Social Trends
and the Multiple Community

by Azusa and Ruka, Amorpha

There have been many essays written already, both on our site and elsewhere, about the tyranny imposed on multiples by ideas of what it means to be a 'proper multiple' or 'properly dissociative'; how systems of distinct individuals were made to feel that they couldn't be 'really' multiple on account that they didn't lose time left and right, or because they had no 'inner self-helper' with access to full knowledge of the entire system and its memories, or even on account that they had clear memories of their childhood which included no extreme abuse. This is an exterior form of oppression foisted upon us by dubiously-intentioned 'experts,' whose livelihood and reputation were dependent upon being able to keep multiples in therapy for years upon end, terrified to make a single move towards independence without the parental benediction of the therapist. We have no doubt that for all its saccharine promises of 'hope and healing,' dangled in front of dysfunctional plurals like a carrot on a stick, the psychiatric industry has overwhelmingly been the singular worst enemy of multiples in the past century, despite its role in bringing the existence of multiplicity to public attention.

It seems to be the general inclination of human beings, however, that we often require no help in ensuring our own oppression; as surely as a therapist who reassures us that we are in 'denial' if we claim functionality, we can become our own worst enemies. We are, despite variances in temperament, a social species, after all; and when all is said and done, even the most introverted will find themselves hard-pressed to say that they do not and have never desired to feel as if they were part of a larger group by which they were embraced and accepted, others like them, among whom their behaviour was viewed and considered as normal.

It has been pointed out elsewhere-- and rightly so, even if to prove misguided intents-- that SRA stories often spread throughout DDUs in mental hospitals in the same manner as Charcot's hystero-epilepsy. Of course, it should not require more than a minimum of critical thinking to see why this should happen; patients living alongside each other, having meals together, socialising together, are in a state of constantly exchanging information, and upon observing symptoms in others, will search for the same in themselves, to meet the status quo of their community. And the unconscious mind can be extremely clever in the fabrication of behaviours, apparent memories, and even physical symptoms, which seem to have arisen from nothing, in response to the subject's desire to be like others. Multiples as a group are no less immune to sweeping trends and the desire to fit in than any other randomly-chosen group. It can be observed, for instance, that the (rather controversial) phenomenon of 'lil speak,' of children in multiple systems employing grammatically incorrect, phonetically-spelled typing, has evolved over time, from children typing only in small letters to the occasional childlike variance in speech all the way to incoherency like "hi hi i lil da bigs tat mi ho tu tip," which these days is routine and expected for young members of a system-- children who type with good or even decent spelling and grammar have been accused of being child molesters in disguise. It is beyond probability that all children in all systems everywhere would spontaneously have decided to type the same way, without any exterior cueing to set a standard.

So it must be said: the trends which have prevailed in the multiple community at any given time are largely influenced both by prominent figures within the community and by the prevalent demographic of which the community is composed. Over the last decade or so, the target demographic of MPD/DID diagnoses has undergone a gradual shift from middle-aged white females-- who often presented initially with symptoms of depression or anxiety-- to young adults, still (though to a lesser degree) white, female, and middle-class, who have presented with symptoms of self-injury and eating disorders. Statistically, many of these people often fall into the large and loosely-defined Goth community, which contains a disproportionate number of people prone to severe depression and self-injury (in fact, in some segments of the community, self-injury has become almost a cult of sorts). A whole host of trends have been brought into the multiple community by this demographic-- BDSM (with systems claiming 'kinky alters' left and right), polyamory (which in practice often simply translates to the philanderings of the old classic 'sex alter'), anorexia, and self-injury (the latter of which was reported in a few early prominent case histories, but now, like BDSM, is treated as being merely par for the course-- that any system worth its salt needs a cutter or two).

Some have speculated that many of these trends originated on or became prominent on the Dark Personalities mailing list, which was, as its name implies, originally targeted at the 'dark' members of systems, those who identified as vampires or demons or other 'evil' creatures; this predictably made it a magnet for members of the Goth community. It quickly evolved into a very high-traffic list which became famous as the only uncensored, non-fluffy multiple ML where no spoilers and trigger warnings were required, but also became a refuge for many systems in transition from more 'traditional' MPD lists, who brought their own baggage with them. Topics such as BDSM, which had been censored from the vast majority of MLs, became popular subjects of discussion; and Bob King of Firewheel Collective, at around the same time, authored an article on the crossover membership between the BDSM and multiple communities. It was enough to make a lurker group feel, if they had no members who were into kink of any sort, that they were in the minority and needed at least a few people with an interest in leather to meet the standard for a 'proper' multiple-- quite apart from the dictates of any therapist. Eating disorders also constituted a relatively frequent discussion topic, with the list founders speaking candidly about their own.

