by Miss Ayme
Webster's offers various definitions of the word: A slender flexible rod or stick, used especially for whipping; the obvious electrical or railroad connotations, as well as to change or shift an opinion or attention.
But in our Lifestyle, a Switch is not only an implement, but applies to an individual's sense of self (or, seemingly, a lack thereof). And I've noticed recent online discussions about switches that revealed several misconceptions and even downright hostility. D/s Lifestyle's own Master Douglas is an avowed and published "switch bigot," (please see the March/April 2001 issue of A View From The Top), and it's to his credit he's willing to admit it. I admire a man with strong convictions. I may not agree with his opinion, but I love his sense of humor and I highly respect him for his ability to offer logical validation on what works for him. Yet it's apparent that Lifestylers or Players who switch are viewed with suspicion. Their motives are called into question. Their commitment to the protocol is dismissed as indecisive. Their power choices are misdirected and lack focus. Some Dom/mes refuse outright to play with a person once learning they switch. One observer rightly pointed out that a lot of the vitriolic flurry on the matter was driven by fear. But fear of what? The unknown quantity that a switch might represent? The uncertainty caused by playing 'what if'?
So, being a switch myself, or at least that's a label that fits somewhat at the moment (whatever it may or may not imply), I began taking a look at myself in that light. Am I a threat to a "true" D/s relationship? What do I bring to the table that's of any value? Can I commit to one side or the other if asked? Is it fair (to me and to them) to do so? And just why do I need to do both? Can't I just pick one side or the other and quit all the wishy-washy fence straddlin'? It's pissin' people off!
Well, no - I can't. And I suppose I have a better reason than most for burning the candle at both ends. And it's not born of indecision, but one of exploration. With a lifetime of suffering from GID (gender identity dysphoria), and decade of learning, studying, expressing and living my life as a woman, I view my interests in switching (or changing Roles) with equal fervor. I know from whence these aggressive urges come, and I acknowledge their presence as valid. It's part of who I am - at least at this point in time. I have to go with that.
If I'm going to identify primarily as submissive/bottom but have this inherent need to also Dominate/Top, then I better know what the hell I'm doing. I am going to learn and practice new skills and continue to develop old ones. I can draw on the strengths I learn as a sub and apply them to what I do as a Domme. Conversely, I don't do to others what I wouldn't have done to myself. I try to know my limitations. And I go slow, willing to push those limits a bit at a time - I don't want to get into anything, Top or bottom, that I'm not ready for. Acquiring knowledge, skill and confidence are goals.
But I'm realistic about it. I wouldn't dare to presume that I'm qualified as a true Master/Mistress of the Craft. I'm willing to share what I know, but would be hesitant if called on to teach anybody anything about the Lifestyle. I'm stumbling along through the journey pretty much like anyone else. I can only do the best I can, learn from my mistakes, acknowledge when I'm wrong, and be honest with my feelings.
And I have a healthy respect for what it takes to be considered a desirable sub/slave or thought of as knowledgeable Dominant/Top. A lot of you out there might view a switch as being someone unable to do either with any competency or enthusiasm. I view it instead as being well rounded, well versed, multi-talented, adaptable and flexible. And it certainly does not represent any lack of commitment on my part. I was raised to do my best in all things.
Frankly, I think being a submissive is easier than being a Dominant. I had a chance to view an exhibition from the Collection of the Criminal Medieval Museum of San Gimignano (Sienna) Italy, on tour as the Torture Museum (- and no, that's not a typo). I found it to be a sobering treatise on capital punishment and the abuses thereof (as well as an impressive array of gruesomely preserved devices), presenting torture as a deterrent to unwanted or unacceptable behavior - and yes, degrading into downright cruelty practiced with delight by evildoers. It boggles my mind at what humans were capable of doing to one another, and still do.
And while absolutely horrifying at times, it brought home to me how stridently important it is that Dominants in our Lifestyle embrace the immense responsibility they inherit, and wield the tools of the trade, with as much dignity, honor, knowledge, skill and commitment as they can muster. Being handed that much power by another, to be given total control over the well being of another person, is worthy of the highest respect and deepest gratitude. That's a pretty tall order and a noble ambition. Damn difficult if you ask me, and knowing that allows me to approach submission or slavery with a deeper sense of awareness, for their power as well as my own. It also makes me pretty picky about whom I choose to submit to.
Perhaps too much is made of the roles we choose to engage in when exploring BDSM in our lives. And these are often roles either directly related to the ones we play in our vanilla lives, or diametrically opposed to them. The powerful CEO becomes a sissy maid. The harassed secretary becomes a Domme Goddess. And there are those that are predisposed from the outset towards their "natural" state, and their role is an enhancement or extension of that dynamic. Others still delve deeper into realms of fantasy and become ponies (or Trainers), or puppies, or even pieces of furniture. Regardless, most of us seem to gravitate to one side or the other of the control equation and stay there, quite contentedly.
Yet even within our own subculture, as humans we naturally want some semblance of what's right and wrong, to make sense out of the chaos. We establish rules that guide our behavior, and assume that we'll all observe them. Lines are drawn, limits established, designations are made, walls raised. And woe to the non-conformist.
There will of course always be those willing to hop the fence and break on through to the other side. Is the grass really greener? Is it a bad thing to want to find out? But those of us who are willing to cross the line have always been viewed as mutant, deviant, abnormal, or unworthy. I think the thing we should most remember here, is that there is no right or wrong way to do BDSM. There really is no sense of Order to things, and there are many among us who don't think there should be.
As a transsexual, switching from male to female, it's understandable (or at least I hope so anyway) that I also have little choice but to express the power I derive from elements of both genders - or continue to live a different kind of lie. Whereas I stopped living the lie I led as a man, I refuse to hide away a part of my personality (my Mistress within) when it comes to our Lifestyle. I'm sorry if that poses a threat to some of you, but is it really my problem? It certainly represents a challenge. Undoubtedly it requires a greater effort at understanding, and frankly some of you just don't want to work that hard. It's only human to choose the path of least resistance. You're happy where you are, or have no need to know, and that's perfectly fine. My kink is not yours, exercise your right to walk away, but do so courteously. Just don't begrudge it of me if I choose to push the envelope and experience all that I can. I think Life is too short to approach it any other way.