Jan 192013
 

under-consideration-4Like 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:

  1. The language doesn’t indicate reciprocation or mutuality, and ultimately strips submissives of agency.
  2. The language privileges dominance and devalues submission.
  3. The language doesn’t represent our shared values (or what our values should be).
  4. 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.)

 

  25 Responses to ““under consideration””

  1. It is a little troubling that “consideration” is necessary to publicly demarcate and announce to all of ones digital acquaintances. Like “it’s complicated” this need to inform everyone about every shift in your private life is asinine.

    We used to just have birth, wedding, and death announcements, why isn’t that enough anymore?

    • @Peroxide: I don’t mind it, although the sheer number of “relationship” statuses some people have seems excessive.

      Wait, didn’t you just recently change your status on FL? Hmmm? :)

      If we were all face-to-face, I’d just pee on him to mark him as mine. Maybe we can suggest “peed on” as new relationship status. I’ll look into it.

  2. D!!!!! Quit telling the menz they have ‘agency’, whatever that is (sounds contagious). Next you’ll be telling them they can create their own identities and set their own limits. AND THEN WHERE WILL I BE?

    Just kidding, great post! “Under consideration” is not something I have any personal experience with, nor have thought much about before reading this. But what it really reminds me of are the traditional social rules about the dominant partner doing the proposing and the divorcing (which reminds me of another post I read recently, something about Break-up Rules? lol) I think you are right on the money here!

    • @Sionevah: “hey can create their own identities and set their own limits”

      Wha? Their own identities? NEVER!

      Interestingly (or not), I started thinking about this because of the number of female submissives who have written in the past week or two with similar stories and questions about male dominants pushing too hard, too soon, or pulling the “you’re not really submissive” card (as Ferns mentioned here).

      “But what it really reminds me of are the traditional social rules about the dominant partner doing the proposing and the divorcing”

      In reading up on “consideration” in D/s, I was surprised at how many people compared it to engagement. Really, it’s not like engagement at all — when a couple gets engaged, it’s assumed their headed for the altar. It’s not a “trial period” like it is in D/s. In that sense, the vanilla engagement seems far more a formality than something functional. I may address some of this in a Lexicon entry (actually, that was my intent in writing this, but it all got far too heavy for a silly lexicon post).

      “which reminds me of another post I read recently, something about Break-up Rules?”

      All of teh rulz are belong to me!

      • It’s pretty awesome that your blog has such great appeal across different groups!

        What I was thinking when I mentioned proposing was that the general public too often assumes – less today than 50 years ago, but still – that as soon as a boy and a girl are dating, the girl is obviously hoping to be married as soon as possible, and it’s up to the boy to determine if it’s a good match, if he’s ready to settle down, etc. I see a parallel assumption where submissives are expected to obviously want to submit to the fullest extent possible as soon as possible because, you know, it’s ‘in their nature’. This assumption shows up in the “under consideration” language, and I speculate that it also extends well into some existing D/s relationships to create a sort of all-or-nothing dynamic in which the submissive party can either go along with everything the dominant wants, even to the point of ignoring their own relationship needs, or they can leave, pull the plug on the entire operation. I wonder if this establishes an environment in which submissives feel permanently replaceable, and dominants wonder when/if their loved one will bail.

        The “under consideration” language also represents DomMasterDan and sub-susan as immutable constants, encouraging the fallacy that all the considering and compatibility testing is conducted up front because finding a good fit is a good relationship silver bullet. I would imagine that in the healthiest relationships, partners not only commit as equals up front, but also develop mechanisms for ‘renegotiating terms’ as equals – not so much in the sense of signing a new contract, more as in having accessible ways for each side to recognize the evolving needs of the other. I believe that D/s is no different than any other vanilla relationship in that the magic is more fully realized by two people who grow together than by two people who found their perfect match and never changed again.

        Finally, as a very new dominant myself, I would say that d-types don’t just feel entitled to make demands very soon, but pressured to do so. I have struggled with coming up with demands for strangers that I thought would make me seem attractively Domme-ish without steamrolling the poor guys and destroying any chance of a healthy relationship.

