A Little About the Making of a Dominant…

In the last three years, I’ve spent an intense amount of time both in “real life” and online, breaking down, analyzing, and understanding the minds of young girls.
The motivation for this is my personal modality as a Trainer. A few years ago I came off of a D/s relationship where in the end I felt I had failed as a Dominant and a Trainer. The relationship ended fairly amicably, but I felt I had not succeeded in doing the things I should to cause desirable change in my partner. In the next year I floundered through several models of “Training” and eventually began to amass the one which I consider “mine” through an assimilation of sources and parts. I’m still capable of abject failure, but I certainly have a better idea what I’m doing.
I have always felt very strongly that you cannot analyze and change other people if you cannot analyze and change yourself. There is that old proverb…”do not try to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye before you remove the log from you own eye. When I began, I could not tell you why I was drawn to identify as a Trainer or a Dominant, but I felt that I should be able to. Normally I don’t share my revelations, but several factors led me to decide to publish an autobiographical analysis.
I’m not particularly proud of the things I am revealing. In many ways it’s pushing back the curtain and exposing some things I’d be as happy to hide. My relatively prosaic past, middle class upbringing, media interests, and anxiety – it would be just as comfortable to keep these things under wraps.
On the other hand, one of the things I’ve gotten most strongly from girls is that they want to understand how Dominant men think, and what motivates them. I also think that there is an allergy among Dominants to admitting that anxiety and other psychological factors color their behavior and desire for control. I think there is a tendency to focus on the psychological factors in the submissive partner, and make the assumption that the Dominant must be stable, fully formed, and needs no questioning or improvement.
Contrasting that is some media presentation that Dominants are “messed up.” That Dommes are “paying back” a patriarchal society, and that Male Dominants are weak, twisted individual who have to prove their manliness by beating up women. Obviously this has improved a lot over the past twenty years, as BDSM and D/s have become more culturally normative.
Within the community, there doesn’t seem to be much curiosity about Dominance and Sadism. We speculate endlessly on what makes someone want to get beaten up, but we don’t need to ask why someone would want to beat them up. I think there is a mistaken feeling that because most people repress violent instincts, everyone would be a Dom if they weren’t sexually inhibited. But that’s not particularly true. I know a lot of easygoing people who simply are not driven toward any sort of sexual Dominance. I think the question “how are we made” bears asking, and I think a good understanding of the formation of Dominance as a psychosexual practice is as important as an understanding of submission.
I can write (generally and without breaking confidences) about the experiences of dozens of girls who have shared their backgrounds with me. I only have one real case study for a Dominant, and that’s me…so…I see it as somewhat of a duty to put forward as accurate an analysis as I am able to.
An Overview
In the next few pages I’ll examine my overall personality development and underlying anxieties with a focus on factors leading to the development of psychosexual sadism, control urges, and a D/s oriented lifestyle. My basic thesis is that Dominance, like submission, is born in pain and anxiety, potentially representing the “fight” side of a “fight/flight” coin.
The Mechanism of Anxiety
My understanding of human beings and their motivations is very scientific and mechanical. I don’t think religion and spirituality are always “bad,” but I think often religion and mysticism serve as mental camoflague to put in a layer of uncertainty and confusion and keep us from having to address our core motives. They provide dozens of easy templates for ennobling our basic survival instincts and allowing us to feel alternately proud or guilty about them without really analyzing their function.
Biology did not build us to be happy. It built us to reproduce other human beings. Our emotions…including love…are outgrowths of that, a reward system to make us engage in behavior which makes us likely to survive longer and make more small humans. For that reason, our emotions are often in conflict and we are not always “happy” doing the things that are “best,” since they may conflict with our basic needs.
We are also wired for a world less complex than the one we inhabit. We are social creatures, but the rise of Visa, Electrical Power, and Starbucks have happened in a period of time that is non-existent evolutionarily. Our evolutionary mechanisms still think grain silos are a pretty nifty new idea.
Out ability to intellectualize has allowed us to go beyond our evolutionary mechanisms in a way that gibbons, chimpanzees, and certain conservative legislators cannot. That has given us unprecedented power over our environment. But it hasn’t particularly given us happiness.
I have no doubt Dominance is driven by anxiety…essentially “insecurity.” That’s something most Dominants don’t want to confess, but it’s transparently true. We do things because some part of our heirarchy of needs isn’t being met, or is threatened. We Dominate others to meet a need in ourselves, and fight down our own insecurity. How realistic we are about this largely determines how good at it we will actually be.
It is less clear why we become sadists. I know that hurting others discharges emotional energy for me, and makes me “feel better” by allowing me to act out on aggressive instincts. It seems probable that sadism is a response to anxiety. Fight and flight are anxiety responses. Cruelty and sadism represent acting out a “fight” response.
Three Questions
In analyzing myself, I boil down to three questions to investigate
a) Am I anxious and if so what am I afraid of?
b) How was I exposed to violence and why did I become a sadist?
c) How did these things play together to create my personality?
Nothing to Fear but Fear itself
As a child, adult, and even now, I suffer from panic attacks, though I did not realize this until my 30s. I accepted panic as a fact of life, and accepted that I must “behave” even when I was tremendously anxious.
I was aware that in my 20s I could be rash, insistent, or brash, and “lash out,” and that I had spent a lot of energy learning how to control that. I was aware that I feared paralysis and that many of my drives were to prove to myself I would not be paralyzed in a crisis. I eventually learned that when my pulse pounded and it seemed as if the walls were drawing in, that didn’t necessarily mean I should jump up and “do something.”
Even in high school, I recognized that I was prone to panic or freezing up, but I didn’t think about it in terms of an anxiety disorder. I threw myself into activities that pushed my boundaries and forced me to cope with
I can remember episodes where panic drove me to behavior that was stupid or pointless. A night spent working on the car with bondo, because I became obsessed at the fear that it was rusting out (to be fair the work needed to be done, but it wasn’t the priority my anxiety made it).
I have begun to realize that I can define my life as a battle against the emotion of anxiety/panic. As a child I felt at the mercy of panic…I felt helpless and incapable. And just as Scarlett O’Hara’s personality was shaped by the starvation that ends reel I of Gone with the Wind (for those not familiar this is the oft-mocked scene where Vivian Leigh says “as God is my witness I will never go hungry again,”) on some unknown day of my childhood, I said “As God is my witness I will never be powerless and unable to change things again.”
Too Smart for my Own Good
The first key was determining what is “different” about me. I’ve always known that in a specific way I was “more intelligent” than many people. I’m reluctant to say that, because it sounds like bragging, and it’s not entirely true.
I’m no super-genius. In addition to never owning a product manufactured by “ACME,” there are some things I’m positively dumb about. My SAT scores were impossibly split…99th percentile Verbal and something in the high thirties for Math. I still count on my fingers to do bistromath if I don’t have a calculator.
I’m not particularly good at memorization.
What I am good at is “understanding things.” Systems, webs, social environments, networks. I can picture, feel, and experience these powerfully.
This has especially connoted to people. I can think about how other people think.
I always had a good understanding of the way in which people behaved. I could often tell in a televison show when an actor was behaving “unrealistically” and had a strong feel in literature for when a character was behaving “right.” I was limited in some ways to my own experience, and my own experience was as a fight-oriented alpha who despised flight.
Learning About the Mind
In high school I encountered personality theory, and finally had words and terms to hang on the things I understood, and had a clear map to begin tying them all together. I’d puzzled out a lot of it from various fiction and nonfiction reading, but in Junior Psych it all made sense.
Shortly after that I spent a good bit of time helping a friend of my who had major medical issues earn a Master’s degree, including doing work on various papers, and in the end doing a good bit of independent reading on my own. Having gotten the rudiments of the “system” of people, I quickly became adept at seeing its functionings…and I began the slow tenuous process of figuring out my own urges, needs, and wants….
The Urge for Control
All human beings want control. From a very early age I was obsessed with it. I never wanted to be a child. All the games I played were games of being an adult. I pictured myself as an adult. I was frustrated by the constraints of being a child…this manifested in many ways, but on the most basic level it was a desperate desire to be taken seriously and listened to.
I was not particularly traumatized as a child. I was spanked a few times, but there was no whiff of sexual impropriety. My father was the adult child of an alcoholic, and doubtless passed the issues of socialization and distance that go with that lot in life.
We also lived in a neighborhood where I had no close playmates except for one girl next door who had Down’s Syndrome. So…I had very little socialization except at school. I was an only child and spent a lot of time lonely without fully understanding what “lonely” was.
I spent a lot of time around my parents with them ignoring me. I don’t think they did that to be cruel. They had a child who was always around, and they developed a facility for seeming to care about what I was doing and vaguely engaging me while mostly ignoring me and concentrating on something else. That has ended up as a component of my personality in both a positive and negative way.
I invented playmates in my head…always adults. Other children had an imaginary friend. I had an imaginary Air Force Buddy because it was my understanding that was the sort of friend an adult might have
My need for control may have been driven by loneliness and isolation, but it manifested just as strongly at school. On some levels I probably was driven by fear of the removal of socialization…every afternoon I lost the ability to socialize, lost my peer group, and lost the ability to interact.
