Mar 272014
 

Dominant (Cultural & Personal) Narratives of Dominance:

“Dominants are Born; Not Made”

(I call bullshit)

A few weeks ago, I described the moment I knew I was dominant, and prefaced the the story with this:

I can’t give you some story about how I knew I was dominant my whole life, I don’t see any definitive signs in my past, and there was no epiphanic lightning bolt moment when it hit me.

It was my admission that my experience didn’t adhere to the conventions of predominant cultural narratives about dominants and dominance.[1]

Though it wasn’t as direct as that, a thoughtful commenter, James, noticed:

That’s quite interesting because the Dommes I know tell me they knew They were dominant for a long time. They realised They had a ‘thing’ about them even from childhood. Short of reading Your posts elsewhere on this particular point (and I take Your opening comments as being complete disclosure), I’m somewhat surprised that You never knew You had this ‘thing’ and it took j’s actions to awaken it.

James is right. Lots of dominants claim one or more of the following:

  1. I’ve always been dominant.
  2. I’ve always known I was dominant (which suggests knowledge of what dominance entails), even as a child.
  3. Looking back, there are signs that indicated dominance, but I didn’t recognize them at the time.

All of these suggest (albeit indirectly) ‘Dominants are Born; Not Made.’

I don’t believe that, nor do I believe the constructions and interpretations of the narratives that support it.

It’s not that people consciously lie, it’s that we’re all prone to confirmation bias (as James later suggested) and selective memory. Looking back, it’s easy to see signs that best suit our purposes and selectively ignore the rest. We interpret signs in ways that confirm the ‘rightness’ of who we are, in ways that assure us who we are is who we’re meant to be.

Certainly, when I look back, there are events I could interpret as signs of dominance. But I could also interpret those events in a number of other ways. Because I don’t consider my sexuality immutable, nor do I consider my current sexual preferences as central to who I am, I’m not inclined to interpret signs in any which way.

Some part of me wishes I had a better story, one that confirmed or legitimized my dominance, but I don’t. And constructing one wouldn’t feel honest. Besides that, I suspect prevailing narratives about dominance do more harm than good.

Why “Dominants are Born; Not Made” is the Prevailing Narrative

My hunch is that certain cultural narratives about dominance prevail because they fit with our idea of what a dominant should be. Dominants are supposed to be sure, decisive, and confident. Any admission of the contrary (self-doubt, indecision, unawareness, hesitance, etc.) undermines dominance — it makes someone seem less dominant. (Perhaps it even means they’re less dominant.)

I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t feel dominant to admit I had no fucking idea I was dominant. In fact, it’s part of why I called this place “Dumb Domme” – my own personal, acute, and chronic case of imposter syndrome. Worse than suspecting I’m a fraud is the possibility of someone calling me on my fraudulence. Calling myself “Dumb Domme” neutralized that threat — you can’t say much about me that I haven’t already said about myself. It’s not possible to call me out on something I’ve already admitted.

Besides all of that, I also suspect prevailing narratives of dominance are what they are because dominant characteristics (such as leadership, decisiveness, and confidence), are ‘male characteristics,’ and we privilege those over ‘female characteristics.’ It’s all part of the same system that values maleness over femaleness, and dominance over submission. It’s why so many people believe that submissives must be trained, but dominance is ‘natural.’

Alternative Narratives are Important

It’s important to offer alternative narratives – non-dominant narratives about dominance, if you will — in order to subvert gendered notions about dominance and submission (and subvert the privileging of ‘male’ over ‘female’). But it’s also important for other reasons, too.

It’s a Numbers Game: Lily, of the now defunct “Black Leather Belt,” put it best:

We have fewer dominants, male and female, because we’ve created a culture where anyone who doesn’t immediately drag you to the bedroom by the hair and give you a sound beating after you mentioned you liked Fifty Shades of Grey is a hopeless loser who won’t ever be a True Dominant.

