Advocacy for M/s and other Fetish Issues…

In a group I follow on FetLife, the question came up of displays of M/s in public and whether or not that was appropriate. I wanted to share my personal feelings, and expand that into the larger sphere of public advocacy.
The first thing I want to say is that I think that effective advocacy has to be balanced. It requires careful, intelligent, reasoned discussion and promotion which normal people can feel comfortable with. It is also the case that effective advocacy requires a certain degree of provocative behavior. It requires challenging norms. The Civil Rights movement required both Martin Luther King and Malcom X, two very different individuals. You cannot have societal change without a combination of rationalism and radicalism. Knowing and having the sense when to be radical and when to be rational is a difficult balancing act, and even the greatest advocates have had their failures. In short I believe in a balance of careful reasoning and occasional radical activism.
I don’t often engage in public displays regarding M/s. I have a number of reasons for this. I am a private person, and I have the quality of life of my wife (who is not in a D/s relationship with me) and my servants to consider. However I do engage in some public displays and I often approve of and encourage those who do the same, whether it is someone who speaks in public on the topic under their full name, or just a girl who walks her girlfriend across her college campus on a leash. I don’t question their motivations or seriousness. I accept that they are doing what they feel is right and believe in.
I do think that there is an abhorrence of radical action within the M/s Community that is not always in the best interests of the individual or the Community. I think there are a few core reasons for this.
a) We are ashamed
On many levels, many of us are ashamed, or made to feel ashamed of our M/s relationships. We wonder if it’s really okay if we have someone as our servant or slave. We wonder if it’s healthy. We feel on some level that what we are doing is “wrong” in a way that is different from our neighbor’s marriage, and we feel that we should not expose it to decent people.
I have a few theories on this. I think that M/s often (not always) draws people who have a background that involves shame for sexual feelings or abuse (Masters as well as slaves). I think often the draw to being controlled and serving is deeply bound up in a past that may anger them or cause anxiety, and that makes them feel that what they do as a Master or slave is contaminated by that shame, because they feel “weak” rather than “strong” for choosing it. I contrast that to the many many people who have similar issues and never rise above them to find a fulfilling way to lead their personal lives and that saddens me. I wish everyone who chose to seek an answer rather than hide from their issues could bring themselves to be proud of what they are.
b) We are trapped into the presumption of sexuality
Because our relationships involve sex, we are trapped in the fallacy that to express our dynamic in public is to expose our sexuality to others. There is some basis for that. To say “with this ring I thee wed” in front of an audience is to say “I now have the right to ejaculate into your vagina, and keep the fruit of that coupling.” We gloss the fact now, but there are still parts of the world where the bloody sheets are displayed the morning after to show that the bride is a virgin.
The expression of our personal relationships is not any more (or less) inherently sexual than a wedding ring. It may be far less socially acceptable, but it is a statement of lifestyle choice and commitment, not sexuality.
There is the additional question of whether or not sexual expression should be allowed in society and that’s a different, but related issue.
c) We are afraid
We fear repercussions. Against the community, against us individually. We fear that Aunt Agnes will find out. We fear that a coworker will suddenly realize what that symbol means. We fear the judgment of friends, relatives, and of the law. These are real fears, and cannot be easily dismissed.
d) We are polite
Possibly the most powerful and pervasive. We are by and large a polite group of people who value manners. We don’t want to upset people, don’t want to “squick” them, don’t want to have them bent out of shape. We feel that no amount of secrecy on our part, and no inconvenience is too great to avoid making someone else feel unpleasant.
e) We are socially conservative
Around the edge of the M/s movement there is a strong edge of social conservatism. There is an edge of “what we do is okay, because it involves me treating my wife as a slave, but we don’t necessarily much like those poly-liberal-genderqueer strange folks. I’ll merely comment that once you have stepped into placing a collar on another human being, or having them call you Master or Mistress, you have crossed a line of sorts, and “if we do not all hang together, we shall most certainly…& etc.”
