Jan 042012
 

In correspondence, a friend (who is also new to BDSM) suggested he is only interested in a D/s dynamic when he and his Domme agree to play. Outside of “play,” they are equals. (Note the quotation marks… perhaps “play” is another topic for another time.)

But what does it mean… to be equal?

While it isn’t a new topic in BDSM discussions, it’s new for me to think about equality in this way, both in general and in the specific context of an actual relationship. Seeing as how I’m still trying to figure out what I want from my relationship with J, it seems like a good time to think it through…

We are equals. 

We are equals in the sense that J and I are are well-matched in terms of personality, education, intelligence, sense of humor, interests, income, political leanings, long-term goals, and what we’re looking for out of a relationship (at this stage). We are equals because I’m no better than J, and J is no better than me. I don’t think I’d be attracted to a man who I didn’t consider my “equal” in the ways I listed above.

We are not equals.

We aren’t equals in the way that no one person is equal to anyone else. I am better with computers than J. He is better with finances. I’m good in the kitchen, and J is good with cars. I know more about politics; he knows more about policy. I’m prettier. He is stronger.

We are equals.

We are equals because we are both worthy of giving and receiving love in the way that best suits us. To the best of my assessment, he is worthy of my dominance and I am worthy of his submission.

We are not equals. 

We are not equals because I am dominant and he is submissive. I dominate. He submits. I have more control in the relationship than he does–more control over what we do, how we do it, and when we do it. My say overrides his. Of course, the person with more control in a relationship is, by default, in a position over the one who isn’t. We are not equal because my say overrides his.

Does it matter?

I don’t think so. At least, I don’t think it matters in my current situation. J and I are equal in some ways and not in others. While, of course, any inequality negates the possibility of equality, that’s only if you’re looking at the notion of “equality” in an entirely abstract and unusable sort of way. An overarching approach to equality isn’t useful to me because it doesn’t speak to the day-to-day goings on of our lives. It doesn’t speak to lived relationships–it only speaks to relationships in theory.

Besides that, one of the values J and I share is that we both put little value on that sort of abstract notion. We don’t value that kind of equality, nor do we want it. Equality (in the abstract) isn’t important to us because it doesn’t facilitate us getting what we want out of the relationship.

For whatever reason, J is submissive, and I am dominant (and J wants to be submissive, and I want to be dominant). In that regard, we’re equal in that we’re both getting what we want and what we need from the relationship. The way we both get what we want is through our acknowledgement of different individual needs and through our consent to an imbalance of control, perhaps not in theory, but most certainly in practice.

(I know this is reductive and dependent on semantics and situation. I’m just trying to figure it out in a way that’s meaningful to me.)

  22 Responses to “on equality in D/s relationships”

  1. On of my favorite books of all time is Inequality Re-examined (Sen). It's been a long time since I've read it but take a peek. His notions of equality with respect to agency, capability, well being, etc might apply well to your thoughts on D/s.

  2. "Outside of "play," they are equals."

    Generally when people say this, they mean 'in sex, you can tell me what to do, but I'm not getting up at 5am to make your breakfast because you told me to, I will not have Chinese for dinner because you say so, I will not rub your shoulders when I want to watch the football."

    It usually has very little to do with 'equal value in the relationship', which is what you described, and much more to do with 'outside of the sexy, you don't get to tell me what to do'.

    Ferns

  3. @DC: "His notions of equality with respect to agency, capability, well being, etc might apply well to your thoughts on D/s."

    I've come across bits and pieces, but never read in earnest… nor had I considered it in light of my current interests. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. @Ferns: "It usually has very little to do with 'equal value in the relationship', which is what you described, and much more to do with 'outside of the sexy, you don't get to tell me what to do'."

    I think that could work for some people, and it's great (for them). But at this point, it wouldn't work for me. I can't see anything outside of sexy… it all leads to sexy/intimacy or comes from sex/intimacy. And I'm okay with that… I like sex and intimacy. :)

  5. I don't agree at all with the whole 'play' is only when inequality. I mean, as Fern's points out, it's much *more* then simply sexy times, and she's got a valid point.

