Welcome to the funny little kink of service; that is to say, the kink in which you do something for another person. The reason I call this a funny kink is because I don’t really think it’s a kink at all.
If you’re familiar with the concept of love languages you’ll know that acts of service (warning; biblical references) is a way that some people say I care about you. But, just like some people don’t hear I care about you when they’re receiving service, some people don’t say I care about you by serving.
Am I making myself clear on this? Not all people who are into submission are into service. And while we’re at it, not all people who are into service are submissive. Some of my favourite tops are Service Top – that is to say people who find topping can be an act of service for them; they top because you want it.*
So What is Service?
Providing service is not about simply doing a chore list, or going through the motions of a ritual because you’ve agreed on it as part of your dynamic.** Service-as-a-‘kink’ evokes a certain feelings in participants who partake in it. Some describe those feels is as peaceful; others say it slows the world down, narrows their focus to just one thing (the task at hand, their partner, etc), others say it makes them feel more rooted in their chosen role, others still say it reinforces the connection to their partner. Like any other kink; the feelings behind the act are what it’s really about. And it’s those feelings which can make service such a vulnerable kink.
Service-as-a-kink is often banded about the BDSM scene as a bit of a joke. Got a chore you don’t want to do? Call a service-submissive. Not interested in taking care of your leathers? Service-sub it out. Having a party and need bartenders, food servers, or human foot store? Put out the call! Never mind that you’re not actually in a relationship or dynamic with any of these people; service-orientated-people are like junkies; they get a fix and then you can send them on their way, no aftercare, no fuss, no nothing. After all, isn’t service its own reward?
No actually, it isn’t. Service provides a lot of warm fuzzy feelings (as does subspace or orgams), but warm fuzzy feelings do not exist in a vacuum. Service-as-a-kink can come with its own special style of drop, and if you’ve been in service mode of a long period, you may have forgotten to do things like eat, go to the bathroom, or rest, meaning your body will need recovery time.
I’m not sure if the people who make these throw out remarks understand how insulting and hurtful they’re being. I wonder how they would feel if someone was surprised at their expectation of reciprocity and respect for their time in a play scene. I mean it’s kinda crazy right? To expect someone to give to you in such an intimate manner (remember, service is motivated by feelings) while treating it like nothing special at all? Jerk move.
On the other side of the crop, Service Topping often gets sneered at and what they offer can be devalued. I’m not sure if it’s motivated by a certain concept of what real tops do and don’t do; or too those people have felt they were taken for granted when they provide service topping and to protect themselves they’ve erected a boundary? Definitely a topic I’ll be thinking about in the future, and am already engaging in some discussion on over at FL
Right, now that we know more about what service is, let’s get down to the practical: do you have a service person in your life and want to do right by them? This next bit is just for you.
Tips for receiving service:
- Ask your service-oriented person what having service accepted looks like to them. Do they need acknowledgement all the time, or prefer to have it saved until the end of a task/scene? Does a public thank you make their heart sing, or would it wreck everything?
- Be present with their service; recognize it for what it is instead of taking it for granted.
- Figure out if there are any acts of service that are particularly meaningful to you. Maybe household service doesn’t do it for you, but Leathercare does. Maybe foot massages make the hair raise on the back of your neck, but does the idea of someone taking your car for an oil change warms the cockles? Go with the things that move you.
- Make plans to provide aftercare; be it a phone call the next day, watching them eat a meal, or drawing a bath for them.
- Realize that service doesn’t look any certain way. Like so much else in the kinkoverse it can be tailored to suit the needs of your relationships and their individual dynamics.
- Service-Orientated Doesn’t Mean Free Labor – Jaki Grier (originally published on FetLife, but yo gave me permission to republish – woot!)
- The Many Faces of Thanks – Andrea Zanin
- More Kinkopedia on Service
- There’s definitely a place for talking about how to bring more service into your life (from both sides) but I think we’ve covered enough here today. When I write on this in the future I promise to update this 🙂
*I’m definitely over-simplifying here to suggest that people have only one motivation behind their acts. Most of service would be one of many reasons someone does something.
**I mean, service can be about those things; but that’s not really what lies at the heart of service-as-a-‘kink’.