Last update Wed Mar 27, 2013
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This is a rant. It's based on my own personal experiences in the BDSM community. Some people may not like the characterizations in here. You've been warned.
I've been involved in both BDSM and polyamory since long before I had words to describe eaither (and, for that matter, since before the word "polyamory" even existed). I've been part of the organized poly community for quite a number of years, but generally speaking, I've tended to avoid the organized BDSM community.
Lately, I've been spending a lot more time in the BDSM community, and I'm beginning to remember why it is I've avoided it.
A friend of mine who lives, like I do, in both worlds once described a poly meeting as "Kind of like a BDSM munch, but the people are nicer." And there's a bit of truth to it.
This is not a diatribe against everyone in the BDSM community. I've met some very cool, very intelligent people in the scene, and many of these people I count among my friends.
But there are also quite a number of people I've encountered who are about as much fun as a toothache. To wit:
The "7th Level Antler-Headed Yak Boy (fourth house, nineteenth tax district)" types.
These are the guys (and they're almost always men) who form elaborate societies with intricate rules and protocols, and give themselves incredibly flowery titles (which they insist on using to refer to themselves, and may insist that others use as well) to boot.
There's nothing wrong with any of that. The problem comes from the idea that once you've mastered someone's list of rules, probably yanked from some old pulp science-fiction novel, that you've mastered all the intricities of domination and submission, and you're now fit to rule the world or some damn thing. You haven't; you've just memorized someone else's rules. D/s is arguably one of the most complex forms of all human relationships, and it's different for everyone--something that works for one person doesn't apply to another. Mastering one set of protocols no more makes you an expert than mastering macaroni and cheese makes you a five-star chef.
The pathologically insecure.
These people often refer to themselves exclusively as "Master (or Mistress) Thus-and Such," and are more than happy to describe you exactly, in great deal, how and why they've mastered the fine art of BDSM, and why you should be grateful to sit at their feet and pick up such crumbs of arcane knowledge they see fit to provide.
Disagree with them, even about something minor, and the entire elaborate facade built to protect their insecurities comes crashing down. You have not seen histronics until you've suggested to such a person that perhaps there's some element of D/s he hasn't considered.
Hint: Being a master is like being enlightened. If you have to tell people that you are--you aren't.
The Domly Doms.
These guys--and again, they're almost always guys--self-identify as alpha males; they strut, they preen, they impress one another with the size of their stables of submissives. Their submissives never stick around for long; the stables rotate, because at the end of the day, interspecies dating never works. It's just too damn hard for a human submissive to maintain a romance with a peacock.
A closely related subspecies to the Domly Dom:
The Misogynist Dom
These ones are usually pretty easy to spot. They treat all women as "natural" submissives, sometimes with a lengthy and elaborate rationalization from pop evolutionary psychology. They fancy the notion of seeing two women getting it on, as long as there are no other guys involved (because as we all know, sex between women doesn't "really" count). And, just as the cherry of lame on the top of the sundae of general misogyny, they sometimes claim that they do what they do from a sense of obligation to "protect" women, the poor frail dears.
Some of these guys wrap themselves up into a coccoon of creepy and metamorphose, Kafka-like, into the next species:
The Downright Dangerous
These guys (invariably guys, in my experience) fancy themselves the Movers and the Shakers of the BDSM community. They often try to gravitate toward positions of leadership or respect, seeking the validation of others for their status.
Whereas the more garden-variety misogynist doms tend to play the same note again and again, these guys strike a full chord of poor behavior, often including ignoring the limits and boundaries of those luckless to play with them...because, you see, they know better than the women they play with. They often have experience that's broad but not deep...because a lot of submissives won't play with them a second time.
The completely unsocialized.
These are the ones who can make a convention of stereotypical computer nerds point and say "Damn, those people have poor social skills!" (And yes, I know that the stereotypes of computer nerds are quite often wrong.)
Many of these guys lead one to suspect that they're part of the community because no other community'll have them.
