In the end, consensual Dominance and submission is a game. It’s a game that a couple plays together, each partner fulfilling their own role. There are a set of “traditional” rules to follow, but the couple tweaks those rules as necessary to fit their own, individual needs and desires in a sort of kinky “Calvinball”. When played correctly, there are no losers—both partners play on the same side, and both win together. And when it is played correctly, it is fun. D/s engages the couple’s hearts, minds and libidos, mixing them in a churning mass of excitement and intimacy and fulfillment.
Oh, I know some people play the game very seriously—they might describe it more as a way of life than something that they play at. However, the fact that it is consensual, that each partner agrees to abide by the rules they have set and has the option to withdraw from the D/s arrangement at any time, makes it a game rather than a reality. That’s not meant to be disparaging, by the way. D/s is the best game I know—the one that has given me the most pleasure, and the one that I have enjoyed playing the most.
Because it is a game, D/s is more a luxury than a necessity. People play at things when they have leisure time, when the necessities of life have been met and they have time and resources to be able to expend against something fun. Many people would say that D/s is decadent, and in a sense, I suppose it is. Only situations where couples have free time and extra energy to spend together in private allow for consensual D/s. If you have to scratch to live and support your family, you have no time to play games. More than that, the stress that comes from uncertain living conditions can eat away at the trust necessary between the partners to allow D/s to flourish. Without sufficient trust, the game comes to a halt as one or both players decide not to participate.
Games are important, however. Maslow’s pyramid does not end at the subsistence level. We reach for the higher levels to try to attain happiness once basic needs are met. While I suspect Maslow may have had less carnal pursuits in mind, D/s and BDSM clearly fall into the “self-actualization” category, the highest tier of his pyramid. By engaging in D/s, we become more than we were before we started, and our relationship together becomes more than it was as well. It is something that we aspire to, together, as a couple.
In the past, I have stated my belief that a bedroom D/s arrangement may not be entirely stable. Dominance and submission tend to creep–they expand, slowly, outside the walls of the bedroom. This can happen both in physical ways and in mental ones. It takes active vigilance to stop them from gradually consuming more and more space within the relationship they inhabit. One cause of the issues that Joy and I are currently working our way through seems to have been that our D/s has crept beyond the bedroom, especially within Joy’s mind and self-image.
It can be quite easy to forget that it is all a game. It can be easy to forget that what one does is not the same as what one is…or perhaps, to fight the fear that what one does may be what one becomes. Joy, who has a strong will and a powerful intellect, has struggled with that. The boundaries of the bedroom weaken and blur, and she begins to feel lost in submission, as though it is threatening her ability to exist as her independent self outside of the boudoir.
As Joy and I have worked through the recent issues we’ve been having around D/s, many contributing factors have come to light. The failure to perceive BDSM as only a game, and the sense that it has expanded beyond the bedroom and into her normal life both appear to be causes. This is a lesson for me–part of the fun of D/s comes from making it seem as real as possible, but I must bear in mind not to make it too real, and to help Joy to remember that we play together.
Lessons learned for both of us…