Philosophy of BDSM

1450930_423550141130612_5934562691569100637_nI think everyone has their own philosophy about what BDSM is – beyond the make up of the acronym and the what/how-tos of those things. I know I have touched on my own philosophy in discreet ways, related to my thoughts on Dominance and submission, things like that. I thought it might be a good time to give a more holistic philosophy, though, on what BDSM is, in my world view anyway.

Why Philosophy Matters

It is fine to dabble in things, to have a brushing interest or want to pick out things to help flavor and spice the rest of your life. We do that with all sorts of things. When we have those passing interests and light fancies, however, we rarely take the time to think on what is happening with those aspects we take away. When we do, when we begin to examine meanings behind things, then we show and seek a deeper interest and understanding. Whether you call yourself a lifestyler, a kinkster, a fetishist, or just someone interested in it, that drive to seek deeper into BDSM is, to me, what makes it more than just a passing fad.

Dark Reflections

BDSM is a reflection of the world around us.

Every day of your life, you engage in power exchange. In these exchanges we give and receive power in different ways. Some of them are the result of relationships we consciously entered. We hired an employee and became their boss. We accepted employment and became an employee. We agreed to a relationship or a marriage. Others are exchanges we did not agree to, but found ourselves in. Even as adults, our parents still have some authority over us.

Often times we engage in power exchanges because we are socialized to. For many women, the choice “I will submit to him” is not a choice to submit, but whom to submit to. They choose their husbands and submit to them because they were raised to believe that a woman should submit to her husband. There is no choice in giving the power, only the socialization that says, “this is how it is.” The opposite happens with men. They do not say, “I will dominate her” because they want to dominate, but because they have been socialized to believe that is their role. The choice is in who, not in taking power. Sometimes life changes can make these exchanges shift. The submissive wife suddenly finds herself the breadwinner in the household. The husband, laid off from his job, takes on the burden of caring for the family while she takes on extra hours. The “wifely” duties she once performed for him, cooking, cleaning, and household chores, he takes on. Suddenly the decisions about money and how it is spent become primarily hers. Her schedule dictates the holidays and weekends, not his.

When we live a structured life, shifts in how power is exchanged can cause upheaval. When one partner decides the exchange of power naturally taking place is not to their liking, they will buck. If the other is not prepared, or does not want to give back power, a struggle ensues. The same can happen when the partner taking power no longer wants to take as much. A man finds the burden of accepting his submissive wife too much. He craves release from the stress and pressures of “manhood”. It happens in marriage, in work places, with family interactions. Any place where power exchange takes place can see these upheavals.

BDSM allows us to engage in power exchange in a different way. We cannot negotiate how power is exchanged at work. The social designs of the office set how power moves. In a Dynamic, however, we negotiate everything. We decide what power we want to give and take. We decide how much and how far that power can go. We set limits. We express desires. We put into place safe words and signals that indicate when an exchange has reached or surpassed its limits. We set rules and protocols that define how that exchange of power will flow. All of the things we cannot control in the outside world is under complete control in the Dynamic. Our choice to give or receive that power is an outlet for us, a way to explore, to understand, and sometimes to let go.

Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism, are also reflections of the world we live in.

How often do we bind ourselves to things because society and our lives dictate it. We bind ourselves to commitments, to objects. We are born bound to people – our parents and siblings – whether we want those types of people in our lives or not. So many things in this world bind us with little choice from us on whether they can. So it is no wonder, then, that we find release by giving ourselves willingly to be bound up. We gain perspective on the rigidity and chaos of our lives through Discipline. We gain release for our choices and circumstances through therapeutic punishments.Those binding and punishing see the same structures and releases making sense for them as well.

How much of ourselves do we give, just to keep things going? How much do we take from others who exhaust themselves to please us? Sadistic and masochistic tendencies can come from a lot of places, but they are also reflections of the way the world treats us. How little the world cares about your struggles. How insignificant is the plight of one employee in the face of the hundreds around him? The world is cruel and it is cold. The giving and taking of pain is more than just sensual and sexual pleasures. It is a reflection of what we endure in our lives, what we sometimes give. Only we are willing partners, giving and taking. We beg for the pain and cruelty that we shun from the world because it gives us perspective and release. And we give it for the very same reason.

At its heart, that is BDSM. Whatever the specifics of what we do, this is what lies beneath the skin, waiting for us to understand when we are ready to peel away the layers of vinyl, leather, and latex.

Some Gals Just Like to Be Tied Up

For some disclosure … in my early adult life, I flitted from job to job, not really sure what I wanted to do. During this time, I found myself out of work and desperate. A close friend of mine had an interesting proposal. She needed a personal secretary, someone to answer phones and help keep her books. I would get some valuable experience and she would have the help she needed. It just happened to be this friend was a professional Dominatrix. From her, I was introduced into the BDSM sub-culture (or the Scene) of the 1990′s, not as an active participant, but an inside observer. I developed an interest in it that remains to this day.

BDSM has a wide interpretation. At its most basic, it is Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism. Each pairing has its own meanings and its own connotations. These connotations are not always good. We tend to think of sadism as cruelty or submission as weakness. While these images and meanings may play their part in the Scene, they do not define it or its different aspects.

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