Commitment is often considered a dirty word in our world. We live in a world that is a dance of constantly changing partners and often, commitment seems like a word more suited to the vanilla world, but I’d like to explore the idea of how this concept applies to BDSM and Leather, regardless of how we formulate the boundaries of our relationships. I’ve been reading a book recently that is geared entirely towards extremely vanilla, monogamous relationships. It’s so straight that even the book jacket doesn’t know how to dress itself. ;) Still, this book has some profound ideas that cross boundaries for me.
The author points to what he sees as an epidemic in modern life that continues to destroy relationships. To him, this is all rooted in a growing inability for people to commit…to anything. When you think about it, previous generations formed their lives around commitments. Most men not only remained in the same career or vocation throughout their lives, but they often worked for the same company for that entire span of time. People lived in the same city throughout their lives or the same community. Moving was a rare thing. People remained in lousy marriages and maintained long term family ties, healthy or not. In general, people remained the same religion they were raised in and sought partners of the same, raising their children the same.
For better or for worse, there was a lot of continuity there. Even immigrants coming to the United States in the 1800′s could expect to bring their cultures with them, settle in an area with other immigrants, and live their lives in much the same way.
We live in a different world today, entirely different. The average worker can expect to change careers several times in their lives, let alone simply changing companies or jobs. People move freely depending on where work is available or where they feel they fit in culturally. People go back to college, change majors, change religions, change their eye color. We live in a world where our identity is fluid and we are whatever we choose to make of ourselves, no longer bound to how or where we are born or how or where we were raised. We evolve constantly, cultural and intellectual nomads. Live is a mashup where we pick and choose from everything available, add our own spin on it, and synthesize our own reality into something new and unique.
All this brings wonderful freedom for us to be individuals, to fully live our lives as best fits us. However, like any great gift, it comes at a cost and most often, I think, that cost is felt when it comes to social cohesion. We have lost the ability to commit, both within our romantic lives, partner to partner, but also to commit to friendships, to group affiliations, to communities. The book I am reading, given it’s very narrow perspective, criticizes having a large number of sexual partners before settling down with one partner for life, not because of a moral imperative so much as the idea that having so much experience and variety in one’s sex life leads us to be able to objectively judge our partners. We know what’s out there, so it’s difficult to focus on what we have rather than what we might be missing out on. I don’t quite ascribe to such a narrow point of view as the author, but I do see his point. It often seems like so many people are with one partner or poly group or Leather club or Leather family, yet always have their eyes open, looking for the better deal that might come along. With so many options and it being so easy to move between affiliations, often we find it difficult to focus solely on where we are now, who we are with, what patch is on our back, and where our heart will rest.
We are restless nomads.
In this way, I think we can take the idea of commitment and peel away some of the cultural baggage surrounding it. Commitment doesn’t have to mean a single lover paired with one other, wedding rings, or white picket fences, but that does not mean that it isn’t relevant to our lives still. Commitment can be a choice to give of ourselves fully, without reservation, to those relationships and groups that we do choose to have in our lives, to willingly put on blinders and be loyal to those we are with, be they lovers, play partners, family, or club members. It means not only giving of ourselves fully, but also accepting the other, faults and all, imperfections and irritations. It means taking a leap of faith, not knowing where the path will lead us, but devoting ourselves to follow it together, good, bad, or otherwise.
I believe we in Leather and BDSM have definitely brought sexy back…how about we work on commitment now? Commitment without the stuffiness, without holier than thou church ladies disguised in Leather, but commitment that leads us to deeper, more lasting relationships with each other that enable us to travel further into the deep depths of play and power exchange as well as to care for each other through the tough times, even when we annoy the hell out of each other, as all good families do.
Personally, I’m committing myself to doing this in my own life and trying to stop the ways I’ve held back in the past, being tentative with associations I’ve made. I’m ready to go all in and roll the dice. I’m ready to do it because I realize that in order to gain everything, I need to be willing to risk everything. Commitment that is only partial only leads to partial rewards from our relationships and I believe that a life lived only partially simply isn’t worth it.
What are you committed to?