Introduction to Ask the Man Who Owns Him

Why You Need This Book

by David Schachter

Congratulations! You have made an excellent choice in buying this book. You can now learn from the more than three dozen men who opened up their lives to tell you what makes their Master/slave relationships successful.

This book took a year of field work across the U.S. and Canada. “Why bother?” is a reasonable question. “Do we need another book about an extreme lifestyle relevant to a very few?” is another. “Because it is desperately needed” is the first answer. “Yes” is the second. Let me explain.

E pluribus unum and vice versa

I’ve owned one slave for 14 years and another for 3. Before jumping in, I read plenty of books about dominance and submission and Master/slave relationships. I’ve read lots more since. You’ve probably seen the same titles at your local gay bookstore, "adult" store, or online. A few are terrific — anything by Baldwin, Bannon, or Bean, for example. The Prime Directive of writing is "Write what you know," and those guys know plenty. But it’s not enough.

One point of view, no matter how well informed, can’t match the complexity of modern life. Our book doesn’t have one point of view. It has more than 32. And in that multiplicity, that conflict, that competition for definition, you’ll find something approaching the truth of What It Is That We Do.

The Masters and Mistresses and the slaves and boys and pups who are my friends are smart, eager, and well intentioned. But we don’t have useful role models. Some of us started with something like this:

“Volunteers needed for a very private, very elegant S/M party . . .”

Men must be well built and attractive, willing and able to perform servile tasks
and endure moderate to heavy pain. Only the very willing and the experienced need apply.

That’s from John Preston’s Entertainment for a Master, fiction from the mid-1980s. You’ve doubtless read it or something similar. In the absence of real-world examples, words and images from fiction tell us who we are and how we should interact with each other. They create an ideal for our relationships, and that’s okay if it is tempered by reality.

Reality is what I hope this book provides. In it, you will meet a smart Master and his smarter slave. You’ll meet a slave whose closeted vanilla partner is worried about losing his job if the nature of the slave’s relationship with his Master becomes public. You’ll meet a man who became a Master not from a deep yearning but as a way to keep his husband. You’ll read about various ideas of love.[1] In several of these relationships, there is no sex, only service. In one, the Master uses his slave for sex and makes love with his wife.

What!? “his wife?”

Yep. That’s the reality. People are complicated, relationships doubly so. Be doubtful of anyone — a Master, a slave, a politician, a preacher, anyone — who says “I have the One True Answer.” There's no such thing. This book is intended to give you a synoptic view of the reality of our Master/slave lives, in all their glorious confusion.

Why bother writing this book?

We wrote this book because it is needed. Too many good people have suffered too much and wasted too much time trying to conform to fiction-based stereotypes. Some conformity is useful, of course. It provides a common set of definitions that helps us to communicate. But how well can we communicate when those definitions are based on misleading notions of reality?

I can’t count the number of men I know who have fallen into this trap. “I want to be a slave,” they say. “What does that mean to you?” I ask. “Oh, you know,” is the reply. “I serve you sexually and you take care of me.” That's not “slavery.” It’s prostitution or employment, perhaps.

“Okay, smartass,” you say, “What is slavery? And while I'm asking, what is Mastery?”

“That’s ‘Mr. Smartass’ to you,” I reply. “As for the rest, you’ll have to read the book and make up your own mind.” My good friend david stein has done an astounding job, with my kibitzing, of extracting, condensing, and presenting the information. But we have not judged. That’s your job.

Who cares about this book?

You do. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t, would you? So what intrigues you about the subject? Be honest!

You may have wondered if being a Master or a slave is right for you. Here’s a quick test I use: I meet a prospective slave outside a coffee shop. Does he hold the door for me? Does he wait for me to be seated? It’s the little things that are tell-tales. I’m looking for indications that the man wants to serve. Everything else can be developed. For a prospective Master, the situation is more complicated. The Masters I know are self-assured in public. In private, we’re all conflicted. What if we do the wrong thing? What if we make a poor decision?

