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Washington, D.C.

Who's the Boss?

M/s Conference 2005 Reveals How Slaves Can Be Dominant for Their Masters, and How Masters Can Serve Their Slaves

By Dusk Peterson

Master Taino

Above: Master Taino, executive producer of the Master/slave Conference, lights a candle in memory of Drummer publisher Robert Davolt.

Further down this page: Leather author Viola Johnson delivers her keynote address.

Both photographs by Lance, courtesy of the Master/slave Conference.

The hotel elevator stopped at the lobby. The doors opened. The woman closest to the doors didn't move. A man near the doors began to step forward, then hesitated, looking around to see whether anyone else wanted to go first. The people in the back of the elevator were unable to move, blocked by the motionless people next to the doors.

Only two people emerged from the elevators. As they crossed the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Washington hotel in D.C., one of them said, "I love it when you get a bunch of service-oriented slaves in an elevator together. Nobody wants to go first."

"Waiting for the elevator yesterday was even better," said the other conference attendee. "There we were, three masters, and all of us were waiting for someone else to push the button."

What constitutes proper behavior for a master and for a slave turned out to be a much-discussed topic at the second annual Master/slave Conference, held in Washington, D.C., from July 29 to 31.

The conference's mixed orientations provided added spice to the discussion. As was the case last year, the conference was equally popular with male/male couples, male/female couples, and a generous portion of female/female couples, leather families (groups of leatherfolk who consider themselves to be one unit), and single persons. As testified by the presence of Master Jim Glass – a gay man served by a lesbian, slave marsha – the genders of the pairings did not always reveal the orientations of the participants in the relationship. But the biker jackets that appeared alongside bright pink sneakers and flowing dresses attested that this conference represented a merging of the cultures of gay/lesbian leather and heterosexual BDSM.

One of the first presenters to address what constitutes proper behavior in a consensual master/slave relationship was slavette, a femme who serves two male masters. In a workshop entitled "Who's the Boss?" slavette discussed how to master a dominant slave – and how a dominant slave can master himself.

Slavette began by destroying the stereotype of slaves all being weak, passive creatures. "Your stereotypical slave can run the universe," she said, then added with a grin, "and we're that close to doing so. But we're only interested in doing so in order that we can hand the universe over to our masters so they can enjoy it."

Owning a slave who has dominant characteristics, she said, "is like having a supercharged power tool. It does take a little more skill to use them."

Slavette went on to provide tips to masters who are served by dominant slaves:

"If you don't tell us what we should be doing, we'll take over. It's not that you need to tell us what to do; you need to tell us what areas to stay out of."

"We have no problem in sitting in the passenger seat, but if we sense that you don't want to be driving, we'll take the wheel."

"The more you share about what's going on in your head, the better we can serve you."

The advantage of having a dominant slave, she said, is that the slave can work without supervision, can act as an ambassador between the master and the world, and has an opinion and is willing to share it.

The disadvantage? "The dominant slave has an opinion and is willing to share it," she said, to much laughter from the audience. She advised slaves to use a three-part test devised by Sir Stephen for his slave catherine to provide guidance as to when she should speak up: "Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said now? Does it need to be said by me?"

The problem, of course, is that masters are masters because they like to manage. How can a dominant slave take that into account? "Remember," said slavette, "you are not perfect, and sometimes you will be wrong." She advised dominant slaves to keep in mind their own limitations, to show respect for their masters, and above all, to learn to obey.

"There are far more great slaves out there than there are great masters, so you need to earn your masters' trust," she said. One way in which to do so, she believes, is to obey. Once you have learned to surrender yourself, there is a feeling of power and triumph that feeds your dominance.

Obedience has been a struggle for her, slavette told the audience. "I really don't like to be told what to do, and that's why I thought I couldn't be a slave. I come from a long line of rebels. When the entire world is out there saying women should be powerful and run their own lives, I'm a slave."

* * *

Should slaves and masters be rebels against society? Or should they seek to integrate themselves into society? That was the question facing conference attendees as they mingled with the vanilla hotel guests in the lobby of the Hyatt.

Different attendees handled the matter in different ways. Some wandered the lobby in pin-studded jackets and leather chaps; others chose to tuck away their inconspicuous Master/slave Conference badges the moment they left the floor that was devoted to conference activities.

The hotel staff, it was reported later at the plenary session, coped admirably with the influx of unusual guests. "By the end of our visit," said an attendee at the plenary session, "the restaurant staff wanted to know who the master was, so that they could serve him first."