The now-defunct journal of the Anachronic Army (founders of DP) also probably had some kind of instrumental role in starting many of the 'trends'-- it was once one of the most widely read journals on diary-x, and frequently and freely discussed BDSM and anorexia in graphic detail. Other prominent members of DP followed suit with their own journals, keeping explicit records of their relationships, their sexual encounters, their visits to BDSM clubs, their body piercings, and the like, with some even starting journals exclusively to talk about BDSM issues and their 'slaves' or 'masters,' all within the milieu of multiplicity-- every system had a kinky member, a submissive member, a sadistic member, a promiscuous member, and the sort. No multiples ever came forth to mention expressly, even in passing, that their sex lives were nothing out of the ordinary, that they were quite vanilla, or even that they had no one among them who enjoyed kinky sex. As with the gay community of the pre-AIDS era, kink was being wrongly equated with sexual liberation-- that anyone who didn't enjoy bondage or sadomasochism was merely not liberated enough to understand the joys of it. No one wanted to look repressed, or like a freakish outcast-- it leaves the casual reader to wonder how many multiples felt compelled to attempt to cultivate an interest in BDSM,  against their own desires and preferences, simply on account that 'everyone else is doing it.'

Now, we do not want to set ourselves up as bowdlerisers of the multiple community, or to pass moral condemnation on such sexual activities as are generally placed within the realm of 'kink,' though we ourselves do not enjoy or partake of them-- though there are some we find personally repulsive, such as urine and scat fetishes, we hold still to the opinion of 'to each his own,' if no one is harmed on account of it. On the other hand, we have concluded that there are far too many who are made to feel outcast, or as if they 'should' take up an interest in BDSM, because their sexual tastes did not line up with what seemed to be the overwhelming trend of the community. Certainly there is nothing wrong with enjoying unorthodox sexual practices, if it does not become a venue for one to indulge a need to hurt others or to harm the body, but having an interest in it is no criteria for being a 'proper multiple,' no more than liking kumquats ought to be used to gauge one's status as a 'proper multiple.'

We cannot, however, be so tolerant of the 'trends' of eating disorders and self-injury, the severity of which are often glossed over in multiple communities, because 'everyone' is doing it, and the 'host' cannot be expected to rein in the unruly behaviour of the others or to deal with their emotional pain in a way which does not involve inflicting harm upon the body-- we're multiples, after all; don't expect us to be rational creatures! To attempt to forcibly cultivate a taste for kink in obedience to perceived 'social standards' is mild stuff by compare with cutting, burning, and starving one's body to fit with perceived standards. It seems that in communities where the general discussion amounts to reiterations of "I couldn't deal with it today when the guy at Burger King put sauce on my hamburger when I asked for none and I had to go cut", the status quo amounts to continual internal drama, angst and pain, initiated and carried out by people who, despite their constant litanies of their misery, really don't want to get better, because they get something from remaining in a role where they are seen as sick and incapable of cotnrolling themselves. The idea that a newly-outed multiple might draw the conclusion that it is acceptable and normal to take a razor blade to their arms every time something in life proves not to their liking, as an understandable consequence of being in a shared body, is as abominable to us as the idea that every member of a system must be tagged with an 'age of splitting', 'trauma which formed them' and 'part of you they represent.' Respect for one's shared body and its health, in our opinion, had ought to be lauded rather than treated as an anomaly, as a thing which cannot possibly be expected from the majority of multiples.

It must be said that we do not condemn out of ignorance for the difficulties faced by those who do self-harm. Indeed, although we do not speak often about it, we have, more in the past than we do today, struggled with various impulses to hurt our own body; and it is a course of action which we do not recommend for anyone, even as short-term stress relief, let alone glorify in any way.

Just as one doesn't need to have a birth person or an inner self-helper or lose time in order to be a 'proper multiple,' nobody should feel as if they 'need' someone in their system who self-injures or is into BDSM in order to be a 'proper multiple.' Multiplicity is the experience of several consciousnesses in one body: no more, no less. There are no other requirements. You don't need to be into kink. You don't need to be bisexual, or have anyone in your system who is, or even be sexual at all. You don't need to fight. You don't need to lose time (you don't have to have continuity of memory either). You don't have to hate your body. You don't need a 'checkoff list' of people to fill stock roles-- the self-harmer, the ISH, the scared child, the sex-crazed one, etc. NOBODY should feel as if they 'need to' take up an interest in anything in order to be 'really' or 'properly' multiple, especially if it's something which they would not enjoy or which would be actively detrimental to them. If you feel pressured to do so, the problem is NOT WITH YOU-- it's with the people who have made you feel as if you need to do so in order to fit in.

Whether it's from psychologists forcing us to pigeonhole our own people into roles as the "host" and "protector" and "original child" and so on, or from communities which make you feel as if you're missing some vital aspect of multiplicity if you're interested only in a 'conventional' lifestyle and vanilla sex, the end result is the same-- you're being pulled away from your own authentic selves, letting others take away your self-definition and replace it with something which is not yours, losing insight into your own selves.  Honor your own system and your own reality, and whether it's 'normal' by community standards doesn't matter; no two systems are the same, and trying to meet the standards of a community can have repercussions as destructive and long-lasting as trying to meet the standards of the official psychological definition of multiplicity.