I would like to talk now about semantics. It is interesting to me that so much of our world is divided by the semantics of people. Where a topic has a specific definition to be found in the dictionary, there also is the personal definition of a group of people to be considered. I find semantics to be a vital yet smaller part of self identity, it is how we personally find distinctions unique to us within a larger community view. However, when these subtle differences become the fuel for personal attacks and constant bickering, as is so often the case on Fetlife, they become mindless and superfluous.
One of the easiest to pick on would be the distinctions of the terms Master or slave. Everyone in our community seems to have different views on what these two terms actually encompass. Some are of the view that a Master is someone who has spend some specific yet arbitrary amount of time into the study of some facet of BDSM. Others believe that a person can only hold the title of Master if another Master in the community grants them the title, a very old world Greek Scholar approach. Then there are those, such as myself, that believe a Master is the title one takes when they collar a slave. As human beings, we all grow and evolve, learn and develop, and as such it seems needless to reserve the title of Master purely for the esoteric elite in the community.
So too with the title of slave, there are a great many different definitions and views on what a slave is that it becomes somewhat dizzying. I personally define a slave as a collared and possessed individual. I believe consensual slavery to be the personal acceptance of slavery and ownership of another person over one's self. They freely and willingly commit themselves to being owned property of the Master, and as such give up their right to decide from that point on. It is not something that should be done lightly in my mind, for it is binding. The contract, if one is used, can be for some specific amount of time such as a year or in our case as we are married, a life time.
It puzzles me some that our community, and I speak here of the window into our community that Fetlife specifically provides, would be so divided at times as to border on dichotomy. Kaya, from Under His Hand, not to long ago posted on Fetlife, and I'm paraphrasing here, why should the BDSM community at large be any more tolerant than any other community? This got me thinking. The old guard system of BDSM, which basically founded the principles of the Leather Community, was very specific and strict. It was their way or the high way in essence.
Now that the world of BDSM has become something of a subculture, and a widely accepted one at that, the old rules no long hold as much dominion as they once did. People practice as they wish to practice, which is fine an grand, but what is truly amusing to me is the idea that our once very tight and nearly ritualized world of BDSM has become as fractured as the Christian faith.
The old notion that people band together when they have something larger to fight seems to be very pertinent to our community. As long as BDSM was under attack from the moral right, the members of the community celebrated the opportunities to come together and share their arts. Now that this attack has subsided largely, people seem to get together more and more to fight amongst themselves about the differences of their craft. Like the Christian faith historically, while they were persecuted, it was unified, but when it became widely accepted, smaller camps of the faith, baptists, protestants, Lutherans, etc. began to break away from the main faith to establish their own little specific faiths. And please understand that I am not attacking the Christian faith at this time, but their historic example runs a parallel in my mind to the apparent and continued fracturing of the BDSM community.
Now, is it necessarily a bad thing that the community as a whole has been so largely accepted by the normal world? Not even remotely. If the only thing holding the people together to begin with was the crushing pressure of outside criticism, then like the fall of Communism and the splintering of eastern Europe, people will find smaller things to bicker about and this will result in people going their own way.
So often I hear about or see arguments taking place on Fetlife that are petty little semantic disagreements. Safe words, titles, legal issues, whether a slave is truly property or not. It seems to me that the only response one can make in most of the threads anymore is that somethings don't work for everyone and that it is up to each person to find what works for them. That is it, because how can one argue legitimately the righteousness of an opinion?
It is nearly staggering to me how quickly the opportunity for community involvement provided by sites like Fetlife degenerate so quickly and completely into line in the sand type battlefields. Do I feel that the BDSM community should be more tolerant and accepting than other communities? Yes I do, for no better reasons than the fact that our sub-society encompasses so diverse a population and because our new found acceptance and popularity in normal society is still relatively new and as such we should not be as jaded as we seem.
All of that being said, perhaps the level of acceptance that is needed is purely to accept that what works for one person does not necessarily work for someone else and that there is nothing wrong with that. For instance, I don't hold with cross-dressing, it affronts me personally. Does that mean that I should shun the person who gets off on it? No, I don't believe so. At worst I believe that I would avoid the situation to the best of my ability and if confronted with it, tolerate as much as is realistic. I would not tolerate the cross-dressing individual trying to get me in drag but that is no different in my mind than someone trying to pick my pocket or cutting me off, at that point it is intended to be an affront and therefore is intolerable.
As a more real world and practical example, I loath gum. I hate it with every fiber of my being. A sickening chill runs through me at the very thought of it. Yet it is such a prevalent part of everyday society that I cannot help but run afoul of it. I would certainly like to shun the individuals who so inconsiderately smack their disgusting substance near me, but would that even remotely seem practical? To them I would appear to be an unreasonable freak with issues because of my very real and strong dislike. Why is it then that such similar behavior should be defended or even applauded when it comes to the bickering I see on Fetlife or other such places?
At any rate, I realize the subtle irony of making a semantic argument about semantic arguments. And you, dear reader, are as always welcome to take it or leave it as the case may be. Just know that whatever view you may take on any issue, there is likely to be at least one and probably more differing views to the one you choose, and as they are opinions based upon personal values and judgments, none are more correct or more worthy than the others. They are what they are, simply that and no more just like the people who cling to them.
Thank you, dear reader, and good night...