I understand the need for labeling who we are in relationships, in our sexuality and in different areas of our lives. But deconstruction of toxic labels should be done. A label can give us a feeling of belonging and makes it easier for us to navigate the world.

We know the expectations coming with the label. And people like categorizing others. Already Kant understood that placing others into neat boxes is the way in which humans simplify their lives. Things were easier in the past though.

Labels were stringently defined and everyone could confidently stand in the corner they most identified with. But we are living in the postmodern world now where all definitions and labels get deconstructed and redefined.

We now have umbrella terms that embrace whole sets of subcategories. That is true for all areas of life, but especially when it comes to sexuality, sexual orientation and relationship forms. I personally welcome that change in thinking and viewing the world, but I can also see the confusing aspects with this new way of defining things.

Umbrella Terms and Subcategories

I think there is a huge discrepancy in how people familiar with a certain area view and define labels, and how the general public looks at it.

A good example is the LGBTQ community which in the last 40 years or so has created many new labels for different kinds of sexual and romantic orientations and gender identities and gender presentations.

They make sense within in the community, but society as a whole has not caught up yet. It is all about things slowly spreading into the general consciousness and people just learning new ways to approach gender and sexuality. And sometimes that can clash.

In the kink, BDSM and D/s communities, similar things have been happening in the last 50 years or so. One might think that postmodernism and the idea of deconstructing and redefining labels can’t spread that far. But it did.

There are a lot of new roles and labels that are now found under the more commonly known labels of submission, dominance and D/s.

And that can lead to a whole lot of confusion for those who are not part of the community or who have just started to learn about it. Dominance, submission and D/s seemed to be such clear cut terms and everyone sort of had similar ideas of how to define them.

So if you used one of those labels, everyone had the same understanding of what they meant.

Changes can lead to confusion in labels

But these days there are so many different labels that fit under the the three main umbrellas that it can become overwhelming to even start understanding what they all mean. Labels like brat, baby girl, puppy, rope bunny or Daddy, caretaker Dom or top.

A dominant isn’t necessary a strict sadist anymore, and a submissive is not a necessarily a masochistic slave. A D/s relationship can be anything from service to only in the bedroom.

Things have moved further and spread into different areas. And we are all redefining things constantly in our relationships but also in the community itself.

I like that things are more open for discussion now. The need for identity and belonging is an important one, and the relief to know that there is a term to describe exactly what you feel, can be sweet.

I don’t assume about people’s roles and the labels that they choose. I think an important question to ask is: what does it mean to you? Because if someone expresses that they are a submissive in a D/s relationship, it can mean many different things.

And you can also have more than one label, more than one identity in the D/s and BDSM realm. Every relationship dynamic is different and different scenes might also tickle out different needs.

My Labels

I have sort of always known that I am a submissive in the bedroom and in relationships. It took me a long time to explore that side of me more. When I was ready to do so, I was met with these long lists of labels that could describe a submissive and I got utterly confused.

I was convinced that submission meant only one thing, at least that is how I had seen it in the 90s at kink events and in the relationships of my friends. It was fun to discover that there were certain submissive labels that fit me way better than others did.

I would label myself as a submissive, a brat, a masochist, a degradee and a puppet.

The Need to Explain

Those labels are not very important to me and they are not something that I’d tattoo on my body. But they describe the kind of submissive that I am. And I mention them to others if they ask me about my D/s role.

In other areas of my life, there are labels, that are more important to me: like political affiliation, subcultures or professional roles. But in my head, the term submissive still describes me the way I want to see myself.

The issue is that the submissive label means something different to me than it does to the general population. So if I solely told them that I was a submissive, I know that they would assume certain things about me that are not true.

I am not timid, I don’t blindly follow orders and I don’t like planned scenes. I am more playful and in some ways more hardcore than what many expect from someone who uses the submissive label.

It is really great that we all have so many different labels to describe our roles with. And in the end it is up to us to decide how important labels are for our understanding and identity in D/s and BDSM settings.

But it is important that we explain what we mean with such commonly known terms like dominant, submissive or D/s.

We live in the time of deconstruction, and there is a discrepancy between what those labels mean to the general population and what they entail in the kink community.