Over the holidays I have been reading a book by a former slave. An un-consensual slave. The author is Harriet Jacobs. The key point I came away with was how strikingly similar the language of the un-consensual slave owner is with the consensual slave owner.
Harriet was a black woman, and the property of a white man. At around 15 years of age, Harriet’s Master began to take an unwelcome interest in her. Harriet’s Master wanted to use her body for sex. This was in a age when a woman’s virtue defined her worth and value. She was a strong willed and religious woman and the idea of having her virtue stolen was repelling to her. He tried everything short of torture. He even built a house where he promised her that she could live as a free woman, as long as she gave him sex when he wanted. Harriet had no interest what-so-ever in her owner. She chose to have sex with another white man, and bore children by him. Under the laws of that time, her owner had the very real and legal right to torture her until nearly dead, or even kill her. He did not. He was a doctor and tried to maintain the respect of the community. If it got out that he tortured his female slave, to steal her virtue, it might taint his reputation. So he fumed and plotted but never was able to force this strong willed woman into submission.
Many other slave were not so lucky. The tortures many endured is unspeakable. It was not uncommon for an owner or his sons to use the female slaves as sex toys. In blunt terms to rape them.. or coerce them into submission. In turn, you would think the wives of these victims would sympathize with and protect them but instead they tended to hate the victims. They tended to blame the victims for the sins of their men. And then there is the greatest atrocity of all. The children born of these rapes… the sons and daughter of the men who committed these acts.. did not get to live with their fathers like normal children.. no! Often a Master’s son or daughter would be sold immediately so that they wouldn’t have to see their own genes.. their own offspring.. their own faces and features laboring in the fields for them.
These animals sold their own sons and daughters into slavery, rather than face what they had done. As if the crime of selling your own children wasn’t evil enough, the daughters would be more fair skinned, basically insuring that their next owner would find them more attractive and therefore more likely to be the next generation of rape and coercion.
If Harriet loved her Master, or if she had been bought by the man who fathered her children, perhaps she would have been OK with being a slave, perhaps not. Harriet was a strong willed woman. She didn’t love her Master. He was much older, she much younger. Surely there was no physical attraction. And in this age, even a slave, her virtue was something she wished to protect. She was compelled by law to be his property. She had no choice in that. Even so, she refused to be dragged into a dark corner and used. Choice is everything. Consent is everything. Its why we in the BDSM community make a huge deal of consent violation. Nothing is more critical to a successful Master-slave relation, then consent.
So often, Harriet’s Master said to her.. you are my property. I can do as I please with your body. I say these words myself to my own property. When these words rolled off the tongue of Harriet’s Master, they were evil. Yet when they roll off mine, both my slave and I see this as something wonderful. Where does the difference lie? What changes these words from evil to warmth, is hard for some to see. My own slave is often strong willed. She too often resists my directions.. though never for sex.. its more often a small seemingly insignificant thing. But the fact she CAN raise an objection and have it count is important. The real key is that unlike Harriet, if my slave reaches an impasse, she is free to leave.
Yes, un-consensual slavery is evil. Yes, it is wrong to take away a persons liberty, their choices and their freedom. All around us, there are forces at work all the time which seek to nibble away at our choices. Your body should not be owned by the invisible collective will of the people we call a government. Seat belt laws, and motorcycle helmet laws are about forcing you to make choices to protect yourself, but these are also tiny little dents into the decisions you can make, the risks you can choose to make with your own body. Where does it stop? If you are dying of lung cancer, and know you faced a slow painful death, drowning a little more each day as blood slowly filled your decaying lungs, shouldn’t it be your choice to do with your life, as you will? Assisted suicide may be something you oppose, but who are we to tell another what they can or cannot do with their life? We need to hold onto our freedoms, and not give them away to quickly or easily to the faceless collective we call the government. Even the small concessions are important, because of that thing we call a slippery slope.
What we need and should have is the right to put our trust in who we choose. If we choose to turn to another, to give our lives into the protection and custody of a Master, why should that not be allowed? Certainly our faceless, juggernaut of governmental bureaucracy wants this power. What gives government the right to TAKE with one hand, our right to consent while at the same time denying us the right to GIVE consent with the other hand? Wherein does that twisted logic lie? The nameless, faceless collective we call government feels that taking us into protective custody is its right and perhaps even its duty. But we as free citizens are not allowed to make the very same choice if we turn to an individual for warm, security and protection. Wherein lies the difference? What fundamental right of humanity decrees that governments are the only system by which one person may entrust their well being to another?
Our choices are slowly eroding all around us. In her chains, my slave finds her freedom but that freedom is not the same as being chained to a faceless bureaucracy that knows only the laws and loopholes of its control legitimized by the laws it creates. It is in the care, the love, and the trust that we share, that my slave dares give this control to me. And she knows that at anytime, consent can be withdrawn. Not so with un-consensual slavery, or its doppelganger cousin, the overbearing government intrusion that invades every aspect or our lives and choices.
Being in a Master and slave relation is not perfect. Often there are disagreements. Just today, I had to put my foot down on a decision regarding Izrina. In the idealized world, every slave is happy to do Master’s bidding and trots off happily at the next task given.. Happy to serve. Often it IS that way. Sometimes it is not. When it is not, I become like a bulldozer. I am a juggernaut, an unstoppable force that cannot be moved or avoided. I will have my way. Not violently, but steady and persistent. An unmovable force. When I am like this, it is for the betterment of the house.. no dishes left in the sink, finances organized, a schedule for visits to the gym. Since I have come into Izrina’s life, many, many things have improved for her.. especially in areas of health and finance… not because I did for her, but because I compelled her to do for herself. This is the power of a Master. This is what we bring into a slaves life. In the nilla world, I could be a life coach, a trainer, an efficiency expert. I am all these things and more, to my dear property.
The Master slave life isn’t for everyone. But systems of power are all around us. Your parents exercised near total control over your early choices. Police may issue any command and you are compelled to obey under most circumstances. Your employer holds incredible sway over your decisions as they are the source of that which provides your food, shelter and clothing. Military groups may compel you to serve, making your body the legal property of the government.. a very real modern day version of slavery.
Yes, un-consensual slavery is wrong and evil. But so to is any system of power that removes your right to make decisions about your own body, and your possessions. It must be a fundamental right of every human to pursue what we choose to believe.. and to give our time and service to that which we believe in. We need to be conscious always of the choices that are taken away from us, and to fight to keep our freedoms.
Yes, the right to give up our freedom too is a right we must fight for as well, as twisted as that may sound. We all seek a place in society, at various levels, and we must be free to choose at what level we will serve, and to whom. Because systems of power are normal, we must be free to choose what we are comfortable with, what systems we will give authority to, and which ones we won’t.
Its not a simple subject. That which seeks to take without consent is evil. At its essence, no one has a right to use force to take from us. We all have a right to use force to protect things from being taken from us. To paraphrase the latest Star Wars, we don’t win by killing what we hate, we win by protecting what we love.
Yeah, it takes thought to figure out what you want, and what contributions you will make to help shape the forces around us. Never forget that true happiness comes when you are a source of happiness. When you are someones great day, your own great day is assured. As you fight the good fight to hold onto your right to choose, never forget that to give is to receive.