One of the interesting things that developed in the past few centuries in the western world is the idea of hobbies or avocations as an option for the masses. For the last 100,000 years, the vast majority of humans had one and only one task that took all their time and energy: survival. However the increasingly hierarchical social systems which sprung up in the fertile crescent and along the Yellow River yielded an elite who no longer were required to toil from sun up to sun down to keep alive. For this small group, which existed in almost all successful civilizations, their needs were met by others. From this elite class of humanity developed the first artists and philosophers and creators of things that were not required for survival.
Fast-forward to Victorian England. In the richest society the world had yet seen, there arose the first mass movement of well-off upper class people who had a significant amount of leisure time. It remained, as a percentage of the population rather small, but in sheer numbers it was unprecedented. It even got a name “the leisure class”. These Englishmen became famous for their quirky habits and interests: bird watching, stamp collecting, and even sexual proclivities. All of these things were a result of the time available to them afforded by wealth.
It is now the 21st Century, the demographics have changed. It is the majority who are in the “leisure class” and the minority must work night and day just to stay alive and to meet their familial responsibilities. Here in the US we have a thousand things that take up our leisure time. Certainly religion and sports would be the biggest two ways. But there are so many more ways now, from garden clubs to medieval reenactments, from model railroads to children’s beauty pageants. In many ways alternative sexual lifestyles, such as swinging or BDSM could be called a hobby as well. I say this because such things require a significant investment in time and financial resources to do on a regular basis.
While many people get their self-identity from their work or religious/ethnic background, a large portion of us get self-identity from our hobbies or avocations. For a number of years Paula and I have been involved with the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA), a medieval reenactment group. If you go to the Facebook pages of my SCA friends you can rapidly tell all the ways my friends get their self-identity from this activity. As I sit in my study I have my Viking armor to my left (on an old Victoria’s Secret mannequin), down in the family room one wall has an array of swords and shields of the style used by the Norse from the 8th-12th Centuries. The SCA has at several different times over the past few decades, been our primary social and recreational outlet.
I give that example because for many their alternative sexual lifestyles are their avocation. Whether it is swinging, or BDSM or D/S or pony play or furries….their sexual games become their primary (or often secondary) social and recreational focus. In doing so their sexuality becomes the defining part of their self-concept. In our case, in addition to the SCA, for several periods of time in our marriage, we had our sexuality as our primary avocation. For several years my work as a glamour/erotic photographer filled that place, while for my wife, her dating and sexuality was her primary point of self-identity for perhaps half of the past twenty years.
So the question is one of self-awareness. As you read this today. How much a part of your self-actualization is tied to your sexual behaviors? There is no right or better answer, but it is important to consider.
Now, after you have asked that question, the next question is very important. How does the answer to that first question fit into your larger life priorities and goals?
Here is my concern. Our sexual hobbies can be a positive and fulfilling part of our overall life goals; however, it is all too easy to let those games get out of hand and begin to work against the things we truly want in our lives.
One example would be parenting. I am unapologetic in my belief that parents have a moral obligation to provide their children with the love and stability they need to succeed in life. I think most parents would agree with that; however, it is so very easy to get so wrapped up in certain sexual “games” that we forget that the game is not remotely as important as our parental obligations. In particular sex games that deal with things like master/slave or dom/sub run the risk of being taken too far and begin to threaten and impinge on the life of minor children. The same can be true in “dating while married”, where external partners can become a higher priority than the domestic stability and/or children. It is so very easy to let the bliss of new love cause us to lose focus on what is truly important.
In all of these cases the pleasure of the hobby sometimes makes us forget what we actually want in life.
We have all heard the stories of the football fan who quits his job so he can go to the Super-Bowl, or takes out a home loan to redecorate in “Cowboys” blue and silver. What doesn’t get noticed is the child neglect or broken homes due to out of control sexual games. At least with the SCA hobby the kids came with us to the tournaments and they were actively part. They were not left at home while we did “adult stuff”, it was family time.
Yes, it is true when the kids were young that Paula's best-friend/lover slept in our bed when she visited. And each summer for a number of years Paula would take our kids with her to spend a week with the same woman's home for a week or two. But to our kids it was of little interest that mom slept in the same bed with her friend and her husband. What was important was during those trips to see her lover, the days were filled with trips to the park, zoo and other things that focused on them. And in the summers we spent on topless or nude beaches, again, they were the focus, not the other adults. Our sexual behavior was simply background to their world, not an impingement.
You can’t involve your kids in your D/S games or other sexual hobbies. They just get left at home. When our children were young, we had to work to balance their needs with our sexual play. Only when they became independent were Paula and I free to be gone several weekends a month to the swinger clubs.
This, of course, is where I break with the “live for today” or “If it feels good, do it” crowd. Just because it feels good today, does not mean I will like the consequences later. Just because something brings me pleasure, does not mean it abrogates my duties.
So while I aggressively advocate sexual freedom and openness, I am obligated to make and equally strong stand for responsibility.