Hint: I understand foot fetishes as much as the next guy, but do not walk up to me and, without introduction, ask me to take off my shoes. Especially if you don't know my sexual orientation and you're a guy. What's that, you say? There's nothing sexual about feet? Well, guess what--anything that arouses you or gets you off is an intimate act, even if, in a different context, it might be completely benign.
The One True Wayers.
These are usually the people in "TPE" (total power exchange) relationships--people who live acting out a full-time master/slave relationship, who sneer at the "players"--namely, those who don't live their entire lives in their roles--and especially those who (oh, dear God) switch roles.
Hint: If you predicate the whole of your romantic relationship, and indeed the whole of your life, along a single axis, don't think even for half a second that you have a deeper understanding of D/s than those whose experience is broader and whose palettes are wider. You want to live in a master/slave relationship? Hey, that's cool, whatever turns you on. You want to think that gives you a better understanding of the right way to do it? Go sit in the back of the bus with the Baptists, the fundamentalist Muslims, and all the other yahoos who think there's only one right way to live.
These folks are a peculiar subspecies of One True Wayers. Like the One True Wayers, they believe there is a single "correct" way to "do" BDSM; unlike the One True Wayers, they feel that those who do things otherwise aren't just doing it wrong...they dont actually exist at all.
For example, many you-don't-existers will say things like "People can not be both dominant and submissive. Switches may top or bottom, but switches are not both dominant and submissive." If confronted by someone wo says "I am both dominant and submissive," the you-don't-existers will often merely dismiss such a person as deluded, or a liar, or undecided, or lacking self-knowledge.
The Wannabe Doms.
You can find these people all over the Internet--and, for a change, they're not mostly men. These people appear to be equal-opportunity offenders, and I've encountered about as many women as men who fall into this role.
These are the ones who believe that because they consider themselves dominant, the rest of the world should too. Many of them are often poorly socialized as well, which is quite a double-whammy.
You can spot 'em right away. They're the ones who, upon learning that someone is a submissive, immediately demand that that person be submissive to them. They're the ones who open a conversation with a submissive they've only just met with "You will call me Master and you will learn to worship me." They seem to see submissives as commodities, not as people, and begin every encounter with the idea that every submissive in the world will submit to them because, hey, they're Doms, right?
Hint: Respect is earned, not automatic. If you want a submissive to respect you, first prove that you deserve it. The people you see in the community, the people you see at play parties, who command widespread respect? They earned it. And by the way, just because someone is a submissive, that does not automatically mean he or she should submit to you. If you don't even know this person's name and have not yet established any kind of relationship whatsoever with this person, assuming you deserve this person's submission is a bit premature, wanker. Submissives exist for more than your own fantasy fulfillment!
The Desperate Subbies.
These are the flip side of the wannabe doms--the people who're so desperate to find a dominant that they'll stick anyone into that slot. Upon learning that someone is a dom, the Desperate Subbiess immediately assume that this person will automatically want to dominate them, and will run up to anyone they see who even remotely looks the least little bit dominant with "Oh, Master, I'm desperate to serve you!"
In some extreme cases, these people cross the line from annoying to outright self-destructive, as they'll sometimes abandon even basic concerns for safety and self-preservation in their attempts to find someone, anyone, to dominate them. Fortunately, Desperate Subbies are rare, and can be spotted from a mile away. Unfortunately, Desperate Subbies occasionally become statistics.
Hint: The relationship between a dominant and a submissive is a partnership. Even when it's a transient partnership, like at a play party, it's still a partnership. Don't go pledging your submission to someone until after you've determined that he or she is interested in you, and for God's sake, don't go pledging your submission to someone you don't even know, or to everyone you meet who seems the least bit interested in you. Dominants are people, not fantasy fulfillment objects...and every now and then, a person who calls himself a dominant isn't actually a dominant at all, but a predator who sees you as the prey, you know? Getting to know someone before you submit to him or her is a very good strategy to avoid becoming a statistic.