by Dragon

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

For many years I've believed that the spirit that compels most individuals to seek out the alternative lifestyles can be found in that second paragraph of the American Declaration Of Independence. However, I find it impossible to believe that the authors of that remarkable document considered that it would become the greatest liberating sentence in human history considering the hypocrisy of the writers who, while revoluting the limits of accepted societal norms, still clung to a contradictory set of their own self-evident truths like the inferiority of women, people of color, and those of divergent sexual orientation; some of which survives today. But regardless, that single statement became the guiding beacon for all of humanity that chooses freedom of thought and expression.

The most incredible part of that sentence for me is “we hold these truths to be self-evident,” because we live in an age where nothing is considered self-evident anymore; where every lifestyle is now in the presence of every other lifestyle. Presented equally powerfully in the most remarkable and distinctive ways, and so the question becomes, what is the right value? And that is the dilemma we, who have chosen the alternative lifestyles, are now living through together.

The Leather traditionalist believes fundamentally that each of our individual lifestyles must draw its value in the image of the Master and slave reality. The new BDSM community believes that they can draw upon selective characteristics of that image and define a unique lifestyle value for themselves but ignore the remaining reality. The Leather crowd sees this as a revolution against self-evident truth and the BDSMer considers what they do as an evolution of self-evident truth. Here, they have drawn a line in the dungeon floor. How do we resolve the impasse and come together as one spirit?

The breakthrough, which I believe will also be seen as historically significant, will be the breakthrough of the dignity of the image of the individual lifestyle. First, We must accept that every image is infinitely valuable to the person who owns it. Second, every image is equal - there is no right and no wrong, only the preferred image - therefore, every image is entitled to equal dignity. And finally, every image is unique. Those are the defining principles that every alternative lifestyler must accept if we are ever to come together as an actual community.

But the uniqueness is obscured by those who insist upon assigning the same meanings of terminology and labels across the entire spectrum of images. The traditional Leather community views this as trespassing upon the dignity of the beauty and distinctiveness of their image and detracting from every nuance of power of their traditions in their own community. They believe their truths to be self-evident and those who fail to recognize that as morally and culturally inferior in a lifestyle sense. That insularity and sense of self-evident superiority alienates a new generation permeated of culture and belief that what is self evident is the truth found not in the reality of Leather’s Master/slave image, but in how they feel within their own use of that image. For them, the lifestyle lies not in the reality of self-evident truths or traditions, but in the self-evidence of their own realities they evolve from those truths and traditions. However, the environment causes both sides to use exactly the same language and terminology, but alas, with a different relativism. That causes a communication impasse and divisively isolates the two cultures within the same sphere.

The breakdown of this cultural isolation will only come hand in hand with the breakthrough of human dignity, of the spread of the idea that every individual and their lifestyle has dignity. This is an age in which new or hitherto outcast groups are evolving and, in some cases, revolting because the message that every human being has dignity is finally getting through. And the crisis that faces traditional groups is that this growth of human dignity raises questions about our inherited values which have lost their automatically recognized superiority; their self-evidence.

Through most of our lifestyle history people had values BECAUSE it was self-evident, that is the way it was. My forebears were this way. My culture was this way. If I was raised in the Master/slave cultural image why would I be any other way? It has all these wonderful values; the others look so pale by comparison. Now, the tradition faces the growth of relativism. Now that people are nuancing different feelings about our self evident truths, the validity and the uniqueness of our own traditions comes into question. But if we each discover and recognize the validity, beautify, and dignity of the other, a lot of the insularity, the sense of superiority or inferiority vanishes. And then we are left with the question, is everybody valid? The answer must be a resounding yes! The image of the self-evident truths are valid and the images created by the feelings about them are valid and both equally deserving of dignity because to think otherwise would usurp the Eros of the alternative lifestyles and invalidate us all.

Only by arriving at this understanding can a resolution to the impasse be found. And it will be found in our language; the way we communicate with each other; the attitude of that communication. This means the acceptance by the evolutionist that even though feelings may obscure reality, they cannot alter it with opinion or language. The understanding that while a portion or momentary pretense of reality may feel like reality and actually be a reality for that person at that moment, it is not, in fact, the actual reality. At the same time, the traditionalist must understand that the reality the BDSMer feels within their image has the same value for them as the Master/slave reality has in its tradition and not convey the idea that they are invalidating the BDSMers self-image. If they do this, then the issue becomes not a matter of what one does or believes or feels, but what they call it. Once we reduce it to this level, we can become understanding and cognizant of the attitude of the terms and assignments we use in communication. To do otherwise is to embattle ourselves in semantic nonsense to no valid purpose and to impede our quest to become a viable cohesive community that would, in turn, facilitate the attainment of the individual destinies, whatever they may be.

