Pathological Demand Avoidance and M/s

Hi, I’m Ashtyn and I’m autistic with a pathological demand avoidance (PDA) profile and a slave in a Master/slave (M/s) dynamic! While it seems like a specific set of internal processes and external behaviors, it is different for everyone who experiences it. My own brand of autism could be the same in name as yours but look different inside and out. We are people, after all, not profiles.

First off, let’s define a demand. A demand can be social rules, promises, expectations, pecking order, or many other things. Basically, demand avoidance involves not being able to do things for yourself or others at certain times. We all do this to some extent, but marked demand avoidance is a significant trait in the PDA profile.

So, what exactly does this look like for me?

  • High levels of anxiety in social situations
  • Strong need for control over environment and routines
  • Underlying difficulty in understanding social interactions
  • Requiring a level of sameness and rigidity in routines
  • Intense focus, often on other people, to the point of obsession
  • Resistant and avoidant to demands (even if familiar with the activity/task)
  • Difficulty following instructions or complying with rules
  • Need for autonomy and agency within relationships

Ostensibly, this list is almost entirely in conflict with a M/s dynamic. As a slave, I give up control. I must follow instructions and comply with his rules. I give up my rights to autonomy and agency. I navigate social interactions for him. Seems fundamentally opposed to the M/s handbook to have a brain that works this way. However, my Master and I have learned ways to cope and thrive.

Our relationship takes a collaborative approach with negotiated demands and expectations. Unilateral decision making doesn’t happen often without conversation. I need to feel like my thoughts and feelings are heard even if I don’t get the final say. We keep the lines of communication completely open at all times. This requires a lot of emotional regulation on both our parts. Neither one of us wants to fly off the handle and call the other an “asshole,” right?

Master is patient with me when giving instructions. He sometimes has to repeat himself or text me instructions instead. He makes things easier to do. For example, brushing my teeth is one of the hardest demands in the book! He often brushes his teeth with me to help settle the avoidant knee-jerk. However, this doesn’t always work. We’re realistic about what I can accomplish in a given day.

As for being resistant to demands, it’s impossible to completely erase. I have to be very open with Master about my ability to do things. I can literally just say “I can’t do that right now” and we can discuss further. Obedience isn’t the foundation of our relationship, it’s understanding.

We’ve also decided on the term power slave for me. It means I function with a high level of autonomy within the M/s framework following his guidance. Basically, he tells me where he wants to go, and I figure out how to get there. This closely ties in with anticipatory service insomuch as I anticipate the paths he would want. I don’t always choose the right one, but every mistake is a learning opportunity.

The M/s framework for protocols and rituals mimic my need for sameness in routines. For example, from a very early age I needed to always walk on the same side of people. My friends were baffled but complied. Now, walking to the right and behind is a protocol in which I revel. Additionally, we have a morning ritual which I follow with rigidity. It feeds the part of me that needs sameness to function.

In short, the pathological demand avoidant profile for an autistic can mean one needs a high level of autonomy in life. A PDA profile does not mean one cannot be a slave. With trust, empathy, and communication anything is possible. Using the M/s framework might even be helpful for someone with this profile by providing structure in routines.

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