The notion that there’s one path to dominance and that path is ‘you have it or you don’t’ means fewer dominants. If that false dilemma were true, I wouldn’t be dominant because I wouldn’t have thought there was any opportunity to explore dominance. If it was an ‘either/or’ situation — either you know you’re dominant or you’re not a dominant — I would have fallen on the side of ‘not a dominant’ (and what a shame that would have been!).

Bad Dominants: The idea that ‘you have it or you don’t’ doesn’t support a culture where dominants are encouraged to ask questions, admit mistakes, or use caution — and that’s dangerous. It doesn’t promote honesty — I suspect that’s why many dominants lie about their experience — out of fear of not being ‘true’ enough or ‘natural’ enough to be a ‘real dominant.’

Borrowing from Stuart Hall here, I tend to think sexual identities are “a matter of becoming as well as being.” I’m sure some dominants are born, but some of us are made. Some of us are and are becoming and I’m okay with that.

What Say You?

What about you? Does your personal narrative (of coming into dominance, submission, sexuality, etc.) fit with the popular, dominant cultural narratives?


[1] I’m not using any strict definition of cultural narrative.” By cultural narrative, I mean the stories we tell ourselves. Often, details of such narratives are shared amongst people who identify themselves as belonging to a particular culture or cultural identity. “Metanarratives” might also work here, but there are enough voices who claim alternative personal narratives — ones that don’t fit with popular narratives — so I think “popular” or “dominant” cultural narratives is a better term.
thumbnail image from “Shirley Temple in The Little Princess” (image 2009) from The Little Princess film trailer still (trailer 1939). Work is in the public domain.

  30 Responses to ““dominants are born; not made”: dominant narratives of dominance”

  1. LOVE Shirley at the Princess. It’s good to be Princess (or Queen or Ma’am).

    I recall a post of yours in which you kvetched a wee bit about having chose the name “Dumb Domme” for your blog. I, too, have regrets about my blog URL, ‘SubmissiveNightOwl…”. I find it limiting in scope. Readers who consider themselves pure submissives and are looking for relatedness must find my scope of writing very disappointing.

    Too bad.

    As I’ve traveled the journey of sexual self-exploration, I find that I have a mixed bag of preferences, some dominant, some submissive, some vanilla. I wouldn’t even classify myself as a switch. I can be anywhere on the spectrum within a single sexual encounter.

    I am fortunate to have a fucking hot guy who loves exploring all of the variations of sexuality with me. I enjoy having three fingers in his ass as much as I enjoy being on my knees before him while giving head. What I enjoy most of all is the trust we have that we work so diligently to maintain.
    To me, trust is about the hottest thing going. I wouldn’t be able to give myself over to the cornucopia of experiences we’re enjoying without it.

    Sorry, I know that last bit is off topic. Maybe a blog post is begging to be written. Thank you for giving me a forum to think and express.

  2. I recall a post of yours in which you kvetched a wee bit about having chose the name “Dumb Domme” for your blog. I, too, have regrets about my blog URL, ‘SubmissiveNightOwl…”.

    Yeah. Dumb Domme was a REALLY bad idea — it’s a choice I absolutely regret. SubmissiveNightOwl may be a little limiting, but at least it’s sexy… mine’s just silly and clunky-sounding.

    What I enjoy most of all is the trust we have that we work so diligently to maintain. To me, trust is about the hottest thing going. I wouldn’t be able to give myself over to the cornucopia of experiences we’re enjoying without it.

    Yes to this! I just told the boy something similar this past weekend — it’s not about dominance and submission for me — it’s about him, and it’s about us together and the dynamic that happens when we occupy the same space. That dynamic wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for him and if it wasn’t for the fact that I trust him so completely. I value that above everything else.

  3. It’s why so many people believe that submissives must be trained, but dominance is ‘natural.’

    Really? This is so, so tragic. And it casts new light on the weird feeling I get when people praise me for being a ‘natural’ submissive. Because that is the equally poisonous mirror image of the attitude you’re talking about – if you don’t instinctively do everything that works for me, you must be a faker and a loser. And I hadn’t even realised that we were doing this far more systemically to doms. Oh dear oh dear.

