In the interest of encouraging and providing more diversity in reading materials, I’m reposting this book review as/is, originally written for Epinions.com on February 7, 2011.
And now for something kinky… a very informative beginner’s guide to BDSM…
I have a little confession to make. I’m just a trifle bit kinky. While you’ll never see me donning leather, piercing my nipples, or cracking a whip, I have always been intrigued by the BDSM lifestyle, if only as a voyeur. Until recently, I had never done much official reading on the subject, other than check out a few Web sites when the mood struck. About a week ago, the mood struck while I was in bed, searching for something new to read on my Kindle. I came across John and Libby Warren’s very well-regarded book, The Loving Dominant, and decided to read it myself. The Loving Dominant has been out for years, even before the Internet was a part of the average person’s life, but this review refers to the updated 2008 edition. I finished the book last night and I have to agree that this book is great for those who are curious about the BDSM lifestyle and want to learn more about it.
What’s BDSM all about?
BDSM stands for Bondage, Domination or Discipline, and Sadomasochism. John Warren, who is the principal author of The Loving Dominant, describes the term in detail and offers some of his own thoughts on what it should really mean. Suffice it to say that when most people hear the acronym BDSM, their thoughts turn to a couple exchanging power in some way. The Dominant (Dom) is the person, male or female, who takes the leadership role. The submissive (sub) is the person, male or female, who takes the submissive role.
John Warren is the Dom in his relationship with his wife, Libby. He’s also a former Marine. Having spent a good portion of my time around military folks, I easily caught Warren’s authoritative and often matter-of-fact tone as he explains what it means to be a “loving dominant”. I was impressed by Warren’s rather serious attitude when it comes to protecting the well-being of those who trust others to dominate them. Warren is also careful to point out behaviors that may come across as rude or poor form when a person is just getting started with BDSM. This book is mostly written for those who wish to dominate, but it’s really useful for anyone who is interested in the BDSM scene.
I’m impressed by how complete this book is. Warren has chapters on everything from tying knots, to leather working, to meeting other kinky people, to setting up convincing scenes with submissives. It really is a good primer on the many different aspects of BDSM. John Warren seems to have thought of just about every subject a kinky beginner would need to know about and includes just about all of them in his very handy book.
It’s all in your head…
Warren seems to understand that a large part of BDSM’s appeal is psychological. Therefore, when he sets up a scene, he’s very creative and quick to place elements in them to make them seem more real. For instance, in one chapter, he describes a scene involving making love in a gas station. His submissive is blindfolded, so he makes it more real for her by scattering oily rags around so that the room smells like it could be a gas station.
In another chapter, Warren describes a submissive who wished that he would brand her with the first letter of his last name. Warren was very leery about using a branding iron; nevertheless, he aimed to please. He borrowed a small branding iron with the letter “W” on it. It was originally used to mark the temperatures on steaks. He heated up the branding iron, allowing his submissive to watch until it was red hot. Then he blindfolded her and asked her if she was absolutely sure she wanted to be branded. He held the searing hot iron close to her flesh as he asked the question. She could feel the heat reddening her skin and anticipated extreme pain, but said she was sure. Quickly, he switched out the iron for an ice cube and held it against her skin. The submissive screamed and passed out. She was later upset, yet relieved, that he didn’t actually go “all the way”. While branding is definitely not a turn on for me, I had to admit I was very impressed by Warren’s ingenuity in creating a convincing and thrilling scene for his playmates.
Mind your manners
Another aspect of this book that I found interesting was Warren’s chapter on attending parties or going to BDSM clubs. He explains the etiquette of such gatherings, which tends to be different than that of vanilla gatherings. For instance, Warren explains why it’s important not to be fashionably late to a scene party. He explains why the host might prefer that attendees park away from the party’s actual location. He lets his readers know why it’s important to dress appropriately and listen to what the host says regarding appropriate behavior in the venue.
Warren also explains some behavioral issues between Dominants and submissives. He explains why Dominants should have as much respect for their submissives as much as they demand respect. On the other hand, he warns Dominants not to allow submissives to “top from the bottom”. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. Warren has thoughtfully included a glossary of common terms associated with the BDSM lifestyle. He also includes illustrations and plenty of sources so that his readers can do extra reading on the subject.
Not everything in this book turned me on…
Although I can admit to being kinky, I’m pretty vanilla as kinky people go. I’m not turned on by “water sports”, coprophagia, forced enemas, catheterization, electricity, piercings, extreme humiliation, blood sports, or anything else that has to do with extreme pain, body fluids, or being forced to eat gross things. But Warren recognizes that many of his readers might like to read about such types of play, so he’s very careful to include chapters about each and consults outside sources, even as he admits that he doesn’t participate in all of them.
I will warn that some of Warren’s descriptions are pretty graphic and may gross out the squeamish. He also unashamedly uses four letter words, including the often offensive “p” and “c” words. That aspect of the book didn’t bother me, but I wanted to mention it for other potential readers.
Safe, sane, and consensual are three very important catchwords in the BDSM community. I am happy to report that John Warren also takes those terms very seriously. Each chapter of this book emphasizes safety; in fact, Warren even includes a chapter on basic first aid.
Warren recognizes that those who get involved with BDSM might feel embarrassed about their interests. In the unlikely case of a medical emergency, Warren is careful to point out that medical people, especially EMTs, have “seen it all”. He urges his readers not to let their embarrassment about being kinky override their good sense. He also adds a couple of practical tips on how to minimize embarrassment when dealing with medical personnel, should the need arise to call them.
I think The Loving Dominant is an excellent book for BDSM beginners. It is mostly aimed at people of the Dominant persuasion, but more submissive minded readers will also find it worthwhile reading. Warren is a pretty decent writer and, while I didn’t always agree with everything he wrote, I did find most of his ideas sensible and even exciting. While I did catch a few typos, redundancies, and editing glitches in this book, I would still recommend it to anyone who wants to learn the basics of BDSM.
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