White knight fever
The excellent ’50 Shades is Domestic Abuse’ blog have published the first two of their letters to Christian and Ana.The letter to Ana is heartfelt and troubling; the letter to Christian is a reminder of something I like to call the tyranny of if. If only Christian had not had his difficult childhood, would he be a different man? As my mother would say, if wishes were horses beggars would ride. There is only one way Christian can be a different man – by choosing to do so. Understanding the past can be helpful, but understanding the shadow the past casts on the present is more helpful.
Understanding your relationship to someone else demands insight and a willingness to embrace your own weaknesses as well as your strengths. For Christian, it means learning that a desire to be the white knight who transforms someone else’s life does not bring with it a droit de seigneur.
I know there are other dominant men like me, who suffer from, or have suffered from white knight syndrome. My conclusion, based on the fact that the white knight assumes that someone else’s destiny is his responsibility, as if the other person does not possess the power or agency to change their own life, is that it is an unhealthy weakness, a narcissistic mistake that blinds the sufferer to their own frailties and elides the person the sufferer is trying to help from their own life story. There are two things you can do with a weakness like white knight syndrome; deny it, pretending that it won’t sneak up on you some time, or acknowledge it and use it as one of the roadside reminder signs on the journey.
I am no white knight now. A consequence of that weakness is I no longer believe in romantic love as a sensible objective for myself. That does not mean I do not believe in love though. A consequence of our narcissistic society is that love has been homogenized, so that it appears anachronistic to qualify love as romantic, or spiritual, or familial.
One of the great definitions of love is that it’s about what you do, not what you say, and that it is recognised by others, not declared by yourself. No different, in that sense, to being a dominant. The difference lies in the nature of BDSM. Doms dominate because that’s what they want to be. Subs submit because they want to. Christian doesn’t realise that, and reads Ana’s submission after defeat, after being terrrorized by him, as her true desire. For anyone’s behaviour to be perceived as generous, or loving towards others, there must be something more about their behaviour than just the satisfaction of their needs. In Christian’s behaviour, there is only self-love, and all too often, a love that is only for ourselves is experienced by others as abuse.