The feedback on a recent post on Labels as well as a discussion with some blogging friends got me thinking about the role that labels have played in my life in the world of BDSM. It seems that most people do not like feeling constrained by the limits that labels impose or imply. I can understand that point of view.
I have a slightly different view upon labels, not because I necessarily enjoy them, but because I look at them pragmatically. Just because we wish to avoid labels doesn’t mean that we will avoid being labeled. The people we encounter will generate their own labels for us, whether they be good or bad. However, I find that by labeling ourselves it gives us some power to “control the narrative.” That is, when we provide ourselves with a label, however general or specific it may be, it sets the initial tone for how they will perceive us that may be better than what they may have drawn on their own.
An easy example is if someone labels themselves a “brat,” this provides a basic lens to view us through. Without such a label in mind, an outside audience may draw other interpretations and labels from recounted events, such as a SAM (smart-ass masochist), someone that tops from the bottom/tries to manipulate, etc. “Brat” gives a more clear idea that someone’s defiance may be part of a push/pull dynamic that both dominant and submissive find enjoyable, and ideally tempers the reader against forming negative judgments.
What I have found over the years is that people who are the most comfortable with labels are the ones who have had to explain themselves… repeatedly… over and over… to nearly everyone. “Just give me one word that sums most of it up so that I don’t have to try to make someone understand every time I meet someone.” Rarely does anyone rigidly conform to a label, so of course there is some explanation of some of the finer details that inevitably must be done, but that’s a lot easier to do when you can say one word and that gives at least a general impression of what you are about. You will find that littles and gentle doms often have very little trouble giving themselves a label. This is also frequently true for slaves, pain sluts, and exhibitionists.
It is common to find greater reluctance when people do not embrace their label. A “do me” sub doesn’t want to be labeled as a “do me” sub. A sadist often does not want to think of themselves as a sadist.
Part of my uneasiness comes from having experience with strictly controlling my narrative for the past decade. The “sissy” label I carried with me was a source of constant anguish. Hell, it is the reason I started blogging in the first place, as an attempt to come to terms with something I didn’t want to accept. Accepting the label helped me get used to the prejudices and unavoidable judgments. There was some solace in knowing what to expect. Realizing that label was incorrect feels very different.
Right now I feel uncertain on how to control my narrative. It’s a loss of control that I am not accustomed to. Thankfully the supportive environment that is in place around me makes it less bothersome. That being said, it will probably continue to haunt me until I understand my new narrative.