Sitting outside a coffee shop in Sassine, Ziad gestures to himself and says, “Look at me. Who could guess I like to whip women? ”It’s a fair question, like other members of the clandestine Lebanese BDSM community with whom the Daily Star spoke, Ziad comes across as an average, middle-aged guy, the kind you’d expect to see at the office or chain smoking in a cafe. Human sexuality comes up in ordinary conversation often, but BDSM – an umbrella term for bondage, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism – is not a sexual preference many understand.
Some in the Lebanese community have responded to the stigma by banding together for regular meetings starting in September 2011.
“We’ve built this group as a way to be there for newbies ... to try and promote awareness for anybody who wished to listen,” says Hadi, a group founder and a “master,” meaning he prefers to play the dominant role.
The group counts about 10 members, all of whom reside in Lebanon. They hold a “munch” once a month to chat and have a drink, just like any group of friends.
“A lot of people have been reticent to join us, they somehow believe we’ve got big stickers on our heads that say who we are,” says Charlotte, a Canadian “sub,” or submissive partner. Topics discussed can range from the banal – such as where to find a good dentist – to more BDSM specific – such as where to buy good bondage rope.
While there are a wealth of different practices that fall under the BDSM umbrella, one unifying characteristic is safety.
Hadi, who was trained as a master at the Black Lotus Academy in Paris and can teach others professionally, explains that different people are interested in different kinks, which can range from role playing or the use of collars, whips, canes and floggers, to the more extreme, such as burning. He even knows one man who “enjoys being beaten. ... That’s what gets him off.”
Whatever the fetish, there are two key things: safety and consent.
“There are ways to do it safely, as not to leave marks if the person doesn’t want marks, and if the person wants marks, there are ways not to do any damage,” Hadi says.
What is striking about the BDSM scene is the communication. Not just on the communal level, but also between couples in a relationship, such as Charlotte and Ziad.
For Charlotte, exploring her limits with Ziad was an awakening. She first came across BDSM in her early 20s. The man she was dating at the time tied her up, cut her with a razor and made her stand in the corner, though at the time she was unaware these were sexual behaviors that would fall under the BDSM classification. All she knew was “this was part of who this man was” and she liked it, she says.
It wasn’t until she became involved in the BDSM scene in Lebanon, and became Ziad’s play partner and submissive, that she finally began to understand this part of herself. Ziad gave Charlotte an extensive list of kinks for her to explore so that she could determine her limits.
Their relationship is characteristic of the BDSM scene, where partnerships usually form between dominants and submissives. It’s not an unusual concept; in most human relationships, there is a power play between those in control and those controlled. What BDSM does is to formalize this dynamic in a way that gives both ends of the spectrum satisfaction sexually.
What it doesn’t mean, however, is that the dominant has free reign.
“The important [thing] is the constant communication between both sides, the dom cannot do as he pleases,” Hadi explains.
It is a misconception that concerns many, “I’ve seen so many sub men and woman who think they have to put up with s--t,” Charlotte says.
But when done right, BDSM can lead to intense pleasure. While for many the idea of giving up control might seem foreign or even frightening, for submissives, the loss of control can be euphoric. The community has given this pleasure a name: “subspace.” ...