I've been involved in both BDSM and polyamory since long before I had words to describe eaither (and, for that matter, since before the word "polyamory" even existed). I've been part of the organized poly community for quite a number of years, but generally speaking, I've tended to avoid the organized BDSM community.
Lately, I've been spending a lot more time in the BDSM community, and I'm beginning to remember why it is I've avoided it.
A friend of mine who lives, like I do, in both worlds once described a poly meeting as "Kind of likea BDSM munch, but the people are nicer." And there's a bit of truth to it.
This is not a diatribe against everyone in the BDSM community. I've met some very cool, very intelligent people in the scene, and many of these people I count among my friends.
But there are also quite a number of people I've encountered who are about as much fun as a toothache. To wit:
- The "7th Level Antler-Headed Yak Boy (fourth house, nineteenth tax district)" types. These are the guys (and they're almost always men) who form elaborate societies with intricate rules and protocols, and give themselves flowery titles to boot.
There's nothing wrong with any of that. The problem comes from the idea that once you've mastered someone's list of rules, probably yanked from some old pulp science-fiction novel, that you've mastered the intricities of domination and submission. You haven't; you've just memorized someone else's rules. D/s is arguably one of the most complex forms of all human relationships, and it's different for everyone--something that works for one person doesn't apply to another. Mastering one set of protocols no more makes you an expert than mastering macaroni and cheese makes you a five-star chef.
- The pathologically insecure. These people often refer to themselves exclusively as "Master (or Mistress) Thus-and Such," and are more than happy to describe you exactly, in great deal, how and why they've mastered the fine art of BDSM, and why you should be grateful to sit at their feet and pick up such crumbs of arcane knowledge they see fit to provide.
Disagree with them, even about something minor, and the entire elaborate facade built to protect their insecurities comes crashing down. You have not seen histronics until you've suggested to such a person that perhaps there's some element of D/s he hasn't considered.
Hint: Being a master is like being enlightened. If you have to tell people that you are--you aren't.
- The Domly Doms. These guys--and again, they're almost always guys--self-identify as alpha males; they strut, they preen, they impress one another with the size of their stables of submissives. Their submissives never stick around for long; the stables rotate, because at the end of the day, interspecies dating never works. It's just too damn hard for a human submissive to maintain a romance with a peacock.
- The completely unsocialized. These are the ones who can make a convention of Trekkies point and say "Damn, those people have poor social skills!" Many of these guys lead one to suspect that they're part of the community because no other community'll have them.
Hint: I understand foot fetishes as much as the next guy, but do not walk up to me and, without introduction, ask me to take off my shoes. Especially if you don't know my sexual orientation and you're a guy. What's that, you say? There's nothing sexual about feet? Well, guess what--anything that arouses you or gets you off is an intimate act, even if, in a different context, it might be completely benign.
- The One True Wayers. These are usually the people in "TPE" (total power exchange) relationships--people who live acting out a full-time master/slave relationship, who sneer at the "players"--namely, those who don't live their entire lives in their roles--and especially those who (oh, dear God) switch roles.
Hint: If you predicate the whole of your romantic relationship, and indeed the whole of your life, along a single axis, don't think even for half a second that you have a deeper understanding of D/s than those whose experience is broader and whose palettes are wider. You want to live in a master/slave relationship? Hey, that's cool, whatever turns you on. You want to think that gives you a better understanding of the right way to do it? Go sit in the back of the bus with the Baptists, the fundamentalist Muslims, and all the other yahoos who think there's only one right way to live.