Definitions

Mastery (of someone):  to appropriate, own and give a disposition, a state of being, to that person.

Domination: to make available to oneself as appropriate.

To submit: to be revealed or exhibited as available and proper.

Submission: available to hear and simultaneously obey.

Submissive: acquiesce to obedience through devotion.


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.


Marriage in an Egalitarian Situation and M/s Dynamics

The question of marriage came up the other day, mainly due to emmie’s family and their investment in the idea, whether it arises mainly from their Xian beliefs or their lack of trust, which is somewhat understandable given they’ve never met me.

The problem, though, with marriage in a situation where the two partners are legally equal is that it becomes a contract between two equal but separate parties, a contract that isn’t even particularly binding. The moment one of the parties feels they’re not getting what they want, they can simply file for divorce.

The historical reality is that marriage was often no more than that in many layers of society at any time, but the legality of the situation was different when marriage required at least some acknowledgement of responsibility, since the woman as chattel was inherently to some degree the man’s responsibility. Of course in many cases reality didn’t quite work that way (where the woman was from a wealthy family, for instance), and in others men didn’t live up to their responsibility. But at least theoretically there was a meaning to marriage, and a responsibility that ought to have been taken on.

Today’s marriage is simply a social convenience in areas where the law or individual moralism hasn’t kept up with reality. People remain emotionally invested, though, not in their particular marriage, which in most cases quickly becomes a socially convenient contract, but in the idea of marriage itself as meaningful, when it’s patently obvious to anyone that thinks about it without the blinkers of sentimentality that it isn’t.

An M/s dynamic is old fashioned in precisely the sense under which marriage might have been, for some at least, a meaningful event. But simultaneously it replaces marriage since it goes completely against the current form of marriage. In this sense it is a new relationship form, because it is a repetition of an earlier form in a changed situation, where the meaning of the act can no longer be what it was.

Marriage under those conditions seems not only superfluous, but by bringing in the current sense of the term, in my experience undermines the relationship by having it conform to a concept that is both meaningless and antithetical to the actual relationship.


Continuing from the last set of thoughts on community, a particular post made me think about community in a more general sense, specifically in terms of what kind of community do I want, what kind do we want, in line with my sense of the Self as simultaneously individual and shared.

From the outset, my approach isn’t founded on the Cartesian notion of the Self as an isolated subject, with community as creating some sort of external relation on this isolated “I”. For me a basic aspect of being human is being-with, that even when we are alone we experience that aloneness as a deficient mode of being-with. Being-with can take a number of distinct forms, the most basic is everyday being-with-others in whatever setting one is required to be in.

In this everyday situation being-with is mostly experienced in deficient modes, being-against, being-indifferent, ignoring, and perhaps the most insidious, being-against in the guise of being-for. As a result our basic being-with is a less than ideal starting point in terms of building a community where the mode of being-with is fundamentally a being-for those who one is with. On the other hand the Cartesian ‘problem of other minds’ and other solipsistic issues such as the question of what a ‘relation’ between two subjects actually consists in are not relevant. On the other hand, precisely the danger of being ‘lost in others’ is a strong potential. However being an authentic Self can’t consist in being alone, since that is also a deficient mode of being-with, so being authentic has to involve finding an authentic way of being-with others, an authentic community.

I can only speak about community from out of those communities I’ve experienced, but this includes those I was fully involved in and those I was periphery to. The experience in each case is a very different one, of course, but via analogy one can to a degree understand communities one is periphery to in terms of the community or communities one has been a part of.

The community I grew up in, primarily, was the Jesuit community. Since that community is not well understood, particularly here in the U.S., I’ll say a few quick things about it. Contrary to most ‘religious’ communities, being a Jesuit isn’t primarily a matter of having a shared belief-system, the notion of “once a Jesuit always a Jesuit” applies even if one doesn’t believe Jesuit theology, or even in Christianity or theism itself. For this reason, and others, there are some resemblances that are inherent in terms of being able to understand somewhat similar communities modeled as ‘brotherhoods’ that are not simply a matter of a shared belief system but a commitment.

Part of the implication of our average, everyday deficient modes of being with is that building a community is inherently a difficult task. One of the strongest temptations in inauthentic being-with is to desire that others have a fixed image of ‘who we are’ that relieves us of the burden of our own freedom. An authentic community, then, while it may have an ‘image’ to the public, may internally look very different from that public image, because the members are themselves not intending to be reified as that image. For instance in a leather or fetish community members may or may not ‘look the part’ at all times, even though both leather and fetish, as terms, are precisely a manner of dress. Looking the part doesn’t in itself demonstrate authenticity or inauthenticity: I could be dressed the part in order to give others a mental image of myself that in fact hides who I am; conversely I could be dressed the part because that’s how I feel most comfortable and most myself; a third and probably more common situation is that I dress the part when I’m going to be in a situation where I feel comfortable in it because it’s appropriate to the situation. Of course, members publicly representing the community, if it has a public face, or acting as representative of the community to itself, if it is private, are likely to dress the part simply because otherwise they wouldn’t be seen as representative of it. Within an authentic community, though, members are going to be judged as authentically part of the community over the long term by their demonstration of their ongoing commitment to it, not by their conforming to incidental representations.

