Buckle Up: Sex, Blackmail and Game Theory

harm reduction, submissive men, alternative sexuality, BDSM, blackmail, game theory

John Edale explains how to get what you want, by limiting your own options.

What is your opinion of blackmail? To most people the idea is so obviously unpleasant that the question seems rhetorical.

But in the complex and often counter-intuitive world of kinky sex the answer is not always so straightforward. There are a growing number of dominatrices, particularly online, who now offer some form of blackmail service.

The process usually begins with the submissive supplying personal information along with intimate or embarrassing photographs. Sometimes they are then required to part with regular sums of cash for a fixed period, or indefinitely. Sometimes they are required to perform tasks which are either useful or just amusing to their blackmailer.

Sometimes the ‘blackmail’ can be entirely consensual and risk-free, sometimes it can be so close to the real thing that the legality of it becomes dubious.

Sometimes the only way to convince another person that we will fulfill our side of a particular agreement is by deliberately limiting our own options to the point where they can see that the only sensible thing left for us to do is what we have agreed to do.

The dominatrix’s motivation for providing this service is fairly obvious, but what exactly is the rationale of the submissive who signs up to be blackmailed?

Despite the particular risks associated with it, the blackmail fetish is not fundamentally different from most others. Almost all role-playing involves some loss of control either through physical restraint or through mutually agreed consequences for disobedience.

Elements of the blackmail fantasy can perhaps also be found in some ‘vanilla’ scenarios in which intimate photos or secrets are shared just for the thrill of the risk involved.

When I was trying to make sense of my own submissive feelings it was this longing for loss of control which I found hardest to understand.

It could be argued that the desire to place oneself in such compromising positions must be symptomatic of underlying personal issues, but is it possible that there are other less negative explanations as well?

There are any number of everyday situations in which it is genuinely in our own interests to be prepared to give another person some degree of power over us.

This could involve something as mundane and respectable as signing a contract or paying a non-refundable deposit, although occasionally, in more clandestine situations, it could involve establishing trust by supplying the other party with some potentially damaging information about ourselves which could then be used against us if we fail to keep to our word.

Sometimes the only way to convince another person that we will fulfill our side of a particular agreement is by deliberately limiting our own options to the point where they can see that the only sensible thing left for us to do is what we have agreed to do.

This issue of how to show ‘credible commitment’ forms an important topic within Game Theory. As Nobel prize winning economist and game theorist Tom Schelling put it, ‘The power to constrain an adversary depends upon the power to bind oneself.’

Schelling was mainly concerned with finding ways in which hostile countries could successfully negotiate weapons treaties with one another, but in a wider context the ‘adversary’ could be anyone with whom we are trying to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.

If there really are such a variety of situations in which giving another person the capacity to cause us harm is ultimately self-serving, then would it be so surprising if we had a natural predisposition to enjoy giving up power on occasions?

The voluntarily blackmailed submissive could be said to be making a gesture of credible commitment which in turn guarantees them regular attention from the dominatrix, although this does not have to be the case. If one accepts that the desire for loss of power is natural, then simply finding an outlet for it becomes an end in itself.

But can it ever be entirely sensible to give another person the power to expose or blackmail us just for the thrill of it? Perhaps not, but simply encouraging people to resist acting out these kinds of fantasies may not be the answer either, and may in fact be a high risk strategy in itself. Repressed sexualities can have a tendency to find release in spontaneous and ill-conceived ways.

Perhaps instead the solution is to encourage people to be more open, both with others and with themselves, about the fact that they enjoy putting themselves in potentially compromising situations. If bottled up desires can become stronger then those that are allowed some form of expression can become more moderate.

Being able to talk about this kind of sexuality also enables more precautions to be taken beforehand, such as discussing things with a friend, or just having more honest conversations with the other person involved before any kind of commitment is made.

If you decide to go ahead then these kinds of precautions do not have to reduce the thrill of the act itself. Like fastening your seat belt before being taken on a high speed car ride, you may forget that you even did it, but sooner or later you just might be glad that you did.

 

Read more by Staff Writer John Edale: The Strength of Submission.

Image credit: AlamosaCountyPublicHealth/Flickr

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About John Edale

Good Men Project Staff Writer John Edale is a father, writer and blogger from Birmingham, UK. He is the author of Free Rides, a collection of short stories about hitch-hiking. You can find him blogging here and tweeting @john_edale.

Comments

  1. I agree with you that the loss of control is a vital component of submission. If I am reading this correctly; then your hypothesis is that someone who is currently walking the edge of blackmail would be happy with safer activity if they were able to openly discuss what they need.

    This is undoubtedly true for some. A sincere need for something – like submission – cannot be ignored. If it cannot be expressed openly; then it will find some way to come out. By allowing a person to loose that control in a safe manner, the more dangerous desire falls by the wayside.

    However, I believe part of the desire for the edge of blackmail – for some – comes from the risk itself. There simply is no safe way to experience that level of risk. Talking about this need will not move a person to safer experiences, but to more dangerous ones – because they will need to find a thrill and this no longer provides it.

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