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Switches: Are They Misunderstood or Do They Miss the Point of BDSM?

Posted with permission of the author.

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I want to drop the BDSM titles for a minute and just discuss two categories of behavior, specifically leader and follower behavior.  Using a simplified analogy, imagine for a moment that you have two volume dials or knobs on your body (you choose where they are).  One is labeled leader, as in assuming control and the other follower, as in releasing control.  Think of the dials on your body as the dials on your radio.  You have a comfort zone for the base, treble and volume, but you’ll modify those dials based on the song, the surrounding noise or your emotions of the moment.  You have a comfort zone for those dials on your body, as well. For example, some people are perceived as followers, some as leaders.  Followers regularly have their follower dial turned up higher than their leader dial, and vice versa for the leader.

Depending on the circumstances we face, we change the volume of one or the other dials. For example, your boss has just walked into your office and started telling you about a project he wants you to work on.  You begin to turn that leader dial down and that follower dial up as you listen to what he wants from you.  Then he says, “You’re in charge of the project.”  You begin to lower that follower dial and turn up that leader dial as you take charge of that project.

Sometimes we change the volume of our dials with lightening speed.  For instance, you’re flying down the highway, passing cars, changing lanes, trying to get to your appointment on time — the leader dial is up.  You see a police car on the side of the road, the foot comes off the accelerator, you check to see how much you have to slow down to match the speed limit, you use your turn indicator to get into the slower lane — the follower dial gets turned up.  

Now, let’s take this simple analogy to the BDSM world.  The leader dial is still about assuming control, but we’ll call it the Dominant dial and the follower dial is still about releasing control, but we’ll call it the submissive dial.  Yes, no matter what you identify as, you still have these two dials.  To use common language of the BDSM scene, the ranges of the two dials might look like the following:

  • The Dominant dial range: 0 - no dominance, 5 - Top, 10 - Dominant, 15 - Master/Mistress
  • The submissive dial range: 0 - no submission, 5 - bottom, 10 - submissive, 15 - slave

In other words, when the dominant dial is turned up, the more control is assumed and when the submissive dial is turned up, the more control is released.

In the “vanilla” world, circumstances will dictate the change in the volume of our dials. However, in the BDSM world we dictate our circumstances (e.g., our persona, relationships or environment), thereby creating a space that allows us to change and maintain our dials to our most comfortable or desired level.  Consider if someone took a picture of you at a party, what would your dials show?  If you identify as a Dominant, that dial is going to be regularly turned up.  If you identify as a submissive, that dial will be regularly turned up.

Do these dials change in volume, too?  Yes.  For example, a Dominant can have her dial at a high level, tone it down during a conversation with another Dominant and even turn up their submissive dial, if seeing that other Dominant as a Mentor.  The same goes for a submissive.  A submissive’s dial can be at a high level, tone it down when not engaged with their Dominant, and if ordered to be in charge of managing refreshments at a party, turn up their dominant dial.  Remember, these dials are about the assumption and release of control; we as a BDSM society happen to attach titles to that behavior.

So where does the Switch fit in?  It’s probably easy to guess by now.  Remember, people that identify as a particular title (Dom, sub, bottom, Master, etc.) will have their dials regularly turned to that particular volume.  Switches, however, will change their volume based on the circumstances they face, the comfort they feel or any desired level at the time.

My dials are regularly at a Dominant dial of +/-10 and submissive dial at +/- 3.  But boy, do I love the opportunity for my dials to be set at D - 3 and s - 10.  Therein lies my definition of a Switch, it applies to anyone that loves and seeks both ends of the lash or leash.  The matter of degree is a personal preference, as it is for someone that identifies as a Dominant or submissive.

So, are Switches misunderstood or do they miss the point of BDSM?  With this article, maybe they aren’t so misunderstood anymore.  As far as missing the point of BDSM, if it’s not the same as your point, I guess they do.  But how many of us have the same point at all?  BDSM is what you make of it for you, nothing more and nothing less.  So why do we want people to fit into one or the other types?  Well, that's about the need to belong and THAT is another article.

© MsSiren 2004-2011

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