Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mutual Respect (by Meadow Theas)

In all our marvelous diversity, what we have in common is power exchange relationships.

Power exchange can be expressed by any action.  The action that expresses the exchange of power is like the celery that carries the cream cheese.  It’s a vehicle, neutral in itself, charged only by the fact that one person commands and the other obeys.

And power exchange itself doesn’t get us a pervert label.  It’s part of the mainstream in intimate relationships.  Consider “traditional marriage.”  The difference, and the thing that gets us considered perverted, is the diversity of our expression and the fact that we choose it rather than allowing our culture to dictate it.  Kink is part of that controversial diversity.

Despite all this, we perpetuate our own oppression by carrying social stereotypes into our D/s.  Gender roles are a prime example.  There’s no reason why doing the dishes should be either a female or a submissive task . . . yet I observe a strong trend towards assuming that subs/slaves are female and that their submission is expressed in domestic service.  And I suspect that many of the problems Dommes and male subs face are based in vanilla gender expectations.

And we generate our own stereotypes and labels from within as well, thereby generating both misunderstanding and disrespect.  Examples are myriad, ranging from relationship assumptions to the nature and capabilities of people based on whether they’re Dominant or submissive.  I can’t tell you how discouraging it is to feel myself facing, as a submissive in my theoretically revolutionary community, a similar set of limiting stereotypes to what I face as a woman in the vanilla world.

So here we are, wanting community, sharing a deeply primal human experience, yet united primarily by our diversity.  How can we talk to each other, learn from each other, when each of our relationships has its own vocabulary?  Even the word “submission” is defined differently by different people, and each definition describes a valid experience.

I would argue that “education” is something to be approached with care.  It’s human to want validation and reassurance that we’re succeeding in the dynamic we’re creating.  However, creation is individual.  As Marge Piercy said about writing:

“The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall . . .”

In M/s and D/s, what classes can offer us is techniques and somebody else’s preferences.  

What we each bring to the table is ourselves.  Our own experience, our own priorities and choices, our thoughts on what is right for us.  Not for our neighbors.  And we can bring open ears for the lives of others.  I believe that if we could listen to each other’s lives without feeling a direct or implied pressure to be like them, if we could take what’s right for us while respectfully leaving the rest, if we could act towards each other based on understanding and acceptance of each other’s individual preferences, we could learn more and do less damage to ourselves and others.

To my mind, what power exchange relationships offer us is a chance to live one of the most demanding spiritual tenets I know of:  the Wiccan Rede.  “And it harm none, do as you will.”

Thanks for reading.

Ryn’s kajira

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