The Mutability of The Self in Being-Together-With

“We Are The Same”. We are the same in being self-same and self-different. We become a self, properly speaking, ourselves as self-same precisely in changing through self-difference. Self-Identity can never mean identification in the sense of some commonality.

“The same is in no way the equal. The same is even less the coincidence without difference of the identical. The same is rather the relation of the different.”

“”Belonging lies in the assimilation that distinguishes the appropriating event. By virtue of this assimilation, we are admitted to the event. This is why we can never place appropriation in front of us, neither as something opposite us nor as something all-encompassing.

.. This is why thinking which represents and gives account corresponds to Appropriation as little as does the saying that merely states.”

Representing one’s self, as in the I-Subject, nor representing the other can ‘get hold’ of what is meant in being-the-there-together as appropriating event. Nor can representations such as space get hold of the place we open up in which we become who are together.

To say that emmie and I became what we are for ourselves and for each other in the appropriating event of coming together means precisely this, that what is retrospectively the self is in the first instance, an outline, a figure that must be filled in by living. “Figure” does not mean picture, but a prefiguring in the sense that the wings of a butterfly are prefigured just prior to metamorphosis, by corresponding shapes that appear in the body of the caterpillar.

“Master and slave” are such a prefiguring outline. What it means to be such can only be worked out from the prefiguration, but the figure only properly is in the working out, the outline defines as little as necessary. Representing is to “picture”, which overdetermines becoming from the start. Identity becomes identification, which is opposed to both self-sameness and self-difference. It is merely applying a prefabricated generalization as already decided to what should instead develop out of decision.

Being the same does not mean being the same as the other, which is exactly what equality conveys. The same (το αὐτó) does not presuppose the equality of “two things or two terms”. In fact it precludes such equality. The same is always the same of some other, but this other is first of all itself, or self-same. The same is the gift of self, given in the event. The same is dative—for itself and with itself—in relation to itself, and therefore of a different self-relation.

The dative ἐαυτω means: each thing itself is returned to itself, each itself is the same for itself with itself. In sameness, there is thus difference—opposition to self. “Opposition appropriates itself. It appropriates itself in the same as the essential of being. This “opposition” is the incision of the other in the same, an incision that remains occluded within relationships of equality.

If being the same originally means being self-(ex) change (the withdrawal of oneself in self-giving—the play of the dative) and letting the other be in the self, and if, originally, identity is a metamorphosis, then the incomparable character of being simply designates the impossibility, for everything that is, of being equal to itself. A being could be just like another being, but it cannot be just like itself in that it originally differs from itself. The being of beings is what inscribes in beings the difference of beings from themselves.

It is in this sense that being and time belong together, we differ from ourselves in time, over time. Self-difference as contradiction has another definition: finitude. We can be “in time” and “over time”, and simultaneously self-different and self-same because we are finite. But as the same, being, essence, and beings are all finite and mutable. Through finitude we become incomparable except via the incomparable itself.

The complicity between being, essence, and beings revealed by the (ex)change stems from this change and rupture of identity that makes each thing, each person, simultaneously an essence, a being, and the difference between the two; a dative self-difference that prevents every self-enclosure. When I encounter emmie, after the event that appropriated us to each other, I move into her, exploring her difference, the singular play opened in her between my essence and itself. It is exactly there, at that place, that she welcomes me. Ereignis, the event that appropriates, or the enowning, is the place where this can happen, there where we make room—a place for the other.

This welcoming, or passage into the other and back, neither is pure transcendence, nor is it some sort of transcendental hospitality; it is ordinary in the sense of ordinary changes in living, where the interplay between living and those who live changes both. There is no alterity without change. The other changes me because I change myself in it. The strange resemblances between people who live together without being kin; between lovers, friends, and children are such living changes. Alterity is transformation—fashioning of and by the other.

The metamorphosis and migration of Dasein, God, the relation to being, beings, etc., corresponds neither to the sudden appearance of new monsters nor to what are ordinarily called fantastic creatures. The new metamorphosis and migration results from the way in which, after an appropriating event, breathe the same air, and live the same novel ontological condition: being-essence, being-beings, and being the difference between the two.

Self, Self-Identity and the thinking of identity are changed to the extent that what is the same is not the closed circle of generic community or commonality but a gathering that precisely does not generalize. Essence is henceforth a remaining open, the revolving door of the house of being through which the exchange of the favor passes.

