Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cognitive dissonance and BDSM

It took four and a half days. Finally, someone was brave enough to leave the comment I had been expecting from the moment I finished writing the post I called Ouch. Screwed up again.

This morning, goodgirl wrote:
Hello
For reasons I can not even explain nor understand myself your last sentence, "a man has the right to beat his slave" prickled me to my very core. To each his/her own; freedom of speech and choice I believe but reading those words felt offensive and is just one of the many reasons why I feel conflict with the exchange of Dominance/submission; Sadism/masochism; Master/slave.

You appear very happy in your relationship and that is truly all that matters for you and the exchange you have.

For me though, this entry just fills me with sadness. 

The full quote, the last two lines of my post, is this:
Whether for punishment or pleasure,
a man has the right to beat his slave.

Here, an admission.
I felt extremely uncomfortable as I wrote it.
And I left it in as a challenge.
A challenge as much to myself as to my readers.

Because that is a horrible thing to say.
As a concept, as a tenet, it is absolutely inexcusable.
And yet.
I thought it.
I felt it.
At that time.
In that context.
As I wrote.
But if I let myself truly think about it, my stomach clenches.

So I tried not to think about it.

An exquisite example of cognitive dissonance.

As I write about it now, I'm suddenly reminded of something very different. Or maybe not so different as a psychological experience.

I was raised an atheist. A third-generation left-wing Jewish atheist. While my parents gave us a strong sense of Jewish identity, they were very clear on the non-existence of God. Religion was something that distracted people from improving the lot of the masses and making the world a better place. (Knowing very little about Judaism, they didn't know that tikkun olam, healing the world, is precisely the job we were given, but that's another discussion entirely.)

Eventually, I was drawn - felt compelled - to learn more about the religion of my ancestors. I talked with a rabbi, I read, I went to services, I found things I could relate to. But largely I preferred services that were mostly in Hebrew. Despite the fact that I didn't know what I was saying.

In fact - precisely because I wouldn't know what I was saying.

Because otherwise the highly rational part of me would push past the part that found meaning and fulfillment in ritual, the part that sensed the existence of something else, and while poking at my stomach would say: "How can you say this stuff?!?"

I rarely ascribe things to "God." Notice that above, when I spoke of tikkun olam, I didn't say it was the job that God gave us. That makes me extremely uncomfortable. And yet, I really have, on a few widely disparate occasions, become disconcertingly aware of something else.

I do not like talking about those occasions.
They make me extremely uncomfortable.
And yet they were very real.

Cognitive dissonance makes us very uncomfortable.

There is another psychological state that walks hand-in-hand with cognitive dissonance. And that is suspension of disbelief. A very deliberate suspension of disbelief.

Yes, I am very happy in my relationship. But I am admittedly uncomfortable enough about a few of its aspects that I don't reveal it to friends who are not part of this world. They would worry about me. And really, rationally, how could I blame them? Aside from everything else, I should be out looking for someone who will commit to looking after me as I grow older. Who could take care of me, financially and otherwise. Instead I have made a commitment to a man who... well, you know. Or some of it at least. You've read it here.

In order to write what I do, not to mention do what I do, I push away my thoughts of real slavery. Of real abuse, sexual and otherwise. Of forced prostitution, of children who are sold, of children whose real daddies do things to them that no child should have to endure. Things that no daddy should even think of doing. These are real horrors in the world - realities we should not close our eyes to, realities we should not close our minds to, realities we must acknowledge even as we do things that some of us, at least - perhaps precisely because our awareness is so keen - feel we must keep from those who care about us.

So I write from another place.
That place from which I can say
a man has the right to beat his slave.
For pleasure or punishment.

But there was no way I could go deeply enough into that place to enable me to write that line without cognitive dissonance standing on my shoulder, like an angel of good intent, whispering into my ear the true horror of the words I left for you to read.