The Need
If M/s is to be taken seriously and thrive as a lifestyle, it must be public and acceptable.
I realize that there will be a hundred people on this list who are anxious to tell me that they themselves do not have this need.
So, I have a friend who does have this need. She’s young she lives in the North Central United States. She identifies strongly as a slave (not my slave). She has not yet found a Master or Mistress in real life, but she has an online Mistress who I respect and take seriously.
She is torn about entering the M/s Lifestyle, even though she has no serious thought that she can live any other way and be happy. She is torn because it is completely unacceptable to her family…in a way that her being homosexual would not be. And there is nothing she can point at in culture that makes it okay. She cannot say “well, Ellen DeGeneres is a slave.” She cannot say “George Takei is a Master.”
She told me that she thought about killing herself, but has chosen not to. She lives with the feeling that she will never be able to be what she wants to be, and there is no television campaign to tell her “It Gets Better.” Neither Hillary Clinton nor President Obama have a kind word for her to let her know that her choice of lifestyle is okay.
She has that need. You don’t need to.
I know another couple who crave the company of other M/s Couples…who crave being involved in the local M/s Poly community. But flat out, they fear the law until their children are at least sixteen. They fear Child Services, and they suffer and sneak out while they can because they care for their children and that constrains them against the lifestyle that is their choice.
They have that need. You don’t need to.
You only need to understand.
Historical Parallels
The right of people to live as they will is purportedly important. I think the right to choose M/s, or by extension any of the other choices that make up WIITWD…to marry many or none, to choose to submit or dominate, and to choose masochism or sadism…is important.
I do not think it is any less important than the freedom of religion, or the freedom to love someone of the same gender, or to freely exhibit one’s body.
Historically many things have been unthinkable.
In 1895 when one of the most brilliant dramatic minds of the era was destroyed through hard labor and effectively killed at 46, it was unthinkable to be publicly homosexual. It was still unthinkable in Greenwich Village in 1969. Nobody in 1970 would have seriously predicted that within forty years, U.S. states would begin allowing homosexuals to marry.
To take a lighter, but no less significant tone. How many of the women reading this would want to have to wear a corset daily, or be considered to be immoral. How many women would like to not have the option of wearing jeans or shorts. How many men would like it if your girlfriend could not wear shorts or a skirt, show ankle, or wear high heels? Yet, only a few generations ago, those things dictated morality. They aren’t trite traditions that were “cute.” They were dull day in day out rules that people lived and died by.
And if you think it’s not a very important privilege for you and your female friends to dress as you choose, contemplate for a moment living under sharia and having it revoked.
Only through challenging the norms did things change. Your ability to wear the clothing you do today…or see it on women…is because people from Amelia Bloomer to Coco Chanel broke tradition, and did and wore things which were…patently offensive.
This wasn’t a matter of “being a little daring.” There was a point in time when baring flesh was a direct blow to adult moral sensibilities. It was an offense. Flesh (or eventually some flesh) was not to be seen. We may not have had Sharia, and stoned people, but it was not simply a neutral choice to bear neck, shoulders, ankle or midriff. At various times simply doing those things was to give unreasonable offense to decent people…to assault them merely by wearing (or not wearing) those things into their presence. And the assault was by obvious association…sexual in nature.
There are many ways to advocate for things that you believe in. I am not saying we should all demonstrate our dynamics in public, or put an M/s flag bumper sticker on our car. To my delight about a week ago, for the first time ever I saw an M/s flag sticker randomly on a car on the open highway rather than parked near an event.
We can write, we can maintain silence, or we can act up.
But it is my feeling that if the envelope is to be pushed forward we need not to shame the envelope pushers. We need not to engage in the inevitable conservatism of a subculture that fears “outing” of shaming those who choose to demonstrate in public.