The “gift” and the “giver” are not abstractions, but ourselves and the things we give each other, in this case emmie and I and what we give and receive, and the ways in which those things matter. The “gift” is material, in the true sense of mattering, and only by understanding each other, and each others place, the “there” we each are, have we a shared place where we could understand what matters to the other, and thus to ourselves. Favor is gift, of course, but also the excess of giving that is never exhausted in any gift.

“The visibility of Being itself found in transformed beings in and after the event is born precisely from ontological mutability, where god can be shown as Dasein, “Dasein as god, being as a thing, Dasein as a thing and a thing as a god, without any of these essences trying to alienate each other or become equal. The divine, the thing, man, and being from time to time show in each other, are installed in each other in passing. Essence—stand-in, double, halo, aureole—is the other name for what, in a thing, god, Dasein, or animal and in being itself is the most exposed, the most fragile, the most ordinary. The littlest, in everything, is living tissue of a constant autotransformation, which is itself living, thinking, and thinging: a being’s capacity to take leave of itself so as to be crossed and exchanged with another. There can be no “belonging” without this suppleness of gathered terms, itself founded on the suppleness of gathering, a suppleness that permits them to fold into and substitute for each other while remaining what they are.” —  Malabou, Catherine

That emmie can substitute for me, that she can put herself in my place and do what I would have her do; that she can see me as her Master, not despite the ordinariness she knows in me, but precisely because of that ordinariness, is part of suppleness, the exchangeability that nevertheless keeps us who we are. That I can put myself in her place and understand what she needs, understand what she wants, and decide whether those are congruous with our place together is also part of that suppleness and fluidity of self and self-identity. Enowning makes the ordinary explicit as fantastical, and the fantastical simultaneously real by living.

“Pain maintains a natal tie with the logos, meaning with gathering and belonging. An essential bond would in this way unite pain and gathering. “Pain would be that which gathers most intimately,” in the littlest, most fragile, and exposed fashion.” —  Malabou, Catherine

“It is necessary to look after and protect what is supple” – Malabou, Catherine

Enowning as an “Intra-Action”

“The notion of intra-action is a key element of my agential realist framework. The neologism “intra-action” signifies the mutual constitution of entangled agencies. That is, in contrast to the usual “interaction,” which assumes that there are separate individual agencies that precede their interaction, the notion of intra-action recognizes that distinct agencies do not precede, but rather emerge through, their intra-action. It is important to note that the “distinct” agencies are only distinct in a relational, not an absolute, sense, that is, agencies are only distinct in relation to their mutual entanglement; they don’t exist as individual elements.”

Barad, Karen (2007-06-20). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Kindle Locations 789-792). Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.


While it can be dangerous to jump to ontological conclusions from any scientific perspective since those perspectives are always themselves based on a (usually) not well clarified ontology of their own, Barad is cognizant enough of that difficulty to at least make her ideas worth looking at.  Her notion of intra-action as a key implication of quantum entanglement is interesting in terms of M/s and the idea of enowning that I’ve put forward in earlier posts.

The notion of what ‘makes’ a Master a Master and conversely a slave a slave itself arises for me in the event of enowning, an entangled shared event which simultaneously enowns each to the other and out of which both are what they retroactively always already were.  We ‘are’ what we become, since we determine the effective past (the past perfect) that determines who we become, and thereby who we already have been. 

In dialectical terms the ‘actual’ series of events is not the determinative one, since any event not remembered or regained in some manner is gone.  The past that determines who we are in the present is that which we retain as in a sense still present, the past for which we use the past perfect tense; not the past that was but that which has been.  Since we determine this from out of entangled intra-actions what we ‘are’, in our case Master and slave, we determined as the past from out of a co-event that ‘made’ us such, and did so retroactively, in such a manner that we always ‘had been’ only as a potential actualized in that event. 

As such neither Master nor slave pre-existed the event, although we certainly were in the sense of being precisely who and what we were.  As distinct, determinate agencies in a specific situation of enowning we didn’t pre-exist the event of enowning which brought that situation about, and so we were not Master and slave as such.  The intra-action of enowning – the simultaneous leap into enowning/enownment is an ontological event, and a unique one – ‘The Event’ as such, for any shared being-with that comes about as such through the event.  We are as enowned perpetually in the leap.

