I’m generally not big on labels for myself, though I understand and appreciate how they help many people find community and acceptance for things they thought were freakish. Naming a thing is powerful, whether it’s a kink, an orientation, or a deep personal need. When people learn that this thing they believed they were the only person on the planet to feel that way about is actually common enough to be named, that can give them a huge sense of acceptance.

However, I dislike the way labels sometimes get used against people, even (especially?) by others who use those labels.

I dislike the way they sometimes become “prescriptive” rather than “descriptive.” They become a set of rules you must follow in order to be allowed to use that label, rather than a quick and easy way to recognise like-minded individuals. It’s sad that people try to change their behaviour in order to fit a label that either they’ve chosen or has been given to them. This is especially troublesome when the pressure to change that behaviour is external, from some social group refusing to accept you unless you follow their prescription — as though the label is some kind of club to which you have to gain membership. Sometimes you might not fit a label exactly perfectly, but it’s the closest thing you’ve found so far.

Too many people get so hung up on their label and what it means for them, that they assume they know everything about everyone who uses that label. And in reverse, some people become the “label police” and start dictating who may and may not use the labels, based on whether they fit some arbitrary criteria.

At the same time, I do understand and appreciate how much they give some people a sense of acceptance and identity. That’s how I felt about Polyamory, and this is probably the reason it’s the only label I consistently keep. I spent all my childhood assuming I would never get married, since that meant you had to be with just one person for the rest of your life, and even as a child that sounded absolutely preposterous to me. In adolescence, I learned about hippies and free love, and realised there were other options, but that still didn’t resonate fully as it seemed more about sex and casual relationships. It wasn’t until I heard the term “polyamory” and started researching it, that I realised I could have my cake and eat it too. I could have all the comforts and joys of a loving life partnership, along with the freedom of being able to explore relationship opportunities that happen to fall in my lap.

I’ve identified as polyamorous ever since I learned it was a thing, because having a word for it resolved my cognitive dissonance. But I didn’t grow up with fantasies of submission or pain, so I didn’t have any dissonance to resolve in those areas. Therefore I don’t consider myself “a submissive” but I submit to my husband, and I don’t consider myself “a masochist” but I love being spanked and bitten, sometimes pretty hard, and that hurts but I like it as long as there’s enough sensuality to go with it.

I enjoy submitting to my husband because… well… really it just happened by accident and it was fun and fulfilling, so we kept doing it. I have trouble imagining anyone else whose joy and happiness I would genuinely care about the way I do his, and that’s really what drives most of it. He’s done so much for me, given me so much, and all so selflessly and without expectation, and it just feels so good to be on the other end of that for a change. And for his part, Zeus doesn’t identify as “a Dominant,” although he does enjoy dominating. He’s firmly a switch. As much as he loves getting a reaction out of people, he loves bottoming, he loves subspace, and he loves letting go and being taken to places.

I have a strong tendency to jump into every new thing head first. Zeus is far more careful and cautious. Now that the sub-frenzy is starting to wear off, I’m starting to feel less frantic and desperate about being submissive. As a result, I’m feeling less of a need to identify with labels. I’m genuinely feeling more ready to be patient and follow Zeus as he guides the show. I’m going through the process of updating my kinks list, and I’m writing out my “Wants / Needs” document. I’m committed to getting better at communicating, especially learning when not to communicate! It’s good that I have my blog now, because I can work through a lot of my thoughts without dumping them on him, and he can read them whenever’s a good time for him.

7 thoughts on “submissive? masochist? nah… Labels Shmabels

  1. I’m not one for labels either, they will tend to go from helpful to stifling very quickly leaving people feeling ‘less than’ or wrong. Nice post!

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  2. Thank you for sharing. This is an interesting perspective and one that I am only slowly becoming familiar with because it has differed greatly from my experiences. Now that I am interacting more with the M/f community I am noticing a very different usage of labels and their associated characteristics as a means of inclusion/exclusion. I have met a lot more people who have the, “I felt like I had to because everyone else was doing it…” pressure when it comes to adherence to standards determined by “popular opinion.”

    In the years of my involvement in the kink community this is a concept that will take me a while to fully grasp and I am glad to be becoming more aware of it.

    My experiences with labels has been different in that labels are meant to sort you like a “filter by brand” option in an online shopping cart. If you misrepresent yourself by failing to include an applicable label or including one that should not have, it draws criticism, so a lot of us will try to give an “accurate” portrayal, (or as accurate as you can be using single words to describe yourself). Unfortunately, some of these labels carry such a stigma that they serve more as flags, and once you check that box you may as well change your status to, “Yeah right, good luck, dude.” The F/m community likes to be able to sort through us quickly with these labels to determine who is “worth considering talking to” without having to use much effort. It’s sort of strange how different this is, yet it can be just as destructive to your self-image.

    Take care.

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    1. I suppose it also varies somewhat between people who are actively searching vs in committed relationships (whatever the flavour).

      If the ketchup wants to be taken home and smeared on a burger, it had better say ketchup on the label, and list the ingredients carefully because of allergies. But if you’re making your own ketchup at home, you can put it in an unmarked mason jar because you know what it is and what’s in it, and that’s good enough.

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      1. I like the ketchup idea 🙂

        It does also happen in communities and groups that are meant for discussion. You would think in those environments people would use what people write to form their impression but on more than one occasion I have seen someone totally discount another person’s opinion because of one of their labels/interests. It bummed me out quite a bit to see that.

        Take care.

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