Introduction to Ask the Man Who Owns Him

Reality Trumps Fantasy

by david stein

I love erotic fantasy as much as any queer with a functioning libido, and I’ve written a fair amount of it — see my novel, Carried Away: An S/M Romance (Daedalus), and story collection, Boots, Bondage, and Beatings (Perfectbound Press). But I also have a reality fetish: what turns me on most is when real guys are doing the things that fuel my fantasies, like living as Master and slave.

A lot of folks think that consensual Mastery/slavery can’t be real because involuntary servitude is illegal in the “civilized” world. But voluntary slavery is a matter of commitment, not coercion. Agreeing to live as a slave in obedience to another is as real a commitment as any other voluntary association. Granted, many who call themselves “Master” or “slave” today view these roles as temporary playacting — bedroom theater — rather than as a committed way of life. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But not everyone feels the same way.

A small but significant subset of voluntary slaves and their Masters see their roles as callings and their commitments to each other as lifelong bonds. This book exists to allow a sampling of these, all gay or bisexual men, to tell their stories in their own words. And guess what? Their stories are very different. These men came to Mastery/slavery by different paths, overcame different challenges along the way, and followed or created different models of a life in service and obedience.

It took courage for them to put themselves out there for others to read about, and it’s been our privilege to help them do it. We think it’s important to provide a reality check for gay men (and others!) interested in this lifestyle. While fantasy is enriching, it can be a treacherous guide.

There has been nothing remotely like this book since issue No. 14 of International Leatherman magazine in 1997. That issue, which I edited, consisted entirely of articles, documents, and photos depicting or concerning real-life gay Masters and slaves. But IL 14 was a mixed bag, with material from both relative novices and more experienced and committed men, from those currently in relationships and those relating past experiences.

In this book you’ll find, with one exception, only men who’ve been committed to each other 24/7 for at least the past three years, though not necessarily living together. The exception is the recently acquired second slave of a Master whose first slave has been with him more than eight years.

Credentials and credits

And what of us, the authors of the book? David Schachter, my collaborator (see his introduction), is the Master of two long-term slaves, one live in and one not. I have been in three short-term Master/slave relationships — although none was intended to be short term when we began!

For the past nine years I’ve been the ward of Master Steve of Butchmann’s. He’s my Guardian, not my Owner, and we live far apart. He keeps me on a long leash, but it’s still a leash. In addition, I was a co-founder and longtime director of MAsT-NYC, the first (and gay only) New York City chapter of Masters And slaves Together (see www.mast.net for information about the international organization and its chapters). My personal website contains some earlier writings on consensual Mastery/slavery.

I did all of the writing for the book except for David’s introduction, Joseph Bean’s foreword, and a couple of the appendices, and I handled the design and production. David took most of the photos, recorded the interviews, and reviewed all the material at each stage. Together, we composed an extensive questionnaire, which David put online for the subjects to fill out prior to the face-to-face interviews.

All of the uncredited photos here were taken by David Schachter or me. Those supplied by the Master or slave are credited accordingly. When a specific third-party photographer is cited, we have permission to use the photo. For a few old snapshots, someone other than the Master or slave shown held the camera, but they no longer remember who it was. In these cases we have assumed that the subjects of the photos have the right to share them.

Diversity

The couples or families represented here are as diverse a sampling of gay Masters and slaves as we could get. Their ages range from the 30s to the 60s, they have all kinds of body types, some use strict protocol and others almost none, their time together ranges up to 16 years, and so on. Why gay/bi only? Because David and I are both gay and know that population best. We didn’t feel we could do justice to lesbian or heterosexual M/s relationships, and trying to do so would have expanded the book’s scope enormously. The subjects’ locations range from the West to the East Coast of the U.S. and from Ottawa, Canada, down to Florida. Doing face-to-face interviews farther afield was beyond our resources.

One type of diversity we were unable to achieve is racial: all of the participants are white (one is half hispanic). It’s not that we didn’t try to include men of color. We followed every lead we had, but every non-white or interracial couple we reached either declined or no longer qualified.

A well-known African-American Master had dismissed his longtime slave just the previous month, a prominent African-American activist turned out to be no longer into the lifestyle, a white Master with a Chinese-American slave and a black Master with a hispanic slave both declined for privacy reasons, the slave in an interracial triad was eager to participate but his Masters were not, and so on. There are no hard statistics in this area, but we suspect gay men of color in North America are involved in Master/slave relationships to a much lower degree than white men, and they seem to be more closeted about it. Still, we know there are some, and we wish at least one couple had agreed to talk with us.