Nonetheless, moments of adjustment were needed. "The maitre d' was startled when he pulled out the chair, and I sat down," said Master Bert Cutler.

Master Bert was an example of a man who had sought to integrate his M/s life with what society expected of him: Twenty-one years ago, he joined himself with his slave, nadine, in a joint marriage ceremony and collaring ceremony. He and slave nadine Cutler spoke at the conference on "Getting What You Want" out of an M/s relationship.

Master Bert emphasized that creating a relationship based on dominance and submission is a mutual activity. "Protocol," he said, "is a ceremony of giving and receiving. She can't give without me there to receive."

As an example of the master's duty to receive, he described the time that slave nadine came and told him that she had cleaned out under the sink. She urged him to come see what she had done. He brushed the matter aside; why would he need to examine her work in such a trivial matter? She urged him again.

Master Bert said, "Suddenly a lightbulb went off and I realized, 'Oh, she wants to be told she did a good job.' So I went and looked under the sink."

Drawing from his experience as a master, he said, "It's commitment to the other person that makes the structure of the training work."

The extent to which masters must commit themselves to hard work and even submission was echoed by speakers throughout the weekend. SlaveMaster, making his first appearance on the East Coast for many years, emphasized in his class, "How slavery is All About Obedience," that obedience does not apply only to slaves.

"We have to feel some sort of direction," he said, speaking to masters. "It doesn't have to be from a man with a grey beard sitting in the sky. But there has to be some sort of force outside of ourselves that directs us."

Total surrender to that external force and denial of what our own egos want, he said, is what allows masters to do their jobs. "If I stop with what I egotistically consider to be my needs, I will never empower someone else to be a slave. I have to get beyond my own selfishness."

The slave's greatest strength is to obey, he said. But an equally great obligation is placed upon a master to have the strength to direct his slave.

"I must know that I have no black spots," said SlaveMaster. "I don't allow myself dishonesty, vindictiveness, or any other negative emotions."

Likewise, he argued, slaves must experience total surrender to their masters in order to be freed to experience their full potential. "If we have the right to egotistically consider the order, it is not obedience," he said.

SlaveMaster faced hard questions from the audience, some members of which were evidently uncomfortable with the image of a slave surrendering to his master even in cases where his master was disastrously wrong. SlaveMaster, though, said he believes that surrender in such cases is beneficial to the slave, because it provides the slave with the conditions where he can learn what is false . . . and just as valuably, learn truths that he hadn't known in the past.

"It isn't wrong to do what's uncomfortable, because that's how we learn what's true," he said. If the master is wrong, that will become clear through the experience. But if the master is right, then refusing the experience through disobedience blocks the slave from learning new truths.

"My job as a master," he said, "isn't to give my slaves truth. My job is to give them the experience where they can learn the truth for themselves."

* * *

"Any more bidders out there?" Lolita Wolf, master of ceremony for the slave auction, asked the crowd as the slave waited on the stage, kneeling with his jeans pulled down to reveal his jockstrap decorated with the colors of the boy pride flag. On his chest was a harness; on his head was a Stetson; on his face was a broad smile.

Daddy Ed Moore, Lolita Wolf's fellow emcee, stared incredulously at the leathermen in the ballroom's audience. "You're going to let a gay boy be sold to a straight woman?"

The slave's smile suddenly disappeared. As the audience laughed, slave jody placed the edge of his palm over his eyebrows as though shielding the sun, and slowly, dramatically scanned the crowd for the interloper.

Slave jody was eventually sold to a gay man, but the mixture of genders and orientations provided for humor throughout the Friday night ceremonies, which included an auction where slaves volunteered to provide services to their buyers. "Bid higher, or I'll molest him some more," said Ms. Wolf as she ran her hands over the chest of a leatherboy who smiled at her.

The varied genders and orientations also provided for unity, as memorial candles were lit for members of different portions of the leather and BDSM communities, and a proposed flag for the master/slave and dominant/submissive communities was unveiled. (See separate article on the flag.)

Viola JohnsonIn a speech that won her a standing ovation, leather author Viola Johnson called upon the common values of the members of the leather and BDSM communities as she urged audience members to fight against political encroachments upon their legal rights.

"If my Owner chooses to honor and acknowledge to the world our relationship, our special marriage if you will, by an earring in my ear or a collar around my neck, it represents our love," Viola Johnson said in a speech aimed against recent legislation forbidding legal ties between unmarried persons.

