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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Should a Midwife Be Able to Wear a Slave Collar at Work?

Posted by Dan Savage on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 at 9:44 AM

A woman in the UK who worked as a midwife was fired for wearing "a silver collar" at work—that is, in the hospital where she worked. She sued, arguing that D/s is a "philosophical belief," and thus protected under the law like other belief systems, but lost. Jane Fae was called in as expert witness. She writes in the Guardian...

After spending well over a decade following, studying and writing about alternative sexualities, could I assist the court? I tried. The key point, I argued, was the substance—how the principles operated in practice... D/s is not sexist: there are probably far more male submissives than female ones. Nor is it truly inequal. It embodies different and, in the everyday, unequal roles. But its cornerstone is equality and formality: it is preceded in most cases by highly protracted negotiation; there is agreement of rules and boundaries; and an absolute recognition that "no" means "no". Could we claim as much for the average marriage?

But, the barrister asked: was I really suggesting that entering into a relationship in which someone else might tell you what to do, and where and how, was consistent with modern values? My answer was brief: "wage slavery."

In the end, the court remained unpersuaded. If nothing else, I suspect that the idea of being the first employment tribunal in the land to give comfort in any form to "slavery" made the judge quite queasy. That's not the end of it, though. No precedent was set. There may yet be an appeal. And even if there is not on this case, it's an issue that won't go away. As the BDSM community increasingly finds its voice, it is likely one day to test the wisdom of an altogether higher authority: the supreme court, natch.

Good on the Guardian for having Fae write about this. Bad on the Guardian for illustrating Fae's piece with a picture of a shirtless man wearing a large black leather dog collar and a matching harness. Nobody thinks people should be able to wear that kind of fetish attire to work; the photo is needlessly sensationalistic. And for the record: "silver slave collars" typically look like chunky jewelry. A lifestyle submissive's everyday collar usually looks more like this. Not this.

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