February 24, 2014

“Due to the recent slavery crimes, are the words ‘slave’ and ‘slavery’ appropriate in the context of our leather relationships since we really haven’t had real cases of slavery for a very long time (at least in America)? Perhaps a word like ‘vassal’ and ‘vassalage’ are more appropriate. I don’t think any leather slave would ever introduce themselves to any of the women in these cases as ‘slave x’.”

What you’re suggesting is a complete change in a culture for an imaginary problem. You’re perfectly correct that a “leather slave” would not be likely to introduce themselves as “slave x” to one of the victims of the crimes that you referenced. It is even less likely that one of victims of those crimes would self-identify as a slave or express their ordeal in terms of slavery. Most of the reports I’ve seen have reference kidnapping, and hostage situations, but they don’t specifically reference slavery. Some of the news reports might have used slave-like imagery in their words to describe the conditions under which the victims were held, but if we are to be sensitive to that as a leather culture, we better start tossing out all our chains, cages, shackles, and rope. Once we get rid of those things, we can work on changing the words we use.

There have been many efforts by people over the years to make the BDSM world more “PC” and to stigmatize the words and concepts we use because “someone might get offended.” I’m not interested in a watered-down, sanitized, cleaned-up version of BDSM, and most practitioners I know are similarly uninterested in “clean” BDSM. We were once considered rebels and outlaws. At times we threw beer bottles at police who wanted to arrest us for being gay, and we’re going to be the ones staging sit-ins in homophobic businesses next week in Arizona. Granted, we won’t be alone, we’ll be side by side with our trans* and drag brothers and sisters (the original Stonewall crew, back together again 46 years later!) It’s this devil-may-care attitude of rebellion and tossing off the bonds of oppression that set us apart from the larger community. We shouldn’t be cleaning up our act, and conforming to another’s person’s ideal in order to be tolerated, we should be accepted for who and what we are. All of us should. We are human beings after all.

If that human being choses to identify as a slave, a boy, a daddy, a master, a slut, or a leather person, we should accept and love them for exactly who and what they are, nothing more nothing less. What we do consensually in our own homes, bedrooms, dungeons, sex clubs and bars is nothing like the things that have been done to others without their consent. I don’t think that we should have to stop doing the things we like to do and the things that turn us on, simply because it was done non-consensually to another person in another time. If we lived by that rule, most of the things we do and enjoy would be against the rules.

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