Old Traditions vs. Next Gen: where’s the balance?

handcuffed couple

Several years ago I was at a play party in a dungeon with someone who was really new to the scene. As we sat there observing everyone around us, our attention was turned to a young woman who walked in to the room. She was wearing a high collared, full length latex dress. Her hair was wrapped in a tight bun which accentuated her sharp facial features. She was carrying a toy bag and placed it in one of the play stations with a serious look on her face.

My companion leaned over and whispered, “Is she the Domme?” Her assumption, of course, was based on how this woman was dressed and her overall look. I, however, not knowing this woman at the time – pulled my assumption that she was actually a submissive based on the fact that she was carrying the toy bag. Sure enough when her scene began with her Mistress it was she that removed her latex dress and was attached to the cross. My friend was surprised that I was correct. How did I come to the conclusion she was, in fact, the submissive? Because I had that bit of knowledge regarding traditional protocol that the sub carries the toy bag and sets the play space to his/her Dominant’s specifications.

It was nice to be able to take a cue like that and interpret it correctly. There are many traditions and protocol cues that have faded over the years. Things you could look for on a collar that indicated a submissive’s availability, for example. A Dominant staying clothed while the submissive strips down to what their Dom’s preference is. Of course, the flip side to this is that traditional protocols also become expectations. While I like traditions and wish many of them would come back into the general kink community, I also appreciate the Dominants desire to not have expectations set on them.
I admire and respect the Dominant who does what they please, or what makes them comfortable, because they’re the Dom and it’s their prerogative! This kind of “quiet confidence” is something I appreciate. Not having anything to prove. If they want to get naked for a scene then they will and don’t expect to be judged for it, yet even if others judge them they don’t care. This is at least one core trait of a Dom, no? Yet, even if there’s no judgement, I may assume that Dom is a sub or perhaps a service Top just based on my knowledge of the tradition that Doms stay clothed.

There is value in both tradition and this “next gen” way of thinking. There is a comfort rooted in the “old way”, being able to take cues and actually make assumptions based on them that are correct. Yet it is also important not to get stuck. To allow for growth and for traditions to change as the times change and we get new generations of kinksters that are paving the way for the future of this community.

Yet, I gotta say, I enjoy the old traditions and hate to see them fade out. So where is the balance? Can there be a balance or do we slowly move from old tradition to new?

Tell me what you think!

Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.


  1. You’re like a mind reader Jenn! I can never tell sometimes and am always surprised by who is the top and who is the bottom. You can’t judge a book by its cover or so they say

  2. Once I was at a munch … A ” traditionalist Dom ” was there as well.. He began to spewing that some of us weren’t the role claimed to be due to our behavior that he observed…He totally dismissed me ( I am a switch) there was a couple there that were primal… He became angry at … Stating if they were actually primal, they should be acting differently . I found his judgment of us disturbing… As they say …”your kink my not be my kink” .. But certainly won’t judge anyone for what they chose to do or not to do.

  3. Lenz3119 says:

    I’ve seen many traditions come and go in my lifetime, though most are outside the scene. I’d say that tradition, like fashion, changes over time due to outside influences. Vanilla example, how many women do you know of who have ever walked across a field bare chested and acted as if they were milking themselves onto the land… I’d wager very few but this was a common fertility rite till Christianity came along.

    Can old and new traditions coexist, absolutely. But just like it took a while for many grandparents to be ok with their gay grandchildren bringing their partners to family gatherings, it will take time for the old guard to adjust to next gen practices. Conversely the TNG crowd should take it onto themselves to learn the old ways as there is much wisdom to be had. I myself recently got an education in hanky code, which seemed silly to me at first, until I realized the differences in society made such clandestine methods of communication necessary.
    TLDR: things change, have fun, be respectful of others, and those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it

  4. WoW! Thank you all for your feedback and input. I agree that it does take balance – be flexible enough to adapt with the times AND educate yourself about the traditions from the past. Both have a place!

  5. I guess in the way I straddle mainstream generation lines I straddle the line between TNG and Old World Order. You could say I’m a member of the “whatever works” generation?

  6. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become aware of ageism creeping into the community. I was dismayed to see the appearance of TNG age restricted groups. Suddenly there were parties I couldn’t attend. When I was younger I remember parties being open to all. I recall a much older woman ‘borrowing’ me at a Black Sheets party once. It was fun, and different. I remember her fondly now although I’d be willing to bet she’s no longer among us. It’s been difficult to get an intelligible explanation from these people. I mean, if you don’t find someone attractive you don’t play with them. What’s the big deal?

  7. Norm – very good point. I suppose my hope is that the younger generation won’t isolate themselves to TNG groups, but also expose themselves to the wider community. There is so much to learn from the people that have been involved with kink, BDSM, etc for years and even decades!
    In launching Club Awakening (a party I host at Sanctuary LAX), one of my goals by having volunteers who are composed of mostly veterans from within the community is to bridge the gap to new people in the scene. The party guests may be of all ages, but the point is to create an environment where new folks can learn from those that have various amounts of experience. I suppose it’s my little bit of contribution besides my classes that I hope will make even a small difference. 🙂

  8. Once upon a time OCLA hosted an event called Sampler. This was a weekend long event where the core that made it different was getting an hour or so of an experienced players time one on one or two on one if you had a partner.

    I had the privilege of spending an hour with Master Kei, a Master from the very old guard, from a Leather House that went back decades. I do not remember everything, but I remember one thing beyond clearly. He NEVER said there was a right or wrong way to do things. The closest he would come would be to start a sentence with “In my world’ to indicate that was the way he had been taught and the way his house did things. I’ve seen similar thoughts echoed by those most would call Old Guard over the years.

    Both in and out of the scene my experience is those who insist their way is THE right way are those lacking confidence. Those with confidence only insist that theirs is a way that works.

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