“Who are you?”
The Vorlons frequently ask this In the sci-fi television series Babylon 5 to encourage self-discovery. It is a simple question on the surface, but think about all the ways someone might answer it. Name. Occupation. Marital status. Parent. Grandparent. Sexual identity. Add in the kink community, and the options multiply even further. Not such a simple question when someone has so many ways to say “This is who I am.” So what happens when someone else denies your identity?
For all that kinksters are an open, welcoming lot, we can be prone to a few narrow views and odd blind spots, especially when it comes to our own kinks. New folks are prone to believing they have found the “twue way,” while the more experienced can become set in their ways. This gets expressed in a variety of ways that generally boil down to “you’re doing it wrong” or “you aren’t really X because…” (the less polite ones may not bother with the courtesy of a “because”).
I came across this shortly after I first realized I am Dominant. I had spent quite a bit of time talking with people and making friends in the online D/s community I am involved in, weighing and mulling before realizing that I did indeed fit on the Dominant spectrum. So I changed my profile to reflect that. Someone made a comment that the chat room was silent so I quoted the wise and timeless Elmer Fudd: “Be vewwy, vewwy quiet. We’re hunting wabbits.” I got a private message a few moments later telling me that I should not call myself a Dominant because no real Dom would act like that and no one was going to take me seriously. I ran the gamut of reactions: angry, defensive, dismissive. A part of me was also worried that this person might have been right. Was I fooling myself? I was brand new; what did I know? In the end, I decided that I knew myself well enough that I was right. But I have heard similar stories from others, sometimes because someone is new, and sometimes simply because that person’s D/s style did not mesh with what others believed to be correct.
Oddly enough, my writing background helped me to navigate my own kinky identity crisis. As a former reporter and member of creative writing groups, I had to grow accustomed to people offering comment and jugement on decisions I made in my writing. I picked up a few relevant principles along the way: Don’t accept or reject all criticism blindly, weigh each point carefully, and take what works and discard what doesn’t.
Don’t Accept Or Reject Blindly
Criticism can hit someone hard. A person often becomes defensive and angry and wants to simply dismiss the comments out of hand. When the opinion comes from a respected source, it may be accepted without a second thought. Neither extreme works very well — whether in writing, life decisions, or just discussing your own kink identity, listen to those around you who offer comments but accept nothing blindly. This is true whether you respect someone’s opinion or not and whether or not the person agrees with you. Our brains are typically wired in such a way that give rise to a couple of logical fallacies. One is called confirmation bias. People tend to support things that confirm what they already believe and reject things that contradict those beliefs. The other fallacy is known as an appeal to authority. The fact that someone has some kind of ethos, or credibility, on a subject (whether through experience, training, or what have you) does not mean that that person is automatically right. The lack of any obvious ethos does not make someone automatically wrong, either. Accepting or rejecting without thought is a knee-jerk reaction, not a reasoned response. Either can be dangerous and detrimental. Instead, give what is said careful consideration.
Weigh Each Point
Welcome to the world of being big boys and girls (or however you may identify). And yes, that includes you littles, too. Those of us in the D/s (or other kink) lifestyle have elected to participate in something that requires the utmost care and thoughtfulness. Much of what we do is dangerous mentally, emotionally, even physically. That means the decisions someone makes regarding the lifestyle and his or her place in it need to be made carefully. Think critically about not only the decision, but the factors that go into making it. This is not easy, and it is not always pleasant. One must face the possibility that the person who says that you cannot be a Dom or a sub is correct. What reason(s) did the person give? Is there a valid point, or are the comments spurious? One must also face the chance that those who say you are on the big D or little s side (including yourself) are wrong.
These are not snap decisions. Nor does every opinion deserve equal time and weight. When I was told that a Dom does not quote Elmer Fudd and so I could not possibly be a Dom, I did not give it as much credence as my own belief or the words of my friends (the one who eventually became my submissive was certain I was a “D-type” long before I was), but I did consider the possibility. I even acknowledged that there was a small, valid point and changed the profile to say “developing,” which I left there until I had gained more knowledge and self-confidence. Weighing the points allows a person to figure out what advice to accept and what to reject.
Take What Works; Discard What Doesn’t
One person’s opinion may be correct; it may not. What carries the most need for attention is multiple people making the same point over and over. I had a friend writing a fantasy novel about an elderly couple who found a changeling in the forest. One of his beta readers (folks who read a work in progress to help in editing) suggested strongly that he should make the couple meth addicts just to ratchet up the tension. But that idea had no place in my friend’s story, so he rejected the suggestion. About the same time, however, several people in a writer’s circle noted a plot hole in a short story I wrote, which indicated something to be addressed. In the end, the best judge for what works in something you seek to build — whether that is a work of art or a kinky lifestyle — is you. By all means, listen to the experts and the voices of experience, but keep in mind that you will often get as many suggestions as people you talk to. The novice may lean heavily on others, but do not forget that while they may have more experience in the lifestyle, you have more experience being you. You may call yourself a Dom(me), sub, Master/Mistress, slave, switch, or even kitten trans cis sub with brat tendencies. Others may suggest that you are or are not, but only you can ultimately make that determination.
At The End Of The Day…
One of the oldest adages is the phrase “know thyself.” The idea is a hallmark of the kink community. Members continually explore new facets and possibilities. It is just as important for newcomers as it is for veterans. Others may well challenge your identity; if they do, listen to all but accept nothing blindly. Weigh the opinions you are given, and incorporate what works and discard what does not. Give it some deep thought and know yourself, even if that runs contrary to what you thought you knew. You are the one writing your own story, so as the Doctor said, make it a good one. And, I might add, an honest one.
Until next time, remember: This is your life; live it your way!
Sinistar is a “White Knight” Dominant still new to the lifestyle and learning things about himself. He is a nerd/geek/dork and professional educator who enjoys pop culture, particularly animation and TV shows, movies, and books that fall in the speculative fiction arena (horror/sci-fi/fantasy). He is stuck in the ’80s on a lot of things, but He does have some awareness of what’s going on today. He can be found on fetlife.com as KnightWhoSaysNi_