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Master/Slave Relations Paperback – 2007
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This book is for Masters. This book is for established Masters who are curious about what someone could possibly write on the subject they know so well. This book is also for those relatively new to the BDSM Lifestyle who are finding themselves called to Mastery.
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My Way or the Highway is fine when you are laying down protocols and rules for your slave or sub. It does not fly when you are telling other Doms how to structure their relationships or behave in general. Nor does it work when telling subs what to seek and what is possible. Rubel has a very narrow view of what Master/slave relationships should look like - they should look like his.
The book is also full of generic advice that would apply to any relationship, and a lot taken from business management theory, much of which, frankly, is not realistic in the business world much less transposed to personal relationships. Having taken some management classes and read some books, I've found much of it a hodge-podge of common sense, pop psychology and the business buzzwords du jour.
Rubel recommends taking personality tests like Myers-Briggs to understand yourself and your sub. Myers-Briggs, while widely used both in psychology and business, has no real scientific validity. I agree that it's important to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. But use caution when following what looks like widely-accepted advice. Do your own research and look with a skeptical eye at the received wisdom, especially when wrapped in a pseudo-scientific costume like Myers-Briggs.
The book is poorly written in places, poorly edited and proofread in more, and badly laid out from front to back, with section headings at the bottoms of pages and misplaced pull-quotes interrupting sentences and often clearly in the wrong location. I've read a lot of these kinds of books, from small publishers or self-published, and accept lower standards of publishing as the price of accessing knowledge that is not available in your typical bookstore from a major publisher. But this book is worse than most, to the point of distracting the reader.
For all I know the author is a great guy and a wonderful Master. But in this book he comes across as pompous, narrow-minded, judgemental and even rather classist, which to me are not features of a good Dom. If you need a slave who knows how to behave at fancy dinner parties and high-powered business affairs, fine, you should look for someone who meets your needs. But many Doms don't need that and there's no reason to expect all slaves (or all Masters) to have those particular skills. It may be more important to you that your sub be able to get along with people from different cultures, or knows how to operate a forklift.
Unfortunately I can't recommend one book a prospective Master should read instead. I've gotten something out of many books, and found much more irrelevant to me. Browse the reviews of various books on Amazon and check out some websites. Though aimed primarily at slaves, there's one book I do recommend to anyone interested in a 24/7 M/s relationship: Slavecraft by "a grateful slave" and Guy Baldwin. For current or hopeful Masters it's a peek into the mind of the slave character, and quite sophisticated in its understanding of M/s dynamics and the spiritual aspects of submission. There's also some useful advice in the back directed at Doms by Pat Califia.
Rubel never loses sight of the fact that an M/s relationship is, first and foremost, a relationship: a consensual relationship between two (or more) adult human beings of equal value. Like any relationship, it needs to be entered after careful consideration, on the basis of compatible personalities and shared goals. It needs to be nurtured through clear communication and thoughtful listening on both sides. Sometimes it needs to be re-evaluated and re-focused. And then, of course, there are those aspects that don't usually come up in vanilla relationships: contracts and collars, punishments and protocols, structure and surrender. Rubel has much to say about all of these.
Rubel's extensive experience in the area of business administration contributes as much to this book as his experience in M/s relationships. At times, he takes this approach a little too far, with a lot of rather generic talk about planning and efficiency; there were a number of passages that sounded more like something I would expect to find in Stephen R. Covey's self-help megasellers than in a handbook on Master/slave relationships. (Actually, looking back over a list of Covey's famous "Seven Habits," it's uncanny how many of them Rubel also discusses at length.) I crave structure, but I don't necessarily want my personal life to be run as if were a business. I would have liked to see somewhat less of the book devoted to relationships in general and the corporate model of M/s and and more devoted specifically to the challenges peculiar to M/s relationships. Rubel several times throughout the book discusses goal-setting, which I could read about in any of literally hundreds of books (if not thousands), but devotes only a paragraph or two to the pros and cons of romantic love between Master and slave, a subject of great interest to me about which there is very little material available anywhere.
Attentive and fastidious readers will find themselves frustrated at times for mechanical reasons. Some of it has to do with typesetting errors, such as boxed blocks of text, inserted into the middle of a paragraph, which were clearly intended to be somewhere else. However, there are also numerous errors of spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure, as well as several sentences that are simply clumsy or awkward. It's not so bad as to make the book unreadable, and in fact I've come to accept that sort of thing as par for the course from a book by a small, non-mainstream publishing house, so I normally wouldn't quibble. Unfortunately, Rubel states several times over the course of the book that as a former high school English teacher, he is incredibly sensible to language usage and in fact considers "imprecise English" to be a deal-breaker in a relationship. Good for him, it's a deal-breaker for me too - but then I do have something of a hard time taking him seriously on other subjects when I consider that he gave his final approval to page proofs in a state I would have been ashamed of in a second draft.
It's not perfect, but in its serious treatment of the practical realities of a rare and challenging, yet intensely fulfilling, relationship, "Master/slave Relations" is unique. If you are genuinely interested in a relationship based on total power exchange, this book will ground you, inspire you, and force you to look beyond the fantasy to what you really want - and then make it happen.