“I get the feeling the next time I see you is going to be markedly different from the last.”
“It’s possible. I do still hope we haven’t ruled out the other stuff, you know? I want you to take control sometimes. And I want you to fight me sometimes. And other times I want to tell you to kneel, and know even without looking that you’ve done it.”
“… you’re a little greedy, you know that?”
“Seems to be working out for me so far.”
I’ve been having a subby week. It’s interesting–it wasn’t very long ago that I was questioning what a submissive headspace felt like and whether it was even possible for me to get into it, and the last several days I’ve been slipping into one so readily that I don’t always notice. Sometimes deeply enough that it’s hard to imagine wanting to come back, even knowing intellectually that I will. (It has felt more controlled, though, and much less isolated, than the last time I wrote about subspace.)
Among the results of this situation (and, if I’m honest, the causes) is a telekink tool that Leon and I designed. It started out as a conversation about impromptu orders–how hot it is to be able to give or get an order in the middle of doing something else, and obey or see it obeyed without question. In a D/s fantasy, you can just do that and it works. In real life, pulling it off successfully requires a minimum of two things to be prearranged: consent and interest.
Establishing consent in advance is easy (knowing of course that it can be withdrawn when needed), but in a relationship where everyone switches and we’re not always in any role, establishing interest in advance is hard. Any other time we want to start something, we just ask, but this particular kink is one of the few situations where asking defeats the point. The whole fun of it is the pretense that obedience can always be assumed.
Enter the sigil. My original idea was to have something physical that could be worn in a variable way–the example was a ring, on one hand or the other–and agree that one way means “I am amenable to being given orders” and the other “Not right now, please.” In other words, if I’m minding my own business and Leon feels like making me do something for him, he glances over and checks the sigil; if the ring’s on my left hand, he gives the order, but if it’s on the right or absent, he assumes I’m not in the mood. This gives us the ability to do basic negotiation silently, without sacrificing spontaneity or the illusion of constant control.
Note that this is only basic negotiation! It works for us because we’ve already talked a lot about desires, preferences, and boundaries, so I know I can trust his judgment about what he might order me to do, and he trusts that if something’s wrong I’ll tell him. Even then, there’s room for error–if I accidentally leave the sigil set wrong, for example, or he makes an incorrect guess about what I’ll be okay with doing. We know this, and explicitly gave ourselves and each other permission to screw up a couple of times while we’re still experimenting. If that wouldn’t be safe and fun for you, I don’t recommend trying this. It’s also not a substitute for suggesting play when you actively want play; if I want to do a scene, I won’t just set the sigil and expect him to see it, I’ll ask.
So that idea was all well and good, except that most of the time we’re hundreds of miles apart and heaven knows that doesn’t stop us from wanting to play with D/s. We needed some way to get the same effect–a sigil I can set without alerting him and he can check without asking me–remotely. Ideally, it would be readily accessible inside the chat service we’re already using, show him how recently I set it, and reset itself after a while in case I forget to.
Long story short, that’s exactly what we now have. There’s a detailed explanation at the end of this post, but in less technical terms, I type a command into my chat program when I notice I’d be okay with getting random orders (or am not), and he types a command into his when he wants to know my last recorded preference. The program tells him how I’m feeling without telling me he asked, and the rest takes care of itself.
This has worked swimmingly. Every time he gives me an order when I wasn’t expecting one, I get a little rush–from the momentary surprise, the strength of his assertion of control, and the feeling that he can do whatever he wants with me. At the same time, I’m secure in the knowledge that we’re playing within our established boundaries, and that security–provided by the scaffold of nonverbal negotiation we’ve erected–does more than just dispense with a background obligation. A huge part of the reason I enjoy submitting to Leon in the first place is that he makes me feel safe. That means that negotiation in general and the sigil system in particular aren’t just practical necessities; by enhancing something that makes me feel submissive, they strengthen the D/s, and thus actively make for a better scene.
The technical details of our IRC sigil system are as follows:
I installed cron.pl and fakectcp.pl, both of which are available from scripts.irssi.org, in my irssi. I used fctcp to add a CTCP response to an agreed-upon fake request, and then modified that script so that it wouldn’t echo anything in my client when that specific request was made from his specific nick. (I’d rather have gone by hostmask, but given that he’s registered, runs irssi in screen on a remote VPS, and rarely renicks, it shouldn’t matter.) I set up three aliases which switch the response to that request between dommy/subby/neither and append a timestamp of when the alias was called, then set a cronjob to call the neutral alias at 6am (when I’m probably asleep and my mood is most likely to reset in real life).
The result: I hit the appropriate alias to change the sigil or just update the timestamp, he can send a CTCP request (which I assume he’s also aliased) to read the sigil without me knowing he’s doing it, and it reverts to neutral by itself if I don’t touch it for a day. We’ve debated a few other features (such as letting me add comments like “but I’m in public so keep it subtle,” letting him see when state changes, or making a way for him to query it other than CTCP) but for the moment are quite satisfied.