by slave jean
Conflict & Resolution Protocol in the Master/slave Relationship
Do master and slave disagree, argue, or fight? What does a conflict look like between a master and a slave? Why even consider setting rules around a master/slave disagreement? Isn’t it a truism that a slave gives over to her/his master all decisions; therefore, there is nothing for a slave to oppose? Doesn’t a master have the right of “winning” every conflict by virtue of his/her authoritative position in the relationship? And, if by some rare occurrence a slave differed on a matter from his/her master, wouldn’t s/he automatically let go of his/her idea to adopt that of the master? Isn’t that the bedrock of the master/slave dynamic? The master is right, even when the master is wrong, the master is right?
If every difference that arose between a master and slave was automatically and easily settled by the slave’s self-sacrifice and generous acquiescence to the master, then there would be no need for a protocol for conflict resolution. However, that is not the case. As adults, we have a lifetime of ideas and these may not be easily released. And, quite possibly, some ideas shouldn’t be jettisoned. Mastery is not a guarantee of omniscience, contrary to fiction. However, while slaves in the ordinary day obey and follow their masters’ directives, there may come occasions when a serious matter is not so easily settled. Usually these involve deep personal characteristics that need to be addressed and examined rather than ignored. How to address this deeper concern is what I refer to in this essay.
To eroticize the
master/slave dynamic is to mime certain features of the historical relationship
and dismiss others. What we choose to mimic and what we choose to ignore
creates the energy differences. So in examining history and literature,
we see that slaves occasionally differ from their masters. If this is
the case in history, we can fairly well count on the eventual ‘disagreement’
even in the best present day erotic master/slave relationships. Take
into account that we also have the legal right to leave a malfunctioning
relationship (unlike historical slavery) - we ought to lay out a protocol
by which disagreements can be expressed, discussed, resolved, and moved
beyond - and, in the process, be enriched in the master/slave relationship
as a result. It is the recognition that different adults think differently
and no matter how committed an adult may be to acquiescing to another
adult (the slave) or to molding another adult (the master), the occasional
experience will result in discord. How that discord is managed within
a master/slave dynamic is the question. Do we ‘fight’ in the same manner
as vanilla partnerships? Is there a difference in response or protocol
if a master is upset with a slave than if a slave is upset with a master?
If we first divide the conflict into five parts that need to be addressed
within master/slave dynamics, what should be included?
are multiple ways to approach the elements of a conflict in the master/slave
dynamic. Do master and slave remain in M/s energy and posture protocol?
Or, is there a different posture that lays aside the usual master/slave
dynamics? Depending on personal characteristics of master or slave,
one way may be better suited than another. For instance, one slave may
have a history of “histrionics” whenever she is frustrated with others
or upset with herself. Her past behavior was to respond with vituperative
verbal attacks directed towards the nearest person. Since her history
revealed that she was incapable of personal control of her voice when
angered, her master instituted a posture for her to assume when she
was angered, to remind her of her place in the relationship and her
commitment to him. In that reminder she was to find assistance in controlling
herself. Initially this posture was achieved by the master forcibly
holding her head to the ground. Later, after enough instances of physically
applying force to assist her in gaining self-control when she would
begin to get angry, he only needed to point to the ground. She would
then kneel, head facing forward, eyes cast down while she struggled
with control of herself. Nothing by way of conflict resolution would
ever be accomplished while she was permitted to shout, gesture, glare,
and generally express her dissatisfaction in as loud a manner as possible.
So in this case, a ‘safe zone’ for examining a conflict was created
by maintaining a visible master/slave posture and dynamic.
Within a different
relationship manifesting different personality characteristics, a ‘safe
zone’ was created by use of a cue word. The cue word, used by either
the master or the slave, brought to the attention of both the awareness
that a difficulty was being experienced somewhere. The cue word then
set in motion an agreed upon protocol for examining the difficulty.
That protocol recognized that intense emotion was involved, that time
was needed to distance one or both parties from the emotional intensity,
and that no decisions or changes would take place until whatever reason
the cue word was used was examined to the satisfaction of both master
and slave. The cue word also notified the master and slave that the
problem was complex and that there was probably not a simple solution.
As a result, both agreed to give each other the time necessary for a
thorough examination process. Since this was a “protocol” it too falls
within the master/slave dynamic, though it may not visibly appear to
‘safe zone’ or verbal ‘safe zone’, the process is only successful if
both master and slave have the patience to permit the other person the
time and space to step away from the experience, gather thoughts about
the circumstances, and trust that the result of this patience will not
be a catalogue of grievances, will not be a harangue of perceived faults,
nor will the cause that triggered the ‘safe zone’ be ignored and allowed
to fade away unaddressed. Patience and trust is rewarded by open-hearted
examination and communication regarding the conflict.
So what does this
type of protocol for conflict resolution entail?
Now that the entailments
of “safe zone,” “time,” and “progress stepping stones” have been laid
out, what might some other elements of the conflict-discussion look
What if, in the course of a respectful and thorough discussion, a slave observes that a different behavior on the part of her/his master might be appropriate as part of the resolution? Does the slave have the right to demand that behavioral change? No, not within a master/slave relationship. In fact, what may seem perfectly logical to the slave regarding the master’s behavior, could in fact counter a goal that the master has for the slave, for himself, or for them. Therefore, when it comes to behavioral changes, the master can make changes in him or herself; the master can identify and require behavioral changes in the slave; the slave can identify behavioral changes in her/himself that need to occur; and, the slave can offer behavioral suggestions for the master. Then, the slave must release responsibility for what the master chooses to do. If the master has determined that the slave needs to make a behavioral change that the slave has not identified first, then the master must also take responsibility for assisting the slave in successfully implementing those behavioral changes. This may mean the master sets up circumstances for the slave to ‘practice’ the new behavior; this may mean using cue words or a cueing looks to remind the slave of the expected new behavior; this may be positive reinforcement when the slave behaves in the new manner without prompting. Conversely, does the slave have a concurrent obligation to prompt, cue, or reward a master who implements a new behavior? I would suggest that the answer is both “no” and “yes”. Ultimately it would depend upon what the master has asked for during the conflict resolution. If the master requests that the slave prompt him/her, then the slave provides that service. If the master gives permission for the slave to acknowledge a behavioral change, then the slave can gift the master with sweet service in whatever form pleases the master. In other words, the master sets up during the ‘safe zone’ what the boundaries are that the slave works within once the resolution is implemented.
Conflict will occur
in any relationship. In master/slave relationships, some conflict is
relatively easily resolved by the slave’s efforts to obey the master.
Not all conflict falls within those parameters though. Some conflict
can be the result of previous life behaviors. Some conflict can result
from misunderstood directives. Some conflict can result from new personal
growth, but is so different from previous expectations that it requires
additional care in examination and adoption. For these and other complex
times, a more formal protocol concerning conflict resolution is useful.
What follows is a short outline of the steps, conditions, and elements involved in good resolution and shared in this essay:
Five Steps in Conflict
in Conflict Resolution
Elements of Conflict
A final caveat remains. This has been only one exploration of a possible protocol for conflict resolution in a master/slave relationship. It is not the only one. It may not be right for every master and slave. However, every master and slave would do well to at least consider how to address complex problems that arise - before they arise. If a protocol is in place prior to a problem’s experience, the likelihood that the problem will cause serious damage is minimized. Just as in the initial stages of sadomasochistic play, safewords can be used to help master and slave learn each other’s skills and limits, a conflict resolution protocol set up ahead of the need for one can be used to help master and slave learn each other at deep emotional and value-laden levels.