I wrestle sometimes with the way particular words are used, especially in the context of D/s understanding. Occasionally I like to post something about my musings on the meaning of these words. I realize many people are not so interested, but I hope followers can indulge my interest here…
I use this word all the time, but only because I have to.
“Lifestyle” sometimes carries the sense of a wealthy, lavish existence. In certain uses it connotes artistic choices of decor and style. It’s also an overused advertising word. In all of these cases, “lifestyle” suggests superficiality.
Also, the word “lifestyle” implies a casual, maybe trendy choice — “we like being outdoors and have an active lifestyle” or “we’ve decided to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle.”
Of course, D/s lifestyle is not superficial nor casual nor trendy. It’s a serious and hard choice to live in a different relational structure, a demanding (often) 24/7 commitment, and a radical departure from normal life.
And more to the point — D/s is a relationship not a lifestyle. In the vanilla world, newlyweds don’t say, “We decided to live a married lifestyle.” Marriage is to be an intimate relationship of the highest order, and “lifestyle” cheapens it.
Yet “lifestyle” says a bunch of stuff very succinctly. It is by definition “a mode of living,” and for the most part that’s how I use it. D/s is a different mode of living from other vanilla modes of living.
I can’t get away from using “lifestyle,” but I still wrestle with it every time.
In therapy, it is now commonly thought that “shame” is about one perceiving oneself as unworthy. This has been spearheaded by the work of Brene Brown, which has influenced my sessions with my therapist — who has in turn influenced me.
In that pantheon of “bad feeling” definitions, guilt is when you are literally responsible (“I shot the sheriff”). Shame is when you see yourself as faulty (“I am deficient; I am bad”). Humiliation is the experience of being seen or viewed by others as you are being disgraced. Embarrassment is a fleeting, often accidental, experience of being exposed — as when your bikini strap breaks at the beach. (I hate it when that happens!)
A further helpful distinction is that humiliation is more about the situation you’re in and shame is more about who you are.
Therapists’ counsel is to avoid self-shaming language and negative thinking. I agree with that, and for a long time in my blog-writing I avoided using the word “shame.”
However, I have started to use it again, and here’s why.
Outside of the counseling context, “shame” is also an emotion of deep intensity. In my slave experiences, “embarrassment” is rarely appropriate because my situations are not fleeting or accidental and the emotion the word suggests is too mild. I go often to the word “humiliation,” which is more apt. But at times there’s another level beyond humiliation, and it feels like it needs another gear. It’s then I need the word “shame.”
(As an aside, I think that in the D/s world, there are simply not enough words for these experiences. “Humiliation” carries much of the load, but is overkill in some cases, and insufficient in others. There are words like “abasement” and “ignominy,” which I use sometimes but are more archaic and less known. It is said that in certain Scandinavian native languages there are more than 300 words referring to “snow.” I don’t need 300 but it would be nice to have at least five words for “humiliation.”)
There’s another point to be made: in D/s, a slave is both highly valued and deeply disgraced at the same time. I agree that a slave should never feel unworthy; to the contrary, she is seen as being extraordinary in the life of D/s. But what she is — a woman kept, a woman used — is also a status of disgrace, and it’s appropriate for her to wear that as “shame.”
An example: I think of my experiences being made topless in the house around our handyman, Blake. My reaction to that goes deeper than just the sense of his visually feasting on my breasts. That much is humiliation. But in those situations he knows I am bared to him because I am an adult woman who is owned and kept as a slave. He knows my breasts are naked for him because of what I am. In this case, “shame” is the word that more fully expresses it.
“Shame” is a necessary word sometimes.
There are two words/phrases I’ve recently coined, and this is one.
In my usage, “normals” is a stand-in for “vanilla people,” those who lead non-D/s lives — ordinary people doing normal things.
Some have commented that by using the word “normals” in my writing I am suggesting that being a submissive is “abnormal.” No, that’s not my belief nor my intent. “Normals” is simply a statistical reality. More people are not submissive than those who are, and they are the norm.
Likewise, only two percent of the world population are redheads like me. The norm is for people to have black or brown hair — they are the “normals” because that’s what’s statistically most common. It doesn’t mean that as a redhead I am defective.
(However, what are the stats about a woman like me being both a redhead and a submissive? That makes me unusual for sure, though Mistress A would quickly say, “Don’t get too full of yourself, Shae. It doesn’t mean you’re special.” OK, then.)
The other phrase I’ve coined recently is “deep submissive.” I use this as a noun, describing one who is extremely submissive by nature. I am a deep submissive. (Duh.)
This is a term of degree and type. There are submissives of all kinds. I sometimes use the phrases “curious submissive,” “casual submissive,” and “role-play submissive.” A “deep submissive” refers to those of us who have an intensely strong need to live submissively.
For a deep submissive, the D/s life is not a casual or experimental thing. It is an immersive existence. The deep submissive is wired differently in how she experiences life and in the kinds of relationships she needs. For the deep submissive, submissiveness is part of her sexual orientation. For her, being dominated is not just a wish but a desperation, not just a desire but a need.
“Deep submissive” is one who seeks to live deeply embedded in a life of being dominated.
That’s all, folks.