Please do only one of the polls, depending on whether you see yourself mostly as dom or sub. If you are a 50/50 switch, feel free to do both. You can tick all the options you feel apply to you. The “Dominants…” poll is for dominants and the “Submissives…” poll is for submissives.
The Informed Consent Principle is that BDSM requires the freely given informed consent of all participants; that participants should make genuine efforts to reach a shared awareness of risks and consequences; that if consent is given under duress or is invalidated by mental incapacity or intoxication then it is not legitimate; and that BDSM with this informed consent should not be criminalised or lead to discrimination.
This has huge appeal for me, not least because I don’t feel like a particularly deviant person (nor does c_b) and I’d like to live my life with her openly (I don’t mean blatantly or showily – just without fear of discrimination).
OK, this will take time – but getting to a form of words like this is a great first step to showing the rest of the world that we aren’t so different and that we care for each other, just differently.
I also think this blog, by David Stein on Leatherati. Is amazing reading – and a really thoughtful, helpful piece of work on the morality and ethics of BDSM. Highly recommended. Quite independently of this I had a go at our own “10 commandments of kink” – and was pleased that some of it resembles the much more thoughtful Mr Stein’s. His writing forces me to look at that again though.
Risks and consequences
The rest of this post is just a few first thoughts about the concept of a “shared awareness of risks and consequences”.
It encompasses the key difference between SSC and RACK that some activities are, by their nature, not safe – but are still things we do, aware of the risks. The idea of “shared awareness” (without any form of duress or lack of competence) also implies sane decision-making too, involving both parties.
For some, there will be an issue here. We have an umbrella hard limit, which we use to test the things I demand of her. Things I rarely discuss with her and usually just do. But, I don’t think that breaks the IC principle: What we both want is for me to take responsibility for her safety and not to bring her to harm.
Our “shared awareness” is that I will do so, with her trusting me to be mindful of risk. That we both want me to take responsibility for the things I do. We’ve always understood that, if I fail to be mindful of risk, trust is lost and consent is withdrawn.
I think it does have a small, negative effect on our dynamic: In that I do try to show her, before committing her to some new sensation, that I’ve taken proper precautions – because, if things go wrong, I want her to know that the issue was something that could not have been readily foreseen. That removes some of the spontaneity it would be nice to have with things one has never done before.
The biggest thing, for me, that comes from this aspect of the IC principle is that it is “shared awareness”. I have spoken to many people from the non-BDSM world (and heard/read more) who think our relationships are, by nature abusive. Commitment to this principle shows – clearly – that they aren’t. However, this is undermined, in the wider world, by those times when consent is not obtained or overridden. This study clearly shows that does happen – and far too often. Eliminating this will be a small, but, key, factor in changing public perception of our kink.
The blog below was first posted on the UK-based BDSM website, informed consent – at the time of writing due to close between 17 and 24 February 2013. It will be much missed by many.
I owe a lot to IC, and this, my 5,000th post there, tried to express a little of what IC had done for me – not the least of which was to help me find my girl
IC helped me change my life.
When I joined IC, I was in the 12th year of a marriage that should not have lasted that long. I was a devoted father and an abused husband.
It seemed it was escapism that brought me here – desire to recapture something healthier, if less conventional, that I’d shared years before. Certainly, at first, I kidded myself I just wanted vicarious satisfaction – to look, but not to live it.
Thinking back, it seems it was actually my very first step toward escaping my marriage, and getting back myself – and my family – and finding someone who cares for me.
There’s a lot I regret about the time since, but I have no regrets about where I find myself now.
I have a lover who is my partner. Is she my submissive? Yes. Is that important? Yes, vital – but not in the way I expected it to be. I have been here before in some ways, many years ago, when I lucked into my second serious relationship – also my first D/s one. That first time, we both wanted everything and, for a time, that’s what we thought we had.
We were both young. Everything was ahead of us then, whereas now, I have as much of a past behind me as there is a future still to come. That past is part of me and I’ve no desire to leave it behind.
