Monthly Archives: November 2013

November 29, 2013

“What are some good resources for learning about different fetishes & kink? I’m looking to expand my understanding and try things out in a safe environment, but my searches for information tend to lead me to porn websites more than helpful resources.”

People are the best resource for learning about fetishes and kink. I would recommend finding out if you local community has a fetish education center, educational conferences, or public events. Start going to these places and learning what you want to know. Along the way, you may learn about things that you didn’t know you had interest in before, and you may become great at them. You may also learn that some things you did want to try were not your cup of tea.

If you’re at a conference, you won’t get the in depth kind of knowledge that you’re looking for, but you may get a chance to connect and network with people who know about your fetish or kink, and can show you one on one or in a group what to do when the time comes.

Internet searches are free, and relatively easy, and make “experts” out of people with no hands on experience. They are also unreliable, as you don’t know whether the person on the other end of the typing actually knows what they are talking about or not. (Yes, I realize the irony of using an internet based advice column to tell you that getting knowledge on the internet is unreliable, but I do the best I can.) This is why I don’t trust anyone on the internet unless they are willing to meet face to face before I play with them, or before I am comfortable with my boys playing with them.

All too often, the “Grand Master Constantines” out there have extensive online experience spinning their fantasies with words, and not actual whips. Their fantasies involve things that would and could seriously hurt or maim a person, and they don’t even know it, because they’ve never taken the time and energy, or spent the money to learn to do it properly. Early in my BDSM life, I searched for “real BDSM porn” and could not find anything that wasn’t over the time and unrealistic, or non-kinky people pretending to be kinky for money.

When I’ve learned, the people demonstrating, or teaching me may not have always been the hottest people in my book, they may not have always turned me on (I learned a lot in the straight world) but they always knew what they were doing, and were open and honest about what they did and didn’t know. It was reliable information followed by practical demonstrations. Afterward there were folks who were willing to talk to me about what I saw and how to make it work for me.

The reality is that most BDSM Practices cannot be learned from reading about them or watching a video that someone else prepared. You must have your own experience, and your own journey while learning about these things.

November 27, 2013

“I have been with my fiancé for two years, and with the holidays coming up I would like to introduce him to my family. Every time I bring it up to my parents, they both say that he will not be welcome in their house because we are a gay couple. When I am there visiting, I am not allowed to talk about him at all. I’m torn because he is one of the most important people in my life, and I love my family deeply. My mother says that the rest of my family does not approve of my lifestyle and I should stop bringing it up, but when I talk to other members of my family they are supportive of me, my relationship, and gay people in general. What should I do?”

It’s sad that gay people still have to choose between their relationships and their families, especially around the holidays, but sometimes our families force that choice on us. My question for you is, “who would you rather spend the holidays with?” On one hand you have the man who says he loves all of you and is willing to spend the rest of his life with you, on the other hand you have your family, specifically your mother, who loves most of you and doesn’t want to talk about or confront the part of you they don’t love.

It’s a hard thing to do, but my suggestion would be to force your family to confront the part of you they don’t love. If you are serious about your fiancé, and plan to marry and spend the rest of your life with him, your family will have to get used to it or they will have to lose you. Families are supposed to love us unconditionally, and without reservations. If your biological family is not offering you that consideration but your chosen family is, the choice is easy. It’s hard to let go of something that we’ve held so dear for so long, but if it is causing us pain or causing our partners pain then letting go may be the best thing for everyone.

The rest of your family may surprise you, and rally behind you to support you. They may be waiting for the right time to confront the bigoted side of your family, and you could be the catalyst for that confrontation. If members of your family truly love and support you, they may just be waiting for an opportunity to show that love and support to the rest of your family that doesn’t. I suggest you make the first move. Tell your supportive family members that you cannot see them for the holidays, because your bigoted family members don’t want you and your partner around. Name names to the supportive family members, so they know who to blame for your absence from their lives. Encourage them to tell their children who it was that made you feel unwelcome. Nothing is more heartbreaking than a 6-year-old niece walking up to your mother and saying, “Why don’t you want Uncle Kenneth home for Christmas?”*

Your family has been able to cling to their bigoted ideas and behaviors because you are willing to let them. You have accommodated their behavior and so it is not difficult for them to continue that behavior. If you make it hard on them, they will start to rethink their position. But as long as you go back into the closet to spare their feelings, they will never respect your feelings. This happened to me. I refused to hide my relationship from my family, even though I knew it made certain members of my family uncomfortable. Earlier this year, one of those certain family member said this to me in regards to a question I asked him about a public figure: “Off the top of my head … if he’s for gay marriage […] I’m in.” The only reason this family member would ever base his voting decisions on a public figure’s stance on gay rights is because of his exposure to me and my husband.