She added a remark aimed at legislators: "How dare you try to manipulate the law because we don't fit your standards of what love and marriage should be."

She urged the more than 250 conference attendees to take steps to ensure that their loved ones were legally protected, asking, "Mistresses and Masters, what are you doing to guard the slave that stands by your side?"

Audience members rose to their feet and applauded when she thundered about the legislators: "You know when these so and so's get my collar? If, and only if my Owner, Mistress Victoria, or my husband Jill Carter lets them take it off of my cold dead neck!"

But the Master/slave Conference was not all about serious matters.

"Some of you know," said Daddy Ed, "that Master Taino has been female-challenged."

Master Taino – who later said that he knew where this speech was going from the moment he heard the words "gift from Master Skip Chasey" – had a stoic look on his face, tinged with amusement. As founder of D.C.'s male chapter of Masters And slaves Together (MAsT), he had overcome previous resistance to working closely alongside women, and had joined with the founder of D.C.'s pansexual chapter of MAsT – Master J, who is female – to organize the Master/slave Conference. Master Skip rattled off various other accomplishments Master Taino had achieved in recent years, such as permitting a female master to train at his Master Training Academy.

"He still has one barrier, though," Master Skip said. "He won't wear a dress."

And so, Master Skip said, he had bought a leather kilt for him to wear. "If you won't put it on in front of this audience," Master Skip challenged Master Taino, "you're a pussy."

Master Taino doubled over to join in the audience's laughter as leathermen surged forward to place the kilt on the unwilling producer of the conference.

The moment on stage in the ballroom provided a light presentation of a serious problem: How do you bring together men and women, straights and gays, who are accustomed to remaining separate in their own communities?

The answer, many people reported in the post-conference plenary session, was "successfully." Though voices continued to speak out on the need for "safe space" in the leather and BDSM communities for folks who needed to be with their own kind at certain times, a number of the conference participants praised the conference for providing an opportunity to bring together substantial groups of people from different leather and BDSM communities. Communication, they agreed, is important between diverse sorts of people.

On Saturday, the importance of terminology in communication was discussed at Master Skip's workshop, "The Servant Master."

"What is a Servant Master?" he asked. "What sort of touch-feely, California, granola thing is this?"

A Servant Master, he emphasized, is not a service top; it was an archetypal role that he believes all ethical dominants possess to greater or lesser degrees. "If you're a Servant Master, it doesn't mean you're wimpy, that you're deficient in your dominance. . . . Servant Masters do not answer to their slaves but to a higher authority."

Echoing sentiments expressed by SlaveMaster, Master Skip believes that Servant Masters serve a higher spiritual authority – the "god within," as he put it, translating the Greek word entheos. "They know that they obey orders too, so they are more willing to carry out their responsibilities" to give orders to their slaves, he said.

The key characteristic of a Servant Master, he told the audience, is that they "place the well-being of their slaves ahead of their own, and personal gain is not the driving force behind their mastery."

Master Guardian, speaking in another room two hours later, agreed on the importance of the master's responsibility for his slave. But he said that a master's and slave's sense of responsibility for each other can be tested when one of the members in an M/s relationship becomes disabled.

Master Guardian facilitated his discussion workshop, "Serving with Disabilities," as the result of an accident that left his slave, sugar, in a wheelchair. Though her disability is a dramatic one, Master Guardian believes that nearly everyone has some sort of disability. "Hot flashes," he said, "are a disability." They leave the person who experiences them unable to function fully.

To turn from being a caregiver to being a caretaker was difficult for him, he said, but rewarding. And he believed it was a necessary step. "M/s is a relationship that's meant to last a lifetime," he said, and it places certain obligations on both parties. "When I was sick, she fed me. She bathed me." After the accident he fed and bathed his slave, but he didn't believe that he had switched roles with slave sugar.

"I didn't become her slave. Her disability pushed my mastery to its limits." Master Guardian was forced to find new, creative ways of allowing her to serve him.

"She can't carry a purse, and for a woman who has a purse fetish, that's a real problem," he said, as the participants in the discussion laughed. "So I gave her sacks." By placing sacks around her wheelchair, he could call upon his slave any time he needed her service, whether that service consisted of providing a pen or scheduling his appointments.

