Jun 142012
 

In a conversation with a wise man once, I distinguished between dominance and submission, on the one hand, and sadism and masochism, on the other. He scoffed at this distinction, saying the two/four were not even two sides of the same coin, but rather, the same side of the same coin – that dominance and submission simply is/are synonymous with sadism and masochism.

This man’s wisdom, and thoughtfulness, are such that I’m disinclined to (over-)indulge my near-certainty that he’s wrong, that while I’m dominant, I’m not at all sadistic; that I would enjoy submitting, but not to pain. The dude’s smart, and thoughtful, though, and his certainty, coupled with my respect for his intellect, demand that I subject his claim to substantial scrutiny and thought before I reject it, or even modify it.

And so… allow me to explore, here, my own relationship to these four nouns, just a bit. And just for fun, because it’s salient, I’ll throw in “fucking” and “aggression.” Why? Well, for years, as I’ve written before, I had (and to be honest, still have more than vestigial traces of) an ambivalent attitude toward the act of fucking. It’s never been my preferred sexual activity (give me oral, any day), and I’m occasionally prone to failure to launch, or lost erections, when fucking – even with copious amounts of Viagra – something that simply never happens to me while engaged in just about any other form of sex.

The same wise man called my attention to my relationship toward fucking, hypothesizing that it contained some information about me, my relationship to women, my relationship to aggression. I was, at the time, skeptical. But I’ve done a lot of reading, a lot of growing, and a lot of thinking since then. One change in how I think, in general, is that I’m much more prone to basic, structural, physical analyses than I once was. So, for example, I’ve come to see the very act of penis-in-vagina fucking (as distinguished from the act of PIV making love) as an intrinsically aggressive, even violent, act (cf. Intercourse). This is true symbolically – the penis penetrates, invades, stabs, the woman’s body. And it’s true more practically – most (good) fucking, I’ve come to learn, at least among the women with whom I’ve interacted, is – if it’s any good, at least – violent, rough, hard. This is the kind of fucking that seems to be what most excites, stimulates, satisfies, the vast majority of women with whom I’ve been privileged to interact sexually in recent years. (Maybe there’s a bit of a selection bias, and I certainly don’t mean to universalize – but I do mean to generalize.) So I have come to see a relationship between aggression and fucking that I used to deny.

And what of this? What’s my point? For me, I suspect, there is something scary about this aggression, this violence. Am I scared that my rage, my aggression, will harm or kill the woman I’m fucking? That it will harm or kill me? That, if I let my rage show, there will be some retribution, or comeuppance? This is how I think, and while I have all these questions, I don’t have answers. I suspect – suspect that I am scared of my rage, that I carry around a deep, unacknowledged rage at women, the intensity and magnitude of which terrifies me, and which I therefore do my best to suppress (at the cost of my desire to fuck). But to the extent this is true, it is true on a deeply subconscious level.

How does this all relate to D/s, to S&M? Well, I think that, on some level, the act of fucking is a hostile act, an act that includes some aspects of both dominance (I am using your cunt for my pleasure) and sadism (I will pound into, against you, with abandon – I will hit you, squeeze you, bruise you, mark you). Is the same true of dominance? If I dominate you, is there sadism embedded in that dominance? Is it possible to dominate “sensitively,” “lovingly”? My gut tells me yes. What I collect when I dominate you isn’t your pain or your suffering – it feels to me like the opposite: it’s your confidence and trust in me, that by handing control over to me, by submitting to me, you are palpably demonstrating your confidence that I won’t harm you, that – in fact – I will deliver you into throes of orgasmic pleasure, that your submission to me will be rewarded, not punished. That I’m not dangerous, but desirable. Is there a difference between my “marking” you with a bruise (a dom often does this) and my simply bruising you (as would a sadist)? Is there a difference in motivations? Ownership vs. suffering?

A distant buddy of mine has given me a writing assignment – one which, I confess, is a bit difficult for me, for precisely this reason: it features not just dominance and submission, but punishment. I’m happy to tell you what to do, to boss you around, to direct our sex, to reward you for your compliance. But as I wrote here, I’m far less interested in handling your non-compliance.

There’s a whole genre of erotica called “LRH” [sic], or “Little Red Riding Hood.” I recently had an entertaining morning on Twitter playing out a LRH fantasy with a couple of tweeters. For them, there was real excitement in the raw demonstration of my physical prowess and domination, in my (and another guy’s) chasing them, catching them, subduing them. This seems to me a subset of dominance, one concerned with the exertion/demonstration of power by the dom.

For me, dominance is about my powerlessness, not my power: precisely what is most exciting to me about it is my sub’s active submission to me. Her voluntary, entirely reversible agreement to submit to my will. I don’t imagine for a moment that I have any real power – and (to come back to my rage at women) perhaps that’s what makes it appealing to me. Maybe what I crave is a setting in which whatever power I have is repackaged, handed BACK to me, rather than exerted.

And maybe this isn’t real dominance. I had a date six weeks or so ago with a woman i met through FetLife who informed me that I’m “not a dom,” and I had to agree. At times, I’m dominant. I’m capable of dominance. But I’m not, in any essential way, “a dom.”

Back to my distant buddy: she asked me the other day to punish her, to tell her she had been a bad girl. But for me to do that, to punish, would require me to step into that position of exerting power.

Maybe I should try that.  It might be fun.  And I might learn something.

  3 Responses to “BDSM”

  1. What an interesting essay, thank you for writing it.

  2. This is really interesting. The first part (regarding the overlap/contract between SM and D/s) because the claim that the two are equivalent it’s soooooo completely wrong. I mean – blatantly wrong, on so many levels that I might, at last, do a blog post on the subject. Every time I think of writing one, I think that the subject has been covered by others and there is nothing more to say about it, and then it comes back.

    But in case I don’t, a short(er) version. I genuinely think that dominance/submission and sadism/masochism are different things, and different in more than one way.

    1) There are masochistic dominants and sadistic subs.
    2) Not every submissive is masochistic, and many, many instances of D/s play don’t involve pain.
    3) Even if they involve pain, the pain might not be fetishised AS SUCH, i.e. is the act of enduring it that is fetishised, the obedience, not the sensation as such.
    4) And finally, and most obviously — this is perhaps particularly clear in femdom – not every masochist is submissive.

    As to fucking being inherently an aggressive act… I think we can go on about it for ages. Whether it is, and in what direction (I never was really happy with the idea that a man was ‘taking’ a woman by penetrating her – if you consider purely umm geometric mechanics of the act, who is exactly TAKING whom here?)…

    I really like the idea that consensual power exchange repackages certain – perhaps aggressive, destructive, or (from the other side) self-destructive too – impulses and desires into a manageable parcel. That by bringing things out in the open, and establishing limits, it allows them to be role-played out safely.

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