Last week, Jemima @ Sometimes It’s Just a Cigar wrote about the non-binary-ness of D/s: the false binaries of how D/s is presented. I had a few thoughts about ways in which that could be approached. She, of course, brought other ideas and created a great post about it.
Xiao Yingtai discussed D/s as containing koans (Buddhist spiritual conundrums) which also dissolves the duality or binary-ness of D/s. That post was part of an exchange of ideas and blog posts that developed looking into ideas of submissive power. The questions going back and forth are summed up in Jemima’s piece when she writes, “Its one of those false binaries again, as if power is in limited supply, and can only be held by one person ever.” (And references Yingtai’s piece already linked).
Jemima talks about how:
I don’t want to upset anyone, but spoiler, subs go online looking for Doms who will do the necessary to get them off. Yup, we use them, then cast them aside like a used condom, sad, lonely and no use to anyone.
If I am online looking for a Dom to play with I am exercising power, I am in control of my needs, my wants, and my sexuality. That in the moment of playing he has a role where he controls the play no more means I am powerless than when I get on a bus. I may not be the driver, but the driver is taking me where I want to go.
In my side of the Sub power blog exchange, I wrote:
Strip away the bondage, the SM, and look at what’s left.
You, as my Submissive, can choose how you respond to my expression of desire or need
the important stuff happens in your head, as the Submissive. My orders only mean something if they mean something to you.
But where is the Dominant in all this? I am a passive observer, providing the nudge to set it all in motion.
* * *
There is more to D/s than power, and there are more ways in which it is non-binary. As Jemima says, we don’t mean “switch” here, and the term is questionable anyway (for instance, I identify as a Dom who enjoys submitting from time to time; the “switch” label makes me uncomfortable).
One way in which D/s is not binary is just that there are so many different modes of being Dominant or Submissive. So many roles or relationships that can be described, and a plethora of terms to cover the nuances that we, as Doms or Subs, bring to the broad categories. “He’s a Daddy Dom”, “She’s a Mistress”, “He’s a Painslut”, “She’s a Service Sub”, and so on and so forth.
Any act can be Dom, Sub, or neither, depending on the dynamic, on the needs of that particular day, or a myriad other things. I brush my partner’s hair: is it an act of Submissive service, an act of Domly grooming and control, or just to get her ready for her presentation at work and no D/s at all? What if I feel it’s an act of service, but she feels it’s an act of controlling and grooming her? [EDIT TO ADD 18/02/15: On re-reading this, I realised “controlling and grooming” could have a double meaning here: I mean “grooming” as in “making look pretty” or “taking care of”, and NOT as in “psychologically manipulating”] Where then is this binary of Dominant or Submissive, if a simple act can mean so many different relationships?
I’ve discussed how the same elements of my personality that drive my Domly Domness are also present in the ways that I submit. It makes no sense to draw a clear, distinct, line between them (although I do use different names and even feel like a different person, when I’m online and choosing one over the other – see also the Vannie description). There is more variation and difference within Doms and Subs, than between the two: just like any division of humanity, really.
And that’s the point: D/s isn’t some special species (or two separate species) but people, being people, in their various chaotic and ordered ways. There’s no magic to it, no essential basis in the fabric of reality that produces it: it’s a thing that happens within us and between us, because we choose it and it answers something. D/s is as binary as humanity, and there’s literally billions of humans out there.
Besides: when you get two kinksters together, you will have a minimum of three definitions of kink in play. Binary? Impossible!