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Appropriation

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.”


History of a Relationship

When I first got together with h, we lived in separate cities, separate countries in fact.  We met online in a vanilla situation but quickly realized we were both into kink in various ways.  H was insistent that I become a “play partner” even online, although she was in an O/p relationship at the time.  She even managed to convince her Owner at the time to ‘give’ her to me.  

She moved to Canada, which was relatively easy since I was half owner of a software company and could simply hire her.  At about the same time, my relationship with the woman I was living with wasn’t working out and that woman told me “you need to have a relationship with a sub, not try egalitarian relationships with other dominant people.”  We ended the relationship on good terms and h moved in.

The next year and a half or so were fairly intense work wise for me as I developed an extensive piece of software from scratch by myself, at times working 36 hours or more in a row.  Although things between h and I seemed fine, in cleaning up some of the things she left behind I came across journals that indicated her behavior while I was busy was already contradicting what we had agreed upon, that the lying, cheating and hiding her behavior was there from the beginning.

As our relationship developed, however, she started to desire that I take more control.  She desired a 24/7 M/s relationship, and as it seemed attractive to me and worth trying we entered into that type of arrangement.  Things seemed to settle down under that arrangement, at least at first.

At a certain point, shortly after I had completed the work on the software, h’s grandmother passed in San Antonio.  H went down immediately for the funeral and returned.  Her mother was, however, extremely depressed and since she had inherited the house, asked h and I to come down for a few months, both to give her some company and to give me a much needed vacation.

H’s uncle, however, suddenly demanded his share of the house.  Given the time constraints and its location in an unfashionable part of San Antonio the house went for very little.  Simultaneously h’s mother decided to spend all the money she had from the sale on unsecured debts incurred in California, leaving the three of us stranded in San Antonio with virtually no available cash.  H’s mother had difficulty, as could be expected, finding reasonable work in her late 50’s due to the ageism in society, and h had been on disability for manic-depression for some time, which doesn’t amount to a great deal of money per month.  Since I had come down for a vacation initially I hadn’t bothered getting a work visa at the border, but due to work I had done for the U.S. military it was simple enough to get work authorization from the DHS.  Shortly after that h and I got married in San Antonio.

We then decided that the three of us would move to the Austin area, work being more available in my field than in San Antonio.  However this was at the lowest ebb in tech in 25 years and decent work was not easily available even in Austin.  We managed to get by on a few short-term contracts I was able to pick up but finances were tense.

At around this time we met emmie and Edwin.  The four of us got along well and, since primarily h and Edwin had wanted to be poly, we formed a quad.  The relationship between the four of us developed quickly and although emmie wasn’t all that impressed by h’s idea of being a ‘slave’ she found it an attractive idea for herself.  She therefore asked if I would take her as a slave and I collared her soon after.

It was shortly after that that we started to make appearances in the kink scene in Austin, initially starting with the GWNN bash that year.  Edwin wasn’t at first all that interested in kink, and as a result it was the three of us that attended.  He became, of course, far more interested not long after that.

We made friends in the scene, and continued to try to make the M/s aspect of the lifestyle work between the three of us while continuing the poly lifestyle as a quad.  During this period h’s sexuality appeared to change from being obviously bisexual to predominantly gay, which of course put a strain on the poly relationship, never mind the relationship between h and I.

I don’t want this to sound as if there were no good times, no good periods in the relationship, because there were.  We had a good deal of fun at different times, shared a good deal of laughter and wit and enjoyed each others’ affection quite deeply.  H can be intelligent, funny, and on good days can think and reason extremely well.

Partly in order to offset the issues, though, we split up the quad, moving to separate apartments with only a parking lot between them, with the idea that emmie would spend part of the time living with h and I as my slave, and part with Edwin as his wife.  As the relationship between emmie and I deepened this became less and less the case and emmie spent most of her time with h and I.  Eventually we decided to move from the downtown Austin area to a house in Cedar Park. 

While h and I had agreed, due to her bisexuality, that she could have liaisons with women, we had never agreed on her having relations with men other than Edwin.  Of course this wasn’t the actual result, and the lying and hiding things that had begun in Canada continued.  Strangely enough, due to her need to tell someone she disclosed much of her activities to emmie, who simply didn’t tell me because she assumed I knew.  A string of threesomes and foursomes involving h and various others continued, a few of which I was aware of, a number of others which I wasn’t.

