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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pardon the Intrusion

I am usurping mouse's journal for my own thoughts.  Spirited one did a journal post about slavery.  Upon reading it, I found it simply did not sit well with me.  There is no malice and I certainly respect the views of others.  However, as I age, my views have altered significantly.  I used to believe that loving a "slave" was not needed, because they are property.  I maintain my vehicle, change the oil, keep it clean inside and out, but I do not love it.  The same was true of women I "owned."  While they had strong feelings of love for me, I had no reciprocal feelings for them, as I felt it better to keep my emotions separate from theirs.  It made them, I believed erroneously, better "slaves" and myself a better "master."

Mouse has often written about the changes she has been through on her journey; I am on a journey of understanding as well. 

I wrote a lengthy comment to spirited one, but felt upon reflection it required its own space.  My journal is relatively obscure, so I decided to write this in mouse's space, since these ideals affect her as well.

These opinions are my own and spirited one is entitled to her opinion as well, I believe she has some terminology wrong or perhaps inappropriately applied, as instead of slavery she is confusing indentured servitude with slavery. 

Indentured servitude is where a person became a slave for a period of time, to earn passage or to pay off debt.  Oftentimes Judges would sentence women with small children (along with their children) to such, if their husband's passed away and left behind debts.  These people could be sold to others, with the debt transferred (as you would to refinance a house or car) but remained free individuals.  This was in lieu of being sent to prison, specifically debtors prisons. At the end of their service yes they were free to leave, however during their service they were in fact bound to their benefactor, and often subjected to cruel treatment. 

The chief issue with indentured servants being brought to the new world (America) by their benefactors or owners, is that they would blend with everyone else.  They could easily escape to a new area, and start their lives over (yes in hiding somewhat).  Thus leaving the owner in a situation of having a paid a debt, without being properly compensated. 

The darker people were more easily recognized and became the norm throughout Europe and Americas.  And yes, while they could be freed either by their masters, or if they escaped making their way into "free territory" (Canada in North American), there were no guarantees that if they returned their papers would be honored.  Some were captured and made slaves again.  Some who "lost" their freedom papers were also made slaves again. Many do not realize even our founding fathers here in America grappled with the complex issue of slavery, and some refused to sign the Declaration of Independence because a few wished for a clause to exclude the broad use of slaves, while others still opposed that. 

We, as peoples, have a long history rife with subjugation of others, ancient Egypt kept Jews as slaves.  Babylonians as well kept slaves, as did the Roman Empire.  By historical record these people were property and not treated well at all.  Most died young and all were considered expendable. 

In India they are called untouchables, although the sentiment is changing.  They are for lack of a better term kept at the bottom with no chance of bettering themselves, education, medicine, and even access to clean water are restricted – these peoples are nothing more than slaves subjugated by their low status in society.  In the twentieth century the Nazis stripped the Jewish people of their identity, their possessions and treated them as slaves, and exterminated millions.  They were made to work in camps, experimented upon, and were treated as less than human, in other words subjugated by their Nazi counterparts.  Genocide or ethnic cleansing is slavery to the highest degree and still goes on today.  The useful ones are spared, made to work for the governments in exchange for their lives because they can serve a purpose, while millions of others are executed and tossed away into mass graves. In parts of middle eastern countries, women are still subjugated by men, and can be killed by male members of their family and yes they are sold to their husbands in the form of dowry.  The Taliban believes women and girls should not be educated. 

Remember we are not even discussing the sex trades.  Where children from poor countries are traded like chattel.  Young girls and boys from all over the world are kidnapped, never seen again, and traded to these countries, used as sex slaves.  Their lives are meaningless.  When they outgrow their usefulness they are generally murdered and their bodies dumped like trash.  The governments acquiesce to the abuse, doing nothing to stop it. 

In the BDSM world there are consensual slaves but I am growing ever uncomfortable with that distinction.  Perhaps I am too worldly and too thinking, but there are those, as in all society out on the fringe who do believe that once someone hands over their lives to another are nothing more than chattel. I have known many women, who envied those who were kidnapped and forced into slavery.  One in particular would masturbate while reading the Time Magazine story of "the girl in the box."   I laughed it off as fantasy until one day she disappeared and have no idea what became of her.  

The moniker of Master is something I have grown difficult with as well for some time. While I do pride myself on being in control of mouse, and the head of my house, I am exceedingly pained by those on the fringe who believe because I am often kind to mouse, regularly use common courtesies, and behave as a gentleman I am less.  However mastery has different definitions and seems, at least to me, to be more acceptable, than slave.