    For others, it's ONLY sexytimes when things are unfair.

    For me, I use 'fair enough' a ton. While XYZ may or may not be fair, I signed up for it, and it's close enough to 'fair' that I'm wonderfully happy. Take Chinese, say I *really* want some kind of red meat and I get told we're going to a fish place. Unfair, but it's fine and fun and I'll just eat tuna.

  6. @SimplyJake, et al.: "I don't agree at all with the whole 'play' is only when inequality."

    For the record, I don't "disagree" with anyone who wants to confine D/s (or whatever) to the bedroom. Consenting adults can do whatever they want (even if it's vanilla!).

    I was just stating that it's not what I want, and besides that, I find it too difficult to separate what's sexual from what's not.

    Just want to be clear. :)

  7. @D,

    I didn't mean to say it's 'wrong' it's just not for me, it doesn't appeal to me.
    ——-
    Re: Sexualness
    Hmm? Really? That's not how I see it, it's playing with power here and there, it's cuddly and hot and also engages a deep seated need to please.
    I mean, take the where we go out to eat. I'd like a steak, but if not it's not a huge deal. Or, if we're talking, and I go "Can I say something?" and she goes 'No' that leads to a goofy smile and a soft 'okay'. It's hot and flirty, it's D/s flirting and intimacy and caring and acknowledging that each like their respective roles and sweet and kind. It's not *take me now* hot, but is sexually charged and flirty and hot.

  8. @Jake: One of us is confused. I'm fairly sure you and I agree.

    What the friend in the original post said doesn't appeal to me either.

    And I meant that I find everything sexual and/or intimate. For me, it's *all* sex. Or at least, it all contributes.

    Choosing restaurants, playing Scrabble, deciding when he can speak, demanding kisses, and actual fucking… it's all sex.

  9. @D,

    Ah, okay, I must have misunderstood you, I think we agree. I just see varying degrees of how 'sexual' something is. Like, I've washed platonic friends kitchens for em, it wasn't sexy or intimate, but filled a deep seated need to just make em happy because I cared about them.

    Now, being told I'm *not* allowed to talk, that's much more flirty and arousing and sexual mainly with context to WHO's doing the telling, if that makes any sense.

  10. Personal preference is personal preference, I wasn't really commenting on that.

    What I was commenting on was your basic 'But what does it mean… to be equal?' question, because I think you missed what *most* people mean by it.

    If he says "Outside of "play," they are equals." and you say "Everything is play to me", and you each think you understand each other, then you are going to have a problem.

    Ferns

  11. @Ferns: "because I think you missed what *most* people mean by it."

    How so? My observation has been that lots of people like D/s in the bedroom, but nowhere else. They consider themselves "equal" outside of sex (even though they've probably never given much thought to what "equality" means–they just say it) I guess I don't know what I missed.

    "If he says "Outside of "play," they are equals." and you say "Everything is play to me", and you each think you understand each other, then you are going to have a problem."

    I'm going to have a problem with what? With who?

    I understand he (a friend, not J) separates play/sex from not play/not sex.

    I understand that I can't make those sorts of distinctions for myself. If my partner sat on the couch and refused to rub my back because he wanted to watch the game, there would be no sex in the foreseeable future.

    I don't assume my thoughts on what is play and what contributes to sex is shared (or should be shared) by everyone. I'm just trying to figure out what it means to me.

  12. @D,
    > How so? My observation has been that lots of people like D/s in the bedroom, but nowhere else. They consider themselves "equal" outside of sex (even though they've probably never given much thought to what "equality" means–they just say it) I guess I don't know what I missed.

    I think you might be observing wrong places or something. I mean, I figure we're equal in the sense that we're both people, at the core, and are engaging in something mutually beneficial. So, we're both equals seeking happiness in that regards.

    In the day to day, it's unfair, but only if it wasn't something I want and am actively seeking, then it's perfectly fair in a strange broken way.
    ——-
    I honestly really don't see much of anything as play, it just is. It's what feels, right, or secure or something. *Shrug* I dunno if that helps you at all.

