was first expected to use it. “This is about the mastery of a craft,” I told myself. Sort of like the master classes I had seen in school. I certainly didn’t feel the same gut wrench when the word was employed to describe a Master Chef or a Master Painter. I rationalized the word this way and went about my Leather life in deluded bliss.

Then I met a Black boy who wished to be my slave. Even as a Black person myself, I knew that it wasn’t the same, so I set about speaking with my fellow people of color to ask for their aid in teaching me what it would mean to own a Black slave in America. I worked hard and listened to so many voices. Everyone had different opinions that spoke to their kinks and life experiences. Some of the most interesting conversations came from my fellow M/s lifestylers who deeply crave and enjoy the M/s life 24/7 but have had to struggle with how to reconcile that with the awful history of this country and the very real, very raw feelings that that history evokes. Not one person on this journey ever questioned our desires to relate to one another this way, nor to build a 24/7 dynamic surrounding those desires. The only things that emerged remained true, across all conversations, were: 1) “I should not be expected to address anyone (but *my* Master) as Master” and 2) “I would prefer not to have to be triggered constantly by the casual use of the word Master in my company”. These held the ring of truth for me and felt like easy fixes. I began to look into other words and other languages spoken by my people. (I am a native French speaker, while one of my boys is a native Spanish speaker.) I found Maîtresse, Maîtriser, Dominate, Domina, Lady, Lord, Liege and Sovereign that worked for me. I even considered using the phonetics of M/s to create the word Emess to describe my dynamics. Words are flexible and I want to be able to employ that flexibility to fully express myself without the side effect of causing harm.

I will not change the way I relate to my partners, practice my kinks or devote myself to my dynamics and I don’t believe that anyone is asking me to. No one is asking that the practices of our life long love in power exchange change. Members of our Community, our brothers, sisters and siblings, are simply telling us that the use of A WORD is harming them.

Why am I getting the feeling that we don’t seem to care? That the pain and suffering that the word evokes is not enough for us to do something about it? We have been harmed by words before. Words like faggot, dyke and freak have harmed many within our Community. When these times came, we gathered ourselves together and we forced change. We reclaimed these words and made them our own. The problem with this situation is that white people cannot reclaim the word Master in America because they aren’t the ones that it hurts. We need to find a different way to do this this time.

I will admit that the task of changing our verbiage can appear to be a daunting one. It is not, however, impossible. An NPR Article entitled “The Journey From ‘Colored’ to ‘Minorities’ To ‘People of Color’” put it well: “Language is and always will be an essential element in the struggle for understanding among peoples. Changes in the words and phrases we use to describe each other reflect whatever progress we make on the path toward a world where everyone feels respected and included.” We have to ask ourselves, how important is it to us that every member of our Community feels respected and included?

I accept that words cause harm and know that words can be changed. We, as a Community, have the power to make that change. The only thing anyone is asking here is that we care enough about the impact of our word choices on our members to enact that change. For that to happen, however, we need to find a place of agreement that we can start from. Can we find such a place?

American history will not take away my right to experience and express my deepest kink and Leather desires in the ways that work for me. I will not allow it to take more from me and my people than it already has. I will not stop engaging in M/s dynamics. But again, I recognize that no one is asking me to do that. Not one person has attempted to take away my right to have my relationships the way I desire to have them. This is not what this conversation is about, and so, I am struggling deeply because I am continuously seeing this conversation reduced to that. Asking for semantic change does nothing to effect my self or my dynamics. The power I wield is not somehow lessened if I am called Domina instead of Master. My identity will not change or be reduced because I introduce myself as Maîtress. My rights to love, fuck and play in the ways that feel right to me are not being called into question.

This is not a conversation about rights. It is a conversation about duties. Of course we have a right to define our dynamic as we please and use monikers that work for us and turn us on. Of course we have the right to express our leather and kink as we wish. However, if we want to be inclusive, if we want to be a safe space for the next generation, if we want to grow and adapt to the needs of our marginalized family members and if we want to pledge ourselves to making the community better, then we have a duty to engage this conversation from a different lens. We have a duty to shed our need to defensively protect a word that is causing harm and take on instead a need to find a way to enjoy the dynamic that word represents without causing harm. Leather has always been a step ahead in subverting the norms and there is no reason that we cannot do that again here. Let us set the example by taking down our defense walls and trying to really listen to and get to the heart of the pain of our fellow Leather people. Let us really work hard to allow the voices of our hurting members to sink in and truly be heard. Let us try our very best to remember that this isn’t personal, it is institutional… Together we can find the answer, but not until every member at the table feels heard without judgement. The right answer will preserve our sacred kinks, identities and dynamics at the same time as making our spaces more inclusive and safe.

