Monday, May 20, 2013

Respect, honour and self-worth

"Honour to those who honour give"

One common misconception about BDSM is that the 'slave' must want to be mistreated and dishonoured - that because they act in a self-denigrating and apparently humiliating way, they are therefore somehow 'sub-human' and unworthy of respect and honour. People see a collar, and assume that the wearer is 'property', and therefore bellow contempt.

Sadly, there are some who play at 'Master' that carry the same misconception. They think that those who seek a collar must inherently be beneath those to whom they kneel - and that the service of a slave automatically elevates the 'Master' to the status of a God. They think that all submissives are seeking to become merely property: objects to be used by their 'betters', with no care or concern for the value of themselves, and therefore unworthy of being treated with honour and respect.

They see images of BDSM, but they never seek to look beyond the surface of what they see; they choose not to see the rich interplay of power, respect, honour and trust that flows between the real Men who play these scenes (and live this life) for real. Instead, they try to ape the egotism that they think they see in the Master: demanding that subs should come to them with 'no demands, no expectations, no rights', expecting immediate unquestioning surrender to anything and everything that They desire - and mocking those that come to serve Them with terms like 'fag', 'bitch', 'cum-dump' and 'thing'.

Such a deep misunderstanding of what BDSM is is at the heart of why we still need reminders that 'Safe, Sane and Consensual' must be the mantra at the heart of our communities.

I proudly wear a collar. I serve those whom I love, and love those whom I serve.

When I kneel to a Master, I do so to gift Him with my surrender. Through our power-play, I place my honour in His hands; I do so trusting that He will use it, feed from it, and return it to me - ready for me to surrender once more. My willing submission leads to my Master's increased Dominance - which in turn feeds my deeper submission... In that exchange, we jointly create an endlessly deepening current of energy that we both can ride down into places that we could never reach alone.

Service, surrender, submission - these are honour-gifts given from one man to another. They are the fuel that drives our interactions and our play. But a gift that is cast aside without honour dishonours both the one who was gifted and the one who gave the gift.

The Master who knows the importance of His slave's gift is one who knows the value of that gift - and the value of His slave in turn. Knowing the value of the slave, He knows His own value in turn. He sees the man who wears the collar - knows the depth of his desire and the inner strength that it has taken for him to place that desire in the hands of another; He understands the self-control needed to spread one's back to the flogger, to bend one's head for the restraints. He knows that His slave has put aside his own needs in order to focus on His service - but the Master knows that in doing so, the slave has made the Master's pleasure their pleasure, shared.

The true Master is one who can see beyond the collar to the Man who wears it. He knows, respects and honours the gift that this man gives in kneeling to Him. He knows that whilst this honour is freely given, it is still only lent - and must be returned. Such a Master knows that He Himself must be honourable, in order to be worthy of honour in turn.

A Master who is not a Gentleman is no Man at all.

"How can I value you if you will not value yourself?"

But, there is an equal and opposite urge in some subs.

They experience the buzz of humiliation and service, but allow themselves to feel degraded by such experiences; worse: they feel guilty for wanting them. They listen to the rhetoric of those who would try to sanitise our deepest urges, and let themselves feel that what they do - what they desire - is wrong:  perverse, unmanly, 'sick'.

Believing that their desires are 'wrong', they come to think that they themselves must be 'bad' for feeling them. Hating themselves for what they desire, they seek out others who will punish them - and slowly become trapped in an ever deepening spiral of desire for punishment and degradation. They come to want to be an 'object', a 'thing' - no longer human, and therefore no longer responsible for the desires and the actions that they are 'forced' to enact.

They project their self-disgust onto their 'Master' - and turn His dominance into a form of ritualised abuse. Eventually, their 'play' itself becomes a form of self-punishment - a fetishised self-flagellation that merely massages their negative ego and reinforces a deep (even subconscious) self-hate. 

