What is the Lifestyle?
It is a struggle to explain what 'The Lifestyle' really means to people. One of the main things I have tried to stress is that it is not in any way similar to 50 Shades of Grey. That story is a fantasized, smutty view, which more closely emulates the life of an abusive kinkster, as opposed to a Lifestyler. It might be easy to suggest that the taboo world of BDSM (Bondage, Domination/submission, sadism & masochism) is all about kink. This is how most "Vanilla" people view it anyhow. However, it is much more complex than just saying it is a kinky fetish. "The Lifestyle" goes far beyond the bedroom.
"Vanilla's" are people who haven't experienced what BDSM has to offer. They do not understand the intensity such a lifestyle can lead, and how much there is beyond the realm of traditional sexual relationships. They often view BDSM's sometimes torturous acts without knowledge of the complexity of what is really going on, leading them to believe the worst. However, BDSM partners act cautiously, with precision and safety, with complete consent, and with a keen knowledge of each others desires and limitations. Ethics, respect, and conduct in lifestyle relationships, believe it or not, far exceed those of most vanilla relationships.
When we can fully experience pain, we can live a more meaningful life.
Most folk who venture down this path, do so out of curiosity, and refinement. In some ways they seek enlightenment, the experience can be somewhat spiritual. The discipline, and positive enforcement provided can be very uplifting. The feelings and emotions involved, extremely heightened - not just in the bedroom, but even in the simplest glance over a dinner table. These people refer to themselves as being in “The Lifestyle" and are usually extremely advanced in their knowledge and pursuit of the very highest expressions of human sexuality and sexual fulfillment. "Lifestylers" differ from kinksters in that this lifestyle encompasses their whole life. Not just in the bedroom, but the Domination, discipline, and submission carried through into everyday life. A typical example would be when training a submissive to act in a proper, specific manner, when in public with you. A simple, subtle glance, or light caress of the ear, can let the sub know how she is preforming for her Master. And believe me, such a feedback, even as subtle as it is, is amazingly fulfilling - and not at all sexual. More so spiritual, and emotional.
Due to the heightened passion, it is often never as fulfilling for a person to go back to a "Vanilla" lifestyle, after having been involved in "The Lifestyle". It is a line once crossed, from which you can't return. But the Vanilla ways of the past seem as inviting as a cold room compared to the extreme emotions felt in a BDSM themed relationship.
In my own case, I have a long history of sexual fulfillment. I have approached each relationship with care, and attention to safety and honesty. In combination with my selflessness, and desire to help others, this adds a very good quality to someone who is skilled with their hands. The aspect of wanting to help others out of their shell. Combine that with my natural Dominance (I will quote the fact that I dominated a wild wolf, at one time...) and add a dash of inspiration, and knowledge. And you have Me.... as a Dom.
A Dom's primary function is to protect his submissive (sub). The sub trusts the Dom implicitly to make proper choices for them, for their safety and health. Secondly the Dom should always try to teach the sub, and help mold them into a healthy human being, and beneficial companion. Not just for playtime, but also for other activities.
The responsibility of taking on a submissive, is one not everyone who feels Dominant is able to take seriously. In a way, the relationship is based on curiosity and explorations, as much as it is based on trust and communication. A sub generally wants a Dom to mold them, to change them, to adjust to what their Master wishes... To make their Master happy. But at the same time, they need to feel the push from the Dom - They want to know that the Dom is serious about the relationship, and wants to put effort into it. If you let a sub be themselves, then you are not allowing them the pleasure of molding and conforming to your wishes. It is this balance which helps fuel the interest, and keep that flame alive as both sides will explore what they can get away with, safely and consensually. A good Dom should also know what it feels like to submit, and also should have had some experience on the receiving end of whatever they subject their submissive to. Emotions run very high in such relationships. It is not, nor should be above a Dom to tear up or blush.
The submissive is also highly misunderstood. Subs are NOT "weak, tortured, abused, cruelty seeking saps being pushed around by leather clad perverts with whips". In fact quite the opposite. Subs can be quite picky, and consensually choose their Dom. A submissive must be the one who willingly submits themselves to a Dom, and should never be forced to submit. They willingly participate in the Lifestyle in order to explore and are always curious what the next turn in life may bring. I have posted earlier about the song "Sweet Surrender" by Sarah McLachlan. In a way, despite what she publicly says about the inspiration behind this song, it is the Anthem for a true submissive. Most vanilla people would have a hard time understanding this, even being told this, unless they experienced it for themselves.
It is not required for anyone in the lifestyle to specifically have a set status (Dom/sub) either. Many are switches, depending on whom they are with. Subs should always have discussed safe words with their partners, which are words used when the submissive begins to feel that things are proceeding outside of their comfort zone. A safe word means FULL STOP. Subs are typically also always free to leave, if they find their Master is not working out for them as a good partner - they may request to be un-collared, and a good Dom should always adhere to this request.
This being said, many people with submissive tendencies will end up in abusive relationships, simply due to their submissive nature. This is usually because they fell for controlling and abusive partners, who were selfish, as opposed to ones who were self-less and who could responsibly control their submissive nature without taking advantage of it. Again, subs enjoy the control, it is a security blanket for them. And sometimes, early in a relationship when the aura of first love is still glowing, it is difficult to tell whether the person you are growing attached to is trying to use you or not. No proper Dom would abuse their sub in such a way.
Relationships within the sub-culture are typically as varied as the people who participate. In most cases you will find open-minded monogamous couples, who may occasionally attend group events or experiment with others. I have also spoken to others who have Dom's or subs on the side of their vanilla marriage - consensually agreed upon by all partners of course - however where the sub or Dom does not reside in the same residence. You will also find odd arrangements where, in some cases a whole commune of people live together, and refer to themselves as a family.