The tightrope walked by the Dom.

The feet of a tightrope walker.
Photo credit: Wikipedia

This is from my  Informed Consent blog, earlier this year:

We had an interesting exchange this morning. A propos something written in our book (which is not rule book, exactly) and fascinating chat at yesterday’s O&P.

Anyway – the deal for us is that what he does is, he says, not for my hurt or shame.

Hurt as in emotional hurt? Yes.

Oh, so pain and embarrassment is OK then?

“Oh, absolutely”, he said. And, after a pause: “You have no idea of the tightrope we Doms have to walk”.

It was a light-hearted conversation, but it has a point.

He likes to hurt me. he likes to see me blush with embarrassment. But, he likes me to look back and glow because he’s made me proud of what I’ve done for him. He says he hates it if I feels, looking back, degraded or shamed by his actions.

Someone else made the point that “it’s because I can trust him [her dom] not to (intentionally) hurt me that I felt able to give up my limits. I know he will push me way outside of my comfort zone, but never so far that will cause me harm. I don’t envy him (or Belasarius) that responsibility”.

Who uses safewords? Results

standing stoneThree day’s ago I put up a one question PollDaddy  poll on safewords. I closed the poll at 9:15 am on Thursday 9 August 2012.

These are the results. 320 people responded, of whom  11 said they weren’t BDSM people, so they didn’t answer the question. Of the rest, there were 161 submissives, 105 dominants and 43 switches. As with the other surveys I’ve done there always seems to be more interest among submissives, and dominants seem to take more of an interest as the completion deadline looms.

The results, surprisingly (at least to me) show that a clear majority of those that responded do not use safewords, especially if they are in relationships.

The question asked was: “Please tick the answer that most resembles you and your attitude to safewords”

The chart below shows the answers given by all respondents. Most came from the UK, where I promoted the survey on Informed Consent and Fetlife Up to a fifth may have come from other countries, mostly the USA, with maybe a quarter of the non UK responders coming from other European countries.

Dominants

Two-thirds of dominants said they were more likely not to use a safeword.

Dominants Actual %
Mostly use safeword 36 34%
Mostly don’t use safeword 69 66%
Total 105

Submissives

Submissive respondents agreed with dominants, in the same proportions.

Submissives Actual %
Mostly use safeword 54 34%
Mostly don’t use safeword 107 66%
Total 161

Switches

Three out of four switches said they were more likely to use a safeword than not.

Switches Actual %
Mostly use safeword 32 74%
Mostly don’t use safeword 11 26%
 Total 43  

People in relationships

People in relationships said they were the least likely to use a safeword of any group (only a quarter said they did).

In relationships Actual %
Mostly use safeword 46 24%
Mostly don’t use safeword 147 76%
Total 193  

People interested in scenes and play

Two thirds said they used safewords

Play and scenes Actual %
Mostly use safeword 76 66%
Mostly don’t use safeword 40 34%
Total 116

 

Symbols of ownership: How do people wear them?

BelasariusIn the symbols of ownership survey I asked people about how and when they wore their symbols of BDSM ownership.

210 people did the survey and 177 answered this question. 10 said they were Tops, 19 Bottoms, 61 – Dominants, 116 – Submissives and 22 identified as switches.

Their answers were as follows:

Top Bottom Dominant Submissive
I have no symbols of ownership. 70% 32% 70% 15%
I wear them all, all the time? 20% 5% 26% 11%
I wear some of them, some of the time? 5% 18%
I wear some of them all the time? 5% 21%
All of them visible when wearing normal clothing 2% 8%
Some are visible when wearing normal clothing 10% 16% 2% 18%
None aree visible when wearing normal clothing 2%
I only wear them/show them in BDSM settings 37% 8%

I’ve highlighted the most common answer in each column in blue and the second most common in red.

They are charted below.