    Like, your backrub example. Have you seen [this]http://www.domme-chronicles.com/2011/11/when-your-submissive-says-no.html because, basically that < < Anyhow, I'm sorry if I waded into the wrong conversation.

  13. @DD: "I don't assume my thoughts on what is play and what contributes to sex is shared (or should be shared) by everyone. I'm just trying to figure out what it means to me."

    The leap from your friend saying it, and you asking 'what does it mean' led me to the logical (?) idea that you were trying to a) figure out what it meant to you, which you covered and b) understand how that fits in the world. I didn't see b, that's all, so it felt like you 'missed it' and your follow up comment reinforced that thought to me.

    Perhaps I didn't read closely enough, I've been busy looking at god awful ugly shoes… it addles my brain.

    Ferns

  14. @DD: "I'm going to have a problem with what? With who?"

    That was general you, not *you and someone in particular*.

    Ferns

  15. @Ferns: Glad to know it was a general "you" and not a you "you." I got a little nervous. :)

    For the first time, I imagined you shaking your head and wagging a finger at me.

    But since I don't have a good idea of what you look like, I imagined an otherwise pretty lady, except for her godawful multicolored platform espadrille loafers… ;)

  16. "For the first time, I imagined you shaking your head and wagging a finger at me."

    *laugh* No finger wagging!

    "… godawful multicolored platform espadrille loafers"

    I bought multiple pairs in different colours! Variety is important and each is more hideous than the last!

    Ferns

  17. I've never seen someone breakdown a relationship like that! And in a more organized way than I ever could have done. *tips hats*

    I think I'll give this "analysis" thing a go when I have spare moment.

    Well, when I have another spare moment. I'm kinda using this one to post on your blog. XD

    Lady D

  18. To me, "we are equals" means "we mutually respect each other, and both of us deserve to get more out of the relationship than we are putting into it." In other words, a good relationship is more than the sum of its parts. It pays dividends, like investing in a growing company. "We are equals" means we both deserve dividends.

    If you have the final say on restaurants, but sometimes you let me choose, it's all good.

    If you have the final say on restaurants, but you know my preferences and sometimes you treat me with my favorite restaurant, it's all good.

    If you have the final say on restaurants, and we never go to my preferred places, but it isn't really that important to me, it's all good.

    BUT.

    If you have the final say on restaurants, and we never ever go to my favorite restaurant, you'd better 1.) be doing it intentionally and 2.) be making up for it somewhere else.

    It's a hard balance to strike. There's no secret list that quantifies the worth of every sacrifice we make for our partners, allowing us to leisurely tally them up at the end of the month and say, "Oh, it looks like you cancelled on your buddies twice last month, and I'm a little behind, so I'll have to make it up to you with cunnilingus every other morning this month." So you have to play it by ear and listen to your feelings. But, that's the most important usage of the term "equals", to me. It means we both deserve to have our needs met and, when realistic, exceeded.

  19. I get it! There was a lot of repitition. Bit I think I get it! D says that play happens all the time. As an example, when they were at the business function and the blond was flirting with J. They didn't decide to ho to the event and pretend not knowing each other as a sexy venture, but how J reacted to the other female led directly into how D dealt with the sexual part. It all directly correlates for her. Everything leads to or is a result of play. Ferns said that you would have a problem. What O saw her meaning being that if he said, "I only want to be dominated during play." And your response was, "everything is play." There's going to be a HUGE misunderstanding and hijinks to ensue. Sorry, I'm late to the game, but still stickin my nose in.

  20. Love this post! A wonderful summary of the issue of equality as applied to, and modified by, power exchange relationships. The only additional thought I had, after reading it, is that you are not equals because he has the safeword, and ultimately decides where the limits of play lie.

    • Thanks, CJ.

      “additional thought I had, after reading it, is that you are not equals because he has the safeword, and ultimately decides where the limits of play lie.”

      Actually, we don’t have a safe word. :)

      We both decide where the limits are. At any given time, it’s not always a 50/50 negotiation, but I certainly take his “limits” and dislikes and wants and preferences into account. Sometimes I ignore them, but I still take them into account… (ha!)

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