I hope you have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all of my articles in KinkWeekly!
Today’s thoughts evolved from another article I read regarding a news broadcast on feminism, in which a female participant “admitted” to attending “spanking camp”: A BDSM-oriented gathering that focused on corporal punishment. The author mentioned that, while they were happy that BDSM was being discussed in an open and positive forum, they were disappointed in the amount of shame the woman felt – and the way the interviewer continued down the shameful manner of referring to the event. The notion that a woman could enjoy being spanked (or participating in BDSM as a bottom or submissive) was creating guilt and shame based on how it seemed to run against feminist principles.
Don’t worry…my column today isn’t about feminism vs. BDSM. It’s about the concepts of shame and embarrassment – where they come from – and why they’re powerful in power dynamics.
The statement got me thinking about the shame and embarrassment of many of the practices of power play and, more exactly, if we were to remove the stigma behind the acts – remove the shame – would we participate in them?
Many of us play with “Humiliation” within our scenes. We have the stereotypes of foot worship, ass kissing, bowing, humbling, exposure (e.g., CFNM, etc.), degradation, etc. These are practices that play with the creation of shame and embarrassment within the submissive. They are so engrained in the social imagery of BDSM, that they are often automatically brought to mind when we think about power dynamics. So, I began to wonder:
If the shame were removed…if the actions were stripped to the core of simply being what they are, without the emotional implications of what the action MEANS…would people still engage in them?
Of course, for me, this question gets back to my favorite topic of intent (oh my, what a surprise!). I tend to feel that the pleasure we feel is a reaction to our intent in carrying out the activity – more than the activity itself. If the action were stripped of its implied meaning, or if our partner weren’t on the same page as to the implied meaning, we wouldn’t partake in the activity. For example, would you really bow before someone, if it wasn’t understood to represent subjugation and submission? Another way to look at it: If someone bowed before you, but didn’t feel that bowing was a symbol of relative power, would it have any meaning?
Rather than being humiliating or shameful, these acts are SYMBOLS of intent that we interpret in our dynamics. They need to be MUTUALLY UNDERSTOOD to be effective. Both partners need to be on the same page as to what the implied intent is, or the action will not have similar impact on the partners. Part of our communications in our relationships would therefore need to be a definition of intent for these actions. I go back to “Define before you Opine” and the importance of understanding the “unique definition of submission to a specific dominant”.
Some folks believe that D/s not only involves the intent of a sub to submit to a dominant, but it involves a wide variety of ritualized behaviors that serve to confirm this intent and enhance the sub’s sense of submission and the dominant’s sense of Domination. Humiliation serves to enhance this sense of D/s.
Interestingly, these acts do not equate to submission to me. I feel nothing when a guy kisses my foot…really. I mean, if I know what it means to him, I’ll feel something – but again, it’s not the act of kissing my foot, it’s his reaction to it that stimulates me. It’s his INTENT in doing it that gets me going. It’s what’s going on in his mind that has meaning, as long as I’m aware of what that is.
Take, for example, bowing: It could be argued that an observer would interpret bowing as an act of submission or respect. I would argue that there is a MAJOR difference between submission and respect! Which does a person who bows before me INTEND? If he’s of certain cultures, it may well be respect, and not at all submission. Submission is not just placing someone in a position of respect…It’s about dedication and commitment. Although a bow MIGHT accompany such a commitment, the bow itself doesn’t equal that commitment! The bow doesn’t matter – the intent of the bow does.
Is there a chain of thought that these acts thought of as submission, are deeply ingrained in our social consciousness? Is it evidenced by the fact that they mimic rituals of domination and submission that have always been part of our culture, and at least some practices, such as spanking, may have always been part of our behavioral repertoire?
In my opinion, this is a stereotype, used, not only in porn images of BDSM, but in more mainstream media depictions of power dynamics, and therefore it is an accepted reality. I’m challenging the stereotypes in MY dynamics because they don’t fulfill MY definition of submission. I have found that they don’t fit many people’s perception. In my dealings with couples, I always advise that, before you base your reality on a stereotype, be sure it matches the reality of your partner! It may not.
When you engage in a power dynamic, you need to understand your partner, determine their preferences, and learn their imagery. You need to discuss the definition of submission and get on the same page as to what is, and what isn’t, service to that dominant. Only then can you establish a power dynamic that has meaning your unique dynamic!
Ms. Rika is a lifestyle dominant, educator, and author; living in the suburbs of NYC with her husband/slave. She has written several popular books on her approach to adding Dominant-Centric, Service-Oriented D/s to relationships. You can find her books (in both print and eBook formats) at Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/msrika), or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iStore, Books-A Million, Kobo.com, or anywhere books are sold. Search for “Ms. Rika”. Write to me at Ms_Rika@hotmail.com