        Thank you for starting such a thought provoking discussion!

        • @Sionevah: “the girl is obviously hoping to be married as soon as possible, and it’s up to the boy to determine if it’s a good match, if he’s ready to settle down, etc”

          Ah… now that you put it that way, I can see you’re absolutely right. The parallel is clear as day — we make the same assumptions about wants/goals for women as we do submissives (for everyone, really).

          ” I would imagine that in the healthiest relationships, partners not only commit as equals up front, but also develop mechanisms for ‘renegotiating terms’ as equals – not so much in the sense of signing a new contract, more as in having accessible ways for each side to recognize the evolving needs of the other. “

          Yes to this! It’s what I was trying to explain to Heather in my response to her question about whether J and I had a “consideration” phase. You articulated it far better than I did — that we’re both perpetually in “consideration” of each other insofar as we’re always assessing, making adjustments, etc. (and ultimately, assessing whether the relationship is worthwhile or not)

          “I would say that d-types don’t just feel entitled to make demands very soon, but pressured to do so. I have struggled with coming up with demands for strangers that I thought would make me seem attractively Domme-ish without steamrolling the poor guys and destroying any chance of a healthy relationship.”

          Now that you mention this, you’re right on (again!). I certainly felt pressure to put demands on him far sooner than I felt comfortable doing so. This is a fantastic point.

          Thanks for all of this, Sionevah!

  3. Great post! I honestly never even considered that before, but it makes a lot of sense. Until there is an agreed upon relationship, neither has any power over the other. They are both mutually “considering” each other.

    • @slapshot: Yeah, it’s seems even more imbalanced than relationship “stages” in vanilla relationships. So much for being progressive.

  4. Preconceived role characteristic sets define the parameter of roles. Often helpful in creating boundaries and functioning, socially and in organizations. Sometimes they help to clarify behavior sets.

    BUT other times they just try to shove someone in a ditch when they were on a journey of discovery. The ditch is confusion that is off the side of the road where I can get stuck. And then other times they can serve to blind me so that I cannot see that I have what I want… already in front of my face. You seem to have hit the nail on the head. The description from the site you pasted from is just in a ditch. Not really representative of the true road. Just a ditch. I wish I had read this about a year ago. Still…the journey is back out of the ditch and on the road again. Thanks for this. It confirms things for me.

    • @Roy: “Preconceived role characteristic sets define the parameter of roles”

      Absolutely. Preconceptions do shape embodiment and actions — we learn what we see and act accordingly. I also agree that sometimes already-defined roles help us start — we can embody existing sets of characteristics, see what suits us, adopt what works, and trash what doesn’t.

      In the same way, they can retard our growth when we have trouble breaking out of those roles or when we’re so bound to them that acting outside of them feels strange or wrong.

      “The description from the site you pasted from is just in a ditch.”

      I’m not sure what you mean by this? What site?

      “Still…the journey is back out of the ditch and on the road again. Thanks for this. It confirms things for me.”

      I hear you on this — the journey is often times a continual struggle to stay out of the ditch, on the road, and sometimes, finding ways to make our own roads (new ones!).

      Thanks for the kind words — I’m glad you got something out of it. :)

  5. ONe of the things that I think is a fallacy is that both parties are not equal in the negotiation phase. I do expect that the submissive will be respectful to me and approach me and the negotiation with a certain amount of deference, but I also expect them to speak up and know what their needs and preferences and limits are, because if they can’t articulate that, or, worse yet, if they WON’T articulate it to me, they set me up for failure.

    The best slave in the entire world can’t ignore their needs on a long-term basis. You also can’t continually ignore likes and preferences and have a good relationship, either. A good relationship meets all your needs most of the time, and some of your wants and preferences at least some of the time.

    It’s kine of like that starving artist in the attic sort of image – it sounds great until you actually have to live through it and then, amazingly, it’s not that much fun.

