Just like there are people who think that having control over more parts of their submissive’s life, or memorizing more slave positions or having more elaborate protocols means they’re somehow more dominant, there are people who think more extreme or harder play somehow makes them more kinky, or better at being kinky.
So we’re clear, that’s all total bullshit. Even if we could measure and compare how dominant people are in any meaningful way, it wouldn’t fucking matter. What matters is whether you enjoy your power exchange, not whether some random dickbag thinks you’re domly enough. Same with how intense your play is. If pushing your limits, challenging your friends, or wowing a crowd is what does it for you, great! If you’re doing especially showy, intense play because you have something to prove, why bother? Isn’t kink supposed to be about getting your desires met, not going along with what everyone tells you about what you’re supposed to like?
Not only is it kind of sad and pointless to play for other people instead of for your own joy, but judging people’s play by your standards of intensity is just fucking stupid. For an experienced needle bottom, taking three needles is probably nothing. For a life-long needle-phobe, those three needles may be more intense than a beating that leaves them black and blue. For someone who has only just started to accept that he’s kinky, three needles might be scarier than the thought of picking up and moving across the country. If you aren’t intimately familiar with everyone involved in a scene, there’s no way you can accurately judge how intense it is for them.
Given that judging how intense other people’s play is basically impossible and would still be totally pointless even if it was possible, why do we still do it? I think it’s just the nature of social animals to compete for social standing. We all want to impress the people around us, we all want to be one of the cool kids, and it’s easier to wow people with a flashy suspension than it is to wow them with the emotional intensity of a subtle, psychological scene.
However, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it. It’s natural for me to be extremely irritable when my blood sugar gets too low, but that doesn’t give me a free pass to say whatever I want to people when I’m hungry. Instead of just talking about the flashy, obviously intense scenes (which I’m just as guilty of as anyone), let’s talk about the fun, lighthearted scenes too. And the quiet, intimate scenes, and the scenes where it’s not necessarily obvious that the players are pushing their limits. If we want people to stop thinking that the more extreme you are the better, we have to stop acting like that’s the only way to get attention.