Labels, identity, and what’s in a name, anyway?
One of the best things about being a sexual deviant is the freedom it affords you to self-identify.
I suspect when you’re not competing with the Jones’ for sexual blandness, wasting energy trying to stifle your natural urges in order to conform to social norms, you’ll find both a sense of liberation and newfound energy to explore and express yourself (in whatever way you happen to express yourself).
As the animated feature "Up!" points out, life is an adventure if we choose it to be.
When you get into the habit of simply going through the mechanics of life, not to mention sex and play, without really connecting to yourself, you begin to lose self. Finding things in life, and play, for which we can feel passion and excitement, is invigorating.
Whether it’s bungee jumping off a cliff or meditating in a quiet space, taking a photograph with a new digital SLR camera or dancing at a club with friends, when we engage in our passions, we become more actualized, more authentic. It gives us a greater appreciation for being in the moment and, in being in the moment, we have a greater appreciation for who we are, for what we have, and for what we’re feeling.
Tapping into passions can be physically exhausting, but it usually doesn’t leave you feeling spent... at least, not completely. Like most acts of creation, it is simultaneously draining and energizing. A good play session, a good relationship, or even making a new but real connection with another human being, often makes us more in tune with our own selves, aware of our own faults, pains and joys.
Most clichés are based on some truth, I think. And so when I hear cheesy statements like Jerry Maquire’s "You complete me," I totally get it. "You complete me" isn’t necessarily a codependent’s manifesto. In fact, I think it may be an honest declaration that we come to feel differently about ourselves in the context of how we relate to one another.
Is this too abstract and esoteric? Let me provide an example.
My boy is not responsible for who I am, but his presence in my life allows me to experience the richness, the struggles, and the joys of what it means to be a Daddy. Our connection together, our challenges, our successes-all of these allow me to express myself in a context outside of merely myself. I am a good and decent man without my boy, but I am not necessarily a good and worthy Daddy without him. (To put it another way, a man who Daddy-identifies but has no boy is more like a man with Daddy potential that is not being tapped. The identity is real; the actualization is not.) In that sense, our connections with one another really do make us more true to ourselves, more fully human, more fully who we are. In that sense, we really do complete one another... identity and identity-related roles are pieces of the puzzles that make up who we are and who connect us to others in a bigger picture.
Pervs like me may not be allowed to serve in the armed forces, but we do tend to follow the mantra of the US Army and strive to be all that we can be. Sometimes that means becoming a Master. Sometimes that means becoming a foot stool, an ashtray, a urinal or other seemingly lowly inanimate objects.
Perhaps because I identify as a dominant top and Daddy, and feel very comfortable in those roles, I find myself far more fascinated by my counterparts, the roles they play and the motivations that push them in exploring their submissive sides.
Of course, the roles with which we identify are also filters. As a Daddy, I likely view submissives differently than would, say, a Master or a handler. And of course, there is no universal set of sexual roles or philosophies that are accepted across a particular identity. As self-determined people, we may choose a label that means something to us but not to others. (For instance, although I’m a dom top Daddy, there are also submissive top Daddies and dom bottom Daddies.) There is no standard view or definition for who we are, regardless of the label that we choose. Assuming no one is harmed or exploited without consent, there are no absolute rights or wrongs when it comes to who we are and how we relate to others.
Given that labels don’t really tell us anything concrete without further investigation, some folks might question why we use them at all. Indeed, labels are a hot topic for lots of leather/kink/fetishists who will decry that labels are for clothes, not people. But they are social shorthand and I think that they do have some value in at least providing a starting point for discussion and negotiation.
How a person identifies themselves tells us something about them... even if we don’t know exactly what, at first. Sometimes we get to know someone and see them very differently than they perceive or identify themselves-and that tells us something, too.