Harvey Milk once said: “Gay brothers and sisters,… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.” He took a bullet to the head because he believed that forcing people to confront their bigotry could change the world.

All I’m asking you to do is miss a couple holidays with your family. If your mom and the rest of the bigots in your family truly love you, they will learn to accept you and your fiancé in their lives. They will see how important he is to you and your future, and they will stop the conditional love. They will stop hurting you with their words, and with their votes, and they will support you. But as long as you allow their bigotry to continue, it will. Stand up for yourself and all of your gay brothers and sisters.

Remember, the Minnesota Marriage Amendment failed because opponents, straight and gay, went door to door and told their neighbors the story of how the amendment hurt them and their families. The New York marriage equality bill gained a supporter when a law-maker’s lesbian niece threatened to disown his whole family unless he voted in favor. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Right there, in your mother’s living room during the holidays, injustice is occurring. How much longer do you want to support that threat to justice everywhere?

*Disclaimer: While I used my own name in this column, it was done solely to protect the anonymity of the question writer. No one in my family has ever attempted to bar my partner from attending a family function, especially around the holidays, and I do not wish to imply that they have. I am grateful for my loving a supporting family who has been there for me ever since I came out of the closet 16 years ago.

November 25, 2013

“I had someone move in with me last year, and I love him and love being around him, but sexually it’s just not working. I want an open relationship, but only for me. I get extremely jealous if he goes to meet someone else, but because I’m older (by 28 years) and have been around the block so to speak, I know there’s a lot of fun out there that I could be having. Is it wrong to have a one-sided open relationship?”

Right and wrong in relationships is subjective to the people who are in those relationships. Cheating in relationships is breaking the defined rules of the relationship. I suggest that you sit down with your partner and discuss with them what is working for you, and what is not. Then you should listen to them tell you what is working for them and what is not. After that, you will be in a better position to discuss what you want to do in the future. In my relationships, I always believe that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. With that in mind, I would be careful what you ask for when negotiating your relationship with this person. If you are unwilling to let them have permission to play outside the relationship, you have to be willing to let them put the same limitations on you.

As the older partner, it is your responsibility to make sure that this relationship runs its course (whatever that course may be) and that when it ends, your partner is in no worse shape than when they started this relationship. This means: No new (unwanted) children, no new diseases, and no new scars (emotional or physical.) This is Dan Savage’s campsite rule, leave the campsite in better shape than you found it, and leave your younger partner is better shape than you found them. Cheating on your partner when they have put trust in you, especially when that partner sounds as vulnerable as yours does, is creating new emotional scars that could be with him long after you’re gone.

The way your question is worded gives me pause, and makes me wonder what’s really going on in your head. You are 28 years older than your partner. You know what’s out there, and what’s fun, and you want to have fun without your partner. Meanwhile you expect your partner to stay at home and not have fun. What is the purpose of limiting his options while opening up yours. In my experience that is a classic control mechanism that send up red flags to me, and should send up red flags to anyone with the emotional maturity to recognize them. Which brings me to the HUGE age discrepancy in a relationship, and very difficult to navigate under normal circumstances. But you have set up a world where your partner relies on you for a place to live, and is presumably is emotionally and financially dependent on you. Now you want to make this person sexually dependent on you as well, all the while keeping your options open for other sexual and emotional outlets.

Personally, I don’t like this story at all, but I also accept your premise that he is there by his choice. I also accept that he presumably has equal say in the relationship, and you are going to listen to him when you have that conversation I mentioned earlier. My advice in this situation is: Open relationships work when everyone’s needs are met by the relationships they are in. You know what your needs are, he knows what his needs are. Little rules tend to make big differences when assuring your partner that they are still number one in your life. Not sleeping over with your tricks, and always returning to your partner can help you make sure that your partner still feels loved and wanted. Many couples have “No Kissing” rules because they reserve kissing for only each other.