Certainly it must have been a factor. I didn’t get much socialization outside of school, and people were a puzzle to me. I was excited. I wanted to be liked, just like everyone else. No…more than that. I have always been an alpha and I not only wanted them to like me, I wanted them to follow me and do what I said. And I didn’t understand why they didn’t and wouldn’t. In school up through third grade I was a “ringleader” even though I was poor at athletics. I was dangerously smart and that made up for poor abilities at soccer during most of the day.
Lack of socialization, or the withdrawal of socialization may not have been my only fear. I recall reactions to television, books, and other media. In the next section we’ll investigate how that played into the development of cruelty in my personality.
A key to my reasons for an obsession with control came in remembering, rehearsing an elaborate statement when returning to vacation bible school (my parents were not particularly religious, but suburban churchgoing was the order of the day) to explain that I had been sick. It got me laughed at and I didn’t understand why as it had seemed very polished and sophisticated. I understand now that most 7 year olds don’t say “in all actuality I was quite ill.”
With one or two exceptions, nearly every major anxiety I can recall in my childhood comes from fear of how people would respond to something, and of not knowing or understanding their responses. And every frustration is a matter of them not responding in the way I wanted, usually because I lacked the tools to explain the situation, or to coerce the response I wanted.
I’ve considered that I might be mildly autistic, but it seems unlikely. Autism is concerned with having a poor idea how other human beings will respond, and in general I’m very good at predicting how people will respond, good at putting myself in the other person’s shoes. I’ve gotten better at it over time, and certainly my poor socialization gave me some Asperger’s-like behavior early in life.
So…small child, poorly socialized, learning how to get others to respond. But why would it matter so much. This is where anxiety fits in. I lived in fear, because when I was wrong or corrected I felt an overwhelming emotion so negative that it made me desperately want to head off every possibility of error. I can identify now that this was a classic panic attack.
I wasn’t heavily socialized and I did not know why people behaved the way they did, but I knew that if I learned all the rules and always knew how to act I would never be shamed and thus never panicked.
And…I was very smart.
The problem is that I memorized comparitavely well, but I also understood things. I saw around me an invisible web of relationships nobody else saw. I shocked and astounded my summer camp at age 8 by explaining the basic nature of Watergate as a power struggle between the Executive and Legislative branches. The Counselor was convinced that I did not know what that actually meant, and was astounded when I adequately expressed the relationships.
The key frustration of my life is that there were circumstances where despite complexities that I could slowly and patiently explain, I would be mocked, ridiculed, or shamed anyway. Or something bad would happen to someone else because they could not see how to do the right or sensible thing, and I could not explain it all to them. The response to both of these things was a very unpleasant panic reaction which I wished to avoid.
This was the core of my anxiety. The aching of not quite having the words, the adult words to describe the relationships between things that I understood. As with anxious girls, I am left with the “chicken or the egg” question. Am I anxious because I was born with a chemical imbalance, and thus developed anxious behavior, or is my anxiety a product of my environment. I tend to think that my anxiety formed as a reaction to not being able to explain myself sufficiently, but I cannot rule out that it had an existing chemical trigger. My basis for this tends to be that I do not experience anxiety attacks randomly…I experience them when I experience a loss of control. This strikes me as a learned response.
I didn’t like being made fun of, but early on I engaged in relentless acting out, even self-mockery. To some extent this was immunization. If you make fun of yourself others can’t mock you. I didn’t like actually being made fun of. I assume this was because I understood the social interchange and realized that I risked people not respecting me…it was very clear to me from very early on that people don’t follow a buffoon. My speaking and understandings often got me laughed at and mocked, but I learned that if you twisted it just right you could recover laughter into entertainment. And I learned that entertainment is leadership and power. I became an entertainer because people would follow me…obey me…in a way they wouldn’t if I simply told them what they ought to do. Even if I clearly knew better.
Comedians tend to be bitter men with grudges and, as I later learned, comedy itself is a dominance mechanism.
Early Childhood
As a small boy I was very much a monster. I always liked Calvin and Hobbes because it shows us something of just how barbarous small children can be. There was nothing innocent about me. And I lived with an awareness that I was a monster. The things I fantasized about and thought about were not what good little boys and girls fantasized about. They did not fall asleep to fantasies of death and killing.
I don’t know when these elements of my personality really formed. I remember being obsessed with slapstick violence on television, and the destruction of property. I laughed hilariously at a re-run of I Love Lucy where the two warring families accidentally push a washing machine off a balcony.
One disturbing memory that has come back to me in recent years is of a cute story about a mouse who runs away from home or gets lost. I know this is a pre-school memory because my mother would read the book to me, and I read well before I entered school, which was probably the beginning of my general boredom with the educational system.
The story ends with the mouse safe at home I was very fond of imposing alternate…rather unhappy…endings on stories, but I vividly remember that I felt a chandelier should fall on his head…something I’d seen in some movie and which seemed to me to be the epitome of gratuitous violence. I was angry at the poor little mouse’s complacency and happiness. Even at the time I think I justified my desire to do harm as the story being “too trite” or the little mouse being “too cute.” I do recall disliking trite, predictable, stories and having some feel for writing that was saccharine.
As an adult, I think the story of his loss scared me. He was anthropomorphic, and for whatever reason, I think I resented being scared of his loss of family and safety and responded by wanting to inflict a punishment on him. That is the earliest I can recall feeling the desire to “wipe that smug satisfaction off someone’s face.” I wanted to put hurt and misery into his world because it seemed too happy to be real. I’ve thought about trying to identify the book (it isn’t one I still own) in order to see why it differed from other similar stories where I felt no need to punish the protagonist. There was a similar story about a puppy which I adored, and I don’t know if I felt the puppy was less responsible for his own misfortune, whether the text played less on my emotions or I identified less with the puppy, or whether I was simply more willing to forgive the behavior of realistic canines than that of anthropomorphic mice.
I don’t know that these behaviors were really unusual for small children. I think most children have some violent fantasies. I know that my parents firmly told me that these things were bad, and that I believed them, and so violence became a firm part of my ‘acting out’ behavior.
I recall going through a phase which I think must have been about age 5 when I was scatologically obsessed. As proud as Freud would be of me, the interesting thing is that I had no actually interest in fecal matter, but rather an adult desire to be “dirty” and say “dirty words.” The words associated with feces were the dirtiest I knew, and I became compulsive about working them into conversation. My parents disapproved and eventually curbed the behavior, but it tells me that even at the time, the desire to be allowed to curse and act out in the manner of an adult was strong, as was self-identification as a “bad boy” or “rebel” type.
There was some corporal punishment in my life, but it was restrained, ritualized and fairly trivial. I don’t think it really shaped my behavior. I never eroticized it and there was nothing of even subdued eroticism in its presentation. I don’t even recall resenting it heavily. I do recall fights and arguments with my parents generally based on them not letting me do anything I pleased. I don’t think I was treated badly as a child. My parents were scientific and fair, familiar with Dr. Spock, and trying to bring me up without scarring. My mother suffered from PMDD, and I have no doubt that these occasional cycles of irrational behavior on her part led to an underlying anxiety, but I cannot pinpoint any actual instances until later in my life. I do recall a general feeling that my mother was volatile and might suddenly not be very fun to be around, which was a sad thing as she was in many ways my best friend and playmate during those early years.
I was prone to argument with my parents on some issues but on issues of basic ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ accepted their judgment without question. I did not like being “bad,” in the sense of disappointingly wrong. At some point I must have been told that “kill” was a very bad word, which left me with a fascination with it. I was afraid to say the word in front of my parents, and was in fact afraid to say the word “kale” because it was very close and I thought they might think I was saying “kill.” There was no draconian punishment for this but I was acutely conscious of not doing “really bad things.”
Private School
I attended an English style Private School until Third Grade. I was enrolled in Pre-Kindergarten and was still young to start Kindergarten….I made it in only by a few days, so was always among the youngest (and therefore weakest and smallest) kids in my class. But I did well, made friends, and brought about mayhem. I was often in the principal’s office, and I was a ring-leader during recess.
The school I attended was unusual, and I think it shaped a lot of my personality. The student body was made up of the children of senior officers at the Pentagon, and diplomatic brats. During the Arab-Israeli War, sons of the two embassy staffs played out their own fight with boxing robots. Most of the diplomatic kids had grown up in the U.S. and the ones that hadn’t were somewhat socially handicapped.
This was a weird ferment. I got much of the same background I might have if I’d gone to school with military brats anywhere, but with a much stronger slant on military history and on politics. Political kids were probably half the class, and many of the Officers were amateur military historians, or at least enjoyed telling military stories to their children.
Very little about the Vietnam War was romantic. The U.S. was firmly losing the War, and while one might discuss the most modern and exciting Jets, Vietnam wasn’t much talked about. Instead we did in school what I am certain many of the military parents of 1971 did at home. Refought the glories of the Second World War.