So thank you, goodgirl, for being honest enough to admit what you felt.
Because if we didn't have those feelings,
at least sometimes,
we would have to seriously question our own humanity.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A reassurance, for my new readers and for those who may have forgotten.  None of us, in any relationship, can truly say that our safety is assured, whether physical or emotional. The old hit-by-a-bus possibility. But I can say this. This man I write about - this sadist - is aware of the potential dangers and works very hard to protect me. And it is that level of consciousness that feels like the greatest protection of all.

5 comments:

Latona said...

I loved this post. I have often felt myself in that state of cognitive dissonance for various reasons. Definitely the feelings derived from being mastered incite a great deal of internal conflict. However I wasn't bothered at all by the remark that a man has a right to beat his slave. Because the word slave encompasses all those rights, it's not synonymous for other things. A man doesn't have the right to beat his woman, his pet, his children, or his mate. But his slave is another creature, and there lies the beauty, to me of the dynamic. The right to such things also bears a responsibility, don't forget.

Vesta said...

This is all so poignant for me this morning. I think I was in some sort of "cognitive dissonance" state myself this morning for I was, you see, cindi. My "owner" reminded me many times that I was an object and that an object just accepts what happens to her/it. I bunkered down into my sweet spot where I do indeed just accept and that provided with a lovely state of freedom.

I think your initial statement is just fine as it relates to a healthy relationship where you know you can trust your partner completely. I know I can.

In terms of all other relationships, where there is a good chance of emotional and physical harm, the statement does, of course, raise issues. I think I know Good Girl well enough to say that she would agree with this. But, we shall see...

Anonymous said...

Now, this is fascinating. I understand just what goodgirl meant. I think there can only be a few of us who have not gone through the agony of wondering why we crave what we crave, when, as happens from time to time, we are enjoying any of a number of acts - beating, humiliation, boot-licking, being our Daddy Dom's little baby girl - and suddenly, a bulletin arrives in our brains urgently advising that this is BAD, WRONG and TERRIBLE, and that we should be grateful for the fact that we are not subject to such dreadful treatment.

I know it's put me right off things from time to time. So I definitely understand that aspect.

But, surely, it's a matter of context? If we recast the sentence to read, "Whether for punishment or pleasure,
a man (in a consensual BDSM relationship) has the right to beat his (consensual) slave," it becomes dreadful, stilted English, but clarifies the context. Oddly, when I responded to the post, I took that sentence as a given.

And yet, I lie awake nights, fretting, as do many of us, (it seems, at least on a cursory reading, that a lot of us involved in these activities are fearfully socially aware), about those "real" problems in the world.

The ones that sometimes, (Oh, outrageous irony!), sometimes, in our private context, turn us on unbearably.

So it didn't even penetrate, as I read it. Odd.

I thought, myself, that Latona nailed it, in her response to this post. And, I truly enjoyed what everyone brought to the discussion, and hope not to have offended anyone. Whew. Compelling subject, OG. - jcn

oatmeal girl said...

Thank you all for your comments. I do hope there will be more. As expected, the title was not a very good marketing tool. Accurate, perhaps, but not very effective at attracting readers.

I did try to come up with a sexy, alluring title for the post, but finally said "Fuck it" and went for honesty.

As for cognitive dissonance itself, it's a concept that has fascinated me since I first learned about it. But note that an integral part of the definition is the anxiety one feels from the contradictory ideas. What fascinates me even more are those people who hold contradictory opinions, are utterly oblivious to the contradiction, and feel no anxiety whatsoever. I'll refrain from giving examples, as I'm sure you can all come up with some of your own.

Thanks again for weighing in and helping to continue the discussion.

o.g.

mamacrow said...

now this is interesting because it wasn't the slave bit that grated with me.

there's been various discussions on various blogs about the use of the term of slave, in regards to r/l slavery and all that, so I guess now, when I see the term on a BDSM blog I atomatically do the 'ah, it's consential' bit in my head.

No, what got me, was that you were beaten because you smiled. Now I understand why, as dear Mr Fiend was very clear and you were very clear in reporting this reasons, so it was a case of me projecting myself and my relationship into it I suppose - me smiling is a pleasing thing to Papacrow (or so I'm a assured) and I'm encouraged to do so as much as possible.

I was interested that no-one else mentioned finding that bit difficult!