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Existential Etiquette: Providing Actual Nourishment To One’s Self & To Others

Updated: Jan 4

“In the garden of gentle sanity
May you be bombarded by coconuts of

– Chögyam Trungpa

The term "etiquette" finds its origins in the French language and culture during the reign of Louis XIV. An interesting anecdote traces it back to a Scottish master gardener who managed to persuade the king to issue an edict aimed at preventing courtiers from trampling on his freshly seeded lawns. In response, the king commanded everyone to "keep within the etiquettes."

On the other hand, the term "sadism" is linked to the Marquis de Sade, known for his literary works that featured explicit depictions of sexual violence, torture, and cruelty, often mirroring some of his own behavior. Sade was not one to practice “etiquette” in the bedroom; he infamously used apothecary preparations to poison participants in his activities without their consent. However, he displayed a sense of "etiquette" when it came to the French First Republic's National Convention. Surprisingly, he embraced republicanism as the French monarchy waned, and along with it, the privileges of his noble birthright. Though his sudden embrace of "La Marseillaise" and rejection of "Marche Henri IV" might have seemed insincere, resembling the politicking of a courtier, his political maneuvers led to his arrest, fueled by the disdain of figures like Maximilien Robespierre and other Convention members.

Amid these historical contrasts, the significance of etiquette in both the bedroom and broader society remains evident. It's important to note that etiquette is not about subservient obedience; rather, it serves as a steadfast guide to uphold respect and dignity in human interactions. While the origin of the term "etiquette" may involve an edict and Sade's interpretation might appear as politicking, the essence of etiquette transcends mere compliance and instead fosters genuine, meaningful interactions founded on mutual respect and authenticity.

Whether navigating the complexities of BDSM or confronting the challenges of modernity's often unruly dynamics, etiquette offers a shield against the encroachment of entitled attitudes and ill-mannered behaviors, ensuring that the virtues of courtesy and decorum endure. This is in alignment with Emily Post who critiqued the bromidic proselytizing of older generations who focus on the content rather than the essence of the younger generations (1922). She cautions against the value of claims about the unpredictability of beauty, the perceived lack of empathy, and the casual attitudes of young people, which all seem to be overly clichéd and fail to persuade with their familiarity.

Indeed, she noted about the youth of the early twentieth century that the generation was in some respects, more progressive than certain "very proper" predecessors. Weddings in the 1920s didn’t have to be scheduled for noon simply because the groom's ability to stay sober later in the day is uncertain! That generation’s favor of games over conversation didn’t indicate a decline in quality of time shared together. That generation’s choice to wear minimal clothing wasn’t a sign of deterioration either (1922).

Ironically, and a return to French history, there have been recurring trends of dressing down, followed by periods of covering up from head to toe. Post noted that the young generation of her time had not yet reached the level of undress seen during Pauline Bonaparte's time!

What is being discussed here is not a critique of entire social categories such as BDSM or the simple pleasure of playing games with friends. Instead, the focus is on specific modern trends, trends that have led to misunderstandings and misrepresentations of fundamental principles of respect and etiquette in various social interactions.

BDSM, like many other social contexts, cannot be treated irresponsibly. It is not a laissez-faire free for all. It is not a place for healing, a bank, a therapy session, or a classroom, and it is not the Theatre of the Oppressed. Instead, it represents a set of distinct social relationships that requires the same consideration for respect and dignity as any other aspect of human interaction. And necessarily related to this argument of what BDSM is and is not, is a critique of those who like Sade in his time have brought to BDSM a clusterfuck of metaphysical and physical baggage.

In a world where adult enfant terribles were once clothed as literal infants in shirts that read “I’m a Prince” or “I’m a Princess” the landscape of BDSM reeks of the egotism of edicts and politicking sycophants. Upholding principles then becomes integral to BDSM as it is part of social reality. This immediately indicts sadism as being open-ended in a multitude of BDSM dynamics.

This essay is not to theoretically undermine BDSM but rather relegate some of the trendy ways of practicing it as antisocial, not in the pathological sense but in the sense of indignity. It is an argument for a dominance of good faith and submission of good hope. A masochism not rooted in trauma and a sadism not rooted in ego. To free BDSM and other social relations from the trappings of bad faith and bad hope, and to guide these social realties by a deeper understanding of human moral dynamics, is the goal.

It's time to embark on this endeavor with our Moral Dynamics Model (MDM). This model functions like the barrelman in a ship's crow’s nest, aided by an existential etiquette inspired by existential philosophy's engagement with the complexities of human existence. Similarly, Emily Post's timeless principles of etiquette, akin to a lighthouse for a vessel navigating unpredictable seas, provide a solid foundation. They guide our journey and bring clarity to moral dynamics. Collectively, these elements facilitate safe and transformative approaches to BDSM and, by extension, to broader society. This fosters meaningful, genuine connections while upholding the dignity and authenticity of human interactions.

Now, before turning to the explication of bad faith and bad hope in society, it is important to provide the comprehensive framework of the Moral Dynamics Model:

Σ ∨ α ∨ (δ→β) ∨ (Ψ′ → (γ ∧ β)) (Ψ)= Φ Clarified Σ or α or (if δ then β) or (if Ψ Prime then (γ and β)) (Ψ)= Φ

Σ ∨ α

Reflective Self-governance vs. Societal Influence: This element of the formula highlights that individuals make moral choices either based on reflective self-governance, involving personal, rational deliberation about what is right or good for them, or under the sway of societal influence, which encompasses external factors like cultural norms, peer pressure, media, etc.

α ∨ (δ→β)

Interplay of Societal Influence, Begrudging Actions, and Post-hoc Justifications: This component encapsulates the intricate dynamics between societal influence, begrudging actions, and the subsequent justifications we might formulate. The model indicates that our moral decisions can be shaped by societal norms (α) or by a combination of reluctantly-taken actions followed by subsequent justifications (δ leading to β).


Begrudging Actions: This symbol signifies actions taken with reluctance or hesitation. These actions are typically not driven by genuine belief or passion but rather stem from a sense of obligation, societal pressure, or a perceived lack of alternatives. It represents a reluctant step, often taken with internal resistance or discontent.


Post-hoc Justification or Rationalization: β represents the mental process of rationalization or justification that occurs after a potential moral misstep. Whenever we find ourselves explaining our actions in hindsight, particularly if those actions contradict our internal moral compass or societal norms, we're engaging in β.

Ψ′ → (γ∧β)

Corrupted Moral Impulse Leading to Corrective Action and Justification: This relationship asserts that a corrupted moral impulse (Ψ′) leads to both moral failure (γ) and a post-hoc justification (β). In other words, after a moral misstep, an individual will attempt to rationalize why it occurred.


Moral Failure or Lapse: This element signifies the acknowledgment of potential moral failures or lapses. The inclusion of γ in the moral equation highlights moments when our ethical actions do not align with our personal beliefs (Σ) or even societal norms (α). It represents the recognition of imperfections in our moral journey.


The Moral Impulse: This denotes the innate human drive or impulse to act morally or pursue what is perceived as 'good’ or ‘right.’


The Drive to Act: This outcome represents the consistent drive to act, regardless of whether actions arise from societal influence or personal reflection.

To summarize this info, this model illuminates that individuals make moral choices through either reflective self-governance, where they engage in personal, rational deliberation about what is right or good, or under the influence of societal norms, encompassing factors like culture, peer pressure, and media (Σ ∨ α).

Within this framework, the interplay between societal influence, begrudging actions, and post-hoc justifications comes into play (α ∨ (δ→β)). Moral decisions can either be shaped by societal norms (α) or arise from actions taken with reluctance or hesitation (δ), followed by subsequent justifications (β).

Begrudging actions (δ) represent steps taken with a sense of obligation, societal pressure, or a perceived lack of alternatives, often accompanied by internal resistance.

Post-hoc justification or rationalization (β) occurs when individuals explain their actions in hindsight, especially if these actions contradict their internal moral compass or societal norms.

The model further explores the relationship between corrupted moral impulse, moral failure, and justification (Ψ′ → (γ∧β)), emphasizing that after a moral misstep, individuals attempt to rationalize why it occurred. Moral failure (γ) acknowledges moments when ethical actions do not align with personal beliefs (Σ) or societal norms (α), highlighting imperfections in the moral journey.

The moral impulse (Ψ) represents the innate human drive to act morally or pursue what is perceived as 'good’ or ‘right,' while the drive to act (Φ) signifies a resolute commitment to action, regardless of whether it arises from societal influence or personal reflection.

This model provides a comprehensive perspective on moral decision-making, offering insights into how various factors, including societal influence, internal conflicts, and rationalization, shape our ethical choices in complex situations. But it is also an important model for showcasing bad faith and bad hope in society!

Bad faith, to be clear, is a persistent form of deceit characterized by pretending to hold one set of emotions while acting under the influence of another. It's commonly associated with hypocrisy, breaking agreements, insincerity, and mere lip service. Bad faith can involve intentional deception of others, or even self-deception. An example of bad faith in a wartime context is waving a white flag and then firing at the enemy.

Jean Paul Sartre expands on this and notes (1943):

Take the example of a woman who has consented to go out with a particular man for the first time. She knows very well the intentions which the man who is speaking to her cherishes regarding her. She knows also that it will be necessary sooner or later for her to make a decision. But she does not want to realize the urgency; she concerns herself only with what is respectful and discreet in the attitude of her companion. She does not apprehend this conduct as an attempt to achieve what we call "the first approach"; that is, she does not want to see possibilities of temporal development which his conduct presents. She restricts this behavior to what is in the present; she does not wish to read in the phrases which he addresses to her anything other than their explicit meaning. If he says to her, "I find you so attractive!" she disarms this phrase of its sexual background; she attaches to the conversation and to the behavior of the speaker, the immediate meanings, which she imagines as objective qualities.

Bad hope, conversely, signifies a misguided or unwarranted optimism that things will turn out well, lacking a proper ethical or rational foundation. In the context of war, an example of bad hope is the Nuremberg Defense. This involves individuals implicated in heinous acts clinging to misguided or unwarranted optimism that their actions will be justified, or that they will evade accountability, without a sound ethical or rational basis. During the Nuremberg Trials, Nazi defendants argued they were "just following orders," hoping this would exempt them from responsibility for their actions, despite these actions being morally reprehensible and violating international law.

Why use war examples to illustrate bad faith and bad hope? As Pat Benatar sings, “Love is a battlefield.” This is a metaphor, not a literal statement, akin to understanding that a map is not the territory. However, the metaphor of love as a battlefield has been widely accepted as truth by many. Yet, love could just as easily be likened to “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. Similarly, social reality can mirror “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” but this requires people to live within the metaphorical frame of that painting.

The various editors of The GroundUp have managed to maintain this metaphorical existence despite facing less-than-respectful anonymous digital communications. They have persisted in this frame despite moments of witnessing actions from a distance that caused deep hurt. They have endured within this frame even when faced with attempts at deceit and prolonged harassment. The editors at The GroundUp, including those contributing to this essay, have encountered various forms of human folly but have maintained their dignity throughout these circumstances. Later in this essay, some of these experiences will be further detailed. The editors will share personal stories to guide dignified responses to challenging situations and to avert folly.

What is being established here is the concept of a perennial etiquette, one that transcends socioeconomic status and is fundamentally existential, accessible to all individuals, regardless of background or circumstances. Unlike writings that focus on the use of cutlery, the propriety of clothing, timelines for sending a “Thank You” letter, or the proper way to end a date, this piece is different. It delves into the heart of etiquette: sincerity. This is the quality that ensures a person, even after a social misstep, will continue to be cherished. Intriguingly, the sincerity of an individual serves as a litmus test, revealing the nurturing capacity of the group or person experiencing that sincerity.

It is crucial to understand that grasping the nuances of bad faith and bad hope involves recognizing their impact on human experience, particularly in relation to sincerity or its absence. These tendencies, stemming from self-deception and a disconnection from reality, can become a source of suffering for individuals and society. Now, our focus shifts to the importance of recognizing and addressing bad faith and bad hope as key steps in navigating the complexities of human existence, leading to a more authentic, fulfilling, and less suffering-filled life.

Perhaps the best starting point is the family. While families are often analyzed through various lenses, such as Marxist critique, psychoanalytic theory, semiotics, and phenomenology, the current focus is not on what the family does internally but rather its reactions and role within the broader social context. This perspective is crucial for understanding the influence of bad faith and bad hope on individuals and society.

Previously, The GroundUp explored how families are ideologically inundated by the state. These messages dictate the "right" way to raise children, with conglomerate media companies leading the charge. The digital age has made it even easier for these messages to infiltrate the minds of parents hungry for guidance. But, knowledge alone doesn't suffice! Here's where the plot thickens: from an example in that essay, imagine two families, both potentially subjecting their children to indignity, yet in different ways.

One family's actions might be overt, easily labeled as abuse, and gender politics would prompt swift action and solutions. The other family's actions could be covert, concealed behind a veneer of normalcy, with gender politics potentially hindering the recognition of the abuse or the provision of immediate solutions. What's crucial here is the need for media to separate the political aspects from child-rearing and encourage parents to do the same.

Consider this media divide as two bags of chips, one offering a classic mix (normatively gendered infants) and the other a flavor mix (theybies). Both contain "Nacho Doritos," symbolizing desire—a fundamental and unchangeable aspect of human nature. Desire, in essence, is non-negotiable.

Gender and sexuality can be arenas for systemic oppression, but desire doesn't undergo a revolution; it is a revolution in itself. Parents should not force their children into normative or non-normative molds. When children are treated with dignity, they are likely to grow into dignified adults.

However, there's a notable absence of listening in many family dynamics.

In Carol Garhart Mooney's chapter (2010) within Theories of Attachment, “John Kennell and Marshall Klaus,” she explores Magda Gerber's work, where a sore-throated child's treatment began with a simple yet profound act—listening. This child, responsive to dignity, thrived.

Some leftist parents believe that being against all things normative is revolutionary. However, wholesomeness exists in both normative and non-normative realms. Desire is Earth's common denominator, taking individuals to diverse destinations of love and affection regardless of politics, or despite them.

Parents who dismiss the metaphor of chip packages would do well to remember that the suspicion they cast on classic mix or flavor mix children and their parents ironically fails to indict the system for failing to provide formula to these very children who are left wanting by a system that ultimately prioritizes ideology over their basic needs (think of the fairly recent formula shortage).

From a different The GroundUp article, the argument extended was that parents and many self-proclaimed leftist theorists are often guilty of crafting scripts for their children or readers. These scripts dictate how one should navigate the complexities of life. However, when these scripts are imposed with little room for deviation and a lack of consideration for individual responses, they indicate a state of bad faith from the parent or thinker.

Bad faith in parenting emerges when parents impose a predetermined set of beliefs or behaviors on their children, regardless of the children's individual responses. This issue isn't immediately apparent when the child is an infant, but as children grow and develop autonomy, the constraints of such rigid scripts become increasingly evident.

The shift towards autonomy highlights the importance of existential etiquette. This approach focuses on genuine, meaningful interactions based on mutual respect and authenticity. It acknowledges that each individual has their unique journey and reactions in life, suggesting that etiquette should act as a flexible guide, not a strict set of rules. In this light, embracing autonomy and enabling individuals to make dignified choices is crucial for nurturing authentic connections and adhering to the tenets of existential etiquette.

An example of the familial bad faith-bad hope dynamic at play at the threshold of a child’s autonomy comes into focus through a recent X discussion, in which The GroundUp participated! The conversation was initiated by @jack_turban, a director of a psychiatry program, who wrote, “Today a friend’s five year old son was watching another friend put on makeup. He asked if she would put the sparkly blue eyeshadow on him. His mom overheard and firmly said, ‘Do you know the rule about makeup?’ He looked up, and she said, ‘Makeup needs to come off before bed.’” The GroundUp responded by saying, this is OK as long as the parents discuss with their children about normatives and the social consequences of non-normative behavior.

Many X posters were quick to attack TGU but it was imperative to assertively stand firm in the perspective extended. The intent of the post was not to limit or inhibit children by recognizing social constructs but to empower them through awareness of them.

Being comfortable within oneself is essential, yet it doesn't eliminate the necessity of navigating existing social constructs. Take Marilyn Manson as a controversial example. He was acutely aware of social dynamics as he grew up and learned to confidently break them for his personal benefit. Empowering children through awareness of norms involves equipping them with knowledge about societal expectations while fostering their unique sense of self. This approach aims to counter situations like the one shared by X poster @MissedtheFence, who also contributed to @jack_turban’s thread. She recounted, “When my son was little, he loved wearing toenail polish (he was shamed out of it by older boys at summer camp)…” She also shared a fond memory of her son offering to paint his father’s toenails. However, the key point is her explicit mention of shame, a crucial aspect of The GroundUp’s initial post. The idea is that if a parent responds to a boy's interest in nail polish with, “You go son, just know that some people might not agree that boys can wear polish. But just tell them that their perspective doesn’t equal the truth. Know that I support you…” it can mitigate shame, as the child is equipped with tools to navigate their non-normative behavior socially.

One poster, @SleepyTea, expressed concerns that if parents discussed issues in such a manner, the children might fear social failure. This poster emphasized the need for positive reassurance during their upbringing, suggesting that if a problem arose, the parent should reassure the child of their innocence while addressing the social situation. Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution; what matters is finding the approach that works for each individual child. For instance, the boy shamed for wearing nail polish might have similarly benefited from positive reassurance and unconditional support from his parents, without any educational pretext. In scenarios where a child's social behavior is neither antisocial nor dangerous, the right response for a guardian is to provide that reassurance, avoiding bad hope or bad faith. In this context, the child is simply learning about the world.

However, bad faith arises when parents impose non-normative ideas on their children and then merely offer positive reassurance. In such cases, it's not just the child's sense of self at play, but also the adult's ego. For example, if a theyby parent tells their son (who has chosen to identify as a boy) that he can wear nail polish, and this suggestion does not stem from the child's own desire, it becomes crucial for the adult guardian to provide an educational basis. Otherwise, a familial bad faith-bad hope dynamic might develop.

The hypothetical familial bad faith-bad hope dynamic that I mentioned does indeed exist. If it's not about nail polish, it's about clothing, like how Megan Fox ideologically loaded her male child with information about gender metaphysics when he showed a non-ideological interest in wearing pretty dresses at the age of two. However, the dynamics of bad faith and bad hope that I have explored clearly extend beyond the family unit to a broader social reality. The issue isn't necessarily with a parent adopting the theyby concept or encouraging a boy to wear nail polish while also providing normative education; the problem arises when parents fail to recognize that their ideas are commodities. They then impose these ideas under the assumption that "This is truth, therefore, I need not provide any further explanation or context." This means that ideas, which are not innately derived, are presented as if they were. And hypothetically, since the mother and father of the theyby typically have normative genders, the process by which their baby becomes a theyby is through some product of human social interaction transforming their consciousness, which amounts to reification. This is unless the parents acknowledge that they are essentially purchasing a particular brand or concept, echoing the chip packaging analogy mentioned earlier.

This return to the metaphor of the chip packaging and address of bad hope and bad faith in the context of reification is to make clear that an existential etiquette can not be derived by contradiction and deconstruction, these very concepts are alienating factors to the sincerity essential for an existential etiquette.

The primary goal of this essay is to delve into existential etiquette within intimate social realities, but its scope extends even further. Similar to how a parent's bad faith towards a theyby represents a transformation of consciousness via substitution, beliefs in agricultural exceptionalism do something similarly alienating to certain laborers. Margaret Gray (2014) critically observes, “florid descriptions of farmers’ markets, glowing profiles of local purveyors, and anecdotes of happy farm animals put a gloss on the public image of the food movement.” She further points out that this belief in agricultural exceptionalism contributed to the exclusion of farmworkers from New Deal labor protections. In these instances, the bad faith of farmers manifests as a transformation of consciousness through omission.

Now, BDSM is interesting as it relate to social reality because the transformation of consciousness that occurs not only is part and parcel of what BDSM is but the transformation is blatant and is more calculable than other types of transformation in social reality. It can be thought of as a transfer of overall autonomy from one partner to another. This is the type of transformation that occurs in BDSM regardless of it being of good faith-good hope or bad faith-bad hope. But is now time to delve into specifically bad faith and bad hope in BDSM dynamics.

BDSM activities, given their potential for physical and emotional harm, require particularly stringent standards of consent. The partners involved should be mature, informed, and capable of giving their free and enthusiastic consent to each activity. Unfortunately, given the diversity of formative ideological development, freedom and BDSM is a difficult matter. One of our editors recalls dating a woman who said about BDSM practices, “I’ve had certain experiences that have made me this way.”

Trauma often draws individuals to BDSM, with submissives sometimes "reliving" past abuse in a controlled environment in a so-called cathartic manner. While certain aspects of BDSM may be beneficial for some in processing their emotions or experiences, it is important to remember that BDSM is a form of consensual adult play and not a replacement for professional mental health care. When BDSM becomes more than it actually is—and it isn’t everything—it can transform into a manifestation of bad faith or bad hope.

To clarify further, BDSM in itself is not inherently pathological. However, individuals with pre-existing mental health issues or traumas may sometimes incorporate these issues into their BDSM experiences. This can result in misconceptions of BDSM as a therapeutic tool or a means to tackle mental health concerns, which constitutes a form of bad faith or bad hope. As a reminder, BDSM is not a laissez-faire free-for-all; it is not a venue for healing, a financial institution, a therapy session, or an educational setting.

Dominants, like the one featured in the popular Blavity article who incorporated black feminism into her sessions, or those who engage with a submissive solely for financial gain, are engaging in bad faith. This is because their relationship with the submissive lacks sincerity; it's merely an extension of their personal monologue of interests. As a result, respect and dignity are absent, and thus, it doesn't qualify as BDSM. Instead, it's a form of abuse or exploitation masquerading as BDSM, which would be problematic, even criminal, outside the context of BDSM. This raises an important consideration: to discern whether a practice is genuinely part of BDSM or if it's problematic, or potentially criminal, outside the protective umbrella of BDSM:

Let's say you have X, a submissive, who is into the kink Y. Does Z, the dominant, only associate with X because Z gains A from X?

If it is the case that Z associates with X only because of gaining A, and if A were removed from the equation, the association would cease to exist, then the dynamic is not a BDSM relationship, and is in fact exploitation. This is true regardless of whether what a dominant gains through obtaining A is psychological or physical or a combination.

