Femdom Review: The Control Book by Peter Masters

controlOr, as an unofficial subtitle… A Manual on How to be That Guy.

This is a bad book. It gets a lot wrong, wastes a lot of the reader’s time doing it. I’m going to be charitable and suggest that Masters is expressing himself poorly and would never endorse violations of consent. However, based on how this is written, the advice contained within has no place in a contemporary BDSM scene. It’s a pity because there aren’t really much in the way of (focused) resources about the behaviours you can use to compliment and express power dynamics. It mistakes talking a lot for making an argument and has enough problematic suggestions that it has no place in any kink curriculum.

So if you want to read it, basically imagine you were going to do a comedy skit about the ponderous True Dom you may have had the misfortune to meet at a munch, and expect a combination of tedium and terrible advice.

[Before I go any further, it’s worth noting that everything I stand for is pretty much diametrically opposite to this guy’s approach in this book. I can’t actively claim that Peter Masters is a bad person with any confidence, so if you are the author rest assured that I’m the kind of TNG/18-35 tumblr born brat that’s probably ruining kink and my shit probably looks just as appalling to you. That being said you are wrong about things with this book. WRONG.]

Here’s the highlights of the yuck:

  • D/s is only 24/7 and that’s what makes it distinct from topping & bottoming.
  • There’s no such thing as a switch and no room for them.
  • The best way to approach and gain submission is to start ordering subs around at a party.
  • Negotiation? What negotiation?
  • Subs are slightly brain dead, but it’s hard(er) to control a sub who is a good communicator.
  • Safewords are a barrier to D/s & here’s how to ignore/avoid them.
  • Lots of unsubstantiated pop psych.
  • Gender archetype Warrior/Mother examples without much examination of where they might come from.

Need more critique? I’ve got more to say.

The book’s primary failure is that it tries to show you the inner workings of a functional power exchange relationship from a practical, technical point of view, but never handles consent properly. This is a major sin, because healthy D/s relationships don’t just get to be the dom imposing their will on the sub, with how much submission being granted being based on how domly the dom is. The Control Book breaks things down into arbitrary steps that start with the submissive offering their submission, but Masters never properly tells you how that works, and gives you a lot of advice that is explicitly counter to getting an open back-and-forth going or ignores the role a sub’s agency provides to your kink dynamic. He’ll tell you about the sub going submissive and about sub space, but he’s not handling the meta context of a sensation of position very well.

To discuss what is actually there and not omitted, Masters takes a very hands on approach- he believes that we invoke subconscious archetypes by selected behaviours to power a D/s dynamic. Outside of ordering subs, he suggests invasive behaviors like moving into someone’s personal space, pulling the hair and denying them privacy can invoke feelings of submission. This part is true in so far as generating the sensation of subjugation, and is only dubious in the lack of ability he had in communicating consent.

 Not everyone wants to have a round table discussion on their love life, but this book is too focused on treating subs like children.

As far as Masters is concerned, the normal ideas of discussion (and limits and so forth) are not worth mentioning. He treats subs like passive lumps, who not only can’t be trusted to communicate their triggers, needs and feelings, but also that it can even be a drawback if the sub is a better communicator than the dominant because it somehow undermines the dom. We get a description of safewords and why they are useful, but he both mentions one’s desire to ignore them casually (I’m not a fucking rapist, eeesh) and pushes the idea that with trust you can switch to an advisory system instead where they may be ignored on the dom’s judgement call. I don’t think he really understands the concept of consent except as something to jettison as quickly as possible.

Sure, safewords aren’t mandatory for everyone (for some people, a regular no works just fine), but if you don’t use them, the sub can simply withdraw consent at any time. This book buys into the idea of limitless control, at best crawling up it’s own butt, at worst, actively advocating unsafe practices. I think one of the reasons why he’s shit at talking about consent is that he doesn’t believe a sub can sub properly if they can give and take it.

Masters is bad at communication, as a concept.