Five Essential Apps for Sex Bloggers

Over the 13 and a half years of blogging about sex (that’s right — since April 2006!), many folks ask me about the tools that I use. Here are some of my favorite tools, the ones I’m in almost every day, the ones that are now the core of the work I do here at Sugarbutch.

All of these include affiliate links! If you sign up through one of them — first of all, thank you! Second, if you want me to help you set it up or walk you through how I use it, I’m glad to share some of my best practices as appreciation for using my links.

1. You must have a mailing list. Try Convertkit

You have a mailing list, right? You gotta set up a mailing list. The free services are great — don’t pay for something until you use the free service and outgrow it.

When you start noticing you want more features — like segments, or drip campaigns, or tags, or landing pages — take a look at Convertkit. It starts at $29 a month, and it does all the fancy email tricks that you can imagine, plus it’s beautifully designed, intuitive, and plugs in to all the major web apps. 

Sign up here (with my affiliate link — thank you!). 

2. And you want to promote your blog posts on social media. So, Coschedule, obviously

In 2019, it’s not a blog if there isn’t all kinds of social media attached to it.

Coschedule is a social media manager — like Buffer or MeetEdgar — plus an editorial calendar. You can have multiple users all working on the same blog and create to-do lists and other assignments. I love their “Requeue” feature, which will automatically recycle certain content on social media based on criteria. For example, I have about 25 tweets in a Requeue folder called “holidays,” and set it to be active around Thanksgiving and let it run through the New Year. It automatically rotates through the tweets, publishing one a day at the “best time” (as determined by Coschedule — but I could set specific times, if I want).

I use it to push all my WordPress posts out to social media after one is made. 

Starts at $40/month, but there is a referral and benefits program that cuts that in half if you write a blog post about it, and can get the price even less with more referrals.

Sign up here.

3.Once you grow, you might want to offer webinars! Crowdcast is the best

There are many platforms for this. Zoom is a common one, which is great for discussions and meetings where you want to see everyone on the call. But if you want to do more of a lecture type webinar, look at Crowdcast. It includes a chat, a place to ask questions and then mark if you are currently answering that question, polls, and the ability to bring someone on screen with video or audio to talk to you. Plus, replays at the exact same link. 

Starts at $49 a month. Worth it. Sign up here.

4. You gotta make everything pretty — Canva is better than Photoshop

Maybe don’t tell Photoshop I said that. I’ve been a photoshop user for e v e r  and I love that program, but honestly? I have barely opened it up since I started using Canva. It’s so much simpler and all of it is right there. 

It includes all sorts of design templates for just about any image you can imagine — book covers, instagram posts, facebook event covers, featured images, business cards, resumes, brochures, flyers. On and on. And they’re adding more all the time. Now there’s a Pexels integration, too (which is still one of my favorite photo stock sites). 

Check it out over here.

5. Once you’re ready, launch a Patreon

The only one on the list that gives you money, rather than costing you money.

You know what this is by now — Patreon has been making a splash in the blog world for years, and it seems to only be growing. I really hope they will get themselves sustainable, the creator world needs this service so desperately! It has seriously changed what Sugarbutch is for me the past five years. I’ll ever be grateful for the structure it offered, and all the people who support me through it. (Here’s my own Patreon, if you’d like to become a patron. Like a patron of the arts! Thank you!)

Sign up over here through my affiliate link, & I’ll help you launch yours.

 

5. Last, but not least: WordPress.org, not .com

First of all, watch out for the adult content rules on .com. Make sure you know what the guidelines are, whether or not you decide to adhere to them.

And while we’re talking about it …

It’s not a resource, but you gotta brush up on the kinds of content that are allowed on every platform. Guy New York has collected a round-up on the various content platforms and what is allowed and not allowed. 

WordPress.org is different, and gives you more control than the .com. Your mileage may vary here, and you should consult your web designer to figure what is really best for you. Even though there are small differences, sometimes they can mean everything. 
 

Those are the essentials, in my opinion!

What am I missing? Leave your very favorite, top five web apps for blogging in the comments.