The Firm

Sad Sub Syndrome

It's Sunday night. Songs of Praise looms high on the national horizon, the last ditch chance for the Rev. Frank Liegh O'Pliss of St Jude the Obscure to get enough parishioners under hisroof to keep the blessed thing on, but first it's time for... charity. The BBC1 Appeal.

A dark urban SM club. The décor is black, the dungeon dusty, a desultory dancer or two schlep around adjusting their corsets, the camera picks out the nationally-loved face of soap opera star Rog from The Plod , wearing his party-going leathers and a professionally sad smile.

"Hi", he says with that honest last puppy-in-the-shop-ness which has carved a niche in the nation's heart. "I'm at Club Bastion tonight, and I've come here to thank-you for all the money you sent to help sufferers of Dominatrix Toxæmia. I'm very glad to say that, thanks to your help, that terrible disease is claiming only 10% of the number it did back in 1993."

That mournful little heartstring-yanking shrug, the big brown eyes fasten onto the nations soft underbelly. "It really has been a colossal achievement, and one in which I'm glad to have been involved [slight sigh] and it's through that involvement that I've found out about an even greater problem."

A man enters shot, appearing to have been gently pushed. He is wearing a badly-adjusted leather pouch, and a collar and lead. He holds the leather loop forlornly in his hand. Rog smiles gently. "This is Simon. Simon suffers from Non-Factotive Melancholia – Sad sub Syndrome - but he's on the mend". Rog smiles warmly at Simon. "We've got rid of the grey underpants now, haven't we Simon?"

The camera closes to Rog who inevitably continues, "The man who can really tell us about Sad sub Syndrome is with us; Professor J B Strangetrousers."

We know the Professor of old, the shabby mountebank who 'discovered' Dominatrix Toxæmia to a stupefied British public in 1990, grew obscenely rich on the royalties, got sued to poverty by Jenny Van der Graf, and panned on Panorama by the Royal College of Psychiatry as 'a quack, a charlatan, a hobbledehoy with the integrity of a News of the World reporter', and lost his reputation, his Chair of Falacies, Fabrications and Malicious Lies at Stoke, and is now trying to re-instate his membership of the intelegensia by discovering another disease, by bribery and (where possible) blackmail.

Professor JB Strangetrousers wears a tweed hacking jacket that looks both hackneyed and hacked, NHS glasses (with plain glass, they're only for intellectual posturing), and a tie which even in those free heady days of the 1970s would have been garish, close observers will notice that the yellow spots are not a nod to Pollock but egg yolk.

But there's only Harry Secombe on the other side, singing by a harbour with no Bentine or Milligan to push him in the water, so we watch as JB's lugubrious moustaches twitch into life because last time, old fraud though he is, he wasn't far wrong. He speaks.

"Non-Factotive Melancholia is a condition caused by the ideas promulgated in the more basic strata of men's SM literature. It is an insidious affliction, and it's victims, conditioned to believe themselves sub-human, start to adopt an introspective and self-deprecatory posture, in the mistaken belief that this will make them happy."

The shot expands to include Rog who says, "It's a serious problem, isn't it Professor, as I'm sure any women who've met suffers will confirm. Perhaps we should ask Simon to tell us his story". He steers Simon gently to sit next to Strangetrousers who says, "You're among friends Simon [six million viewers raise a unified eyebrow] How did it begin?"

Simon is deeply uncomfortable under the cyclops eye of the camera, he gulps, stammers and tries to get up - only to be gently held down by Rog and the Professor. His story begins;

"All I ever wanted", he says, "was a Mistress. I'd seen such beautiful pictures in Sadie Sterns and Madame in a World of Fantasy, and all I wanted was to be a lowly slave to a beautiful cruel lady in leather boots. I'm not a submissive person by nature, I head a team of design engineers for the nuclear industry, and I'm happily married. I did suggest to my wife that she might dress in leather and whip me a little bit, but all she said was, 'What's in it for me?' and I didn't know, so she lost interest.

"I found a flier for The Rubber Nipple Club when I was buying magazines in Soho. I'd heard about these clubs in magazines and I was delighted. I saw there was a dresscode but I didn't think they would mind my going in just my normal clothes. I did go to my local pet shop to buy a collar but the man asked what kind of dog we had I said a chihuahua, so the collar I had to buy was made of red acrylic, and it didn't fit, and the first time I went to the club they wouldn't let me in. A Mistress at the door said, 'Get yourself a collar and lead or something, and come back next month. You're not getting past the door like that'. It was humiliating and I thought 'Great! She's humiliated me! I'm a slave already!' and I had a good wank on the train home.

"When I went next time I had bought a proper collar and lead like I had been told, but I made sure I kept on my grey woollen Y-fronts so that I would look really humiliated and not at all sexy so a Mistress would really treat me like a worm. I thought it would help if I did not take a shower for a couple of days beforehand. I didn't fancy getting dirty bare feet so I kept my white trainers on; they were Nike trainers, and I thought this might indicate that I had money to spare. I really enjoyed myself - all the women I approached turned their backs on me - even those wearing slave collars like mine - and one of them told me to 'Fuck Off'. I was really humiliated and had a good wank on the Night Bus.

