Thundering Cloud wrote:The short answer is that for some people, it's just what works. It's what lights the fire, as it were. For some, "normal" romantic kinda things are nice but just not.... well, sexy.
Okay, at last we are getting to the crux of the matter: BDSM has very little to do with love, trust and tenderness and everything to do with sexual desire. Honesty is sign of progress.
I feel like we may be engaged in a debate over semantics on this point. I consider sexual activity (in many circumstances) to be an expression of love and trust. I gather from your comment here that you do not see it that way, but instead see sexual activities as simply an expression of sexual desires, and nothing more than that. I do not think things can be quite so neatly separated, myself.
Again you are confounding the purpose of every intimate relationship with BDSM relationships. Your habitual patterns of associating the basic qualities of an intimate relationship to BDSM are obviously difficult for you to spot and even more difficult to overcome!
The purpose of "BDSM relationships" is not different from the purpose of any other intimate relationship. The description I gave was not given to defend my personal practices, but to aid in your understanding. You seem to have this idea that "BDSM relationships" are in some category all their own, with completely different motives and goals from other intimate relationships. Hence you see any illustration of their common purpose as "confounding." By way of analogy, if I were to claim that gay relationships are not meaningfully different in purpose from hetero relationships, would you say that I was "confounding" the two? Would you suggest to a gay man that "normal" heterosexual sex is good enough, and that he should either learn to like it or be celibate? After all, if the purpose is ultimately the same, why add the ethically questionable aspect into the equation, right?
And thus should be abandoned to the "baser" or unwholesome behaviours of humiliation and domination?
Of course, you have difficulty understanding desires that (appear to) differ substantively from your own... but I think it's important to realize that you only need to understand them if you intend to help the other person to surpass them. And moreover, that you very well might be incapable of helping them at all until or unless you DO understand their desires.
Ohhhhh... I think you may find that I understand your desires very well. If anything Buddhism teaches us that you and I (or you and anybody else for that matter) are all driven by the same underlying patterns of behaviour based on the three poisons of: ignorance, attachment and aversion. You are not unique in your confusion my dear TC, I understand VERY well where you are coming from.
Please do not take this the wrong way... but I have not seen much indication of your understanding this particular issue. Which is mainly why I have taken the time to reply -- I understand this topic by virtue of experience better than most on this forum (including yourself, I have come to suspect) are able to understand it by means of speculation. From what I gather, you have not felt nor explored a desire for BDSM firsthand. Am I right on this?
If you understood BDSM-related desires, you would not have such difficulty separating particular actions (those falling under the heading of "domination", for instance) from particular motives (such as aggression, or a need to take advantage of another person). I do not get the feeling that my point about the contextual dependence of the wholesomeness of actions has quite been grasped, so I will try to explain it more clearly here. Given any specific action or behavior, there exist circumstances and intentions in context of which said action would be loving and skillful; likewise, for any specific action or behavior, there exist circumstances and intentions in context of which said action would be debasing and unskillful. No specific describable action has the intrinsic quality of being skillful nor of being unskillful. I think that understanding this may be the crux of the matter for you. You do not apparently understand how causing physical pain can possibly be an act of love or kindness. You see such actions as having an absolute nature, independent of their context. In your view they are intrinsically unwholesome no matter what, and this view is what seems to be hampering your understanding. In a Buddhist context, I would suggest that you do not entirely see the emptiness of specific actions. Intent is far more important.
I expect you would probably argue here that my intentions are for sensual pleasures versus love or kindness... but this goes back to the first point of this post. I do not think of sexual activities as being entirely removed from love or affection. More to the point: what sexual partners do for the purpose of their lover's enjoyment and / or their mutual enjoyment, at no one's expense but their own, has no basis for outside criticism beyond those same criticisms that could be levied against any
sexual or desirous practice. If you think that BDSM has a fundamentally different basis and purpose than more typical expressions of romance, then that is your delusion. I will do what I can to break it.
If you do not understand how it can be a positive thing for some people (because it would not be a positive thing for you), that's also okay, though I'll try to explain it if I can and if you're curious. But do understand that the ultimate needlessness of others' desires will naturally be more apparent to you than the ultimate needlessness of your own.