For c_b and me, things are different. Both she and I have rich pasts. Neither she nor I are in a position to give the other everything even though it always feels that we do. I have my children – and leaving their home and my marriage saved my relationship with them. Since, it has strengthened immeasurably.
C_b has her marriage and the life she has built with her husband in over 20 years of life together.
We have our relationship: as lovers, as friends, as partners. And we have our dynamic.
I’ve thought more and more about this dynamic and how it makes our relationship possible, and I am afraid I have few answers. I possess her when she is with me and there is a vital part of her (her submission) that is always only mine.
Neither of us considers the other of less than equal worth or inferior in any way. I love her more completely than I have any other and, for a long time, I considered that, in the context of the kind of relationship I needed (a D/s one) ,this made me inferior – because I worried that c_b could live without me much more easily than I could without her.
We each decided – twice – that love was not enough and that our futures could not lie together. But, now – and, I hope, until she buries me, or I her – we are a tough little partnership with a real prospect of continued success.
Of course, all the best love stories are tragedies, so I am not going to promise myself that this will last forever, but I’m sure, right now, that both of us aim to try.
At the moment, I think that if there is a secret to what we have achieved so far, it is in something that could apply to any couple – but which, for me and for her, has been made easier by a D/s dynamic.
We’re hard work. Both of us.
Not to others, I hope, but certainly to each other. Because we concentrate on each other. Because we try to put the other person first. I’d thought this was only possible in a D/s relationship and have often said so here. I now think I was blinkered and that it is possible for anyone – but I think our D/s natures make it possible for c_b and myself.
An example. c_b hardly ever asks for anything or tells me what she likes or wants. It’s something that just happened and it’s something that we’ve only really talked about recently. But, she always accepts my decision or my choice. It reinforces my D mojo because, in a shared relationship, there is much I can’t be responsible for. But, I want c_b to want me and to welcome what I do with or to her. So, I watch hard to see what makes her feel great, whether because she takes a genuine pleasure in pleasing me or if it is just something that makes her feel good. (Rope, anyone?)
This often leaves me puzzled. If all she wants is my pleasure, then what – really – is in it for her? Well – just that. When she thinks she’s pleased me more than she ever has before, when she thinks she’s amazed me, she feels great. And, sometimes, that’s when I wonder who has the whip hand – because she’s grinning and proud because of the way she’s made me feel and all I can be is amazed at what she’s done for me.
But I know she wouldn’t want to be the best she can be for me if she did not genuinely feel she could offer me her submission. It hasn’t happened just because I am dominant and she is submissive and we get on with each other. It did not happen because we fell in love. It happened because I gained her respect and she desired to give me authority to look after her and to use her. And, I know that if either of us lose that respect for the other, it’s over.
She is in all of my life – not a D/s compartment. c_b knows my children and the rest of my family, my workmates and other friends. She’s seen me through times when I nearly made some bad decisions and been a critical friend when I’ve needed one. It may be “My man – right or wrong” to the world (and often to me), but when I need it she’s right there with the tough love.
And now, a confession: without the community that IC has helped create I am sure our relationship would have had a much rougher time thriving.
We made friends (one especially important but no longer with us – Mrs_Smith) who helped us across the roughest parts of our path so far. We began to understand who we are by posting and talking and meeting people. Even the criticism we got made us stronger by helping us see outside ourselves and to understand who we could be, whilst respecting others’ points of view.
We found people who understood how we wanted to live and didn’t judge us for our failure to be conventional – but who would, by encouragement or criticism, help us feel even more special to each other.
I’ve no idea what the future holds. I just know that, when I joined IC, I never dared look ahead. Things looked black and IC felt like somewhere I could be me, for an hour or two each day.
Now, looking back, even my worst times have been made less frightening by the woman who holds my hand. And the future looks like a place I shouldn’t be afraid to go, if she’ll walk with me.
I am migrating my blog from UK BDSM website, Informed Consent (which closed in February 2013), to this, my private blog. This piece “My D/s beginnings” was first published on Informed Consent on 21 March 2005.
This is my first blog. I’m not sure what will come of these, but I’m writing this to help me, and maybe others too, understand me better.