At the same time h’s jealousy of emmie had grown to the point of being nonsensical.  The ensuing small-p politics that naturally came about put a huge stress on me, to the point of not particularly wishing to continue in an M/s manner.  H’s behavior belied her verbal expression of her desire to continue in this manner but of course the situation where behavior consistently contradicts sworn verbiage becomes a very confusing one. Finally I provoked her into saying precisely the opposite of what she had been saying, but was entirely in line with her behavior.  Her response to realizing what she had done was to physically attack me.  Honestly I found the physical attack amusing more than anything, as she was not particularly capable of hurting me, but I did tell her to leave until she had worked out what she actually wanted, and we could discuss it reasonably.  Despite her claims afterwards that she was “trapped” and “no one would help her” the reality is that she left driving a car I owned, utilizing money from our bank account, and staying with various friends who, at least at first, were very willing to help in the situation.

A short time thereafter she returned, begging to be re-collared and swearing she wanted that lifestyle more than anything.  I didn’t re-collar her immediately, wanting to see what her behavior was like.  After a few months we did have a small re-collaring ceremony with emmie, h and me.  Of course, after this re-setting of vows she continued to consistently break them.

She decided, having a return ticket that was given as a present for assisting at a wedding for friends of ours, to visit Los Angeles over the Christmas break.  She decided while away that she wanted to remain in Los Angeles, a decision promoted  by certain people in the Austin area who at the time believed some of the nonsense she was spreading about the way she was treated at home.  Most ironically, she wished emmie a happy anniversary on emmie’s blog days after the decision to remain in Los Angeles, which of course she hadn’t told us about, calling her “beautiful muffin girl”, which hardly went with the horrific stories she was telling others.  She finally did tell me she wasn’t returning, literally minutes prior to my leaving for the airport.  At that point I was so put through with her that I barely reacted, my most immediate feeling being one of relief.  We quickly discovered as well that the day before telling us she had virtually emptied the bank account, leaving myself, emmie and emmie’s son with virtually nothing to live on for a month.  She stopped corresponding with me permanently after I refused to give her 80% of my income. 

Since then her life situation in California appears to have worsened, and with each setback her public attacks through her blog and other online media have increased to the point that I bothered to write this.  Unfortunately manic-depressives are extreme, and when that’s combined with an on-again / off-again relationship to reality, the results are very extreme. At first the attacks were specifically on me but since then have extended to nearly everyone she knew in the Austin area. 

At this point emmie and I are very happy together.  So much of the constant stress involved prior to h’s leaving has vanished, and we have moved on to another, better stage of our relationship.  We enjoy a full 24/7 M/s relationship and are each very satisfied with our places in the household.  Our close friends in the area have assisted significantly in dealing with the extensive changes and coming to see and deal with emmie and I as a unit.


Slave-Being as Tool-Being (Zuhanden)

Having come across a post recently that struck me as evincing a psychopathic view of Mastery and hence of the being of the slave, I wanted to work through the ideas in the post and how they do and don’t relate to the notion of tool-being as an intrinsic aspect of slave-being.

Tool-being is also known as being ‘ready-to-hand’, zuhanden in the German text where the idea originated.  This is opposed to vorhanden, which means ‘present-at-hand’, which is the way we relate to beings when we are not involved with them but simply looking at them, i.e. the theoretical stance.  Zuhanden can quickly turn to vorhanden, for instance, when a tool is recognized as being unsuitable for the job or damaged in some way.  A third mode of being, dasein, is the way in which we experience ourselves, as being-the-there in which other beings can appear as the beings they are (they may be extant without dasein but they wouldn’t appear without an aware perception to appear to).

As well, since dasein is never purely individual, we are initially and for the most part what the matrix of society and sub-societies we grow up in, there are two forms of shared being or being-with that are part of the matrix of ‘existentials’ that are necessary for a creature to be considered dasein.  These two are mitsein, or simple being-with, and mitdasein, or being-the-there-with.

