Three Layers of Control: Touch, Voice, Glance
This is the second part in a three part series. When I am training a new submissive, I rely on three of the five senses to keep her where I want her. My first piece on Touch was just previous to this and you may or may not wish to read that before continuing with this.
Voice: a (slightly) more subtle approach to the same.
Since I started off talking about senses, I suppose it makes more sense to say that I really mean ‘sound’ when I say ‘voice’ here – but since I don’t use a training whistle, clicker, or anything like that, sound almost always means my voice. There are some Dominants who do use clickers or whistles or the like, so some of those same concepts probably apply here, but since that is outside of the scope of my experience, this is the only mention I will make of them.
I have three distinct voices that I use with submissives and trainees:
Normal voice: This is just the voice that I use under normal circumstances – both vanilla and kinky. I’m told that I have a very soothing voice and that it carries, so I rarely have reason to modify this in normal circumstances. In normal voice, it is important to pay attention to what I am saying as well as how I am saying it. This is the voice that I will use to tell you that you are a good girl, but also the voice that I will use when I lean in close beside you and tell you that I’m going to use you until I’m exhausted. It carries the most variability of intonation and generally the most information, but there is subtlety here that can sometimes be missed, so it is not ideal for situations where more control is required.
Command voice: This is the voice that I use when I want you to do what I am telling you. It does not mean that I’m angry with you, but that is how it is most often interpreted at first… I drop my voice by about an octave and a half, so not only is the tone different, but the pitch is as well. It’s an obvious difference and it follows a convention held by much of society – even in different cultures, I’ve found. I’ve been told by vanilla friends that this is my ‘serious’ voice or even my “don’t fuck with me” voice. The timbre won’t change, but I often vary the volume with which I speak in this voice. It carries very far and I don’t always want to broadcast my intentions. In this voice it is much more important to pay attention to the content of what I am telling you rather than look for subtlety of meaning.
Crisis voice: This is the voice that I use when I need to be paid attention to right now – usually for reasons of safety. The tone is similar to my command voice, but it’s about half an octave higher, so it’s similar in pitch to my normal voice, just a bit deeper and definitely much, much louder, just under a yell. This is the voice that I will use when you are near to harming yourself, or someone or something else is about to impede upon your physical space, things like that. This is my, “watch out!” voice. If I want, I can put a lot of power behind this. In this voice, there is never any implied subtlety at all – the only important thing is the information that I need you understand and likely act upon right now.
Of course, I can also whisper and use other vocal intonations, but generally those are embellishments on one of the above – things that I can use to subtly change the meaning of the words that I am using, or to impart a particular idea. I can whisper in Command voice, for example, and sometimes I’m just an asshole and I’ll lower my vocal volume of my Normal voice in an effort to cause someone (not always my sub/trainee) to move closer to me or to pay closer attention to what I’m saying.
Even without me explaining these things, trainees under my care usually come to understand them pretty quickly. I use facial expression, body language, and sometimes just plain brute force to reinforce the things that I say with my voice and establish a pattern pretty quickly. It’s difficult to train anyone to do anything without explaining what it is that you want done, and voice is generally the way that I accomplish that – at least in person – and while long distance D/s is something that I have some experience with and am learning much more about as I do it every day, the spoken word has power even in situations like this. Written text in an email or text message can be extremely descriptive and more detailed than most people can maintain patience for in person, in voice, but the voice, facial expressions, and body language that you can experience in person is a lot more powerful – even more powerful in person than over media like Skype.
More often than not, the things that I will do with my voice are explained by the content of what I am saying when I say it. For instance, if I say, “bunny, go sit on that chair and hold it for me,” what I mean is literally that I want her to go sit in the chair I indicated and wait for me – it’s not rocket science. However, sometimes I will use commands that are not obvious, but that actually require training.
I stole this wholesale from Stranger in a Strange Land – one of my favorite books of all time – but on occasion I’ll just blurt out, “Front!” and I expect my submissive to immediately walk to me, stand in front of me, facing me, place her hands on her lower abdomen with the palms facing her, one over the other, look me in eye briefly and say, “yes, Sir?” and then lower her eyes. This is not exactly what happens in the book. In the book, the character who says this is not a Dom – at least not in the overt sense, and not in the typical sense either. He has three women who serve as his assistants, keeping his books, taking dictation, cooking his meals, etc. – all of the things that one would normally expect of a service submissive, but not any of the physical or sexual aspects of that service. It’s entirely possible that this novel helped to contribute to my ideals of what a submissive should be like – for me – but I first read it at such a young age and it provided the backdrop to a different phase of my life. The character in the book, Jubal Harshaw, expects one of his three assistants – on a rotating schedule – to run to him with a notebook and a pen and ready to take notes or instructions when he calls Front. My requirements are somewhat different and tuned to my own needs, but the call is still similar.
When I say, “present” I expect my submissive to stand in front of me, legs shoulder width apart, hands with fingers interlaced together behind her head, elbows up, head up straight, and chest out. As with any other command, I expect some sort of verbal acknowledgement as well – a, “yes, Sir” is sufficient.
