‘Consenting adults in private’, redux

I’ve been thinking about is whether its possible to come up with a better minimum code of ethical interaction for spanking (and D/s) relationships than the old standard: every practice is okay as long as it’s between “consenting adults in private.”

Consenting Adults in Private evolved from the gay rights world, and may not be quite right for D/s. It is more than apparent that a lot of unethical-by-any-measure (genuinely exploititatve, cruel) behaviour goes on behind the fig leaves of consent and privacy.

I’m greatly in favour of D/s broadly interpreted. I’m not in favour of real cruelty and exploitation (and I feel D/s is messed up by people who are cruel and abusive for real.)

I’m not moralising, nor trying to reign anyone in, nor get anyone else to do what I do. I absolutely appreciate the diversity of practice and opinion in our field. It is all about self- and other-exploration, so there must be freedom to explore. But I don’t think one can say: “don’t judge what I do in my house and I won’t judge what you do in yours”.

Think of it this way: despotic and criminal countries with human rights abuses galore always say: “don’t interfere in our internal affairs, and we won’t interfere in yours.” But in fact the abuses of children, women, prisoners, p.o.w.’s, disabled people, mentally handicapped, people of colour, gays and lesbians, and so on has forced charters such as the Internation Declaration on Human Rights, the Geneva Convention, and so on, which precisely say: “it’s not all subjective, cultural, relative. There is a basic human standard of behaviour ethical nations adhere to.” By the way it’s worth reading the Declaration of Human Rights, which can be found at this link.

I wouldn’t mind this kind of charter for the spanking D/s world. Something everyone could point to, which would glady tolerate the healthy diversity of interpretation and practice, but also flag real abuse.

So what might this look like? Here’s a beginning list:

1. Adults. No D/s interaction with anyone under the national ‘age of consent’. Note, I’m not saying 18. If the age of consent is 16, that means D/s is allowed. If that’s not okay, the age of consent should be raised. (Natural parents spanking children in a moderate way is no problem.)

2. Duty of care and consistency. The dominant must have the submissive’s interests at heart. This is hard to pin down – definitions vary – but I think we all know when it’s not there. There is a duty on the punisher to make sure the punished is not grossly physically harmed. This extends to mental health too. The rules can be strict, and the consequences severe, but the submissive should feel mentally secure, not subject to random witholding of the relationship or other ‘mind games’.

3. Absolute limits on the strike zone. What’s tricky about spanking is it’s hitting, and hitting is also the essence of abuse. We resolve this by saying some zones are smackable, others not. But, you might say, ‘what if she agrees to be punched in the face as part of her discipline?’ This would pose a theoretical problem, but in all my years I’ve never seen it nor heard of it. It can be safely dismissed. There are standard body areas, the bottom obviously (but perhaps also pussy, legs, and back too, according to preference) that can ‘belong’ to the Dominant (subject to 2 above.) But that doesn’t mean he should start the session with a few ‘backhands’, nor that she should feel this is permissible.

4. Freedom of association. This is the consent point. But I don’t think consent is the right concept because in D/s non-consent or partial-consent or overcoming-of-non-consent is intrinsic to the act for many. So a clearer principle is freedom of association. This means that a person should be free to walk away (physically, mentally, socially, financially) without fear of retribution.

5. Private. As with all sexuality and nudity, people who are offended or not interested have a right not to be confronted in a public place. The reverse applies too. Nobody should invade your privacy (subject to 1-4 above).

Think of it this way: the abuser is one who denies freedom of association (you leave me and I’ll kill you, etc); will hit his trusty sub any old how, possibly even in public; and disregard her actual, real physical and mental well-being. My little code of practice is a straight reversal of what troubles me, and I think, troubles most honourable people.

Anyway, I suppose I’m whistling in the wind. There will never be an International Charter of D/s Practice. But it maybe worth checking whether these minimums apply to you.

“Just say no” to spanking as the Trojan Horse of debasement and abuse

I had the good fortune to have lunch recently with a fellow spanking blogger. It’s always really special to meet someone whose blog you read and with whom – by definition – you share important world view congruency. There’s so much you don’t have to talk about. And, paradoxically, so much to say.

One the things that came up – the main thing actually – is how many of the dominants out there are “just looking for someone to hurt,” and/or are abusive and demeaning to the sub. And how spanking gives them the veneer of respectability.

Now I’ve enough experience of life to know two things. The first is that there is no doubt this kind of behaviour goes on and many dominants are utterly unworthy of respect. The second is … they get it: respect, adoration, submission. So let’s not be naïve. It’s not hard to to see the difference between spanking as a firm, protecting ritual and spanking as proxy and cover for an abusive mindset. Demeaning and uncharitable cannot be misread as firm, empowered, and responsible.

So my interpretation is that there are many submissives out there who are not clear in their own mind which they want. Or putting it another way – they complain, but they reward abuse and disrespect, and return to it. Power can be addictive. So can “badness” (I’m told – me, I’d run a mile). And everyone knows, nice guys come last.

One of the things I’ve learnt by blogging out my point of view about spanking and traditional relationships is that, even in our specific like-minded community, folks really have different ideas and different preferences. I am becoming more tolerant of this. Personally, I really battle to understand submissives who reward erratic, disrespectful behaviour. But the human psyche and human sexuality is a deep mystery. I’d say “just say no” but that soundbite is taken. If being an abuser or “abusee” is your thing, get to it.

If abuse is not your thing, I offer the old maxim that power and responsibility go hand in hand. The more power one has the more responsibility one needs to show. (And vice versa – one can’t exercise responsibility without power.) I’m sure I’m no angel, but that’s how I see the whole activity: a power play, not a “power trip”.