16 June, 2008

Dem Damn Doms

A little while back I had a very fruitful exchange with a woman relatively new to BDSM and interested in bondage. She is fiercely intelligent and fearless in her quest for straight dope, which resulted in epistles I found myself pleasantly surprised to be writing - not merely in response to her entreaties but about my character; both the one I possess and the one I play. Here's a meaty chunk:

When you get the time and inclination, (and if you are still interested) would you speak more on the issue of Doms and emotions? I am trying to get a handle on why particular Doms will attempt to 'train' women (or 'girls') yet withhold all sense of love, affection, being the lover, etc. They will 'collect' women ...or will select women they say are 'promising girls' yet what is the woman left with? Isn't love and affection part of what one would want to develop within the confines of a D/s relationship, in or out of marriage, or with both?
Dear J.,


The phenomenon you note is chief among the reasons I do not frequent the organized scene. Like so many other things that can obtain between two people, problems of intimacy are rampant in BDSM, but like so many things obtaining to BDSM, it's amplified.

You might have described any of dozens of doms I've encountered through the years, many of whom profess towering abilities (which some of whom can actually deliver) which they deploy sparingly and at arm's-length from their partners. If pressed, they will allow that this aloofness is not only part of their prerogative, but that a certain, almost clinical, detachment advances the purity and precision of their control, as though the mingling of other energies might corrupt some predetermined end (in the case of rope geeks (i.e., my tribe) this can emerge as a tiresome fastidiousness with regard to knots, physics, etc.). This somewhat specious objectivity is probably helpful in side-stepping any moral qualms about the propriety of torturing an otherwise perfectly lovely person who (gulp) loves us.

Getting caught up in the particulars of "training" (toward what end we are left to wonder), rules, and so forth, while generally advancing a reductivist paradigm (e.g., from woman to girl, restraint, etc.) serves the purpose of distracting the bottom from what's going on in her emotional life as she deals with rules, the breaking of them, and consequentially the many and sometimes exquisite taxations of her body. This, it must be said, is one of the oft cited seductions of bottoming or subbing - gauzing over some emotional pain is a key inducement to willingly suffering the privations of submission.

It also conveniently gets the top off the hook for having to deal too deeply with his partner. Getting a bit too close to some essential truth? Throw out another red herring! Perhaps more importantly, constant redirection of the bottom's attention allows the top to stay comfortably buttoned up himself; if she's busy fulfilling her mandate she's less likely to notice her mate's foibles, much less his all-too-human vulnerability. When's the last time anyone pointed out a vulnerable top?

I see both dom and sub being very well served by the pomp and bombast of BDSM. As a practice it allows for sex and what looks like very intimate interaction, but mostly I think it's a lot of psychic smoke and mirrors.

But, what armchair analysis would be complete without some generous self-incrimination? I don't doubt for a moment that my interest in tying up comely lasses is rooted in a deep, almost atavistic fear of capital W Woman. I have no trouble loving women, however. I'm a great exponent of everyone grabbing as much love as time and fate allows, and I'm fortunate to have in Fin a woman who not only endorses such a view for her husband, but for herself. We both have a great deal of love in our lives and together. After 25 years Fin sees me very clearly, shares my affliction of maximum affection, and wants for me as I want for her, and that is as much as we can pack in. Love is of course critically important in the scheme of things but it is just love after all; it comes naturally and in great profusion, it's non-toxic and low in calories. It's the pound of flesh closest to the heart that we can keep.

The morality of love has, I think, gotten terribly muddled in the past couple thousand years. It's compelling to read Plato's Phaedrus or Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics to see how love unfurled prior to our age. We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy coming up with reasons for not loving, or stories about what we're feeling being something other than love, or cases for having not committed love against another, or worst perhaps of all; masks for misbehavior we call love. We point ourselves toward love today largely wary of passion and not just a little weighted toward the tragic. Not at all like the Greeks, or for that matter the Romans (although I think it was segue from Republic to Empire that inaugurated the ascendancy of the bureaucratization of all things raw, robust and lively... like love).

The world we can touch these days is much more orderly and granular (certain appearances to the contrary notwithstanding), and BDSM as a relational ideal, again, amplifies the conventional world by even more rigorously atomizing and organizing exchanges between partners, compartmentalizing on the basis of its peculiar morality and logic, legislating with appeals to the putative authority of objectivity, acting with thoughtfully blunted intent and plausible deniability; fearful, really, of the messiness of real human relations.

That messiness is, to my thinking, an absolute good. Were it not for love and relationships opening us up to the pain and humiliation of devastating loss, there'd be no intimation of what it's like to die, and thereby what it is to live.

I kind of cherish my fear of Woman for all the reasons I believe I've described previously - Woman's curvy circularity, her ripeness, her lunacy, her bottomless love, the expression of which I am born like any other. As a genetic male I must at some point create the man I would become by declaring myself not Woman. Not the bottomless love from which I come. That, I think, puts me pretty much in a perpetual state of awe about the principle from which I've had to wrest myself in order to fill in the blank that was my gender identification and my physiology.

According to women I've known that mission has been pretty much accomplished, but still, how do I deal with something I am in awe of? Well, I could hate it, I suppose, I could hate Woman. Fortunately, I don't - Ah luvs 'em. I would have to guess that, dysfunctions aside, I had much more love around me than not as I made the differentiation move in adolescence (and by love I mean my parents made their hearts fully vulnerable to my drama) , but that's the armchair squeaking again. Certainly I never got from any of the women in my young life any excuse for hating.

The last squeak of the armchair is Freudian: the fear going along with awe that I will be subsumed by that which awes me. The gambit I choose is to control awe-inspiring Woman with my ropes. Maybe it's less Freudian and more Apollonian - regulating chaotic Dionysus with his linear architectonic, etc. Aeschylus would have loved it.

Now I'm straying into mytho-analysis, so it must be time to pause. If I've not exhausted you by this point then you shall have to tell me your secret for enduring people who think they know something.

Good night.


No comments: