Personal Life Of Emily Dickinson And Her Unpublished Works
All Tied Up: BDSM Lifestyles
Imagine this; you’re tied down at the wrists and ankles with course rope, gagged so deeply you can barely breathe, and being whipped so hard welts start to sprout on your tight, red skin. You have an unimaginable amount of trust with the man you allow to do this to you. It’s not just the pleasure you crave, but the pain, and the relationship you have. This is the interworkings of a BDSM lifestyle. BDSM stands for bondage, dominance, submission, and a Master. BDSM relationships in America are more popular now than ever, and seem more normal now than ever. This lifestyle can consist of a Master and a Slave, or submissive. The Master in this relationship is the most important, powerful, and influential being in a submissive’s sexual life. Likewise, a submissive is ready to conform to authority or will of his or her Master, being obedient and/or passive in all things. The 19th century poet, Emily Dickinson was speculated to be involved in a BDSM relationship because of three, unpublished letters she wrote to her “Master”. BDSM lifestyles are explored through Dickinson’s Master Letters, the recent and popular BDSM movie Fifty Shades of Grey, and the cultural impact of this lifestyle on relationships, families, and on society.
Emily Dickinson’s Master Letters consisted of three unpublished letter’s to a “Master”. All three letters detailed her passion and will to conform to the mysterious Master as shown in her first letter through the line, “ How strong when weak to recollect, and easy quite, to love” and again in the line, “You ask me what my flowers said- then they were disobedient- I gave them messages” “Dear Master, I am ill”. The first line shows her upmost admiration for the Master that she’s writing to because of how strong he is and how it’s so easy to love his strength. Dickinson in her early life wrote a lot about how weak she felt up against the world and this Master has given her purpose and his strength leads and guides her. It’s not difficult to see why she admired him so much at a time where he had the qualities she lacked. The second line distinguishes the certain obedience she has to follow in this lifestyle to keep her Master. It’s obvious that she asks her Master for approval on everything and finds guidance in his knowledge. She even asks his approval on her paintings and there message and when he finds it not following his rules, she changes it. BDSM lifestyles live off of rules, respect, and obedience.
Did Dickinson love her Master? Or could it be confused for respect and admiration? Love is a topic Dickinson spent her whole life writing about from finding love, to losing love, and wondering if love was even real. But, the second letter in the collection of Master Letter’s by Dickinson contrasts her true love for her Master with the love for her Master’s brutal ways. Could it have been true love? Dickinson writes, “A love so big it scares her, rushing among her small heart- pushing aside the blood- and leaving her all faint and white in the gust’s arm” “Oh- did I offend it”. According to evidence, this had been Dickinson’s first and only BDSM relationship leaving us to understand why this big love scared Dickinson. She had never found love in pain and it appears that’s all her Master gave her. Referncing this line in the second letter, the love crushed her leaving her defenseless forcing her to conform to her Master’s will which is why she uses the metaphor of the wind gust. It represents the whirlwind she got caught up in so quickly leaving her to only know that whirlwind, she couldn’t leave till it was too late; she was already in love with her Master and in lust for the pain.
Trust was the topic of the third and final letter in the Master Letters collection. She shows this through lines in the letter, “-but if I had the Beard on my cheek- like you- and you- had Daisy’s petals- and you cared so for me- what would become of you? Could you forget me in fight- or flight- or the foreign land?” (Master, if you saw a bullet). She is asking him in this line, if the roles were reversed would you lust for this love, this relationship? Or would you forget us and move on to a new Master? The foreign land is a metaphor she uses for a new Master because this Master/Submissive lifestyle is one that is foreign to her. As in all BDSM relationships, trust is essential and Dickinson is asking, would he trust her with this power, this control if she was him. She also shows evidence of trust in the line, “I waited a long time – Master –but I can wait more – wait till my hazel hair is dappled “ “Master, if you saw a bullet”. She has waited incredibly long for this Master to appear in her life and now that she has completely and utterly given herself to him, she would wait forever for him. She trusts that this lifestyle is something worth waiting for. The pain she loves is worth trusting in and is shown in the line, “One drop more from the gash that stains your Daisy’s bosom –then would you believe? Thomas’ faith in anatomy –was stronger than his faith in faith.” This example that she presents her Master with is saying if I had a gash in my heart would you believe my trust, my faith? She uses this example because her Master believed in the faith of anatomy more so than his faith in faith, or faith in her. BDSM relationships are about building trust through risky sexual behaviors so the third letter leads us to inference that it was before much intimacy had begun because of her frequent requests of trust from her Master. Though all three letters detail her passionate and painful lifestyle at this time with her Master through her passion, love, and trust for him.
