(This post was originally published earlier this week on my other blog.)

There’s been continuing reaction to the flurry of posts sparked by Ferns’ curmudgeonly frustration with shifting attitudes among younger BDSM practitioners. If you’re just joining us, you’ll want to start at my overview, “Dominants are rapists,” followed by unquietpirate’s “Consent Is Not Enough” paired with my own prologue to that piece. Most reaction—whether the abject rejection, terrified self-loathing, or utter confusion—has been wholly mundane; not novel, interesting, or new.

But over on Facebook, I did get a good question, and I’d like to take it as an opportunity to elaborate on my points in more precise detail:

Im agreeing with most of what’s being said. .. but I have a question solely about voluntary adult relationships not born of necessity (eg not a therapist, but perhaps a lover or a dominant etc). the mechanism you describe seems to hinge on the point of becoming dependant (perhaps even through deliberate manipulation) and thus keep the relationship sustained through a codependency, or plain dependency and not through mutual love/satisfaction.

Is your concept here, the one that umbrellas adult voluntary relationships as I isolated above, that they should be transitory (ie when healthy become obsolete) and short or at least not permanent in their duration? Or is your concept that there is a transformative initiation between a dominant and submissive where these two emerge with different roles or identities (as with the other roles where the definite article replaces the article for parent/child, and the others could become just fellow citizens)

I guess my question is,during/after confronting the shadow self (Lacan?) Can/will these entities remain in loving and/or power dynamic relationships with one another. ..and furthermore will/should the dominant remain a/the dominant and will/should the submissive remain a/the submissive?

First of all, [querent], I don’t understand why you distinguish the relationship between a client and a therapist and a relationship between a lover or dominant based on the former as not “solely voluntary.”

But setting that aside for a moment and assuming that that could somehow be a meaningful distinction, my concept here also hinges on the fact that a relationship between a submissive and a dominant in BDSM culture is exactly as “voluntary” as a relationship between a man and a woman in a hegemonically heterosexist society. That is, it’s not voluntary at all unless and until the Submissive-identified partner understands whether their desire to partner with a Dominant-identified person is an authentic (“liberated”) or a “received sexuality,” a term I find useful and borrowed from Lisa Millbank.

But that only relates to the “consent” stuff, and even within that area, to the realm of identity politics.

Some analogies to other identities can be useful in highlighting certain fucked up things about BDSM Scene culture. For instance, analogizing BDSM role to identities like gender and sexual orientation highlights the fact that the unchallenged submissive-dominant-attraction binary is as stupid and harmful to (especially rolequeer) people as the woman-man-attraction binary is to gay, lesbian, AND STRAIGHT people. I’ve been making this point a lot lately, because it’s relatively uncomplicated for many people to understand. See also: “Submissives need Dominants like lesbians need men,” and “Submissive people don’t need dominants. Period.”

(And, excuse me, I have to inject a ranty sidenote, because really, they go through all that work to create a whole subculture that’s practically based off exploiting taboos, and the thing they choose to do with that culture is recreate everything from straightness to marriages with their fucking binaries and collaring ceremonies? Where the fuck is your sense of life, love, or adventure, BDSM’ers? I know you think of yourselves as all badass and hardcore and stuff, but when it comes right down to it, you are a bunch of unimaginative, unoriginal, frightened sheeple who wouldn’t know what to do with a mind-blowing, mind-altering psychotropic drug if you were swimming in it. And I know this is true because BDSM is a fucking mind-blowing, mind-altering psychotropic drug that’s far more interesting and powerful, personally, culturally, societally, philosophically, and epistemologically than LSD can ever hope to be. Yet the thing you do with it is make the marriage rings sized for necks instead of hands? AUGH!)

But another identity politic analogy that’s also useful and seems much harder for people to understand is that Dominants hold an oppressor identity that is inherently illegitimate in a similar way to the way white people do. And that is the other point in my writing: the entire notion of an identity politic for Dominants is inane. “Dominant” only exists as an identity because of rape culture in a similar way as “white” people only exist because of white supremacy; there is nothing redeemable or reformed about dominance.

Past these analogies, however, identity politics no longer provide any useful understanding. I have been making this point for over a year, too, but very few people noticed because no one was ready to hear it:

Dominance—like whiteness, maleness, straightness, and sanity—is a structure of domination; there is nothing redeemable or reformed about dominance. The inverse of that statement is equally important to articulate: submission is a choice to endure violence. Contrary to the BDSM Scene’s rhetoric, submission is not a gift given, but a power taken.

Choosing to submit to oppression, to endure violence, is a power with which we can sterilize The System. In choosing to submit, we neutralize dominance because we are neither resigning ourselves to its domination nor seeking to dominate it in response. Dominance, a manifestation of pure evil, cannot be dominated, for any attempt to overpower it strengthens it anew.

Most people who call themselves “Dominants” are submission-lovers (or possibly “submission-fetishists,” which can be a legitimate fetish to have but not an ethical way to treat other people) whose poor understanding of consent, terrified self-image, and weak personal ethics, combine to make them massively practiced at and invested in the perpetuation of rape apologia on an overwhelming scale. Each of these three faults is designed into many “Dominant” people by their environment, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

And my point is, if our environment weren’t designed to train rapists, if the BDSM culture didn’t fashion itself into a rape school, no one would see anything special or ethical or fun about domination, even people who think submission is sexy. Because, bluntly, Submission’s where the magic happens.

So to answer your question, a confrontation with the shadow self is just one part of what I’m writing about. It’s important. It’s a place to start. But it’s the red pill. Take it, and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.