Although there are a million and one things influencing how we express ourselves, the bedrock of consent isn’t very complicated. Sure, Masters makes it clear in his introduction that blackmail and physical force are off limits for his discussion (in itself, a little horrifying he has to say that), but then he treats communication as a mysterious and frankly competitive process. On the one hand Masters wants you to do all the thinking for the sub, on the other hand, as I mentioned, he positions a sub who can express themselves clearly as a difficulty. [RED FLAG]

This is setting up the reader to fail in a way that facilitates negative outcomes, the sort of things that predators call “Consent Accidents” and then give victim blaming non-apologies to. But moving away from the worst case scenario, he’s a lousy communicator because he tries to simplify where there’s nuance and add nuance to the simple.

For example:

“[…]communicating your feelings of sexual hunger to someone in any other way than physical contact is probably not going to work very well[…]”

This is where I go prissy dom slap fight and tell him from personal experience, this is self indulgent nonsense.

Come on, porn specifically depends on conveying sexual hunger without the audience touching anything but themselves. There’s way more to sex than fondling and thrusting, and an inability to perceive this is fairly blatant evidence Masters is not correct in his approach, and it smacks of wanting it to justify his tastes.

Now I acknowledge that this is not evidence that Masters wrote a rape book, just a shitty one…

Rather than arming his audience with how to err on the side of gleaning enthusiastic consent, he wants you to believe that subs are poor about their own advocacy and can’t handle fail safes- as well as trying to build the pushiest dynamic possible to eliminate the space to say no. In this line in addition to telling you that you can only communicate certain concepts some ways, he already stressed how important getting handsy in a physically imposing way with subs is. Crowding and intimidating and physically moving them (as well as bossing them) from the very start of the interaction is part of what he feels is key.

Sure it could work, but where many new doms can specifically run afoul is applying the control he’s trying to teach his audience. Forget being pushy, he’s also encouraging you into potential power struggles and rookie mistakes by escalating as quickly as possible. The world needs less doms who think they need to rush in and start shoving every sub about, not more.

He puts a lot of effort in arguing that subs have severely diminished agency. For example, he tells you not to tease or taunt subs as a part of play, as he believes the submissive mindset can’t handle complexity. Similarly, he explicitly speaks against deliberately-set-up-to-fail scenarios (these are a personal preference, in my opinion). There’s this repeated theme of submissives as being simple, passive and child like that’s nothing like my experience. He does not like open ended orders; his version is a very direct obedience focused dominance where anticipatory service has no place. If you talk to service subs for ten minutes, you’ll find they’re as fully psychologically complicated as anyone else and many of them actively enjoy holistic, contributory thinking.

Honestly The Control Book smacks of the sort of Gorean wank where everyone fits their roles in a very particular way. This is emphasized with his repeated push towards 24/7 dynamics and his black and white attitude to how things work.

And then there’s un-cited woo galore.

Then The Control Book goes into conditioning subs and spins woo about rules of threes. Masters, it appears, is obsessed with the effectiveness of subconscious schema, giving the example of a bad “walked into a bar” joke to explain how it’ll take repetition #3 to get a sub to orgasm to the opening bars of a symphony. Hogwash, there’s no actual data indicating how fast or slow someone will habituate.

We also learn about the warrior in all/most dudes, and the mother in women, but no background in how it got there. This was first published in 2006 and compiled in 2011. You don’t get to make blanket statements about gender un-examined like that anymore in a kink book, particularly since a lot of the the other foundational resources that predate this book are from happily QUILTBAG writers. I’m not saying you all need to be woke as fuck, but with the way he talks I expected this to date back to the mid-nineties.

And then after all his huffing and puffing it falls off a cliff

The first half of the book is excessively verbose, but gradually, and  by the last few chapters, he’s phoning it in- with only a paragraph or two and vague questions in a style copied after a textbook’s practice exercises. I feel like what happened is that he had some ideas that were the focus of what he wanted to talk about but made an outline that was supposed to include everything and the kitchen sink. It’s really clear that the scope and ambition of this project exceeded what he was actually capable of talking about- too bad the things he has a lot of words for are wrong, too..

In short, save your cash for other books and other projects.

Category: How to Guide
 Rating: o (1/5)
How I got it: Bought It.
TL:DR: The best thing I can say about this is that while his personal text bias tends to veer maledom/femsub, he at least avoids explicitly implying the gender of the participants matters. Masters has a few points to make, and those that he does are either wrong, or obvious. Other than that, its lack of understanding of consent is gross.

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1 Comment

  1. Ugh. Thank you for reading it so the rest of us don’t have to.

    Reply

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