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D/s Vs. Vanilla Relationships
By: Jessica and Patrick MacDonald 1996
A common claim made within the scene is that D/s relationships manage to achieve a higher plain of commitment, of enlightenment, etc. than traditional vanilla relationships. While I by no means intend to lessen the value of D/s relationships, the aim of this piece is to offer a perspective that the “My lifestyle is better than yours” argument is based more on false assumptions and arrogance than actual truth.
Rules For Relationships
On a relationship level D/s, BDSM, or just about any “recognised” lifestyle really just formalises the rules of a good relationship. Sure there are a lot of other things it also deals with, such as play techniques and social interactions, but they all tie in, they are not actually part of the relationship level.
Trust, commitment, understanding limits, pride, development, safety, and security. Those are all terms that are just as fitting to a good vanilla relationship as they are to a D/s one. It is tempting to claim that the scene has them to a greater degree than vanilla but I have come to believe that is just arrogance and short sightedness on our part.
Each To Their Own
Yes, in the forms we use, we go deeper than we would in a vanilla relationship. But in exactly the same way, a vanilla person goes further in a vanilla relationship than they would in a kinky one [where it would be more of an, “Oooh, let’s have fun with this then move on.”] Yes we do experience a deeper level of commitment for us - because it’s what works for us. Vanilla folk experience a deeper level of vanilla commitment than we do because vanilla does not work for us.
Let’s use the easy gay scene comparison for a moment. A gay guy would perceive gay relationships as going far deeper than hetro ones - because hetro ones don’t work for him. That’s entirely true from his perspective but it does not mean that hetro relationships are any less significant for hetro people. The same applies with kink vs. vanilla.
Incredibly Intense D/s Relationships
“But what about the incredibly intense D/s relationships we see?” OK, let us take a look at them.
How many fall by the Velcro collar wayside? These ones are pretty much identical to high school crushes. They’re massively intense but unrealistic and short lived. Remember that most people who have them are new to the D/s scene just like most people who have high school crushes are new to the vanilla relationship scene. It is something that most people have to grow through to mature enough for the later relationships.
Then there are the medium term ones. Six months to a year or two. They are intense, lots of fun sex, a level of closeness that your friends don’t have, then they fade and die. Hmm, looks like I’ve just described two vanilla people in a medium term vanilla relationship too.
Now we get on to the lifelong pairings. Those lucky D/s folks who have an intense connection that lasts for a lifetime. They’re the ones who can not live without each other and would not want to, for whom every action is made with an innate understanding of the other. How different, honestly, are they from vanilla couples who do almost exactly the same and die within days or weeks of each other, the latter of a broken heart or without the will to continue alone? But they are rare in the vanilla scene? How common are they in the D/s scene? Most of us are pretty new to it, full of hope, and seeing
the mid term D/s relationships as lifelong successes. I would suggest the reality is that the chances of either vanilla or D/s making it to that point are about the same.
Maybe it is slightly easier for a D/s relationship to go the distance in the long run as a large part of it is based around relationship skills and understanding. If you look at the number of Velcro collars, the number or relationships entered in to with the best intentions that did not make it, you actually end up looking at a pretty similar picture for either D/s or Vanilla.
Yes, as D/s folk we want D/s to be something unique and wonderful. It is, for us . But to put down the vanilla relationships that work for vanilla people as somehow unable to achieve the same level of commitment - that is just arrogance.
A relationship is a relationship. A good relationship is a good one and a bad relationship is a bad one. D/s relationships are simply the kinds of relationships that work for D/s people, with perhaps a little more consideration to the relationships than vanilla people remember to pay, but that is about it.