Whatever the rules are, make sure you keep them! Breaking even the small rules, or the rules that you don’t think are significant can lead to a deterioration of trust. Without trust, there is no relationship. I would also advise you to learn to curb your jealousy and learn to trust your partner. In my experience, jealousy destroys more relationships than it saves. You can talk about times when you are feeling jealous, and discover what makes you feel that way. You can discover if you have a legitimate reason to be jealous, like if your partner is spending 75% of their free time with someone who is not you and you are feeling left out; or if you are merely projecting your insecurities onto your partner’s behavior. Once you’ve decided the root cause of your jealousy, don’t try to change your partner’s behavior, because it will never happen. Change your behavior so that the things causing your jealous reaction go away.

November 22, 2013

“Any advice for an attentive, almost aggressive, cock-sucker wanting to explore his submissive urges? Yeah, the sea is full of them, isn’t it?

“There has been experimentation had and introductory opportunities taken, yet not fully explored or developed. A belt was elementary. However, a sign of a hidden desire only touched upon once with a bullwhip. A flogger has been an object of affection not realized to date.

“Golden showers have and can be taken, yet a full stream, open mouth, has been difficult to follow thoroughly. Optionally, sensing a cock’s need for release and orally managing to coax smaller spurts or controlled flow offers the opportunity to service a worthy man further.

“Admittedly, I am not hardcore by any great means. I do draw my lines for some reason or another, either consciously or subconsciously. Though, at this point in my life, I don’t want to lose even the smallest of momentum by resigning myself to a self-imposed shyness, an endeavor to find/create trust or prudish outlooks of reserved/suppressed friends.

“Any advice, Daddy?”

Step 1) Get new friends. I am not saying that you need to ditch the prudish-reserved-suppressed friends; I am just saying that you need to expand your circle of friends, or create a new one. Friends that support and embrace your kinky nature and encourage you to explore that nature are crucial to your explorations. These new friends will help you explore, or point you in the direction of someone who will be able to help you explore yourself. If you know someone kinky in your area, hit them up directly for some resources of places you can go, and people you can meet who would be willing to help you out.

Step 2) Go out. Once you know where to go and who to talk to, actually do it. You may find yourself playing the wall flower at first, not really engaging in conversation with anyone yet, but your repeated presence will make you a recognized face. It will also allow you to recognize those who are actively engaged in the life you seek. The ones who are the most actively engaged, also tend to have the largest networks and should be able to point you out to the folks who share your fetishes and kinks.

Step 3) Reject the notion that one must be “hardcore” in order to explore their own fetishes. There are many different levels of BDSM and kink play, and many practitioners who are fluent in multiple levels. Simply tell the people you meet that you are new, and experimenting. The quality players will adjust their play to your level, while challenging you to move toward their level. Before you know it you’ll be doing a scene in public one day, and a new person will be watching. You’ll overhear them say, “I am interested in that, but I’m not that hardcore.”

Step 4) When you make connections with people that you want to play with, be honest about your experiences, and your intentions. If you intend to go further than you have before but want to go there slowly, let your partner know. If you intend to stay on the same level that you’re at, let them know that too. There is nothing more devastating to someone in the kink community than when we realize that we took someone too far too fast, and they leave the community broken and unwilling to try again. It harms our personal reputations, and our reputation as a community.

Nothing in this world is ever gained without first taking a risk, and putting yourself out there. The old adage is, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and it’s true. If you are unwilling to meet your fantasies head on, and take the necessary steps to realize them; they will forever remain fantasies.

November 20, 2013

“Is it ‘UN-sub like’ or ‘UN-boy like’ to be very exacting or assertive in what you want?”

Yes and no. It is useful for a boy or submissive to know exactly what it is that they like, and exactly what it is that they don’t like. It’s also useful to know to what degree they like, or do not like that thing. Often times in new relationships, a sir/daddy/dominate type will try to understand what makes their new boy, or potential new boy, tick. It’s hard to punish a boy by shaving their head if the boy gets off on having their head shaved. Likewise if they enjoy being in Daddy’s company, time “off leash” and away from Daddy isn’t a suitable reward for good behavior. There are some things that are hard limits for boys, and if they experience those things they may decide to leave and never come back (or worse, badmouth Daddy to all their boy friends, and leave Daddy with no one to play with.) Being exact about what you like and what you don’t, and sharing that information with your dominant is a good way to get what you want.