It’s worth understanding that we were much closer to WWII then than now. Most of the kids in my class had fathers or grandfathers who remembered it. The national obsession with Nazis was just rising, and you were beginning to see swastikas on the cover of every mystery or action novel. Militarists have always been fascinated by the Nazis…they had cool, interesting equipment, and were snappy dressers. We thought the Nazis were cool, though neither understood nor cared about fascism. Small children are tribal Fascists by nature, and to the extent we understood anything at all about the politics, it seemed to be an easy to understand structure of glorious leaders, much more exciting than our own tepid and confused politics.
We thought the great leaders of the past were pretty cool and Hitler (who was epic and shot himself) seemed in many ways more colorful and interesting than Roosevelt or Eisenhower who did not captivate us as children. Of course we didn’t know or think much about Racism, but about cool tanks and airplanes. I feel no guilt in this…others in the 20th century have been captivated by that legend. We understood that the concept was “bad” but…the concept of powerful “Captains,” “Dictators” “Chiefs” appealed to our primate sense of heirarchical organization. In the end, I don’t think I was left with any sympathy for the ideals of Fascism per se…the more I became acquainted with them, the more repulsive they seemed. At the same time on a tribal/personal level, I think we inherited…probably more from the military and Diplomatic fathers, whose shadow lay on all of us than from the Axis…a sort of internal Neitzcheianism. A belief in man and superman, and a firm understanding that we were of the superman strain. None of us ever put it that way of course, nor did we see ourselves as vein. It is simply the projections our fathers laid on us. Even among that group, I must have been very conscious that I would have to work to be a superman, and a certain part of my life-script suggests that an epic fail would be acceptable.
I remember one kid who was particularly fond of describing gruesome tortures his grandfather had told him about from China in the Second World War. Gouging out entrails, and digging out eyes and replacing them with burning coals. He was the most extreme of the kids in our class and I was fascinated by his stories.
During my short stay in Private School…I made a lot of headway: I was put into a box and censured for blacklisting.
The box was amusing. I was so disruptive in class that the teacher said that if I did not stop acting out she was going to put me into a box. She said “box” but I heard “office.” I was very fond of playing in cardboard boxes, and I imagined something rather elaborate like an oversized dog kennel. From that point on, I acted out continually and at every turn reminded the teacher that she’d threatened to put me in a box.
The actual box ended up being rather disappointing. Obviously my teacher didn’t have a box for children on hand, and had to pull some scrims from the theatre room. She set these up so that she could see me and the other children couldn’t, but I was marvellous at moving them when she wasn’t watching until I had a private office. I invited people to my office during breaks, and decorated the walls, something I wouldn’t have the privilige of doing again until I worked at 1990 K Street in my late 30s.
The censure for blacklisting came about as part of a rising fear that our Nazi-obsessed band of Third Graders was getting out of hand. A facet of the Private School, or at least my little corner of it, was an extended and endless roleplay that had blossomed in First Grade. Understanding that most of the kids in the school were military or ex-military civilian Government, and that this was the Cold-War and Vietnam War era, and the most reasonable thing in the world was that we should all play at being an Army and Government. I suppose children in Idaho might have played at being in the trenches, but the kids in my class were the sons of Bird Colonels and Security Attache’s so we played at Geopolitics, and being creative and a good story-maker this was something I excelled at. I soon knew “military” and “government” better than the military kids and was highly skilled at creating an ongoing roleplay in which everyone participated.
Finally feeling my oats as a real political mover and shaker in the extended and endless roleplay of school, I overreached a little bit. There were the few sports-oriented kids who were not interested in our endless military-political roleplay, and of course…certain girls…who liked horses and other girly things. We were happy to admit cool girls, but in due course of time came up with a public enemies list, which basically meant anyone who badmouthed or belittled the ongoing roleplay. It was actually a rather fascinating mechanism, and to be fair it was the fault of our own police culture since it came straight from “FBI” with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. I was forced to apologize and promise never to blacklist people again.
Even in Third Grade, I was aware that I was king in my own fishbowl, but not everywhere. I rode an “early bus” and spent about an hour at school before the teachers arrived. A bus driver stayed to supervise, and I was locked in with a random assortment of kids from other grades and classes. They were not engaged in the roleplay and they did not recognize my importance as a leader-entertainer. I was acutely aware of that, and both hated that hour, and used it to try new material, or engage in behavior that I could not once I put on my “face” as a leader for the other kids.
Media Influences
School wasn’t the only place I was getting exposed to violence and adult concepts. I had a fair amount of generally unsupervised television time in the afternoons.
You’ll recall my “in all actuality” comment above, and the interesting thing is that I can date it. I am fairly certain that the language came from imitating (badly) Leonard Nimoy’s character of “Spock” on Star Trek. To my six year old mind, Mr. Spock was the epitome of civilized restraint…someone who always had the right words, was always cool, and seemed to have no emotions. That sort of detached capability was incredibly attractive to me. Captain Kirk might have been an adventure hero, but Spock had all the answers, people always listened to him when he talked, and he was respected for his mind.
It seems likely that even at that young age I saw having no emotions as something desirable, and that the reason for this is that I associated emotion with pain. I might not have words to express it, but it was clear to me that Mr. Spock did not have panic attacks. I know that I did not watch Star Trek when it aired originally because a friend of mine and I wanted to play a record during the final episode and were overruled because his older (probably just pre-teen) sister was a devoted fan, and was crying because it was the “last episode ever”. That would have been June 3, 1969. The show began airing that fall in a 5:00 spot on WTTG Channel 5, and I was astounded to find it was not a stupid girl’s show, but full of interesting and…vaguely terrifying stuff.
Star Trek is significant, because it really wasn’t children’s fare. The show was lumped into the late afternoon schedule of Re-runs with Mr. Ed, and My Favorite Martian by local producers who probably knew nothing about it. In fact it featured provocative writing by people like Robert Bloch, Fredric Brown, Harlan Ellison, and Theodore Sturgeon. In tone and setting it drew from the late 60s countercultural science-fiction revolution that spawned Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Slaughterhouse Five. Thankfully despite this early exposure I never particularly became a “Trekkie” and found much of the later work rather shallow and at best mildly entertaining. My desire to actually pretend to be Mr. Spock was limited to kindergarten where it may be forgivable on account of age.
But…I was seeing at 5pm…remarkably adult ideas and concepts, that went well beyond Dick Van Dyke, I Love Lucy and My Favorite Martian. While possibly less unique, it’s worth noting that people died on Star Trek in a way that they didn’t in the other afternoon fare, or in cartoons, or even most of the cheesy detective shows of the time. The blood and gore of CSI was much more discreetly dealt with in the days of Dragnet. I certainly saw shooting on TV, and my mother was a fan of detective shows, but they were tame by modern standards.
Afternoon television was followed by the Vietnam war.
I’ve made a lot in my adult life of the impact of seeing us lose in Vietnam on television. I do remember television pieces discussing the retreat after the Tet Offensive, and showing wounded and injured troops. The number of Wounded, Killed, and MIA would be flashed on the screen every night, and that was probably my first acquaintance with the concept of “Killing.”
I know that the war fascinated me. I would race to finish my dinner and go in to watch the National News, because I wanted to see the footage from the War. I do not honestly recall my emotions on this. I was not deeply invested in the War, and really didn’t make an association between the dirty young men on TV and the relatives of classmates. I didn’t know anyone serving, and most of my class’s relations were well above that pay-grade, though there were some older cousins and such. It was impersonal to me, but fascinating.
I was an anxious child and I know I had trouble sleeping early on. I wasn’t particularly afraid of the dark, but simply of being alone. I liked the concept of all night places, because it made me feel more secure to know that someone, somewhere was awake. I wanted people awake around me while I slept. I liked to listen to an all news talk-radio station because it had human voices and proved there were people out there. Eventually this led me to ask questions like what a gas-chamber was, and my father set the dial to a light music station that I did not hate.
The years from First to Third Grade were formative for me. It is fairly safe to say that in January 1970 I was a fairly innocent, sheltered kid. By 1974, entering fourth grade, I had a working knowledge of war, torture, things in our universe that were beyond our understanding, the failure of American policy in Vietnam, and the threat of Nuclear Annihilation.
In 1974 I was for the first time exposed to “Duck and Cover” drills. Our private school knew such things were useless. My father was kind enough to explain that it didn’t make any difference if a nuclear war broke out everyone would just be dead. I also knew that the Air Raid Drills were on Wednesday.
Unfortuantely I wasn’t good at keeping track of what day of the week it was, and when a drill happened on what I thought was a tuesday, I quietly prepared to kiss my ass goodbye. I even was vaguely aware I didn’t know for sure the day of the week and remember thinking that it was humiliating to die incinerated with my head between my legs kneeling wondering what day it was.
I think I paid even more attention to the world and politics after that.
But there is still a key missing. I wasn’t the only kid to do duck and cover drills. I wasn’t the only kid to listen to Dorsey telling stories about bamboo needles and burning eyes out with hot coals. Most of them probably reached age forty without ever using a cocktail toothpick for any purpose other than spearing an olive.
I was fascinated by machines and not by people. In Third Grade, my parents got called about my essay on what object I would be if I were not a person. If you want to give a kid an exercise in existentialism, don’t complain about the results. Other kids wanted to be…I don’t remember, probably a football or a lampshade. If I’d been smart I would have said a vibrator. If I’d played dumb I would have said “a train.” Instead I said “A B-52 bomber.”
