Some of it turned up points similar to those discussed already: for instance, I came up with “thinking things through carefully”, which is reflected under “pernickety”, and “the thought you put into it” under other people’s observations, and also things like conscientiousness and intuitiveness from the Big Five and MBTI personality tests (it also ties in with my approach to dealing with stress). Similarly, “caring”, “listening/paying attention” and “consideration” are all aspects that might fall under my high score for agreeableness (I think that my desire to listen and hear what people have to say also falls under “openness” under the Big Five categories).
Besides these points, I looked at my sense of ethics as a key point that I won’t change for the sake of expediency (that is, if I feel something is ethically wrong, then I won’t change that opinion just because doing so would make it easier to make friends or find dates). I also looked at some of the specific ways I respond to others (some of which I already talked about under the “successful interaction” post). I then listed a few other things that I see as positive or potentially helpful elements.
A lot of my ethical values stem from a particular sense of compassion and concern for others. This point already came up in my criteria for a successful interaction, of course, and under the “agreeableness” category in the Big Five description. I believe in permissive ethics, but with strong protection against harming others. For me, the more practical side of this is described in terms of a variation of Marx and Engels’ work on communism, and is inspired by the example of the Attlee government that came closest to bringing about a socialist state in this country, created the NHS and the Welfare State, and nationalised key industries (Yes, as it happens, I have recently watched the film “Spirit of 45”, but I admired these things long before then). I don’t like the top-down model that they ended up using (that doesn’t fit with the permissive side of my ethics). However, community, collective decision-making and distribution, ownership of the means of production by the workers – these things are for me the practical basis of an ethical and just society.
Which is all lovely in theory, but not that relevant to dating (I mean, I obviously can’t get on with someone who espouses political beliefs that I find utterly immoral on this basis, but it isn’t relevant to the process of finding a match and then finding out if zie has politics close enough to mine to make it work).
At the next level down, my ethical position naturally produces a permissive, sex-positive, “enthusiastic consent” or “free consent” model of dating, relationships, and (of course) BDSM and fucking. NB: I’m using “free consent” here as the version of “enthusiastic consent” that allows the same basic idea to be applicable to asexual folks who are not enthusiastic about sex with their partners but who still freely and genuinely consent to sex for their partners’ benefit. Plurals chosen to allow for poly aces (I’m just guessing that that configuration exists), but singular also applies. Whatever jealousy I may feel, is something for me to deal with, not anyone else – similarly, I expect a partner not to perform jealousy. Boundaries are crossed on the basis of negotiation and consent, and consent is something that can always be renegotiated – whether by safeword or other signal, or by discussion.
When it comes to relating to others without all that theory stuff, the word is “politeness”. Which may or may not be theory-driven (although for me it all flows from that same ethic), given that I do a lot of overthinking. Politeness means above all respect for boundaries (see “sex-positive” above) and person. It also means being open to others and recognising their own value (for instance, recognising the value of the effort they put into helping).
The final words to consider under the “ethics” heading are “empathy” and “sympathy”, which again tie in to the ethos of compassion. The distinction is between “How you felt” versus “how I would feel”. Empathy is generally described as appreciating what the other person is feeling or is describing having felt, on their terms. This is as opposed to sympathy, where the response is to relate their situation to how I would have felt, or relating it to some experience of my own and my emotions in that situation. Something that came up when I asked other people was the phrase, “worried by others’ risk-taking”. This is an example of compassion (in that I don’t want them to come to harm), but also sympathy: I’m thinking about my reactions and emotions in their situation, rather than how it affects them. This sometimes affects me when I read other people’s real-life BDSM experiences. I can’t help putting myself in their place (often as the Sub) and feeling my own reactions rather than appreciating how it made them feel. The flip side of this is that I know that I do it, so I am able to take a step back and focus on the parts where they tell me how they are feeling (one of the cases when “show, don’t tell” doesn’t work so well). This feeds back into the overall ethical viewpoint by way of the “catch you when you fall” logic, and leads both to the compassionate and to the permissive perspectives. As I wrote in my post about dating desires and security, this philosophy underpins my view that: “people have to be allowed to make their own mistakes (they shouldn’t be allowed to make mistakes for other people freely – risk your own wellbeing, not others’)” So although I continue to be concerned about others when they engage in risky behaviours, as long as they do so consensually and with full awareness of the risks, then that’s their choice.
Ways of responding
Most of the things that I listed here fall under the heading of, “I want to be wanted.” Most pertinently, the idea that a man should be willing to chase is a big turn-off for me. Under “ethics”, this falls under the category of not violating boundaries. In my interaction success post, I described chasing as being expected to push past an initial (show of) disinterest. In terms of my engagement and desire, it is fed by being reciprocated, knowing that it is welcome and that I, too, am desired. The idea of “male chaser, female quarry” requires that my needs are not met.