Assertiveness on the other hand, can be problematic. Sir/daddy/dominate types like to be in control in their relationships. That is why they are s/d/d types and not boys or submissives. If they wanted to be told what to do, when to do it, or how to do it, they would be the ones wearing the collars, not the ones holding the leashes. Asserting your rights as a human being is one thing, but asserting yourself sexually or in your BDSM play may be a turn off to your dominant. Remember that while you have the right to emotional, physical, and mental safety in your BDSM relationships, your dominant is much more than the person who wields the whip for your pleasure. Often they have kinks and fetishes of their own. They likely entered into this relationship in order to get those wants and needs filled, not to spend the entire relationship fulfilling your wants and needs.

If you find yourself in a dominant submissive relationship and you are asking yourself, how do I get my wants met, without inconveniencing myself to make sure my partner’s needs are met; chances are you are attempting to take the dominant role in the relationship, regardless of which side of the whip you want to be on. I might add, you are also doing so in a very selfish way. No BDSM relationship should be, in my opinion, one sided. There is give and take, which is why we call it “power exchange”.

My recommendation to any submissive or boy out there who is in a D/s relationship is to ask yourself daily, perhaps as part of your evening devotion, meditation, reflection, or final thoughts before sleep, “What did I do to serve my dominant today, and did I do it in the spirit of service?” When you have an answer daily, without thinking too hard about it, you’ll know that you are being truly “sub-like” or truly “boy-like.” The way your dominant partner says “Thank you” my be pleasant and surprising to you, and may be everything you wanted and needed in that moment. If you are not currently in a D/s relationship, but would like to be, ask yourself each night, “What did I do today to serve my future dominant?”

PS: Service can be the little things you do that you think might go by unnoticed, like not giving your daddy too many dinner choices when he’s had a long day, or listening to his decision when he makes a choice, even if it seems like he just arbitrarily picked the second thing you said. If he gets to relax and enjoy a stress free dinner after a long day, he may be refreshed for some hot play after dinner, or he may just want to relax on the couch with a movie and a boy in his arms. Either way, you win, right?

PPS: An unowned boy or submissive always, always-always-always-always, has the right to say no! Regardless of who is asking, and how they are asking you to do something. If your potential dominant is not willing to listen to your “No” when you’re chatting over text or at the bar, you can bet your ass that he won’t listen when you’re tied up and helpless, and you may loose a lot more than you’re willing to bet when he does. Always! I can’t say it enough. He may be the greatest, most respected, most powerful daddy in the world with the most boys following him everywhere. The greatest gift you can give yourself, and your future dominant is to say “No” to him.

November 18, 2013

“Many of the dominant nature claim the word ‘daddy’, ‘sir’, and ‘master’, while those considered submissive claim ‘boy’, ‘pup’, or ‘sub’. When is it appropriate to call someone by their ‘community’ name as opposed to their birth name? I suppose it varies among individual too.”

Daddy Kenneth Whenever possible, I interact with someone using the name they used when they were introduced to me. I do this because it is polite to do so, and a show of respect to the person who I am interacting with. There are occasions when I am not comfortable using a “community name” to address someone. When that occurs, I typically ask that person for an alternative name to call them. It shows good manners on their part to provide me with an alternative when I request it.

When I am outside the community, I tend to drop the “community” portion of the name, and address someone by their (presumably) given name. Daddy Kenneth becomes Kenneth when I run into him at Safeway. This is out of respect for the person’s privacy. A good rule of thumb is to assume that both your grandmother, and their grandmother are present, and treat the other person the way they would expect you to.

All of that said, some people abuse “community names”, by using them as non-consensual power plays. When a person insists that everyone he knows, regardless of their relationships or community standings, address him as Sir So-and-so; he is demanding the respect that title implies, instead of requesting it. Likewise, people have a tendency to use “boy” or “slave” in a derogatory or disrespectful manner, implying a power exchange relationship that the boy or slave did not consent to.One of the greatest tenants of our community is respect. This includes respect for yourself, and all your fellow human beings. The way I see it, what you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you do it. As long as you are doing it with respect you should be good to go. But remember that respect is a two way street, and if the person you are interacting with is disrespectful to you, you are under no obligation to continue to respect them.

November 15, 2013

“When someone you know dies and has made it clear to you how they want their funeral etc. to be, do you follow their wishes or do you do what you want because it isn’t about them, it’s about how you grieve?

“Curious cause when my mom died, I did everything she asked and my family was telling me that it didn’t matter what Mom wanted. ‘She is gone and has no control over what we do now.’ I just don’t feel that is right. Curious to hear what you think as well as your readers.”