I myself would like to see a different terms or definitions put to use in the BDSM world, since the Webster Dictionary carries watered down definition of the word, which is somewhat demeaning, and ignores vastly the moral ramifications of that very word, "slave."  Perhaps adding "consensual" is enough to distinguish it, however I remain conflicted. 

15 comments:

  1. ROFLMAO, I have a half finished post along these lines sitting in my drafts page right now. I'll probably still post it, but with some revisions. Still, on the whole I agree completely with you. And as you know, I have refused to term what my Ladies and I do as BDSM for quite some time. Thanks for having the guts to question dogma out loud.

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  2. Somehow I had sensed you would understand the prima facia ideal or notion of the term slave. I think in this lifestyle it is romanticized, to the point of near nausea, without a clear understanding of the import of the word.

    I am sure many disagree with my point, and that is fine since I can handle it, I only hope that they do not take it out on mouse.

    Thank you,
    Omega

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  3. I know words are just words - but this one carries a particular and particularly awful lot of meaning, history, and reality for those involved, past and present.

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  4. I am on board, lets find the new term and then work a bringing it forth. I think we may find some ideas at taken in hand.

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  5. Bravo!

    I have struggled to reconcile the definitions and realities of certain terms with their use within the community. Just because a group of individuals recycles a term and uses it for its own purposes does not negate it's true meaning or historical impact. This same debate is carried out on a much larger stage as groups within our society come to terms with the impact of attempting to co-op certain perjoratives.

    Ahhh Omega, one of the few to stir me all that distracts,

    I hope all y'all are doing well :)

    CD

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  6. Omega, Sir,

    I certainly don't disagree. I think what it comes down to is how people perceive a term and well... the term "slave" has picked up some pretty ugly perceptions over the the centuries as you've pointed out. I'm just not sure changing the term will change people's perceptions in what we do.

    I really don't know how to explain myself better. I guess to really understand from my perspective you have to realize that I'm already living with the negative connotations that go along with my spiritual beliefs. If I tell someone that I'm pagan or a practicing witch, most people's first impulse is to believe that I'm a evil satanic worshiper. About 30 years ago someone came up with the term Wicca as a way of altering people's perceptions of our spiritual beliefs, but it didn't work. Now Wicca is just lumped right in there with "witch" and "pagan" as some evil thing.

    Not that I'm trying to compare this with slavery, but in many ways I feel like it's the same thing. Will changing a term really alter someone's perception of what we do? Any way you look at it, it's still going to be considered slavery. People are still going to think we're being abused even when we're not, or forced into something against our will. I suppose in some ways I feel like trying to call it something else may even make some people more suspicious... like we're trying to hide slavery behind another clever little term.

    I'm not against using another term to describe who we are (I even found bondmaid to be a quite intriguing alternative in a medieval-ish sort of way) because I understand a lot of people, even people in the lifestyle, have a serious aversion to it, and rightly so. At the same time, though, while I do have issues with how slaves have been treated in the past and how they are even being treated now, I don't see anything wrong with the term slave as a whole... and yes, I think adding consensual to it certainly does change the meaning, but it seems a lot of people still can't get passed the slave part.

    I'm of the mind really that if someone came up with another term to describe what we are, I'd be happy to adopt it, but at the same time I have no issues with referring to myself as a slave either. Greengirl actually just got me thinking on this issue again too, but I'll probably have to blog about it cause this has gotten too long. LOL

    Take Care,

    spirited

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  7. Thank goodness it doesn't matter what you call it a person cannot truly be a slave unable to change circumstances as in the past.The danger is in trivializing our history by usurping the terminology. Also I heard Spirited actually defending real slavery . Some slaves were well fed could not be killed and so forth.

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  8. Omega,

    I just finished and posted my thoughts on the subject (Originally begun ten days ago. See what happens when you procrastinate?) so I'll not banter much here. But you seem to be of similar opinions as I on many topics, and I just want to say God help the fool that reacts in anger at your opinions by taking it out on Mouse. Should that happen, if there's anything left of them at all, can I have it?

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  9. I'd like to point out that I was not defending slavery... I was merely pointing out the fact that not all slaves were treated in an abusive manner... the fact that being a slave is not defined by how you treat a person. A slave can be treated with respect. How they are treated it determined by the mindset of the people who own them.

    By most people's definition of slavery, I can say that Asha spend 4 days as a slave last year when he worked 70 hours in 4 days and then never got paid for it. And the guy treated him (and the other guys working for him) like a worthless piece of meat.

    Seriously... maybe what we need is a clarification on what the definition of slavery actually is because I see a slave as anyone who bound in service to another. I don't think how they came to be in that service or how they are treated is what determines whether or not they are a slave. That's my whole point.

    spirited

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  10. Sir J - I am certainly not an authority on Taken In Hand, but I think that with sentiments like "When rape is a gift", the TIH community will end up with the same kind of problem with redefining well established concepts, just as this struggle with the BDSM concept of slavery.