Some folks find it "icky" that I identify as a Daddy and have a partner who identifies as a boy. It raises the hair on the back of their necks to think of our relationship because the terms we choose have a different context to them. To put it bluntly, a Daddy-boy relationship to those outside of kink communities may raise your hackles because it makes you think about incest or child sexual abuse. The fact that my boy is, in fact, older than me; that we’re not related; that the terms of our sex and our play is consensual and loving... that’s all negated (to some) by the labels we’ve chosen.
But to me, a Daddy is a loving, nurturing, guiding figure. He takes charge, but also takes others into consideration. He is authoritative, but affectionate. He is, hopefully, wise... or at least seeks wisdom, and seeks the best for himself and his boys. He is a mensch with an edge.
As I see them, slaves are property and often dehumanized-certainly not what I look for in playmates (and not what I would look for in a partner). Pups may be adorable, but are typically folk who do not wish to communicate verbally or on a deep interpersonal human level (licks and sniffing and playing with toys are preferred to discussions and personal challenges), which would bore me to tears in very little time when I’m not burying the bone. No, as a Daddy my preference is definitely for "boys" (of age of consent, preferably past college years)-someone who identifies as human, someone who recognizes they have more potential than they are living up to and who values the input and energy that I’m willing to offer to make them better boys, better men.
To me, submission is a far greater gift from someone who values himself. A confident boy with self-esteem who seems himself as special, and who sees offering himself to me as a special gift, is, in fact, a special gift. I treasure my gift as much as life itself. Indeed, my greatest fear when I began my relationship with my boy was that I would make him so empowered, so much stronger as a person, and feeling even better about himself so that he would no longer feel the need to have my influence in his life. I feared the possibility of having to let go by boy and releasing him to the world-that was not my goal, but it was (I perceived) a possible outcome.
I recall one day that I confided in my boy this fear. Not only would I be devastated and heartbroken to lose him, I said, but I would feel like I’m losing a part of myself. To be a Daddy without a boy would feel like I’ve lost my identity, who I am. I would not really be a Daddy-only a man who, at best, has Daddy potential. Now that would be icky!
Of course, I understand why others feel unease about the Daddy-boy titles/roles. Humans are judgmental, and often rightfully so. Our judgments are instinctive and serve us well in protecting us from harm. The unknown can be dangerous... the devil we know beats the devil we don’t, as the adage says.
I recognize my own bias and prejudice against Masters and slaves-feeling an innate distrust of men who think they are superior to other men (as many Masters seem to feel), and a feeling of concern and fear of exploitation for those who would agree to submit to voluntary "slavery," however they may define it. I recognize my own reactions, my gut visceral responses, and I check in with myself. I ask myself questions like:
I recently found myself reading a discussion thread on Fetlife about "Slave chow." My first response was rolling my eyes, a slight groan, a tightening of the stomach. Although I accept the reality that some folks are most satisfied when in service to others, I don’t understand why someone would want to be a "less than." I don’t understand a partner who would dine on fine cuisine and make his partner eat unappetizing but nutritionally sound chow (one suggestion online recommended mixing up at room temperature in a bowl V8 (for fruits and veggies), oatmeal (grains/carbohydrates) and canned tuna or ham (for protein).
But here’s the thing-the fact that folks actually consider what’s healthy and viable for a diet for their slaves shows a certain level sensitivity and care. If a slave is considered property, it is at least property that is being well cared for (though obviously not pampered)! So even if it doesn’t appeal to me, how can I argue with slave chow that not only nourishes a submissive, but feeds his spirit?
What’s in a name? Just a hint of who and what we are.
How do we respond to others who we perceive to be unlike us? Whether we’re kinky or vanilla, we tend to view others through the filters of our own experience, our own likes and world view.
We judge each other-and that’s ok. It’s natural, human. But we must remember to do so thoughtfully, carefully and with respect.
Yes, one of the best things about being a sexual deviant is the freedom it affords you to self-identify. And hopefully if we’re wise, our minds are open enough to appreciate the diversity of others’ identities as well. Because we’re all pieces of a bigger picture, more complex than anyone of us, and I suspect more beautiful than I can even fathom.