Like any discourse community, kinky people share a broad set of interests, goals, and values, and a shared language that’s supposed to reflect those things. Except sometimes, it doesn’t.
When we hear that “Sue is under consideration by Dan” (or “Dan is considering Sue”) we assume that 1) Sue identifies as submissive, 2) Dan identifies as dominant, 3) Dan (the dominant) is considering Sue (the submissive), and 4) ultimately, Dan will decide whether or not Sue is a suitable partner for some higher level of commitment.
The language suggests the dominant considers the submissive during the courtship stage of a D/s relationship, but it does not suggest reciprocity. It doesn’t account for the submissive’s agency, and ultimately reinforces really crappy notions about how D/s relationships (should) evolve:
Dominants consider; submissives are considered.
Dominants act; submissives are acted upon.
Dominants choose; submissives are chosen.
Dominants decide; submissives are decided upon.
The language indicates dominants are active and have all the power (even in the earliest stages of a D/s relationship); submissives are passive and have no power.
As an indication of “relationship status,” it suggests the submissive has made some sort of commitment, but the dominant has not (since the dominant is still “considering”). In other words, the dominant accepts the submission, but has not yet accepted the submissive.
I suspect this language does not represent the reality of most lived, established, healthy D/s relationships. In practice, I assume both parties consider each other, both negotiate and agree to the terms of the dynamic, and both make commitments to each other and to the relationship — together, as “equal” partners. This may be true, but the language doesn’t indicate it.
This is problematic for several reasons:
- The language doesn’t indicate reciprocation or mutuality, and ultimately strips submissives of agency.
- The language privileges dominance and devalues submission.
- The language doesn’t represent our shared values (or what our values should be).
- The language is supposed to indicate our values (but it doesn’t). New members will be interpellated into the community and they will act according to the values the discourse suggests. In other words, new players will learn what they see. They’ll assume dominants consider and submissives are the objects of consideration, and those assumptions will guide their interpretation of themselves, their understanding of agency, and their interactions with others.
We shouldn’t initiate new individuals into the community with these ideas.
Instead, we should promote the idea that at all stages of a relationship (D/s or otherwise, and particularly in the early stages,) both parties should consider one another. We should adopt language practices that reflect the idea that all individuals have equal power in vetting, considering, and selecting potential partners.
Perhaps adjusting our language would allow us to be better examples to inexperienced players — to new submissives who feel pressured to submit to a dominant’s demands, and to new dominants who feel entitled to make such demands before both parties have established trust, negotiated limits, and set parameters.
(This post is a continuation of my thoughts in response to a submissive’s question about a potential dominant’s demands. I have more to say on this, so expect that in a couple of days.)