He emphasized, though, that once he had made slave sugar into his purse and his scheduling secretary, he had to let her do the work rather than do it himself. "In order for a disabled slave to get a sense of fulfillment, you need to give the task over to her whole."

Other adjustments were needed. His slave can no longer kneel to him, so he picks her up and places her in a submissive position. As a result, he said, "now it isn't her kneeling; it's us sharing the experience."

New techniques of SM needed to be developed as well. Because of limitations on the positions his slave could take, "I had to learn to flog on my knees," Master Guardian reported. The rewards for creative SM, though, could be high. "Pressure point pain – fucking awesome," Master Guardian said, recommending Gray's Anatomy as a resource for learning about the body.

He added, "If you're a sadist, you can make anything hurt. If you're a sensualist, you can make anything feel good. All you need is two minutes and your imagination."

He offered the example of the man who told Master Guardian that the master couldn't hurt someone with a feather. Three hours later – having been strapped to a St. Andrew's cross and tickled non-stop – the man was prepared to admit he was wrong.

Several participants in the discussion who were disabled or were paired with a disabled person said that the biggest problem they face is ignorance from outsiders. Sadists were criticized for beating disabled masochists. Masters were criticized for doing work that they could do more easily than their disabled slaves could. Slaves were criticized for not doing work that outsiders expected them to do for their masters.

Master Guardian had a simple message for such critics: "Fuck you." He knew intimately what his slave's needs and limitations were, he said, and he didn't care what outsiders thought.

At one point in the relationship, though, he did make a serious mistake. After slave sugar first became disabled, he said, "My mastery took a turn for the worse. I would let her get attitudes that I wouldn't have tolerated in the past. . . .

"I became her boyfriend who cared for her. That's not what she needed. She needed her discipline. She needed to be my slave."

Four doors down the hallway, two hours after Master Guardian spoke these words, memories of a similar dilemma were recounted.

The slave had a high fever, and the fever had gone on longer than it should. The master wanted to take his slave to the hospital.

"No, master," the slave protested. "I am here to serve you."

"Fucker, you got a collar around your neck," said the master. "You're going to do what I say."

The audience laughed in appreciation of this combination of traditional masterly harshness and untraditional masterly compassion. Master Taino paused to look down at his notes for his workshop, "Dealing with Illness and Death in a M/s Household." The audience was quite small: only six people were prepared to educate themselves on this difficult topic.

Deciding whether to take on a slave who might die imminently was hard, Master Taino said, but "after the decision is made, you can't pull back. The collar is on; the responsibility is yours."

This responsibility requires the master to adopt new responsibilities. Echoing the title of Master Skip's workshop, Master Taino said, "When the slave is sick, when the slave faces disability, we become the Servant Master – guess who's serving who? . . . It's always a [service-oriented relationship], but sometimes the service is reversed."

Slaves can encounter similar challenges from the loss of a master. Master Taino recounted the tale of a man who had been a slave since age nineteen and who knew no other manner of adult life. He lost his master. The master had provided for the slave's financial well-being but had not thought further than that.

"He left the slave with an apartment," said Master Taino. "He didn't leave him with any emotional support. Within three months, the slave was a complete wreck."

Emotional support played an important role in Master Taino's life during the illness and death of a member of his leather family, slave tommy. "I was holding his hand when he died," Master Taino said, struggling to keep control of his voice. "My other slaves had their hands on my shoulders. And tommy's mother and two siblings were there. So his full family was there.

"I wish all the people who bitch about our leather life could have seen that moment, because there was a lot of love there."

As part of the grieving process, Master Taino set up various memorials to slave tommy, online at his Website and in his home: memorial pictures, collars, hankies, candles. Slave tommy's photograph hangs in Master Taino's dungeon.

"Sometimes I'm in the middle of a scene and I catch a glimpse of tommy," he said. "Without an exception, the feeling I get is of him telling me, 'Go for it, master. Have fun.'"

A chance encounter with slave tommy's vanilla mother – who unexpectedly turned up at a hotel where a leather conference was taking place – required Master Taino to find a way to describe the position that slave tommy had held in his leather family. Finally, he said carefully to slave tommy's mother, "I became his father-figure. I became his mentor. I became his protector."

His mother's reply? "There are things I don't understand. There is one thing I do understand: You people care. Three days after the memorial service for my son, you people were the only ones who kept calling."

* * *

"M/s Conference," said the hotel's computer screen in the hallway. "Saturday, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. – General Session."