Grief does funny things to good people, and we all go through the stages of grief at different paces. It sounds to me like some of your family members were in denial or anger. Denial is where we are most selfish. Not only are we denying ourselves the opportunity to experience our pain, we also deny other’s the right to feel theirs. Anyone who makes us confront our pain is automatically the “bad guy,” and doing everything wrong, even if it’s what the decedent wanted. During anger, we lash out at the easiest target, also the decedent. It is, after all, their passing that made us feel this way. Not only do we lash out at them and try to deny them the things they might have wanted; we also lash out at their advocates. “She is gone and has no control over what we do now,” could easily be replaced by, “She left me here alone, so why should I do anything for her?” and mean the same thing, at least at the time.

In every one of these situations that I have witnessed, there is one level-headed person who is trying to do what the decedent wanted, and that person usually gets shit on by the rest of the mourners. Often times, the other mourners realize that they treated the advocate poorly but are too embarrassed by their actions to actually ever tell that person. Afterward, they tend to be grateful that the advocate respected the decedent and the decedent’s wishes. Mourners who come to this point, often pay it forward by being the advocate the next time they are confronted by grief.

All that said, I believe that we should respect the wishes of the person who has passed. We owe it to ourselves to live our own lives so that we have no regrets, and I personally never want to regret denying a loved one their final wish. There is plenty of time for us, as survivors, to mourn our loved one any way we wish. We can do it individually, or with a group of like-minded family members and other loved ones, and we can do it as many different times and different ways as we need. We only have one chance, however, to do it the way our loved one wanted us to do it, so we should at least try.

November 13, 2013

“What are some signs that my partner cheating is on me?”

You asking this question is a sign that your partner is cheating on you. I am going to go out on a limb here, and assume that you have never had a conversation with your partner about cheating, and what it means to you. Most people in relationships don’t have this conversation, because they know what cheating is to them, and they assume that the other person knows as well, and they assume that those definitions are both the same. Let me re-define cheating by reverting to an old definition of the word. Cheating is breaking the rules.

Now, what are the rules of your relationship? Have you talked about rules, and defined them for both of you? Are everyone’s needs in the relationship being met by the rules? Are you making rules because they are society’s accepted rules of behavior when in a relationship? Figure these things out, then you will be able to put a finger on behavior that is, in fact, cheating.

But I suspect that is not what you are looking for. You are looking for a list of behaviors that you can then attribute to your partner and pull an “Ah ha, gotcha!” and show him that some anonymous online columnist agrees with you. If that’s what you are looking for, you’ve got issues in your relationship that are not related to cheating, and I wonder what you hope to accomplish with this game. Are you trying to end the relationship? Then end it, neat and clean. Are you making a power play so that you will have a type of control in your relationship? Why do you need to have that kind of emotional blackmail against your partner? I wonder what the underlying issues in your relationship are that made you write in.

You need to decide why you’re in this relationship, what you’re getting out of it, and what you are contributing. If you are not contributing anything to your partner’s happiness, and they are making you unhappy, perhaps it’s time to end the relationship and move on. People are so scared to be single that they will stay in an unhealthy relationship rather than work on themselves and be happy by themselves. Don’t be that person, and don’t keep yourself or your partner in that kind of relationship any longer.

November 11, 2013

“I was asked to be in a poly relationship. What’s the good and bad about it?”

You did not define the type of poly relationship you were asked to be in, so it’s hard to tell if I am answering the question you’re asking, but I will try my best.

Assuming that your partner is engaging in poly behavior and you are not (i.e. they are dating more than one person and you are only dating them) the benefits include: knowing that you are wanted as a partner and not merely filling some void that another person needs filled by having a significant other. You also know that every time they come to spend time with you is time they want to spend with you, not time that they feel they are required to spend with you. You know that if they are being open and honest with you about their existing partners and relationships, and open and honest about you with their existing partners, that they will likely be open and honest if they ever meet someone new that they are interested in. Poly people are less likely to cheat, because there is less need for cheating. That’s not to say they are immune to cheating, but it is less likely.

The drawbacks include: sharing. We have been conditioned to believe that one person should be the end-all-be-all of our romantic worlds, so we look for partners that fulfill that role. Initially people who are new to poly relationships struggle to break away from this way of thinking. However, if you are in a poly relationship, there will be times when your partner is unavailable to you because they are with a different partner. This creates tension, jealousy and hurt feelings. You need to be able to constructively communicate those feelings to your partner so that the two of you can work through those feelings. Do not expect your partner to change their behavior due to your feelings, because they won’t. However, your partner’s awareness of your feelings, and your ability to work through them (with or without your partner’s help) will strengthen your relationship.