"Over the next month I thought about how well I had done, and made plans to improve my performance. The next time I made a point of calling all the women 'Mistress', even the slave-girls. One lady who I think was the Club Dom, did notice me and told me, 'Kneel down there until I can be bothered with you'. I knelt by that table for three hours while she showed her dominance of me by chatting to other men and ignoring me completely. At long last she asked me, 'What do you like then?' in a bored voice, and I answered promptly, 'I don't have any boundaries, Mistress.' She asked, 'What's the worst thing I could do to you then?' I said, 'Piss on me and then queen me in the middle of the dancefloor, Mistress'. She said, 'You'll be lucky,' and an hour later she came back with, 'The action's getting slack. Can you take a beating?' 'Yes Mistress', I answered, so she ordered me over the bench, saying, 'The things I do for money.'

"After ordering me to remove my 'foul underpants,' she laid into me with her gloved hand. After five or six blows I could not take any more and begged her to have mercy, her chilling answer was 'Oh get out of my sight you sad little wanker, you're wasting my time!'

"I was so humiliated that I had a really good wank in the back of the taxi. Then I had an idea.

"The next time I took her advice and became a proper 'sad little wanker'. Whenever I saw a Mistress dealing with someone, I got my John Thomas out and masturbated, showing how lowly I really was. In order to make everyone aware of this I made sure that I stood really close to the action so that nobody else could see it properly. When a Mistress came up to me and told me to stop, I asked, 'Are you going to punish me Mistress?' She said, 'I wouldn't touch you with somebody else's ten foot pole if you paid me by direct debit.' I said, 'You can't be a proper Mistress then,' and she humiliated me by walking away.

"A moment later I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder, and looked round to see a big blond man in a dinner suit. I told him that he wasn't obeying the dress code, but he said 'Nor will you be in a minute. Get dressed, you're leaving.'

"Imagine my excitement as I put on my clothes, no doubt a beautiful Mistress would rebuke me as I left, and imagine my dismay when all that waited for me at the door was a man in leather jeans and a beard.

"'I've had my eye on you for a long time', he told me, 'You've had your chances and now you're never coming back - anywhere!' With that he produced a Polaroid camera and took my picture, telling me, 'This'll be on every promoter's desk by Monday morning, with my comments. Get him out, it hasn't been pleasant.'

"'But', I protested, 'I've paid to get in. That entitles me to get dominated. And I've spoken to you on the telephone for over an hour, and you did say that Mistresses would be here, and that I could wear women's clothes if I wanted to.'

"'Just eject him, John', said the man. 'If he wants a prostitute he can look in the phone boxes.'

"I felt", says Simon, "really humiliated. I did go to prostitutes, and because I didn't have the money to afford to pay them very often, I became a slave to one of them. She treated me very, very badly, and with the greatest contempt. One afternoon, which I had taken off in order to change her lightbulbs, I met the Professor, who said, 'No, I never put a 60watt in there , that's a 40watt', and he asked me to buy him beer."

The camera closes to the profligate visage of Strangetrousers. "That", he says, "is when I met Simon, and realised the truly horrifying magnitude of Sad sub Syndrome. It was clear to me that Simon had no more chance of forming a lasting relationship on The Scene as he had of getting his wife interested. He told me that he had bought a copy of Freewealin' by Ishmael Skyes, a book which I recommend as the main seminal work on the subject, and had ignored it's advice because it would not make him submissive enough, and I realised that his disease was far more terrible than Dominatrix Toxæmia the first disease I had discovered.

"By now Simon's symptoms included telling himself 'I'll make the effort if someone's interested', and he was starting to develop parsimony and nit-picking, and these make you poorer, not richer, in the long run. He had even got as far as stomping out of a fetish club in a sulk, which sounds stupid I know, but Simon is not stupid, you have to understand that, he is sick . I know one man who likes to dress as a maid, but 'she' likes to spend most of her time tied up, and what is the use of that? 'She' telephones promoters telling them that 'her' time is very limited because of family, but do they know any Mistresses 'she' might call 'when convenient'? In the same way 'she' honestly expects there to be events, private parties, or one-to-ones available 'when convenient'.

"Simon's case is not unusual, in some ways it is very mild; we caught his condition before The Dagenham Complications set in: Men have always lied about penile size - which we all know does not matter - but this is much nastier. Telling people that your name isn't 'Dave' can be treated as a warning sign. Pretended interest in a lust-object's kink in order to enact with them one's own is common." He shrugs eloquently. "Declaring monogamous and undying devotion to a half a dozen people in as many weeks - no-one likes that, but it's not unusual", he shakes his head, "I hear such stories; this man used to be fantastically rich, that one used to promote a fetish club in Vienna, this one says he's a professional assassin. It's very sad."

Just for a moment, the light in the Professor's eyes says loudly, "And now I can pay my rent."

But the programme makers know their job, and the picture changes to Rog from The Plod: That purse-string tugging moment has arrived. "As yet", he says, "there is no cure for Sad sub Syndrome. Simon has been conditioned to believe that behaving in a manner which most of us would consider stupidly anti-social is the best way to make friends, it's a very difficult belief for us to shake, but some progress is being made for sufferers of Non-Factotive Melancholia, and you can help

"If you want to help people like Simon get better, why not join our 'Adopt A Sad sub Scheme'?
A cheque for just £7 pays for a copy of Freewealin' which we will send to a Sad sub nominated by you. So if you know a Sad sub, send us their address and a cheque for £7.50 The Firm payable to Ishmael Skyes, at PO Box 10937, London, N15 6PE, and they'll soon be on the road to recovery. Thank you." The picture fades to black and the final 'grams in white letters read

Adopt a Sad sub
£7.50 to Ishmael Skyes
PO Box 10937
N15 6PE

From Quest; The Dungeon at the End of the Universe, by Ishmael Skyes

Do you suffer from Sad Sub Syndrome?