word studies

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…


Lifestyle

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.


Shame

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.


Normals

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.)


Deep Submissive

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.

questions: sexual object

I often get questions from watchers, followers, and friends in person and on email that circle around this subject of my being a sexual object. I have written on this other times before, but the questions keep on coming, and sometimes my answers change a little given my ongoing slavery and my further experiences.

Is it your experience that you are viewed as a sex object by most people most of the time?

Yes. Not everyone, but many know what I am, and so they have that context for me. And that’s a kind of permission, I think, for them to view me sexually, that is, through a lens that interprets me as a sub-slave and sees me a woman who is kept to be sexual and used sexually.

I make a slight distinction between “sex object” and “sexual object.” (Maybe it’s just a nerd-word thing.) I think “sex object” is about people looking at me and imagining literally having sex with me. I’m not sure that’s so often true, but then, I don’t know, and you would have to ask them. But “sex object” leads one to think of the act of sex. “Sexual object” encompasses much more, suggesting a constant life of being sexual, whether or not sex is part of it — one who lives in an existence of sexual presentation and permission and play.

Do you think people in regular life, strangers who meet you, detect what you are and see you as a sexual object?

Amanda tells me they do. But I think she’s kind of saying that to make me feel more aware of myself that way. I don’t know.

I do think that over time in the lifestyle you are conditioned to react and respond in certain ways that are submissive in nature. You sit a certain way, walk and stand a certain way. You are more passive and open in non-verbal patterns. Normals don’t necessarily know what that comes from, but they notice. They might think “there’s something different about her” in a way they can’t pinpoint.

So maybe I’m an open book even to strangers. I don’t really know.

How do you feel about being seen and approached by people as a sexual object?

It’s a mix.

Much of the time, it energizes me and arouses me. It can be very fun and enjoyable for me. I think my pleasure in being sexually objectified comes from my submissiveness — I am fulfilled submissively by being made to be sexual and being presented in sensual and sexual ways.

Yet it is, contradictorily, a kind of humiliation, a reduction of “me” to my physical body and sexuality — say, like my serving drinks while topless. There is in that a feeling of shame, mostly that I am allowing that to be done to me. Yet for a sub-slave, humiliation and shame are often also rewarding and exciting and satisfying. So it can feel “bad” but also feel pleasurable.

This is the submissive’s paradox.

You can laugh, but a part of me feels that being sexually objectified is a kind of therapy I can provide to others. I don’t mean to get too full of myself in this, but I believe that we live in a culture where people are afraid of and ashamed of their own sexualities. So many people are paralyzed sexually. If by encountering me they have some moment of pleasure in me as a sexual object, and if it opens them up, then I feel I’ve done something good. (To tell a secret, I have thought that in another life, I would find great meaning and value in being a sex therapist.)

On the down side, there is always the regret I am not more appreciated for my “other” skills. Being a sub-slave is a reduction of worth, and as a submissive, you have let go of higher expectations when you enter the lifestyle. You do, but some of that still remains. Amanda does a good job of touting my abilities and interests, though she likes to delver it as a backhanded compliment — “Shae not only has great tits, she’s a fine writer too.” (She says that to tease me, but she does say it.) My point is that even though I know what my lifestyle requires, and I willingly embrace my sexualization, maybe ten percent of the time I wish for more.

Do you get tired of being a sexual object?

I think the training and conditioning of a sub-slave gives her a greater capacity for this objectification from other people. I have been conditioned in this way, and I can handle a lot of it. I have developed a higher need-tolerance for being objectified and sexualized. That wasn’t true before I entered the life.

But I know how it sounds to other women — I used to be one! — and this all sounds pretty ridiculous and impossible, if not offensive. But again, it’s the nature of the lifestyle and its culture and my special reality of being a deep submissive.

Even for me, though, there are down times. At times I feel exhausted by it, and even turned off by it. I have my cycles, biological and otherwise, like every woman. But my down times are more like ten percent of the time, at different periods, so to speak.

Can you say more about pleasure and shame in being made into a sexual object and being viewed that way by everyone?

There’s an important difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is about your own sense that you’ve done something bad. Long ago, I let go of my sense of this life as being wrong, as being sin. I just don’t believe that anymore. So I don’t think that being a sexual object, a woman of sensual and sexual identity, is a bad thing that I do. I have come to a point where I don’t have to overcome within myself a moral objection to it. So it’s not for me a feeling of guilt.