Beyond the Master/slave Dialectic: Erotic Ownership

In erotic ownership of another self, Eros draws the potential owner and the potentially owned by engendering desire, and in this draw draws both into the draw itself as an intimate being‐there-with. If we posit the two persons involved, though, as present­at­hand, fully determinable entities, and the desire as some sort of mutual relation, we fail to understand the way in which the beauty we perceive in the other draws as erotic

If the other were a fully determinable entity, a thing, such as a statue for instance, our desire to possess it leads to a contrary desire, that is, to keep possession the beloved should be made less desirable to others, hence less beautiful, less engendering of desire in others, but this would also engender less desire in ourselves.  From the potentially owned perspective, then, precisely they should allow themselves to be owned by one that doesn’t desire them fully, because one that desires them less will have less interest in reducing what beauty is there. This technical understanding of the situation misrepresents Eros, in that desire and possession as moments of Eros become contradictory, and in one way or another the contradiction leads to the loss of both.    It is also totalizing in that it re-presents both the other and the between as fully determined, totalized things in a totalized relation to one another. Rather than erotic, this technical understanding is thanatic, in that the self, the other, and the relation are experienced clinically, laid out before, precisely as a corpse is laid out before a clinical, theoretical gaze. As total, this type of possession can only be relative, predicated on  a  relation  between totalized entities. 

Beings as things can be seen as present-­at-­hand, and in our ‘rational’ way of thinking, we experience things in that manner.  We can even, in a theoretical stance, strip a thing of the relations that give it meaning, such that it becomes an object. Things can also be experienced as ready‐to-hand, in the way we perceive tools when we use them with only implicit recognition of their presentation,  primarily  recognizing them as fulfilling a function, for example we don’t really notice the chair we sit in as a chair in its full presentation, but as a  functional “for‐sitting‐in”. These two modes don’t exhaust the possible modes of being, though, since they only deal with beings as determinate things. Neither our self, nor the self of the other, nor the beauty of the other as Eros that draws us towards, nor finally the desire that we experience in this draw are fundamentally experienced as things in either the present‐at‐hand or ready‐to‐hand modes, still less as ‘objects’ stripped of their meaningful relations. In that selves have thingly aspects we are no different from the higher animals, other aspects of our being determine us as primarily selves, and in so doing redefine the animalistic traits we do have. 


Eros and desire as what draws and the draw itself are not experienced as a relation between present‐at‐hand things.  In erotic being-drawn-towards we are drawn towards a projection of the self and the other upon a possible shared horizon. In this draw we are simultaneously stretched temporally from our history (the past as what is retained in the present) towards a projected future. The present ‘moment’ in which we experience the other is not a single now‐point but is the entirety of this projected stretch. Desire is not a relation between two already present‐at‐hand things but is mediated by the self‐narrative of the projection, and Eros is not an ‘object’ of this desire but its goal, its telos. The erotic is what engenders the self-narrative of fantasy (hence why fantasy is always seen as fundamentally erotic) by drawing us towards possibilities that are not yet fully actualized as possession and being-possessed, and can always be further actualized.  Absolute possession is always partial, because as absolute it possesses what is only partially determinable,

As selves, the potential owner and owned are not primarily present-­‐at-­‐hand entities, but the opening of a place in which such entities can appear and pass away as the interplay of reality. In being-­‐with the other there is no ‘relation’ between isolated self-­‐things because selves themselves are the between in which any such relations can occur. Since both the draw of desire and the being caught up in the draw occur as projections, both desire/Eros and self/other are experienced as only partially determinable possibilities, and desire is desire to  actualize those possibilities as fully as possible. To possess in the mode of guiding the actualization of the possibilities of the other, while being‐possessed, is in the mode of being-guided in that actualization. The erotic as owned is simultaneously present‐at‐hand beauty and ready‐to‐hand usefulness, but more primarily the continuing increase of self, Eros and desire in a co‐actualizing being-there-with, where co‐actualizing determines the possessor as owner and the possessed as owned as an ongoing appropriating event, an enownment, in which each receives their appropriate potential from the appropriating event itself.

In this situation there is no contradiction between desire and Eros as its telos. Desire desires precisely the fullest actualization of the erotic and of the self as possessing the erotic. In the appropriating event the proper places of each are determined in an ongoing way, the places of the enowned and enowning as the fullness of enownment itself. Being caught up in the draw and projection of desire by the possessed itself co-projects the fullness of enowning as far as our finite projections can, and the event,  as  ongoing,  constantly  re-projects  enownment  onto  further  horizons.  By absolute being‐there-with in the appropriating event we avoid predetermining or over-determining the other, from either side, by holding open possibilities as possible, and remaining open to changing projections of those possibilities.

