Saw this on my Google Reader this evening and thought it deserved to be reblogged.
It cannot be said often enough, and this is beautifully and well said.
Trust and D/s
At first glance I love this image. I know of no sensual Dom who is not moved to their core by their submissive kneeling before them with a will of their own. Willing submission is perhaps the most powerful display of devotion I can think of and at times can render me speechless and trembling in awe or the power that is bestowed upon me.
But look closer at this image and you might see something else. The beautifully kneeling subject of this image is not fully relaxed in complete submission but instead is a little rigid and stiff. Indeed rather than looking down in a relaxed state of submissive repose, she is glancing back toward the observer. Curious? Expectant? Longing? Or perhaps it is something more serious. Perhaps it is concern, nervousness, or even touch of fear.
I write often of the emotional side of a D/s relationship and the incredible connection that can be felt between two partners who choose to open themselves to the possibilities that BDSM can bring to their lives. But before there can be any truly meaningful or complete exchange of power between partners there must first be absolute and unreserved trust. This trust does not come easily or overnight. You cannot simply talk about D/s a little, complete a BDSM checklist setting limits and boundaries, establish a safe word, and call it good. Those are all steps in the process to be sure and are a part of building a trust bond with a D/s partner. But before anyone can truly open themselves to being vulnerable (Doms and subs alike) there must be a level of comfort, compatibility, safety, and confidence, none of which can exist in any meaningful measure without absolute trust.
Building trust in any interpersonal relationship takes time and consistent honorable action that leads to being a trustworthy person. It means matching your words and your deeds, being present and respectful, and not placing yourself above others. In the online world where people engage virtually with one another it can be quite challenging. It is so easy to portray yourself as something you are not or simply create a fantasy world having little or no resemblance to the reality of one’s own life. Equally and opposite, trust can often be taken for granted because somehow online interaction has a level of anonymity to it and is not viewed as being “real.” I am here to caution you that trust is just as important in the online world of relationships as it is in real life. The emotions and feelings that are evoked by online relationships are very real and very powerful, every bit as much as they can be in a face-to-face relationship; sometimes even more. And at some point, the truth always comes out and if you have not been genuine and completely honest about who and what you are, how you genuinely feel, or what you want out of a relationship, then someone is going to be hurt, perhaps quite badly.
Without integrity and trust there can be no willing exchange of power. If a Dom is not trusted then any “submission” that occurs is likely to be out of fear or a sense of pressure. This is, in fact, not submission at all but rather a reaction to manipulation and coercion. That is a very dangerous and toxic environment in which to engage in BDSM play of any kind. A D/s relationship involves giving of each other, heart, mind, body and spirit. It is not simply a physical expression of power exchange but a deeply emotional one. Or at least it should be in to my way of thinking. And, it is actually far easier to give one’s body over to another in a less than trusting environment then it is to allow access to the heart, mind and spirit. We protect those inner most parts of ourselves deeply and only give someone access to them when we are completely comfortable which means completely trusting. In absence of giving over these most intimate parts of our being though, all we have is the potential for rough sex play, not a true D/s relationship.
I realize that my views are not universally held, and everyone is entitled to their own approach to BDSM. Plenty of folks play casually and do not mix messy things like emotions into their BDSM play time. And that is perfectly alright as long as both partners approach it from the same perspective. But even then, there has to be a level of integrity and trust, adherence to the ground rules, or no one is going to let go and embrace the potential power of a scene.
My approach is one of developing a genuine relationship with a D/s partner, one that often spans months before ever really delving into a deep exploration of the Dominant and submissive roles. We get to know each other as people first and foremost, and from that fundamental level of trust at a friendship level we can then begin to grow the deeper trust necessary to be comfortable submitting and accepting submission. In essence, we grow into the roles together versus simply accepting at face value that I am a Dom and she is a sub and therefore we should be able to just go play. It simply does not work that way, at least not for me.
From my perspective, D/s is the art of taking successful relationship building to a higher plane. It is building on the friendship and elevating it to a level of trust and acceptance where we can permit ourselves to be completely vulnerable with one another and thus expose our deepest yearnings, desires and fears, allowing them to be explored and even played with by another. This is tough stuff and not something that anyone is going to gain access to overnight or just because they say “Take me, I am yours” or “Kneel before me, I am you Master.” No, there are many miles to walk together before those words can take on any true meaning, let alone be acted upon with genuine intent and acceptance.
Trust is the foundation of all human relationships and is very difficult to gain. It is also very easy to lose. Not respecting a partner’s limits, whether physical or emotional, is a sure way to lose trust immediately. But there are others that are less obvious and more insidious. The little white lies you may have told to each other in an effort to win each other over always become exposed eventually. Each may seem tiny and insignificant, but one-by-one, they add up to a death by a thousand cuts. And with each little nick, the message is subconsciously received that this partner is untrustworthy on the little things and therefor cannot be trusted with the big things such as personal physical safety, or perhaps most difficult of all, emotional security.
Successful BDSM and D/s relationships are all about the little things. Its about noticing and acting upon the smallest physical, emotional and non-verbal cues. Its about reading a partner and responding appropriately. Many of the most successful practitioners are genuine empaths who can read, interpret, and respond to other people. The problem is that often those who are most endowed with these inherent traits and skills are also social chameleons and highly skilled manipulators. They will read their partner like a book but then manipulate them and change behavior to achieve a desired outcome. There is a fine line between being empathetic and responsive and being manipulative and coercive. A fine line between being an attentive to a partner and being a sociopath. Honesty, integrity, intent, and trust are what stands between the two.
Whether in-person, online, or a crossover between the two, D/s relationships require the utmost in comfort and trust between two partners. If you are catching a partner in lies or have reason to disbelieve their representation of themselves and their desires for you then you have no business handing over the very essence of your being to them. Don’t just walk, run for the nearest exit! However, if you can build the level of trust necessary to truly expose your inner most being to another and know with certainty that they will cradle it lovingly in their hands, nurturing and fostering its growth, then you are on to something very special and have found a partner who will give you opportunities for exploration, insight, and pleasure like no other. For me, it is the pinnacle of human relations.
Be worthy of that which you seek.
Caption © For The Love of a Submissive, 2012
photograph: Marcus J Ranum