One reason I recall is that “you wouldn’t have to do much work during the day, just sit around all day sipping fuel then casually fly over and rain a string of bombs, then come home.” I had a lot of knowledge on this subject…my father was with SAC during the Korean war and their base serviced B-47s bombing Korea. I think my depiction was a little too eerily accurate for my teachers and…truthfully I laugh now to think that it was a rather mature Hunter S. Thompsonesque rant that I might well be willing to publish under my own name even at the present…
I’ve wondered how the obsession with machines fits in. Clearly I’m not the only kid to be fascinated by trains, though curiously I had less interest in the ones with eyes that talked to you and more interest in the ones that behaved like real trains and did not engage in snappy repartee.
I tend to think that machines were simple and predictable and “safe” and that human beings were unpredictable. I didn’t like stories with people in them, and I remember insistently re-writing the ending of one of those “Little Mouse gets lost but comes home” books to include a rather dark physcial comedy ending borrowed from re-runs of I Love Lucy. Even at the time, I had an issue with “Saccharine.” I had a violent streak. The poor mouse might have fared worse if I didn’t already have a keen sense of how far my mother would actually tolerate my diverging into violent fantasies.
In 1973 ITV in Britain aired World at War a powerful documentary summarizing the Second World War. I was fascinated by it. It must have come to the U.S. in 1974 or 75, so I was eight or nine (I was born late in the year). The “Genocide” episode gripped me fantastically but, not the way that it probably should have. I was never anti-Semitic, and never really had any basis for any sort of racism. My grandfather was mildly racist and I gave him grief about it in ways that are amusing to me now. I’d been told that being born white or black was just a random chance and I remember asking “but what if I had been black” which must have conjured context for him which I was oblivious to.
At any rate, Genocide showed organized executions in concentration camps. Needless to say power of life and death on that precise, organized, scale was fascinating to me. I obviously already knew something of it, but the sheer level of mechanical objectification and cruelty was thrilling. Mass execution, fit into my personal mythological world and stripped of its racism…became a valuable staple in my own fantasies and play.
Night Fantasies
At some point during this period, I began coming up with elaborate torture fantasies that would probably do justice on Fetlife today. The interesting thing about the fantasies is that they were psychosexual in nature, and that I edged towards Dominance in them. I knew that it would make me a bad person if I actually was a torturer. So I concocted scenarios by which I was captured and forced to watch my “buddies” being tortured in an attempt to get me to talk. Genital mutilation figured heavily in these tortures. I impressed my captors by watching dispassionately and without emotion, thus proving my strength, while even having drinks and refreshments. I would watch as much as they chose to dish out.
The erotic nature of these fantasies can’t be underestimated. It is also the case that I knew they were “bad.” I never talked about them, but from no later (and probably earlier) than age 8 on I never fell asleep without fantasizing about death and torture. These early fantasies were homoerotic (I simply didn’t know anything about girls), but I quickly made the transition to heterosexual torture porn when I learned about sex. Sometime before I was 11 I also transited to being the “actor” in these fantasies, and engaged on a wild period of acting out in my own play. Fired by “Genocide” I began to take the lead role as torturer and executioner, though always for “the good of the state.”
The separation of my fantasies into “good” and “ugly” came early. I had a set of toy animals that I loved and played only “good games” with. No violence or death was allowed to intrude onto those fantasies. Looking back, I am sure that was somewhat because of the pressure of my parents to play “acceptable” games, rather than ones about the things I learned at school. But it also met my emotional need to feel that there was a place, a part of my psyche that was protected from violence and mayhem. I knew that I was excited by the idea of making people die on meat-hooks, but I also did not want those violent images penetrating to my family and the core of things that made me feel secure.
I’ve mentioned I very seldom had playmates until 5th and 6th grade. There was a rare set of visits, probably in 2nd and 3rd grade with a local boy who attended the public school, but lived nearby enough that we could potentially live together. He was…by my standards…crass and aggressive, and I don’t think I really liked him. We set up to play “army men” and I conceived of a game of skill and strategy. We would each set our men up and then throw blocks to knock them down…taking turns and concentrating. This seemed fun. His interpretation of this was to go into a spastic block throwing fit, using huge pieces and simply throwing them with enough force to take out great swathes of my troops.
I was…mortified to be losing a game I had played many times with myself and thought I should be good at…I felt a sharp sadness and sense of loss and I can now identify a panic attack. I knew that if one was being invaded and one had lost most of one’s soldiers one called up civilians to form a Home Guard…I had read extensively about the Battle of Britain at that tender age. Reluctantly I lined up my toy animals who I conceived of as the “citizens” of my room, and was horrified to see them mowed down too. I don’t know quite what I expected. Perhaps some idea that he would grasp the nobility of my gesture and acquiescently go down in sudden and unlikely defeat.
I felt tremendously guilty, though even at that age I had enough awareness to make the conscious decision to edit the event out of “continuity” for my play reality, and regard it a fluke brought about by a bad influence. I learned several valuable things from that battle. I learned of the emotional pain of allowing my dark fantasies to mingle with the things and people I loved. I also learned that my understanding the story did not make other children understand it…I could not communicate the grand game I wanted to play. I already realized to some extent that if the game was to be a tragedy, I must accept that I would take the tragic role, because other children lacked the comperhension to appreciate it.
In a noteworthy aside, that friendship resulted in the one homoerotic encounter of my youth…a childish challenge to “show each other our butts.” I did…rather reluctantly…and did not find it particularly interesting to see his. Unless I dramatically misremember my reactions, I think they were more anxious than aroused, though they may have served to put a later patina of anxiety on any sexual encounter. Being a good child I dutifully reported this to my parents, and I never saw that playmate again.
Public School
As the economic woes of the early 1970s took their toll, one major decision was to take me out of Private School. Fairfax County had one of the best public school systems in the country and it began to seem ridiculous to be paying twice for my education. Certainly I know that tuition was a big strain on the family.
So with Fourth Grade I entered the bland grey world of Public School.
For all my seeing systems, I didn’t question the move, and it probably didn’t hit me as hard as a lot of other kids. Each new Grade in Private school had been a crap-shoot…some old faces, some new. Military kids moved a lot, as did Diplomatic kids. Since I had no “out of school” friends, I was used to luck of the draw every fall.
Even so, I think public school must have been a terrible and depressing shock to me. I could not make friends. I had trouble engaging the kids in my Private school at my intellectual level. The kids in public school were not military brats, and I had spent four years learning to fit into a highly military-conscious environment. They didn’t care about tanks and guns and planes. Their parents weren’t military, the war was largely over and they cared about football and sports.
In private school sports was my one great competitor for entertainment. But it wasn’t that big a deal. I tolerated it and it drew some attention away from me as an entertainer-leader. It gave me so quiet time.
In public school I was like Jake and Elwood in the Blues Brothers, called to perform at Bob’s Country Bunker, where they have “both kinds of music…Country and Western.”
I did not know how to make friends with people I couldn’t connect with, and I could not connect with most of the people in my class. I had not learned to socialize with people, I had learned to socialize with Military-Diplomatic brats.
I think it is hard to realize…and I don’t think I realized at the time, just how crushing and depressing that change was for me. I also ran into serious math classes for the first time, and my math deficiencies became crushing in a world where lack of teachers meant a 60 student math-class, with 20 minutes per grade of instruction, and 200+ long division problems for homework. I know now that I am mildly dyslexic in regards to numbers, but…at the time I was simply dumb. My schoolteacher-grandmother arrived to help frog-march me through the horrific piles of homework that were an excuse for lack of teacher focus, and I know that I became deeply depressed, which for me meant retreat into fantasy.
At this point in my life I also developed a mild stutter. I say developed simply because in Public School I suddenly became “the stutter machine” and I’d never had anyone make fun of it in private school. Oddly it did not occur to me that I’d developed a stutter, but it certainly must have become much worse. I never entirely got rid of it, but learned through Dorothy Sayers and Masterpiece Theatre that upper class British men affected a stutter, and made it vaugely charming by aping their manners.
In public school, my “social group” consisted of outcasts, misfits and the few other intellectual kids who could think or talk on my level. I did not know how to “play down” to an audience, and it would be a while before I learned. I had one or two friends, and eventually a few more in my neighborhood.
Fantasy Games
The games of Second and Third grade were just the start of long-running threads that ran through my imagination. I created “fantasy worlds” by which I mean that they did not exist, not that they were populated by sorcerers or dragons. I came to that sort of imagery rather late, mostly through reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in my Freshman Year in Junior High. I was fascinated and it added a set of fixations which made up the core of late influences on my fantasy life. Other strong references were Lucas’ Star Wars and…hilariously…Edgar Rice Burroughs classic “John Carter of Mars” series…beloved of gay Leathermen, penned in stilted Victorian prose and introduced by a gay friend of my father’s. I fortunately avoided the “Gor” series until I was too old for that sort of thing. In my senior year in High School I largely stopped reading science fiction and fantasy, and with a few exceptions such as Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and Samuel R. Delaney, have never returned to it, preferring the likes of Hemingway and Henry Miller. Restored somewhat to power from my exile I “woke up” to the real world in 1982, and had mixed emotions about the fantasy world where I spent my lengthy exile.