Mitsein is not ‘community’ in the strong sense of a committed group, but neither is it simply a collection of isolated ‘subjects’ that happen to be located in the same vicinity.  Mitsein involves the mostly indifferent way in which we are involved with people we don’t know particularly well in an everyday way – the shop clerk, the person from the office down the hall, etc.  In interacting with them there are stock questions and stock answers that smooth simple transactional interactions and put a veneer of friendliness on our semi-social being-with.  However the inauthenticity involved in mitsein always means that underneath for-one-another a competitive against-one-another is always in play.  Part of the psychosis of society is that dasein is only seen as mitsein when looked at as a societal group: ‘personnel’ becomes ‘human resources’.

Aristotle described slave-being as a ‘talking tool’ at the beginning of western civilization.  While this relates to zuhanden as an aspect of consensual slave-being, slaves in Aristotle’s time were not initiated firstly into society in the same manner or to the same degree as citizens, which may very well have limited their being able to participate in mitsein, never mind the more authentically involved mode of mitdasein.  This is not true however of a 21st century consensual slave, who was precisely initiated into a similar society to their Master / Owner and has the same capacity for meaningful shared being.

Zuhanden is a possible mode of being, an appropriate one in many situations within a power dynamic.  When I give an order I expect it to be simply done in the same way I expect my leg to move when I want to get up.  However it is not the only mode in which a consensual slave exists, because they are firstly dasein and display all the existentials of dasein, including being-in-the-World, being-with, being-the-there, interpretation, understanding, discourse etc.  Both the difficulty and the reward of owning a dasein is in this richness which disappears if we view the slave as ‘merely’ a tool (or in the societal way as ‘merely’ a resource, which  affects all of us, not just consensual slaves).  A slave should be a tool when required, a good tool, but being ‘merely’ a tool is a reductive over-determination of the slave’s possibilities that devolves their real worth to the Master / Owner.

Intimate being-with involves mitdasein rather than mitsein, a being-the-there-with that denotes a shared reality.  It is through this shared reality that a slave, whose participation in that reality is guided and determined by their Master / Owner, is properly put in their place within the place that mitdasein opens up.  For mitdasein to be a potential, though, the dasein of the slave has to be recognized and accepted, that tool-being is only one aspect of the multi-faceted self that is dasein.  It is perhaps the facet that defines the slave as a slave, but not the facet that defines the slave as a person, and it is in owning a person that the full richness of Mastery and the full reward of the effort involved comes about.


The Difficulty of “Community”

There is a lot of discussion, pro and con, regarding “community” among the set of people that view themselves as “kinky”, or “into BDSM”, whether that means the leather community or some more general community.  However there are a few fundamental difficulties that don’t affect more stable forms of community to the same degree.  If it seems like I’m singling out the leather community that’s simply because it is a nameable group or set of groups that people identify with as being-part-of, as belonging-with, something that is more difficult when you’re talking about “people into kink”, where the notion is so indefinite (how does one pick out a kinky person in a crowd?) that the idea of belonging-with is too intangible.  I also know a fair amount about the leather community, having been peripherally involved since my teenage years, without personally identifying as leather.  Partly this lack of identification comes from my not being particularly community-oriented, belonging-with has never been a focus of the way I am and therefore behaving in any specific manner other than what I felt like in order to belong was never particularly attractive.  At the same time I have consistently had friends who were very involved in the leather community, and I have no issues with their involvement, since it works for them.

One issue is the push-pull between inclusion/being included and exclusion/separating.  This has been an issue in the LGBT community, particularly in terms of ‘acceptance’ politics, for years.  I recently read a post by a leather dyke complaining about not wanting to be part of the “pansexual” play space because they prefer to be separated from het couples.  Although the post had a number of self contradictions (the main one being the notion that gay women had more “right” to being part of the leather community than het couples, when in actuality gay women were only accepted as part of the gay male leather community at the same time as heterosexuals, and even then somewhat begrudgingly).  There was also a snide comment about people “living based on fiction”.  While I’m not a fan of the fiction being referred to myself,  as far as leather goes, the look and the communities that followed were popularized by the film “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando, and as far as I remember it wasn’t exactly a documentary.  Prior to that there was really only one major biker club that had a look anywhere close to the way Brando dressed in the film, and ironically even that club changed their logo to resemble the one in the film after its release.  Gay leather and all the variations that followed came after the film and their dress code was based on it.  

Overall, my feeling about that post and similar ones I’ve read, is that you can’t really accuse people of jumping your train when it isn’t yours, and it barely left the station in any case.  The first women’s leather club was formed only 25 years ago, so even referring to the “history” of dyke leather (or any other form really as they’re all fairly new) is a pretty ersatz notion of history.

