There are so many styles, it fractures the 'lifestyle'.
The question is rather, 'Is this bdsm lifestyle that I'm thinking about real?'
If it's Roissy that is meant, then well, personally I never encountered a secret bdsm castle. It may exist, as some billionaires wet dream but in that case it's friends-only and very much tailored to the taste of the guy with the money.
(women's fantasies of domination seem less concerned with castles)
If it's the leather-style high protocol stuff then.. never seen it. Heard of. Wasn't my thing.
I think the community is too fractured nowadays for people to congregate over solely *one* style of kink.
Everywhere I've been with a group, they've always have individual dynamics going.
The exception are rare or sometimes-put-together events at some avenue or club or someone's home where people of only one style gather, usually a variation of high protocol, to get that feeling of total immersion.
I am many things. I am a good co-worker with a high work ethic. I am a good wife, I care for my family and house. I am an artist, my passion for my craft is intrinsic to who I am as a person and toy mental health. I am also a Dominant/Mistress, the well being of my slave is part of who I am. Ensuring that he is safe, healthy and that his needs are balanced with his wants is part of who I am whether or not I discuss it with others, and paying bills or buying groceries or doing my job (which does not involve a lot of.... Personal expression). It is a lifestyle to some and an activity to others.
If an individual sees his or her Kink as being an identifying trait to who they are as a person then it is a lifestyle. If it is instead just an activity that an individual participates in for fun every now and then but is not a piece of their identity then for that person it is not a lifestyle.
I am some what 24/7 and live life my way, in a way that suits me and mine. I dont walk around in leather, screeching like a howler monkey but some days I do LOL. My kink (BDSM) is always part of me. It doesn't go away. I dont switch it off. I see it like a dimmer switch. The power or brightness goes up and down as required on both sides of the 24/7. Real life has the dishes and kids get the flu but that doesn't mean you stop being "you" Most kinkster will say kink is part of them. It is hard wired into our DNA and not a role that we opt to do and only apply because we can. We do so because we need to, to be ourself. If you can take or leave the lifestyle, than I'd say chances are 24/7 isn't for you (and there is nothing wrong with that). I see kink as like a 'sexuality" Does a gay stop being gay if s/he isn't being 'sexual'? Do vanillas stop being vanilla because they aren't "doing" ..thats like saying a submissive isn't a submissive unless they are in scene.
For a moment take BDSM out of it. Look at relationships. You have people together for love but never get married. You have people married but not in love. You have arranged marriages, business marriages, sexless marriages, contract sex marriages, poly relationships, convenience relationships....you get the idea. So is these relationships all the same or different? Or is one better than other.
So for moment just focus on the word marriage... you get all sorts and they all look different. Some work and some don't. Some might seem perfect and others...well.
You personally might have the idea of your perfect marriage in mind but will be different from other marriages around you. Don't make it less than or just a concept and don't "really exist"
Back to BDSM. Take all above examples and put it BDSM sprinkles in. Some like kink and want kink thrown in. They might use power exchange to get the kink side but not as important as kink.
Then you get some that enjoy the power exchange and the kink is more of a side dish or the cherry on top. Some might like it only in the bedroom and some might like it from 7 to 10 every evening and for some.... they have a submissive nature or a Dominant one. Regardless of the power exchange rules negotiated they cant turn it off.
So yes 24/7 do exist. But one couple's 24/7 will look completely different to another's. And thats good. As unique as the couple is how unique their relaionship is.
Im married 24/7. Im a mother 24/7. (Just because kids are at school and im not mothering doesn't mean I'm not a mother.)
Im His friend,lover companion and all these things 24/7. Im also a submissive by nature and his 24/7 submissive. Am I on my knees the whole time and under high protocol the whole time? No. But the power exchange is for 24 hours every day. I am a submisive and he is a Dominant but we don't have to action it or he doesn't need to dominate me every second for me to act submissive. But he has the power to enact it under our rules at anytime.
I have lots of vanilla friends and only big difference I see in our relationships is loads more communication in ours and more defined expectations we both have from each other. ( and I suspect we have loads more orgasms too)
For me, it's an orientation. Is being gay a "lifestyle?"
But, does it affect most aspects of my life?
Yes, often in subtle ways, but because it's so much a part of who I am, it has a deep influence in my life.
Do I do vanilla stuff too?
Oh yes, plenty. I don't think that makes it any less real, though. Everyone, regardless of lifestyle, has to do some basic things. And people can live a lifestyle in a way that is healthy and allows for autonomy. I know of serious 24/7 relationships where the dynamic is never really turned "off," but I wonder how often it is FULLY "on?"
A healthy relationship can have those roles without them being outwardly present every second of every day. That would get exhausting and cause burnout pretty quickly, I'd think! I am sure that it does work, for some.
But I don't think one needs to go to an extreme end of the spectrum for it to be "valid" or "real."
If someone does scenes and "acts the part" then I call that an illusion/fantasy. For some reason a lot of people in BDSM think a lot of things are fantasy when they are not. And it's bloody irritating when someone speaks about what a fantasy is to me when I know it's a reality in my case. Insulting even.
Let's say someone slowly slides a knife down along my chest. I might know this person on a intimate and personal level. I might have punishments and the like. All real and solid with no make believe/acting happening at all. these things can also happen in scenes of course but that is not always the case.
If someone says they're a slave and have shackled themselves to an owner of their own free will (I know it contradicts but roll with it) then being a slave is real if they feel the "slave bond" with their owner. The definition of slave is what has changed, no the label itself. It no longer simply means to abduct someone and keep them prisoner against their will.
There's also the matter of fantasy and reality blending together. Some parts being real and others not being. For the most part (IC only RP online being an exception. Though I tend to keep posts more "personal") I "Keep it real". But I'm not one to be afraid of trying new things either. Or get another to do so. Which can take a bit of effort to get into. At first a new thing might not be a reality because of needing to get into it. Which at some point ends up becoming more "real" as its gotten into. Pretending to be a maid is one thing. The actions you do to someone tied up and helpless is another. I'm not on all fours yet I am a dog. I don't go bark but it's still real. Again, the definition of the label is what has changed. We apply our own meaning to things.
On that note "dog" makes for a good pet name. Among others.
I think being in BDSM lifestyle 24/7 is like handing your dom the right to your privacy and so many other small things that you do in your daily life and trusting them with everything. It is like accepting their decision to what to where or what to eat or even who you talk too. Like, ultimate submission.
And TBH, it will be difficult to be in a relationship like that. Also it will be difficult to find someone who would willing accept such dominance.
@Liza: You're both accurate and inaccurate. Even a dom doesn't get to decide who else I engage with. That is always my right and no others. I'm also a picky eater, though I wouldn't be against "food control" as long as I'm comfortable with the food.
The rest of what you said is quite true though. Keep in mind we choose what is controlled with ourselves however. Even a lifestyle dom doesn't "auto control everything".