BDSM

Key points

  • Tops and dominants are equally likely NOT to have any symbols of ownership (70%) but, when they did, they wore them all the time (20% – T and 26% – D).BDSM couple, top, bottom in handcuffs, on Euro...
  • Bottoms and submissives were more likely to wear some symbols of ownership (32% of bottoms and only 15% of submissives had NO symbols of ownership) but a relatively low percentage wore them all the time (5% – B, 11% – S).
  • Bottoms and switches were more likely to only wear symbols of ownership in a BDSM setting (37% – B, 45% – Sw)

If you found this interesting or useful, please think about doing the BDSM and Money survey, on the impact of BDSM on people’s pockets. Current results will be visible once you have completed the survey

Safewords: BDSM safety essential or sacred cow?

standing stoneSafewords give confidence to people who are new to topping and bottoming and help experienced people who are new to each other understand each other better. They are a sensible approach to safety and have been seen as essential certainly for as long as I can remember.

I am not  going to use the argument that safewords can’t protect anyone from abuse by a determined abuser. The same is, sadly, likely to be  true of any system designed to preserve consensuality and safety. Abuse of safewords does take place and needs to  be exposed. No, my view is that, for some, there are alternatives to safewords that may be as effective, but more rewarding..

Safewords  halt scenes that are going wrong, but are they a bit of a sacred cow? Are there other ways of ensuring safety and making submission feel as real as possible?  Could other ways sometimes be better? I think so.

English: A woman flogging a submissive man on ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Safety and consensuality

I understand that something like a safeword is essential to preserve consensuality in a scene and I have absolutely no doubt that there needs to be communication between top and bottom, dom and sub to ensure safety, but I think “take care”, “stop” and “no” are better than a dedicated safeword.

For me, safewords undermine dominance and submission and they turn play into play acting. They can also become an excuse for abuse.

The sub in control?

In many circumstances, it’s my belief that safewords diminish the experience for all.

Why? Well:

There she is, moaning, groaning and pleading and all of a sudden she says “Amber”. Instantly, you know all that moaning, groaning and pleading was false. Just acting (ok – with feeling, but you suddenly know what you were doing was not having the effect you thought)

She “Ambers” again; things get better and maybe you get a “Green” of pleasure… You screw up and she utters a sudden, shouted “RED”. And you realise it isn’t just the moaning that was false. There’s no submission either. She is in control of the scene. She decides what she receives.

Of course, it’s a little less true if you use a single safeword that always brings things straight to a halt. That way all that is controlled is the end of the scene. That seems sensible to me (but see below), rather than providing the submissive with a tool that can be used to take control, which is what the RAG system, I feel, does. but, if that is your choice, why use a special, secret word, and not just allow people to communicate their needs. It seems to me that people want the freedom to say “please stop” when it’s not what they mean.

Now, from the dominant‘s perspective:

There she is strapped down securely. Cheeks and shoulders beginning to glow as you get into the rhythm a good flogging requires (and which for me, produces it’s own zen-like satisfaction). I know she has a safeword. Therefore, I can do what the hell I like, because she has the responsibility of choosing when to stop. And, she can’t blame me for getting it wrong – because she had her safeword to use!

And for the submissive?

“Well, if I safeword, I’ve failed him, haven’t I. Oh I mustn’t safeword – he won’t be proud of me at all. I must be the best I can be.”

Or,

“I can’t space, it might not be safe, I won’t know what’s happening: I might need to safeword.

Another way to safety?

Erotic illustration
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So for me, ensuring safety in a scene comes down to these things:

Real communication, using real language – Then the moans and the pleading are real and satisfying. And, “STOP” means stop.

The dominant should not have power without responsibility – which is what a safeword can give. Instead, he should observe his submissive and communicate with her. Watch her, check she’s ok, check her ability to communicate, her breathing, her mental state – whether she’s drifted away into subspace.

The result, the submissive enters the scene knowing she has given herself to her dominant within the limits they have agreed and her only responsibility is to be the best she can be. The dominant knows he is free to use her – and that the responsibility for making it a satisfactory time for both is his. She is the instrument, he is the musician.

Fuller results from the poll below can be found in an article lined tto under “related links” at the bottom of this post.

Masters and slaves: attitudes to BDSM symbols of ownership.

BelasariusIn my BDSM ownership and symbols survey, 43 Master/slaves (M/s) participants answered the following question:

Thinking of symbols of ownership in BDSM, to what extent do you agree with the following statements?

