Heads-up: today’s post is long, philosophical, and really heavy. It’s ultimately about my approach to D/s, but only barely, tangentially, at the end. D/s is the tip of a giant iceberg, and this post explores the 90% that’s underwater, supporting the tip, making it visible. If you’re in the mood for a lighthearted sexy romp, then this post is exactly the kind of iceberg lurking in the night waiting to sink your Titatic.
That… is a terrible metaphor.
Let me try that again. If you’re in the mood for “I’m the king of the world!” then this post will leaving you floating on a door freezing to death in the middle of the Atlantic.
That… is literally the same metaphor. I… okay, look, the point is, you’ve been warned. Heavy thinky stuff ahead. If that’s your thing, then great! Enjoy yourself by all means. If not, well, save yourself while there’s still time.
When I was in college, I read “The Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it but I warn you it’s not exactly light reading. Bloom’s book turned 30 last year; in it he warned of the early waves of students crashing into universities with heads filled not with questions, but mindless certainty about the nonexistence of objective truth and a vehement opposition to any form of critical thinking that threatened that certainty. His book seems quaintly narrow in scope now, but Bloom can be forgiven for not knowing the future. He coined the term moral relativism and sought only to debunk it. He didn’t realize he was calling bullshit on all of postmodernism. To be fair, at the time postmodernism didn’t even have a name.
If Bloom isn’t your cup of tea but you are the kind of person who can get lost in Wikipedia for hours researching one weird idea, then I highly recommend that you jump straight into Postmodernism and see where it takes you. Personally, I knew I was in trouble once I reached “irredentism”. That’s a word that means “you have spent way too long researching postmodernism for your blog post and you need to stop reading and start typing.”
Moral relativism is now deeply entrenched in our thinking as a society. It’s a nuanced term but for our purposes let’s narrowly use it to mean “Your Kink Is Not My Kink But That’s Okay”, only dialed up to 11. Relativism presses much harder on this thought and insists that, since your worldview and mine are irreconcilably different, your kink and my kink cannot even be compared. There is no objective definition of good kink or bad kink, and any claim to a subjective definition of good or bad kink is parochial and prejudiced. Moral relativism pushes the concept as far as possible, insisting that there is no such thing as good or bad, and any attempt to define good or bad, however subjectively, is oppressive to the freedoms and happiness of everybody. Moral relativism doesn’t say there’s no One True Way™; it says that there is no such thing as ANY way that can be called GOOD, and anybody that disagrees is an unenlightened, bigoted savage.
There’s not all bad where this sort of thinking comes from (otherwise postmodernism would not have become so popular). It demands unlimited tolerance for others, and again while I think it takes that idea too far, the world today is a far better place in terms of tolerance of fringe culture than it was 30 years ago. Or even 10. Postmodernist thought teaches you to do what you like, be free to explore, and take what you want without fear of consequences. But it’s a shortsighted form of thinking. It demands that sports be played without keeping score, every child getting a participation trophy, and banning the existence of winners because they necessarily imply the existence of–and therefore the persecution of–losers. Postmodernism denies you the challenge of picking yourself up from a loss and committing yourself to do better. Gone too is any satisfaction for getting it right. Comparison is judgment and judgment is prejudice. But without judgment there can be no meaning. Oh, and not fearing the consequences is not the same as not having the consequences, so take that part of the movement at your own (and others’) peril.
To quote the Incredibles, when everyone is special, no one is special. But reality is harsh and brutal and it simply does not care how special you think you are. Postmodernism soldiers on, bravely attacking any attempt to call into question the certainty of that original blind conviction. You don’t feel special? That’s okay, there’s a pill for that now! Don’t question your beliefs; fix it with drugs instead. So now we’re the most overmedicated and depressed generation in history? That’s fine–but don’t you dare question the certainty!
Like I said… this is not one of my most lighthearted and chipper posts. But there’s this beautiful logic error in postmordernism that I think has accidentally led me, and perhaps many others, to D/s and BDSM and other forms of kink. I think it might contain an attractive bait-and-switch for LTR vanilla couples.
Ubiquitous tolerance and an irreverent freedom to take what you like without fear of consequences? Mmm, I’ll have some of that! That’s the siren call to taboo adventure for couples everywhere to dabble in kink. So it was that Beth and I came in and tried a few things. We enjoyed it. We enjoyed it a lot. Some parts made us feel guilty, but we talked ourselves out of it. There was something here, something real, something that we’d been missing.
Yesterday I said that I cannot be Dominant without being present. Well, it turns out that I also cannot be Dominant without actually saying what I want. And wanting something means having an opinion, which means making a judgment. And with that judgment comes meaning.
Meaning is the reason we get out of bed when the world is an awful place. Meaning is the reason we get up and have a day when getting older just takes us one step closer to death. Meaning is the reason we take up our cross and bear it. Our burdens are awful! Why else would we bear them, but for the meaning they hold?
I have wondered so many times, “All this D/s stuff… what’s in it for me?” It’s not the Dominance or the butt stuff or the deeper connection with my wife. I mean, sure, some of that is part of it. Especially the butt stuff. But all of this has come together to provide us both with a deeper sense of meaning. Beth doesn’t love spankings or chores or being required to obey me when she’s tired. But submission gives her an anchor to a deepened sense of meaning. I don’t like punishing her or managing her schedule or making a tough decision when I don’t feel like carrying through. But dominance is my anchor to meaning.
People come and go in the kink community all the time. I’ve occasionally wondered why we came, and I’ve definitely wondered more than once why we haven’t gone. But now I think I understand. All the hot fun stuff is the reason we do D/s when everything is working. But meaning is the reason we stay in D/s when everything is broken.
I think meaning is the answer. I might be wrong. It’s just that I have dived as deep as I can alongside this iceberg, and that’s the deepest idea I can make out. But there’s plenty more iceberg even deeper down.