    I think subs have some justification for being nervous about trusting themselves to inexperienced doms. But the solution is not lies. I begin to see why scene educators are so keen on mentoring.

    By the way, I knew what I was turned on by from a very early age. It’s in my very first memory from age four, though I don’t have other memories of this till ten or eleven. I didn’t call it submissiveness, that’s all. So I’m happy to believe people when they say they knew early on.

    • Really? This is so, so tragic. And it casts new light on the weird feeling I get when people praise me for being a ‘natural’ submissive.

      Yeah, the “training” thing is odd and difficult to talk about without parsing out what people mean when they say “train.” I know it’s often meant in a role-enforcing, codified sort of way (as if you were training a pet or an employee), but more honestly, isn’t “training” really just learning someone’s preferences (and wanting to fulfill them)?

      When J said he prefers his sandwiches without tomato, I guess he trained me how to make him a sandwich. When I said I hate the word “yummy,” I guess I trained him not to use it. All of those things are just normal things people do when they’re learning another person, right?

      Because that is the equally poisonous mirror image of the attitude you’re talking about – if you don’t instinctively do everything that works for me, you must be a faker and a loser. And I hadn’t even realised that we were doing this far more systemically to doms.

      Excellent point, Yingtai. Everyone does it, but I do see it applied more often to dominants (in my limited experience, of course). Certainly, it could be dangerous, but even at best, it’s just plain unfair.

      I think subs have some justification for being nervous about trusting themselves to inexperienced doms. But the solution is not lies. I begin to see why scene educators are so keen on mentoring.

      Abso-fucking-lutely. Subs have LOTS of reason to be nervous trusting inexperienced doms. That isn’t a slight against inexperienced doms, but it is a call for honesty and responsibility.

      By the way, I knew what I was turned on by from a very early age. It’s in my very first memory from age four, though I don’t have other memories of this till ten or eleven. I didn’t call it submissiveness, that’s all.

      Yes to this, too! I think this is a more responsible, faithful personal narrative. I have no issue with, and no doubt in, people who suggest they knew what they were interested in from an early age. It’s when they couch it in the language of D/s that I think things get less-than-faithful. (Language they couldn’t have had until later in life — but of course, it gets confusing here too, as a young person may recognize dominance/submissiveness as a personality trait and term it as such without awareness of labels, roles, and whatnot).

  4. I will have to gather my thoughts before I give a full answer. It will likely stray into several fields, like a flock of rabbits.

  5. I agree that confirmation bias is prevalent. Not to mention other biases we have that could play into this narrative. And yet….

    My memories of the hottest fantasies form puberty were of women capturing/seducing/controlling me.

    As I searched for a marriage partner and discovered my sexuality, I thought of those fantasies as simply wanking fodder. I had no expectation that I would use them with a partner. And yet, after I got married, they kept intruding, nudging me to try them out. Get some rope and see if she will tie you up. That type of thing.

    Also, when I happened to come upon porn, way back in the day when the only access was abandoned magazines, I typically saw mostly vanilla hetero sex stuff. Good, made me aroused. Typical.

    But when I would occasionally come upon Femdom stuff? WOW, arousal off the charts! Fixated on that piece until I had worn it out. Clearly a much stronger reaction.

    And, as we tried some of that, I wanted more. And explored more deeply. And read more. And, well here I am.

    Yes, you can argue selective memory, confirmation bias, etc. And I cannot prove that it is not. But it truly feels like it is not, and that it was something deep in me that started (though I had no words to describe it or understanding of what and where I wanted to go) and was driving me down a particular path, irrespective of what I was consciously trying to do.

    I think that there is a wide variation. to me, the narrative that is wrong is it is all one way. Just like introversion and extroversion. Some are extreme, others middle of the road and swapping between both.

    Regards

    • Also, when I happened to come upon porn, way back in the day when the only access was abandoned magazines […].

