BDSM. A term that used to be clouded in mystery and evoke images of naked men or women chained to a wall while someone in a black leather outfit, complete with hood, whipped them ’til they cried. Now you hear it tossed around casually by life stylers and vanilla folk alike.
But are we all talking about the same thing?
Movies and books like 50 Shades of Gray or Secretary have been vilified for portraying a watered-down version of BDSM, while in the porn industry fetish videos showcase every possible permutation of dominance, submission, and even torture.
The truth is, it’s all BDSM yet none of it gives an outsider the whole story.
Like any other fetish or lifestyle, BDSM has levels and subcultures. In a way, it’s a lot like swinging. You find every possible degree of practitioner, from the person who just wants to dip their toe in the water to the one whose entire life revolves around the most hard core of practices.
In my private life, it’s never been something I’ve partaken in except at the beginner level. But as a writer of erotica in all its various shades, I’ve had to do a lot of research. Some of it in person.
My own involvement has always been limited to some kinky hijinks in and out of the bedroom. While I don’t mind a little pain (twist my nipple, slap my ass, tie me to the bed and pull my hair, please!), I am not so enamored of it that I want to be smacked with a hair brush (tried it, no thank you!), flogged with a crop, or gagged to the point where I’m nearly choking. I can be both submissive or dominant in the bedroom, depending on my mood and my partner. I will gladly play the part of a sex slave for my ‘master’ for the night, but it’s role play, not my life. I am no one’s slave, and I don’t want anyone to be mine. Not full time. So my partner and I have dabbled. We have fuzzy handcuffs, ties, and a little notepad filled with dirty suggestions (orders!) for those times when we want to spice things up. As members of the swinging community, we’ve attended a wide range of parties, including the Deviant parties in NYC, where we thought we’d see some real BDSM action. Instead, it was only a step or two above tame, with most folks doing the same kind of thing we enjoyed, except they were dressed in leather while they did it.
So, while we’ve had no problem saying to each other, “get on your knees and service me” (or service that one over there!), neither of us has a desire to see the other ball-gagged, crawling across the floor, and humiliated in front of strangers.
Yet, if you ask someone who’s really into that kind of thing, they won’t call it humiliating, even if it’s a humiliation-oriented activity. Why? Because it’s what they are into. And if you enjoy suffering humiliation, then in a way it’s really not humiliating. The same way that if your partner enjoys being whipped by a crop while manacled to a wall, it’s not torture. It’s a shared kink.
BDSM is all about being at the same point, sharing a joint fantasy or sexual preference or role. If your partner hates to be submissive, it’s not going to work with you being the dominant one all the time. If your partner can’t give up control, then tying them down will only lead to problems. As a person or a couple, you need to find your comfort zone. Experiment a little at a time. I love to be tied to the bed. My partner enjoys doing that. On the other hand, he hates to be tied down. Yet we don’t have permanent dominant-submissive roles. He loves it when I come home, push him down on the bed, and just fuck the shit out of him. And I love it when he does that to me.
Some people start with a little slap here, a little nipple clamp there, and move on to bigger and better things. There are so many stops along the way, from latex and riding crops to asphyxiation, dog training, anal insertion, cum drinking, and even branding. People can go so far into the BDSM culture they allow themselves to be sold as sex slaves. Women tie ropes around their breasts until the flesh turns purple and men turn their scrotums into fishhook advertisements.
Some of it even delves into illegality, but true practitioners always follow the basic rule of consent. No one is ever forced to do anything they don’t want to. For some, that means giving up the right to say no before the fun begins. That’s their choice. Most don’t go that extreme.
For people in the BDSM life style, a film/book like 50 Shades of Gray has two flaws. 1), by most standards, it’s pretty tame. You can see the same level of kink at 50% of the swinger parties you go to. And 2), the concept of submission is confused with consent. Some of the scenes where Gray uses mental and verbal abuse and/or pressure carries more than a whiff of date rape. However, the book served a good purpose in making BDSM, at least at the beginning end of the spectrum, more palatable for the masses, opened the door to some middle of the road acceptance. Much the same way Jenna Jameson did for porn.
On the other hand, torture porn and rape porn still have the opposite effect. They give BDSM a bad reputation, and they shouldn’t. Why? Because once again, it comes down to consent. If a person has a rape fantasy, or wants to be tied up and gang-banged by masked men, who is anyone to say that is wrong? It’s not like these people go door to door trying to convert normal people into their life style (that’s only okay for religious groups, apparently!). And certainly no one is going to be making a mainstream movie about the pleasure of gang rape anytime soon. But everyone deserves the chance to follow their sexual path, no matter how kinky it might be.
And now, I think I’ll head to the bedroom. I’ve got the urge to have some fun tonight. Where is that hot wax candle….?
(For some better-than-decent mainstream BDSM movies, try The Piano Teacher, Preaching to the Perverted, A Dangerous Method, or Venus in Fur.)
Janie James is a former scientist with a lust for love and life. After years of toiling in laboratories and photographing crime scenes, she gave up the 9 to 5 routine to write erotic fiction. When she’s not writing, she enjoys sleeping late, overdosing on coffee, and watching online porn. Her latest story, “True Calling,” can be found in the BDSM anthology, Tie Me Up: A Binding Collection of Erotic Tales (edited by F. Lenora Solomon), available on Amazon.
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