In the Columbia Ballroom of the Hyatt, the "General Session" was underway. Two half-naked gay slaves knelt down – their hands behind their backs, their asses in the air – and licked the boots of a leatherwoman. Then they straightened up and sold her raffle tickets.

Nearby, a young ex-Marine paused in conversation to go behind the leatherboy who had been standing beside him. Without a word he crossed the boy's hands behind his back; nudged his feet until they were in the proper, shoulder-wide position; and repositioned his back so that it was straight. Then the master returned to his previous place and resumed his conversation.

For some folks in the ballroom, the primary reason for attending the M/s Conference was not the workshops or the evening entertainment; it was the opportunity to be part of a group of people who shared common customs and values. Throughout the weekend, attendees emphasized that some of the major problems they face do not come from within their relationships but from outside attacks on their way of life.

Certainly consensual slavery remains controversial even within the BDSM and leather communities. Critics from these communities charge that people who practice M/s have taken fantasy role-playing and extended it into a sphere where it should never exist: everyday life. Wearing a slave collar is fine if you're performing an erotic drama for a limited period of time, these critics say. But requiring a man or woman to wear a slave collar all the time and to subsume his or her will to another person dehumanizes that person and brings back all the horrors of the pre-Emancipation South.

Proponents of consensual slavery point to positive historical precedents for relationships based on submission, service, and obedience. In the ballroom and elsewhere, various images were evoked: modern military hierarchy, Victorian domestic service, feudal allegiance, monasticism. Over and over, though, the imagery came back to symbolism that many outsiders cringe at: the image of a slave-master who has absolute power over his slave.

But what if the slave is also a master?

This was the issue that Catherine Gross addressed in her workshop "Switching Paradigms." First, though, a small matter of business had to be settled.

"I'm your workshop monitor," said the leatherboy, with earnest desire to please written in his body language. "Do you have any special requests?"

Lady Catherine scanned the boy's body for a long moment before saying, "It's tempting . . . but no."

As the boy hastily retreated – making pointed remarks about the existence of his master – Lady Catherine turned her attention to the issue of how to balance a life of service with a life of being served.

"I am in a bizarre situation," she told the audience. "I am a slave who runs a leather family. And my owner most certainly does not run my family."

Her "bizarre situation" began many years ago when her first owner decided – much to her consternation – that he would train her to be a top. In order to protect her reputation at a time when being a bottom meant being defenseless, he hid the fact that she was his slave, giving her a "middle management" position of junior top, overseeing his slaves. Only behind closed doors did Lady Catherine serve her master.

"With my owner, I never thought I was a top," she said. "He made me a top because he wished it, and it wasn't until many years later that I understood why."

She emphasized the restraints that were placed upon her in her special position. "The junior top is on a leash. It's short at the beginning and grows longer as time goes on. It gets jerked when the junior top makes a mistake. But the chain is always there."

A junior top who trains for seniority is not the only middle management position that can exist. Using the analogy of butlers, Lady Catherine said, "The goal of this system would never be that you hit the top of the staff. This system is that you are a slave with a staff."

It is a common error, she believes, to consider that only switches can take middle management positions. She does not consider herself a switch, because she does not have a desire to submit. "I like being the queen; I like running my world."

But she said that taking a service position has taught her valuable lessons as a top.

"I was placed well beneath the senior bottoms," she reported, describing her early experiences as a junior top. "At times they were given to me for my use. I felt for them. There were moments when they knew that something was about to go wrong because they'd seen this happen a million times before. They had to accept it. There is something quite humbling about that, and I don't think learning about humility is bad for a top."

She added that, while the slaves were given to her, it took her own efforts to earn their respect. "Imagine a system where we have to earn each other, and where we have to earn each other on a regular, daily basis. That is a philosophy to take out into the world."

* * *

"I want a slave who is creative, resourceful and imaginative. I like a powerful, capable slave, because his power and capabilities, submitted to me, make me more powerful and capable. . . . He will want to please me, and I will want to give him every reason to continue to obey my every command and serve my every wish. He is to be a cherished and protected possession."

These words by the late Robert Davolt had been spoken by Daddy Ed on Friday while Master Taino lit a memorial candle on stage for the recently deceased publisher of Drummer magazine. Now one of the many volunteers for the conference brought out the candles from storage so that they could be placed on stage and lit again for the Saturday ceremony.

He paused to answer a question about the tattooed ring that encircled his left arm.