It is no more offensive for me to walk my slave on a leash in public than for my grandmother to show her kneecaps. In both cases, I can find substantial writing that such things are an obvious sexual assault on contemporary morality which normal people and children should not have to see.
In the case of my grandmother, she wasn’t the first person to wear a skirt cut above the knee, and I don’t know when she began. But I know that someone did it at a time when it was a patent offense against decency or we wouldn’t be doing it now.
I would like to see within the M/s Community and the BDSM Community a wider understanding of the role of Lifestyle Advocates, both those who choose to write and share their points of view, and those who choose to “act out” or “act up” and demonstrate their desires.
It is ludicrous that it is fine to dress in a bikni, or a speedo, or wear a wedding ring, but that non-invasively demonstrating my interpersonal dynamics in public is “non-consensually inflicting my scene on others.” It is not. It is creating the envelope to follow the lifestyle I please.
It is important…if we are ever to experience a day where we are all truly free to choose our lifestyles and partnerships. It is important not only that we advocate M/s, but also those other elements of WIITWD, which may be misunderstood or meet with resistance, but are important to the overall picture of a future world in which our right to behave sexually and in our relationships as we please with whom we please, is not questioned.
I do not think that people should non-consensually engage others in their scene. But when I choose to demonstrate my dynamic in public, I am making a political statement. I am saying:
    • This is not shameful


  • This is not something I should have to hide
  • This is not something that you need to be protected from
  • I hope that this does not hurt you in any way
  • If this hurts you it is because you are judgmental, not because I am a bad person
  • If you are not judgmental, I am sharing something that may interest or merely amuse you
  • If you are judgmental, this is a challenge and a threat, as sure as Stonewall or the Greensboro lunch counter you will come to accept it if not to like it so that others lives are not crushed by being forced to hide their behavior by the weight of presumption that what they are doing is wrong.



Clear Impossibility
The major reason I hear given for not pressing advocacy of M/s issues is that it’s clearly impossible that it will ever be culturally acceptable. Anyone can see that. No right thinking person could accept M/s.
Or…showing a woman’s bellybutton. Or the public discussion of sex. Or the depiction of sexuality…or homosexuality on TV. Paganism…
I hear people say “well you can’t talk about it to children.” That may be the 600lb gorilla in the room in most discussions of acting out.
Why not? Why is it easy for us now to say “Billy has two daddies” but not “Susie’s Mommy has chosen to obey Susie’s Daddy much like you obey Mommy and Daddy. At work she has a lot of responsibility and when she comes home she takes care of Susie and Daddy takes care of her so she does what he says.” Is that so difficult. Children aren’t idiots. They might well conclude that “always having to obey Daddy would be yukky” but that’s fine. We’re just telling them about options, not evangelizing. My parents talked to me about issues like racism, homosexuality, and politics in simple, clear terms.
Having been relatively politically sophisticated by the dawn of the Regan era, I can recall the attitude about homosexuality in the 70s. It could never be public because it would never be appropriate to explain to children about two men or women having sex. Yet we’ve found ways and found that most children are more blase about it than their parents.
The real fear of course is that it would give our children permission to be gay. But children become young adults and need the same permissions we ourselves needed and need.
Bearing in mind that we are advocating acceptance of a lifestyle that is freely embraced and practiced, not nonconsensual chattel slavery, I think that M/s, Poly, and the acceptance of Sadism and Masochism **can and must** become acceptable within our culture. Will that happen tomorrow? No. But following the rules of acceleration of change in the modern era, it will happen in twenty years, rather than forty…within most of our lifetimes. Young people who are learning about M/s now will see themselves acceptable to the mainstream by the time they are middle-aged.
Many things that were unthinkable, are now not only “thinkable” but acceptable. They are not acceptable to every subculture or every group. But there is sufficient traction that we can tell people “It Gets Better,” and that is a message we all need to hear about our freedom to choose whatever path is right for us.
Times change, and it is time that we created some change in perceptions about M/s.
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