    • @MsConstance: “a fallacy is that both parties are not equal in the negotiation phase. I do expect that the submissive will be respectful to me and approach me and the negotiation with a certain amount of deference,”

      Yes to this! It’s odd trying to articulate, because I wouldn’t go so far as to say each party has equal power (even in negotiation), but they should be equal partners in negotiating power exchange.

      “expect them to speak up and know what their needs and preferences and limits are, because if they can’t articulate that, or, worse yet, if they WON’T articulate it to me, they set me up for failure.”

      Yes to this, too! I can’t work with what I don’t know, and absolutely, it sets me up for failure, him up for failure, and general, all-around D/s-FAIL.

      “It’s kine of like that starving artist in the attic sort of image – it sounds great until you actually have to live through it and then, amazingly, it’s not that much fun.”

      I’ve heard similar things said about submissives who claim to want to give up all power, be up for anything, be locked in chains in hard service and chastity forever — that they’re just thinking of fantasy without any understanding of reality.

      I think a similar thing happens to dominants — the idea of having all the power is a fantastic fantasy, but it’s a lot more difficult in practice than it is in our heads. It’s power, but with that power comes work, responsibility, caring, concern, and a whole lot of other stuff that don’t work well in hot fantasies, but are required in real life.

  6. D, I’ve really been looking forward to this post. I’ve been thinking a lot about it since you brought it up in the previous entry. I was the one that pushed to be labeled “under consideration” with my Boy Scout mostly for the sense of security it gave me. Later I realized that a.) I was operating in a pattern established by my old D/s dynamic and b.) it wasn’t necessary and was an inadequate description of what we’re currently experiencing in the new dynamic. It’s much more equal between us than the phrase would lead anyone to believe. He’s trying to meet my needs as much as I’m striving to please him. Did you have a period of time where you “considered” J or was it more organic than that? Perhaps less labeled? Thanks for making me ponder. xo

    • @Heather: I actually had you in mind when I tried to explain that I didn’t think the language represented the realities of more experienced individuals in lived, healthy, D/s relationships. My guess is, like you, lots of people like listing “considering” and “under consideration,” but also know the realities of building a good relationship and practice all of those behaviors that will help them build strong, fulfilling, healthy relationships.

      “He’s trying to meet my needs as much as I’m striving to please him.”

      Yes to this! And YAY! He should be. You’re a kick-ass girl — smart, sweet, hot, and funny — you’re the kind of sub a dominant would walk through fire to get to. As such, your potential dominant SHOULD want to prove to you that he deserves your submission. You’re submission is valuable and special, and you’re valuable and special — you should be earned, and he should spend the rest of your relationship meeting your needs and proving himself worthy of you in the same way that you’ll strive to meet his needs and prove yourself worthy of him.

      “Did you have a period of time where you “considered” J or was it more organic than that? Perhaps less labeled?”

      This isn’t the most romantic thing in the world, but it’s the truth. With any partner or potential partner, I’ll never be “out” of the consideration phase. I’m not into forever commitment, so consideration is perpetual. That doesn’t mean he should think of himself as in a “trial phase,” but it also doesn’t mean there’s some point after which I won’t end the relationship if things go bad for whatever reason.

      I guess in that way, it is/was more organic. We negotiate the relationship when needed — there was no specific consideration phase, but there was a point where we discussed whether or not we’d see other people, what our commitment to each other was, etc.

      With that said, I like the idea of collaring, but only as a symbol of what we are at a particular moment in time, and not as a permanent arrangement.

      *sigh* Sometimes I wish I could be more romantic… sometimes I sound so cynical. I prefer to call it realism, but who knows. :)

      • “This isn’t the most romantic thing in the world, but it’s the truth. With any partner or potential partner, I’ll never be ‘out’ of the consideration phase. I’m not into forever commitment, so consideration is perpetual.”

