March/April 2003

by FineArt

As with many terms used in the D/s and BDSM lifestyles, Respect is one with many meanings and common misunderstanding. When using the term Respect, it seems we often confuse Courtesy (treating in a civil or gallant manner), acting Respectfully (by addressing others in a manner that shows deference for a person's status, position or the situation we encounter them) and giving Personal Respect (holding the individual in high esteem for their achievements, consistent behavior or personal character).

Although confusion over the meaning of Respect occurs in all settings, it is most common in the virtual world, the chat rooms. And, because of the importance of Respect to the lifestyle, most pronounced in those orientated to D/s and BDSM.

Courtesy and Respectful Behavior

How often do we hear "I give respect to everyone unless or until they prove themselves unworthy."?

Here, most often, we mean that we treat others with courtesy in deference to the tenants of the lifestyle and customs of the particular environment. Here, unless someone acts in a crude, rude or other inappropriate manner, we are going beyond merely being civil, to being genteel and/or even gallant! The history of this can, I believe, be traced to the expected interactions of people in medieval courts. Treating others respectfully is one of the hallmarks of the D/s, BDSM community. It is one of those things that differentiate our community from many of the rowdier, free-for-all on-line communities. It has more to do with the customs and protocols of expected behavior than the actions of characteristics of any individual.

Personal Respect

Personal Respect, on the other hand, is given to and centers on the individual. It is based actions, knowledge and consistent behaviors of that individual. For the Dominant, gaining Personal Respect (as opposed to self-respect) is highly correlated to the sources of Personal Power.

As is often said, "Respect must be earned." Here we are talking about Personal Respect. It can not be demanded; it MUST be earned. Those who expect otherwise have little understanding of what Personal Respect is, nor the tenants of the D/s community! Often we see those who are generally unknown or who have "spotty" track records demanding (Personal) Respect merely because they present themselves as "Dominants". Occasionally, they bluster, rant or engage in other self-demeaning ways when they do not receive the "Respect" they feel they are due merely by their presence. Quite often, these expectations are placed on others, while these blustering individuals themselves behave in a manner showing little understanding of the D/s community and disrespecting those around them. They fool only themselves.

Respect toward everyone

Another misconception is that Dominants are due respect (actually to be treated respectfully) by virtue of their station or status as Dominants and submissives are not! When viewed in a broad context, this makes no sense. Like most Dominants, submissives are intelligent, capable and thinking individuals. Submissives are quite capable of taking care of themselves, and CHOOSE to submit to another to meet needs and desires unrelated to what they are capable of doing for themselves. Being submissive does not mean being "less than" or of lower status than a Dominant. It does not mean being dependent or incapable. Being submissive is not being a doormat. Nor does presenting oneself as "Dominant" make someone automatically all-powerful, capable or worthy of being granted Personal Respect!

The most capable (and in my view, desirable) submissives don't submit to the world, they choose to submit to an individual or to particular individuals. Many of the customs of the D/s and BDSM lifestyles on the part of submissives (the ever-present serving of drinks, bowing or curtsies) are acts of courtesy or respectful behavior, not acts of submission! Often we lose sight of these differences. The act of "serving a beverage" is taken as an open act of submission with the so-called "Dominant" feeling he has been given the freedom to now use the submissive however he chooses! This actually shows a very shallow understanding of the act and wonderful value of submission.

Personal Respect must be maintained

There is also a misperception on the part of some that once earned (given by others) Personal Respect becomes a given, lasting in perpetuity. It is not. To retain Personal Respect, we all must continue to those things that brought us respect to begin with! If we don't, the respect will fade away. AND, if we engage in inappropriate behaviors, we will outright forfeit the respect of others and may easily reach the point where we should not even expect to be treated respectfully (courteously).

Earning Personal Respect

So often we see someone loudly proclaiming "I am a Dominant, respect me!"

Unfortunately, in many regards, the virtual world is one where we can present ourselves to be... anything! People can (and often do) claim to have knowledge, experiences or characteristics they really do not. Furthermore, the virtual world is full of predators and wannabes. In my view, it is not only unrealistic, but also naive to demand unquestioned acceptance, let alone Personal Respect, merely by one's presence. Once again, these are things that must be earned.

So... if you want Personal Respect...

It must be earned...
Not demanded...
Not even expected automatically...

If you want my respect...

Don't tell me you've done things,
Show me what you've done...

Don't tell me you have "presence",
If you do, it will show...

Don't tell me you have experience,
Tell me what's it's been...

Don't ask for my respect,
If your actions merit, it will come....

© 2002 FineArt