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An excellent practical guide for the serious lifestyler
on May 21, 2012
"Master/slave Relations" is the sort of book I can't help but give high marks simply because it exists. There simply aren't enough books out there that deal with the everyday, practical aspects of the Master/slave dynamic. This isn't the sort of book one reads casually, as fantasy fodder. This is a book for those of us who are seriously dedicated to entering into and maintaining lasting intimate relationships in which the M/s dynamic is at the foundation of the bond. You won't find anything here about BDSM play activities. If you're like me and you find yourself incredibly hot and bothered reading that a slave making an extra unplanned stop while running errands is guilty of "an incredible and inexcusable exercise in the very kind of free will that the slave no longer possesses," you'll find reading this book an erotic experience in its own right, but if graphic descriptions of kinky sex are more to your taste, don't expect this book to turn you on any more than any other handbook on interpersonal relationships would. If you expect the M/s life to be a whirlwind of orgasmic bliss, go play in a chatroom - but if you're ready to settle down to the hard work of being a Master or being a slave, this book just might make it a little bit easier.
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.