Are you so sure? Anyway, in order to do this though, we may have to define this term "positive" that you so casually tossed in this direction, because it seems to me that this is where "understanding" may be falling apart.
Piss weak argument. If what you consider love is truly love then its expression stands in all circumstances. Love, like that of a mother towards her child, and its expression is not specific to its object, it is boundless and universal. The reason BDSM cannot be used as a vehicle to express love is purely and simply based on the fact that it is not an expression of love. Nothing else.
The wholesomeness of one's actions is always dependent on context; what's important is the intent behind them and the mindfulness and self-reflection with which they are performed. There is no formulaic "right thing to do" for all possible circumstances and situations.
Very true, but if your intention is (as you divulged at the beginning of your post) sensual desire then the outcome is…
To be clear: I believe that neither indulgement nor aversion can lead to relinquishment. Rather, one has to learn how their desires work, and what drives them. You cannot do that by becoming caught up in them, and you also cannot do that by avoiding them and hoping that they go away. It's important to avoid both extremes.
I agree 100%
I inferred your knowledge from your questions.
Apart from a trained psychological counselor I am also a martial arts teacher. In martial arts we sometimes feign weakness to draw “attack” because it is during the attack that one’s “opponent” is most vulnerable.
The questions were to get you to think about why it is that you do what you do and expose to you the weakness of your position.
To facilitate conversation, I have to assume that the positions you espouse and the questions you ask are genuine reflections of your beliefs and your understanding. I will therefore continue to assume as much wherever I have no specific reason to assume otherwise.
I gather from your comments that you believe the infliction of pain to be unconditionally bad, or unskillful, or debasing. Is this correct? If you say no, I would ask you to clarify what your actual position on the topic is. On the other hand, if you say yes, then I will pose to you the following counter-example:
Do you denounce the consumption of spicy foods? Capsaicin, the chemical that makes spicy foods "hot", activates pain receptors in the mouth, throat, and intestines. In fact, it evolved as a deterrent to mammals, since their digestive systems destroy the seeds of capsicum peppers and do not allow them to spread / propagate. Would you see someone who prefers spicy foods therefore as pathological? Why would they choose to endure pain with the taking of nutrients -- what sort of convolutions of mind are necessary for THAT? A kind of guilt complex about eating, perhaps? Speculation can run wild...
I do not like overly spicy foods myself, but I have friends that do. I feel no particular sadness for them when they are red-faced and sweating it out over a bowl of very spicy curry, because even though they are feeling pain, they are not suffering with their pain. They LIKE their curry hot, the pain is part of the flavor for them. There is no need for me to dissuade them from it, or to advocate that ground black pepper should be zesty enough for anybody. They would be less happy following my diet. I don't necessarily understand why someone would want to feel like their tongue is on fire (or how they can even taste anything under all that heat... yikes!), but I do understand that they enjoy this more than the blander flavors I tend to prefer. That's the other point that I tried to emphasize in my last post -- I don't get why someone would want to endure pain while taking a meal, but that doesn't prevent me from seeing, nonetheless, that others enjoy it. Since I do not think it especially necessary to help them overcome their desire for spice, I do not actually need to understand their affinity for it.
You might suggest that they are feeding a craving by pursuing piquant and flavorful foods... and sure, I suppose they are. But I'd point out that the average person is not in a state of mind that is conducive to eating nothing but the most tasteless of foods for the exclusive purpose of acquiring nutrition... and similarly, the average person is not in a state of mind conducive to renunciation of all sexual activity except for the express purpose of procreation. Trying to abandon one's desires so abruptly as that is typically counterproductive. As a psychological counselor, you are doubtless aware of the poor success rates and outcomes of the "ex-gay" therapies, which are a prime example of an attempt to directly undermine or reshape sexual desires. If you understand BDSM as well as you say, you should know better than to advocate for an analogous approach to it.
Moreover, I suggest that the relinquishment of sexual desires is better seen as an indicator
of progress rather than as a meaningful goal of its own. As I see it, attempting to eliminate one's desires merely by abstaining from them is a bit like trying to bring down a fever by drinking a glass of ice-water just before putting the thermometer in your mouth. Outwardly things might look better, but the underlying issue has not changed.