Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Players v. Real D/s-ers

The Internet has seen an explosion in BDSM like none ever witnessed before. Not long ago, an episode of the Discovery Health show Berman and Berman focused on sexual fetishes, and one comment on the show was that over 300 million people worldwide were into some form of BDSM in their sexual lives. Of this, we must assume that the bulk of these people are in the industrialized world, and it can therefore be safely said that BDSM is practiced by a very significant segment of our culture in some measure. As I've often been fond of saying, BDSM is a big house with many rooms inside it. Sadly, many of those rooms are occupied by people that have no business being here, but remain because nobody has the sense to give them the boot.

I find it unfortunate that so many people come online and think that the prevalant online environment is how it really is in the real-world lifestyle. They really think that all the protocols and posturing that are seen online is how we act in our day-to-day lives. Well, if you're reading this essay thus far, know here and now that I'm declaring that to be a crock of crap. There's a great deal of grey between the black and the white, but real-time observance of protocols like those seen online is highly rare. It didn't take me very long online to make a fairly cynical decision, but one that I've found to have been quite helpful. Until proven to the contrary, everyone I meet in D/s rooms online is a horny net geek and a player and a wannabee. The more you see them strut and preen, the more obvious they become about this, whether dominant or submissive.

As an aside, I want to point out that too many people take on the wrong terms to describe themselves, online or real-time, and that leads almost inevitably to disaster. If you spank or whip someone, or tie them up and do whatever kink comes to mind, that doesn't make you a dominant, but a top. If you have these things done to you, that doesn't make you a submissive, but instead a bottom. There's nothing wrong with being a top or a bottom, by any means, but dominance and submission extends beyond the kinky stuff and out into life. Topping and bottoming is about kink and play only. Dominance and submission is about the exchange of personal power within peoples' lives.

True dominants and submissives are not in this lifestyle to their own ends alone, but are here for the symbiosis that our lifestyle offers them. Players, on the other hand, are just selfish people here to use and abuse others for their own gratification. Make no mistake here, submissives are often as emotionally menacing as dominants, and the damage players wreak upon people is often devastating. Selfishness is not consistent with the lifestyle, because the dominant or top is supposed to keep the well-being of the submissive or bottom as a paramount objective. For now, we'll set aside the tops and bottoms, because that really isn't my focus here, and will instead concentrate on the dominants and submissives, and what makes one real and true and what makes one just a player.

First off: do not just assume someone is a player because he or she isn't real-time in the lifestyle but online only. For many of these people, the online experience dovetails perfectly into their needs, for a variety of reasons, and that makes them no less dominant or submissive on that basis alone. In many cases, what they get online does extend into their real lives. I say that if you are giving and receiving what you need, fulfilling the needs of another while your own needs are likewise fulfilled, then you're ahead of too many others, and bravo to you. Many people find BDSM for the first time in an online environment, and a good number of those discover this to be their true north. Online can be, for a wide variety of reasons, a very good way to discover and explore the ideals of BDSM in safety and anonymity. Because of the witch-hunt mentality of the cultural mainstream, most of us (myself included) feel a great need for circumspection about our lifestyle, which the Internet easily affords us. Having said that, I do believe that there are a far greater proportion of players online than out in the real world of BDSM. This is the dark side of the aforementioned anonymity for one thing. Also, most people won't tolerate real-time players, because only a fool clings for very long to their outright abuses and selfishness, and most people are far from foolish, believe it or not.

It doesn't take a person long to recognize the players, realtime or online, although the manifestations are sometimes different. For one, they are universally either arrogant or excessively dramatic (depending on dominant or submissive) in most cases, using bluster to disguise their shortcomings. It's also easy to spot players by their reputations, once you get to learn about them. VCOTW (Velcro collar of the week) Syndrome is one sure sign, in which collars are swapped off as though they were tee-shirts to be worn once and discarded. For most of these types, their reputations tend to go before them as a warning to those with open eyes, not unlike the criers in the days of old who would escort a leper about while shouting "unclean" to warn off any who would approach. "Trolling," which is the act of going around just trying to seduce others, is of course, another sure sign of a player. People are not commodities to be gotten, used up, and discarded like so much toothpaste or toilet paper, and players never seem to realize this. True dominants and submissives do recognize this fact, and regard those on the other side of that line with only contempt and scorn. Again, this lifestyle is not one of selfishness but of generosity, and failing to practice that generosity is utterly despicable to those of us who are true to BDSM.

