I am often asked to talk about the differences between the Kink community and what we euphemistically call the Vanilla world. Obviously there are the behavioral differences, the clubs we attend where we engage in semi-public BDSM play, the dress, the ubiquitous black leather, the use of toys, the play with pain among many others. There is the relationship structures and power or authority exchanges which are central to the Dominant and submissive or Master/slave relationships (and many other, I do not mean to be exclusive). These are all choices to partake in certain behaviors in which we engage for our own enjoyment which are beneficial to us, but may not be activities or behaviors chosen by and for the broader community.
However, there are many behaviors which a large proportion of us engage that I think deserve a close examination by the “Vanilla’s” because of their positive effects on any relationship.
1. We examine what we do.
I have never been in any community, other than an academic one, where education is so highly valued and widely available. In a large city there is usually a choice of lectures or demonstrations to attend every week on a variety of subjects. There are a huge number of books available, and more coming out every day. (see my Sites and Books of Interest page for many.)
While there is probably a far greater number of volumes and possibly an equal number of lectures on how to have a successful committed relationship, what I do not see is that the broader society in general particularly cares about learning how to carry on a successful committed relationship. It is just a given. You grow up, find a mate, get married and have kids. How many of us have grown up through our education process and found even one class on how to relate successfully to other people?
We seek education in how to please.
If you want to know how to sexually please your partner, and yes, even the most conservative community (well, possibly excepting some) would admit that sexually pleasing your committed partner (ahem, within a politically and religiously sanctioned relationship structure) is something that might benefit the longevity of that relationship, you might wish to look into the wide variety of classes available in the kink community. We actually study the biological structure of the human body and look into what can be done safely to enhance physical pleasure.
We seek education in how to communicate and negotiate.
All sorts of relationships, domestic and commercial, require some sort of negotiation, from the preparation of contracts to how to best raise your kids. While there are many volumes available and I would hope classes available in any sort of business track (not my educational path), we are one of the few communities of which I am aware where open communication of each persons desires and structured and clear communication and negotiation of those desires is close to being required before any play or relationship can be contemplated.
How many of the couples you know, including your own parents, have had a discussion about the kind of sex they like, health concerns, and detailed talks about the kind of relationship they envision before they got married? How many make part of their relationship a repeated time each week, or each day, to talk about differences that have come up and concerns raised? I suspect few.
We seek education on how to resolve conflicts.
Obviously, any relationship structure that is outside of the norm can create conflicts and the need for resolution strategies peculiar to the relationship. It is difficult for a Master and slave to go to marriage counseling where they are told, “Well, all that is fine, but in here, that role playing should be dropped.” If it is the basis of the relationship, as it was most eloquently expressed by Master Obsidian and slave Namaste, that just don’t work. So new ways of resolution had to be created.
How many couples do you know, married or not, who have sought out understanding of the uniqueness of their particular relationship and struggled with ways to resolve the distinctive problems that come up between them? Are they concerned with what are the best ways to communicate so the other can hear you, and you know they can hear you, are the meanings of the words you use clear to the other, or do they put different meanings on the same words, how do you find out what the actual problem might be, rather than just the trigger that is currently being presented? Each of these things are valuable for any form of relationship.
We seek opportunities to confirm our relationships.
Actually, I tend to feel that this is the most important. We hear about couples getting married a second time, not after a separation, but as a re-confirmation of their vows and promises to each other. Often it happens after many years of marriage after understandings and changes have grown and it is good to make that public commitment reflecting those changes and growth.
Last night I was pleased to participate in Dr. Bob Rubel and his partner Jen’s webinar. It is a lovely dinner engagement where the conversation is on a wide variety of Kink and BDSM subjects, sometimes alone, sometimes with a video guest. Last night the primary discussion was on “Do you use any kind of re-commitment ceremony? If yes, what do you do and why do you do it?”
The ceremonies discussed were short, usually very simple, but repeated, once a day or at each time the partners came together again after a parting. What kind of effect would there be on your relationship if every time you woke you each took the moment to stare into each other’s eyes and whisper, “I am your husband and partner, and I love you from my heart. That will carry us through.”, “I am your wife and partner, and I love you from my heart. That will carry us through.” Each and every day, even through the roughest times, even if you can not see yourself feeling it, but you say it, you keep to that moment to reconfirm. That will carry you through…or at least do a lot to help.
I know a couple who has a place in their home where, in times of discord, they reconfirm their relationship by going to that place and sitting, he in the chair, and her on the floor with her head on his lap as he pets her hair. True, perhaps at times the intentions are not easily felt, but the actions help to confirm, to remind them of what was the original promise.
While I am currently partnerless, I look to an eventual M/s relationship where each time we come together after a parting, even if the parting was only for a few hours, even in a public place with vanilla company, we take that moment to embrace, and whisper words of reconfirmation, “I am here, my Master, to serve and please you, with body, mind and heart.”, “I am here, my slave, to serve and protect you, with body, mind and heart.”
I do not believe that relationships can be of the “Set it and Forget it” type, and I have deep regrets that I did not learn all of this before I discovered the communities in which I now reside.