      Ha! Yes! Abandoned magazines… left in the woods and under highway overpasses by what I can only imagine are porn fairies. :)

      But it truly feels like it is not, and that it was something deep in me that started (though I had no words to describe it or understanding of what and where I wanted to go) and was driving me down a particular path, irrespective of what I was consciously trying to do.

      I don’t doubt people have inclinations, but I don’t think it’s all as fixed as some people make it out to be. And for the record, by “some people,” I mean mostly dominant-type individuals. My (limited) experience is that d-types adhere much more strongly to almost-meta-narratives than submissives… perhaps because not adhering to the narrative doesn’t reflect what we (often) value in dominants.

  6. As always a thoughtful well written post. I would like to think of myself having been in a ‘becoming’ state, and still being in it. I embrace both roles and, if I work hard and extrapolate a bit, can find supportive evidence for both looking back. It does open the possibilities to think it’s not always pre-ordained and to ensure that our language and narratives welcome newly written twists and turns.

    For unrelated reasons, I was reading about ‘growth vs. fixed mindsets’ today… may have some applicability here in this very different domain.

    • For unrelated reasons, I was reading about ‘growth vs. fixed mindsets’ today… may have some applicability here in this very different domain.

      Ha! Me too, my friend… though also in a wildly different domain.

      Cheers to the fluidity and dynamism of life with all it’s twists and turns. :)

  7. I knew I had a dominant nature as a child, but didn’t have a name for it. I was tying up my younger brother at a young age. ;) I grew up around strong accomplished women and I’m sure that had an effect on me. But I struggled because being a strong woman was frown upon in society and I wanted to fit in somehow. It wasn’t until I was older that I finally gave totally into my nature and haven’t looked back, now with peace in my heart. Finding other women as myself helped to confirm and give me the courage to say no to societies call on my life to be submissive. It’s just not in me. I found my love for submissive men recognizing now why my other relationships didn’t work. Two dominants make lousy bedfellows in my case.

    So was I born or made? Maybe a little of both, but the genetics in my family say mostly born. Whatever the case maybe …. I just glad to be me. And having a hell of a great time with the men that fit with me.

    ~ Vista

    • But I struggled because being a strong woman was frown upon in society and I wanted to fit in somehow. It wasn’t until I was older that I finally gave totally into my nature and haven’t looked back,

      I do know what you mean, and I understand that you’re speaking of your own experience — thank you for your response, BTW. But, in speaking about my own identity/experience, I don’t automatically associate ‘strength’ with (sexual) ‘dominance.’ Besides that, there are plenty of strong women who aren’t dominant.

      While I think of myself as a strong woman (my personal, professional strength and ambition), I separate than from my sexual identity/preferences. Not that they’re mutually exclusive, but they aren’t necessarily overlapping, either.

      Wow. That was convoluted, wasn’t it? :)

      • “I don’t automatically associate ‘strength’ with (sexual) ‘dominance.’ Besides that, there are plenty of strong women who aren’t dominant.”

        Yes. I agree. Some women find being sexually submissive a relief as do some strong men who are sexually submissive. And I do enjoy strong accomplished men. When they willingly surrender that strength it can be intoxicating! My problem was sexually I was also dominant but felt I needed to be submissive because that was my ‘role’. It left me confused for a very long time until I found my way to D/s. Then everything seemed to fall into place. I was able to recognize the men I truly desired and needed to be fulfilled. It’s a journey.

  8. I’m glad someone is saying this because it’s been one of the things that make the lifestyle so hard for me. I’ve always been independent and competent but I’ve never considered myself dominant. It wasn’t until I got into the relationship I’m in now that my darling pointed out I behave as a dominant. But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for the learning of dominance. There are pockets here and there but overall, I run into the pervasive assumption that I should just know what I’m doing. Imagine how that works with a new Domme and a new sub, both of us fumbling along trying to find what works.

    • “I’ve always been independent and competent but I’ve never considered myself dominant.”

      Same here. :) Part of why I never considered myself ‘dominant’ (as a sexual or relationship identity) was because I had no idea there was such a thing, nor a label for it.