American Medical Schools

Apparently if you attend medical school in the U.S. rather than elsewhere in the world, you can skip the required courses in Medical Ethics and Medical Prudence so long as you replace them with “Lying To Your Patients 101”, and the more advanced “Sociopathy Through Medicine”, along with “Being Patronizing for Beginners” and the follow on “Being Absolutely Condescending”. The final required course is a double credit value course titled “Replacing Medical Prudence with Personal Cowardice”.

The Problems with “Identifying-As”

A number of things I’ve read and/or observed lately run aground on the notion of “identifying as”. The notion of identifying as in a fixed manner indicates not only a misunderstanding of the proper use of that action, but a misunderstanding based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the notions of Self, identity and Self-Identity.

The only thing I identify as in a fixed way is my Self, i.e. I identify uniquely and solely as me. This isn’t some rampant individualism, since my Self is largely shared with other human beings, more so the closer we are in terms of the society into which we were initiated, and in which initiation we became human. Self-identity, at its base, is precisely the identity of one’s Self with oneself. How we comprehend this identity and how we always know when we are being true to our Selves is a complex matter, but it has nothing to do with identifying as one genera or another, or with one group or another.

When I see someone doing verbal somersaults trying to accommodate their sexuality, as an example, to a label they can be comfortable identifying as, and predictably failing, there is a demonstrable confusion between who one is and how one happens to live. Simply put, if I fuck the same sex, I’m gay; if I fuck the opposite sex, I’m straight; if I fuck both, I’m bisexual. At any given point in my life, based on how I project myself acting in the foreseeable future, picking one or the other shouldn’t be altogether that difficult. The apparent difficulty arises when we try to use the way we project living in the reasonably near future as determining who we are. At that point the simple definitions (and the huge variety of more complex ones) are never sufficient to capture every aspect of something as complex as sexuality, and the only possible outcome, beyond the above mentioned confusion, is a self-limitation to one or another group’s definition of itself as a group. Living as straight, gay, bi, is not a limitation since that projection can change as we change and develop. Identifying as any of those, or queer, or leather, or cuticle-centric, or whatever is inherently limiting the manifold ways in which we change and grow as selves.

Of course we spend time in various groups, not just over a lifetime, but over a single day, and to some degree we ‘take part’ in the identities of those groups. However simply because we are employed by private businesses we do not necessarily ‘identify as’ rampant capitalists; nor do we necessarily ‘identify as’ xenophobic nationalists simply because we come home to a family of a particular ethnicity and enjoy some of the common praxes of that ethnicity. The State arbiters between groups as groups precisely because individuals morph between various groups on a constant basis, and as a result their identities, wants, desires are far too complex and fluid for any kind of comprehensible contract between state and individual. Just as having an ethnicity that is part of my identity does not make me identify as that ethnicity, neither should having particular sexual proclivities, or being part of particular groups that are defined by some common proclivity, force me to identify as that proclivity. While it is part of my identity it may be a major or minor part, it may be constant or fleeting, or it may come and go.

The exceptions, of course, are groups where membership is a lifelong binding commitment. Being a Jesuit is not something you can take up and put down, for example. Neither is being a Hell’s Angel. Even in these extremes, though, members remain the complex beings they are, the difference being that they have made a solemn commitment to putting a particular group’s interests above those of any other group they may take part in at different times in their lives or different times of the day or week.

With the implosion of the concept of ‘personality’ and its replacement with the poorly enough defined ‘self-identity’, as individuals we are in greater difficulty coming to grips with who we are than ever before. However self-identity and identification are separate matters, and conflating them cannot lead to a satisfactory self-understanding. Simultaneously modernization, and capitalization in particular, has functioned as an acid on a vast number of shared praxes that lent a sense of belonging to members of different groups, whether the destruction of the shared praxes of particular rituals in various religious groups and their replacement with groups that only share abstract ideological belief-systems, or more recently the abandonment by capital of the shared praxes of the sciences, and the ensuing removal of funding for the scientific community and its replacement with “knowledge workers” that do not maintain the expensive and, from the perspective of global capital, useless shared praxes that gave a sense of belonging to members of the scientific community. These changes lead to an understandable desire to have a comprehensible determination of oneself, and a sense of belonging to some sort of community with whom we share something intrinsic.

Creating new communities, though, requires new shared praxes, and this is a difficult achievement, particularly in a time where people are skeptical even of skepticism itself. Trying to create communities via a shortcut of self-imposed sets of limitations via the notion of ‘identifying as’ will not work, and in fact will cause nascent communities to self-destruct, leaving individuals in the same place they were to begin with. There’s no point in defining and redefining what makes a particular group the group it is to such a degree that it becomes unrecognizable. All that’s been achieved, functionally, is the destruction of the group and its replacement by an arbitrary set of individuals with no common praxis that would lend the sense of belonging and identity desired in the first place.

