The word "play" gives a clear insight into how important concepts of game-playing is in BDSM. On a very basic level we assume roles, develop rules and have systems of reward and punishment. To be a player is a term of approval. The rules of our specific games are co-authored with our partners and the idea of "fair play" is an underpinning value of being safe, sane and consensual. We adopt the language of gaming and some of its paraphernalia, which we tweak a little to take us from the playground to the playroom: blindfolds, counting games and dress-up.
Roleplay enhances or contextalise these games through the adoption of mutually agreed scenarios and characters. Rather than being myself playing with you, we put on other identities and the game then becomes less obvious, more realistic perhaps. I am no longer outside of the game interacting with it, but a participant within a game world.
In many respects this can act as a cipher for reading D/s relationships, whether fixed or agreed for just that evening. This is not to say that either is play-acting as such or that what they are doing is fake or false and this can often be a negative connotation of words like "game" and "play" - that they lack meaning or substance. I would argue that not only can it certainly seem very real, but that these identities are no more or less real than those constructed elsewhere in society, at least here there is a certain honesty with the transactions.
In game theory terms, BDSM play can be thought of as a non-zero-sum arrangement: both parties gain and lose together depending on how they play. Although from an outside perspective it might appear like the Dom(me) is naturally the "winner" in reality the game itself is about the often extremely convincing illusion of this conceit. The Dom(me) plays to win, the sub to lose: they playing their own game with each other and with themselves.
1 week ago