Sanctuary

The DSM-IV defines a mental disorder as “a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual [which] is associated with present distress…or disability…or with a significant increased risk of suffering.”

In short, your idiosyncrasies, your proclivities, your deviance must cause a problem to be a problem. Otherwise, they’re simply quirks.

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I had the opportunity to hear the incomparable Mistress Joanne speak at an educational event some months ago. I sat entranced for over an hour listening as wisdom effortlessly flowed from her. There were two points she made in particular that triggered moments of absolute clarity:

“No one can shame you if you are not ashamed.”

Very much in the same vein that epithets lose their sting when enthusiastically embraced by the groups they were intended to wound, when you refuse to apologize for who you are, no matter how strange you may seem to others, and instead turn the intended shame and belittlement into pride and self-confidence, those would judge you lose most of their power.

“The roles we play in BDSM, they are no different than what happens out in the world every day. It’s just that in our community, we’re honest about it. We acknowledge it. We talk about it.”

It’s true. Where I now participate in consensual power exchange with my partner, I used to be confronted at every turn by hidden power struggles in my Vanilla relationships – passive-aggression, gaslighting, manipulation, insidious subjugation. For my part, I responded to conflict with servility, constant concessions to people who didn’t appreciate or even understand my efforts. And how could they? I certainly didn’t.

I can’t help but wonder how things would be different if the emphasis on communication, clear consent, and transparency that I see in the kink and poly communities were “standard” among the general public. Would the way we behaved in romantic relationships be more open and honest as a matter of course, rather than healthy enduring relationships seeming to be the exception rather than the rule? Would we speak more frankly with our friends and family members? Would others be more likely to respect our boundaries? Would certain social problems virtually cease to exist?

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My psychological boundaries are perilously thin. I sense sudden mood shifts in a room, like that feeling you get when someone’s standing behind you. I let everything in, positive and negative energy. Joy. Rage. Fear. Sadness. Love.

I’m aware that I’m sensitive. I know it’s caused me a lot of pain.

But I like being sensitive. Vulnerable. I like living with my heart open wide.

So I’ve found this new home, and I’m nesting, creating a smaller place where I can live as my true self, a refuge nested within the larger world.

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8 Comments

  1. “I can’t help but wonder how things would be different if the emphasis on communication, clear consent, and transparency that I see in the kink and poly communities were “standard” among the general public.”

    This! Not just among romantic relationships, monogamous or otherwise, but in familial relationships and friendly relationships and work relationships and and and…

    It is for this reason that I work very hard to encourage honesty, transparency, and open communication in all aspects of my life; I find that my corner of the world has become a little brighter and more sun-shiney for it, and that people actually *want* to do these things, they just needed “permission” to do them!

  2. Yes! I couldn’t agree more.

    I had completely forgotten about working relationships, which are also massively important to our emotional health (as many of us spend as much or more time at work than with lovers, friends, families, etc).

    I’m so glad to hear that even in our separate corners of the world, you and I seem to be moving towards common goals (like that Gandhi quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world”). It makes me sigh happily.

    If I let myself go wild with idealism, I kind of envision these pockets of kindness blinking on all the over the world – like tiny lights coming to life one at a time until it’s so bright it’s almost blinding.

    1. It’s so funny that you mentioned that Ghandi quote. The thing that finally pushed me over the edge and gave me the balls to have a not-anonymous blog about my feelings was:

      “Never apologize for being correct. Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth. For being correct. For being you.

      Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time.

      If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. Speak your mind.

      Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.”

      -Ghandi

  3. I don’t see it, Page and lovetimesinfinity–I don’t see the crooked timber of humanity suddenly straightening itself out with clearer communication and transparency (and I say this as someone making a living teaching clear and transparent communications….)

    Most people carry their darkness in secret but present a bright front to the world. Your community is frank about what the world would call dark but, flipside, within you seem to walk in light.

    1. Mmmm… to my chagrin, I know it’s blatantly idealistic to hope for such a thing… It takes an inordinate amount of courage to ‘fess up the things that make us look so small and “lizard brained” to others.

      “Most people carry their darkness in secret but present a bright front to the world. Your community is frank about what the world would call dark but, flipside, within you seem to walk in light.”

      Awww, on behalf of kinky folk, I take this as the highest of compliments!

    2. Her community is frank about what the world would call dark, because the world would probably call her community dark, and that gives the community permission to be frank about darkness. I think if more people were open and honest with their darkness, others would feel more comfortable being less secretive about theirs.

      It’s idealistic to think everyone in the whole world could do this, I know, but I’ve witnessed and been a part of so much happiness since I’ve started encouraging these things. Coming from classrooms and summer camps, where there’s already so much happiness to go around, it’s amazing to see how much more can be reached!

  4. “No one can shame you if you are not ashamed.”
    Thisthisthis! ^_^ I receive quite a few negative comments from fellow vanilla students, but there is no way I’m going to let them make me feel ashamed. I am proud of who I am, of my relationship with Daddy, of how honest and open I am about my sexual and lifestyle preferences. If people have an unjustified problem with it, then they are the ones who should be ashamed of their refusal to open their minds.

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