    Also, TIH seems to me to have even less freedom to define your own lifestyle (no polyamory, homo- or bisexuality - pretty much just a very conservative view of gender roles with some added spanking). I apologise if I'm misrepresenting TIH, this is just my impression.

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  11. It is for this reason that i have blogged about what Padrone and i believe so strongly. It really doesn't matter what our "label" is, what matters is living our relationship in a way that makes us both happy.

    For me, that means giving much authority to control my life to Padrone, as much as i realistically can given the geographical distance between us. For Him, that means using that authority wisely and effectively - as much as is realistically possible.

    We live our lives to make *us* happy, not for any idealized or romanticized notion that anyone else may have of D/s, BDSM, or what a Master is or what a slave is. In that, Omega, Sir, we agree.

    For us, it simply means that we express our personalities in strong, mutually beneficial and satisfying ways, even if some highly unusual ones!

    I have no idea if any of this made a lick of sense or not, but i guess i wanted to say that labels really don't matter to anyone except who is on the outside looking into a relationship, or not to us at least.

    And as i have said before, Padrone is the nicest man i know, he is a good person who has a very dominant personality. The kind of man who truly treats his woman (or women) as dirt all the time is no Master, he is merely playing a role that lines up with what he thinks others expect of him. Omega, Sir, i think you discovered that yourself, even if you may not totally agree with me, but you know, now, what it means to be a Master and not simply "look" like one, imho.

    Shutting up now. Sorry for the novel.

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  12. anonymous,

    I understand I am commenting on this a bit late, however it should be said that spirited is entitled her opinion and I respect it, as it falls very much in line with countless others in the BDSM community. Nowhere did she defend "real" slavery, only pointing that many cultures view it differently.

    Omega

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  13. In a way i agree with anonymous's words. IF, when we spoke of "slaves" in the BDSM sense, it had the same literal meaning as it does historically, then yes, i would not even call myself slave, because of the historical realities of what an actual slave was.

    But, the reality is that slaves in the BDSM sense, who belong to Masters and not to abusers, are *not* the same.

    Consensual slavery - voluntarily entering the confines of a relationship whereby authority over one's life, and therefore control, is given to another person - is not the same as being born into slavery, captured and held by threat of physical violence and harm, or being sold to another person as literal property. There just can't be a valid comparison made, imho.

    Slaves in the southern US, as well as so many in other parts of the world and in different eras of history, were true property. They weren't simply *treated* that way. Yes they were sometimes treated well by their Masters, and the rare slave was freed, and even former slaves (rarely) owned slaves themselves but the vast majority had no education, little medical attention other than what they provided for themselves, little respect, and their only value was in their ability to work hard, long hours to earn Masters more money. Cost-saving measures were often used in the types of food given to slaves. Female slaves were often used for sexual pleasure, but it was often rape and another means to subjugate and show disdain for slaves, rather than out of physical desire.

    i didn't mean to get into all of this, but i really do believe that anonymous's point on this blog (i didn't read the ones made on spirited's), while not worded very well or very clearly, is valid at its essence. We DO run the risk of trivializing the actuality, the harsh realities, of true historical slaves by trying to say that we, who have freedoms that they dared not even dream of, are in the same position.

    We are BDSM slaves, consensual slaves, voluntary slaves, we CHOOSE to do this. That is what makes all the difference in the world, and we must not forget that the freedom to leave a relationship is the most basic factor that prevents us from being true slaves. Historical, true, total slaves had no such freedom...and while so many women nowadays argue that they don't...they do, in reality. It takes a phone call to an abuse shelter, if no family or friends are available to help - if she feels she can't leave on her own.

    i am hushing on this now, and i won't comment again. And i don't know what was said as a comment on the other blog, so if it seems as if i am "siding" with someone and against someone else, please know it isn't my intention at all. i am commenting to what was said "here" and nothing more.

    And i won't comment again, promise!

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  14. Ms Lennox,

    I am not a expert in Taken in Hand either and was not meaning to take up there cause per say. I merely meant to point to them as a group that is seeking to redefine the terminology around TTWD.

    We could look to them for ideas on what worked as well as what does not.

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  15. Sir J - I was just thinking that there might be similar difficulties with the terminology in Taken in Hand as the one we are discussing here. That was all. Let me stress that I don't think that TIH condone real rape. And I cirtainly think you are right in looking to other lifestyles for inspiration and new ideas - that is in part what I am doing myself in trying to understand kink and BDSM.

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