But shame is different. Shame is a sense of being judged publicly and socially, by others, as being bad in comparison. I feel shamed many times in the course of my submissive life. Being seen and treated as a sexual object is a kind of public humiliation, though, as I’ve said, there is pleasure and fulfillment in it too. I don’t think what I’m doing is wrong, but I am aware I am judged and looked down on by a social world — which believes that a normal (or good or respectable) woman does not do such things.

I have come to believe that feeling shame and humiliation in the sub-slave life are necessary and important. It will always feel this way to me, and it will always need to. That’s another subject entirely.

In being viewed by friends and strangers as a sexual object, I feel humiliated and shamed. Even as I enjoy it rather immensely.

apology

Yesterday morning, after bringing Amanda her coffee, I apologized to her.

In writing about her and me, I try to accurately reflect the true nature of our relationship, good and bad, though mostly it’s pretty good. I think for the most part it comes out is it really is. We really do get along famously well. But we are not always peaches and cream. We each have our moments and moods. I know I annoy her at times, and on a rare occasion I resist her dominance and step out of my proper submissive place. She too has her moments of frustration and sharpness, sometimes bringing it to bear on me. We are people who sometimes grate on each other as all imperfect people do.

Lately, just this past week, I’ve been the one with an attitude. I’ve been a bit out of sorts. It’s been nothing egregious or disobedient, subtle for sure, to the point that most people, if watching, would never notice. Except Amanda notices everything with me, even the slightest listing of our our boat to one side. This is the beauty and curse of being so attuned to another’s soul.

So in the morning after setting her coffee down on the end table, I say I need to apologize.

“For what?”

“I think you know.”

“Yes, but I want to hear you say it.”

“I’ve been, well… ragged with you the past few days.”

“Yes, you have.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why have you been like this?” Amanda asks even though she knows. She knows I’m not on my period and have no health reason for my off-kilter edge — the only thing likely is that we are visiting my mother this week.

I have written recently that I am not so nervous about Christmas now, that my Thanksgiving time with Mother, my coming out to her, was The Big Deal. That’s all true, and I really have been reasonable copacetic about the Christmas visit to Mom with Amanda. I’m actually looking forward to it. Even so, I’ve been in my own reverie about it these past few days, preoccupied, and as a result a little off-center with Amanda.

I say: “Christmas, I think.”

Amanda nods. “It’s going to be fine, Shae.”

“I’ve just been distracted by it. And I’ve been less than attentive to you and sometimes edgy in my comments and just out of sorts and I’m really sorry.”

Amanda says nothing. She lets my confession hang in the air. Her head bobs slightly, as if thinking about the consequence for me or perhaps as a mild acceptance or approval. I can’t read her.

I ask, “Are you going to punish me?”

“Do you want me to punish you?”

“No, I don’t,” I say honestly. “But I deserve to be.”

This is a common script between us. I feel I deserve punishment for things that are essentially my lack of perfection. Penance and punishment are themes in my writing because they are themes in my life. Amanda doesn’t accept this, and usually finds, somehow, a way of sorting through it and navigating the maze that is me.

“Sit on the couch with me,” she says, patting the cushion beside her.

I do so. I realize this is part of her navigation of things, how to address me in the moment, whether as her girl slave or as her girlfriend. Sitting with her on the couch levels the conversation, the two of us talking as intimate friends.

“Shae,” she finally says, “you have a way of making this so difficult.”

“I thought that’s why you like me so much.”

With a wry grin, she slowly shakes her head — she knows that’s kind of true. “Shae,” she says. “Thanks for talking to me about this. But no harm done.”

“I feel I have failed you lately.”

“Let it go. It’s OK. You have emotions about all this with your mom, and that’s perfectly natural. No one should punish you for that.”

“OK.”

“Shae, hear me,” she says. “You should not punish you for that.”

I look at her for a long time, letting it sink in. I am aware that my feelings of guilt and need for penance seem to congregate in connection with my mother and my childhood. There’s a lot of deep stuff there. “OK,” I finally say. “I get it.”

Amanda sips her coffee, then speaks again, but now in a change of tone and subject. She mentions our travel schedule and what she’s packing. She asks me if there are any real dress-up occasions in the week, and I say no.

Later, out of the blue, Amanda says, “Shae, I want you to take your clothes off for the rest of the morning.”

“I thought you said I didn’t need to be punished.”

“It’s not a punishment,” Amanda says. ”I just like looking at your naked body.”