Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yes, My Lady: The Disproportionate Fear of SM

At the heart of SM is the most precious sense of vulnerability, intimacy, power, pleasure, and eroticism, commingled together and to which all Players react. What creates this fantastic blend of emotions and dynamism? It is We. We are divine and hold great potential to enact those things in life that create. It's SM players who not only recognize and embrace our divinity, but also seize our potential to create the most dynamic interpersonal power and relationships. What some novices fear most about SM is that SM makes present their power, potential, and finally, responsibility toward others -- something that our culture seeks to disallow on a daily basis.

A woman holds her back to the passengers as she leans close to a man in the back, left-hand corner of the airport elevator. She is tall, domineering, dressed in a classic-tailored dress suit and the man is short, centered, and stares forward. The energy around them is potent. None of passengers knows what exactly is going on between the two in the corner…but a dynamic energy flows from her to him. She whispers in his ear, the effect being his face reddens, and droplets of sweat begin to slide down his face. The other passengers begin to shift; a sign of their discomfort and an avowal of Her power, grace, and responsibility. I simply envy him because I want Her to whisper to me because She changes life in a space by merely whispering.

I enjoy playing with power.

I don't enjoy playing with power.

SM play turns me on.

SM play disturbs me.

I understand it.

I am baffled by it.

You'd think that after all these years of playing, I'd know SM inside out. Well, I do and I don't. In my earlier days of SM play, something in me was stirred by the play, in both good and bad ways, yet I wasn't able to sort out any of it. I lacked the insight and semantics to do so. I would grill my friends endlessly to try to come to some peace within me; some comprehension of what in some aspects seemed like repulsive behavior. They would tire of my examination before I could ever get any sense of satisfaction. Today, I find many novices to SM who are experiencing what I went through some ten years ago when I first began to admit that I needed the power exchange, pain, pleasure, fear, and intimacy that SM play enabled.

Many of my new clients attempt to set aside their troubled confusion at what SM does to and for them and go on with their lives. However, most of them submit to their desire for SM and eventually, they make their way back to my dungeon. They never are able to suppress their desire for SM. What scrutiny remains is why some novices wish to deny that they need SM.

As I researched SM, what emerged were the overwhelming prevalence of fascination and fantasy with SM and a stunning paucity of relevant discussion on the nature of it. There are hundreds of porn books, stories, and Internet sites, yet even in the most respected SM information sources the discussion of why some of us spend our lives attempting to deny our need for SM is at best brief. None are able to tell why SM is such a turn-on and why it is such a threat. None are able to tell why some aspects of SM turn me on, but others do not -- why some aspects I need and others threaten me.

At the core of SM, it's about eroticizing power, power disparity, vulnerability, intimacy, fear, passion, social discomfort, pain, domination, submission, and uncomfortable emotions. In order for this power dynamic to exist, there must be some internalized standard of behavior or a code of conduct, if you will. This code of conduct is based on socially defined sense of honor, prestige, self-esteem, reciprocity, and caste placement. We act out what we perceive is appropriate behavior based on our place in the world, a delicate combination of external cues and internalized values. When there's a discrepancy in one of these as we purposefully create a discrepancy in order to perform certain roles in SM, like Top and bottom, we experience what is at the core of SM.

This is all fine and dandy. However, what is so powerful about SM that some people would spend more time denying their desire instead of playing? There are as many reasons as there are players. A major generalization, however, does seem to emerge.

SM play functions as the ritualization or emphasis of power disparity of the roles taken by the players. SM establishes, enforces, or emphasizes power differential. In this space of power differential, the players act out social taboos. For some, they want to enjoy socially taboo activities, yet may still find that desire itself threatening, such as a man wearing women's panties, but they need another to push them over their own inhibition just for that moment. The person who pushes them over their own inhibition witnesses what this person fears most in themselves and society. Both players are responsible for facing and challenging who they are, what values they hold true, and why they hold these values to be true. While SM seems to function as a temporary relief from being a responsible adult in this world, it really throws responsibility right into your face.

Most of us experience fear toward SM because we face that we want what only SM enables. We sense that we need it and the desire feels so overwhelming, as if it is going to devour us. SM is scary and threatening because it is so important. So disproportionate the fear is in some of people that they spend their lives trying to deny that need SM instead of allowing themselves to embrace it.

SM, the desire for and disavow of, is a complex topic with great potential for pleasure, personal insight, and exploration -- one I intend to keep investigating.

No comments: