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This isn’t intended to be definitive or comprehensive, it’s more like early thoughts trying to brainstorm on a theme which is ultimately about how to communicate what you are looking for in a D/s power exchange. I even suspect this may be controversial to some people like myself who feel a very deep personal and emotional connection to D/s, ooooOooOoohh!

For me, as an s-type, my D/s power exchange ideal involves lifestyle and not just scenes in the bedroom; I’m a total power exchange (TPE) sort, and it’s real and important to me. But me writing that didn’t really communicate anything that ensures alignment.

We all talk a lot about communication in kink, but not always how to communicate; I think one of the most important things when talking about kink is alignment. Alignment on what you want, are seeking, and what you mean with the terms that you use.

There’s a lot of layers to D/s that a short journal isn’t going to touch on, but there’s a couple dimensions that always come up in conversations:

  1. In the bedroom only, or also outside of it AKA lifestyle?
  2. Is D/s roleplaying?

With 1. talking about if the play is that, play, designated only to scenes, or including power exchange in daily life stuff, too.

With 2. talking about how the D/s is viewed philosophically.

Point 2 tends to be a real hot-button issue for many, with a lot of immediate emotional response towards people who are on the “other side.” Some people who view D/s as roleplaying see those who do not as inherently problematic or dangerous, and some people who don’t see it as roleplaying act elitist towards the people who do. This writing is to try and provide a framework to help with productive conversations to bridge the gap.

Looking at these two, we can kinda end up with the below table that starts providing some insights for making sure you’re aligned with someone when you’re discussing D/s:

It’s RP         It’s not RP

  • Bedroom Only    1                2
  • Lifestyle         3                4
  1. Bedroom only, and it’s roleplaying.
  2. Bedroom only, but it’s not seen as RP.
  3. Lifestyle, and it’s roleplaying.
  4. Lifestyle, and it’s not seen as roleplaying.

(Again, not intended as comprehensive or the only ways to approach this, but it is a way to approach this and talk about it and one way to have a conversation!)

I feel like the above four are more useful for communicating with partners than just “bedroom only or lifestyle” because the philosophical approach of “it’s roleplaying” is very popular, too. But I’m not really going to describe what each of these “means” to me because that defeats the purpose; I see them as useful conversation points to discuss with a partner what the one you see yourself in means to you.

I personally see myself in 4, lifestyle and I don’t consider it roleplaying. But I don’t see people who say that it’s roleplaying as “wrong,” just not how I see it, and even see myself as compatible with some of them! “GASP! But how, Sera?! You disagree with them but you agree with them? PARADOX!

There’s a third thing I feel people don’t talk about enough, that ultimately makes a lot of the “is it roleplay or not” discussion a difference of terms than a difference of philosophy. I think it’s still always important to be aligned in how you feel emotionally and philosophically about kink, but this bridges the gap and can lead to productive conversations:

  1. Is roleplaying any less real?–are there real-life repercussions?

The things we do impact us, regardless of how we philosophically view them. I personally see it as important for full risk awareness to know this. If you’re doing, say, heavy degradation play, it doesn’t matter if it’s roleplaying or not because the transient or lasting psychological effects it can have on you are real.

Even if you view it as roleplaying it’s hard for me to see a scenario where there could be no lasting effects from power exchange or degradation or what-have-you unless it was a performance for an audience, such as an actual play on stage–actors usually do not have lasting psychological effects from, say, getting degraded or yelled at by another actor in-character. But even then, they sometimes do! I’ve had that experience before of something in acting effecting me more deeply than expected, and I’m sure many reading this who have done any acting have, too.

Again, I feel that the above–asking if roleplaying has real effects on life–tends to bridge the gap. Most people still agree that D/s can have lasting effects on you. At that point, if you’re aligned on that but the person you’re talking to calls it roleplaying, there’s probably more discussion to be had on why it is they are saying that; and that conversation is going to be a lot more productive for finding alignment than just “are you interested in in the bedroom only or lifestyle,” and you may find common ground to enjoy something great together.