Redefining something in order to make it more inclusive, in this case usually inclusive of whatever is part of your Self, but was excluded in the original definition, also makes the definition less precise. As an obvious example, some of the recent redefinitions of ‘leather’ that I’ve read are so inclusive they make it practically synonymous with ‘human’. We all belong to that definition in any case, there’s no need to duplicate it, nor will doing so give anyone any greater sense of belonging to something particular.

Communities based on new shared praxes, providing they are not particularly difficult or onerous, have the advantage of being open to anyone willing to participate in the shared activity, without thereby becoming more and more inclusive to the point of meaninglessness.


Recently I had a discussion with someone who had spent significant time in the scene, albeit in another city. He mentioned a non-group of people, since they didn’t get together or necessarily even know one another, that he referred to as “lifers”, i.e. people who lived a 24/7 M/s or similar dynamic but weren’t part of any “scene”, although most had been part of one scene or another at some point.

We discussed the reasons most of these people had no further interest in the scene: they had no interest in the mutual admiration performance art of a play party; they had no interest in the mutual justification societies of the BDSM / leather conference circuit; they had no interest in relationship-oriented groups since, just as individuals individuate and diverge from group interests, their relationship had individuated to the degree that group discussions about relationships had little to no relevance.

One of the reasons I found the discussion fascinating is that it articulated many of the things I feel about the scene and the various sub-scenes, and their relation to emmie and me.

I find no interest in playing publicly, the aspects of the way emmie and I actualize our fantasies are rather personal and playing publicly forces us to “tone down” what we do to the point of disinterest.

I haven’t enjoyed the conferences I’ve been to: the only areas of interest are largely for beginners and, it seems to me, necessarily so, since discussions on more advanced topics would be too specific to the people involved, without enough in common to attract any type of group.

I’ve lost interest in the relationship-oriented groups we’ve attended: I have very little advice to offer that is generally applicable, what we do is too personal and thus irrelevant to others; the inverse is also true, where what others who have been involved in this lifestyle as long or longer do things in such a substantially different manner that beyond mutual respect there isn’t much worth discussing; the idea of teaching or otherwise influencing those new to the idea of a 24/7 power dynamic is both repetitive, since what is common to this type of dynamic is very limited, and irritating, since people whose longest power dynamic has been measured in months or less are aghast at how emmie and I actually live and spend the time telling us that we’re doing it all wrong.

I have no interest in any of the established “groups” precisely because they, as groups, depend for their own survival on inculcating and maintaining group values and interests, while my own desires and interests have diverged further and continue to do so.

Although many of our friends, naturally, are in the scene, meeting at “scene events” gets annoying simply because we’ve said all we have to say to one another about “scene stuff”. While I enjoy them as people, the enjoyment of their company has to do with enjoying things that have nothing to do with M/s or BDSM from the perspective of non-vanilla people. Since people are busy though there is an unfortunate tendency to put off getting together with other people in the scene in non-scene situations, with the idea of “we’ll see them at such and such scene event in any case”.

It appears to be the last point that seals the effect where those my acquaintance referred to as “lifers” often know very few or even no people who share their lifestyle the longer they’ve been involved in it.

Enslavement and Enownment

I see two major issues with the linked post on enslavement:

  1. Everything mentioned is in terms of the slave’s “needs”. However you could turn things around and make all the same statements in terms of the Master’s “needs”.
  2. The point is apparently solely so that the slave can “be all she can be”. Aside from sounding like an old recruitment commercial, precisely what’s in it for the Master?

It’s true that a slave needs a certain “safe” zone in order to fully express themselves as such. In large part so does a Master, in order to express themselves as such. For both to occur there has to be an event, which I term “Enowning” or “event of appropriation”, both borrowed from two different English translations of Heidegger’s term “Ereignis”, which can also be translated as “Mastery”. In the case of an M/s relationship, “Enowning” has two simultaneous moments to the event, that of enslavement and that of enownment – the slave’s slavery is enabled as the Master’s ownership of the slave is enabled in the event of Enowning. The event is not something that occurs and then is over, but something from within which each remains what they have become, and becomes it more deeply.

