Service on the Brain

Posted in service by Cal Stockton on December 22, 2009

I have service on the brain lately, ever since Murre loaned Orlando to me to help work on an extracurricular project of mine.

I never used to think I was into service. I mean, I’ve always appreciated help and care, but doesn’t everyone? Why does it need a special kink name?

(Of course, I also never used to think I needed glasses. I mean, I’ve always had trouble seeing things that seemed far away, but doesn’t everyone? Why would I need mechanical assistance?)

I like being helpful myself, in most contexts. It feels good to be effective and get things done. I enjoy the sense of competence and productivity. But I can’t imagine myself as a service sub – and I don’t tend to get off on acting as a service top, either. I don’t like service for the sake of pleasing anyone; I just like being active and involved and useful in the world.

This seems somehow different from my boy’s desire to make me happy and take care of me. (I’m going to call him Cassidy. Anyone else I am or have been involved with will get to choose their own nickname for the blog before I write about them, but Cassidy didn’t care what I call him here, so Cassidy he is.)

Cassidy’s favorite passage from Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami is this:

“… So I made up my mind I was going to find someone who would love me unconditionally three hundred and sixty-five days a year. I was still in elementary school at that time — fifth or sixth grade — but I made up my mind once and for all.”

“Wow,” I said. “And did your search pay off?”

“That’s the hard part,” said Midori. She watched the rising smoke for a while, thinking. “I guess I’ve been waiting so long I’m looking for perfection. That makes it tough.“

“Waiting for the perfect love?”

“No, even I know better than that. I’m looking for selfishness. Perfect selfishness. Like, say I tell you I want to eat strawberry shortcake. And you stop everything you’re doing and run out and buy it for me. And you come back out of breath and get down on your knees and hold this strawberry shortcake out to me. And I say I don’t want it anymore and throw it out the window. That’s what I’m looking for.”

“I’m not sure that has anything to do with love,” I said with some amazement.

“It does,” she said. “You just don’t know it. There are times in a girl’s life when things like that are incredibly important.”

“Things like throwing strawberry shortcake out the window?”

“Exactly. And when I do it, I want the man to apologize to me. ‘Now I see, Midori. What a fool I’ve been! I should have known that you would lose your desire for strawberry shortcake. I have all the intelligence and sensitivity of a piece of donkey shit. To make it up to you, I’ll go out and buy you something else. What would you like? Chocolate mousse? Cheesecake?’”

“So then what?”

“So then I’d give him all the love he deserves for what he’s done.”

“Sounds crazy to me.”

“Well, to me, that’s what love is. Not that anyone can understand me, though.” Midori gave her head a little shake against my shoulder. “For a certain kind of person, love begins from something tiny or silly. From something like that or it doesn’t begin at all.“

It’s not that he wants me to be capricious or arbitrary, he says. He just wants me to give him all the love he deserves for what he’s done.

Andrea wrote about the many faces of thanks – some people are turned on by rendering service so perfectly that they are treated as invisible. “In short, sometimes effectively taking a submissive for granted, or being taken for granted as a submissive, is the turn-on. It is the reward. It is, paradoxically, the thank-you and the recognition.” Which is not my kink. Personally, I’m not sure I could bring myself to accept service without appreciation and recognition.

I’m only just learning to accept service in my own life. It’s remarkably difficult to bring myself to see it as something I’m into. But oh, of course I love that he packs lunches for me to bring to work. Of course I love that he makes tea and hot chocolate for me. Of course I love that he gives me massages endlessly. Of course I love that he pushes ibuprofen and chicken soup on me whenever I have a headache, and scowls and scolds me until I suck it up and let him take care of me until I feel better.

Of course I love that he delights in learning all the details of my labyrinthine preferences, and pandering to them with great care and attention to detail.

I’m fussy. I can admit that about myself. I tend to have a very particular way that I want things done, and I generally find it easier to just do things myself rather than have to explain to anyone else how to do it my way. Or, heaven forbid, do it their way instead.

I’ve found that I have to paradoxically give up control in order to gain the care, assistance, and power that service brings. It’s not easy. Allowing someone else to help and care for me means leaving them the space to both learn my tastes, and to add their own touch to whatever they do. Even if their touch isn’t precisely how I’d do it myself. Even if their learning means that everything isn’t quite what I’d expect or want, at first. That’s hard for a distressingly competent, fussy, control freak sort of person who likes getting things done right!

