What is honour?

In the world of S&M and BDSM, honour is often mentioned along with trust and respect as being one of the fundamental principals of BDSM. But what is honour?

That may seem an obvious question, but when you talk to people and ask them to actually define honour they can often only answer like this:

  • Doing what you say you'll do,
  • Being punctual,
  • Always showing up for appointments,
  • Being up front and honest,
  • Not being deceitful,

Or they may define it in terms of examples, such as:

  • Being honorable is when X happens and you respond by doing Y.

But all of this only creates a fragmented view of honour and, in many cases, it's simply not right.

For example, if "being up front and honest" is honour, then imagine you're visiting a friend in hospital who is life-threateningly ill, and their doctor and their wife have asked you to be gentle and not tell the person the gravity of their illness, and the person asks you, "how bad is it?" If you tell them that the prognosis is good and they should be out of the hospital soon, and you know this is untrue, then are you being dishonorable?

The point is that being up front and honest, or being punctual, just as two examples, aren't honour. They are just being up front and honest, or being punctual, respectively. If we try and define honour like this, aren't we saying that it's just a collection of parts rather than something on its own? And, hence, we end up with this fragmented understanding of honour?

It's important to consider that in years gone past, honour was a critical part of a person's wardrobe. It is something they wore on themselves all the time, and society judged them on it. Even nowadays, honour must be concrete and measurable because the military can discharge someone due to lack of it. Therefore there must be a way of measuring it or recognising it.

Homework: come up with a definition of honour which we can use to measure honour.

Last modified: Sunday, 12 May 2013, 9:04 AM