I know, because I walked the first stages of that descent, before both my Partner and my Handler helped me to see that my guilt was destroying both myself and our love - saying: "I love you too much to be the tool for your own self-destruction"

Why tell yourself that you are 'Just a slave' or 'Only property' - then expect your 'Owner' to treat that property with contempt? Which Man would buy a Ming vase, then break it - or wish to own a broken toy...?!?

In denigrating yourself for your desire to submit, you also denigrate those whom you serve. By devaluing yourself and your service, you make that service worthless - and insult the very Men you pledge to love.

'The paling priest doth lie' - the desire to submit, to serve, is not wrong: it is a deep and inherent part of us all - an inheritance from our primal (and primate) past.

In the East, it is recognised that to dedicate oneself to the pleasure of another is to be worthy of the deepest honour and respect. Whether Geisha or Monk, the Zen of Service is pursued as a way to deep inner peace and enlightenment. Something that our 'Individuality at all costs' Western world has lost, and is perhaps a lot worse off in the losing.

To wish to give of ourselves to those whom we love and respect is a deep and beautiful urge. It is one that is at the heart of all romantic love and most brotherly fraternity - and it has inspired incredible poetry and world-changing heroism both. It is not an urge to be guilty of, but one to be celebrated and encouraged.

Just as you are. As you are. Who you are.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"What is a pup?"

I just got asked a good question on twitter:
"What exactly is the definition of a 'pup'? I thought it just meant a hot "catcher" who is into gear or light bondage..."

I had to be honest that there is no correct answer - and that the definition of 'pup' will differ depending on who you ask. Each Owner and Handler and Master will also have their own understanding of what a pup might be - and even what it means for themselves to be an “Owner” or “Handler” or “Master”. It's the diversity of pups that is one of the wonderful things about pup-play: it is a new scene, with very few rules, and each one of us has a different understanding of what it means to be a pup, and how we need to express our inner k9.

To many people 'Pup' just means a young-hearted sub: some cute young 'punk' with tousled hair and a rascally attitude of horny high-energy and playfulness.

That might a fairly 'vanilla' definition of 'pup' - but I think it is equally at the heart of what it means to be a 'pup' in it's deeper meaning within puppy-play.

A pup within pup-play may be many things, but at heart they harbour that dog-like soul and express deeply puppy-like tendencies of playful curiosity & surrender - tempered with a deep need to show love and devotion to those who will offer them protection and guidance.

Off course, different pups have other motivations and fetishes too: some pups like bondage and other forms of BDSM, some are true gear-heads and love to dress up in rubber, leather or lycra, some pups are gadget-freaks and love all the toys, hoods, and harnesses - and some pups just love to be 'natural' and don't need anything more than an excuse to scamper about getting their noses into all sorts of trouble. Some pups are collared and owned like pets, others are proudly feral - and some pups are Alphas and Owners too.

Pup-play itself can have many different expressions, but at it's heart it is simply a space were we play in dog-like roles with themes of obedience, playfulness and submission.

I think it's that 'playfullness' that helps to define pup-play - and that makes it so incredibly popular. It makes for a much softer form of BDSM - one that encourages exploration, curiosity and fun (afterall, who can take things too seriously when one of you is running around on all fours, barking and wagging a rubber tail that is buried balls-deep in their arse...?).

Equally, the dynamic between a pup and their Handler is one that allows for a deeply emotional bond to develop. BDSM play is always an emotional experience, but many Tops find it hard to express LOVE for their slaves, any more than you would express love for your property. A pup is different: a pup may be your pet, but they are also your friend and your companion. A pup LOVES you in the same way that a dog loves: freely, completely, and without question - and that emotional vulnerability makes it impossible not to love them back...

So, what is a pup?

To me, a pup is someone whose inner self lives close to the surface: someone who's untutored heart and unbounded libido leads them to give themselves without limits and to love without question. They are playful and curious and ready to explore every new scent and taste and experience that life throws at them (sometimes with little consideration for the consequences); they are often deeply sensual, orally-fixated, and easily distracted...