Stories of the Fall
In retrospect, it is clear to me that I was intensely depressed and in some degree of emotional pain. But I was a fighter and a resilient kid, and I honestly did not understand that at the time. I expressed myself through play and fantasy, and even acting out at my parents, but I never said “I am unhappy.” That would be an admission of failure. Instead my fantasies were destructive or self-destructive, vivid, and all-encompassing.
I was very acutely aware of my fall. I had always had fantasies that revolved around rising to a position of great leadership and being assassinated. Assassination was a common story in my childhood, and a fascinating themes in the books I read. It was also freedom from guilt. In my childish brain I knew I was smart, and figured that I would somehow learn to run an Empire. But I was also on some level aware I lacked those skills. Assassination was a way out. It may also have been the result of my place on the Man/Superman scale.
My soft-spoken father was a man of moderated success. While I am sure some of the military boys and diplomats learned at their father’s knee not to compromise and to never accept defeat, my own internal “parent” became a mix of my own father and theirs. The shadow of their parents through my peers taught me the value of glory and never backing down. The shadow of my own father taught me about loss, compromise, failure, and holding on to what you have. The sad music he came to favor and would occasionally play…Country, Bluegrass and folk featuring lost and broken men taught me that failure was an acceptable end. One of my favorite songs was “The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down” which was about a train but teaches us…
“In the winter of 65…we were hungry just barely alive…I took a train to Richmond that fell…it’s a time that I remember Oh so well….like my father before me, I’m a working man…and like my brother before me…I took a Rebel stand…he was just 18 proud and brave…when a Yankee laid him in his grave…I swear by the mud below my feet…you can’t raise no Cain back up once he’s in defeat…”
Those ideas seeped into my subconscious…even in Public School I had fantasies that bordered on the tragic because that presented an escape from being Superman. I had an odd split vision of myself. In some ways smarter than the Supermen I was schooled with, but in the end perhaps inferior to them. I can see now where this came from.
For at least a year or more after my exile from Public School, I was obsessed with the history and details of the fictional Empire or State I had created there. It was a disappointment that nobody in Public School cared about it. One particularly significant fantasy was based on my reading of the actual Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea. I was captivated by Nemo…an exile who carries on a war against a greater power. I fantasized myself escaping from the ultimate fall of that Empire, carrying out the fight aboard my own version of the Nautilus…an impregnable ship built with the greatest technology that Empire had to offer. Undefeated, I would eventually choose to die alone, my crew gone…a combination of the end of the Disney Movie and Verne’s little-known continuation of the Nemo Story in The Mysterious Islandwhere Nemo makes it clear he will open the sea-cocks of Nautilus and die before the Island is destroyed in a volcanic cataclysm. This is my first self-destructive fantasy, and may mark a transition from fantasies of failure through the actions of others (dragged down by assassination) to failure at my own hand (self sabotage).
I can see here the formation of a significant element of my “life script,” to use terminology from Berne I’ve discussed earlier in this blog. “I will do great things, be admired by many, be dragged down by detractors, die, and then they will all miss me and admire me.” Vain of course, but life scripts, even failed ones, tend to be.
I was taught that failure. I was the head of an Empire that Ruled the World (or at least the Second and Third Grade), and was reduced to being a failed non-entity at Math and a “stutter machine.” It is a testament to my stubborness and tenacity that I retained even in my own head a sense of self-worth. It is not surprising that sense of self-worth was deeply marred by a sense of self-sabotage.
The World of Literature
The only positive of my move was access to a big library with books intended for sixth graders. And a dull librarian who actually didn’t care if fourth grade kids checked out adultish books.
The library was in a liberal Northern Virginia County and had been poorly policed. It was littered with books that probably wouldn’t past muster in today’s more paranoiac environment. I was growing up in the last big wave before America became all about children. There was no McDonald’s playland when I was a kid. No Ikea play area. If a store had any provisions for kids…and 95% didn’t…it was a few dirty and worn toys in a box.
But this meant that I had access to books on Aztec Sacrifices, on the WWII Resistance and Nazi rule, and any SF from the golden age of jingoism which fell short of open descriptions of sex. The barrier was plain. Anything published before 1960 probably didn’t mention sex and so was fine. This opened the door on 25 years of social experimentation…some liberatrian conservative, other more liberal, but all a huge very adult melting pot of ideas. I’d be stunned if they let kids read that stuff now. Science Fiction was fascinating to me, because it was experimental and dealt with people and thought. The stories were abstract backdrops for passion plays of morality. Some of them, many of them, were outmoded, churlish, and conservative, but others were frighteningly forward-reaching. Even at the time I understood they were dated…icons of a future that never was.
My first experience of a feeling of nostalgia was at age six. I know it was provoked by the nostalgic Bluegrass music my father had begun to favor.
In my personal fantasy life, I was also rapidly developing cynicism, genre, and irony as narrative tools. I was capable of enjoying a fantasy about things which I ethically rejected by placing them in a genre where they were appropriate (the past, a foreign state) , or even by framing my enjoyment of a cruel fantasy in a self-consciously ironic depiction of a dystopian present or future.
I never had any trouble separating the psychosexual elements from the politics. While I do think that as little kids we accepted ideas about dictatorship, and glorious leaders without much question, I rapidly came to reject rightist thought…if anything I thought more about it because it was so tied up in the literature of cruelty and murder that I found so fascinating. I rejected the ethics of history’s butchers, while still getting off on their ability to torture, maim, and kill, without conscience.
My grandmother was an english teacher, and while a conservative Roosevelt-Democrat, she happened to keep a copy of the seminal dystopian novel 1984 on her bookshelf because it was required High School reading. I read it in late fourth grade. It seemed to be science fiction and I was very interested in science fiction.
I know I read it at that time, because I read it without understanding sex, and I puzzled that out on my own in fifth grade. I already knew some of the concept of sex, but I didn’t “connect the dots” until later. I know even then that I recognized the “Truth” behind Orwell’s depiction of hypocrisy, shallowness, betrayal and “Doublethink.” While highly political, 1984 is a novel that explains how human beings behave hypocritically to survive. What I couldn’t know at the time is that Orwell…the British Journalist Eric Blair, was writing from personal experience he describes better in Homage to Catalonia, which he gained while fighting as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War for an anti-Stalinist Communist faction which would eventually be destroyed in internecine conflict.
But…even without fully understanding Julia’s motivations for another year, I understood 1984, and had panic attacks while reading it. And I understood that it was a novel where people behaved as they really did in life, not as they did in fairy stories. I could feel that difference.
A move to a different Public School brought a somewhat better fifth and sixth grade. My family moved and there were neighborhood kids. I had never had a local social group and I obsessed over the dynamics of it, worrying myself late into the night. By this time all pretense of “bedtime” had gone by the wayside, and I routinely read until 1 or 2 am, starting a lifelong career in sleep-deprivation.
Sex Ed
I learned about sex from the Random House Dictionary of the English Language. I knew vaguely about the word “sex” and in fifth grade, the girls got sex-education (because of menstruation) which the boys did not. I wouldn’t get Sex-Ed until Freshman High School, by which time I was more familiar with the concept, if not the practice, than the teacher.
I systematically researched and learned this mystery. I’d already begun to masturbate in the shower, and I put the links together over a series of weeks. There was no internet, but dogged research in the dictionary…which featured “sexual intercourse” as a term, led through definitions of all the important physical bits, and slowly a picture emerged of how they worked. At the public library I was armed with enough information to seek out the correct books, and for about six months I glutted myself, first at the libraries then at bookstores, which sold racier and more detailed books. I was often given permission at the mall to wander to the bookstore on my own and this became my most valued research time. Within a year, I knew “all there was to know” not only about sex, but about a significant range of human perversions.
It says something that right alongside of that I was researching other “adult words” that had escaped my childish fantasy-relations. I remember tracing the exotic eastern mystery of hari-kiri (seppuku) and entering the fascinating world of ritualized suicide. The connection of violence and ritual was very powerful to me.
Junior High
If Grade School was miserable, and Junior High was worse. I had a few friends in my neighborhood, but when my one good friend moved away I was left alone again. By Junior High “the neighborhood kids” were the wrong ages or off on their own things and not hanging out.
In Junior High I was bullied a lot. Not physically. I got in two fights physically and gave a pretty good account of myself. But I was the loner kid, and I simply had nobody to associate with. None of my knowledges were of interest to anyone. I simply could not “catch on” in public school except with a few kids, because everything I was about was imaginative and intellectual, and that simply could not become popular no matter how hard I pushed. I was never again the “ringleader,” and never again popular.
I can look back on this period now and see that I was deeply depressed and miserable, but still escaping into fantasy and refusing to admit defeat. I had a favorite mental fantasy during this period in which fell outside my standard ethos, in which I was actually an alien, spending time studying the world around me. I preferred grey, overcast days because they reminded me of home, where there was a solid cloudscape and never any direct sunlight. I think that the degree of alienation and depression implied in this speaks for itself. Grey days felt more comfortable to me. They matched my mood. I felt alien, with no-one around whom I could speak to. During this period the small group of “local kids” I had played with in our new neighborhood largely fell away, and I was truly isolated in the world.