Style and procedure

All of the names in this book are real unless placed in quotes in the first reference. Most of the men chose to use their first names only, and several Masters used slave names or a pseudonym for their property. References to other people in the men’s lives use first names, pseudonyms (in quotes the first time), or no names at all. One Master did the interview in a half hood, then asked that his face be obscured entirely. We complied with all reasonable privacy requests. We also don’t give the exact location of anyone’s home or any contact information unless specifically requested.

The style for the text is mostly standard English, with little of the idiosyncratic capitalization or grammar some call “slavespeak” (that is, third-person self-references by slaves, capitalization of pronouns referring to Masters, use of “W/we” and “O/our,” and so on). We make no value judgment on that style, but from experience we know it can be off-putting to readers. The main exceptions we’ve made are to capitalize the word “Master,” to signal that it’s a title of respect, and to print each slave’s name with a cap or lowercase according to his Master’s preference. (Some Masters also have little patience with the traditional conventions.)

For the cited ages of the subjects, we have used the nearest whole number relative to our publication date in May 2009. The number of years they’ve been together is also relative to our pub date, and we’ve begun the count from the time they either began living together or began a formal relationship. In a few cases, the subjects did not begin as Master and slave but evolved into that dynamic, yet they were still “together” for the entire time cited.

We’re grateful that our subjects were as candid and forthcoming as they were. They all carefully reviewed their profiles, and we made the corrections they requested, so whatever you read or see in this book has the subjects’ blessing. Quotes from the interviews and questionnaires were edited for clarity, style, and flow, and some have been recombined or positioned differently from the original context, but always preserving the speaker’s or writer’s meaning.

Lessons learned

Our sample is too small for a statistical analysis to be meaningful, but there are still some lessons to be learned from these Master/slave bonds.

First, of course, is that there are many different ways to structure such a bond. Perhaps the irreducible minimum is that it is seen as “ownership” in some sense and that the slave is required to be obedient to the Master’s will. Everything else is open to negotiation.

One thing in particular that doesn’t seem necessary is for the Master and slave to live together. Some prefer that level of intimacy, while others prefer to maintain some separation in their everyday lives. But even those who don’t live together keep in close touch via phone, e-mail, instant messages, and so on. A non-live-in slave can still be “24/7” if he’s on call whenever the Master needs him or wishes to communicate. And some non-live-in slaves follow prescribed protocols for their behavior when away from the Master.

Love is a common factor in these relationships — though not in all that we know about — but its nature varies considerably. Several couples here are romantically “in love” with each other, but most are not. Sometimes the love the men feel for each other is described simply as “nonromantic,” while in other cases it is defined as “spiritual love.” But an absence of love seems to be rare in long-term bonds.

An open relationship, at least for the Master, or outright polyamory is a feature of all of these bonds. Over the long term, males seem to need multiple emotional or erotic outlets to avoid boredom. Although none of these relationships is strictly monogamous, in most cases the slaves have sex or play with others only with permission from their Masters. The Masters, of course, do whatever they want.

Perhaps surprisingly, few of these bonds involve a strict protocol. Some of the slaves freely use their Masters’ given names, and only a few have specific protocols for dress, speech, or behavior. What is often not recognized in erotic fiction and fantasy-based scenarios is that maintaining a strict protocol takes a lot of effort on the Master’s part, and many of the Masters in this book can’t be bothered. As long as the slave is respectful and obedient, they’re happy.

That suggests another lesson: long-term slaves need to be happy, too. They may crave heavy s/m (not all do), but they don’t really want to be abused and disregarded in everyday life. All of the slaves in this book are happy with their lives and enjoy serving and obeying their Masters. This may seem obvious given that the bonds are consensual, but it’s a cliché of fiction and fantasy that slaves want to be treated like shit, degraded, objectified, and abused. A little of that during an s/m session goes a long way; a steady diet leads to rebellion or flight.

Finally, the real-life stories in this book show that both Mastery and slavery typically involve a long journey. Your desire to be owned or to own another may go back to your early childhood, but there’s no fairy godmother to tap you with her wand and instantly realize your dreams. It takes work and lifestyle changes and deep self-examination to be successful in either of these roles. We salute those who have made the hard choices and kept their commitments over time.

San Francisco
May 2009

e-mail: david stein

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