As far as being all they can be, a significant part of being enslaved is precisely being what the Master/Owner wants her to be, not what she wants to be. A significant part of being enowned is that you *can* master the slave to be what you want them to be, in fact the mastery of the Master consists precisely in being able to accomplish this. The event of appropriation appropriates the slave into the malleability of being enslaved, and appropriates the Master into the ability to own and enslave.

The focus on a slave’s “needs” reminds me of an article I read recently, where the article writer said “obviously this woman is in close touch with all of her needs”, i.e. she’s a selfish bitch. That seems to me to be entirely the wrong approach for a slave in an M/s dynamic, and catering to it seems entirely the wrong approach for a Master.


My use of the various English forms of the term Ereignis is not simply a random hangover from my studies in modern philosophy. Variously translated as Event, Event of Appropriation, and Enowning,
Ereignis formulates in a term a number of key notions.

In denoting not simply an event, but The Event, Ereignis is not the type of occurrence that happens and is over, any more than The Science in Hegel refers to any science or science in general. In using the phrase “vom Ereignis”, or from the Event, Heidegger indicated that he was writing from out of the Event, from within the Event that was still occurring. Perhaps an easier term to think the “from” is Mastery. Mastery is an event, but it doesn’t happen and then end – it’s a constantly repeated continuation.

Mastery appropriates, enowns, both what is mastered and the Master themselves, precisely as a Master. Heidegger went so far as to express the non-subjective nature of Ereignis in the phrase appropriation appropriates. The redoubling is not due to a lack of alternate terms, but because the Event itself is a redoubling, a redoubling in which neither the One nor the Multiple is relevant, but the Two. In the Enowning the Two remain Two, each appropriated to their proper place. Since it is non-subjective, neither is it inter-subjective.

Place is a key notion. Time-space may arise from place, but doesn’t necessarily, although we have no conceptions other than poor imaginings of time-space that doesn’t arise from place. The primary place is comprised of here, there and over there; me, you and others. Me as here is non-subjective, it is not “I” but me that is simultaneously always here, that is the here. It is you that is simultaneously always there, that is the there. As two we have the possibility of being mitsein: being-with in an average everyday sort of way, the way we are with others that happen to be alongside, or mitdasein: being-the-there-with in terms of founding a place, dwelling as building.

The latter can only occur from out of the Event, as appropriating. Enowning enowns. Appropriation appropriates. But only from within the Event. Only in this sense can appropriation appropriate appropriately.

In appropriating appropriately each finds their proper place within the There that they build and dwell within.

Social Conceptions of Marriage and Alternatives

There are two different basic conceptions of marriage operative in society.  The first, and socially encouraged, conception arose from the Christian, specifically Paulist, conception of marriage as a social control on the ‘evil’ of erotic passion. 


Erotic passion is not ‘natural’ but a specifically human sublimation of the generically animal expression of sexuality as a means to encourage the reproductive cycle.  The erotic is essentially individual and transgressive.  Ontologically it is the erotic horizon that is transgressed by the individual uncovering of what is erotic, which in itself is indeterminate – what is erotic is specific to the individual and in general terms can be anything at all.  In Lacan’s terms ‘There is no sexual relationship.” i.e. normalization of the erotic precisely undermines the erotic as erotic, returning it to the ‘natural’ expression of animal reproduction.  For the Paulist Christian this is the lesser evil, since the passion of individual eroticism is made to conform to a non-transgressive, moral ideal of a socially acceptable sexuality, and is thus destroyed as erotic passion and turned into a social duty within the confines of a socially inscribed formalism.  The civic conception of marriage simply re-inscribes the religious conception from a formalized union ‘in the sight of God’ to a formalized union ‘in the sight of the Big Other of the ideological framework, where God is removed from the place of the Big Other without removing that place as a structural necessity within the ideological framework.  This removal of a God posited as loving and forgiving in fact absolutizes the formal rules of marriage since there is nothing in the place of the Big Other that can respond to an appeal for forgiveness in transgressing the formalism.  It is within this conception of marriage that anything that does not follow the formal rules, such as gay marriage, cannot be considered a ‘real’ marriage in its institutional meaning, but only a civil union.  Although a civil union is legally the same as a marriage, for a Paulist it does not properly reduce dangerous erotic passion to the societal duty of passionless ‘natural’ sexuality.


The second conception of marriage is precisely the equation of marriage with a civil union, a social convenience that itself is meaningless and simply confers social acceptance while not affecting the transgression of eroticism and romantic passion.  In the case of someone whose initiation to society included a strong indoctrination of the first conception, viewing marriage in the second sense can even strengthen the erotic transgression of romantic passion, because the intentional refusal to engage with the expected formal rules of marriage is itself a further erotic transgression, enhancing the transgression of the erotic passion.  