      “But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for the learning of dominance.”

      Doesn’t seem so. I think part of the difficulty is in separating a personality trait from a sexual/relationship identity. Certainly, people can ‘be dominant,’ but that’s different from enacting the role of ‘a dominant.’

      “I run into the pervasive assumption that I should just know what I’m doing. Imagine how that works with a new Domme and a new sub, both of us fumbling along trying to find what works.”

      Honestly, I have to think that’s how most relationships work — with kinky people, vanilla people, experienced or not… every relationship has a learning curve, right?

      • It is indeed how things work in all relationships, the downside is: doms are SUPPOSED to know and be aggressive. Subs are SUPPOSED to be passive do-what-you-want humans. The stereotypes are very much there informing the interactions and even asking questions seems to throw the whole thing into a tailspin. So things that I understood in my basic relationships don’t always work the same way and produces the effect of constantly waiting for the next thing to break that I have absolutely no idea how to fix and he’s petrified to help me because that possible means him not being passive sub male and takes away from me as the Domme since this should all be instinctual.

        It’s exhausting.

  9. Thoughts have been gathered, and rather than paste a glob here, I posted it there: “The false dichotomy behind a “natural” dominant/submissive”

    [edited to correct link]

  10. I agree with you completely. Dominance or submission is not something you are born to; it’s something you polarize to. Since I mingle very often in the patriarchy circles, there is a lot of rhetoric about “true dominants” and “natural dominants”, yet my experience has deemed this, “laying your arguments out like your winter clothing”. By that I mean that you can don the dominant persona if you want to. That is, if it feels satisfying to you, you can be dominant.

    All that other rhetoric “natural dominance” is just cave-man argumentation, where I hold the opinion it ends up sounding like “white people are the natural dominant leaders”.

    I came into the scene, being trained by a “natural dominant”. He was convinced he was THE Übermensch. He was the sort of gentleman who walked onto the scene like in that song from Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain”. He “sold me” the argument of natural dominance, and I ended up buying it for awhile. His secret opinion was that dominant women were really switches at best, all waiting for a true natural dominant man to show up in their lives and restore order. I can think of at least a dozen female dominants, including this blog author, who would laugh their sweet arses over that over-inflated opinion.

    After studying this entity “dominance” for awhile, I have come to the conclusion that every individual couple (or group) determines what it means to them. Yet, it appears that dominance has some key factors which make them dominant.

    1) They enjoy making decisions for others.
    2) They enjoy leading or determining what others will do or perform.
    3) They enjoy taking over the responsibility for others actions or reactions.
    4) They have the ability to suppress their emotional reactions for the gain of controlling another’s emotional reactions
    5) They enjoy shaping another’s personal life so they find it positive and pleasing.

    It seems it has less to do with intelligence, though intelligent people have a knack for doing the above. Intelligence is often a key to impress or convince a submissive into doing what they doubts about.

    Some less-informed people seem to follow these false assumptions about dominance:

    1) Intelligence. Dominants are super-smart; submissives not so smart. Were that true there would be no such thing as a “Dumb Domme” blog. ;)
    2) Males are generally dominant over females.
    3) Submissives have little to no self-esteem.
    4) Dommes are frustrated feminists who avenge themselves on men.
    5) Dommes are at best switches substituting effeminant men for a true male dominant.
    6) Submissives like being told what to do, because they are helpless at managing their own lives.

    I often get mixed up at which end of the spectrum I lie. I am submissive. However I enjoy talking to male and female dominants more than I do submissives, because – like the general rumours imply – there are an astounding number of submissives who think a dominant is a rich Mommy or Daddy who will make all the decisions, provide for them and grant their every wish. It makes me want to ask, “Are you looking for a dominant or Morgan le Fey and/or Merlin?” That kind of pisses me off: submissives who regard a dominant as Mommy/Daddy Warbucks. I hold the reason that there is no such thing as a male Fem-Dom, it’s because this fantasy is most common amongst female submissives. In my opinion, most of the under 25 year-old female submissives seem to believe that “landing a Daddy” is equivilant to getting 6 right numbers in Lotto. It as common as the urban legend that a cutie blond girlie under 25 years old doesn’t have to do anything more in this world than spread her knees every time Daddy tells her to. Further education and job are absolutely superfulous. Pity that reality has a nasty way of destroying these Cinderella fantasies.

