23/7

I recently read an interesting phrase: “23/7 lifestyle”. The phrase indicates that there’s a regular space created within the power exchange to drop the protocol and allow the sub to bring up concerns or complaints that otherwise must be respectfully tolerated as part of the protocol. I’ve heard this called “porch time”, “dynamic interviews”, and “sit-down discussions”. Beth and I just call it “checking in”, but to be clear we don’t run under a very high protocol at all so there’s not a great “shrugging off” of the power exchange followed by a conscious taking back up of the mantle.

I like and dislike the term 23/7; I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how the term strikes you.

I’ll start with my dislikes: first, and this may be silly but this is how my brain operates so I have to live with it even if you don’t: 23 is exactly one less than 24. That strongly implies to my literal brain that there is a specific hour each and every day set aside for checking in. There’s not a lot online about this term but from the sparse information I’ve been able to glean, nobody who uses the term uses it this way. It merely means that the submissive is allowed to request a checkin to vent or make a suggestion, and the dominant decides where and when to fit it into their schedule.

The second is a little bit more esoteric but if you google the term you’ll find a book called “23/7” about how solitary confinement in US prisons has gone from being seen as cruel and inhumane to being an acceptable, standard, long-term, practice in supermax prisons. I’d write more about it but the sort version is it’s really depressing. My point is I’m not sure I want to blithely borrow a term that may already have a very dark meaning.

But there is something I do like about the term, and I like it a lot: it acknowledges that you’re making a space in your schedule for checkins. It also clearly denotes your dynamic as one in which submissives have a channel to provide input outside the dynamic itself. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a 24/7 never-stop dynamic, especially if you’re experienced enough to know what you’re getting yourself into. I’m just saying that if you live your dynamic full-time like Beth and I do, I find something charming in acknowledging that there’s a space pre-made in there for feedback and commentary and adjustment. You’re sort of saying, “we can’t actually fill up a full 24/7 schedule because of this space we’ve made.” I find that charming.

I think the term may have its uses. I definitely think of my relationship with Beth as 24/7, but I think that might be because we are so low-protocol that I sort of don’t consider our checkin time as being outside of our dynamic. I’m slightly twisting the wording there, though: we might very well have a 23/7 protocol, but still have a 24/7 dynamic.

Talking this over with Beth I mentioned that one proponent of the system mentioned that sometimes during the checkin, the submissive partner may still reflexively hang back in a reserved state, and may need to be encouraged to step out of the sub role and speak their mind as an equal. Her response was to shrug and say she usually doesn’t need to during our checkins, because they rarely happen during a crisis. This gives her the time and space to regain or maintain her composure, and she just stays in her comfortable mindset until and unless there’s a clear need to step outside it.

So… I don’t know. I think the term may have value. It definitely doesn’t have the universal, unmitigated appeal of a perfectly clear descriptor for a specific aspect of kink, so it might not ever really catch on. But I could see it gaining a little traction here and there, especially if somebody grabs onto it and strongly identifies with the idea.

What do you think?

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