Some people might argue that “female quarry” is all about giving subtle shows of interest to keep the chaser going, but for me this doesn’t work. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Mirror of Erised shows you your desires, so that when Lord Voldemort’s servant desires presenting the stone to his master, it doesn’t reveal where the stone is, it only shows a scene of that presentation. To retrieve the stone one had to desire the stone itself and not any consequence of having the stone. I feel like the “male chaser/female quarry” game is like wanting to present the stone to Lord Voldemort. What I see when someone plays this game is not, “I desire you”, but “I desire being chased”. And of course, to be caught means an end to the chase. To me, this is a turn-off. I want to be desired because I am me, not as an eminently replaceable “chaser”. This is, I think, what Clarisse Thorn described as the difference between being seen as a playable character or a non-playable character in a video game (“If it’s a first person shooter, the arena is set to co-op mode”) in her book, “Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser”.
Another way of putting it is that I want the feeling that a potential partner is edging towards me rather than away from me as I approach. I don’t mind doing the work of approaching as long as I feel you’re doing the same kind of work, too.
I’ve seen B.F. Skinner’s work referenced a few times on this topic, where supposedly (I don’t know how accurate the references were that I saw) the behaviourist and psychologist found that you get the maximum effort for reward if the reward is uncertain, but awarded randomly only 50% of the time that an action is performed. Skinner worked with various animals, but believed that the “reinforcement” principle applies to humans as well. Some people add all this up and say that humans respond in the same way (e.g. slot machines are addictive, according to this theory, precisely because of the uncertainty of payout – other research I saw reported in the New Scientist implies that those who become addicted to gambling do so because of a reinforcement signal in the brain even when they lose).
While it is true that a game that you can always beat is pretty boring, and there is some value in the idea that an uncertain outcome makes something feel more rewarding or more valuable, I do not think that random outcomes do this, at least, not for me. I like to know why I failed (even if it’s just “I rolled a 1 instead of a 6 on that last throw of the die”) and what I can do better (this is why I quickly tire of Patience/Solitaire on the computer – there’s no way of even knowing if it was possible.) I want the uncertainty to be due to knowable factors in order to feel encouraged to play again (e.g. if I can’t understand why I’m losing at a video game, I quickly grow bored; if I can see what mistakes I’m making then I will keep trying until I get it right).
Again, this is a reason why “chasing” is a turn-off for me. There is enough uncertainty, of a knowable variety, involved in dating. When chasing is introduced, particularly on this 50% “Skinner” rule, it is the wrong kind of uncertainty and it is too much. If someone puts up a show of disinterest that I am supposed to push past, I don’t know if there is any reward to push for or if the disinterest in genuine – but I do know that if there is interest, then this is an artifice designed to play with my emotions, which I resent, and I also know that I could be being led down the garden path, with a whole string of such games and no actual interest felt (that is, zie desires the chase, not the chaser, see above).
Overall, I believe there are enough things that can go wrong, and enough ways that two people can just end up not being compatible in a relationship, that I want to put my effort into getting to know you and making it work, rather than into catching up to you. In the Spoons Theory terminology, I have a limited number of emotional spoons to spend on people so I don’t want to waste them on a person who might already want me but is playing hard-to-get/”chaser&quarry” games; I want to use them on actually relating to a partner.
The Spoons Theory point also reveals another reason why I find it hard to be outcome-independent if I am meeting new people. Generally, the better I know someone, the more I can expect to get back for the spoon I use up to talk with them. But if I am meeting someone new, I am spending spoons without knowing what I get back. Talking to friends is enjoyable in itself, but meeting new people is not. (A spoon once spent, cannot be replaced, but “getting something back” is about how worthwhile it is to spend the spoon in the first place.) When you have to make that sort of decision about how to spend your time and energy, then actually, the outcome of the activity becomes significant.
Talents and Attributes
The main point that I felt was valuable here, that hasn’t at least been touched on in the other parts, is that I am musical and creative – and even that falls under “Openness to experience” in the Big Five personality test category. I returned to my ex’s testimonial and her comment that, “I remember the depth of your dedication to Mastery, how much you thought about it and how you could make me feel.” And “Mastery” could be replaced by any synonym for “(my part in a) romantic/sexual relationship dynamic”, of which being a BDSM Master to her was one example.
I also decided that Charlie Nox’s philosophies of “Rock Your Awkward” and “BONISO” (“Because of, not in spite of”) meant that I could list some of my awkwardness points as attributes and bonuses: shyness, quietness, worrying (and how I deal with it) and so on are all things that, if used wisely, might actually make me more attractive and enable me to be more confident.
[EDIT TO ADD]It would be remiss of me not to include the self-assessment that I did after going through Will’s “What To Look For In a Dom” post. I’ve added my best scores to the end of the “conclusions”.
- Ethical positions based on compassion
- Ethical positions based on permissiveness/sex-positive views
- Politeness and standards
- Empathy and sympathy
- “Chasing” is a turn-off
- I want to be wanted
- Desire me, not the process (e.g. being chased)
- Cost and reward (Skinner, Spoon Theory etc)
- Rock my awkward
- Shy and quiet
- Not worried that I’m worrying
- Musical and creative
- “What To Look For In A Dom”
- Curiosity and fascination (about a partner)
- Dedication to self-development (look at this whole SCW programme for starters!)
- Appreciation and encouragement (of a partner)