After age 11, I became consistently more aware of my “double life.” I had always known that some of the fantasies I shared with friends at school were not okay with my parents. But as I became more remote from the Private School, and my fantasies became more elaborate, I was aware that they simply “weren’t okay.”
My fantasies also became more personal, as genre allowed me to be a participant. I eventually created an entire mental fantasy ethos for sexual violence, a sort of cyberpunk post-holocaust future where a decaying empire supported sexual slavery and objectification of women. Acknowledging that the situation was unethical, but viewing the whole thing as a literary exercise, I could explore my darker fantasies to their extremes.
A few times I had clashed…been shamed by…my parents for violence or brutality. The last was probably when I was 10 or 12 and by that time I was simply aware that I should not engage them on these things…I was drawing away from them for most of my play and becoming inwardly focused and the degree to which violence and…later sexuality…figured in my fantasies and play was simply more reason to push them out. They considered me admirably self-entertaining. Many of my games were simply the games of children…though always with a rather sophisticated socio-political overtone. But as I stopped playing and spent more time writing and fantasizing, those fantasies became increasingly sexualized and dark.
The Curse of the Pre-Born
For someone who reads mostly non-fiction now, in my childhood I read a lot of Science-Fiction and Fantasy. Enough for a lifetime, I suppose. In my late teens I read Frank Herbert’s classic Dune novels, and was attracted to the character of Alia who was “pre-born”. In Herbert’s Science-mythology the “pre-born,” because of certain genetic experiments in breeding telepaths, become aware inside the womb and share all their mothers thoughts, thus forcing them to fully understand all adult concepts, including sexuality, before they are able to walk.
I saw that trait in myself…”too smart for my own good”
I had always understood things better than most of the people around me. I had always understood systems, ideas, consequences, chains of reaction, better than most others.
And it was an intensely frustrating experience. I felt a strong kinship with Herbert’s “pre born,” and I remember feeling a strong erotic attraction to Herbert’s character of Alia and her self-destructive behavior.
My fear…my great anxiety in life, has always been to have ideas and understand, and not be able to make myself understood. To see and understand things clearly but not be able to do anything about them. Specifically either to be judged and shamed by those who do not understand “the whole picture” or to see others hurt because they cannot see what they need to do to keep themselves from harm.
I used to think I dreaded personal paralysis. Being a coward in a fight through freezing up. But experience tells me that’s not the case. I’ve never been reluctant to fight, and I’ve usually done moderately well, at least fighting to a draw.
My anxiety is based around knowing and not being able to communicate. If I am having to fight, I feel I have “already lost” because I should have been able to avoid the fight by explaining myself. I am inclined to want good things and positive compromises, and a fight means I have been unable to convince people of those.
I note that one of the few simple drama tricks that still provokes an emotional response from me is a “revelation” scene where people are proved right or understand. To give an example of how simple I am in this regard, National Treasure is a movie I have only ever watched because somebody else had it on. I find the idea silly, a cheap rip off of equally unbelievable but better strung together conspiracy nonsense by Dan Brown. If you are going to write conspiracy nonsense, and you are not Umberto Eco, stay home. That said, the scene where Nick Cage proves to Diane Kruger’s character that there really is secret writing on the back of the Declaration of Independence is emotionally effecting enough to me that I actually walked into a room to watch it. I’m a sap…
I’m now convinced that one of the things I love about Casablanca is the “Big reveal,” where it becomes clear what Rick Blaine is doing.
The core of my anxiety is the frustration of having learned how to lead and control, and then having that ripped away. In late High School kids began to “catch up,” and it was also possible to move into subcultures that valued imagination. I was validated, and the validation felt good. It would be late High School before I was once again popular and a “ringleader” the controversial Editor and organizer of the Underground Newspaper.
What I did not realize is that a decade of gross insecurity and hard knocks had left me more fucked up inside than I understood or acknowledged. I already had the curse of knowledge, but the fall from grace and exile had…in retrospect…twisted me more than I realised.
I was sexually frustrated in High School and shortly thereafter, and a few fumbling sexual encounters with teens did little to ease that. They were short, and drowned in guilt or overreaction. An adventurous child, armed with a car that I could drive into the City, I found that I could pay for sex, with women who would be my sex object in return for money, and that was a simpler way to fulfill my sexual needs than begging, wheedling and playing games with teenaged girls, completing my confused sexual education, and bringing me to a none-too-secure adulthood.
A Summary of Issues
My anxiety is the fear that I will not be able to communicate well enough to maintain control, and thus will lose control. I’ve had poignant reminders of that as partners who were deeply emotionally damaged rejected my logical and even emotional attempts to bring them stability and help them, and flailed away from me. I saw them react in fear and hurt to things they didn’t need to fear from me. Fear of being controlled or shaped in a way they didn’t want. I have learned to take that in stride, go back, and shape my communications better, more respectfully, and to listen better to their needs.
I now know that the years from about 9-12 are the time during which you form the core of your adult personality. Where you form your Sexual personality and determine how you will relate to the outside world. During those years, my chief emotion was frustration at exile and being unable to achieve control because nobody could understand or appreciate what I was talking about…I fell…very far and hard…
The stutter was a key in understanding. That’s evidence that I was being affected on a deep emotional level by the change. And it happened very quickly. I felt completely hamstrung. I was an English speaking man in the land where they spoke “What!”
My adult personality has been about compensating…and ensuring that fall will never happen again. I learned public speaking with an unholy zeal. I was good at it. The off the cuff kinds more than the memorized kinds. Former stutterer or not, I took my state in Extemporaneous speaking. I learned to play an audience.
My sexuality also became an expression of that. I’ve sought intelligent partners who could understand what I was talking about and who were willing to accept some of the things I said as true and accept guidance.
This is not an adequate forum to enter into all the adult ramifications of this, but I can summarize a few:
  • I am shocked by the lack of violence in others. I was exposed to details of Southeast Asian torture at 6, Genocide before I was 10. In an environment where those things were seen as “exciting,” just as other small boys might find car-crashes or wild tigers attacking people “exciting.” In some ways I’m not as cruel as I seem, because I don’t find the most brutal forms of human torture “alien” or “unfamiliar.” It is always shocking to me to be reminded that others may find it adventurous and frighting to merely think of stabbing people, or drilling holes in them, or other basic physical violence that formed the core of my 6-8 year old fantasies. I find those graphic depictions hidden in the heads of many traumatized girls, but they truly fear themselves for letting them out, and are shamed by them. I have to remember my shame as my mother came upon me unawares in a bookstore, reading a very adult book, and I ran away to be in another aisle to remember how they must feel now, as adults. To me, it is not a matter of starting with the shocking concept that humans might spank each other and working up over years of kink to the idea they might put hooks through their bodies, or impale each other. It is starting with impalment, torture in extremis, and epic violence, and watering that down to an acceptable and survivable level. To that end I tend to be drawn to sharp, extreme, brutal types of play.
  • I am a realist who seems cynical. I can usually see very clearly how someone’s motivations tie back to their basic Maslowian heirarchy of needs. I don’t consider myself a cynic, because I see this as inevitable and true of everyone and so I don’t tend to fault people for it. Unless a human being is taught new behaviors you cannot slight them for default behaviors, and few of us are taught behaviors in any meaningful way.
  • I am frustrated by self-deceptive people. Most of us have learned to camoflague our basic motives in ideals or a smokescreen of nobility. I feel this acts against the art of finding a good compromise between “what is good for me” and “what is good for you.” It makes enlightened self-interest a sin, and a matter for concealment. If someone insists that they act only for selfless motives…not even acknowledging that selflessness has an emotional payoff for them in terms of moral happiness…it is hard to negotiate with them.
  • I am burned out on politics. Politics is mostly the art of catering to people’s needs to be lied to about their actual motivations and reasons for actions. I may have my personal frustrations, but I feel no need to inflict them on 400 million other Americans. People complain that politics is all lies, and then ask to be lied to, because of course they are noble and want only what is good…not the emotional satisfaction of being right while their neighbor is wrong. They want politicians to work difficult jobs that involve endless frustration and huge risk taking, then have personalities that are not consistent with people who are control-freaks or gamblers. They want pragmatic laws, but want their leaders to be selfless crusaders who want only what is good and do not think of their own position. They expect men (and women) to work for positions of power in society for little monetary reward, then condemn them for accepting easy sexual conquests as a benefit of the power they have gained as if primates sought leadership for any reason other than survival and reproduction. It does not surprise me that many educated people tend to get their politics from sources like Jon Stewart or The Onion which address the degree to which politics of every stripe is about people forcing their leaders to lie to them by tantraumatically refusing to accept truths that are not sugar coated.
  • There is a vein of poison in me that comes out in humiliation play and certain other types of brutal play. In Lucas’ Star Wars epic (let’s forget about the later movies) we see the classic depiction of Darth Vader as a villian who is “evil” but started by wanting good, and being willing to cut corners and do whatever it took to accomplish that. We don’t know what happened in his past (and the reveal is a disappointment) but we know he endured bitterness and frustration and that it darkened his soul to the point where he may accomplish some good, but has become villanous.

