Sunday, August 10, 2008

Coming from the Heart

I am not someone who hangs out in the larger BDSM community. Instead, I have cultivated a few close friendships with others who also endeavor to approach this lifestyle from a place that is heart-centered and life-affirming. So it disappoints me when I hear stories of mistreatment from fellow players.

Of course, it may seem obvious to some that explorations of the darker side of the sexual psyche could lead to dysfunction. Yet I think it's such a cop-out to abuse the trust and vulnerability integral to this kind of play. It's all about the mind fuck. And as such, when compared to erotic exchanges that are based on a purely physical-sexual level, there's more room to get hurt and therefore a greater responsibility on the part of the participants, particularly the tops.

When I engage in power exchange, I am seeking to know myself better as well as connect in an authentic way with another being. Yet what I have seen is that these same rituals can be used as a substitute and barrier to intimacy. It can become a means of maintaining separation between oneself and the other. This other may be defined as client, male, caucasian, straight or vanilla person - whatever the label, it serves to dehumanize and distance, blocking true empathy.

I can see the defense mechanisms at play in this process, and recognize that many pro dommes protect themselves by creating these barriers, which they may regard as necessary boundaries. Yet disconnecting from those we choose to engage with only leads to our own emotional isolation. I have watched some move further and further away from mutual understanding with those who session with them, leading to bitterness as honest communication falls on the wayside.

What's troubling me most right now is to hear stories of how friends, who by no means fit into the alpha role within the dominant paradigm, have been subject to real cruelty and prejudice - in the lifestyle, as clients and as pros. These are people who already have to deal with judgments from society at large because of their race, size, age, physical ability and (trans)gender. What is it that makes people want to abuse those they perceive as defenseless? What joy does one get out of mistreating the less powerful? How heart-breaking to bare one's most precious secrets, only to have it thrown back in your face and made to feel wrong for being who you are, whether wanting to submit or top. What gets me is how some people act so proud of their "daring" alternative lifestyle, yet with their actions end up reinforcing conventional heirarchies and discrimination. I'm not talking about un-PC roleplays (which can be very hot), but about playing into the hands of close-mindedness and hatred.

When I top someone, I want to acknowledge their power. I want to pay respect to it by not assuming they're easy to conquer. I want to mentally and physically tussle until I have their submission. It makes the dynamic an earned rather than performed experience. That's the problem with so much pro play. It's thought of more as a performance than an encounter. So much of the good, juicy stuff gets lost in this illusion. And so much hurt can happen when playing mind games without heart.