BDSM is apparent in many things from Emily Dickinson’s three Master Letters to the 2015 movie Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades of Grey is a movie detailing the BDSM lifestyle of the fictional couple, Anatasia, Ana, Steele and Christian Grey. Ana and Christian’s relationship is much like Dickinson and her Master’s. Ana, though leery of a BDSM relationship in the beginning of the movie, quickly comes to trust Christian through sexually risky behaviors then begins to love him. Much like Dickinson’s Master, he doesn’t tell her his feelings of love or lust or even trust. Dickinson details in her second letter a feeling mutual to Ana and Christian’s relationship, “who bends her life smaller to his it’s meeker, lower every day –who only asks –a task –who something to do for love of it –some little way she cannot guess to make the master glad” “Oh –did I offend it”. This shows how both women did things for their Master’s in love, only to wonder if they actually appeased their Master’s. But as in all BDSM relationships, obidence is key and neither woman dared to ask their Master if their acts were making him, and keeping him happy. So in Dickinson’s case she wrote these letters and never published them or sent them and Ana spent her time trying to find clarity in reading and writing about BDSM relationships. Both woman shared a bond with their Master and both found common ground in these sadistic sexual acts. Ana saw her relationship with Christian to be mutually loving when he told her his feelings after a sexual encounter but also saw it to be unhealthy. Especially when she had to keep all her feelings bottled up because he did and ultimately he was the one in control, he was her Master. Dickinson saw her relationship in the same light, in her first letter she begs him to tell her how he is in the line, “Will you tell me, please to tell me, soon as you are well” “Dear Master I am ill”. In some circumstances, Dickinson’s Master does relay his feelings to her and is shown in her letters. A BDSM relationship takes a certain emotional, physical, and mental toll on the submissive. In this case the submissives, Ana and Dickinson share a little bit about the toll the lifestyle took on them. Ana, a shy bookworm falls headfirst into a deep, sadomasochistic relationship with no knowledge on the lifestyle. The emotional toll it took on her was great, and is seen in the movie when she appears to be more emotional and sad than usual. She even cries as Christian beats her with a belt near the end of the movie because she likes it but doesn’t feel like she should like this pain. Dickinson also has an emotional toll that’s been taken on her as well. In the first letter she writes, “-I wish that I were great, like Mr. Michael Angelo, and could paint for you.” “Dear Master I am ill”. It shows that he has made her feel so small and so worthless, that she doesn’t even feel worthy of painting him unless she’s one of the greatest painters of all time. These unrealistic expectations were thrust on to both women because of this BDSM lifestyle and the expectations it must live up to. Ana and Dickinson were both expected to conform to the will of their Master’s with no hesistations or questions asked. The emotional toll is only one aspect of the relationship, because it also took a mental and physical toll as well. Mentally, these women were both beaten down and shaped to only see what was best for their Master and do what was asked of them. They were stripped of free will and in being stripped of free come no thought. No thought about when to eat, when to relax, when to work, or even when to sleep. They were taught all these things will come at a time when your Master allows it, leaving them mentally bare and naked in front of the world. Physically, on the other hand, both women were hurt at the hand of love. From this the question arises, does pain really mean love? Or were these men just sadists who liked hurting women? For Dickinson, the pain meant love and is seen in the first letter in the line, “I would that all I love, should be weak no more.” “Dear Master I am ill”. She loved him enough to find a way to love the pain, to be weak no more. In Ana’s case, the movie details her physical toll by her accepting the pain just like Dickinson and even more so a physical toll by her lack of appetite throughout the movie. This trait is most likely characterized by her stress, emotions, and mentality leading to her not eating. As anyone can imagine, a BDSM lifestyle is something that leaves a toll on your body, your emotions, and your mentality which is what led up these women writing about there experiences, real and fictional.
Throughout the years culture has impacted BDSM and people who practice BDSM lifestyles. It has become more normalized in society in the recent years so much so that a movie was made about it and shown in public theaters. But, times were not always like this, in Dickinson’s time, the 19th century, it was not a normal practice. In fact, BDSM wasn’t heard of in society, it has only been till recently that researchers and philosphers discovered Dickinson’s Master Letters and felt comfortable enough to speculate and make arguments about them. In the 19th century, sex did not equal love. Sex was a tool used to populate society and that was all. It was also seen as a duty for women, not a pleasure. Having said, Emily Dickinson never married and never bore children but wrote long magnificent love poems about many men and women. Although, she was known long after her death for these extravagant love poems, what many people did not know was that she hid her sexually submissive life from her poetry because it was not widely accepted in society. People during this era did not discuss sex or sexuality, and sex out of marriage itself was considered a sin and shamed many families of people during this time.
BDSM relationships of the 21st century have become more prevalent and accepted because of the different movements advocating for sexual freedoms. BDSM is so accepted that the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, was released in public movie theaters around the world and there are millions of websites dedicated to the knowledge of BDSM. You can even find bars and clubs in nearby cities that are for meeting people who are looking for a submissive or Master. Today’s society is more accepting now than ever for sexual preferences like BDSM, unlike in Dickinson’s time of the 19th century.
Again, imagine being a relationship built on undivided trust and attention, an undying will to last, and a dedication to sexual pleasure from both partners. Would you guess that this is the foundation of a BDSM lifestyle? Emily Dickinson defied society and society’s expectations for a young woman through her BDSM lifestyle that was documented in her three Master Letters. Today’s pop culture has accepted BDSM lifestyles to the point where they made a movie about them. We’ve learned throughout time that a BDSM relationship is bondage and submission, but also respect and trust. BDSM relationships happened in the 19th century, the 21st century is when we started talking about them.
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