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. If I am at a play party and I see someone slapping the hell out of their partner, I might pause to admire the passion. If I am on the street and I see someone slapping the hell out of their partner I will pause to call the police. Hitting people, in general, is a manifestation of violent aggression. However, we who engage in consensual BDSM have a different intention and a different expectation of outcome when it comes to these seemingly violent interactions.
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. And Expectations can go from happy hopes to cudgels we use to keep one another in line.
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. The opacity and distance so many dominants employ to maintain control means it is often difficult to assess what their intent is. And that distance and difficulty can, and will, hinder the development and maintenance of trust.
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, booby traps and clever distractions designed to keep you out.
If, for example, I am issued 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 may (re)learn that reflex.
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 never be able to fall blindly into that submission.
On the other hand, 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.
Triggering my submissive nature and holding it close wasn’t their intent. Their intent? At most, a 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. And I ache to submit to someone who craves the compliment of that intensity! 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 journey since I first decided to purposefully pursue my path.
We usually enter into our relationships with the best intentions. Passion, desire, excitement, all of that NRE (New Relationship Energy) builds to a heady flush, and we often find ourselves setting our expectations accordingly. I’ve discovered that the first flush is not always the most trustworthy energy source for setting long-terms goals, and for setting responsible boundaries. We all know the adage about what is used to pave the road to Hell! And good intentions, while they may carry the moment, absolutely need to be backed up by honorable behavior, mutual respect and negotiation of needs, wants and desires.
For those of us who engage in the intensity of relationships that explore power exchange, clarity of intent must be wedded with consistency of actions. You might intend to be the best dominant you can be, but if you consistently fail to follow through on your promises, if you do not respect yourself, your dynamic, and your responsibility, you are at increased risk for your interactions to inch into the realm of emotional abuse. And if, as a submissive, you utilize passive-aggressive tactics, disrespect the core of the dynamic, and abdicate your personal accountability, you are also increasing the possibility of emotional exploitation. Yes, Virginia, it works no matter what side of the dynamic you claim.
Being truly honest, transparent and up-front about your desires and your internal process – as risky and as daunting as that sounds – is one of the best tools you’ll ever have for navigating the complex web of power-exchange relationships. It is vital for us, when we submit in consensual domination, to know that our partner loves and cares for us as they torment our bodies and control our lives, and that these torments are not intended to damage or destroy. It is vital for is, when we engage in consensual domination, to know that our partner submits from a place of desire and confidence, not self-loathing and fear.
As you explore BDSM, fetishes, Leather, Kink, Polyamory, Swinging, open-relationships, anything in our wide and wonderful world of alternatives, take your internal compass with you. Check yourself before you wreck yourself! Make sure you are being honest about your intentions toward your partner(s), and MOST critically, keep an eye to your own intentions as they pertain to your own journey. Start by being honest and forthcoming about your objectives…no, really honest! That puts you in good standing when you venture forth and are living, laughing and loving with your fellow funky freaks. When your intentions are clear for you, you stand a better chance of having your interactions with others be above-board, honest, and vibrantly beautiful.