If you feel that your relationship with your partner is not fulfilling because of their other relationship(s) I recommend you take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. In column A write down everything you WANT out of a relationship. In column B write down everything you are GETTING out of this relationship. Look at the things in column A that are missing from column B and decide if those are “deal breakers”. If they are, end the relationship. If they are not, accept that you may never get them, and enjoy your relationship. (This works for monogamous relationships as well.)

If you have been asked to join an established couple in a relationship, the good is that you get two partners for the price of one. What you need to know, is that you are joining an ESTABLISHED relationship. They have ways of doing things and dealing with things that come up in their relationship. If their relationship is stable, the ways they deal with things that come up must work for them. Many times you will find yourself adjusting to them, rather than them adjusting to you. You may feel like you are losing yourself in the relationship. Communication is key at this point, and listening to them. Remember that in two person relationships the individuals involved tend to morph into a single unit. In a triad the same thing happens, everyone comes together to form a cohesive whole. Learn about the adjustments they are making to be in a relationship with you, and do not discount their adjustments as trivial. Sometimes this couple may need a “time out” from the new relationship to reconnect as a couple. This happens, just like you may need to spend one on one time with one or the other of the partners to reconnect with them. As your relationship grows with each of the partners and with them as couple, their established relationship strength will seep into their relationship with you, until there is no difference in any of the relationships.

Learn what they want out of a relationship with you, and make sure you express what you want out of a relationship with them, then make sure they are giving you what you want, and you are giving them what they want. You must communicate your wants, needs, and desires constructively in order to maintain the relationships. Remember: In a triad relationship, there are four relationships happening simultaneously, and you are actively involved in three of them. Those relationships are: The whole group, the established couple, you and one partner, you and the other partner. All four of these relationships need to be strong, or the entire relationship is going to fall apart. Remember, that in the beginning, you are the weakest link in this relationship, so make sure you are doing your part to keep all four of the relationships strong.

November 8, 2013

“Can you explain the spectrum that includes Sir, boy, Daddy, etc.? Do these fill the range or is there a middle area that had no real description? I’m trying to define myself in the community and don’t want to claim something that I ‘shouldn’t’ or do something that will offend people in the community.”

No, I cannot. The reason I can’t is that there are no universally accepted definitions or qualifications that describe the different roles in the community; and there are many different terms that people use to describe themselves and each other. The terms I am most familiar with are: slave, boy, submissive, pup, switch, handler, dominant, sir, daddy, and master. The meaning of those words is set in the dictionary, but when you get into a community that prides itself on being rebels and going against the grain, you’ll find that those meanings are subject to change and interpretation. I can define what those terms mean to me; however, unless you are in a relationship with me those definitions may not be useful.

There is no reason to be in a rush to define yourself or your role in the community, and if you change your mind later you may find it hard to break out of a role that you claimed before. Take things slow and observe people. Take a look at how they interact with each other. “I’m new and still figuring myself out” is a perfectly respectable answer when someone wants to know how you identify. In the mean time, talk to people in your community who identify with those labels, and ask them how they came to that conclusion.

As for being afraid to make a mistake; well, we all make mistakes at some point in our journey. It’s better to make a mistake early on, and adjust and move on, at least in my opinion. Personally, I am a fan of making mistakes loudly and publicly for all to see, so that when someone starts to put me on a pedestal I can point to that mistake as a demonstration that I am human just like everyone else. This method, obviously, doesn’t work well for everyone.

No matter what you choose to do, what you call yourself, or how you identify, there will be people who will tell you that you are wrong. There are those who think that you cannot be a “boy” past a certain age, or those that think you cannot be a “master” below a certain age. There will be people who knew you as a 21 year-old twink, who will refuse to see you any other way, and people who believe that no dominant should take a bullwhip to the chest in public not matter what the circumstances. These folks are on their own journey, and you don’t have to allow their journey to dictate yours. I would not, however, discount their journey completely. Allow what they say and how they say it to influence your journey, taking what is useful to you and leaving the rest behind.

One of the greatest insights into the community that I ever received came from a workshop at a conference where the presenter said, “If the path in front of you is clear, you’re not on your path, you’re on someone else’s.” There are many people who will be more than happy to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Unless those people are on your path with you, take what they say as another piece advice, and treat it accordingly. Take out the things that work for you, and trash the rest.