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all the men and women merely players

Posted at 19:48 on 21 Oct 2009 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: meta-analysis, those crazy kinksters

One rant I've never understood, although I've heard it several times, is about the word "play". Some people have a problem with it. Sometimes these people are Very Important and Serious Lifestyle Players Perverts - often with names like Lord Sir Master Domly McDomlyson. More often the people having this rant are dedicated political activists who want kink to be accepted and taken seriously by the wider world. "Play", they argue, makes it sound like we're play-acting, messing around, experimenting. It's as offensive as telling a gay or bisexual person that their sexuality is more about "playing around" than an intrinsic part of their identity.

I can see the reasoning behind this point of view. But it's never really influenced me, because I personally embrace and love the term "play", with all its ambiguity. Adults in our society make far too little time for play. The grownups I know who regularly play games for fun - board games, roleplaying games, wide games - tend to be much better company (and far happier) than those who consider themselves too old for that sort of thing. What's wrong with playing, anyway? My boyfriends and I are enormously silly in private. If the intimacy of a spanking scene is to be compared to the intimacy of a tickling war or pillow fight, is that such a bad thing?

When Tom and I had a more formal D/s framework, he would sometimes differentiate between scenes that were "play" - undertaken for pleasure, his or mine (usually his) - and scenes that were "work". The latter included discipline, which wasn't meant to be fun for either of us, and which had to happen even if neither of us felt like it (consistency and predictability are very important for me when it comes to real discipline - if a punishment is deserved, I react very badly if it doesn't happen when promised). Scenes designed to train me in scene manners, etiquette, positions - what you might call slave training, although I've never been what I would call a slave - were also sometimes considered work. (On the other hand, we could possibly have been described as Serious Lifestyle Perverts in those days, with all the impassioned enthusiasm of people embarking on something new. We've both mellowed a touch since then.)

The distinction is meaningless these days; we don't have the same formal framework, and most of what I do with D. and Tom pretty much falls into the above category of "play".

Recently, though I thought of a third way of interpreting the word "play" - one which even the activists and Serious Perverts might well be happy with. A scene is not just a fun interaction between partners: it's a performance. Roleplaying and acting are not so very different. A play is a narrative physically enacted, a dialogue, a scenario. Things that are played, as well as games and sports, include parts, plays, scenes, musical instruments, concertos, symphonies. Playing can be theatrical, immersive, expressive - as well as fun. There's nothing uncertain or experimental about that.

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