Players are likewise marked by their day-to-day conduct, and failings in self-control put that mark on a person. Those who would dominate or submit while intoxicated or impaired chemically, for instance, are players. They're also playing dice with more than their own lives, of course, and are to be avoided like the lepers of old. A drug addict or alcoholic not in recovery, for instance, is just a player, unable to control his or her urges and therefore unworthy of this lifestyle. The ability to circumscribe one's actions and keep his passions within due bounds is the mark of a true dominant or submissive. The inability, naturally, is the reverse of the same, the Cain-like mark of the player. A friend of mine recently wrote a brief but very wonderful article about BDSM and the sad tendency of some people to "settle" on someone rather than to accept loneliness in the search of a more compatible partner, often because of failings in self-esteem or self-knowledge. I agree with her, and would add to her commentary that these people are the natural prey of the player, and are all too often the player's victims. I would also add another tidbit to her position. There is no "one size fits all" in BDSM, and before you know your abilities and needs, you're playing with fire getting into relationships in this lifestyle. Take time to make your decisions. The lifestyle will be here, and a richer place for you once you've done your self-appraisals. The knowledge of who you are, where you are, and what you are will far better arm you against those players who would merely use you to satisfy their own ends, ignoring the fact of your humanity while gleefully laboring to wreck your emotions and instill distrust for someone who would treat you as you deserve, to wit, as a human being worthy of such accord. Players care for nothing but themselves.

How else do we recognize a player? A player exhibits no trust, because he (I'm tired of saying "he or she," so don't think I'm pointing the fingers at men alone) knows he's not worthy of trust, and assumes that nobody is. An example of this would be a "dominant" who won't allow his submissive to talk to other dominants. He thinks the submissive cannot be trusted, and therefore tries to exert an iron control over the submissive's social existence. If "safe, sane and consensual" is the foundation of the lifestyle, then trust and honesty must surely be the mortar that binds it into one common building. Failures in trust and honesty around this lifestyle are tantamount to building a house in a swamp. It's going to sink and the enormity of the toll will be staggering.

Returning briefly to arrogance, I'll comment that no true dominant or submissive will say they've nothing left to learn about BDSM. I've written in other essays than this one that someone unwilling or unable to keep an open mind to learning is a person to be avoided at all costs, not unlike a blind drunk driving a car in an elementary school playground. A "know-it-all" attitude unmistakably marks a player, and a most dangerous one at that. One who won't listen to his partner is a menace, and it is only a matter of time until he wreaks havoc, often irreparably so. Likewise, someone who has read all the books and articles doesn't know a damn thing about BDSM, really. Or, to put it more accurately, he has no basis to apply that knowledge. It's kind of like when you took driver education and read the book, did the homework and took the test. That only proved you had a knowledge of the rules, not that you could skillfully operate a motor vehicle. That required that you strap that car to your back and put it on the asphalt, proceeding carefully as you gained experience. Arrogance, or unjustified overconfidence in oneself, is an awful thing in the BDSM lifestyle, and such people are just players. Trust me on this one, and stay as far away from these types as you can get. You'll be happier for having taken this advice.

True BDSM-ers are exhibited how, you might ask. Well, in short, we're antithetical to players. We know that generosity and not selfishness feeds our needs far better, and are therefore delighted to be generous to our partners in this lifestyle. We're always aspiring to greater knowledge. We're unfailingly trustworthy. We don't enter into relationships lightly, but after giving the matter a great deal of consideration. We don't strut and preen or feel we need to go around bedecked in black leather attire to validate ourselves as lifestylers. We will be what we are, no matter what we're wearing, be it black leather, Mickey and Minnie Mouse jammies, our undies only, or even naked as birth. We know that our dominance or submission comes from deep inside our hearts and souls, and not from external sources. We realize we're just people and not superhuman, and recognize our needs and more importantly, our limitations. We don't gamble with the well-being of others. We utterly despise and reject both drama and pity. Hell, we even help little old ladies across the street, whether they want to cross the street or not.

If you've read this essay to this point, I say thank you for having done so, and I hope you've considered all I've said here and found it to have been helpful to you. I hope what I've written here will help you to steer yourself to the right choices, and to avoid the players while at the same time you identify them and warn others off about them. After a while, we can hope the players know they're not welcome among us, and that they will slither back under the rocks from whence they came, and that their failures to breed because of our unwillingness to accomodate them will see us gleefully witnessing their ultimate extinction. I guess such utopian expectations are a bit much, but it's nice to dream of a perfect world even as we toil in this one, isn't it?

---Patrick H.---
---15th March 2003 A.D.----

This simple little essay was writ whilst I was on a lark
Maybe the Bard inspired me: 'twas upon the Ides of March
As I toiled with quill and paper in the cool of the night
Shaggy, tired and smoking, I must have been a sight
Now the time is come, I must declare
To fold my fevered musings and find my bed upstairs
I hope you've enjoyed these moments to read
And I hope it planted fertile seeds