"When I had the tattoo done, I was wearing a leather band on my right wrist. The woman doing the tattooing said, 'You're wearing something on the right – how about if we balance this off by tattooing your left arm?'

"That's when I discovered that tattoos are permanent," boy José concluded with a mournful voice and a smile.

On stage several hours later, a similar topsy-turviness was about to take place.

"Two hundred dollars!" cried Lolita Wolf, holding up a bug zapper that could emit a mild electrical charge. "If you give us two hundred dollars, we'll use it on Daddy Ed's ass!"

As slave t, the contest assistant, sat on the edge of the stage, eagerly counting money, audience members hurried forward to donate the two hundred dollars needed to electrify (as Daddy Ed himself put it) the emcee's "virgin ass."

Daddy Ed turned to his fellow emcee, who had proposed this extra spin on the auction of the zapper. "I'm willing to do it," he said, "but if four hundred comes in, it's your ass."

A roar of appreciation rose from the crowd, and more donations arrived that would eventually be given to the travel fund for the newly crowned Northeast Master/slave titleholders, Master Jack M. and slave raven.

Ms. Wolf glared at Daddy Ed. "You have to go first," she said.

"I am a gentleman," Daddy Ed replied firmly. "It is always ladies first."

"Zap her breasts!" shouted an audience member as the hotel's bar staff watched from the back of the room with bemused expressions.

"No electricity above the waist!" cried Ms. Wolf, shielding the exposed portion of her ample bosom.

Her protest was in vain, though. The zapper was taken from her hand by Lady Catherine, who had paid one hundred dollars for the privilege of being the person who administered the electrical charge. "Can we just get this over with?" said Ms. Wolf nervously, then steeled herself as the zapper approached the upper side of her breasts.

A moment later, she said, "That wasn't so bad."

Smiling, Lady Catherine approached her again.

A moment later, it was Daddy Ed's turn. Crouched over with his kilt flung up, he made a small sound as the electricity was administered.

"Was that a yawn?" an audience member asked.

Five hundred and seventy-five dollars was raised as a result of this unplanned entertainment. The zapper was eventually sold for well under a hundred dollars. One of the bidders cried out, "We're going to send it to the Leather Archives!"

The following morning, Master Alex Keppeler said, "If I remember my reading of Mr. Benson, Jamie was branded on his second night as a slave. That seems to me a little rushed."

The audience laughed as Master Alex – national executive director of MAsT and winner of the conference's annual Master Heart award – turned to look at the words that audience members had contributed as part of his "Ritual 101" workshop: "Rebirth. Bloodstripe. Marriage. Graduation. Rites of passage. Salute. Communion. Brushing your teeth. Eating. Prayer. Setting the table. Dressing. Initiation. Pledge of allegiance. Fraternity/sorority pledge. Funerals."

"We're no different in our kinky lives than in our regular lives," Master Alex said. "We like comfort and sameness in our lives. Our rituals give us direction, and they give us unity."

Master Alex emphasized that developing a leather ritual need not simply consist of a master telling a slave what would happen. "The submissive's life is being marked as much as the dominant's life, and I think the submissive should have some input into the process."

He has his own rituals that celebrate various rites of passage in his leather family, but he said that these rituals vary, depending on the person who passes through them. "We sit down [with the script of the ritual] and I say, 'What works and what doesn't work for you?' It makes it special for the boy, while allowing me to keep the basic framework. . . .

"It doesn't threaten your authority to get the other person involved in what's going on."

The panelists at one of the final workshops of the conference, "Ask the Masters," agreed that roles of dominance and submission are rarely as simple as they appear from the outside.

"People are complex," said Master David, who tried living as a slave before deciding that he was meant to be a master. "They can have any number of needs."

Master Kurt echoed his sentiments. "I think a good master serves his slaves. You feed a need for dominance, and that's a service."

He added, "I can't perceive of a slave not having strength." All around the room were nods and murmurs of agreement from the masters and slaves who were present.

By the door, the workshop monitor stood in readiness. Officially, slave mikey's duties were confined to checking that all of the audience members were signed up for the conference, seeing that the panelists had water at the beginning of the session, counting the number of participants in the workshop, and alerting the panelists that time was almost up.

Slave mikey stood in a military parade-rest position beside the door. Every time someone entered or left the room, he hurried to open the door for them. After a while, he went toward the front of the room and knelt in readiness. As soon as one of the panelists put down his glass, slave mikey hurried forward and, remaining crouched down so as not to disturb the panel, made his way over to the panelist, knelt, and refilled his glass. He did the same with the glasses of the other panelists.

