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!
I am confident that there will come a time, when relationships with power dynamics will be commonly accepted in our culture. We are already seeing signs of it in popular media: BDSM has become a bit more “mainstream”; moving beyond its presence in fashion and showing up in more real ways. Power dynamics are plots and sub-plots in the shows we view at home, in the movie theaters, and in books.
BDSM is arriving, but not “all of it”. B&D and S&M are being depicted, but D/s is lagging far behind! In many ways, it’s easier to depict BDSM without D/s. It’s relatively easy to have actors “do things to each other” than to pull off the deeper character development needed to portray a committed D/s dynamic convincingly and so, for impact value, ease of production, and perhaps out of lack of understanding, media has embraced S&M and B&D and foregone the emotional commitment of D/s.
This creates some issues, not the least of which is that the imagery of B&D and S&M, particularly as portrayed within the media, is very closely aligned with the imagery of abuse, biker-outlaws, Nazism, and psychotics! As someone who just wants to engage in consensual healthy power dynamics, this is quite troublesome.
As I’ve pointed out previously, power dynamics in media, which is a critical first step in acceptance in culture, is in its infancy. We are barely beginning to be introduced to characters of substance, who have a healthy interest in D/s; who do not have to be damaged by childhood trauma, or psychotic drive as an excuse to enjoy open power exchange. Only barely…for most of the characters still suffer from some aspect of that excuse, or are portrayed as comedic shills – wild, out-there characters who will push any norm. We have not yet seen a character within a power dynamic, who does not require a “reason” for being involved in it. It is not “normal” yet – and therefore needs an explanation to be believable.
This is going to change. Much the way interracial relationships used to be verboten – then accepted with excuse – and now presented everywhere, without calling any attention to itself; power dynamics will eventually be portrayed as a matter of course – a sub-text – and nothing out of the ordinary. We will eventually relate to the characters in such a way that they will be able to accept their interests without need for explanation. We will get to the point where we won’t need to understand Joe and Mary’s childhood experiences to accept that they are a happily married couple – and Mary chooses to serve Joe as his submissive”. We’ll just accept that and be focused on the real plot of the show.
I hope to live long enough to see the day…but I do believe it WILL happen.
What are the obstacles standing in the way of making this happen? The first problem to overcome is to establish that people can choose to be dominant or submissive without it reflecting a weakness or a flaw in their character. We still seem to need an explanation – a reason why someone would want to stray from the perceived norm. The assumption is that there HAS to be something lacking or damaged in the personalities.
There is a learned resistance to power dynamics that stems from society’s proactive attempts to criminalize abuse. Due to the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women, and the movement against discrimination of all types – there is an overarching sensitivity to repression and imbalance. We naturally want to repel any unfairness. However, conflating consensual power dynamics with these examples of non-consensual abuse is misleading, and harmful.
Even once we can clarify the difference between consensual power dynamics and non-consensual abuse, there are still other obstacles to overcome. Gender bias very much sways acceptance. The generalization is that men tend to be dominant and women tend to be submissive. Intellectually, we know how wrong that stereotype is. It has been a high obstacle for rebellion in women’s rights activists who have had to fight it. Even though our young generations are being raised without that assumption, it’s still present and impacts the way media portrays the dynamics.
If I were to present a show where Joe is Mary’s master, the audience would accept the premise. Of course, the feminist mentality in all of us would challenge the producers with claims that the relationship is setting back women’s independence by many years and there would be flack for allowing the stereotype to be perpetuated, but no one would challenge the nature of the arrangement. The audience would never challenge why Joe wants to be the dominant. They would even accept that Mary is submissive. Dominance=masculinity…submission=femininity.
But turn it around: Joe is Mary’s submissive. Suddenly, the audience will seek to find a rationale: WHY does he want to be submissive? What is lacking from his masculinity? Is he “pussy-whipped”? Is he a “mama’s boy” or Is he compensating for some childhood trauma? Is he looking for a release from the pressures of his otherwise dominant life? Furthermore, why would Mary want to be dominant? Is she a radical feminist? Does she hate men? The audience will struggle figure out what’s driving these two to make such a diversion. It’s viewed as “Role-Reversal” because the popular beliefs have been challenged. Gender bias is a huge obstacle.
It’s also interesting that BDSM submission seems easier for the public to accept than dominance. Dominance is viewed as the one “doing the doing”. This is the BDSM-mentality of doing things TO the submissive. That’s the imagery. Under this assumption, people will “excuse” a submissive, by attributing their acceptance as weakness in the presence of the power and persuasion of a determined dominant. But the motivations of a dominant are immediately suspect and have no excuse. They are evil, power hungry Bond-villains, out to take over the world. They are psychotic sadists, who have to hurt to be whole.
How does this change? How do we find BDSM relationships to be acceptable regardless of gender, and be brought out from behind closed doors? How do we get to a point where submission and dominance are equally acceptable?
I believe that a focus on D/s as the primary motivation for a couple, without the necessity of the imagery of S&M and B&D, will begin to bridge acceptance. Establishing an emotional bond between two partners in which one chooses to serve the other, will be more easily digested by the public. Most people have felt the desire to serve another and most people will accept that allowing someone to serve you (who WANTS to serve you) can be a natural response. Most people will accept that you don’t have to be psychotic to feel and desire consensual power dynamics.
As we all know, B&D and S&M are OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES in a relationship with D/s power dynamics. They are elected within the context of the power agreement. They will likely not be the only activities. Portray this in the media, even though it’s much harder to do, and we will see a change in perception and acceptance. Once the emotional bond is established in the minds of the viewers, they will accept it as the motivation for any physical bondage that follows. So long as the D/s is the primary motivation, the practices of B&D and S&M will be more readily acceptable and the public will not be dreaming up more destructive rationale for the actions. And if they are not present at all, more people will be exposed to, and understand, pure D/s dynamics…that can’t be a bad thing!
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