Is D/s a "game" or "for real"? And about "no-safeword" play.
Draft of late September, 2012

Over the years my appreciation has increased for the fact that, not only are newcomers and those on the milder side of D/s (or SM or B&D or BDSM for those who find that term a better fit to What It Is They Do) to be equally respected, but similar observations about those who engage in activities or practices that may seem perhaps 'too heavy.' They may in fact have ideas I or others may later wish to adopt, either literally or in spirit and direction

I do have views on some elements or practices that, while people should be free to exercise, are not ultimately ones I would advocate or think of as healthy, healing, healing, and liberating (HHL is arguably as relevant as SSC — Safe, Sane and Consensual), but in general there is no obstacle to mutual respect. Except in cases where obstacles sometimes do come up, in the form of certain attitudes in some (certainly not all) quarters with this orientation. In light of this, the following is an earnest piece, but is to be read without missing the deliberate irony and gentle humor (certainly not adversarial) that is intended in the points it makes; observations which all of us (mild, heavy, medium or unclassifiable) can perhaps use to fruitfully examine anew the meaning What It Is We Do..

Some "heavier" players, I mean, participants in D/s (pardon me, BDSM) give some of us a verbal pat on the head that it's ok if some of us like to 'play' D/s but for some of them it's real, damn it.

What they seem to forget is that one of the most fundamental definitions of the word "game" is this: An agree-upon set of rules.

Think about it for a minute and see how the definition fits the folks who "life and practice BDSM for real, dammit".

First, if it's not agreed upon then it's non-consensual and illegal, so putting that aside we are left with..

"A...set of rules"

Which is what these heavier and Hard Core players (ahem, I mean, Hard Core BDSM practitioners) have. So some are strictly 24/7, no exceptions, not even when someone is in public, or physically ill or...? Well, that's a set of rules so without needing to comment on whether those are the wisest possible rules, theirs is a game no less than anyone else.

Insist on "no safewords"? Again, without making any judgement (well, maybe elsewhere but not in this mini-essay!) on that choice, it's still a choice, of a set of rules: "no safewords" is part of their "set of rules" that is part of their 'game'.

And don't the most Hard Core folks use the term "scene" which is (not at all coincidentally) a term used for part of a theatrical play? No, this does not make all of D/s a theatrical production, or "it's all make-believe" but while agreeing mostly to the motto of "to each their own" one has to point out the oversimplification of the line that "if some folks like to use D/s in play that's fine but for us it's not play, it's completely real" (paraphrasing)

(And no, I don't think "no safewords" is very wise at all. The wiser will use safewords and the truly thoughtful will find ways of having the same, you name it, thrill, emotional connection and closeness and depth, what have you, the same intensity as if 'no safewords' but with safewords. It just takes more work: more time, and more mental and emotional and communication work)

Afterword: there is a grain of truth to be sure if one is referring indirectly to the (very real) distinction between purely erotic play, versus 'play' (a set of rules, allowing us without drugs to reach altered states of being, and to explore creatively) that is not just erotic, but which involves other aspects, the most commonly cited one is (consensual) power exchange. And if you want 24/7 and if you want "we have M/s (Master/slave) not Dom/sub" and if you want "no-safeword" that's your choice, but let's not oversimplify as if it's either your way or "just using D/s for sexplay".

Let's not forget: We all "play" in games because a game is a mutually agreed upon set of rules for how we behave, act, and relate to one another. Whether in intimate relationships or other parts of society, let us choose our games carefully and wisely, not in automatic pilot or unquestioning adaptation, and based on careful introspection of who we are inside, our deepest goals and values (including empathy for ourselves and for others) and what truly matters as we make our best efforts live our one life in a way we can feel good about when looking back upon it from its dusk.

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