The Science of Conformity in BDSM and Beyond

Posted: February 11, 2011 by Isaac Cross in Advice, Learn Something, Philosophy, Reviews (Web)

Ever wonder why people in a political party, who are ordinarily diverse and varied, all seem to hold the same opinions when it comes time to vote? Ever wonder why kinky people, who rant about society judging us, all seem to be so judgmental of each other?

Well, there is actually a science to this. Call it peer-pressure or conformity, but it is a fascinating subject either way.

Watch this video. It’s ten minutes long and will make you a better person. And he will tell you why it will make you a better person at 7:10 into the video. But don’t cheat and skip ahead. At about 5:50, start thinking about communities that you are a part of, whether kinky or political or hobby based. I bet you’ll recognize some things.

After you’ve watched the video, read the rest of this post for my favorite parts and a few extra thoughts.

My favorite bits:

“It’s easier to be skeptical of groups that we don’t belong to or that we’ve broken away from…but conformity really kicks in with the groups we identify with to get the support and acceptance we might seek from those groups.”

“Being a part of a group doesn’t mean agreeing with every part of that group.”

“If a group can’t handle legitimate dissent, it is not a group that I want to be a part of.”

“The people who inspire me are the ones who celebrate diversity, individuality, authenticity.”

“Let’s risk being more fully ourselves.”

As I listened to this video, I am reminded of some things that I believed once. When I came into the public BDSM scene, I was confronted with a large amount of “thou shalt not…” when it came to abstract notions of “safe” and “sane” (see my rant about that over here). I was told that you shouldn’t flog across the spine, you shouldn’t do breath play of any kind, you shouldn’t do piercing with anything less than a surgical-grade sterile environment. Despite my own history and knowledge of these subjects, I bought into what the group told me was or was not acceptable.

It took several years, and a lot of counter-programming, to break this pattern and begin to think for myself again when it came to safety. To be able to remind myself that I break my own skin a dozen times a day in dirty, uncontrolled environments. And yet, I live. So why should a tiny pinprick from a needle be something to be so worried about? But it was not so much my choice to compromise between safety and enjoyment that mattered. It was the fact that I had to withstand a storm of criticism from those who disagreed with me, even though my choice did not affect them in any way.

Over time, I have trained myself not to conform at face value, to not over-estimate the popularity of an opinion (6:05 into the video), but also, not to let a seemingly popular opinion effect my rational judgement of objective facts (1:45 into the video).

I encourage everyone, in every class that I teach to never take my word alone as fact about anything. I tell them to go out and seek other ideas and other opinions in order to form their own.

I urge all of you to do the same and risk being more fully yourself.

  1. kajiradreams says:

    What a great thing to read first thing in a morning. Thank You Cross for posting this. The video certainly makes you think. The part where he says it doesn’t matter if one person says the same thing three times or three people say it once equates to the same impact really stuck out for me.


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