        I don’t think this is a “romantic” sentiment, but I think it’s truthful and far more practical than the forever ideal that Disney insists on marketing. Strong relationships require the occasional re-evaluation so that you can adjust (or not) especially if it lasts for a long time. The length of a relationship is not always indicative of its quality. Sounds to me like you’re realistic yet hopeful, D. IMHO, that’s a great way of looking at it.

  7. Madame du Seigneur!

    You speak of THAT Network, which I have come to regard as the “elbow bend in the drainpipe under the sink of the Lifestyle”.

    I know they try hard to put some semblance of ethics into the network “Lifestyle”, but I gave up those naïve notions when I found out they encourage and support Munch groups for Lifestylers between the ages of 14 and 26 in the country where I reside. ( http://www.smjg.org/ ) If you don’t believe me, just do a group search on THAT network with the acronym “SMJG”. It’s the new “insider tip” for teenage girls who want to find their own Christian Grey to take their virginity, now that those novels are becoming popular in the country I live in.

    That being the case, I wonder if asking THAT network to practice political correctness or at least getting their semantics correct might be just a tad over-taxing. Really! What would become of THAT network if potential dominants found out that subs are NOT some kind of a fast-food Happy Meal?

    • @Phare du Four: “I know they try hard to put some semblance of ethics into the network “Lifestyle”,”

      I’m not all that convinced that they do! Trust me, I’m no fan of the network, but I am a fan of some of the people there. I also know that lots of people turn there for advice (and ultimately, find models of behavior, guidelines for practice, etc.).

      “That being the case, I wonder if asking THAT network to practice political correctness or at least getting their semantics correct might be just a tad over-taxing.”

      I certainly wouldn’t expect the system to change, but perhaps a few people here and there (people I know from blogs, correspondence, etc.) might decide to adopt language that’s more representative of what actually happens in good D/s courtships (the network doesn’t have to change anything — the options “under consideration” and “considering” are available to anyone). If they shift their language, at least there will be one or two alternate models for language that reflect better values and practices.

      “What would become of THAT network if potential dominants found out that subs are NOT some kind of a fast-food Happy Meal?”

      I guess I’m less interested in the network than the people in it. I realize that’s probably irresponsible of me, but it’s my reality. Lots of people I “know” on the network don’t think of subs as Happy Meals (although, subs can be delicious!). :)

      A bunch of excellent points, Phare du Four. :) Thanks for the comment.

  8. I keep wanting to weigh in on how counterintuitive and counterproductive to any kind of meaningful relationship this is (it sounds like a potential employer saying “we’ll keep your application on file,” for goodness’ sake) but I can’t. There’s too much incredulous confusion to overcome. Do people really do this? Supposedly adult people? How/why/huh?

    • @GingerNic: “Do people really do this? Supposedly adult people?”

      Actually, I do get it. I think it’s a combination of enjoying the drama of it all and it feels like a familiar cultural narrative (the same one that endorses traditional engagement, monogamy, and heteronormativity).

      I get that for lots of people, it’s symbolic, but that symbolism (without explanation) just serves to reinforce lots of notions we probably don’t want to support.

      I would be “meh” about the whole thing if it wasn’t doing any harm. Unfortunately, I think it is.

      Thanks for the comment, GingerNic. :)

  9. In the vanilla world there is a social image of a (old) traditional relationship where the guy is courting the girl and proposing her to be his wife. In that (old) picture the guy acts as the dominant and the girl as the submissive. Ultimately, it’s the girl who must decide if she’ll accept. Like when dating it’s often the guy who needs to propose and the girl who rejects (or accepts).

    In a D/s world isn’t it said that without the submissive consent there is no D/s, hence she has the ultimate control?

    • @Ricforkim: I certainly agree there are similarities between engagement and “consideration,” but there are too many important differences. For one, vanilla engagement isn’t a trial period. It typically means both partners have agreed to get married, and we assume they will. There’s no decision to be made during engagement — it’s already been made. I don’t think there is a (formal, named) equivalent in vanilla relationships — it’s just called “dating.”

      “In a D/s world isn’t it said that without the submissive consent there is no D/s, hence she has the ultimate control?”