When I say, “kneel” I expect my submissive to present herself before me as above, and then to drop the her knees in front of me, put her legs and knees together, sit on her feet, put her hands behind her back, palms out, and then after meeting my eyes and acknowledging my command, look at her own navel. For competition, I’ll have her make a diamond figure with her hands, thumbs out and touching, forefingers touching, and to do all of that silently, but in more common usage, I’m not normally going to walk around behind her to inspect that anyway.
When I say, “expose” I expect my submissive to be in the kneeling position above or work her way into it through the “present” and “kneel” poses, but to spread her legs out so that her calves are at shoulder-width and straight back behind her, toes pointed back away from her, and then to lock her fingers together and put them behind her head as with the “present” position above. I expect her to hold her head high and meet my gaze or that of anyone else who happens to be watching nearby. For competition, this is modified again so that the knees are further apart and the calves need not be so far apart behind her – toes still pointed but without overlapping the feet.
When I say, “move to position,” I expect my submissive to be in kneeling position or to move to it by moving through ‘present’ and ‘kneel’ and then to change the placement of her hands so that her hands are open, palms covering the front of her knees. Unless she has very long arms, this will result in her leaning slightly forward. I want her to crane her neck a bit to look up at me, acknowledge my command with a “yes, Sir” or similar, and then to drop her eyes and stare at her own navel, awaiting further command. I used to call this “position one” but found that numbering positions was a bit more difficult to remember than naming them, so this is merely ‘position’ now.
When I say, “hands and knees” I expect my submissive to drop to her knees, lean forward, keep her legs at hip-width directly beneath her, calves straight back, and toes pointed back behind her. I expect her to place her hands flat on the surface in front of her, whether that is the floor, bed, couch, whatever. I expect her to hold her fingers together with the exception of her thumbs, which I want out at a 90 degree angle. Her fingers should point directly in front of her and her thumbs should point at each other. I expect her to look up, craning her neck if needed, acknowledge my command, and then drop her head so that her chin rests on her chest and she’s looking back between her own legs.
In private, these are often all that I will say – there is no need to further qualify who I am talking to or about, but in public spaces or even in private places where there are other people about, I will usually modify the above to include a name, but sometimes I expect to be understood anyway.
As an example: in a public dungeon, I might say, “bunny, kneel” and I’ll expect bunny to come over and kneel in front of me, but “Front!” is a special command and I always expect my submissive or submissives – if I’m carrying more than one – to respond, lining up side-by-side in front of me if needed.
There are other commands that I sometimes use as well, as well as some other positions that are specifically for competition, and these are probably what earned me the reputation of being a ‘High Protocol’ Dom, but I’m not convinced that is factual. I have also become even more lax with protocol as I’ve aged. I’m a lot more tolerant of ambiguity than I once was, and I’ve worked with submissives in the recent past without using any of these commands – positions are not as important to me as they once were, and in most situations I will just explicitly say what I want, making a need to memorize commands like the above unnecessary.
There is definitely something to be said for having someone instantly react to simple or single word commands though. It is certainly one of my favorite things, especially when chained together with other more explicit commands.
For instance, ‘kneel’ is often followed by something quite like, “Look at me. Now reach up and undo my belt…” which, as you can probably imagine, is not where things are meant to end, but often an over-eager submissive in this position will take it as license to do more. Without an additional command, I would expect her to acknowledge my command with a “yes, Sir,” do as I’ve said – undoing my belt – but to then return her hands behind her back and await further instruction.
Sometimes I will chain these with other indicators as well. For instance, “hands and knees – on the bed,” is often a command I might give, in Command voice, to let her know that things are serious and that she needs to respond with vigor. It lets her know that I want her in the ‘hands and knees’ position, but that I want her on the bed, not necessarily where she is now, which is likely to be standing on the floor.
It is really not possible to over-communicate, so I’ll often add modifiers like these even when they’re not necessary. I am not the kind of Dominant to often try to trap my submissive with a command that she cannot easily fulfill – I like to enable success – but I have done so in the past and will likely do so again from time to time in the future. It is a playful way to push her into a place where she knows that punishment is likely to come, but there is a big difference between playful punishment and correction. Perhaps that should be the topic of a new post sometime soon, but I still have one more to go in this series before it’s complete.
Next week I will talk about the final means of control – glances. This is the ultimate level of control in a D/s setting in my opinion. I like my submissives to learn to anticipate and provide for my needs, but that is not the same thing as control. I also like my submissives to be autonomous and have their own opinions and ideas, so I have no desire to completely stifle that, but the ability to produce an action or change a behavior with nothing more than a pointed look is the pinnacle of D/s communication and control – in my not-so-very-humble opinion.
I hope this was informative, helpful, and perhaps even a bit titillating. Come back next week for the final piece in this trilogy and then I’ll give you a story of my own experiences in learning these things at the hand of my brutal and affectionate – if not compassionate – Domme Simone when I was but a young pup myself.