How much should you carry?
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How much of your past experience with BDSM partners should you carry with you into a new relationship? The reason I ask is that I think that it's difficult to find a balance between cynicism related to partners who didn't work out, and uncontrolled optimism related to partners who did.
Many aspects of BDSM have to do with experience, skill and practise. We could talk about the physical skill involved when executing a bondage or flogging scene or we could talk about the learned ability to surrender fully and these are things which we can usefully develop and carry with us in all our BDSM dealings. But what we learn about people, what we learn from partners or potential partners is something which can colour potential new relationships. What we know, love or fear about people often affects our relationships with new people before we even actually meet them. Is this a good thing?
I suppose that if you're submissive and you learn that adopting certain postures, verbal mannerisms or wearing certain clothes gets the sort of reaction you want and need out of dominants who are right for you then this is a good thing. Such knowledge helps save time and prevents you accidentally pairing up with a dominant who may not do it for you. If a potential partner doesn't react "properly" then you can quickly cross them off your list and move on to the next one.
But there's a down side to this. What you've learned from past experience - both with yourself and with various dominants - lets you home in on what seems to be the right sort of dominant and, perhaps, in most cases this will work out. But at the same time this process also causes you to skip or neglect other dominants who may not match the pattern you've worked out but who may be an even better fit for you than the ones who do match your pattern.
The same sort of thing applies to dominants and masters. A brand new, straight-out-of-the-packet dominant isn't going to be very discriminating and will consider basically anyone who bows their head, wears a collar or acts even the tiniest bit submissively. They're initially going to have a tough time working out the sort of slave or submissive who is right for them but then they too will start pattern-matching based on experience. This is when they learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, they too will then necessarily miss some of the wheat when they're discarding the chaff.
So, where's the balance point? How much should you rely on past experience when selecting or skipping a potential partner? Is it a matter of time? Are you in a rush to find the right partner and don't have time to consider possible maybes and can only spend time on yes definitelies? Or is it a matter of emotions? Is there too much of a risk of getting emotionally tied to someone who doesn't push the right BDSM buttons for you? Or are you concerned about the risk of being hurt too much?
Once we do start spending time with someone our past experience also affects how we behave towards them. Is it fair to behave towards a new partner in a way that is affected by experience with previous partners - good or bad? If, worst case scenario, a recent partner was an asshole, should we be defensive and behave as though our new partner might possibly be an asshole too? Or do we leave ourselves vulnerable to asshole behaviour and hope for the best?
I think it would be very nice if we could view each potential and actual partner with innocent eyes and not drag into the relationships the baggage from the past.
Where do we draw the line though? How much baggage do we bring with us? How much to we leave behind? Do we travel light with just a T-shirt, jeans and a change of underwear? Do we bring a whole wardrobe?
There are lots of questions today and I don't think there's a definitive answer for any of them because I think it is a matter of balance, a balance which each of us has to find for ourselves. What we can do though is raise this to consciousness, to think about it, to be aware of the choices that we make so that we can better guide ourselves to finding a right partner without carrying too much of a burden from the past. In a way this is actually mastery. It is choosing to master ourselves, to master the path we take and our choice of partner. And this sort of mastery is just as important for submissives and slaves as it is for masters and dominants.