A more fundamental problem, though, is the lack of any praxis that is shared by the community as a whole.  Other communities, whether religious, scientific, political etc. generally have, or believe they have, a set of shared praxes that foster the sense of community, however BDSM doesn’t involve any particularly necessary praxes that are therefore shared with everyone and determine at least partially who they are. One would think that, within the leather community, the shared praxis of wearing leather in order to dress in a way that evokes masculine power, which was the original point of the dress code, would be the minimal requirement since it determines who the person is at least insofar as their appearance goes, but even that requirement is not acceptable to many people that nevertheless claim to be part of the leather community.  As a result the leather community, which at least appears to be more of a community than the kink scene as a whole, is in actuality a hodgepodge of clubs with very different praxes and ideas.  Someone who recently attended a couple of leather conferences complained to me that those who take it upon themselves to “represent” leather are themselves a very small group that, because they travel to most conferences, give an appearance of representing a community that in fact is mostly mythical, and only exists in the appearance itself as appearance.  Since I’m friends personally with certain people involved in that representation, there was a degree of trepidation in his saying it to me, but I think his perception is fundamentally correct.

This is true, though, in some cases more than others, of many communities that we still think of as actual communities.  For instance scientific method as the shared praxis of scientists is only valid if you stretch the meaning of scientific method to include a wide variety of techniques that contradict notions such as the repeatable experiment completely, simply because that method is not particularly useful except in particular sciences.  Yet even those scientists that fundamentally never use most of what is meant, strictly speaking, by scientific method, themselves believe that they use it in a modified form, and as such are members of the community.  There are equivalents in most religious and political communities . In other words, the representation of community in those that represent it doesn’t necessarily represent any specific reality behind the representation, but instead gives a specific form to how someone in the community might appear and behave and therefore be known as belonging-with that community, and in turn at community events that form is more or less followed by most attendees. This appears to confirm the representation but in fact is post facto based on prior knowledge of the representation, such that the presentation of community as community mimics the representation, not the other way around.  That many of the attendees don’t dress that way at other times doesn’t affect the situation, since it is only at such events that the community presents as a community.

This isn’t necessarily a negative judgment either on the community or those that represent it.  It may be the only means of creating a sense of shared, social being in a situation where we are only ‘together’ in a negative sense, i.e. because we have a shared dislike of the lifestyle promoted in the mainstream, but no specific shared likes.  In this sense the truth of the community is that it is a fiction, but truth often takes the form of fiction, the reality only appearing after the fiction has created its preconditions.

It can become problematic mainly if the fiction over-determines reality rather than simply determining a particular appropriate aspect, in the sense of normalizing practices and relationships that we specifically left the mainstream in order to not have normalized for us by others.  The representation has to be seen as only one possibility that may even be purely fictional, but represents a myriad of realities that specifically do not want a normalizing representation.


Roles and Reals

In a famous passage Sartre discusses the behavior of the stereotypical French waiter. Waiters in France are expected to behave in a very specific way, they have a specific role in the play being enacted at the dinner. This role is to be as faceless and robotic as possible, as much an automaton as they can be (in contrast to the American waiter, for instance, who is expected to portray a generic friendliness). However anyone experiencing the French waiter’s behavior is quickly aware that it is put on, that behind it there is a person who would behave very differently if you met them after they clocked out for the day. And this immediate awareness of the real human being behind the automaton comes about precisely through the waiters over identification with the role, the exaggeratedness of their playing of it. Through a twist in our perception their apparent over identification with what is after all only a job role exposes the gap between the facade and the real person.

 

The converse of this is the British or American lawyer or chartered accountant, who through a touch of sarcasm and self deprecation here and there (the lawyer that occasionally tells lawyer jokes, for instance) lets you know that they aren’t a “generic” lawyer or accountant but “themselves as” a lawyer or accountant. Despite the appearance of not “fully” identifying as their job role, this mode of behavior betrays their real self-identification with the role and their enjoyment of the prestige and respect they feel it affords them. A correlate of this is that they find it far more difficult to “drop” that role in a situation where it’s inappropriate (for example, I’ve taken precisely that type of person, a CFO, to a Rancid concert and observed their discomfort at not being able to adapt to a situation where their “being a CFO” is entirely irrelevant).

