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20 August, 2007

You're Mine Now, But You're Not My Slave

(Title pulled from this song, which is entirely in keeping with the sense of perverse humor that my music collection frequently exhibits.)

I was chatting with Annwyd the other day about, among other things, kink stuff, and she asked me about the words I use in public discussion of my relationship with my liege. Such as whether terms such as 'my liege' were common in the community, or whether that was our personal thing.

We actually have spent a lot of time talking about language and connotations of language. Trying to talk about what we're doing with reasonable accuracy matters to me a great deal.

I don't use 'my liege' in private space with him, generally, but I imagine I might well when I feel like playing high protocol in a whimsy; I have other language for the personal. But after a lot of discussion, we came to the conclusion that this was a useful model for what our dynamic was: an exchange of service for protection and territory. (Love? Wikipedia reminds me that one of the services a vassal owes is "counsel". Scolding reinforced.)

The territory is an interesting thing -- in an early conversation I said something like, "So, if you're my liege, what's my fief?" But there's this whole scope of space and resources available to me in order to provide service, difficult to articulate; a discussion on a BDSM community on livejournal suggested that the relationship itself was the relevant form of territory, which is close enough for government work. The whole thing is an abstraction -- I mean, an original-framework vassal's primary service is military rather than sexual -- but it works for the shape of things.

It works for the notion that I am valuable, that my strength supports his; a weak vassal is less valuable to the liege, after all. It makes my power something worth developing, turns being strong of itself into a form of service. (And I can get antsy around 'power exchange' language, because, as I've written before, my experience of a stable d/s relationship is not 'power exchange' but 'power unleashing' or maybe 'power revelation'. And this is not unrelated.) Which gets around to my incomprehension at the notion that a dominant must be better or more skilled than the submissive in order for the relationship to be successful, when that's so orthogonal to the lines of power, the creation of the space of the fiefdom in the dynamic and the choice to grant it in exchange for service.

And it's an abstracted and idealised sort of version of flow of power, but that's not exactly uncommon in the kink community for framing structures. Witness language like master/slave, after all ...

Part of our discussion about terminology came down to connotations on words. For example, while I refer to him as my master in some discussions (mostly where the kink aspect to our relationship is relevant and I don't want to get bogged down in "what was that word?" discussions), I do so with permission. "Master", unadorned, suggests to him rather a lot of breadth of scope; a term for, say, Lugh Samildánach. Similarly, 'slave' carries a heavy connotation of nonconsensuality rather than chosen service, and he values greatly that I choose to offer these things to him.

Which isn't to say that we don't wander off in the occasional sex slave direction as part of occasional interaction, but more often I am called 'hetaera'. To play with a completely different historical practice abstracted outwards.

I'll close off with something from Annwyd, 'cause I asked her for permission to quote her and then didn't actually cite anything from our conversation the whole post: "I find that sort of...not exactly roleplaying, but *use* of these very dramatic, elegant be kind of hot. ;) Don't know if I have the discipline to keep it up in a relationship, but man."


    You're missing the whole point-- you're not my little pet
    Don't throw away your life-- the game's not over yet
    I do not own your soul--don't want you in a cage
    I only want your heart to find a special place

    You're mine now but you're not my sister
    You're mine now but you're not my slave
    You're mine but you're not my child
    You're mine now but you're not my slave
    You're mine now but you're not my slave


Annwyd said...

The puzzling concept that the dominant is better, stronger, more than the submissive crops up everywhere, really. A lot of people seem incapable of understanding a relationship where there are two different things--dominant and submissive, top and bottom, male and female, whatever--without characterizing one of them as better or more important in some way.

Maybe it's the way society is set up--we have too many concepts that require "2a + 2b = c" to translate into "a > b." If that makes any sense.

devastatingyet said...

I really like your liege/vassal framework. That is neat.

I call my darling my "slave" but only because the word packs such a satisfying punch. And I do not see him as "lesser" than me, or wish to.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

*kicks blogspot for throwing a weird error at her and losing her previous comment*

That word really does have a hell of a lot of thud in it, doesn't it?

It's actually interesting to me to be in this situation, as I'm less sensitive to the semantics than he is. And it's not common that I'm less sensitive to semantics than someone else. ;) It gets used sometimes, but most of the time from me rather than from him, I'm pretty sure.

Also, went over to look at your place ('cause I figure it's polite to do when people leave me comments), and your "Slave" post is very hot.

devastatingyet said...