    The strange thing is, that when you’re a little older, have a profession, and can articulate yourself, you start getting letters from gentlemen address you as “Ma’am”. You write them back how much you’re flattered, but they have obviously confused you with someone who can lead young men, and then it gets weird. They beg you to switch – on their knees – making all sorts of promises you can’t deal with, because deep down in your heart – you disrespect men who want you to make all the decisions.

    I have been told, “You – the way you look – could make more money than you ever could in your profession, if you would just try pro-domming. You’re tall, strong, lean and can put the fear of God in federal judges”. But sorry – it makes my skin crawl. That’s the point I made above. If you hate making decisions and determining what other people do – than you shouldn’t even be faking a Pro-Domme. In order to not suck at it, you’ll have to take some kind of psychopharmica to muddle through.

    I think the only way you can really know if you are dominant or submissive is if you try them and measure how happy it makes you, or how rewarding you find it.

    • there are an astounding number of submissives who think a dominant is a rich Mommy or Daddy who will make all the decisions, provide for them and grant their every wish.

      But… but… I am a wish master! Not The Wishmaster, of course. ;)

      As for the rest, yes to all of it. I’m not sure I could put it any better than you already did.

  11. I think some people are born with the tendencies, others “learn” to have the tendencies or are drawn to it.

    Doesn’t really matter how you find what makes you happy, I only have an issue when people ignore general safety measures, just because you think you “are” something or feel like something doesn’t mean you don’t have to learn how to do it without harming somebody.

    • I only have an issue when people ignore general safety measures, just because you think you “are” something or feel like something doesn’t mean you don’t have to learn how to do it without harming somebody.

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately, I’ve heard far too many stories of d-types doing physical or emotional harm to s-types because they don’t want to admit they have no idea what they’re doing (and really, just one instance is already too many).

  12. I’m flattered that You devoted a major and (as usual) thoughtful piece in response to my observations. I find much to empathise with in all of the above posts and yet I still can’t shake the feeling that there is a mysterious combination of DNA molecules that lends itself to being wired in a certain way. Whether it takes shape via youthful discovery (for me, I daydreamed about being in a dungeon of black hooded strict women forcing foot fetish tasks on me – when I was seven in 1975!) or the latter day becoming of one’s sexuality, do they all not owe their genesis to something deep within us, regardless of the time of their emergence, creation or catalytic forces?

    I believe we all come with different talents and abilities that may blossom early or late. I also believe such flowering can decrease or increase with effort and enthusiasm. The world is still thankfully diverse in its range of opportunities to jump-start such qualities – there is no ‘right’ way of becoming. However, I can only rely upon my own direct experience and of those Dominants and submissives I’ve been fortunate to ask on a first-hand basis – none had to be convinced into their lifestyles: They just ‘were’.

    • I’d like to address your points, if I may.

      yet I still can’t shake the feeling that there is a mysterious combination of DNA molecules that lends itself to being wired in a certain way

      All we can say is that, at this point, there is no evidence of it. However, as far as I know, no one is looking for it, either. You can say that DNA is responsible for all human behavior, in the most global terms, because it is what makes us human. However, that expands things to a level that makes analysis and understanding impossible.

      The most likely explanation is that we are wired to seek out some combination of neuro-chemicals, and specific behaviors develop to deliver those. It’s a combination of nature and nurture.

      I daydreamed about being in a dungeon of black hooded strict women forcing foot fetish tasks on me – when I was seven in 1975!) or the latter day becoming of one’s sexuality, do they all not owe their genesis to something deep within us, regardless of the time of their emergence, creation or catalytic forces?

