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"By kissing, I mean the lip to lip and/or my tongue in your mouth type of activity. I could include kissing feet, boots, tits, asses, and genitalia, but that has more to do with a fetish than with kissing per se and right now I'm concerned with the idea of intimacy."

The Importance of Kissing
by Jack Rinella

OK, the title was meant the catch your eye, but that doesn't mean that Leatherfolk don't kiss, even if a certain number of them don't admit to it.

By kissing, I mean the lip to lip and/or my tongue in your mouth type of activity. I could include kissing feet, boots, tits, asses, and genitalia, but that has more to do with a fetish than with kissing per se and right now I'm concerned with the idea of intimacy. Kissing seems as good a way as any to get this column started.

Last week's article was about belonging, something that all of us want to do. That has a lot to do, of course, with feelings. In fact it's safe to say that between two people, belonging is a feeling more than anything else. In a close relationship there will be many proofs --- cohabitation, sexual activity, joint bank accounts, shared chores --- that two people belong together but fundamentally it is still their feelings that count. When you no longer feel like you belong together, no amount of proof will make the relationship work.

I'd like to explore several ideas about intimacy, especially as they apply to SM. First, of course, is that acts of intimacy are integral to all satisfying sexual and fetish activities. There are numerous illustrations:

The bottom is bound tightly to a St. Andrews cross while her top runs her fingers over her rope-covered flesh. The master grabs his slave by the collar around his neck and whispers "You are my property. I own you," into his ear. The top pauses the flogging scene to kiss his bottom and gently caress his bottom's bruises.

Just as important as technical correctness, the best SM scenes include a great number of activities that indicate caring and affection. Here, more than anywhere else, little gestures make a big difference. Light touches, momentary kisses, whispered phrases, none of these individual acts amount to much, but their combined and frequent use add a great deal to the quality of the moment. I dare say that without such actions most scenes will fail to fulfill most partners. Combined with the intensely sadomasochistic play there needs to a gentleness that buffers and illuminates what is really going on.

In spite of the great value offered by classes and demonstrations, no amount of instruction can impart the beauty of fully intimate Leather play.

Many Leather folk understand that SM is a power exchange. This flow of energy between partners is essential to what we do. The actions themselves are in many ways only a demonstration of the more fundamental relationship.

As I often remind Patrick, I beat him because I can. I inflict pain, humiliation, control only to reinforce that he is my possession. I do it because our relationship allows me to do so. A good paddling, then, becomes not just a paddling but an affirmation of my mastery. Combine the swinging of the paddle with spoken reminders ("This is my butt that I'm beating, boy.") and you have double reinforcement for the idea of belonging.
If I'm giving the impression that talking is an important part of SM, then I’m doing my job. Though we can too easily assume that sex is all touch, we miss the mark when we don't make it a holistic experience. Include all the senses, especially hearing. Fill your play with talk to reinforce the erotic, the intimate, and the caring nature of what you're doing.

At other times, what we speak can make or break a relationship. That's exactly what happened to me last weekend.

As you might remember, a slave applicant traveled quite a distance to experience my mastery first hand, in a first attempt for us to decide the possibility of developing a long term relationship. You may not have caught the words, but I wrote that I knew the relationship wasn't going to work in little more than 24 hours.

Let me be quick to note that such a revelation says nothing about either of us as individuals, only about the both of us as regards our having a relationship. When we finally discussed our mutual feelings that "This isn't going to work," the applicant was concerned that this meant he would never find a master or that he wouldn't make a good slave.

That is the furthest thing from the truth. A relationship is right when it is right for the two people in it. What doesn't work for one couple could certainly work with one of them and another person. Just because I'm not going to be his master doesn't mean that there isn't a master out there waiting to meet him.

Enough digression. How did I know so quickly? It was a matter of speech.
I have the deliberate practice of asking prospective partners, and permanent ones too, what they are thinking. Spend a weekend as an applicant with me and you'll probably hear that question forty or fifty times.

Now it’s reasonable to assume that "Nothing" will be an occasional response. I hold the premise that humans (and here I include submissives as well) do one of three things: they sleep, they think, or they feel. So at any given time one may not be thinking and so nothing is a good response.

When nothing is the answer, I often follow up with "What are you feeling?" just to continue my probing.

What I am trying to do here is to understand my partner, to get into his head and his heart. By doing so I can modify my behavior to improve the relationship. Does there need to be more intensity or less? Does he or she have any doubts, questions, or concerns? Is his head in the right space for what I'm doing? If not, how can I help him get into the right space?

Get my point? Like kissing, talking, or more precisely questioning, is an important part of SM. Nonverbal communication is important as well, but there's nothing as helpful as a direct answer to a direct question.

The fact that my applicant always answered "Nothing" was a sure sign that something was wrong.

For me "Nothing" means "I am afraid to tell you what I just thought."
That isn't the case every time, of course, and so one must be careful not to jump to that conclusion. But if that answer is time and again the same, then the couple needs to explore what could be a very real block to intimacy and hence a detriment to their relationship.

The other red flag that the applicant threw in my face, so to speak, was his fear that his slavery to me would mean that he would, in time, mean nothing to me.

I had asked him, as I always do, to keep a mental list of the pros and cons of being my slave. When I asked him how things were going, he volunteered this rather deep and significant fear. I have to admit that hearing this guy say that about me was a shock. Those words, in fact, inspired this column.

To some, SM appears as a cold, demeaning, and aloof activity. Many perceive it as loveless. Real SM, the satisfying, long-term type that keeps us Leatherfolk doing all those kinky things, is just the opposite. To reach the heights of SM pleasure, one's partner needs to be important. There are lots of ways to demonstrate this importance and kissing well is one of them. Sharing thoughts is another. Caresses, gentleness, ardor, passion, and more. There is a long list of ways for partners to be intimate.

Want to make your leather relationships better? Get closer to your partner. Want to find a way to make it last longer? Get closer to your partner. Want to have some really great sex? Well, you get the idea.

Copyright 1998 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact

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