While a move to the second notion looks immediately as both simple and attractive as an operative notion where marriage confers social advantages but the partners have no intrinsic interest in submitting their passion to a socially acceptable formalism, the reality is that maintaining that understanding is far more difficult than it appears.  We are all initiated into society with certain understandings and resulting inherent ways of interpreting given situations.  We have all experienced, at least at second hand, the initially baffling situation where lovers who have already had a long term passionate relationship marry as a social convenience, and it results in a falling apart of the relationship within a short time.  Many have also experienced on a more intimate level a sudden change in the other, where from being a passionate lover there he or she immediately conforms to the social expectation of the behavior of a husband or wife, confusing the person who hasn’t changed yet is expected to match the change by conforming to the social expectations of their role in the marriage. 


Although the partner who suddenly changes may have believed himself or herself that marriage is simply a social convenience, the act of inscribing the relationship into the symbolic order of society results in an immediate change in the operative interpretation of the meaning of the relationship.  Suddenly erotic passion becomes a more or less boring duty to one’s partner.  Erotic passion becomes something looked for or at least fantasized about as extrinsic to the marriage, something to be enacted with another.  Ironically, the fear of being found out that may be operative if this fantasy is indulged, or may prevent the fantasy from becoming more than that, is often not primarily related to the other partner discovering the extramarital activity, in fact they may be completely open about the situation with the other partner, who is often engaged in similar activities.  The fear is primarily that of being found out by society in its guise of the Big Other that remains operative despite being unoccupied by a posited being.  It is the fear of transgressing the inscription of the marriage into the symbolic order of society.


Often, precisely because the erotic is always transgressive in some way, the extramarital activities are perceived as ‘kinky’, which is nothing more than society’s judgment on the nature of fully erotic passion.  The ‘kinky’ transgressions may include physical activities that are against the established societal norms, such as violence that may range from mild spankings to extreme whippings and beatings.  Interestingly, within the ‘scene’ that provides both a relatively safe space in which to indulge this behavior, and a meeting place for those interested in the activities in the first place.   In some cases the activities are not extramarital but are carried out with the married partner, in order to reignite the passion of the marriage that the social inscription has obnubilated or even obliterated, but more often the activities are carried out with other partners, although often with the knowledge of the married partner who tends, at least initially, to see it as a way of satisfying desires they don’t share, and thereby maintaining the marriage.


In other cases the transgressions are specifically opposed to current society’s conception of an appropriate intimate relation.  This may take the form, for example, of an actual enactment of the largely mythical and now socially unacceptable ‘1950’s household’; it may take the form of the power differential initially found in a small minority of the ‘leather’ community (itself already a transgression of the societal stricture against damaging the liberal egalitarian ideal of marriage by adopting a dress and manner designed to evoke the impression of extreme masculine power); it may take the form of an extreme interpretation of the ‘courtly love’ relationship that initially required obedience due to the danger involved, but evolved into a dominant/submissive or even Master/slave ideal of extreme or absolute obedience for its own sake as fully transgressive of the liberal egalitarian ideals.   This latter type of transgression often goes beyond the bounds of the specifically erotic situation and eroticizes the entirety of the relationship.  While this remains a minority of the specifically erotic community, it has developed from a small and very secretive group to a group with a public international presence, one that very often wears external symbols of their relationship that are becoming more and more known within society at large, and even in a small way acceptable enough to be portrayed in mainstream media rather than only in small release productions that are unknown outside the community itself.  In many cases these different forms are mixed, where the ‘leather’ dress and manner is adopted by the dominant partner, while a dress and manner reminiscent of 1950’s pinups is adopted by the submissive partner.  This mixing is very prevalent within the heterosexual component of the community, especially those with a dominant male and submissive female.  While this may be seen as ‘reactionary’ in terms of being a repetition of at least a perception of a historically older type of relation between men and women, the transgressive situation in which it is enacted changes the meaning of the power and authority discrepancy into an erotic, socially transgressive situation, which is unrelated to a reactionary stance.