      Yes, our sexual behavior comes from forces deep within us. But you seem to consider genetics to be a driving force that can’t be resisted and environmental forces to be less natural, or less powerful. This isn’t true. You hold all sorts of genetic potentials that are unrealized because of your environment.

      By the time you were seven, you had been alive for roughly 61,320 hours. If you spent a third of that asleep; then that leaves 40,880 hours where you were subjected to socialization forces of all sorts – and gender/sex roles are forces placed upon kids from birth onward. You would be a rare child if you had not been exposed to some sort of sexualization at that point.

      Think of it this way – even if we could find a specific gene, or group of genes, that created a submissive desire in you; then you will still need the environment to give you the blocks necessary to build the image of women in black hoods in a castle.

      none had to be convinced into their lifestyles: They just ‘were’.

      In social sciences we say, “Never ask a fish about the water.” The point being that sometimes we are simply too close to see what is happening.

      The choice is not whether or not someone “decided” or “was convinced” to be dominant or submissive. That would be put into a research question as something along the lines of “Is being aroused by dominance/submission something that is a conscious decision?” The answer to that, as to all questions about arousal, would always be “no.” We do not consciously decide what arouses us.

      The research question, to look at the influence of genetics, would be more along the lines of, “What specific genetic expression (or group of them) is common to people who seek dominant positions in romantic/sexual relationships?” I’m guessing there would be a metric shit-ton of them. So enough research would have to be done to narrow it down to a specific genetic expression, or a group of genetic expressions. Then, and only then, could we look for that same genetic marker among non-dominant persons and try to identify what environmental forces the two groups have in common and where they differ.

      No one can look at a specific behavior of theirs and say whether it comes from genes or was brought on by environment. You can’t simultaneously look through the microscope and be under it. Our personal experience may enlighten and expand our research into human behaviors, but we are simply not a good case study for ourselves.

      • I’ve always understood that absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.

        The field of behavioural genomics is indeed fascinating and the pendulum has swung from a bias towards hereditary causation to environmental factors and somewhat back again. We’ve read sensational stories of the fat gene, the God gene and I suppose I could be even accused of saying there’s a kink/sub/Domme gene lurking in our DNA helixes. I’m not. It IS more complicated than that.

        Had we been able to hit upon a formula of cultivating ‘correct’ environments to produce certain outcomes, then much of the social challenges that still bedevil us would have long been consigned to history. There is something inherent in us as species that appears to be too hardy for our environment to overcome. And I can’t for the life of me work out how a seven year old in the mid-1970s deprived of top shelf magazines, the internet, and multi-channel television, would have come up with such sexual imagery at that age. Even if there was some form of sub-sconscious re-ordering of otherwise random and innocent images from everyday life to fill the gaps opened up by my inner helixes, I would suggest that the latter assumes guiding primacy to provide context. Our minds are bombarded by countless sources of data and we can only consciously absorb and process so much at one time – how that guidance is structured, I’d suggest, is internally led (the egg coming before the hen).

        Things moved on since I was seven and I’ve gone through periods of shame and reflection, wishing to be ‘normal’. I’ve explored many an environmental and external ‘remedy’ to rid myself of being submissive (avoidance techniques of one form or another, feeling substitution, going cold turkey and even burning fetish literature in one particularly ritualistic gesture) but it can’t be rid of. Or maybe I haven’t found the ‘right treatment’ yet. I do know that since I took steps to become more fully involved in the Scene four years ago, I’ve achieved more inner contentment, peace and yes, even confidence, by embracing this brand of sexuality. If nothing else, I come away from an innate grasp that something internal, not external, has long been at work.

        As I’ve stated elsewhere, I am sympathetic to views that contradict mine. I hate dogma as much as the next person. But I can’t ignore my journey and of those around me who have testimonies that ring eerily similar, that I was born this way.

        • But I can’t ignore my journey and of those around me who have testimonies that ring eerily similar, that I was born this way.

          I don’t ignore testimonies. But unless that testimony is backed up with evidence, then it is just someone saying, “I feel this to be true.” It’s is a belief, nothing more or less.