The difficulty of creating community today is even greater, for the same reason as community is more needed by many people. The acid of rationalism and secularism, which dissolved many communities based on shared belief, is ironically now threatening the scientific community that most promoted it, as their shared praxes have been exposed as predominantly belief based and themselves not rational, and costly compared to knowledge work that doesn’t involve the shared praxes that make the scientific community a community. The same ‘efficiency’ concern has also successfully dissolved communities that were based on shared praxes in terms of labor, other than the few ‘professional’ unions such as the AMA and the Barristers’ association that are financially secure enough to maintain their organizations. The notion of the post-secular society, as a society based on newer thinking that has successfully undermined the dissolving rationalist worldview is still for the most part conceptual. We haven’t seen the emergence of new communities other than a few new fundamentalisms, the re-emergence of a few ethnicist groups, and scattered communities such as the various LGBT, leather, fetish and biker communities that have emerged, merged with others, dissolved, re-emerged and are now (at least in the leather/fetish area) trying to establish a more stable existence as a single recognizable community. There aren’t therefore many models to go on, and cultish, shared belief as a foundation is not a reasonable option for most of us, nor is ethnicism a choice we either can or want to make. Exactly how various communities, or what might better be described as proto-communities, might establish the type of shared praxes that eventually foster the sense of community is difficult to project.

Going back to the notion of commitment, though, I do think that personal commitment will be a necessary component, and with that personal commitment a commitment to be personal. By that I mean a commitment to not predetermine or stick to an initial or early determination of who others are, but to view them as they manifest, which includes how they may grow and change. And as importantly a commitment to allow ourselves to be viewed as we manifest, not as a fixed picture we would like others to have of us, but as we authentically are, including in ways in which we may have grown or changed over time.

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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.


Theology of Leather (tongue firmly in cheek)

I came across a few posts mentioning ‘leather identity’ as who the author ‘is’ spiritually. Since my own journey of learning began in theology I thought I would investigate the theological implications of a spiritual leather identity.

As a theological term, spirit, like psyche and self has a specific meaning. All of these kinds of words (and we can add will, being, god, world, nature etc.) are difficult to define conceptually because they are themselves determining concepts, which as such are never themselves fully determined. Things can only be fully determined via these determining concepts.

Spirit is what determines the “who” of the psyche, our self-identity.  From spirit we always already know who we are such that we know when we are being “truly” ourselves and when we aren’t. As what determines from the beginning, spirit exists in the eternal past, i.e. the past that was always past, not the past that at one point was present. The psyche arises as a response to spirit. All the aspects or “existentials” of the psyche (such as understanding, interpretation, discourse, being-in, being-with, ambiguity) partially actualize that response. Authenticity consists in being true to spirit, which calls us out of inauthenticity in the wordless call of conscience. Although the call of conscience has no content, we always “know” what it means: that we are guilty of not actualizing a true response to our spirit.

God as a perfect being may only, as will, will good. Human beings on the other hand have the freedom to will its opposite. Since this freedom in itself cannot have originated in the living God, human self-will originated as spirit in the dark ground of God. This potential for evil in God’s ground, which although part of God, is unknown even to God himself as the living God, is the cause of God’s coming out of his ground as the living God.

If the identity of one’s spirit, then, is a leather identity, as determining who one truly is. Leather as a potentiality of being, as will-to-leather, must also have existed in the originary dark ground of God.

The living God, as the highest being and the source of all other being, contains all positive potentials of being in himself, so the human will-to-leather must have a corresponding divine will-to-leather.

As a result, someone with a leather identity, spiritually, would feel the call of conscience denoting them as guilty in any situation where they were being inauthentic, not responding appropriately to their leather spirit. They would feel guilty cavorting in the vanilla world, wearing cotton or polyester or rayon, against their true identity as the actualization of their leather spirit.

Concomitantly, the living God of the leather spirit would be the highest leather being, the source of all human leather being, the Absolute Leatherman.


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.


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

During the 1980’s the combination of the large numbers of non-leather gays in the fetish scene and the adoption of leather dress as one type of fetish look, together with the shared practice of BDSM and the slow emergence of leather groups themselves from secrecy created an intermingling of the two scenes. This was furthered by the greater acceptance of women and straight members in the leather groups themselves. Since, out of necessity, the leather groups were generally better organized the resulting mixture became known as the “leather community”. The public clubs that arose (the largest currently being the Antichrist club in London) still generally enforce a strong fetish dress code that ironically is more latex and rubber oriented than leather oriented, although both permanent clubs and special club nights at other locations often combine the terms as fetish/leather.

During the same period Renaissance Fairs and Festivals began to provide a “fetish-light” experience for a larger audience, and there remains a fair amount of crossover.

As a result of both the public clubs / club nights and the presence of fetish paraphernalia at Renaissance festivals there is more of a public awareness of the scene than in the past. The public “caricature” of the fetish/leather scene is still largely goth oriented in terms of style, and within the public’s perception of straight fetish people the dominatrix is a much more acceptable figure than the dominant male, who raises too many associations with spousal abuse with the general public.

The dominatrix as a character has been known since the publication of Sacher-Masoch’s work in the 19th Century, however the male dominated power dynamic became more common during the 20th Century, mainly because male dominated relationships ceased to be the norm with the rise of feminism, and as deviant were forced into the “alternative lifestyle” space.

The growth of the internet, of course, spread knowledge of this scene from the major centers to smaller locales, and simultaneously changed much of the terminology used differently in different places. For instance, until the 1990’s M/s was generally a term for a play-oriented relationship in Europe, while D/s referred to relationships that realized the fantasy in a more permanent and consistent way. The influence of North Americans via the internet switched this terminology around, such that D/s now meant a less extreme relationship than M/s. Knowledge of BDSM as a whole spread initially via Usenet and later via more user friendly boards, and the skills involved in pain play became coveted skills far from the major centers in which they originated.