I thought I’d start with the story of how the D/s beast was awoken within me. It wasn’t my fault, honest: it was always there, but it wasn’t until something happened that I discovered this. Actually, it wasn’t until a long time after something happened that I came to terms with the feelings that I’d obviously had since I was quite small. I met a girl. She was an undergraduate at a London college. My career was just getting to the interesting bit – you know, when you are finally trusted to screw up on your own. Anyhow, we’d been seeing each other for a while and enjoying a gratifyingly lusty vanilla life. We’d each got to the point of thinking about the other seriously. I travelled frequently and was often out of town for a day or two. Mobile phones had hardly been invented and she, the impecunious student, had no phone in her behind-Euston flat – so I pined a
lot when I was away from her. One Thursday, though she phoned me – she was at her Dad’s office and was determined not only to talk to me, but I guess to make me blush in front of my client. The conversation didn’t last long, but she did ask me what I most wanted when I saw her again. I suggested she meet me at Kings Cross Station, naked and with a rose in her teeth.
Friday Night – There she was
The rose was in her teeth and she was wearing the pinkest macintosh you ever saw. Oh, and espadrilles (remember them?). I spotted her at 100 paces. And, at 20 paces I was certain she must either be wearing a skirt that was much shorter than any i’d seen her wear before or…
She would be my first and future s – but it was a rocky road getting there, more of which anon.
You’ve guessed. She was. And i wanted to get home fast. But, she absolutely insisted we go for a drink in the pub round the corner first…. I’ll draw a veil over the rest. But, it was a rermarkable weekend. I took her out for a curry on Sunday night before heading back to get ready for an early train to York (or it may have been Leeds). I told her I’d been truly gobsmacked by the pink mac incident. She was arch, she said she knew. I asked her why: She said “Because you asked me to. And, If I can, I will do anything you ask of me”. At the time I found this scary. I did not see a D/s dimension in it. Neither of us had, up to now mentioned the L word – I thought that was what she was working up to and I made my excuses and left. It was only quite a lot later that I understood that she knew what she wanted from a relationship and was trying to work out if she could get it from me.
There are times when I give the girl a good whacking for my entertainment and she takes satisfaction in that: We call that play. Wikipedia defines it thus:
Play is a term employed in psychology and ethology to describe a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities normally associated with recreational pleasure and enjoyment. Play is most commonly associated with children and their juvenile-level activities, but play can also be a useful adult activity, and occurs among other higher-functioning animals as well.
There are times when she is a bit naughty. I spank her. That is punishment of a sort. Wikipedia says this of punishment:
Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something negative or unpleasant on a person, animal, organization or entity in response tobehavior deemed unacceptable by an individual, group or other entity
There are rarer times when something hurtful has passed between us and something that hurts helps mend things. That is punishment too. Rather more intense, serious and upsetting to both.
For us, play is joyful: punishment is anything but.
All this is consensual, she lets me do this to her. But that doesn’t make it something she volunteers for. Our dynamic, and the limit it is controlled by, means she has given informed consent to me playing with her, within our limits, when I want and punishing her, within our limits, when i find it necessary. Both things feel real to us and, I believe, to many others, whether they are in long-term relationships or not.
I find it very difficult to think of anything as punishment if it leaves the punished person with a sense of joyful satisfaction. That’s play – and there is nothing wrong with that. But punishment’s satisfaction is in forgiveness and atonement, and not in the physical or mental stimulation of the thing for its own sake.
When I spank her for something trivial it’s quite often quite gleeful for me. Not for her though (and this is the weird-but-important-to-us bit): She reacts quite differently to spankings of similar intensity depending whether it is punishment or play. The head space is different: she is genuinely remorseful and requires comforting, in the case of a punishment. She is quite smiley and proud of taking what I dish out if I whack her just because I want to.
Of course, you run the risk of inadvertently making her smile by imposing a penalty she rather likes. But, you can usually find something they won’t love (or that they love to hate) and use that when punishment must be given. YKIOK (Your kink is okay), but my kink, if it is one, would be to make sure that, if real punishment is required (something rare – I’ve not done it this year, I don’t think), that it was something that provided no comfort or satisfaction other than that experienced in atonement and forgiveness.