It’s just. Well. It makes me feel so very loved. As a switch, I find it so easy to feel wanted when bottoming. If you can shove me around and tear control away and then focus on doing terrible things to me, it pretty viscerally reassures me that you actually do find me attractive and desire me and what we’re doing together. If you initiate, forcefully, I believe that you truly want me. But when I top, I provide so much of the energy and desire that it can be difficult to feel wanted myself.

Begging helps, whether it’s begging for more or begging me to stop, and it turns me on immensely. But aggressive reaching out to care for me helps so much, too. When a partner’s response to my hurting them is to curl around me in soft wonder and reach to find ways to make me happy, it’s worth the effort and attention involved in speaking this other language of love and sexuality.

That, and it eroticizes so much more of everyday life. We’re only 24/7 some of the time, and I don’t have this sort of dynamic with anyone else with whom I am involved. But it makes all the difference in the world to know that I’ve had to take care to understand and explain, say, exactly how much sugar I like in my tea depending on the size of the mug, or whatever it is, and that he’s paid attention to learning and remembering all the details of my desires and gone to the effort of putting them into action. It means that I have the extra benefit of feeling loved and loving, strong and taken care of, and if not turned on, a bit more conscious of my sexuality, just from sipping a delicious hot beverage.

All of which helps me feel more relaxed, wanted, and inspired to find ways to use and hurt him that will be pleasurable for us both. Not to mention, it eases him into this loving, submissive headspace that I found so incredibly attractive.

It’s worth learning to let go a little bit, to earn that.

And he deserves all the love that I can give, for everything he does. I’m not at all shy about insisting on doing it my way, but I don’t ignore his efforts or throw a fit or insist that my way is the one true way. I do make judicious use of bad pain, but only because we both enjoy his willingness to suffer it for my pleasure, nothing more. With service, the true threat is almost unconscious, and very simple – if he couldn’t learn to do it my way, I’d simply do it myself. We’re both willing to put in extra work in order to avoid that.

I’m not sure how all this fits in with borrowing Orlando from Murre to help with my latest research project. He’s been loaned out to me, so it’s not the sign of love and desire that service can be when offered to me by someone directly. But it is more than just some extra practical help with a project.

It adds an extra thrill of eroticism to working on what would otherwise be just another fun project, of course. I’m rather delighted by the thought of Murre helping me take a part in making him feel small and used, deliciously. It means something different to him than it does to Cassidy, I suspect, and I’m interested in exploring that, even if only from afar.

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12 Responses

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  1. Ivy said, on December 22, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I’m more of a service top than you are, I think, though that’s certainly not the entirety of my topping style. From my point of view, it’s not so much about pleasing my partner as it is about blowing their mind. By absolutely overrunning them with pleasure, you create a power dynamic, and that’s intoxicating to me. There are defined limits on what I’ll do to achieve that power, though… if the actions that turn them on aren’t sexy to me, then it’s not worth it because I won’t be having fun.

    I love the Murakami passage. Cassidy rocks.

    I have found at times that even a sincere “thank you” doesn’t seem like enough; when I’m engaged in a scene I’m capable of channeling that energy and holding it, but in the slices of my everyday life I start to feel creepily indebted if there’s not some rough parity between “things I do for them” (including the gratification to them of accepting service) and “things they do for me”. It’s hard to encapsulate exactly what makes it feel balanced, but I can certainly tell when things feel out of whack.

    • Cal Stockton said, on December 22, 2009 at 4:58 pm

      I’ve been thinking about how to explain the difference between service topping, and non-service topping where the top is still very engaged and cares a great deal about their partner enjoying the experience, for some definition of ‘enjoy’. It’s a pretty big difference, in my head, but I’m having trouble finding the words for it.

  2. Carol Anne Caiafa said, on January 2, 2010 at 5:52 am

    The whole thing about “service topping” intrigues me as to how it relates to the rest of everyday life. For example, if in one’s personal (e.g family) life or one’s job of work, one feels oneself to be in a service or caretaker role, does one feel that accepting service from another is more of a kink? I tend to see it that way from my own perspective, and I wonder how common that is.

    • Cal Stockton said, on January 4, 2010 at 12:34 am

      That’s an interesting perspective. I suppose we all work to serve bosses or clients in a sense, though I don’t think that’s especially tied into why I like what Cassidy does for me. I’m really not sure, though.