 

This relates to people in 24/7 M/s or D/s relationships in a unique way. By virtue of the intent of the initial role adoption (as a Master/Dominant or slave/submissive) to be 24/7, i.e. to be “really” who and how they are, rather than playing a role for employement and dropping it the instant they “clock out” (or in this case are not “in public”), the “bad faith” that Sartre identifies the waiter as having avoided through exaggeration is inverted. The “slavelier than thou” slave or “domlier than thou” Master are the ones that betray a lack of self-identification with the role they are in, and since the claim is that that is who they are, they are in bad faith in the Sartrean sense. Conversely those that tend to understate their role, self-deprecate their ability in the role, are precisely playing “themselves as” a Master or slave, and as a result the self-identification is genuine and over time becomes more so. They are a Master/Dominant or slave/submissive in full good faith.

 

To some degree, then, anyone new to living in this manner is liable to be a bit more “over the top” than someone who has, over time, more fully identified with the role by making that role their own in their own way. But genuine self-identification is by no means an automatic thing that occurs over time, and as a result, as with the waiter or the lawyer examples, can be used as a rough guide as to how “genuine” a given person is in their claims as to who they are and how they live.


The History of the Fetish Scene and Power Dynamic Relationships, Part One

The History of the Fetish Scene and Power Dynamic Relationships, Part One

Since the fetish scene in various guises has a much longer history, and therefore much of the information about the early origins is vague at best, I’ll do what I can to get across my understanding both of it and of the power dynamic relationship subculture within it.

BDSM itself as a sexual activity (as opposed to a punishment-based activity), the adoption of “fetishisistic” dress, and the beginnings of consensual power dynamic relationships in the west arose at approximately the same time, shortly after the Renaissance in 16th Century Europe. Within the upper and upper-middle classes, dissatisfaction with the sexuality involved in arranged marriages, together with a more restrictive societal outlook on extramarital sexuality, led to the notion of “courtly love” as a higher (but socially deviant) form of sexuality than marriage. A small subculture that self-identified by dressing in a more outrageous manner than the society around them began holding social events where those involved in sexual relationships that were not socially acceptable could socialize with their chosen partners rather than their official partners. The infliction of pain as a sexual act became common at some of these gatherings. Partly due to the danger of being involved in unsanctioned sexuality “courtly love” adopted as part of its definition a loyalty and obedience requirement that went far beyond the marriage requirements at the time.

These types of gatherings continued through the 1700’s, with the dress adopted becoming more individualistic in line with the increasing notion of individualism in general society. The religious turmoil of the 1700’s, with the combination of a new puritanism on the one side (Calvinism) and atheism on the other led to greater extremes of behavior which was reflected in the sexual behavior at these underground gatherings. This continued into the 1800’s, when the extremes of BDSM itself were codified by various authors including de Sade and Sacher-Masoch. The term “pervert” was itself defined by 19th century psychologists, referring to those who insisted on actualizing fantasies proscribed by “decent” society. Fantasies such as vampirism became common themes within the scene, as the scene both influenced and was then influenced by the Romantic movement in the arts. The late 19th Century “decadent” scene exemplified by figures such as Aubrey Beardsley was the public’s main “look in” to the largely private and still largely illegal scene.

By the early 1900’s there were permanently established (although member’s only) BDSM/fetish clubs in the world’s major urban centers, such as London and Paris. The outbreak of the first world war, the subsequent mess in the 1920’s and 1930’s, followed by the second world war forced most of this activity back underground. It reemerged publicly in the 1950’s in London, Paris and Berlin with private activity occurring elsewhere. It’s association with the “mod” style in the late 50’s and 60’s and their loose association to the beatnik scene in the US helped to fuel a similar scene in North America.

By the 1980’s the fetish scene, at that point strongly affiliated with the goth scene (itself heavily influenced by the more outrageous dress from the 19th Century back to the Renaissance) was extremely influential in terms of the dress style of musicians from Bauhaus and the Sisters of Mercy to Propaganda and even, eventually, Madonna.

Throughout this history the original framework of courtly love had itself adopted more and more extreme forms which would be seen today as D/s or M/s relationships.


