Essay 1: Absolute Lifestyle D/s

Author: J. Mikael Togneri ©

Used With Author's Permission


Nowhere but in BDSM is quite so much personal opinion passed off as irrefutable fact. That is perhaps not very strange in a lifestyle that is characterized by having no recognized authorities, just sensible guidelines, and no universally defined standards, only gut feelings. Many people are after all vaguely disturbed by anything that doesn't fit neatly into a box or onto a chart. Because of this lack of uniform definitions, no approach to the lifestyle has been more misunderstood – indeed often deliberately maligned – than the absolute lifestyle. In the absence of any attempt to define it, over-active imaginations have had a field day, as much to the detriment of lifestyle D/s at large, as to the embarrassment of those who have succeeded only in demonstrating their own narrow-mindedness.

The adjective "absolute" is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "complete; unrestricted; independent". Based on that, the interpretation of the term "absolute D/s" might appear self-evident, but it is not. "Absolutism" in the lifestyle refers to the small minority at the extreme end of the D/s spectrum where fantasy ends and reality begins. Absolute D/s is not an organized school of thought with its associated dogma. It is, above and beyond anything else, a practice, the way in which some of us pursue our lifestyle. Indeed, the absolute minority contains not only a number of different approaches, but perhaps the greatest diversity found anywhere on the BDSM spectrum.

Nevertheless, it stands to reason that in order for any given approach to be truly absolute, it must conform in its salient features to the definition of that term. This, then, is not an attempt to define the absolute lifestyle in any depth, because that would be quite impossible, but to formulate those relatively few views and practices that are common to all who call their lifestyle and their relationships absolute. As definitions go, this essay could only ever hope to cover the bare bones, as it were.

Absolute D/s is not something that we do as often as "real life" allows, because to us it is real life. It is a lifestyle; the very foundation of all that we do, and everything that we are. Dominance and submission are natural imperatives, not conscious choices; they are driven by instinct, not desire. They do not come in degrees; they either are, or they are not. Reality is the key word in absolute D/s and one cannot, after all, be partially real. Absolute dominants and submissives do not separate D/s from other activities, because it is not an activity in and of itself. Our proclivities for domination or submission cannot be confined to any structure or specific context because they are congenital, not acquired. We dominate or submit, not because we want to do it, but because we can't not do it. In short, natural dominants and submissives are born, not made.

Nor is absolute D/s merely a sexual kink. It is not a variation on an erotic theme, and sexual gratification is not the point of the exercise. The object of absolute D/s is not pleasure, but fulfillment. Sexuality may be – but isn't always – an ingredient; and when it is, it becomes a means, not an end. Even at its most intensely physical, the goal of S&M within absolute D/s is not orgasm, but ecstasy. The natural mechanisms that trigger the responses to which we loosely refer as dominance and submission are different from, but every bit as primordial as, the sexual urges to which they are traditionally – and mistakenly – attributed.

The main difference between mainstream and absolute D/s is subtle but fundamental. Mainstream D/s takes place within the framework of the day-to-day. It maintains the freedom to choose between any one of a myriad of categories and intensities of dominance and submission – sometimes even to shift back and forth between them – but with neither the ability nor the desire to pursue them consistently or totally. Conversely, the absolute lifestyle integrates the day-to-day within the framework of dominance and submission. It pursues dominance and submission totally, because it is the main driving force in every aspect of life, but without the freedom to pick and choose, because each person's route has already been laid out for them by nature.

Mainstream submission is centered upon a particular person and for the most part only in certain circumstances and within certain limits. It can be given and revoked at will, and is often subject to any number of predefined conditions. There is a clear-cut distinction between contexts, and activities such as work and family life are usually considered outside the scope of that submission. Mainstream D/s is a traditional couple relationship where the dominance and submission, however important and defining they might be, are but one of several components.

Absolute submission, on the other hand, is centered upon itself and remains constant in all circumstances. It is unconditional and unlimited, and there is no distinction between contexts since one is a slave always and in all ways. The M/s (as absolute D/s invariably is) relationship is not a traditional couple relationship but a symbiosis, where dominance and submission are not only the defining characteristics of the relationship, but the relationship purely and simply. As a result, where submission usually grows out of love in mainstream D/s, in absolute D/s love sometimes grows out of submission.

