478. Thoughts on D/s vs. BDSM

I’m not quite sure where this post is going to go, but this is a conversation that has come up a couple of times with both blogging friends and some of the new friends I have made in the local community.

Often when I get asked what my interests are in kink communities, my primary response is “I practice lifestyle D/s.”  How people react to this varies quite a bit, but that reaction usually gives me a pretty strong indication of how they view things.  Within the blogosphere, I find a disproportionately large percentage of people know what I am talking about.  Outside the blogosphere, more often than not, I find myself having to explain just what I mean by this due to a difference in core perspective.

I know some of this is a topic I have written about before, but I will give a brief summary of the differences.

When I say that someone has a BDSM background, I mean that the person is familiar with standard BDSM teachings and protocols.  A few of these include Safe, sane, consensual, safe words, and a focus on mutual pleasure.  In these cases, kink-oriented activities between individuals may or may not be sexual, the individuals may or may not be romantically involved, and the individuals may or may not be exclusive/monogamous.  In these cases, the concept of power exchange is frequently a temporary consensual agreement that lasts for a fixed amount of time (e.g. the length of a scene or an evening).

When I say that someone has a focus on lifestyle D/s, I mean that the person lives or seeks an arrangement where power exchange extends into other aspects of life. These arrangements vary quite a bit in style and intensity.  They may be formal or romantic and may or may not be monogamous and exclusive.  How far the D/s dynamics reach into every day life varies quite a bit as well and may range from being a mildly governing philosophical ideal to encompassing every aspect of daily life.  There are various movements that have specific terms for these types of relationships, such as FLR, domestic discipline, 50’s Household, and the like, although each particular movement often has its own flavor of D/s.  While this may be a speculation, I believe that a larger percentage of people who would classify themselves as lifestyle D/s practitioners also fall into the romantic monogamous relationship types when compared to other styles of BDSM.

Why is understanding this difference important?

I find that knowing this defining line is quite important because having a clear grasp of it, communication between people with a BDSM background and those who practice lifestyle D/s is excruciatingly difficult since it is almost like you are speaking different languages.  The philosophical basis behind each group are frequently very different and when you are accustomed to being around people of one type, it is easy to assume that others are similar.  e.g. if you are here, you must be into ________, ________, and ________.

In cases where you find yourself in the minority perspective, it can feel a bit alienating.  While I believe that communication can solve almost all difficulties, there are frequently knee-jerk reactions on each side when people encounter a different style that violates the core philosophical foundation of your own style.

For someone who partakes in 24/7 lifestyle D/s as a monogamous and exclusive married couple, the idea of having multiple play partners, engaging in what you see as private and intimate acts in a semi-public setting (e.g. play party), and/or practicing any form of power exchange without romantic attachments can be very jarring.

For someone who has made an effort to educate themselves in the rules and protocols of the BDSM community, the concept of 24/7 lifestyle D/s has the potential to violate those core principles.  While there are terms within the BDSM community that may describe that relationship, such as total power exchange (TPE), risk-aware consensual kink (RACK), consensual non-consent (CNC), M/s (Mistress / slave), and the like, people who describe their type of power exchange without flying under one of those banners is a situation that screams of abuse.  If someone can “make you” do something that you do not want to do, this violates the concept of consent.

The end result of the differences is that the communication breaks down very easily and it can happen on both sides.

I don’t think any one way is better than the other.  If a choice arrangement makes someone happy, there is no reason to think it is wrong.  The world is full of enough misery for us to have to be judged by our alternative-lifestyle practicing peers.  The more that we understand what is out there, the less likely we are to find ourselves in a “I can’t understand how someone could do _______,” situation.  The less of those situations we are placed in, the less likely we are to have those knee-jerk reactions that cause the, “I do it right and they are doing it wrong” internal response and the inevitable impasse that may result from it.

In my own case, I recognize that my choice lifestyle falls into the minority, so more often than not, the burden of finding a way to bridge the gap rests on my shoulders.

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17 thoughts on “478. Thoughts on D/s vs. BDSM

  1. Thank you for writing it out so eloquently FC. This has been a worry of mine when trying to make local kinky friends- getting to know a few of them, and realizing just how different they are sometimes makes things feel a bit hopeless. But it helps having explanations like this, and conversations that bridge the gaps. 💚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Slars. It can be tough. Whether or not you can find common ground is sometimes luck and sometimes making a specific effort to communicate well. I always try to remember that just because my flavor is different than others doesn’t mean that I can’t learn anything from them or enjoy their company. Take care.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It is the assumption that if you declare you are into kink or BDSM or D/s that we all mean the same thing and we must have something in common. I would hope that when I meet people on the scene, we would aim to meet in the middle with open minds and kindness. But then I think that about every meeting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. That is a good mindset to have. Often I fall like I fall so far to the fringes and people are only willing to go so far, that it is a matter of having to go farther to meet them. It works a lot better when they are open and willing to hear ideas. Take care.

      Like

  3. Hi fcsy, good to see you’ve returned to posting. I view your posts as central to the small informal group who frequently post here. A question: do you think you are in a minority because of your lifestyle D/s or from the particular type of relationship you prefer? Welcome back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Dave.

      To answer your question, I would say, both. The relationship style I prefer is a rather encompassing type of 24/7 where even if the dynamics aren’t in full force, they do fall into the realm of “always on.” e.g. while I may not always be acting as a submissive, I am always the submissive and she is always the dominant, even during the most vanilla and benign times. I hope this makes sense. I can elaborate more if needed.

      Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this, I can relate to feeling a bit alienated and in the distinct minority when we ‘ventured out’ into our local BDSM community. I naively thought there was a lot of common ground but found there was not always, but conversations that help bridge the gap are useful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Kisungura. Being exposed to many different lifestyles in the blogosphere definitely helps to prepare for the differences on how people go about the lifestyle. In some ways I believe that has helped me find ways to connect. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As my interaction has mostly been with lifestyle couples I haven’t had to deal with much of the misunderstanding but I do know what you mean. It is a pity that this happens and difficult for those in the monitory but I suppose it falls back on some people finding it difficult to accept others and the way that they are. A really interesting topic 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Missy. It feels like communities tend to gravitate towards all one side or all the other side. I do know that during certain chat topics people blend in certain aspects of both and that can make it hard to draw a distinguishing line. e.g. Where is the separation of consent during punishments?

      The local community I have been attending is almost wholly on the BDSM side, so it becomes a bit more complicated to communicate certain ideas, especially when many of them are poly.

      Liked by 1 person

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