If, for example, a dominant requires a submissive to read bell hooks and then quizzes the sub, resulting in a perfect score, the dominant has ideologically influenced the submissive. However, this learning could have easily occurred in a feminist studies course. The problem isn't the learning about bell hooks per se; it's that integrating this learning into a BDSM context complicates matters. The GroundUp doesn't publish men’s rights activism or feminist texts, but any ideological engagement intertwined with domination could backfire, potentially leading a submissive to reject the ideology they were required to study if the relationship with the dominant ends. Since the engagement with the text is both psychological and dynamic, there may also be psychological and emotional reasons for rejecting the text and its ideological underpinnings, thereby undermining meaningful learning.

That ass is still getting slapped. Come on now, let's not gild or adorn spanking because of some intellectual or ideological layering.

Going deeper into the Blavity article (the same story covered in HuffPost), the late “Mistress Velvet's" fusion of BDSM and activism, framed as a means to teach men to respect black women, compromises the consensual nature of BDSM activities, which is a fundamental aspect of the practice. Furthermore, the article's portrayal of Velvet's work as liberating is problematic. The rhetorical strategies of the article such as referencing the texts that Velvet uses is supposed to make the reader find the connection that there is something liberatory about flogging someone's bare ass when the flogger is situated with black feminism. She even notes, "So after an hour of beating someone and having this kind of dialogue, I leave that and I’m back in my regular clothes walking and minding my own business and someone street harasses me. I’m like, 'really?' It’s so polarizing. It’s so jarring. I’m not saying that I need to beat every man that I see, but I also don’t understand why I can’t walk two blocks without being harassed." Attempting to juxtapose an hour of BDSM with societal harassment oversimplifies complex issues and is, frankly, absurd. Further, the idea of a male dom in this political climate getting journalistic coverage outside of a male centric publication for “educating” a woman while spanking her is unfathomable. But again, female or male authors, dominatrixes or doms, it doesn’t matter to The GroundUp, we wrote about how abusive metaphysical politics are not leftist, we stand by this position because ultimately spanking someone's butt is like dunking a donut in coffee, doing so while a person recites ideology is like adding sprinkles to the donut. The donut is still getting dunked in coffee. That ass is still getting slapped. Come on now, let's not gild or adorn spanking because of some intellectual or ideological layering.

This form of domination differs significantly from a situation where, for instance, a dominant engages in name-calling or humiliation play with a consenting submissive who enjoys such experiences. In the latter scenario, a dominant practicing proper etiquette might conclude the session by holding their submissive and reassuring them that the harsh words were not a reflection of their true self or reality but were part of fulfilling the submissive's needs. This would be followed by a conversation about respect, where the dominant affirms their respect for the submissive.

However, in the case of a dominant who requires their submissive to read bell hooks, there is no such aftercare. Instead, the reward for the submissive is simply acknowledgement of compliance, like saying, “Good job, you really did read bell hooks. You did as I instructed.” This type of domination forces the submissive to jump through an irreversible hoop. While it's one thing for a feminist dominant to address a submissive's misogyny with punishment or for a men’s rights activist dominant to correct a submissive for mocking boys, it's entirely another to regard a submissive as deficient for lacking specific knowledge. This kind of domination is akin to the concern over using the correct cutlery, wearing appropriate garments, adhering to the timeline for writing a “Thank You” letter, or the etiquette of ending a date. It's so exacting and often culturally dependent that it strays from intimacy, resembling a teacher at a blackboard rather than a partner in an intimate dynamic.

Likewise, it's evident that physical alterations that don't return a person to their pre-altered state permanently change the individual experiencing them. Thus, practices like mutilation, scarring, and piercing are not consistent with existential etiquette. While being “owned” is often a key desire of submissives, there are non-permanent ways to fulfill this. Similarly, just as exposure to certain chemicals is medically recognized as a potential future health risk, acts like consuming human waste and garbage are seen as physical alterations that permanently change the individual.

Moreover, while the body generally combats bacteria, and immediate illness may not occur from consuming human waste and garbage, repeated consumption could lead to health issues. Repetition of these physical alterations can condition a person to tolerate and even become accustomed to consuming such materials, potentially increasing the risk of future illnesses. In this manner, the conditioned mindset of the submissive is altered in such a way that they become acclimated to physical changes of their microbiome through the consumption of harmful substances like human waste or garbage, further enhancing the likelihood of permanent change and health risks.

Now, returning to the matter of financial domination, or kinks that result in loss. While on the surface, financial domination may appear as a straightforward exchange of financial control for erotic pleasure, it indeed goes beyond the essence of domination and submission. True domination involves not only asserting control but also ensuring the well-being of submissives, both physically and financially. Thus, dominants must wield their authority responsibly, considering not only their desires but also the welfare of their submissives. The combination of greed, ego, desperate people, and most importantly distance makes financial domination whether happening in person or online a dangerous avenue.

Financial domination often lacks the intimacy between dom and sub, similar to another practice that falls short of existential etiquette and thus does not align with BDSM: cuckoldry.

At its core, cuckoldry involves a partner, typically the submissive or cuckold, witnessing their romantic or sexual partner engage in sexual activity with another person, often referred to as the bull or breeding cow. This practice can cause significant emotional harm to the submissive party. In some instances, it may exploit the submissive's vulnerabilities, preying on their insecurities or emotional dependence on the dominant partner.

Cuckoldry also risks crossing the line from consensual kink into emotional manipulation. Dominants might use this practice to exert control or dominance over the submissive, pushing them to their emotional brink. Such manipulation can result in feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and emotional distress, which contradict the principles of safe, sane, and consensual BDSM.

Moreover, the fetishization of cuckoldry often intersects with problematic racial and gender dynamics. The bull is frequently depicted as a hypermasculine figure, reinforcing harmful stereotypes and objectifying individuals based on their gender or ethnicity. This facet of cuckoldry can perpetuate damaging power imbalances and further exploit the submissive party.

Another problematic form of domination is sissification, which intertwines with complex gender dynamics. The absence of a male dom equivalent of butchification raises questions about the origins of the arousal—did it stem from the sub or the domme? Its overlap with cuckoldry, particularly in transforming the submissive into a “sissy” to contrast with a hypermasculine figure, again highlights concerns over gender objectification. Practices like cuckoldry and sissification cannot be remedied with aftercare, as there exists an umwelten, as semiotician Jakob Johann von Uexküll (2014) would suggest, or a life world as phenomenologists would term it, characterized by an irreversible dynamic. This means that regardless of the submissive's actions post-experience, the experience itself remains as a kind of apparition or final cause in the dominant’s perception of the submissive (a perception of being less than another).

These four examples of practices contraire to existential etiquette and therefore foreign to BDSM can be conceptualized as physical alteration that does not heal, ideological alteration not emended by after care, loss-based domination, and dynamics influenced by the negative potential of instinct and shaped by power dynamics.

Each of these categories will now be briefly explored in the context of bad hope and bad faith and the MDM will be used to help discover the precise failures of these practices in relation to the irrevocable loss of dignity caused to those who extend or receive the practices.

Now, to begin with the matter of physical alteration that does not heal, it is important to discuss the idea of ownership. The idea of being owned is a complicated idea within BDSM. For submissives, being owned is often thought of as being possessed by another, understood, and protected by someone who provides stability. Ownership of an animal often entails branding, marking, tagging, docking, cropping, and other means of practical tracking, health, or cosmetic processes. Humans of course are not animals; or rather, humans are not animals in the same way cows are animals. Humans in BDSM master and slave dynamics are not actually master and slave. BDSM dynamics are after all imaginative play that involves language games, which as Ludwig Wittgenstein suggests, are concomitant to human life. Indeed, Kenneth Burke dovetails this idea with his definition of humanity which states: "Man is the symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal, inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative), separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making, goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order), and rotten with perfection" (1966).