          As I said before, even if there is a genetic link to however you describe yourself, it is dependent on environment to bring it into expression. It isn’t an either/or question. Nor is one way more natural than the other.

          Back to the point of the post, either way, a person needs to study and learn specific behaviors and safety precautions that come with them.

          • How would you set out the evidence parameters that would convince you either way? I don’t think there is any objective means (yet) because the science is not quite there yet. Without wanting to sound philosophical, aren’t our environments actually shaped by our inner selves? Which raises the confirmation bias that sometimes gets in the way of these discussions. If we only had a set of social levers that centrist planners could control to create a stable and uniform society, then I would indeed subscribe to your theory. But it’s elusive because people will do what they want regardless of their surroundings and in some cases, safety precautions.

          • @james

            How would you set out the evidence parameters that would convince you either way? I don’t think there is any objective means (yet) because the science is not quite there yet.

            Actually, as I’ve been saying, the science is there. The human genome is there and we have access to statistical models that are sophisticated enough to tell us quite a bit. The parameters are built into the statistical models.

            There is a difference between being able to do something and actually having someone do it. As far as I know, no one is actively seeking out any genetic component of dominance/submission. However, there is a lot that I am unaware of.

            Without wanting to sound philosophical, aren’t our environments actually shaped by our inner selves?

            Actually, our “inner selves” are only part of our environment. There is a lot of our environment that we do not control.

            Which raises the confirmation bias that sometimes gets in the way of these discussions.

            Confirmation bias is simply the tendency to read evidence the way that we want it to read. The best way to control for that is to openly share data sets and research designs so that others can see what we might miss. I don’t see how that ties directly to the part of our environment tied to our “inner selves.”

            If we only had a set of social levers that centrist planners could control to create a stable and uniform society, then I would indeed subscribe to your theory. But it’s elusive because people will do what they want regardless of their surroundings and in some cases, safety precautions.

            If you set up an impossible standard of proof; then it is, by definition, impossible. We do not need to create a “stable and uniform society” in order to learn how genetics and environment work against or with each other. If we did; then the whole realm of genetics would be a massive dead end.

          • Alas, I fear the discussion is becoming somewhat circular and we will never agree. You believe more credit should be extended towards our external environment while I maintain it should move in the opposite direction towards our inner being. In reality, it may well indeed lie somewhere in between. I would like to state that I never said genome science doesn’t exist; just that it doesn’t exist (yet) to put our debate to rest once and for all. My closing remarks about central planning was a tilt towards the futility of seeking an environmentally-led, stable and uniform society that perseveres without embracing the inner needs of its people. It was never meant to be interpreted as an obstacle on the path to real scientific work in this area.

          • You believe more credit should be extended towards our external environment while I maintain it should move in the opposite direction towards our inner being. In reality, it may well indeed lie somewhere in between.

            That isn’t what I’ve said at all. I’ve been trying to demonstrate that you are making false dichotomies that you then use to shore up a rather weak argument. I don’t think “more credit” should extend either way. Genetics provides a potential. Our environment works to activate different parts of our genetic code. As different parts are activated, they change us and we act upon our environment, in effect, changing it. It isn’t a question of “genetics or environment” but rather how they work together – and which environmental factors trigger what genetic potential and vice versa.

            I would like to state that I never said genome science doesn’t exist; just that it doesn’t exist (yet) to put our debate to rest once and for all.

            Nor did I state that you did. What I said is that your comments about lacking proper controls on society, if taken at face value, would mean that there is no use in pursuing causality in social sciences or in genetic sciences as applied to social actions. We simply don’t need that level of control. We have advance quantitative analysis techniques that, when utilized properly, can implement the actions of such controls.

            My closing remarks about central planning was a tilt towards the futility of seeking an environmentally-led, stable and uniform society that perseveres without embracing the inner needs of its people. It was never meant to be interpreted as an obstacle on the path to real scientific work in this area.

            I’m sorry to have misunderstood your meaning. I thought this comment was actually directed at our discussion.

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