      I’m not sure that it matters because you could say the same for dominants — without the dominant’s consent, there is no D/s. Without either partner’s consent, there is no D/s, and no relationship. Essentially, I don’t think the whole “ultimate control” issue has much influence on these types of discussions.

  10. Coming late to the discussion, would like to throw out how I present “consideration” both to subs interested in me and when I am in a leadership postion and speaking on the topic.

    Consideration is a time of exploration for both potential partners. An exciting, delicate dance where both have a chance to see–are we good together? Does this matchup have potential?

    It has never occured to me that I am the only one considering. I am being considered at the same time I am considering. And I always set a reasonable time line with the caveat that either partner can bail out at any time without a need to explain why, unless they want to. Either of us can say, “I don’t feel this will work out. Thank you for the time together.” Period. Along with an expectation of no hurt feelings.

    I also like to say that I think the term is handy for profiles as a way to indicate to others–please leave us alone for a while. We’re temporarily “taken” so don’t bug either one of us and please don’t haul out unsolicitted advice.

    This is how I do it, how I present it to others. I recognize that over time, consideration is turning into
    a sinkhole of unhappy experiences, mixed messages, one-sided demands Ie. domme to sub, “prove
    yourself to me. show me you deserve to be my sub” Along with those who turn consideration into something so intense and serious that accepting the offer to consider one another turns into a bigger commitment than a marriage. How can you do that when you have no idea what it’s like to be with the other person in a d/s relationship.

    Well anyway those are my thoughts, recognizing that I seem to be out in some minority camp that hardly anyone visits anymore.

    Raffi

    • Raffi,

      “Consideration is a time of exploration for both potential partners. An exciting, delicate dance where both have a chance to see–are we good together? Does this matchup have potential?”

      Absolutely, and I’m glad to hear it! It’s good to know that educators are out there helping newbies make sense of what appears to be a whole new world.

      “I also like to say that I think the term is handy for profiles as a way to indicate to others–please leave us alone for a while. We’re temporarily “taken” so don’t bug either one of us and please don’t haul out unsolicitted advice.”

      Agreed. It is a handy way to show that someone is in (some sort of) a relationship. I guess my concern is about the language that’s used to indicate that status. Fom what I’ve seen, in online forums, submissives use “under consideration” and dominants use “considering” — that difference doesn’t suggest the mutual consideration that you wrote about in your response (and the position you advocate when you educate others).

      If the two parties in a relationship used the same language to indicate status (both d-type and s-type indicating status as “considering,” or both d and s indicating status as “under consideration”), I’d feel better about the message those indicators sent to people new to the community/lifestyle/forums/etc.

      “I recognize that over time, consideration is turning into a sinkhole of unhappy experiences, mixed messages, one-sided demands Ie. domme to sub, “proveyourself to me.”

      Yes, but it’s no different than what happens to lots of “institutions” and cultural practices. Someone has a good idea, it gets widely accepted, then it gets codified and institutionalized, and then all the bad stuff happens — people misunderstand and/or misuse the codes, mistakenly believe that what’s good for one couple will be good for another, put too much faith in or importance on the institution itself instead of the people in it, etc.

      “so intense and serious that accepting the offer to consider one another turns into a bigger commitment than a marriage. How can you do that when you have no idea what it’s like to be with the other person in a d/s relationship.”

      Exactly! What you said is exactly what I meant above — people believe in the institution so much that they fail to see the realities around them… and then things fall to pieces.

      “Well anyway those are my thoughts, recognizing that I seem to be out in some minority camp that hardly anyone visits anymore.”

      I’m glad you wrote! And for what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re in a minority camp, I just think the camp you’re in (the one that advocates mutual consideration and respect) isn’t as vocal as it should be. I’m glad there are people like you out there telling the truth and educating people.

      Thanks for your thoughts. :)

  11. I was always under the impression that the submissive is the one who considered the Dominant.

  12. Imho they both are considering during the getting to know each other phase. If the relationship survives then it switches to Dominant of / submissive of.

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