Biologist Humberto Maturana (1986, as cited in Brier, 2014) argues that numerous knowledge systems cause people to explain, predict, and conduct activities in a multiverse. This can be obvious for culturally different practice (one indigenous group’s practices compared to another) but can be found abundantly in academic discipline. For example, in western rhetoric, the process of semiosis is conceptualized as dyadic, an object and an interpretant, but in the Tartu-Moscow school of semiotics, and more broadly semiotics as a field and educable discipline, semiotics is triadic (representamen, interpretant, and object). Now, a biological basis for human social reality being divergent seems to predicate constructionism, which is problematic and something that is to be argued against on the level of the drive to act or moral impulse, but there is a heuristic anchor through the idea of evolutionary love. Whereas Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection was based on a principal of the competition of private interests, Charles Sanders Peirce, a trained chemist, and scientist for over thirty years, was a critic of conceptions of evolution that presupposed selfishness. Instead, he suggested evolution as an agapism where natural selection occurs because of the reification of that which is lovely in others. This could be a matter of semantics, but it is an idea that is dovetailed by anarchist Peter Kropotkin who believed that the only socially beneficial form of competition was the conflict to dismantle unjust, authoritarian institutions. This in turn is reflected in Maturana and Francisco Varela who write that “A human society in which to see all human beings as equivalent to oneself, and to love them, is operationally legitimate without demanding from them a larger surrender of individuality and autonomy than the measure that one is willing to accept for oneself while integrating it as an observer, is a product of human art, that is, an artificial society that accepts every human being as not dispensable” (1928).

For this reason, and in line with the MDM, The GroundUp does not subscribe to the notion that Wittgenstein’s language games and the umwelt of von Uexküll or the life world of phenomenologists, which act as metaphysical synecdoches to Maturana’s multiverse, are solely ontological concepts. These concepts are deeply interwoven and extend into other dimensions of reality, within which they are nested or in which they nest other dimensions. For instance, Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus could be nested within von Uexküll’s umwelt. The former refers to the way people perceive and respond to the world they inhabit, while the latter represents the world as experienced by a particular individual. This intertwining suggests the complexity of working with rigid categories. As Søren Brier writes, “[w]e seem to be caught as individuals in our worlds and as a species in the universe.” (2014).

To jump back to the subject of address then, the submissive who say, gets a branding on their forehead is a hyperbolic materialization of Brier’s metaphor but that is the obtuse bad faith of the dominant and the obtuse bad hope of the submissive. The idea that such violent definiteness is going to yield anything better than regret is foolish. A dom can have the most chiseled physique and a dominatrix can wear the most fearful spiked heels and a submissive can make the most vulnerable of expressions, but the moment a dominant believes they are a source of enlightenment or are an educational resource or an actual form of stability through their domination, they are engaging in bad faith. A submissive who believes that they are being enlightened or educated and truly stabilized by a dominant is engaging in bad hope.

This might suggest the meaning of life is beyond words and that the relativist is correct to a degree and that existentialism is needed beyond this etiquette. The GroundUp would argue against this. Existentialism permeates BDSM, likely in a deeper way than nihilism or hedonism because everyone is in their “own” world thinking they are condemned to be free and countless doms and subs experience post-hoc regret and post-hoc justification when they forget their place as a species in the universe! What this means then is that while existentialism can help soften the potential harshness of the MDM, an etiquette is being provided to existentialism through the MDM. It might be trite to note that no one knows what a cow feels when it is branded (it is obviously not joy) but just reflect on a soured relationship between a dom and a sub where a dom said very exacting things and branded the sub on the face. The dyad broke for whatever reason. Let’s say hypothetically the dom is now married and has children. One day, one of the children after school talks about how a monument was given by the U.S. to Cuba after the failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs, and for whatever reason that father thinks of the brand he gave to the sub in years past. He could give that sub he branded a call and send a card, but he did the branding. He left a mark on that sub that he is not certain about. Because he now feels the weight of himself as a member of a species! But in the moment past, he felt himself a source of enlightenment or an educational resource or a form of stability. So, in the past he was a member of his world and who he was branding was a species in the universe! So in a practical application of the equation Σ ∨ α ∨ (δ→β) ∨ (Ψ′ → (γ ∧ β)) (Ψ)= Φ, the dom is so deep in their own world that they actually objectify another to a species while excluding themselves from such a categorization so that the moral impulse of not branding a human being is glossed over so they have a corrupted moral impulse that results in the action of branding, which then leads to corrective action and justification: This relationship asserts that a corrupted moral impulse (Ψ′) leads to both moral failure (γ) and a post-hoc justification (β). In other words, after a moral misstep, an individual will attempt to rationalize why it occurred.

Different materialization of the equation can play out. Sometimes, it’s societal influence that would govern the doms branding instead of corrupted moral impulse. This just happens to be the more fitting equation for burning someone’s flesh and it is argued as bad faith because the dom in this hypothetical is not experiencing himself or the sub for what they are and what they are not. For one of the other uncouth practices another dimension of the model will be explored.

The same is true for the sub who experiences branding. In this case, it is argued that it is societal influence that plays the biggest part in a sub agreeing to accept something violent like that of brand. The idea of being possessed or owned is such a trope in romance novels and erotica and porn that it is very cleanly not self-governance and while it could be argued that it is corrupted moral impulse, and in some cases, it may be, the entire master-slave dyad is fraught with people, who Gucci Mane would say are deeply lost in the sauce of culture. This isn’t to suggest that it is wrong for someone to crave to be owned or possessed, and this is naturally a socially interpolated desire, but to believe someone can do that or that someone should take violent steps that indicate that they are in fact owned (while in an ultimately imaginative space) is foolish. There is a moral impulse, the drive to act is present, an action is going to happen, and in this case, it happened due to societal influence. In this case, the post-hoc justification didn’t happen in this moral scenario! No, it happened in a moral scenario about conceptualizing the moral scenario that occurred once the relationship between sub and dom ended. So, to be clear this means each moral scenario is governed by a singular path that stands in relation to the ceaselessness of the moral impulse and the drive to act. These are the paths Σ ∨ α ∨ (δ→β) ∨ (Ψ′ → (γ ∧ β)). People in the moment of action are not that complex. And this is why The GroundUp argues that the notion that people are “condemned” to be free is much too hyperbolic and is almost a vain idea.

Moving on now to another practices contraire to existential etiquette known as loss-based domination, it is important to note again that BDSM is part of social reality. For someone to actually be withered through their engagement with BDSM and believe that this constitutes some sort of efficacious relation with another is indicative that such a person wants to be abused. For someone to wither another through their engagement with another and know that their behavior is only efficacious for themselves is to abuse.

To clarify, the earlier example of loss-based domination focused on financial domination. The upcoming exploration, utilizing the MDM, will delve further into the dynamics of bad hope in the submissive and bad faith in the dominant within the context of financial domination. However, it is crucial to unequivocally state that loss-based domination is a form of abuse. For instance, if someone amputates another person’s arm, medically stitches the wound, and then takes the arm because the person losing the arm experienced arousal during the process, and the person taking the arm has a preference for arms, this situation cannot be considered harmless.