As a pragmatist, I believe in balancing acts, and I actually have a good bit of sympathy for the Empire. Even seeing the movies as a child, the Empire seemed pretty competent to me, and it very much fit the image of the imaginary Empire of my second and third grade fantasy games. Obvioulsly I don’t objectively advocate Imperialism or single-party rule. I’m a staunch Democrat and favor Moderate European Socialism. But emotionally, and within my personal life, I embrace the part of me that is dark, and recognize that it does mar all my works with a little bit of poison. The bitterness of my exile cannot be totally offset, and no matter how I try to justify it, some of my cruelty simply goes to feed the need created by that long and bitter fall.

  • I remember reading Milton in Junior High and being captivated by the fall of Satan. He rebels against God the father, and with a Third of the Angels in Heaven, Lucifer is actually winning, not losing the conflict. It is only when God pulls the trump card and sends his Son in the Chariot of fire that Lucifer is put down. Lucifer loses to a sort of unfair cosmic Hiroshima, God having to pull out the big guns and make the playing field uneven to slant it for his fall to Hell. And in Hell, lying fallen and blasted, he rises to build up a new Kingdom…making the best of what he has rather than begging forgiveness.
  • I am not entirely good. My resentment, my frustrations, poison me. I seek channels and outlets for them. Constructive ways to release my need to hurt. The more aware I am of these needs, the more likely it is that I will be able to accomplish good. The alternative is to simply give up, and I see no benefit in that, for me or anyone else.
  • Socially I am careful and isolate myself, dealing only with a small “inner circle” of people in my private persona, and having a public persona as an entertainer that I present to the world. This minimizes my frustrations, by not pushing me constantly into situations where I clash with people who undestand things less well than I do, and where I must either feel I should explain myself endlessly, or walk away frustrated. I tend to be willing to get to know someone only after I’ve established that they have a high enough level of comprehension to “get it.”
  • I never saw myself as a victim, but my personal mythology and memory of the fantasies in my head tells me I felt victimized. This shifted an already skewed life-script towards self-destruction
  • I recognize that it’s socially awful to argue with people all the time and I don’t enjoy being constantly frustrated even if I don’t feel the anxiety about it I did in fourth grade. So I structure most of my social situations to minimize the amount of unstructured interaction I have with people who frustrate me.
  • I’m particularly cautious with Men. They have the most capacity to fuck me over if they fail to understand me and act aggressively both because…unfairly and statistically they tend to be the resource leaders in a community and because, again unfairly they tend to be the least cautiously belligerent. Men are more likely to adopt an “aggressive-aggressive” tack with other men that allows little room for options other than an all out fight or an abject surrender. Statistically fewer women behave like Defensive Tackles.
  • With women, I can see strong patterns in the women I have been willing to relate to, or on a higher level, to undertake training:
a) They are intelligent

