Archives For Behavioral Economics and BDSM

Making Smart Decisions

Fossil9 —  May 15, 2013 — 1 Comment

With IML coming up in about a week people from all over the world will converge on Chicago.  Many of us will need to make important decisions about safe sex throughout the weekend so I thought this would be an appropriate time to share some general considerations about the decisions we make.  While I advocate both playing and having sex in a safe manner I respect that some consenting adults may make different decisions.

I have alluded to this idea in past posts but we all tend to make different choices when we are aroused than when we are not stimulated.  On a couple occasions I have informally experimented with this on subs.  For example, prior to any session with a new sub I take some time to chat with the sub so I can understand their interests and limits.  During an actual session, when a sub is aroused, a few interesting things happen.  Subs tend to be more open to pushing their limits and they tend to be interested in additional things.  All of a sudden, licking the boot of the man standing in front of him goes from being uninteresting to a big turn on for the sub.  The inverse of this situation may also occur – if a sub is jerking off while communicating his interests and limits he may find that he is not into those same things unless he is very horny at any given moment in a scene.

All of us have experienced ourselves making different decision or finding different interests when we are horny than when we are not.  This concept is analogous to the decisions people make when they are sober vs. when they are drunk.  Few people would argue that they make their best decisions while they are drunk.  Do we make our best decisions while we are horny?  Probably not.

Getting back to my point – take some time and think about the sexual activities you are likely to engage in when you are aroused.  And, while you are not stimulated, decide what you are (not) willing to do sexually and decide how you will do so in a safe manner.  Then, when you are horny, you just need to apply the decision you previously made.  As an example – if you may end up having anal sex with someone make the decision, in advance, to use a condom.  Do not leave this decision up to your horny alter-ego.  You should also keep some condoms on you so you are less tempted to forgo one when you are horny and might not make the best long-term decision for yourself.  Instead of saying to yourself that it is OK to skip a condom”just this time” tell yourself “not this time”.  Make your safe sex decisions in advance and make the commitment to yourself to honor them, no matter the situation.

I also encourage you to check out the video about the “Rule of 3” for an interesting idea about an approach to safer sex.

We owe it to each other to play safe.

The Dictator Game

Fossil9 —  May 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

My post on Game Theory in a Scene triggered a number of interesting discussions so I am going to continue with occasional posts incorporating game theory in a BDSM or power exchange based situation.  I already discussed the Prisoner’s Dilemma in my prior post which is just one “game” in game theory but there are a number of interesting “games” that can be incorporated into a D/s dynamic.  This post will focus on the dictator game and my next post incorporating game theory will be on the ultimatum game.

Dictator Game
Some quick background – In the dictator game one player allocates all of a fixed reward/resource.  The second player has no choice but to receive whatever the first player has allocated to the second player.  If player one is focused upon maximizing his own benefit he will take all of the reward/resource and leave nothing for the other player.  The concept is pretty simple and generally used to test how altruistic people’s are actions are in a given situation.

Application in a D/s situation:
In a D/s situation the aforementioned game needs to be slightly tweaked to fit the dynamics of each individual’s role.  First, the Dom needs to have a good understanding of what the sub(s) really enjoy; what they are willing to do but need to be “pushed” to do; and what their limits are.  To be clear, I believe the Dom should already know these things prior to setting up any scene with a sub.

When a Dom has a single sub in a scene the Dom can still leverage these games to have some fun with the sub.  Instead of allowing the sub to chose rewards/resources from a list given by the Dom we can make the sub chose from a set of experiences that would push their limits or otherwise be unfavorable.  He will make those choices and, if acceptable to the Dom, they will be carried out.  This seems too simple so we need to make it more difficult for the sub.  What if the sub does not have a good feel for their Dom’s expectations?  Does the Dom really expect the sub to chose all the negative experiences?  If the sub selects none of the negative experiences will he be off the hook?  Will the sub get into the worst possible situation by incorrectly trying to call his Dom’s bluff?

When I communicate with the sub about the choices they need to make I tend to be vague about what I am expecting.  My interest is not in having the sub simply fulfill the expectations I set for him so the vagueness helps force the sub to make real decisions.  If the sub is given too much direction he will do what he is obviously supposed to do and then the two of us are simply acting out a scene instead of interacting.  The sub knows he needs to fulfill my expectations but he also needs to figure out what exactly those expectations are.

Normally after I give the sub this task I will be patient and give him some time to give me an answer.  In my experience the most frequent outcome is that the sub will take some time and finally arrive at the decision to take most, if not all, of the adverse experiences.  When I ask the sub about his decision making process usually he struggles for awhile and, in some manner, says that he based his decision upon what he thought my expectations of him were.  Sometimes the sub is right and sometimes he is wrong.

On other occasions I want to have a different kind of fun with the sub – I will get inside the sub’s head even more.  The lack of clarity in the directive to a nude sub already restrained in a vulnerable position can really make it difficult for the sub to think clearly.  While they are thinking, I like to amp up the pressure on a decision.

