Ask Patrick: A mark is a permanent record

By on May 3, 2010

Dear Patrick: I very stupidly allowed my last master to have his name tattooed on my thigh. Why would he do this to me if he was just going to throw me out a few months later, claiming I had no potential to become a lifestyle submissive? It took me more than a year to get back to a stable place emotionally and financially. Our relationship ended so badly, and now every time I get dressed, I have to look at that possessive mark. There was a time when I wanted very much to be his property and would have done more than getting a tattoo if he had asked. But now what am I to do? I feel that this sends the wrong signal to any man who might be interested in me now. I can’t imagine it would be erotic to spread a girl’s legs if she was already branded by another man.–Returned Property

Dear Returned Property: I strongly suggest that people feeling possessive toward their power-exchange play partners refrain from tattooing, cutting, branding, or otherwise permanently putting their names or initials on one another. A symbol that is exclusively associated with the dominant party should also be avoided. It’s hard to say no to an offer (or order) like this when you are giddy with the intensity of a hot infatuation. It seems as if nothing could ever break the connection between you. But it’s a bad idea. It violates a basic precept of our ethics, which is that each and every act we perform has to be consensual. A permanent mark eliminates the ability to consent on a day-to-day basis. The person who is marked does not get to wake up every day and decide whether they are willing to wear that mark. It’s just there. Beyond their control.
If you want to decorate your property, pick a symbol that they will be happy to see even if you are no longer in their life. Surely there is some erotic image or word that captures the essence of who they are, at their best, as an archetype of submission or masochism. Mark your ‚”property‚” in a way that enhances their physical attractiveness rather than putting them off-limits to anyone else’s attention. There’s a not-so-fine line between decoration and vandalism.
As for you, Reader Mine, please feel free to investigate the process of tattoo removal. Or visit a talented tattoo artist and see if there is anything you could do to cover up the offensive mark with something more to your liking. You can take back your body, and I think it’s high time you did so. You already know your story is a poignant warning to remain cautious in the face of desire. I just hope it gets through to other readers in the same situation.

Patrick Califia is a therapist in private practice in Northern California. His practice includes internet consultations as well as face-to-face psychotherapy. He is a prolific author who has published widely about BDSM and sexual politics. Patrick’s books include Macho Sluts, Sensuous Magic, and Public Sex: The Politics of Radical Sex.

This column is not intended to offer medical or legal advice. It is for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you need medical or legal advice, see a doctor or lawyer!

Do you have a question for Patrick?
Please feel free to leave your comments below or you can reach him at

Leave Comment