Their responses to each of the question’s statements are below:

BDSM M/s owbership

Symbols of ownership can be used by anybody in any BDSM dynamic, for any purpose

72% of M/s people disagreed with this (58% strongly). 14% of M/s people agreed. and 14% were neutral.

Symbols of ownership are important symbols of commitment and permanence and should be worn and respected as such.

86% agreed (70% strongly). 7% were neutral and 7% disagreed.

Symbols of ownership can be worn to indicate temporary ownership (for example in play sessions)

35% agreed (just 5% strongly agreed); 30% were neutral and 35% disagreed (which meant they thought it was ok).

Symbols of ownership are fun and have no other special significance

Only 7% agreed (none agreed strongly). 5% were neutral. 89% disagreed (77% strongly)

Symbols of ownership should only be worn by the submissive partner(s)

54% agreed. 40% responded neutrally and 21% disagreed.

Symbols of ownership can be worn by all partners

23% agreed (2% strongly). 23% were neutral and 249% disagreed (35% strongly disagreed)

A symbol of ownership can be anything the partner(s) agree on

84% agreed (the same as D/s respondents, but slightly more agreed strongly, 51% of M/s respondents as against – 44% of D/s people), 12% responded neutrally and 4% disagreed.

A collar is the accepted BDSM symbol of ownership.

86% agreed (63% strongly). . 14% were neutral and none disagreed!

Further background on this question can be found here.

 If you found this interesting or useful, please think about doing the BDSM and Money survey, on the impact of BDSM on people’s pockets. Current results will be visible once you have completed the survey

Related articles

Collars, and other symbols of BDSM ownership.

standing stoneNot surprisingly, the BDSM Ownership and symbols survey showed that:

  • Collars are the top symbol of ownership and;
  • few dominants had any symbols of ownership

More surprisingly, perhaps, some dominant respondents said they DID wear symbols of ownership

Across all respondents, the top ten symbols of ownership were:

A typical slave collar with ring for possible ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • No 1 – No symbol of ownership 46%
  • No 2 – Collar 41%
  • No 3 – Bracelet/bangle 18%
  • No 4 – Tattoo 10%
  • No 5 – Necklace 9%
  • No 6 – Wedding ring 8%
  • No 7 – Piercing 7%
  • No 8 – Ring (not wedding) 6%
  • No 9= – Anklet 2%
  • No 9= – Branding 2%

I’ve published that list before on Informed Consent. The charts below are new. They show what respondents said they wore as symbols of ownership. It was possible to choose more than one item, so percentages don’t add up to 100!

Dominants and symbols of ownership

The chart below shows what dominant respondents said they wore (not what their partners wore) as symbols of ownership, it looks at dominants of all BDSM components.

Overall. 73% of all dominants said they wore no symbols of ownership. All S/m dominants said they wore no symbols of ownership (to be fair, that was just two individuals). 66% of D/s dominants said they wore nothing (23 respondents). 86% of M/s Dominants wear no symbol of ownership (19 people).

Chart 1

The most common symbol of ownership worn by dominant respondents was  a bracelet or bangle (17% said they wore this), followed by a wedding ring (12%).

Submissives – what do they wear?

74 submissives answered this question. As a symbol of  ownership, the collar came top. 68% of all the submissives that answered this question said they wore a collar.  80% of S/m submissive respondents wear a collar to show ownership (4 people).  60% (31 respondents) of D/s submissives said they wear a collar and  88% (15 answerers) of M/s submissives also said they wear a collar to signify ownership.

26% of submissives wear no symbols of ownership.

24% of all respondents say they wear a bracelet/bangle – the second most common symbol of ownership. 25% of D/s respondents and 30% of M/s respondents wear this (no M/s respondents).

The third most common symbol of ownership worn by submissives is the tattoo, worn by 22% overall and 21% of D/s submissive respondents and  29% of M/s submissives who answered.  Necklaces were fourth, but not far behind, being worn by 20% of submissive respondents.

Amongst submissive respondents rings (not wedding), at 11% were more common as ownership symbols than wedding rings (7%).