Oct 152010
 

When I speak about BDSM practices, one of my core assertions about the difference between WIITWD (“What It Is That we Do”) and abuse is intent. The person who verbally humiliates their partner to gain control and erode the self-esteem of the other, or the spouse who beats and harms their significant other, using violence as a means to destroy, is different from the kinkster,  pervert or Leatherperson in one central, pivotal way. And that is intent.

 

We can argue consent, but in some relationships we play with even THAT slippery edge.

 

So I fall back to intent.

 

The intention of the person in a Leather or BDSM interaction is mutual satisfaction, whatever form or means that takes. Sometimes it looks so much like an abusive interaction that our only signal is context. The very controlling dominant, the cowering submissive, any of these postures viewed through the lens of BDSM and Leather can be hot and wonderful.

 

In the Default World, people aren’t so aware of how gratifying, beautiful and necessary these seemingly unequal and dangerous interactions can be for the practitioners. So, we use language like SSC, RACK and the like to reassure them…and ourselves…that we are OK.

 

But intent is another soft, treacherous landscape to tread.

 

When I first became involved, real time, in Our Community, I was certain that I wanted full submission to a master who would be able to bring me to a place where I would obey without thinking, where their wish really would be my command. I needed for them to be able to reach in and access me in a way that would be complete and irresistible. I was coming off of a life-altering affair that had shown me how that feels and dammit, I wasn’t gonna settle for anything less than that.

 

But interestingly enough? The dominant tendency to play their hands close to their chest was precisely the thing that disabled their capacity to disable my resistance.

 

You see, if you give me an order and my first reaction is to ask “Why?” the interaction is already past reflexive obedience. My brain has “won” this round over my submission and I really kinda do need an answer so that I can have the hope of moving back into a submissive place. And then hopefully, next time, I can hold that memory and integrate it into my obedience so that I can learn that reflex.

 

NOT telling, me, once I have had that resistance, is a recipe for resentment and second-guessing. And though I would love to be able to say I am capable of knee-jerking myself into a submissive, reaction, I cannot.

 

If you keep me in the dark as to what your intentions with me are, cool. Fight your way in. I dare you.

 

However? If you reveal your intentions to me? You have an ally on the inside. I can help you in. I live here. I want you in, despite my protestations, boobytraps and clever distractions designed to keep you out.

 

I have had my fill of dominants who have had designs on my submission and expected me to be obedient in the dark. And I tried. And these experiences, these experiments, these efforts in expunging expectations, had varying degrees of success though they eventually evaporate into that darkness of uncertainty.

 

If you expect me to obey, and you choose to hide the “Why?” from me, that may be hot for a while but eventually I will falter. I have done too much work on myself to know that I will ever be able to fall blindly into that submission.

 

On other hands I have fallen into deeply submissive spaces where the dominants in question lacked clear intent. Being skilled players, they were able to shortcut and short-circuit me onto the short bus. Yeah, the play was hot and it sometimes triggered, through physical and emotional means, a doppelganger of my submissive self.

 

But.

 

But.

 

Triggering my submissive nature and holding it close wasn’t their intent. Their intent? At most, hot scene, a smoky, dusty, fiery interaction, me turned inside out for their amusement, the ego edification that comes to them as a result of seeing an otherwise strong woman reduced to sobbing flesh.

 

And that is satisfying, and I long for that dissolution. But it is not safe for me to go that far with someone whose intentions stop there, because the nature of my submission, once invoked to Now, is to continue. And that is a mismatch right fucking there. I can’t just pull it back to heel so easily once it has been conjured from the airtight lockdown where I keep it in safety.

 

Swinging between those whose intentions are opaque to me and those whose intentions form an ill-matched misalliance with my own has been my path since 1995, when I first decided to purposefully pursue my path. Realizing that this is a truth only coalesced for me today, and this was triggered by a deceptively simple question I recently asked the dominant who is, currently, in the process of Calling Me Out. He gave a straightforward answer, and I was done.

 

Or so I thought.

 

I rarely ask people “Why?” because I am rarely prepared for the answer. I also know it is far easier to bypass your process rather than wade into one’s internal swamp, and often when you ask people to illuminate their motives, it is like looking at the broken pillaged remnants of a plundered edifice. But in this case, I was compelled to ask “Why?” Because my obedience is reflexive with him, because despite circumstances that are outside of what I usually find acceptable, my heart is already on its knees.

 

“Why?” is a dangerous question for me. It means I will have to either act on the answer to choose not to act on the answer. And that can be terrifying.

 

Others before have given answers that were honest and worked for them. And, of course, for me too, in varying degrees. But the intentions have been elusive, and in some cases, eventually unacceptable.

 

But the moment when the “Why?” is answered by a call that defeats my best efforts to protect myself, I have no defense. His answer becomes the clarion notes from the horn of Joshua ending the siege of Jericho and the Walls shiver and disassemble in a silent roar in the inner space of my resistance. In this case? Resistance truly is futile.

 

To have the desire to see me is one thing. To add to that desire the means to gain that access is another. But the irresistible force that moves the unmovable object is the sticking point of intent. My place now is to stand down, to remove my Self from this necessary destruction so that, when the dust settles? I can see far enough to open myself to what I believe is a boundless topography of wonder, beauty, love and joyousness.

 

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  22 Responses to “The Right Question”

  1. I think that consent can be saved as a means to morally distinguish BDSM from abuse by applying it globaly. I am considering a definition of abusive relationships as power imbalanced relationship, where the more powerful partner applies his greater power into keeping the relationship running. The motivation for this stems from a series of problems that I believe the practice of consensual power exchange causes for ethics and social theory, but the scope of the definition is abusive relationship in general, not merely among sadomasochistic relationships. I have worded the the definition in such a way as to make even extremely asymmetric relationships possibly non-abusive, conditional on the desires of the less powerful partner.

    So here is the definition:
    An intimate relationship between two partners, D and S, with D being more powerful than S overall in the social areas pertaining to their relationship (whether resulting from wealth, status, physical strength or anything else) is abusive if and only if 1) if D were not more powerful than S, there would not be an intimate relationship between D and S; & 2) S would prefer a possible situation in which D were not more powerful than S to the actual situation.
    Comments:

    1) states that the power difference is a necessary condition for the persisting of the relationship while 2) excludes situations where S desires to be in a power skewed relationship with D. Note that 2) talks about the power of D, not about the relationship between D and S. Thus, in order for 2) to be true, S must not merely prefer having a relationship with D, but prefer it because of the power asymmetry.

    The definition takes the preferences of the less powerful partner to be decisive and ignores the preferences and particular actions of the more powerful partner completely. There are several reasons for this. One prima facie good way to describe abusive relationship is to say that the less powerful partner wants to leave but cannot, due to the influence – emotional, financial, social, physical,… – of the more powerful partner. I think it safe to assume that the more powerful partner can leave the relationship if they prefer to. Since we already assume power asymmetry between D and S as well as the current persisting of an intimate relationship between them, there is no reason to consider D’s preferences. If he would not prefer the relationship to persist, he could abort it.

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