The example might seem hyperbolic, which is the intention to show the absurdity of loss in relation to BDSM but there are cases where dominants have castrated their submissive or had their submissive castrate themselves (on Quora there are so many responses to one user’s question “If your wife asked you to get 'fixed' (castrated), would you?” that pertain to an affirmative in relation to cuckoldry that it almost seems categorically improper to talk in depth about testicular loss in the loss-based domination section)). Contrary to Abigail Moss who argues in her Inside Hook article, that fin dom is very different than financial abuse because in an economically abusive relationship, the perpetrator controls the victim’s finances against their will, we argue that the people who participate as the submissive in financial domination have no will. Or rather, their will has been withered. Moss argues that men pursue fin dom more than women and they do it to escape patriarchal expectations. But there are expectations for survival as a species and the top male earners that compose the majority of the top 2% of the U.S. earners are not pumping money into a fem dom’s bank account. At least, not to the degree that they cease to be in the top 2%!

It becomes evident that financial domination does not align with the principles of The Giving Tree, nor does it appear that submissives involved in such dynamics are financially equipped to continuously distribute cash in the amounts and frequency that would define a stable dynamic. In fact, it seems that the nature of the dynamic from the beginning existentially threatens its permanence. Additionally, there are ideological underpinnings affecting both the dominant and the submissive in financial domination. Typically, the male “fin sub” is presumed to be motivated by a desire to escape patriarchy. However, the submissive may not necessarily subscribe to any post-patriarchy ideology and might instead be drawn to the idea of women asserting any form of deviant influence in their lives. As Burke simplifies in his writing on the pathetic fallacy, “[w]e might call it a mere analogical extension, as one invents external equivalents for his mental and emotional patterns” (1954). In this context, without advocating a gender-based stance (neither feminist nor men’s rights), the pathetic fallacy at play in the minds of both the fin dom and fin sub leads to a mutual point of analogical repulsion.

The fin dom operates under the pathetic fallacy that the fin sub, in his negligent release of money, is attempting to escape patriarchy. He is not viewed as a man, nor as a queer individual unless stated otherwise, but rather as a living, breathing ATM that boosts the dominant’s efficacy at the ATM’s expense. Conversely, the fin sub is in a state of totalizing embrace of women, not feeling the need to mirror women’s existence or to sublimate his existence through some obscure queer reality. Instead, he embraces the engulfing negative manifestation of a woman’s biological imperative, in the Darwinian sense, by offering his resources without personal gain. So, what constitutes the bad faith and bad hope in the fin dom and fin sub dynamic? The answer lies in the concept of worth.

There is no reflective self-governance here. The existence of such rational deliberation about what is right or good for them is completely absent from this type of dynamic. The entire situation is under the sway of societal influence for both dominant and submissive similar to how a drone serves a queen ant, but there is actually efficacy for the drone and queen ant in that the drone’s service ultimately insures the efficacy of colony and therefore the socially functional umwelt of the ant just makes clear how uncouth human non-socially supportive loss-based domination is.

All of our editors detest these abominable practices, but one of our editors was once propositioned by an old classmate to send her money as she claimed she was destitute and needed to eat! Upon further exploration of the matter, the facts didn’t add up as the request turned from wanting money through CashApp to wanting a Razer gaming gift card. But video games don't stave off hunger pains! The editor never sent that woman money and spent time trying to remind that person of lived memories shared, to no avail. He departed that woman with his head held high for maintaining his dignity but saddened by the circumstances. Though, he will admit, he was treading once he realized the disingenuous nature of the woman's request. And it is always better to handle infidels within one's courtyard than try to convert faraway lands. Ultimately though, this editor realized that he wanted to be part of a writing project that addressed uncouth behavior like he experienced so as to guide people in the path of dignity.

Continuing with the explication of practices contraire to existential etiquette and therefore foreign to BDSM is the practice of ideological alteration not amended by aftercare. Now, earlier this practice was explored through the idea of a dominatrix teaching feminist theory to a submissive, but this practice is much broader in scope and probably the most pernicious in that it isn’t always easy for dominant and submissive alike to identify its presence. There is ideology of course embedded into BDSM. Aftercare via mental health ideology is one example. Then there are ideologies that like the theyby example from earlier that are reification in the sense that ideas are argued to be innately derived when they are not in fact innately derived.

An example of this is from another one of our editors. He posted on social media years ago something provocative that implied some sort of interest or fascination with BDSM. An ex-girlfriend of his contacted him through chat regarding his post and the two commenced a conversation. The conversation’s focus seemed to be about experience and addressing the matter of domination. The ex stated that the best way to learn to be dominant is by being submissive to an experienced dominant. The editor politely disagreed and ended the conversation by changing the subject. But he shared with us that he reflected on her argument, and how what his ex said is a commonly circulated ideology technology that simply isn’t true. Dominance and submission are a lot of things, but they certainly aren’t understood more deeply by existing as the antithesis. One wanting to learn about law enforcement doesn’t learn about law enforcement by attempting to rob a bank beyond learning that indeed, the act of law enforcement occurs; of course, at the cost of their frustration that yes, this was quite obvious, and they didn’t need a felony record to confirm this. Someone wouldn’t need to get a gag put into their mouth for the hundredth time to understand what it means to dominate, to be dominant, and to do so to a submissive.

Being a submissive in BDSM does not make a person an inferior human, but it doesn’t make a person understand how to be dominant by proxy to the presence of dominance. In fact, the idea of being proxy to dominance makes the idea of a journeyman or assistant dominant equally silly. The idea that rather than someone preparing to be a dominant by existing as a submissive, they are an apprentice to a seasoned dominant is ridiculous because again witnessing domination is not domination. But this is a digression from the argument the editor's ex concerned herself with.

Since BDSM is a social arrangement, like friendships and romantic relationships, it is not something learned by the opposite (being an enemy or being in a platonic relationship). Domination and submission, two separate paths, that meet as a dyad, are about learning what turns oneself and each other on. Neither domination nor submission is an achievement that one unlocks.

This is why statements from a dominant to a submissive or a submissive to a dominant like “A sub should do X” or “A dom should do X” are part of campaigns of ideological alteration not amended by aftercare. Yes, submissive are responsible for this too, and while throughout this essay the dominant has been argued as the bearer of bad faith because of their authority vis-à-vis subject position, these instances of “should do X” are conversational and connected to dynamics but are external to the dynamics; meaning, they set the course of the dynamic, and are therefore outside of them. Further, it can be the case that submissives are the practitioners of bad faith to a bad hope dominant, like perhaps a submissive goading a dominant into an act of consensual non-consent, which the dominant feels uncomfortable about, and this gets into the territory of subjects like power bottoms and the like, and we don’t discount this possibility, but because of the nature of the subject position of dominant in relation to the subject position of submissive, for the purpose of this essay it is more appropriate to address the matter in general as dominant is to bad faith as submissive is to bad hope while acknowledging that there are exceptions.

But going back to the point about statements, it’s not at all the case that dominants and submissives shouldn’t express their needs and desires. Needs and desires along with boundaries are what makes a BDSM relationship what it is as opposed to a friendship. People in BDSM relationships need or desire certain idiosyncratic or phenomenological sensual experiences that typically go beyond intimacies found in more traditional relationships. But just as how communication in romantic relationships requires respect and conflict is better engaged through expressions such as “I feel Y way when you do X” it is imperative that in the BDSM relationship that desires and needs are expressed with a similar consideration that makes clear that what is being expressed is not a negative expression but a communication of what is needed.

There are billions of people and billions of needs and desires, and the expression of dominance and submission materializes in different ways. Rather than attempt to ideologically inundate someone to accept “I believe dominance/submission is doing X, agree with me,” it is important to communicate what is needed and desired with “I need this” or “I desire this.” No one is a mind reader, but it is never okay to position one’s needs and desires to be innately derived through statements that veil needs and desires through focusing on what the antithesis “should do.”