Like any other culture or society, we have our own style of communication replete with a selective assignment of terms. What is actually communicated is determined by context and assignment. Not only must the context be correct, the assignment within that context must be accurate. For example: To say that domination or submission is part of BDSM or that a carburetor is part of a car is correct in context, but inaccurate in assignment. The carburetor is a part of the engine which is, in turn, a part of the car. Dominance or submission is part of D/s or M/s which are, in turn, a part of BDSM. The doors, the hood, the windows, the trunk, etc. do not rely on the carburetor to function, they can function without it. Bondage, Flogging, Waxing, Caning, etc. do not rely upon dominance or submission to function, they can function without it. Therefore, the accurate assignment for the carburetor is engine and the accurate assignment for dominance or submission is D/s or M/s because only the engine requires the carburetor to function and only D/s and M/s relationships require dominance and submission to function.

The accurate assignment for dominance and submission is where the reality of dominance and submission is actually occurring. Simply allowing someone restricted access to or use of your person is not submission, that is permission even though the participants reality is that one is being dominant and one is being submissive. But if we assign dominance or submission to activities where only permission is occurring, we confuse and improperly define what is occurring there regardless of any traditions or opinions. While we may have unique applications for words, we cannot alter their actual meanings. Definitions within our language must remain constant, otherwise how will any people be able to communicate? The real question one must ask themselves - is it domination/submission or is it Memorex, only a copy of the real thing? In the Leather tradition Dominant and submissive are applied as nouns, but they retain the same language meanings. Not as words describing them or their actions, but what, in fact, they are. Their relationship is never anything other than the reality of domination and submission. The BDSMers apply them in the action of what they are being and what they do, but that doesn't carry the same language meaning. How did we evolve verbs and adjectives synonymic to nouns?

The road to misapplication of our language began with accrediting BDSM the value of self. But it's only a four letter acronym composed from what it is that we do; how we identify ourselves as a group to each other and the world at large. As an acronym it cannot have its own identity. BDSM is not a lifestyle nor is it a relationship. It's a collection of many identities, lifestyles, and relationships. The problem is that the vast majority of the internet generation of BDSMers feel that they are entitled to nuance the terminology they found when they got here to suit their own needs. If they walked into a court of law with this attitude they would be told that there is only one nuance there, be handed a Black's Law Dictionary, and be forced to accept those definitions. In law, to submit is to offer something for consideration, approval, and/or decision. Opinion is a decision that is, in effect, an enforceable order, or, in some cases, law itself. But, unlike the law community, the leather community doesn't have a court with the power to MAKE anyone adhere to its definitions and its opinions are not enforceable mandates.

There have been several "BDSM glossary of terms" written, but it didn't do any good because the majority of post Internet BDSMers have assigned all of the terms they found here the way they want it to be for themselves. Why? Well, because they can. The whole point of the alternative lifestyle is that one may live their own style in whatever concept, manner, and activity that works best for them and that there is no requirement to conform. Traditionalists made a major point of that to them when they arrived. It's our great selling point! However, within this lies the matter of respect for the community they have discovered and the existing lifestyles of its members. What really disturbs traditionalists is that BDSMers seem oblivious to the fact that it is disrespectful to appropriate the accepted traditions of generations, redefine them for their own use, and then flaunt them in the face of those who made it possible for them to even have this lifestyle.

Everyone has the right to live their BDSM life as they wish and I would defend unto death their right to do so. However, no one has the right to redefine the English language and what has constituted domination and submission for generations or interchange the value of terms. In the English language, submission is to consensually surrender the power of the control of ones rights to the care, protection, and administration of another. Not in part, but in total. Permission is allowing, but only with limited approval. And, they may not be interchanged. While it is understandable that the so-called "old guard" leather lifestyle is unfeasible for today’s generation that does not give them license to take the value of submission from D/s and assign it to "vanilla fudge" permission and accord it the same value. No amount of nuance gymnastics can justify doing that.

The impasse is not that anyone is wrong in what they do or even in what they call it. Instead it is in how it is understood and assigned. No one is disputing the fact that topping or bottoming is being dominant or submissive in role play, scene play, or sex or that it isn't real for them or has no value. But being dominant or submissive, and being a dominant or a submissive have two entirely different values. Once we can agree upon that, there will be no impasse. One will only have to ask themselves -- is what I’m doing Domination and submission or is it Memorex?
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