A Master is captain of his ship. You don’t have to have a nautical bent to appreciate why the captain mustn’t fraternize with the crew. He has to manage, inspire, and lead, but he can’t become anyone's buddy. That leads to a fine line in a Master/slave relationship, doesn’t it? How can you not be your slave’s friend, lover, and confidant?

Being a good Master requires — and here I’m going to prescribe, not describe — that you think about how to get what you want by helping the other guy get what he wants. It’s a lot harder than sitting on a divan waiting for your slave to peel you a grape, or whatever imagery gets you off.

A Master doesn’t worry about what gives him the right to give orders. His slave does that with every order he chooses to accept. This is a consensual relationship, and either party can quit at any time. The Master has to make sure the slave is happier serving than not. Therein lays the drama and the difference between Master/slave and other kinds of erotic relationships.

A psychologist put a chimpanzee in a room with toys. He looked through the keyhole to observe the chimp playing. What he saw was a brown chimp eye on the other side of the keyhole, looking back. Chimps and humans are social creatures. It’s through observation that we learn about our relationships and what is acceptable behavior in them.

So who will care about this book? You will because you see the value in learning from experience and real-world role models. You will because you want to learn how to be the best Master or slave (or friend) you can be. Our side of the bargain is to present a variety of examples you can learn from. When you’ve finished reading, I hope you’ll agree that we have. I hope you’ll have a better idea of who you are and where you fit in.

How we did it

A book based on fieldwork is fundamentally different from one that comes “out of your head.” Add a pair of authors who like to squabble over everything from concepts to commas, and it’s remarkable that this book was finished in only a year. Just to make things more difficult, we got advice from our friends. In our case, Mr. Munter provided excellent advice.[2]

When david and I scoped out the project, we quickly ruled out an exclusively questionnaire-based approach. For this project to work, it had to be grounded in face-to-face discussions. Otherwise, people who write well, whether truth or fiction, would dominate. You’ve met the type, right? The guy who is just a little too slick, a little too charming, a little too shallow?

We continue to disagree about one Master/slave pair david wanted to interview. The “Master” wouldn’t provide a physical address. He wouldn’t allow video or audio recording, not even to ensure accuracy in quotes. david insists that the two people involved are real and interesting. To me, however, their writings seemed like one person trying to come across as two. I was concerned that we would travel a thousand miles and find that the “Master” had taken ill or the “slave” was stuck in Topeka or a like excuse. “Face to face or nothing, and on tape” was our mantra.

A web-based questionnaire was the jumping-off point.[3] As respondents filled out the questionnaire — a process that took days or weeks due to its length, complexity, and, I hope, the self-reflection it called for — we would monitor their progress and get twitchy about whether they would ever finish. The responses were used to create the interview questions.

At the interview, david had his questions ready on a clipboard while I operated the video and still cameras. (A few interviews were recorded audio-only at the request of the subjects.) Our pattern was to ask some icebreaker questions to put people at ease and then ask each person to tell us his story. That took 30 to 60 minutes each. We listened intently to what each person said and noted the obvious topics or facts they skipped or glanced away from. david asked follow-up questions along the way, then went through his prepared questions, typically for another hour or so.

While he was doing that, I was thinking of off-the-cuff questions. I had a few stock questions, too:

I tried to come up with unexpected questions that would let us see the real person under the bravado and bluster that Masters have in their public face. Slaves too — everyone wants to be the best at something. Even a person who enjoys being humiliated wants to be “the best” at it.

My proudest moment was with a couple who had gotten together in 2001, one of whom had worked clearing wreckage at the Pentagon on September 12. The question started innocently, then veered off: “You two got together in December 2001, right? Something else important happened that year. Tell me about it.”

For the first time in the interview, the Master got emotional. He told us how he had left his regular job to work at the wreckage and how his boss had tried to stop him. It was a bit of a Barbara Walters moment, perhaps, and even a cheap stunt, but I wanted to see if there was anything underneath the mask, and I was pleased to find out that there was.

