The lifestyle isn’t exactly easy to explain to the vanilla world. What we do to one another, the vanillas simply raise an eyebrow to, or they’d rather send us all out of the country because they’re afraid we’re going to give them some disease or some other ridiculous thing. They think we’re freaks, they think we’re messed up in the head or have been abused and it’s one of the major reasons why most of us don’t practice our kink in the open. The vanilla world just isn’t ready for us quite yet even though we’re out there more with the occasional episode on CSI or on Law and Order (where we’re almost always painted in the wrong hue.)
A couple of decades ago in an effort to quell the vanilla panic about raging gay males preying on heterosexual males, slave David Stein and GMSMA (Gay Male S/M Activists) created a mission statement for their group. Born from a 1983 August report was the phrase “safe, sane and consensual” attached to it. Please take a moment and read his article that talks about the history of the phrase here. It’s a very good read and goes into much greater depth than I can even begin to get into.
Fundamentally though – the phrase itself was a very small part in a much wider scope to help the GMSMA group define itself to the vanilla world by simply trying to say: we’re not like the way you think we are. Slave David cites that the context of the phrase itself is vital to understanding it’s true meaning. But he acknowledges that the phrase has become a cliché and that some people have misused the phrase in a very simplistic way that scorn someone else’s play or philosophy just because it happens to rub you the wrong way.
So let me see if I have this right: a phrase that’s supposed to be used to help explain “we’re not the way you think we are” is now actually being used as some sort of imaginary “bar” to where we’re all supposed to live the lifestyle in a very nice compartmentalized way. S.S.C. today is being used to prejudge how people play in the lifestyle – even though it was a way to re-write the prejudices of the GMSMA community in the 1980’s. That doesn’t appear to be what slave David or the GMSMA intended. The evolution of phrase has almost been bastardized to the point where it has the almost exact opposite meaning from its original intent.
First of all, who gets to decide by what measure that what we do in the lifestyle is or isn’t the right way of living the lifestyle? Who gets to set all of those parameters we’re perfectly capable of defining for ourselves: ”no golden showers, the dominant won’t control my bank account or who I choose to talk to, no humiliation, only light s&m please, but only when I’m in the mood??” Who gets to decide that golden showers is somehow “dangerous” or that putting danae in a cage is putting her life in danger when in reality we’re constantly in a state of danger when we emerge from our caves each day to join the real world. We live in a constant state of acceptable risks, so what’s perceived as being “dangerous” is nothing more than a ruse to anoint one’s self and ideals upon others so as to come out against others, scorn them as being “dangerous” because they happen to enjoy the lifestyle differently than you.
No where in slave David’s explanation does it ever suggest that S.S.C. is meant to be an established criteria of exactly how lifestyle folks are supposed to live by. slave David’s words weren’t about establishing the overall scope by which the lifestyle would operate – by his own admission the phrase was coined to dispel the myth of the ”typical association of S/M with harmful, antisocial, predatory behavior.” It wasn’t some ideology that the GMSMA created to be anywhere close to becoming the approximate “framework” by which we practice our lifestyle individually.
Lifestylers who stand behind S.S.C. with a scolding finger towards other lifestyle folks are completely ignoring the history of the philosophical approach to the lifestyle and how the phrase came into existence in the first place. They are mis-applying its concept by trying to mold it into their “vision of the lifestyle” – then cowardly launching attacks against others in the lifestyle while having a very unhealthy sense of omnipotence that their particular brand of the lifestyle is somehow superior. Needless to say, they get no cookie from me.
But then comes the question of “why”
Isn’t it okay to be different? Do we have to march to the beat of the same drum, in step and single file? Follow the principles and tenets laid out in Screw the Thorns?
Can’t we be unique?
Isn’t it okay to have different tastes, different likes, dislikes along side our fetishes and fantasies.
Isn’t it okay to practice our lifestyle in a way that is perfectly fine for us, even if it’s not your personal preference?
What’s so inherently wrong with the way we practice the lifestyle that makes it “dangerous?”
Oftentimes people who speak in the abstract about “danger” are merely projecting their own insecurities or forsaken beliefs about the lifestyle in the small world they surround themselves in. It makes them feel safer to admonish those on the fringe, rather than acknowledging the differences we have among us and accept them as such.
The lifestyle does not need rigid barriers and boundaries to keep us corralled up in a nice tidy pen. Yes, that’s a very bold statement and I stand by it for a few reasons: a.) as the lifestyle continues to evolve, the spectrum continues to expand and change b.) we can’t possibly account for every level, every journey, every activity and expect a perfect mold that helps define that boundary and c.) it’s wrong to criticize thy neighbor when you yourself are trussed up in a latex catsuit being led around by a leash!
”Then what about those nutballs that commit murder in the name of the lifestyle?” Nuts will be nuts. Whether they are church-going, whether they’re Democrat or Republican, whether they had a nice comfy life or a miserable one. Just as it would be incredibly irresponsible to judge a Catholic who went on a shooting rampage at a mall, it’s equally irresponsible to assume that everyone in the lifestyle is just like those nutballs that don’t represent the lifestyle the way we live it.
”But what about all of those new people who will be so enamored with the lifestyle and play recklessly.” Again, reckless and responsible behavior can’t be mitigated when we have folks who clearly shouldn’t be driving because they drive reckless and irresponsible. People coming into the lifestyle for the first time generally have a place where they’re starting from. A magazine, a film scene, a story they read about. Something, somewhere along the course of their development helped them reach the point where they could go: “I want to try this.” In today’s rendition of the lifestyle – with the multitude of websites, chat rooms, books, movies and sources – the person entering the lifestyle has a much greater opportunity to learn from an incredibly wide and diverse lifestyle than ever before.
By educating people about the spectrum of the lifestyle we are allowing individuals find their niche for themselves. The ability to choose, select and try-out various degrees of the lifestyle is what helps govern the boundaries. I’m much more of the approach of: “There is no one ‘right’ way, except for the way you ultimately decide.” That’s the glorious part about being unique is that we don’t have to follow one standard to help define the morality that binds us all together. Less adversity, more diversity.
Unfortunately therein lies the problem.
There’s a segment of the lifestyle community that believes that they can create a standard that they consider right and just for the rest of the lifestyle. They take their newly founded “standard” and try to apply it in their blogs, on lists, in groups and everywhere they can as though they have been self-anointed to lead this crusade on behalf of the lifestyle.
Don’t get me wrong.
I don’t have a problem if they are defining it for themselves. I don’t have a problem if they are defining it in their relationships. I don’t have a problem if they want to display what the lifestyle means to them, but I do have a problem the moment they try to define it for me and danae or anyone else. I do have a problem when they try to define what’s right and what’s wrong. I do have a problem when they take such a prophetic concept like S.S.C. and try to use it as a weapon if even dare cross theirlines and boundaries. I don’t need anyone trying to define the lifestyle for me, for danae or for anyone else because we’re perfectly capable and able-minded to research it on our own and find the path that’s most appropriate for us.
The pigeon-holing and “holier than thou” approach to the lifestyle has got to come to a stop.
We’re all unique – get over it.
© within Reality: Michael 2008 – all rights reserved