b) Their intelligence embraces “common sense” as much as book smarts, or they have a strong desire to learn “common sense,” even if they feel they don’t have any.

In terms of training it’s obvious that a lot of what I get out of it is an emotional release. Since fourth grade a part of me has been saying “If I could just tie them to a chair and make them understand…beat them if necessary…in the end it would be good for them.” In D/s training I actually get to do that though to be fair, it has been rare that a girl I have been willing to train has needed that level of aggression. That said, it is definitely a satisfying feeling and is much of what I get, emotionally, out of training. The feeling that I am actually able to shape and mold someone by communicating because they are open to it and not set on frustrating me.

That leads to perhaps the most important quality:

c) Self aware. The moment I see someone is wrapped up in self-deception, I tend to step away from them. I want to work with people who have already conceeded that there is wood beneath the paint and are willing to work with me on the hard job of stripping it off.

We are all self-deceptive. Even I am. To me self-awareness is being able to admit that and work to step past it, to get inside it and see what we are really about. If someone says “I am self deceptive” and I call them on an act of self deception, I expect a level of self-awarness that allows them…when they are not in the heat of argument…to say “yes I am.” The realization doesn’t need to be instant, but it needs to be sustainable.

It’s perhaps odd that “Easily controlled” is not in the list. The truth is that I don’t prize people who are easily controlled…I prize those who have the ability to understand at my level and the self-awareness to want to. I am strong and belligerent enough to push and enforce control if they can bring those qualities to the table.

  • The Struggle of Division – I still struggle with the desire to divide my world into “ugly” and “good.” Much of my psychosexuality falls into the realm of “the bad and the ugly,” and so there is a desire to spare people I love from it, and surround them only with my “good.” The problem is that they are psychosexually aware too, and much of what draws them to me is the bad and the ugly.

BDSM has been the process of healing and remediating this rift for me. It did damage to my marriage, and has at various times damaged or distanced my D/s relationships. A reluctance to show cruelty and force to those who I love…to keep the “bad” games away from the “good,” is still very strong. I overcome it more and more easily and frequently and see that as a path to a “wholeness” in a rift that began with the break between my father’s past as the adult child of a failed alcoholic and that of my classmates as the children of driven men of politics and military accomplishment.

Life Script
I think that I have several overlapping life scripts, results of the different time periods of my youth.
From my father, I think I got “I will succeed, but moderately and not too much or they will notice me and I will get in trouble.”
From the confluence of my father and the shadow of my peer’s fathers and mothers during those formative years in public school I think I got “I will do great things, be admired by many, be dragged down by detractors, die, and then they will all miss me and admire me.”
The result has been that I’ve been conservative, unwilling to take risks, and looked for areas of “safe” success…focusing on subcommunities that seemed not too intimidating. Fishponds that were of such a size they could be managed. There is a strand of self-sabotage in some of my actions, and also an impatience when greatness does not come quickly. Much of my adult learning has been to overcome that, but the emotional echoes remain.
I learned to be an exile and escape into my imagination. As an adult, even as I abandoned reading fantasy and science fiction, I have escaped into roleplay and fantasy in the real world. Over twenty years directing and producing Live Roleplay I lived out my fantasy to make the other children play the game right, experience it’s true emotions, and learn from it. I also lived the frustrations of teaching them out to do so.
While I’ve never had the faintest interest in WOW or any of the other MMORPGs online, over the last seven years, I’ve found it easy to submerge a good amount of my time in Linden’s Secondlife, where the creation of my childhood Empires is a possibility. I’ve come and gone, but the ability to present a strong personality in a sexually aware setting…an online environment that favors fetish and allows for extreme play…has been a strong magnet, and also a reasonable training and learning ground.
In the end I have no doubt that my interest in the M/s and D/s world is another form of escape, or at least playing out my fantasies of sexual control and support. On the other hand, it is a very real thing, and involves interaction with real people in a real world, so in many ways it represents an actual accomplishment of the things I want out of life.
I did not promise a short analysis, and even so I have delivered an incomplete one. I have some ideas of why I became a sexually sadistic Dominant, but not even this lenghthy set of observations constitutes a real “explanation.” I hope in presenting it, and baring the details of my past, my psychosexual development, and my conflicts, I have put forward information that will be as helpful to others in understanding Dominance as the girls who have offered me their stories have been in my finding and understanding submission.
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One Response

  1. S. 26 November, 2010 at 6:48 am | |

    I have been reading your blog posts, here and there, randomly picking dates, and it’s been very enjoyable. You have mentioned Fetlife several times, and I have been looking for a reference to your name there, but alas, I have yet to come across one. I had so hoped to stalk you from afar…~grins~ I am a profile whore in truth… Anyway, I attempted to contact you via the blog, but it wants to force me to use Outlook, which is a hard limit for me…if you amenable for me to get a peek at your FetLife offerings, would you drop me a line, please? I am Tiff_Torgeson there. And I am really a piss poor stalker, anyway heh

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