Subject-Object vs Topological Sexuality

In the subject-object mode of sexuality (or subject-subject, it means the same since the “other” is treated as objectively present, whether they’re referred to as another subject or not), there’s a masculine and feminine way of experiencing sex, which are very different from each other.  The masculine means of “objectifying” the other and subjectivizing themselves – experiencing sex from the perspective of the “I”, not the Self, is really masturbation with someone else there as a prop.  The feminine means is to experience it as a narrative.  Perhaps it sounds harsh to say that the common feminine experience of sex relationally is primarily as something to be discussed afterwards, but even though they may enjoy the sex at the time as well, that enjoyment itself contains an element of narrative distance, as if they are already observing the act and turning it into a story.  Some men of course experience things in the feminine manner and vice versa.  You’ll notice that ‘feminine’ types who experience sex in that way are the ones who take up the most space (almost all of it) online whether on BDSM or on vanilla relationship sites.
Beginning with a fantasy explicitly though can result in a different reality.  The a priori fantasy removes the “I-subject” as the focus of the experience, hence there is often tendency to talk in third person because somehow saying “I” feels odd, while saying “me” doesn’t, but where “me” doesn’t grammatically fit using third person is the only available option.  But this provides the possibility for each to experience sex topologically, not relationally, from the places they occupy in the fantasy, and the resulting real situation, the resulting shared Self, arises out of being in those places.  The is also a more intense experience, because it’s not an experience of doing something with or to an “other” that is irreconcilably distant, but an experience of a shared being-together enacting the very means by which that sharing arises.
If the RPG player is more themselves in their fantasy character than in the person they play in “real life”, the BDSM play scene takes that one step further, in that roles are still being played, but they’re being played in a more realistic physical manner.  However the people playing are still not willing to accept that that persona IS closer to their real Self and actually enact the role as much as possible in their “real life”.  Hence the insistence with many people that “they’re always dominant except when playing” or the need for many tops to appear super-sensitive to the bottom when not actually playing.  The discomfort of people into BDSM from a play perspective with those who enact the role to any degree in real life, which in my experience is much more intense than the discomfort for vanilla people, comes out of this combination of a desire to enact it more fully with a lack of confidence to actually do so.

Style as Mastery pt 2

Style as Mastery Pt. 2

In terms of giving examples of style as mastery specifically within an M/s dynamic, I’m confronted by the difficulty that the particular style of any master is specific to that master.  There are of course more general “community” styles, but they are more limited to visual style rather than behavioral style, the latter being of more interest to me.  The importance of visual style within the community and various sub-communities does however demonstrate that style is definitely a component of this type of relationship, so I’ll say a couple of things on that topic and then attempt to move to the more cogent behavioral style.

One big sub-community, especially recently, is the “leather” community.  While “leather” encompasses a wide variety of lifestyle types, which I don’t need to get into here, the single commonality between the various groups and group types is a visual style intended to express masculine power.  This goes as much for lesbian groups like LSM as for gay leathermen’s groups or biker groups.  That the term leather is used is itself an indication of the desired masculine style at the origin of all the groups, leather being a traditionally strong male aspect of dress.

The other sub-community with a long history is the fetish/goth community.  Again although relationship types are as various in that community as in any other BDSM community the visual look is what defines membership in the group.

Style as mastery in a behavioral sense can really encompass anything that serves to delineate place within an M/s relationship.  This can range from overt displays of power to very subtle expressions that might be completely invisible to someone outside the relationship yet conveys a compelling expectation.  My own style tends towards the latter – invitations to do something or statements of something desired are fully expected to be acted upon without question as if they were expressed as direct orders.  For this to be effective the slave involved has to have a decent ability to read non-verbal cues.

A very different style is embodied in the “high protocol” type of relationship, where the overt actions are intended to establish and reinforce the different places of the people involved.  Where the slave is not well versed in reading non-verbal cues this can be a more effective style, for instance at the extreme of difficulty with non-verbal cues it is particularly effective with a slave with autistic spectrum symptoms.  Of course large numbers of people in the “normal” range have some difficulty in reading non-verbal cues, and the readability can also depend on how overt those cues are with any specific master’s behavior.

Within the above extremes and between them there are plenty of variations of specific style, probably as many as there are M/s relationships.  Some are more successful than others in a specific relationship context.  Those styles, though, are not adornments or accoutrements to some mythical substantive dominance; for the most part they constitute that substance itself.