I was reading Leda in Hand yesterday and I was able to get an outlook on the different expectations of conformity in the D/s scene. In a lot of ways the expectations of conformity differ greatly based upon your role and gender. It made me think about conversations I have had in the past where people had mentioned that they felt envious or felt like they were shunned or scolded for not immediately adopting a given mentality. I also asked a few others last night about this topic and got similar responses. These experiences differ a lot from my own and I find that quite interesting. I also thought a lot about how I fit (or don’t fit) into those ideas in how I present many of the topics I write about in my posts. I don’t really have a direction in this post, I’m just sort of dumping my thoughts out on paper.
I think when we look at conformity in general there are a number of reasons. Some of these reasons are good, others, not so good. On the good side, there are a number of law and social mores that are in place to protect us. While some could argue a lot of these are designed to preserve social order, which is true, I think a lot of us are glad that they are in place to protect us as individuals. Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Don’t hurt people. In my opinion, these are some pretty good ideas and I think we feel better and safer the more that people conform to those. I know in high school, the kids that always preached anarchy probably wouldn’t have lasted more than 48 hours in a post-apocalyptic wasteland ruled by motorcycle gangs battling for petrol.
Conformity as a means of control gets trickier. Squashing the expression of individuality is effective, but in today’s day and age, it gets heavily frowned upon. There’s a fine line between protecting us as individuals and limiting our ability to be individuals. History doesn’t think very highly of regimes that regularly crossed that line and it seems that many in power fail to recognize that these mistakes often lead to the oppressed toppling that power.
Conformity as a means of validation is probably my least favorite (read as: most despised) of these. This is the herd. This is peer pressure. This is shaming. This is hazing as a right of passage. You need to conform so that I can feel good about my choices and station. That’s weak-ass nonsense. We all seek validation, but I would rather my validation come through logic, rational thought, and a belief that what I am doing is right. History also doesn’t think very highly of mobs that do things “because everyone else was doing it.” In its worst form, the herd makes the individual fear exclusion and they conform reluctantly. The problem about adopting a belief structure in this way is that it becomes lip service. Whatever meaning it originally had is now lost. People lose understanding of why it was done in the first place. They become a system of non-thinkers who can only recite the words they are expected to say. Don’t think, just do. I don’t blame people for wanting to fit in. I blame the system for making them feel like they HAVE to fit in or they are screwed up. I blame the individuals that choose to perpetuate it from inside the herd.
So, how does this all apply to D/s?
You will encounter a huge number of people who give advice, both directly and indirectly. Those who seek advice are generally people who are learning and/or struggling. When you are hurting, confused, or both, it can be difficult to interpret where someone’s words are coming from. You need help, they offer it. It can often take a while to understand if advice is meant to protect you or if it is meant to validate them and indoctrinate you into the herd.
When I think about this, I sometimes fear that someone will be like, “hey, you hypocrite, you write what people should do all the time!” I fear that I am what I despise. I suppose that insecurity probably helps keep me from straying (too far) off the path. I don’t usually expect anyone will listen to me, let alone consider what I’m saying has value or truth. I try explain what and why. I want to protect them and teach them to protect themselves. Give them glimpses of what a mindset could be but also tell them about the process of getting there. It isn’t an on/off switch, but an ideal that can be reached through time and experience. Immediately adhering to empty lip service has no value and undermines the process by devouring the reason for the message.
Mostly I try to let people know that a future exists where they will not be hurting and try to make sure their path to that future is clear of obstructions. That path often requires development both on an internal and external level. I remember which lessons have to be learned first hand and how they take time to sink in. I do not tell someone what to think, I try to present ideas that can be thought about.
That is okay, right?