It is always fascinating to watch people under duress make decisions that may have repercussions.  Just as in other aspects of life; some subs see stress as a powerful motivator and others succumb to it.  While playing one of these “games” with a sub is certainly fun from a general power perspective these situations can be powerful tools to help understand a sub’s interests and their will.

If you decide to try something like this in a scene be sure to give it some thought beforehand and be sure it is appropriate for your situation.  As with anything on my blog, this concept will not be appropriate for every Dom or sub but I thought it would be worthwhile to share.  At minimum, I hope this post helped trigger some new thoughts about interactions during a power exchange focused scene.

Game Theory in a Scene

Fossil9 —  March 11, 2013 — 3 Comments

Fair warning – In this post I connect Dom and sub interactions to the economic concept of game theory.  Both subjects are of material interest to me but if you abhor economics you may not want to spend too much time reading through this post.  For those of you still interested, let’s get into some basic economics…

Game theory involves strategies among multiple decision makers with different goals to maximize their gains and minimize their losses in a given situation.  The Prisoner’s Dilemma is probably the best known example of game theory so I will cover that below and then incorporate aspects of a Dom and sub relationship.

Prisoner’s Dilemma
In the Prisoner’s Dilemma two people are put into jail in separate cells and they cannot communicate with each other.  The police do not have enough information to convict both prisoners on the primary charge so they plan on jailing them both on a lessor charge for a 1 year term.  However, each prisoner is also offered another opportunity by police.  If he testifies against the other he will go free and his partner will go to jail for 3 years.  The catch is that if both prisoners testify against each other then both will be sentenced to 2 years in jail.  In this situation it is best for each prisoner to betray his partner because betrayal results in the best outcome regardless of what the other partner does.  To break this down:

  • If your partner testifies against you then you are best off testifying against him which would result in you both going to jail for 2 years.  If you did not testify then your partner goes free and you end up in jail for 3 years.
  • If your partner does not testify against you then you are best off by testifying against him.  By doing so you will walk away free and he goes to jail for 3 years.

Communication and trust between the two prisoners would actually result in the best possible mutual outcome – neither testify and both are in jail for 1 year on the lessor charge.

How does this relate to the interactions between a Dom and sub?
In game theory you need players, strategy and payoffs.  The Dom and the sub are the ‘players’ in this situation so that is simple.  Now, the ‘payoffs’ can be somewhat tricky – only you can decide what your payoffs are.  I know if you lack experience this following point may be difficult but you should figure out what you want before you try to get it.  Generally the payoffs a Dom or sub gets are the experience and feelings that arise before, during, and after a scene.  Those that have had an economics class or two would know the benefits better as one’s ‘utility’.

In my post “Who is in Control?” I wrote about how a sub sets boundaries based upon his interests and those boundaries influence how the Dom and sub interact.  Once those boundaries are discussed and agreed upon it is time to figure out how to maximize mutual payoffs.  In this post I define mutual payoff as the combined benefits a Dom and a sub get from playing together.  I am not a proponent of a Dom or a sub trying to maximize their own benefit from a scene when it results in a net decrease in the combined benefit the Dom and sub receive from the scene.  A more concise way of stating my last point would be to say ‘don’t be a dick’ to your play partner…unless that is what he is looking for.

A few considerations for maximizing mutual payoffs:

  • Do you want the single best mutual experience possible or the best mutual experience over the long-run?  If you have limited future opportunity to play together due to distance or other factors you and your play partner may want to try to cram a number of interests together into a scene.  If the two of you want to set yourselves up for future sessions you would want to take a different approach.  In those sessions you can be more focused on what occurs as you will have more time to explore your mutual interests at a deeper level, mutually reflect upon your experiences, and increase the intensity of the later sessions.
  • Payoffs may change in real time – What you or your partner want to do may change during the scene as you and your partner interact.  Headspace can have a profound impact on what you (do not) want to occur which leads to the next point below.
  • We may misunderstand our interests and actually prevent ourselves from maximizing our own benefit.  I have made this point before but until you try something it is difficult to gauge how enjoyable an act will be until you have actually done it.  Additionally, over time our tastes will change and if you do not recognize this you may limit yourself from doing something that you would now really enjoy.
    • Understanding our partner’s interests – If we have trouble understanding our own interests it is even harder to communicate them to our partner.  Just to complicate things a bit more – many subs prefer not knowing details of what will actually happen during a scene and they often times get benefit from knowing that something they will not enjoy in the moment may occur.

As I stated before, only you can decide what your payoffs or benefits are.  Internal reflection, trying new experiences, and conversations with others tend to be the best way to understand what really gets us off.  You should also take time to understand your partner’s desired payoffs.  Whether you are trying to determine your payoffs or your partner’s payoffs be sure you are asking yourselves the right questions.  Knowing your desired payoffs and your partner’s desired payoffs you can have a strategy in a scene to optimize those payoffs so you both have the best experience possible.

My attempt with this post was to connect a non-kinky concept to the interactions of a Dom and sub.  There are a number of tangents I wanted to pursue in this post but I thought it was best to pare it down for now.  I will save those topics (“strategy”, asking the right questions, etc.) for additional posts in the future.  I welcome any feedback you have on this concept for posts or the associated topics.