For the sake of continuity, as mentioned previously, the focus here will be on the bad faith of the dominant and the bad hope of the submissive so in his case the bad faith dom saying a “sub should do X” is practicing a type of bad faith that can be understood through the MDM as a corrupted moral impulse that results in the action of manipulation, which then leads to corrective action and justification: This relationship asserts that a corrupted moral impulse (Ψ′) leads to both moral failure (γ) and a post-hoc justification (β). In other words, after a moral misstep, an individual will attempt to rationalize why it occurred. The bad hope submissive who complies with various types of ideological inundation such as some identity politic metaphysic or some manipulative tactic is in the throes of the intricate dynamics between societal influence, begrudging actions, and the subsequent justifications that emerge. The MDM indicates that moral decisions can be shaped by reflective self-governance (Σ) or societal norms (α) or by a combination of reluctantly-taken actions followed by subsequent justifications (δ leading to β). A submissive when prompted by a dominant to do as a “submissive should do” should actually recall all the cleanly submissive things that they do and realize that doing “X” act doesn’t make them more submissive than what they already are through their actions. To be clear, these can be thought of as submissive actions “A-W and Y-Z.” The only submissive action missing is X.

Indeed, obedience is a major part of submission, but a submissive obeying manipulation has entered a space outside of BDSM. The justification that follows a dominant's aggressive actions to induce a submissive to take actions in a state of reluctance and likewise the justification the submissive has for their reluctantly taken actions is in many ways the most disturbing part of uncouth dynamics in that obedience is justified as part of the control that is a natural part of BDSM and therefore there is a belief that the end, reluctantly taken actions, are innately derived through the process of BDSM, and the justification isn’t seen as a consequence of a sullied moral action (the reluctantly taken action) but as simply part of the stream of consciousness of a BDSM dynamic. But reluctantly taken actions are not what BDSM is, or rather, reluctantly taken actions are not inherently what BDSM is. And if reluctantly taken actions are a dimension of a dynamic within BDSM, they would need to be a discussed part of a scene. Meaning dominant and submissive discuss beforehand that play forthcoming will feature manipulation, but a scene can’t just spontaneously involve manipulation. This is because a discussed and agreed upon manipulation is not manipulation in the truest sense. A true manipulation is a slight against trust and cannot be reconciled in after care. A discussed upon, acted manipulation can. But to carry on and not digress, the opposite is true that justification is in fact innately derived from sullied moral action.

As noted previously, this terrain of ideological alteration not amended by aftercare is likely the gravest uncouth practice not just because it is so often intersected with the other three uncouth practices of address but because it is so numerous and varied in scale (other problem terrains include “brainwashing” or hypnosis efforts) and exists in a multitude of other subtle practices. There needs to be greater modesty between dominant and submissive for this reason. Especially given the formative and developmental factors of contingent existence and ideological contingencies found in human growth and development (think of the theyby and the boy wearing nail polish), it is wildly naïve for a dominant to be impressed with their own dominance or a submissive in their own submissiveness. BDSM can be extreme and there can be ethical pushing of limits but is should never be at the cost of dignity.

The last explication of practices contraire to existential etiquette and therefore foreign to BDSM are dynamics influenced by the negative potential of instinct and shaped by power dynamics. Now, meta ethician Charles Stevenson notes that those of “forceful personalities issue commands which weaker people, for complicated instinctive reasons, find it difficult to disobey, quite apart from fears of consequences” (1937). It is important to begin the explication of this uncouth territory through making clear what is being addressed in the critique of the negative potential of instinct. The negative potential of instinct is some people having a complicated difficulty to disobey. If someone has a complicated difficulty to disobey, the idea of that person existing in any type of power dynamic is a blunder on both their part and on the part of those participating in the dynamic with the person. People who have difficulty disobeying are vulnerable in power dynamics, as they might struggle to express their needs, limits, or discomfort. Likewise, unless their partner(s) have some sort of mental health issues that infringes on their ability to establish a sort of general read of this person who has an obvious complicated difficulty to disobey, they will in fact see this person as having a complicated difficulty disobeying.

Now, there are two potential reactions the partner(s) will have if this means something to their desire for a power dynamic: (1) this person is a natural submissive; or (2) this person is a mark that will be a target/this person is prey. The first assumption is wrong because a submissive person in BDSM is not intrinsically submissive. The same goes for dominants in BDSM. A healthy submissive person in BDSM is not someone who has a complicated difficulty to disobey in both the social realm of BDSM or outside of it. The submissive may want to submit or not want to disobey because it is a turn on or makes them happy to obey, but they do not have a complicated difficulty to disobey. They effectively communicate their needs, boundaries, and limits. For the person who has a complicated difficulty to disobey, they exist in all aspects of life with a vulnerability that makes their position in any social dynamic problematic but in a BDSM power dynamic their presence does not meet the criteria for consent as they lack for whatever reason the ability to comprehend their agency in the world to give and revoke consent. The second assumption is wrong because it is blatantly manipulative. Ultimately though, in the materialization of power dynamics there is little difference between the dominant that believes a person with a complicated difficulty to disobey is a natural submissive or that they are a mark or prey because they are treated as perennial losers in the power dynamic.

Essentially, the existence of the negative potential of instinct shaped by power dynamics in BDSM can also be thought of as loss-based submission, but this muddies the waters given the argument previously extended that what is occurring isn’t consensual. Additionally, this also seems to preclude the so-called dominant’s investment in this abusive dynamic. This transitions to the problem that is cuckoldry in BDSM.

While the term has taken on modern parlance, it has historical use in popular media including William Chaucer's story “Wife of Bath’s Tales” in Canterbury Tales. Cuckoldry is first and foremost established by the cheating of a partner, and what makes the partner cheated on a cuck is their continuation in the relationship after the unfaithfulness, not the act of unfaithfulness itself. It is not ipso facto a terrain of BDSM but can become a terrain of BDSM in two common ways: (1) a partner is having an affair and introduces the idea of cuckoldry as an exoticized solution to have one’s cake and eat it too; or (2) one or both partners (or a portion of a group in polyamorous relationships) want to explore power dynamics. The typical practice is that there is some combination of submissive cuck/cuckquean, a partner that engages in infidelity, and a bull or breeding cow that engages in sex acts with the unfaithful partner.

The terrain of relationships that enter into such practices is complicated as it is difficult to categorize the practice as BDSM, and for the sake of this essay, this terrain will be simply stated to be antisocial. People can try to spice up relationships, think they are progressive, experiencing greater pleasure, but at the end of the day a person is being cheated on or cheating on someone. And such an action can never be taken back. With that being said, the focus will be centered on dominants that pursue being bulls or breeding cows and submissives that pursue being cucks/cuckqueans and how the MDM can help explicate the type of bad faith and bad hope at play.

A dominant who goes on to a dating app like Kinkoo or KinkD and notes that they are looking for a submissive interested in being a cuck/cuckquean is basically saying I’m looking for a perpetual loser. There is no stipulative definition that settles the heart to what is occurring, and while it all can be framed as expanding sexual horizons, experimentation, stepping out of one’s comfort zone, overcoming insecurity, there is blatant instinct at play in the context of getting watched fucking or getting fucked. Ultimately, the process of getting watched occurs because the watcher desires the object or objects having sex. The watched fuckers are distinctly psychologically empowered through the semiosis of the presence of the watcher. The dominant who frames this act as anything beyond their own interests is engaging in bad faith.

To get to a point of not simply fantasizing about being in a situation as a desirable object fucking another desirable object in front of a less desired or even undesired watcher but actually doing it is indicative of corrupted moral impulse. In this situation a dominant actively seeking a submissive to act this scene out as a watcher is to say “I am knowledgeable that I am desired by the watcher and it hurts them that they don’t receive intimacy but I desire who I am fucking or being fucked by and that is what matters.” There is no balm or aftercare for someone who receives less than someone else. There is no preservation of dignity for this reason. The continuation in a dynamic where the fucker or fucked and their partner is primary and the watcher is secondary, as the watcher doesn’t become the fucker or fucked is a perpetuation of a type of concubinage and any way of framing it as otherwise is bad faith.