A pup is someone who accepts sex as play - and who throws themselves into that play without boundaries. They are filled with the joy of perversity and in awe of the freedom that k9 transformation awakens them to; they are often able to go so deep into role that it becomes a part of them - an expression of their true inner selves.

But a pup is also almost always driven by a deep sense of loyalty, and will devote themselves completely to those who show them love and protection. Once collared, they are faithful companions, obedient and fiercely protective. If allowed, they will make You the centre of their world.

In every way, a pup is someone who simply expresses the best traits of their canine namesake: playful, loyal, obedient and loving.

On four legs or two, a pup is an enthusiastic playmate, a devoted boy - and a loyal friend.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dead fish

If you've read this blog for a while, then you will already know that I am one of the 1-in-20 who live with depression.

Now, please don't panic: that statement seems bigger and scarier than it really is. Yes, I have had several intense episodes of clinical depression in the past; yes, I am now on a permanent low-dosage SSRI antidepressant; and yes, I do have occasional 'dips' were my Dr and I have to carefully manage my medication. However, most days I am perfectly 'normal', 'happy' and 'ordinary' - and barely suicidal at all...

(And, no - I really don't think that my depression is the product of either my sexuality or my fetish. It probably does, however, explain why I so dislike the 'fashion' for extreme and negative forms of humiliation and SS play that can be found on tumblr and elsewhere: I think we can all feel bad enough about ourselves as it is without the need to fetishize violence, pain and self-hate...)

So why the dead fish?

Allie maintains a brilliantly funny blog at Hyperbole and a half. Allie also lives with depression.

Allie recently blogged one of the wittiest, most insightful descriptions of depression that I have ever read. Her cartoon stick-figures perfectly express the weird sense of detachment from yourself and the world - and the discomfort in having to try to explain to others how you seem to have simply lost the ability to feel anything anymore.

Her description of suicidal feelings is also utterly honest, and completely undramatic - and whole-heartedly true.

As my Mum says in describing her own experiences with depression: 
"some days, it's just that there is no life left in you to even care; you know you should, it's just you can't seem to remember how..."

Talking about depression - or any mental illness - can be really hard; not least because so few people understand what mental illness is - and so don't know how to try to help you with it. Like Allie says - people often react oddly when they hear you are depressed, and try to 'cheer you up' or talk you out of it:
 "It's like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared. "

It's why I do talk about my depression - because the more that people understand depression, the easier it becomes for those who live with it.

Because, really, depression is just an illness - one that can be understood and treated, just like any other.

Whatever the trigger, long-term depression has a chemical effect within the brain: it literally suppresses (depresses) the production and uptake of key neurotransmitters like serotonin. Normally, these neurotransmitters help the brain to function: Serotonin in particular is the 'wake-up' transmitter that enables the brain to stay awake and alert, it's also one of the 'reward-system' hormones that help us to 'feel good' when we've done something positive.

With a suppressed serotonin level, the brain functions at a slower rate, and is less able to react to stimuli. It's that which creates the 'dead' feeling of depression: the inability to feel, and the sensation that life has become 'grey'.

In a way, depression is the brain's equivalent of diabetes in that both conditions are related to a simple imbalance of key hormones. And, in the same way that diabetes can be treated by giving insulin, so the worst effects of depression can be treated by helping the brain to hold onto what little serotonin it has. That's what the SSRI antidepressants do: they stop your brain from re-absorbing serotonin, which means that your levels gradually build up until there's enough of it about to make you feel 'normal' again; it then helps you to regulate those levels, giving you  much more stable brain-state.

No-one would try to talk a diabetic out of their condition - nor think bad of themselves for needing to take insulin. That's because we understand diabetes, and know that when it's managed correctly, it's a condition that can have a minimal effect on those living with it.

Depression should be treated the same. And honest descriptions like Allie's is a part of the process in getting there.

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