The Symbols are Not the Arrival

When I began exploring leather in my early twenties I was of course very drawn to becoming a collared boy to someone. Yes, I was having an abundant amount of play experiences, but I was really hungry for something more secure. I wanted to feel like a Sir’s property, to be owned and cherished. He would help me grow and learn, and provide structure and balance in a life where I desperately needed it.  The photos and Tom of Finland drawings I saw depicting men in their collars gave me a sense of longing, and I thought one day I will be fortunate enough to earn a Dom’s collar myself.

There was a good friend of mine back then who was a great support for helping me start out in all this. He too was a boy and I remember the day his Sir finally presented him with his collar. I was so congratulatory to him (if not quite jealous) , and I remember commenting that it must feel like a great reward for his hard work and devotion. His response had a great impact on me,

“Actually Dart, now the work begins.”

At the time I didn’t understand what he meant by this. I remember his attempting to explain it all to me, but being needy and inexperienced, I didn’t truly hear it. When you have your mind set on a certain concept, even if it’s a false one, you can become quite selective in the information that comes through. When I started in all this, I naively saw a collaring as a ‘point of arrival’.  It was a symbol of reward for doing all kinds of hard work and proving oneself to be worthy of a Sir’s ownership. To some degree that’s true, but the problem was that I was seeing it as a security blanket. I had this idea that if only I could prove myself worthy of actually becoming a collared boy, I would feel worthy as a person. The collar would be proof that I was important to someone, and I didn’t have to feel insecure or lonely anymore.  Once I received it I could finally feel good. In other words, I was making the symbol mean something that it wasn’t, almost like it was a panacea for the negative feelings I had about myself.

Now I have been a collared boy several times, and each experience has been monumental in helping me grow and mature as a person, and as a Sir. The very first time I earned a man’s collar was in my late twenties, and I will tell you that that was when I really learned what my friend meant about the work ensuing. This is because at the time I DID put all of this inaccurate meaning on the collar I received, and admittedly fell into the mythology that “all will be well” now. The truth was, Sir and I had new issues that had to be worked out. There were new parameters and boundaries that had to be explored and set. Expectations had to be communicated more astutely; expectations that I had assumed were already in place because after all, I was now a man’s property. Certainly we’ve already done a majority of the foundation setting. Admittedly I became more careless and sloppy with the way I conducted myself as a boy. I might also add – and I wince as I share this – I became very childish. I acted out because the ‘demons’ of my neediness were not being assuaged by the collar. My first run as a boy lasted less than a year. Was it a disaster? No. It was painful, but I also woke up and realized what these symbols truly mean. And of course, what they do not.

Leather has all kinds of glamorized rituals that we often put far too much meaning into. Some of these rituals don’t actually have any basis in history but we have turned them into meaning-making events that cause us to draw false conclusions. I’ve used the collaring as one example but the same can be said for earning a title, or a pin, or being covered. I remember being at an event in Toronto and being surprised by receiving my Muir cap and being proclaimed a Sir. I was there with my leather family at the time and my own Sir, and together he and one of the community leaders presented me with the honor of becoming a Sir myself. Again, here was this amazing symbol that was being given to me,with all kinds of amazing fanfare. I was blown away.

And I had to say to my ego, “NOW the work begins mister.”

Wherever you are in your experience of leather and kink, remember what my friend said about remaining vigilant about the ‘work’. Just like with a marriage or a commitment of any kind in life, there isn’t really a true arrival point. The process is ongoing and never ends, and that’s actually what makes it beautiful and extraordinary. The evolution and change is infinite. If you fall into the false belief that a symbol or ritual allows you to ‘ease up’ on your diligence, you’ll fall into a trap of stagnation or resignation. Don’t rob yourself of the experience of growth. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can experience in leather.

*Deep breath*

Okay. Back to the grind.




16 thoughts on “The Symbols are Not the Arrival

  1. very informative and i believe many of these thoughts are ones i will share on the road to my own self discovery.

  2. Yes! Yes! Yes! They are steps on a (hopefully) ongoing path of growth. Thank you, Dart, for sharing this insight.

    ~ Pug

  3. As a boy on my journey myself, I had the exact same thoughts myself. And had expressed my feeling to Sir one day about not feeling I have yet earned or worked for my collar yet. Sir quickly let me know to corect that mind set. And slowly I began to see the other side to it, that the real work begins once it happens. Please Sir keep up the good work/words of wisdom. You never know when it may help at least one person in his journey in this lifestyle.

  4. Oh this is such a great post…many, many boys need to read. The collar is just but a step…yes it is freeing and warm when you first get the opportunity to be SIR’s property. You still have to work on challenges…even after 17 years I am still working on challenges with my SIR.

  5. Being a pup, and a stray one at that, I’ve felt the need of wanting to be collared although it’s something I don’t act on like many pups out there are trying to. We feed a need of belonging as pups so I understand the struggle with many but patience is important.

    • I think all of us want to have a feeling of belonging, pup. We just have to make sure our collars or other symbols aren’t providing a ‘band-aid’ for something that we need to heal within ourselves. That was certainly the case for me.


  6. Reading this brought to mind a couple of bottom woman I had collared in the past. Wish they could have read this then. But, as you stated when one has a single track mind on what they want. They can’t always hear what they probably should have heard before the collaring. So it may have fell on deaf eye’s so to speak anyway.

    Nice article btw.

    • I’m guilty of it it the stubborn Irishman in me. Sometimes, we have to go through the experience of getting our ass kicked to truly learn something. I don’t think one can learn how to ride a bike without falling a few times.

  7. Thank You SIR for this. Everyone’s journey is different, and yet everyone must make the trek for themselves and FOR themselves. I know now, for myself, how I have striven for things I thought were benchmarks and Ideals only to find when i had arrived or “earned” that thing I had coveted, that i didn’t know what it really meant, if anything, and only left me hollow and disappointed. I have learned the simple things are the things that mean the most, teach the most and become the bedrock under my ever-shifting place within this leather community. Oh, how i yearned for the “things”, The collar, the cover, the title, the SIR, the boy.. all those things that would show to others that I had in some way Arrived, but arrived where? It has taken much humility, re-education, and sometimes withdrawal to know how to set small, personal but ever the more meaningful goals that fulfill me as a leatherman. Only then can I share or be presumptive enough to teach or guide someone else with clarity and honesty. Again, Thank you. With Much respect, Daddy John.

  8. I think I understand about “now the work begins” after 2009. The work also doesn’t seem to end as I experienced recently with an ignorant person touching on a topic I hold dear in this community. I need to stop slacking off 🙂

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