Since the fucker or fucked and their partner know that it is hurtful and undignified to be the watcher (moral impulse), there is a drive to act but since it is ignored for personal satisfaction, the moral impulse is corrupted, which leads to moral failure when the sullying action of letting the watcher experience the pain that cannot be worked out through aftercare occurs. The fucker and fucked will apply corrective action amongst themselves and in the broader scope of the overall dynamic that desire and satisfaction is at play and everything is consensual, but this is a moral misstep because unlike other terrains of BDSM where perhaps a lack of fulfillment is involved in a scene because of a kink with denial, the fucker and fucked here are getting fulfilled and the watcher is not. Cuckoldry is not BDSM because it is too atmospheric in its sadism and likewise too atmospheric in its masochism.

The submissive watcher knows that they are not fulfilled by the experience, and they exist in this atmosphere of perpetual masochism via semiosis. They exist in the dynamic in an antisocial way through their connection to either the fucker or the fucked who is their object of desire and their presence in the dynamic never becomes social as there is no fulfillment of desire. Through mental gymnastics the watcher participates in bad hope that the frameworks of being a cuck/cuckquean as being other than what the actual instinctual moral impulse makes clear what it is, a moral misstep of being disrespected, of not being the fucked or the fucker with the object of desire and instead a fucker fucks their object of desire, or their object of desire fucks another person.

Getting to the point of existence where one justifies not being the one to hold firmly or get held by the object of one’s desire while another person does before their eyes or with an understanding of the occurrence and be in a dynamic with the object of desire is to hope for the integrity of social reality while being in an antisocial state: a complete and utter contradiction. This is quite clear when one understands the reality of desire during sex: And what this means for cuckoldry is that the fucker and fucked are in their world of desire while having sex; meaning, there is not an out of instinct social reality for people having sex. The fucker and the fucked, the person acting and the person getting acting upon, but more importantly the magnetism between two people, in this case clearly more profound than that of the watcher with their object of desire, makes sex between the two who are in that mode of desire with each other social and it makes not social what is not part of the magnetism. This challenges the social efficacy of experiences like double penetration, ménage à trois, and orgies, and even relationship dynamics like polyamory. This can be summed up in the expression "Threes a crowd." A person who is in the presence of or knows that their object of desire is having sex with another, meaning their object of desire is in a world of desire with another, is in an antisocial space during that moment. This suggests that there can be too much connection, or connections that are not nourishing that are very much like a rotted melon, squeeze the rot and the juice just slops out, there is no social reality during sex unless one has material bodily presence or some sort of deeply intimate interaction with the object of desire. For this reason, the submissive watcher, who is aware of social reality—and being part of it—and then existing in a state of not being in social reality with their object of desire (which outside of the argument that cuckoldry is concomitant to BDSM would be a slight), there exists corrupted moral impulse as the drive to act in relation to the moral impulse of the indignity is to walk away from the relationship. Rationalization is the way of the cuck who morally fails by accepting the dynamic in the first place and this is where the bad hope festers.

If there were some sort of auditing mechanism for every person who has a relationship with BDSM, one would find a disturbing reality that there are a small number of people who are part of it in an honest, intimate, and respectful way, and then there are perennial manipulators, abusers, and users and also perennial losers, victims, and the used. For the perennial manipulators, the perennial losers are often unicorns of suffering. For the perennial losers, the perennial manipulators are allowed to walk all over them, there is no boundary, no need that is sacred. Essentially, most BDSM is not BDSM at all, its just people abusing and people accepting the abuse.

The intent of this writing has been to illuminate the broadest categories of abuse that exists within BDSM and to repudiate both dominant bad faith and submissive bad hope. The idea has been to delink one or the other from being more at fault but to note the folly of both. There is no need for a perpetuation of Marquis de Sade’s boisterous textual proclamations when it is clear that contrary to what he argued in the narrative of Justine, virtue is not the opposite of pleasure, it is what prevents pleasure from withering!

Oh, for the dominant who will roll their eyes at this essay or submissive who will do the same, I would suggest the consideration of the dynamic held with your counterpart. What is satisfied and what is not? And if the response is, “What is satisfied is enough and what is not satisfied is irrelevant,” perhaps the allegory of the cave, with those persons satisfied by the shadows might encourage a meta exploration of BDSM.

And to those who would argue that this essay encourages people to not go beyond comfort zones and is a refuge for the insecure, all editors in unison counter by noting that projections must never be allowed to detract from one’s power. A comfort zone is only a comfort zone if it is a self-understanding. Insecurity is only insecurity if it is recognized by the self. There remains a pernicious trend within BDSM but in social reality in general of the expectation that a person must exist with an unrelenting adventurism, as though one were a character in a transcendental novelist’s story. But why is it that in an era marked with so many liberatory gestures that insecurity is so strongly projected upon others, when the concerns that bring forth such a critique are clearly applicable to the semiotic and phenomenological instinctual reality at play. If more people in all social relationships, not just BDSM, were communicative about what they truly needed, not just as people in a dynamic, (gay, straight, dominant, submissive, etc.) there would be more mutual semiotic recognition and relationships would not commence to ultimately wither so easily.

As noted previously, existential etiquette is a perennial etiquette, one that is not stipulated solely on socioeconomic status but is indeed existential, as it is accessible to all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances. Sincerity is the quality that commences the process of nourishment in a relationship, but it is the integrity of a mutual semiotic recognition between the participants in the dyad that constitute it as dignified. As John Muller notes (1996), a mother or father is not merely the object of desire of a baby boy or girl, as they are the desiring subject to an equally desiring object. This touches back on the idea of bad faith from parents of refusing to acknowledge the commodities that are ideas in the face of true platonic intimacy with their child, and the integrity, and dignity that will nourish the dyad into the future and into natural relationships a child has in adolescence and beyond. Ideology has crept into dyads, parent-child, boyfriend-girlfriend, girlfriend-girlfriend (and the likenesses in married existence), dominant-submissive, when indeed in all their cases there is a need for mutual semiotic recognition.

To prevent bad hope and bad faith from corrupting relationships, the BDSM relationship and its follies and the strategies for preventing these relationship withering occurrences must be seen not as an alien realm of mystery and Lovecraftian cruelty but a place that is part of understandable social reality, and a place that impacts and is impregnable by social reality just as a child is impacted by social reality and is not simply exhausted by the idea of his household (even if homeschooled). In many ways, BDSM is an expression of social realities deepest intrinsic intricacies but again, it is not a place for healing, a bank, a therapy session, or a classroom, and it is not the Theatre of the Oppressed. Instead, it represents a set of distinct social relationships that requires the same consideration for respect and dignity as any other aspect of human interaction, thereby the dominant is not simply a desired object but also a desiring subject, and similarly, the submissive is not just a desiring subject but also a desired object.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that no one person or group is necessary or often capable of satisfying the self or one’s need for nourishment. But this doesn’t imply that larger groups or more and more people can satisfy those needs for nourishment! Relationships of all types may not be easy and there are times in life where there may be loneliness. That is okay. For some people there is not an easy solution to the matter of social and psychological needs, but the wrong actions taken towards others, whether submissive or a dominant are not going to help internal issues.

For the perennial losers and perennial manipulators, seek help—BDSM is not the place for you until you are helped.

For those interested in furthering their reception and assertion of nurturance and cultivation of the etiquette of BDSM, this is only the start of the conversation.


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