I had this book recommended to me by a reader on Twitter and I couldn't pass up an opportunity to review a book by request. 23 Things You Must Know About How To Be a Submissive by Elizabeth Cramer is available as a paperback or an ebook. I purchased mine through Amazon Kindle. I have to admit that the title alone made me interested in what might be within. These 23 things, did I already know them, seeing as I have 10 years experience? Would I pick up something new?
The answer is a long one, so take a seat. Elizabeth Cramer has written this as a guidebook, almost like a manual of how a life as a submissive will develop and grow. She breaks it into two sections:
- What you will learn.
- How you will learn it.
I do have to give her introduction merit. She says that everyone has different protocol and that training is a time period where the couple finds their compatibility and groove. That's very much correct to how everyone's relationship is based. But that's about as far as I feel she went with this line of thought. The book is written specifically for live in D/s, preferably 24/7 goal oriented, with medium to high protocol in mind for a submissive's training period and from a guide it turns to more like a manual. But no manual I've ever seen - or want to have to follow.
From the introduction on out the book went downhill for me. Each chapter is written in a very direct way that is off-putting for me. I try to educate in the manner that all things are subject to the couple in the relationship, that things can and do change and develop through negotiation and common desires and needs. The author writes her book as if her way is the only way that training will happen. She uses words like "should, must, expect, essential" as if all submissives have the same expectations in training. That even a couple in medium-high protocol follows training in just this manner. You have every right as a person to ask to talk about something before it is done and if they won't then RUN AWAY!
Don't get me wrong, there are some very good quotes from the book, if you pull them out of context and use them as they are. Using them within the text only leads me to shake my head in dismay at what this book is trying to do. It will confuse even more novices if they read it. They will take ideas and thoughts from it much like the fiction books that more seasoned practitioners warn are not the basis of a D/s life. In fact this guide reads very much like fiction.
As a responsible author and teacher myself, I just can't get behind a book that makes assumptions on the way training must be for everyone and presents it as a guidebook for submissives on how to be submissive. If I were a novice submissive in a relationship and started reading this book I would begin to think that my relationship was doing it wrong, or that the expectations I had of the dynamic were lacking because this book presents training as some rigid, one way, only way, right way thinking. As an experienced person, I know this is not true, but how can I safeguard the new submissives that come my way if there are books out there like this?
To take an example quote from the book, "Underwear is almost always a "by permission only" article of clothing for a sub"(Section I: 5). Trust me, no where is there a manual saying the a submissive will not wear underwear but this "guide" makes it sound like you had better surrender your underwear when you become submissive. Sure a lot of Dominants prefer that their submissives not wear underwear but there are far more that like lingerie, or prefer the hygienic use of underwear and encourage dressing with undergarments. Still more leave it to the submissive to dress as they desire as long as they are pleasing. Others don't care to control that part of their submissive's life.
And that's the crux of this book. No where does the book emphasize negotiating the training period or what will happen during it. It makes assumptions that the submissive will just do whatever the Dominant requires or requests, and that's a lot in this book, without having a mind of their own. Oh and that's because the author believes that in training you no longer have an identity;
"In training you will learn your identity is not made of your individual achievements (although they are important) but your relational context with your Dom. You are his. That is the core of your identity. That is who you are in how you will define all the other roles and lenses you look through" (Section I:1).
In all fairness a lot of submissives begin to identify themselves as belonging to their Dom and that everything they do is no longer their own. But not all, and certainly only learned if that is how the Dominant wishes them to be. KnyghtMare likes that I have a unique identity separate from his and that I have achievements that aren't necessarily related to him.
In conclusion, this book reads like fiction and a one true way sort of manual. If that's your thing, then pick it up. If it's not, leave it. Or, if, by some chance, you are curious about the full contents, make sure you read it carefully and without assuming anything about your current or future relationship. Let your gut feeling be your guide on these things. Don't let anyone tell you how your submissive life should, must, or expect to be played out. Only you can do that.