Is this all just a Fantasy?
"Slavery is not a condition of the body. No chains can make a free man servile. It is the condition of the mind and the heart. In subjecting oneself to the ultimate servitude, accepting one's place as a slave in society, a person accepts bondage over freedom, and complacency over action."
These words were used to denounce the institution of slavery in the pre-civil war US, but they strike a definite chord in the hearts and minds of many modern purveyors and proponents of the BDSM community.
'Human bondage' is certainly a valid condition in the minds of the persons involved in this way of life and it is part and parcel of that which makes it so real and rewarding.
There has been, in recent times, a preponderance of writing that decries certain aspects of the lifestyle and labels them ludicrous. The authors and "experts" (some are senior members of the life and respected in their communities), claim that since nothing we do is "real" - since you may not "really" own "slave", and since the "roles" we 'assume' are not 'real' - all that can remain is an 'elaborate fantasy game'. Such claims are given bite through their references back to the Webster's accepted definition, which refers only to the example of the despicable and indefensible institution of enforced slavery that was eradicated through the implementation of the 18th amendment to our constitution.
The argument that slavery does not and cannot exist within the context of a BDSM relationship is a good and valid one when one seeks to support it by use of such rhetoric. Its legal institution does not exist in our part of the world, and its characteristics were defined in years past and by societies long dead. The revulsion that many feel towards the word and its stereotypical connotations is an honest reaction, and the result of the socialization and the raising of man's consciousness in righteous indignation against such a repressive social dynamic. One must realize, however, that definitions of words can change and evolve over time; language is not a static thing, and the characteristics that were used to define an experience that was once inherently evil may no longer be employed in an uncompromising manner.
The gay/lesbian movements of the late 20th century decided that the definition that society imposes upon those of us who live alternative lifestyles is not a concrete signpost for all times. These groups defined for all time the inalienable right of man to label himself as an individual rather than a stereotype. They recreated in the minds of 'Joe and Jane Public' the reality of their world and reduced the stigmatization of their cause and themselves through education about, and elucidation of, their realities.
When they question our definitions of reality, the leaders of our community undermine the best of the things that the cyber age has brought to us. They deny us the ability to tell the world what we are, and perhaps more importantly, what we are not.
We are not the monsters of their worst beliefs and the stuff of their most valid prejudices. The leaders and members of our community that denigrate what is to many of us the very essence of our lives (our definitions and therefore our way of life) reduce our cause and our lives to the fairy tale status of madmen plagued with fantasies of grandeur. They do us, as a community, a great disservice.
Modern slavery in the contextual BDSM community of the western world is not what the dictionary defines 'slavery', and rightfully so - for in that definition lies the roots of pain which plague mankind even today in the farthest reaches of the world.
Why, then, should we use such a despised term when there are viable alternatives that are less political and culturally painful? Why not use 'submissive', 'thrall', or 'chattel'? What it comes down to is this:
although the institution of slavery is not defined (in our alternative society) by those characteristics which comprise instances of enforced servitude, it does exist. When one denies this central fact of the lifestyle, one denies the very existence of such people - slaves - among us.
Slaves owned in our context are able to make the critical decision that defines the differences between the two institutions. 'Our' slaves choose their state. They may choose their master or mistresses and may (in many instances) leave their self-imposed condition of property.
Does this ability to choose indicate that they are not, then,˜really" slaves?
No… they are, as they define themselves, AND as they are defined within the community, without property, without vote in the decision-making processes and without recourse (except to leave) when the going is not to their liking.
This state of voluntary servitude is not without precedent.
Indentured slaves and servants were, and are, the people who decide to allow and encourage their active enslavement in return for the ability to attain a certain goal, or for simple remuneration. They were the first slaves in America; the ones who offered their services for certain periods of time in a desire to receive something they considered equally valuable (usually transport to the 'new world' or learning a trade).
I am familiar with this institution; my relatives used this method to establish the family in this country.
Are modern slaves (as defined in the BDSM context) receiving equal value for their efforts? One must suppose so, as they continue in this life.
Were the indentured slaves beaten for misdeeds? Did they suffer because of their decision? One may suppose that they did, as they did not have any rights beyond those that a slave would have; and at times, demanded punishment for errors and mistake. Why did they not leave when they arrived in this country? In many instances, the indentured simply took pride in keeping their word. Prosecution by law was another incentive, although the new country was so vast, the new communities so scattered and communication so primitive, that discovery and reprisal for "cutting loose" was an unlikely event.
They may have also been learning a trade, or working for the betterment of a wife or husband - or for money that might eventually bring a family across the vast waters.
They had reasons to stay, and yes, they were (by definition) slaves.
The definition of slavery in America beyond the days of colonialist expansion becomes one of a harsher reality; one of chains and bondage, one which would have made the dark ages proud in the savagery of its enforcement, the less than human conditions of work and food... no escape, no consensuality. The attributes developed to reflect the politics of that age.
We are redefining our lives and our realities to conform to something that is older than the purveyors of this new language of sexual freedom. We represent many in the unfolding multitudes of sexual revolutionists whom the cyber age has introduced to what has been seen as a dark, closely held secret in the midst of our society.
There are those among us who argue that the people who are submissives, fetishists, or role players call themselves slaves when there is no way they can be slaves. They argue that the inherent latitude allowed in their lives, or the virtual nature of their BDSM experiences and interaction precludes such a state.
Yes, there are people who define themselves more loosely than is comfortable for the benefit of their own ego. Some who claim the name "slave" within the real life and the cyber communities should definitely be rebuked for demeaning the term and cheapening the effort it takes to be someone this strong of heart, servile of demeanor, and sincere in desire. At the same time, it must be emphasized that we cannot allow ourselves to believe that these people in today's BDSM society are less than that which is discernible to the most casual observer. Yes, the word 'slave' may be offensive to some; yes, others may turn from our alternative lifestyle in disgust, and yes, it is certainly true that some will demean the term and lessen the impact through their misuse and abuse of the phrase, but that in no way changes the essence of what we are, of what we can choose to be.
Do not deny this definition to the deserving in a community that is layered with a many-faceted conglomeration of fetishists, sado-masochists, perverts, and ego-maniacs.
A person who has made their needs reality through a combination of hard effort and sacrifice does not desire to be redefined by someone who does not know them, by someone who has no conception of the devotion that binds them to their owner, or by someone who is simply denying that the semantics of one's life can be the realities of one's day.
Website & Graphics by my girl (subtleigh), with a special thanks to Tessa of Australia for the BDSM Debunking the Myths logo.
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