Then he returned to the back of the room and quietly, unobtrusively, collected trash left by the audience members. As he began to retreat to his place by the door, he paused. He leaned over.

"Would you like more water?" he whispered to a member of the audience.

* * *

As the conference wound to a close, Daddy Ed wandered through the vendors' area, looking at the exhibitors there: Lifestyle Sewing, whose owner, girl Nancy Thompson, had sewn the new dominance and submission flag. Leather vendors who had come forward at the last minute to replace a leather vendor who was unable to take part in the conference as planned. The Leather Archives & Museum, displaying tidbits of information about leather history. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), fighting against encroachments on the freedom of BDSM folk and leatherfolk.

In the registration room lay evidence of the need for NCSF's latest legal battle: videos produced by Bound & Gagged, donated to the conference by its publisher, Bob Wingate, after the magazine folded. Bound & Gagged was killed partly by 18 U.S.C. § 2257, a newly revised U.S. government regulation that severely limits the publication of erotic photography. NCSF has joined with the Free Speech Coalition, an advocacy group for the adult entertainment industry, to legally challenge the broad provisions of 2257.

In the conference's bookstore, a man presiding over the sale of various leather books from the bookseller KinkyBooks pointed to Mach21, a new leather magazine edited by Joseph W. Bean. "The first issue," he said, "and it might be the last issue. It's hard to publish a magazine like this with 2257 in place."

As leather publications suffer under the weight of government regulations and the rising cost of issuing print publications, gatherings like the Master/slave Conference take on even greater importance than they have in the past. Jack Rinella, a leather columnist for Gay Chicago Magazine who has had three M/s books published, was forced this summer to issue his latest M/s book through self-publication. By contrast, the Master/slave Conference 2005 offered forty-four workshops on a variety of topics by a large number of presenters from around North America.

Besides, where else could you enter an elevator crammed with a dozen masters and slaves?

At the back of the elevator stood a master who was once a slave and who is now seeking to enter into service once more in order to learn better how to care for his boy. He raised his voice above the cheerful chatter emitted by the tightly crammed group. "I just want you all to know," he said, "that I appreciate this opportunity to be close to you."

Everyone laughed. The elevator slowed, approaching a floor. Someone said, "What do you think will happen when the vanilla folk waiting for this elevator see us strange folk?"

"Surprise!" said someone else brightly.

A third party contributed, "Isn't there a scene like this in The Rocky Horror Picture Show?"

The doors opened. There was a brief pause as the people in the elevator eyed the newcomers. Then everyone shouted with laughter.

"It's more strange folk!" shouted someone. "Come on in!"

The masters and slaves who had been waiting for the elevator joined the crowd. Someone mumbled something about elevator capacities. As the elevator began to approach the main floor, the first master raised his voice in song: "Let's all go to the lobby—"

"Let's all go to the lobby—" Others joined in with the familiar jingle from movie theaters.

"Let's all go to the lobby—" It was now a loud chorus. The elevator stopped, the doors opened, and the crowd surged out, masters and slaves together, united by a silly, cheerful song.

"—to get ourselves a treat!"

Post comments about this article at the truetales blog.

This page is part of the disabilities issue of True Tales, which includes articles, stories, photography, and links related to leather and disabilities.

About the Author


Hidden in the Dark: Leather Bars, Disabilities, and the Life and Death of Erotic Photography. Includes a discussion and related links on the recent government regulation affecting leather publications.

A Flag for Unity: How the M/s and D/s Flag was Created.

The Master/slave and Dom/sub Flag. By Master Tallen.


Master/slave Conference.

Born Slaves. Home page of SlaveMaster.

Lolita Wolf.

Viola Johnson. Includes her keynote address at the conference.

Off the Cuff. Essays by Master Guardian's Sugar. (Site's warning page.)

Master Taino's Leather Family. Includes sections devoted to slave tommy. and slave jody.

Catherine Gross.

Household Keppeler. Home page of Master Alex Keppeler.

Photographs © 2005 Master/slave Conference.
Text copyright © 2005 Dusk Peterson. All rights reserved.
The text on this page is copyrighted and may not be reprinted, posted, e-mailed, or otherwise distributed except with permission of the author. You may save one copy and print out one copy of this page for your personal use.

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