"I brought your pants back."
He hands my underwear to me across the table in the crowded cafe. I raise an eyebrow. Unwashed, I also note. Unabashed - it takes rather a lot to embarrass me and I have no intention of rising to this - I take them and put them in my bag. On the walk to the tube station I point out, in between some rather pointed nipple flicking, I explain how this is not the kind of laundry service I expect. Later, when there is an audience of kinky ladies to provide a suitable level of humiliating punishment. I regale the story with mock horror and shove the pants into his mouth with instruction to do better next time.
One of the highlights of training Mr Smith has been developing an appreciation for the distinction between cheek and brattishness, and finding pleasure in dominating a cheeky submissive. Given my previous negative thoughts on the subject of any kind of push back from submissives, it was a surprise to me to find that I actually enjoy a certain amount of cute cheekiness.
Partly, I suppose, there's an issue of definitions. One person's acceptable cheek is another's brat. To me bratting involves actually fighting back, with an element of uncertainty over the winner. The kind of submissive who kicks out, taunts and enters into determined activity to get a rise out of me. Generally, this can be interesting as a one-off session, but for a more involved, long-term D/s relationship I don't have the style of dominance that fits with someone who wants their submission to be constantly “taken” over and over again - a little fight every now and then, perhaps, but on a day-to-day basis I want them to offer themselves up to me.
Mr Smith compared his cheek to "teenage behaviour" - it's always interesting to note how people talk about their own submission, the words and phrases they use shed light on how they view themselves which can create structures for play scenes or D/s frameworks. The teenage reference is quite a useful one in his case - the brash, "look at me" element, combined with the shyness or social awkwardness when his cheek comes up against my dominance, and loses.
On some level this is a test, of course and it keeps me on my toes. It's a test of authority in the way that a child might see how far they can push their parent, to see whether they are paying attention, whether they care. In this regard there is also an element of "asking for it" - by being cheeky he is asking to be dominated. If this were a very regular occurrence, or happening in particular ways in order to receive specific actions then it would be worrying, a strong case of topping from the bottom, but I don't feel that it is, more I think it's just how he is.
I don't like a lot of cheek, mind you, and there are certainly limits, particularly along the lines of the kind of cheek given and where it occurs. My desire and interest is much more along the lines of "I like a boy with spirit" than anything else. Light banter which is easily batted aside and replaced with a blush, an apology, a bowed head. There is a dominant pleasure in having something to push against - as long as it gives in. The training process by definition requires a roughened surface to start with, something to mould and smooth down.
In training, I decide what is acceptable and what isn't. I also decide what warrants punishment and what doesn't. That includes the edges of "cheek" and "bratting". Generally speaking anything that could be considered rude or as a direct and forceful challenge to my dominance in public would be bratting and completely unacceptable. Anything that goes against good scene behaviour is also not on - and this would not be "punished" in the same amusing way as cheekiness would be, it would involve more serious conversations and a use of the dreaded (to him) phrase "I was disappointed in you."
Cheek is a game, and it's a light hearted one at that, in which the submissive pushes lightly against the edges of my dominance. There is a shared joy in it, it is the gleam in their eye that reflects their personality. A submissive entirely devoid of any vim or repartee would be a doormat or completely cowed out of existence. As much as I talk about idealised pets and servants, my submissives are my friends and lovers. And pets have personality, of course - I like to see them sparkle. Cheek is a way for them to express themselves, and as long as it doesn't interfere with what I want or put me out, it can also be fun and entertaining.
For others as well as myself, as the pants incident proves.