While in many cases even the more playful, less relationship oriented types of transgressive eroticism erodes the conformist marriage to the point of dissolution.  Other than the cases where both partners already married are simultaneously attracted to abrogating society’s expectations of the nature of their relationship in order to increase or reignite the erotic passion of the relationship, or conversely those already in a transgressive relationship get married for the sake of the social convenience but are careful not to let the expectations of others that they will now ‘act married’ affect the eroticism of their relationship, in most cases those that were married to another find their lack of real interest in the marriage inevitably leads to its dissolution.  Of course this makes it all the more imperative, but all the more difficult, to maintain the initial level of eroticism in the transgressive relationship.  By carefully avoiding any tendency to drift towards a normalized relationship or to accept others’ expectations (whether real or only posited) and change the relationship to be more in line with those expectation, the eroticism of the relationship can be maintained.

“Crazy Making” as Psychological Self-Abuse?

Perusing a friend’s blog, emmie came across the following quote, which was startling in terms of the accuracy to which it describes our ex’s behavior patterns. While many of these patterns of behavior were directed at me and emmie, I didn’t necessarily perceive them as specifically abusive behavior towards me at least, more the behavior of someone with a very on again / off again relationship with reality, i.e. I didn’t see it as necessarily “crazy making” (although at times it had that effect on emmie particularly) but as simply already crazy. For instance the aspect to the pattern of accusing you of saying things you didn’t say or doing things you didn’t do was consistent, but in a relationship that started as a quad and then continued as a triad the person accused could more easily check the reality of the situation with a witness than is usual in monogamous relationships, so it most often made our ex look like the crazy one, not the person it was directed at.

I’m pretty thick-skinned (and probably thick-headed, as my father would say), so it perhaps simply didn’t have the full effect on me, although it probably had more of that effect on emmie. Since the relationship ended her writing and what she has said to others has been filled with a vitriol that appears intended as an attempt to continue abusive behavior from a distance.

Strangely though the worst aspects of this behavior pattern in our ex were self-directed. Since the split she has complained constantly, although vaguely, that she was ‘abused’ in the relationship, but when called on the claim by someone who knew the three of us well for virtually the entire relationship, she couldn’t name a particular instance of any type of abuse, and later responded in her public writing by referring to that person (and apparently anyone else who doesn’t automatically see things her way, although what that way is appears to change from moment to moment) as a “fucking asshole”.

The quote interested me not just due to the accuracy of the description of her behavior pattern and the description of it as abusive, but in terms of the possibility that she remembers the situation as abusive not due to anything emmie or I did, which is demonstrated anyway by her inability to name a single instance of any type of abuse, but due to constant psychological self-abuse, a constant ‘making herself crazy’. Has anyone else seen this type of behavior pattern used by a slave in an M/s dynamic? And is this kind of psychological abuse being used against the self a common pattern or something unusual?

“Are you in a relationship where you are made to feel like you need to doubt yourself, doubt your sense of what is real or that your every thought and behavior is questioned? Do you feel like you may be “going crazy?” If so, you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship.

According to the University of Missouri Extension service, the term “crazy making” is used to describe a process in which a victim of abuse questions their sense of what is real and what isn’t. People who constantly have their perceptions denied by an abusive partner can tend to lose this ability to see what is real, thus questioning whether their own mental health is to blame and not the emotional abuse that is actually occurring.
Crazy making can also be called psychological abuse. This abuse is about trying to make you look bad, discredit you and silence you; all while making the actual abuser appear to be calm and cool to the outside world. The following are some signs that psychological abuse may be occurring.

Distortion and Distraction:
An abuser may say that you said something you didn’t say, did something you never did, or demand things that are impossible for you to do. They may try to distract you from their abusive behavior by changing the subject and not keeping to the issue at hand. They will bring up things that happened days, weeks or even years before to avoid what is really going on. An abusive person may often give you more than one choice between two opposite things, and then later become angry because you chose one thing over the other.

Black and White:
An emotionally abusive person will see things in black and white, with no room for shades of grey. They will be inflexible and unwilling to compromise. Often an abuser will only consider their way as the only way.

Passive Aggressive:
Someone who is emotionally abusive may act out in a passive aggressive way. They will give you the cold shoulder and quiet treatment, sulking in a way that they are hoping you will read all kinds of meaning into. Sometimes an abuser will subtly sabotage things you enjoy by saying negative things with a smile. This type of behavior makes it difficult for anyone on the outside of this relationship to detect that there is anything wrong.

Crazy making is a real form of emotional and psychological abuse. If your partner repeatedly exhibits behavior that is meant to confuse you or make you think that things are different than they really are or than you know them to be, seek help from a counselor trained in dealing with abusive relationships. You are not the crazy one, even if your partner is trying to make you believe that you are.”