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At 300 pages, Jack Rinella's "Becoming a Slave" is one of the thickest volumes of instructional BDSM nonfiction I've come across - and, among volumes of comparable or greater length, one of the most narrowly focused. This is a book about becoming, not about beginning. If you don't have at least a basic understanding of BDSM practices, this isn't the book for you - yet. (Try Jay Wiseman's "SM 101.") If you're not seriously interested in a 24/7 D/s relationship, this isn't the book for you at all. "[Those who live an alternative lifestyle] spend the largest part of the 168 hour week in the same way as any other people do," Rinella reminds his reader in the first chapter. "We sleep, eat, wash, work, and attend to a myriad of domestic, social, and employment obligations. . . . Life as an adult brings responsibilities. Being in a D/s relationship will not remove them, despite what one may wish for in fantasy life." If you understand that, and you earnestly believe that this is the lifestyle for you, this book will help you clarify what you're looking for; prepare for it physically, mentally, emotionally, and even financially; and take your first steps into the real-world version of your fantasy come true.
One has only to look at the chapter titles to understand Rinella's thorough treatment of his subject: "Finding a Partner," "Negotiating the Relationship," "Committing Yourself," "The Training Process," "The Role of Punishment," "Sexual Service," "The Place of Kink," "Polyamorous M/s," to list a few. In an authoritative yet conversational voice that will leave you thinking of him as an old friend, Rinella discusses not only the practical aspects of the process of finding and submitting to a Master, but the emotions involved, as well as such abstract but crucial concepts as will, ego, and pride. Although he uses his own experiences to illustrate the points he makes, he never loses sight of the fact that every relationship is the unique product of the individuals involved, giving the book a genuinely inclusive feel. (How refreshing to read a happily promiscuous [his word] writer who believes that some folks are just monogamous by nature and shouldn't try to force themselves to be any other way, admits that "the decision to attempt anything beyond a monogamous relationship must not be made lightly," and insists that "wishing to maintain a monogamous relationship must not be seen as a sign of weakness"!) Each chapter ends with a reflection by Patrick, Rinella's slave of nearly a decade (at the time of writing), in which he discusses some aspect of the issue(s) raised in that chapter from his own perspective. The attentive reader will enjoy looking at the relationship from both sides and seeing how these two men have created a mutually satisfying dynamic. Readers expecting Patrick to mindlessly echo his Master's opinions will be in for a surprise: "I've never been quite comfortable with phrases like 'call to slavery or service,'" Patrick opens his reflection at the end of the chapter titled "The Call to Serve."
I've read literally thousands of pages (the paper kind and the web kind) on BDSM relationships in general and D/s relationships in particular, so it's rare - and gratifying - to come across a writer discussing a topic I've never seen covered before. "How do we live 24/7 in a real world?" Rinella asks. "There's usually no problem with being kinky in the bedroom with the door closed, but how do you stay in that state at work, in front of your children or parents, or when the vanilla world is watching you?" Sure, other books may touch upon the subject, but Rinella's is the first I've read that had more to offer by way of an answer than centering rituals and symbolic jewelry. "The trick," he tells us, "is to stay in the headspace, while we appear to be physically in another space. We look like businessmen, sales clerks, teachers, mothers, or sons to our eighty-year-old parents, while we know that we are kinky sadists or groveling subs." It's not easy, he admits - it requires discretion, mindfulness, and the maturity to anticipate and accept the consequences of one's actions - and yet his advice is grounded in reality and so eminently sensible you'll be surprised you hadn't thought the exact same thing yourself. In another chapter, he discusses the concept of worship. "The slave's worship of the master," he writes, is perhaps "the most secret aspect of the M/s relationship. Because of the religious controversy that certainly would accompany the acknowledgement of the master as god, we tend to hide the fact that such feelings often reside in the slave and to some extent, are encouraged by the master." While Rinella doesn't even pretend a simple, universal answer exists to the questions this raises (beyond the basic fact that "religious beliefs and taboos need to be understood and accepted or rejected according to your personal and mutual faith"), I'm just relieved to know I'm not the only one asking.
As the title implies, "Becoming a Slave" is addressed primarily to readers who (ideally) have some BDSM experience and believe they would like to enter a relationship of full-time servitude, but haven't yet found a Master. For such readers, this book is simply indispensable. It would be unfortunate, however, if these were its ONLY audience, as this book has much to offer would-be Masters and Mistresses, as well as Masters and slaves in established relationships. Obviously some chapters will be more applicable than others ("Finding a Partner" isn't something my husband/Master and I have to concern ourselves with, but "The Healthy D/s Relationship" most certainly is!), but Rinella's treatment of such topics as punishment, training, and maintaining the relationship is so thoughtful and thorough as to be worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the theory and practice of Master/slave relationships. Every chapter ends with several suggested "After Reading Activities"; aspiring slaves who do them with care will find themselves at the end of the book extraordinarily well-prepared to begin or continue the search for a Master, while I used those that applied to me as wonderfully fruitful journal prompts.
Rinella's style can be a bit repetitive at times, especially in the beginning, and his prose can be awkward. (His publishing enterprise, "Rinella Editorial Services," could really benefit from the services of an editor.) Rinella REALLY likes to quote the American Heritage Dictionary, and not always to particularly valuable effect. Still, these concerns are minor. "Becoming a Slave" is, quite simply, a must-read for those interested in exploring, pursuing, or enriching a life centered upon a consensual Master/slave relationship. You need look no further: this is the real thing.