An answer to the question about mistakes seemed comical: “I wish I hadn't eaten a candy bar.” The story behind the answer turned comedy into tragedy. The interviewee hadn’t been allowed candy as a teenager because of acne. After coming out to his parents and being rejected by them, he had his first candy bar, then couldn't stop eating. It cost him a precious possession, his buff physique. And it led to a particularly interesting Q&A on family relationships.

Sometimes our questions brought out information that the interviewees hadn’t known about each other, particularly in the autobiographies. In one case, a slave who was notably silent opened up with details that his Master was unaware of. In more than one case, we heard about childhood abuse. People cried during the interviews, and while this wasn’t our goal, it shows how important the interviews were. The Masters and slaves in this book want you to know about the reality and the validity of their lives and how they achieved success without the signposts they have provided for you.

In a number of cases, minor facts were changed to preserve privacy. We omitted small details that added little and could make it too easy to penetrate the privacy of our interview subjects.

In theory, this kind of book is easy to produce. Just do a bunch of interviews and write ’em up. In practice, it’s hard! I’m lucky to have david stein as the primary author. A better writing partner you could not ask for.[4]

What I learned

I’ll probably live for about 30,000 days. Any one of them in which I don’t learn something is a wasted day. I inveigled david into writing this book as a way for me to learn. I hope you’ll take advantage of his effort. Since he’s slave-identified, I was sure he would do justice to the slaves’ concerns. My focus, naturally, was more on the Masters and the relationships they are technically in charge of.

A common factor among the Masters we interviewed is that they believe in real and deep communication. A slave will often answer the question he thinks you intended to ask and give you an answer slanted, perhaps unconsciously, to what he thinks you want to hear. It’s the Master’s job to be clear and to draw out clarity in his slave.

A Master must look beneath the surface of the slave’s words to discern the underlying intent, the motivation behind it, the goal behind that, and so on. It’s tiring just to think about. But it’s necessary if one is to succeed as a Master. An effective Master, I learned, has management skills, a lot of applied psychology skills, and the ability to connect with his slave(s) on multiple levels: physically, emotionally, sexually, and intellectually. An effective Master treats his slave with the respect and compassion that all human beings deserve and that one’s closest companion especially deserves.

Something else I learned is that Masters are sexy! Young, old, fat, thin, tall, short, hairy, or bald, the Masters we met with had a sense of authority that filled the space around them. Perhaps it’s easier to be a slave when your Master is enthralling.

Closing thoughts

In Future Shock and its sequels, Alvin and Heidi Toffler wrote about the impact of increasing change on society. Some people compensate for change by clinging harder to a vanishing certainty about a life that never was. These folks believe in a fixed Truth and in mores pegged to the traditional, small-scale village life of New Testament times.

But villages aren’t where most of us live now. The Masters and slaves you’ll meet in this book adapt to change with grace and fluidity. Their relationships evolve, with firmness and protocol when appropriate and a lighter touch when that makes more sense. Forced to have “public” and “private” modes of interaction, they understand how the different facets of our personality must be hidden or exposed depending on the environment. Master and slave are in what seems to be an unending dance, stylized to meet their particular needs.

Some of the relationships were solemnized in a negotiated contract devoid of legal force but invested with deeply personal meaning to the people involved. The brief contract below was written for my first long-term slave. Please let me know if and how you adapt it:

Contract

1. Do what you’re told.
2. Tell me the truth.
3. Give me 100 percent effort.

In return, I will take care of you and protect you.

Regrets? I've had a few. I wish we had achieved more diversity in our sample set. The insights of men of color would have been interesting. And the realities of Master/slave relationships on other continents would make a fascinating counterpoint to the material we've gathered here. We leave it to others to write about non-gay male Master/slave relationships. As most of the interviews were recorded on video, there might be something interesting we can do with that in the future, like a documentary film.

I hope you will get as much out of reading our book as we learned from writing it.

Congratulations! You have made an excellent choice.

e-mail: David Schachter
San Francisco, CA
May 2009


Notes:

[1] Lust is easy. Love is hard. See also limerance.
[2] To would-be authors: never ask friends for advice.
[3] You can see it at http://perfectboundpress.com/AskTheMan/questionnaire.html.
[4] You could ask. You wouldn’t get.

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