I think you can draw the distinction between BDSM play and BDSM punishment in pretty much every BDSM transaction from a long-term loving D/s or M/s relationship to a one-off interaction at a club (and everything in between): If it’s enjoyable to both parties, it’s play. If it’s being done to in response to something the Dom regards as wrong and it’s unpleasant to the submissive and, maybe, to the others involved, then it’s punishment, whatever it is.
The Dom’s dilemma
For us, punishment is sometimes part of a process of reconciliation and it does feel uncomfortable,
sometimes hateful, to me. What if I’m being genuinely unjust? I’ll hurt our relationship, maybe long-term. What if part of the fault was mine (it usually takes two to tango), then it only seems right if the punishment becomes, genuinely, something we both feel bad about. For me to enjoy it in those circumstances could be construed as me pleasing myself, and not as me taking responsibility for our relationship.
So, Play, no matter how severe, is still lovely and light and enjoyable by all. Punishment, no matter how light is something severe and serious which causes unhappiness for the dominant (and maybe his/her partner) because it is necessary, and for the submissive (or maybe both partners) in its infliction.
Making a clear distinction between the two makes it easier to explain both terms and the satisfaction experienced by BDSM people in both. My experience has been, from time to time, that trying to explain the concept of punishment as it works in my relationship ( and in others) has been undermined by the impression some have that BDSM play is the same as BDSM punishment ( as I’ve said above, we do both) and that punishment is always “just a bit of fun”.
This has led to people expressing the view to me that D/s relationships are trivial, unreal fantasies.
This is upsetting: Whilst I feel I am unlikely ever to live my BDSM D/s life discreetly but openly, I’d like that to be true for people sometime in the future.
I think it would be useful if BDSM punishment is seen as distinct from BDSM play, Almost everyone in BDSM plays. Some punish or are punished. Being aware that there is a difference gives depth to people’s views of BDSM relationships. I think that’s a good thing.
I don’t characterise my BDSM dynamic with curvy_bottom as an M/s one. She’s a submissive, not a BDSM slave. Having said that, I’ve often in the past, thought of consensual BDSM slavery as a state to which I, as the person on top, aspire.
These day’s I’m really not sure whether a BDSM slave (Master/slave or M/s) dynamic is heaven or hell for either party.
I like the concept of consensual non-consentand wonder whether this is all that is required for someone to characterise themselves as a BDSM slave? But, as most of the people I’ve spoken to
who characterise themselves as in M/s relationships talk of ownership, possession and control, I’m unsure that, by itself, CN-C is sufficient.
There is another thing. I think I’ve seen slave type dynamics in non-BDSM relationships. I mean non-abusive ones (though I think differentiating BDSM ownership/slavery from abuse is absolutely key to gaining acceptance of this as a positive form of human relationship that can be fulfilling for both parties.
Slave-style relationships in the non-BDSM world
The non-BDSM relationships I’ve seen which seem to resemble BDSM slavery are ones where one party is very much “taken care of” by the other, who assumes responsibility for much of their life together and both parties seem very content for that to happen. It seems to me that some BDSM slave relationships are like this, but with the addition of BDSM sexual and fetish elements and without any form of disguise masking the authority aspects of the dynamic.
Sometimes I got the feeling that a non-BDSM “slave” relationship had a less positive connotation too: The partner who was content to be dependent seemed to be more in love with the one on top, and both seemed aware of it. It was almost as if the “bottom” partner knew that, though it was unlikely, the top partner could, in extremis, walk away. That could easily be a bad, maybe abusive, thing, But I didn’t detect that – more that the senior partner was aware and had made themselves responsible for ensuring their partner had faith in them.
I haven’t seen this, I don’t think, in BDSM relationships (other than my own, even though I’m top, I do, from time to time, sense the responsibility thing from curvy_bottom, because we are in a shared relationship: she could have walked away – Iam not as good at having faith as i should be): Maybe that’s because, in a BDSM thing, a huge part of the attraction for the bottom often is that things can be done to him/her, for the satisfaction of another, that he/she doesn’t want?