A slave is owned in the most literal sense of that term. She is property; chattel; livestock; a commodity – the terms are as many as they are politically incorrect. Master/mistress and slave are not a couple, not partners, not remotely equal, in any way, shape or form; and an absolute M/s relationship typically resembles one of owner/pet rather more than one of person/person.

As with all other property, the owner may dispose of his slave entirely as he sees fit, without exception. There is no negotiation prior to accepting a collar; the dominant states his terms, and the would-be slave takes them or leaves them. There is no partial or temporary consent; it is total, once-and-for-all, and irrevocable. The absolute slave forfeits all human rights and privileges, and has no other – let alone "higher" – duty or obligation, than to serve and obey her owner at all times, in every way, and to the very best of her ability. Because the slave's consent is permanent and all-encompassing, the concept of abuse within an absolute M/s relationship becomes meaningless. Anything that happens is entirely justified by the simple fact that the owner wants it to happen.

In this light the notion of "safe BDSM" that is so often put forward in various forms becomes a contradiction in terms. We do not "scene" in the traditional sense, because the inherent distinctions within the concept do not apply; life itself would be one long, uninterrupted "scene". We do not use safe-words, and the submission and consent must encompass the possibility that even death might ensue. It is a source of great mystery to me that many who call themselves submissives will gladly and without question place their lives in the hands of total strangers, whenever they get in a car or on an airplane, require surgery or eat at restaurants, yet insist on a list of safety mechanisms as long as your arm with the person to whom they purport to submit.

The most readily apparent characteristic of absolute slavehood is that it is primarily service-oriented and unconcerned with what might be gained in return. The absolute slave finds her raison d'être in service to others, and her identity in the greatest possible reduction of self. The term TPE (total power exchange) which is generally regarded as the most "hard-line" form of mainstream D/s relationship cannot apply to absolute M/s because the M/s relationship is a symbiosis, and contrary to common misconception a symbiosis is not an exchange. It is a host/parasite relationship in which it just so happens that both are simultaneously host and parasite to one another. Each symbiant provides something that the other needs, but does so passively, merely by existing – indeed sometimes as a by-product of the very action of getting what it itself needs. Conversely, an exchange requires deliberation and is conditional upon a predefined relationship between giving and receiving.

In absolute M/s the flow of power is one-way only, from the submissive to the dominant, and the giving and taking of power are not contingent upon any exterior conditions or circumstances. The empowerment and serenity of absolute slavehood are not given to her in exchange for her submission, but come from within herself, enabled to do so because a number of life choices and responsibilities have been turned over to the dominant.

For that reason, the absolute lifestyle refutes the frequently encountered mainstream BDSM contention that submission is a gift. This notion is undiluted nonsense no matter the level or type of submission, but in Absolute it becomes downright absurd. A gift is something that is given unconditionally and without expecting anything in return, otherwise it is a transaction. A submissive not only gets back what she gives, but gets more. She submits, not because she chooses to, but because she is instinctively compelled by her own nature to do so, and from the dominant she receives the opportunity to submit. In other words, she gives her dominant all that she is, while the dominant makes it possible for her to be all that she is. Everything that a submissive puts into the M/s relationship is invariably returned to her in refined and augmented form.

Moreover, since submission is primarily to one's own nature, it is not directed at the dominant to begin with, just as what she gets back is not given through any deliberate act of will on his part. So there can be talk of neither an exchange nor a gift, but of the very dynamics of a master/slave relationship: automatic and independent of any conscious effort on the part of either participant.

It must be underscored that a mainstream submissive is not a failed absolute slave, nor is an absolute slave a super-submissive. The difference between mainstream submission and absolute slavehood is neither quantitative nor qualitative, but one of two distinctly separate mind sets, whose common features are superficial at best. The absolute lifestyle accounts for a very small minority on the BDSM spectrum – at a conservative estimate, no more than some 5% of the total BDSM community – but having neither chosen nor worked to achieve this minority status, it would be ridiculous for us to consider ourselves as some kind of élite. Likewise, it is wrong of those who are located elsewhere on the spectrum to consider us fantasy-based, or even sick, as some mainstreamers have called us.

We are neither better nor worse than anybody else, but we are different and we object to anyone who would either deny that difference or deride us for it. Absolute dominants and submissives are the only ones who truly do live D/s as a complete lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with playing at dominance and submission; nothing wrong with being sexually aroused by the fantasy of master/mistress and slave. But it is spectacularly unfair to both those who really are, and those who pretend to be, to place us in the same category.


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