I've mentioned before that I hang out on Fetlife.com a lot. I run a group there on the social psychology of online behaviour. As you might imagine, on that site there’s plenty of curious fodder for discussion.
One phenomenon that’s interested me lately is the multitudinous and contradictory approaches to reality that one can find there, and no doubt in other online forums. Obviously fantasy elements are pretty important in bdsm. Some people dive right in; others observe from a distance like disapproving aunts. There are the “true’ believers (also known as “twue”) and the on-the-fence agnostics. The deeply cynical will seek out extreme examples to share for mockery purposes. The clash of cultures when such groups cross paths can be fun to watch.
Of course the clichéd, unavoidable, perennial clash is the one about whether “no limits” slaves truly have no limits. That gets the cynics riled up big time, while the more extreme believers defend their total lack of choice to the last breath and beyond. There are the folks who identify as animal spirits and present this as fact rather than fantasy. Then there are the gender-based belief systems, which lead to daily fireworks: the “all women are inferior” school (yes, it really exists); the “if a woman calls herself a slut she must sleep with anyone who asks” school; the “women who turn me down are bitches” school…you get the picture. Misogyny as a deeply held version of reality.
There are also what I’ve come to think of as the reality fetishists. When people enter a discussion expressing surprise and disapproval at the lack of protocol-speak (e.g. doms being called “sir,” submissives saying “this slave” instead of “I” and so on), it seems to me that they're expecting their fantasy to be universally upheld throughout the “lifestyle.” Whereas of course there are hundreds of “lifestyles;” no two alike.
Now, I'm completely into the creation of fantasy worlds myself -- privately and in fiction -- so I can more or less understand what they're after. All-encompassing created realities can be seriously hot. And there are online groups that cater to that kind of thing. Most of their members know where their own fantasy world ends and someone else’s reality begins. But some folks seem to have lost sight of that boundary. It’s as if they need the belief system to be fully endorsed by one and all, or they can’t get off.
When groups run into each other the arguments can be epic. Cynics take nasty pins to believers’ balloons. Angry believers defend the realities they’ve created. Earnest people take the fun out of fantasy and run bulldozers through carefully-nurtured belief systems. I’ve never seen anyone else call it a culture clash; mostly people talk as if they other person speaks the same language. But they’re not even on the same planet.
There are also kinksters who are fully aware that their version of reality is a local one, unique to themselves and their partner. These are the people who say, “Yes, it’s possible for most people to leave their master. It’s just not possible for me to do so.” When people live a certain way, with certain beliefs which are reinforced day after day, who are we to say that their sense of their own reality is a delusion? We all collectively create our reality every day, through language and culture, through habit and training. We just don’t notice what we’ve created, because we’re living within it. Go outside of your culture and see whether all your realities hold up that you used to take for granted.
Have you experienced the clash of bdsm cultures? Tell us about it.