  3. Murre said, on January 3, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Mmm, Cal, lovely post. It’s been an enormous challenge for me to accept that Orlando really enjoys serving me–especially when I may not be in a state to make good on the implied “or I’ll just do it myself”! I also get the feeling of satisfaction and pleasure you describe when he brings me a perfect cup of tea ;).

    It charms me that Orlando is both so intrigued and so made meek by the prospect of being loaned out, and that being loaned out intellectually (which is way simpler for me to process!) does that for him. I’ve added “work on Cal’s project” to his series of to-do cards for the time when I may not have the energy or privacy to domme him properly.

    And please let me know: has his work been satisfactory to date? 😉

    • Cal Stockton said, on January 4, 2010 at 12:39 am

      Thank you, Murre. I think Cassidy likes it even more when I’m sick and really do need him to take care of me, actually – not that he wants me to be sick, but he loves the excuse to really go overboard.

      I’d love to hear more about how it has been challenging for you and how your thought process on accepting Orlando’s service has progressed, if you’re willing to discuss that in more detail. (If not, no pressure, of course.)

      Orlando has been absolutely sweet and delightful. He put in a burst of initial effort, but at this point I actually haven’t heard from him in a few days, and no reply yet to my request for a status report on the 29th. I’ll drop you an email once he gets back to me on that.

  4. Katie said, on January 3, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    What a great piece – it helps me understand service a bit more to read a piece written by someone who’s had to work to enjoy and make use of it, rather than other stuff I’ve seen that assumes everyone will get why it’s appealing.

    I have always had a horror of being a burden to anyone else, but also am interested in receiving service, so it all wars a bit inside.

    • Cal Stockton said, on January 4, 2010 at 12:50 am

      Oh, yes, that’s a part of the problem, too! I’ve found it challenging to learn to accept service gracefully, without apologizing endlessly for being so finicky and demanding.

      Of course, your partner could also serve by way of being patient, reassuring, and helpful as you figure out your own way to accept service. If what I need is a lot of “I’m really enjoying this” and “It makes me happy to make you so happy”, then simply saying those things to me can be a brilliant form of service.

      I think it speaks well of you that you worry about being a burden, honestly. The way I resolve that war is to reframe it. In a very real sense, you’re giving back as good as you get by giving guidance and detailed instruction, and being truly appreciative. And also by putting all that extra time and relaxed good mood energy to good use.

      Cassidy hates writing on these sorts of things, but perhaps we can ask Orlando or any other men who are so inclined to explain a bit more of what they tend to see as their dominant partner holding up her end of the bargain, rather than being a burden.

      • Katie said, on January 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

        Something like that would be very instructive to read. Looking forward to more on the subject!

  5. Orlando C said, on January 5, 2010 at 10:32 am

    OK, I’ll bite. First of all, Cal, my apologies on not having worked for you these last few days, but I’ll save that discussion for email, yes? One of the things I appreciate most about this blog is just hearing dominant women’s voices, without too much clutter.

    But since you asked…

    My answer is twofold is relatively boring. First of all, I think that any healthy relationship involves mutual reciprocity, and the aesthetic of D/s is largely about window-dressing that reciprocity to appear unilateral. I “serve” Murre by cooking and cleaning for her, following certain rules, etc., but she “serves” me by making a professional income, having a very wide range of skills that I don’t have, and so on and so forth. As kinky people, we play up one set of those dynamics: for instance, Murre “makes me” cook her meals even if I am not in the mood to, and this is connoted as erotic by both of us. But, pointedly, Murre also goes to work whether or not she’s in the mood to.

    To maintain that parity-without-symettry, I think the most important thing for us is to be able to communicate, and especially to be able to communicate across different scales of context. I got good at saying things like “I really don’t want to do X right now, but it does turn me on that I don’t get to decide.” And Murre got good at asking the questions that would elicit that response, to the point that these days it is pretty natural for us. Because initially, I think it’s hard for a dom(me) to really imagine that anyone really gets off on doing dishes, just as it’s hard for a sub to imagine that anyone really gets off on tying someone up and just leaving them there. But people do, and do.

    So, ah. Reciprocity and communication. Sorry I don’t have something more interesting to say.

    • Cal Stockton said, on January 6, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      Actually, I think that’s a fantastic explanation. Thank you. And yes, we should save the rest for email.

  6. The Need to Please « Meek Blue said, on April 13, 2010 at 2:18 am

    […] ended up on I went for a bit of a wander through her site and came across this post which led me to this post on Topologies, and “wait a second” thinks me. While the authors clearly are into Kink, the posts themselves […]

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