The wildly varied world of BDSM can provide a safe space to communicate, play, and release the pressures of everyday life.
At pre-dawn on a Monday morning more than 20 years ago, two friends and I sped towards a four-hour cleaning job that had to be finished before our uni classes started. We’d been out. Mr Bungle was blaring from the stereo, the chainsaw guitar and rapid percussion accompanied by Mike Patton’s uniquely tuneful bellow, It’s not funny, my ass is on fire. The three of us screamed along, because it was true. I couldn’t sit down through my classes all that day, and I took the next day off.
My introduction to BDSM was a public spanking at a Melbourne kink club back in 1993. It was prearranged by a friend as a Buck’s Night ’gift’, and I gave explicit consent; I just didn’t know what I was consenting to.
Three chairs lined the stage, and the spankers took their places. We were a clichéd trio of The Blonde, The Brunette and myself, The Redhead. We laid across laps and I faced The Blonde, and as my underwear was gathered up to expose my cheeks, I took her hand. A slap rang out, and I flinched, even though I hadn’t been touched. When I was, there was no doubt.
The initial spanks were pure shock. I felt fight-or-flight kick in, and cursed myself for getting into this position. A hail of slaps hit home, and a sobbed gasp in my ear confirmed I was not alone in my struggle. I reassured The Blonde with emphatic hushes, and the hotness of my arse became secondary to controlling my breathing enough to check in with my friend.
The next thing I knew, the slaps had stopped and a hand caressed me gently, a voice in my ear asking how I was. I found I was more than fine.
This experience fascinated me. The strength I felt was powerful; the connection sparked with my fellow spankees almost magical; and, later, watching my arse turn from maroons and blues to reds and yellows was an aesthetic and sensual pleasure. With hindsight, it’s certainly not an introduction I would ever recommend. Personally, I suggest having an idea of how hard the play may get before engaging, and a ‘safe word’, in case things get too much.
Iceland is the only Nordic country that still lists BDSM as a mental illness. A clear example of thoughtlessness, says the chairman of the Icelandic BDSM association. Members want the government to acknowledge BDSM as normal sexual behaviour. Not categorize it as a sickness.
“Its not easy to realize your sexual desires are categorized by your government as a mental illness, it’s actually really difficult. Categorizing BDSM as a mental disorder only makes it harder for people to come in terms with their sexual identity,” says Magnús Hákonarson, chairman of the Icelandic BDSM association which has formally requested the Director of Health for Iceland to remove BDSM from its list of mental illnesses. BDSM in this instance referring to “Dual-role transvestism, Fetishism, Fetishistic transvestism, and sado-masochism”.
In its letter to the director, dated September 3rd, the association claims there is nothing indicating that these tendencies are in any way a sickness. But stating the opposite can have severe and negative consequences.
“As I say the fact that BDSM is categorized as a mental illness has a negative affect on a person’s sexual identity,” Magnús points out. “It’s also makes people more vulnerable to prejudice – their own and from others – and discrimination. And because of that they become afraid of living out their BDSM side, even hiding it as they’re afraid of negative effects on their lives and their job security. This can inhibit them finding a partner, building a healthy self-image and, ironically, good mental health. Because hiding in the closet can really damage your health.”
Magnús adds that the stigma surrounding such classification can even prevent BDSM people from seeking police assistance or medical support, such as going to the emergency room, if needed. And for good reasons.
“I know rape victims who’ve been discouraged by the justice system to prosecute their attackers. Just because they had in good faith allowed the perpetrator to tie them down before the assault occurred. The victims were basically told by the system that it was their own fault. It’s the same argument rape victims get when they are told that they were attacked because ‘their skirt was too short’. And when put in that context, you can see how absurd it is.”
He admits that because of the stigma the public has a rather negative image of BDSM. The problem being the connection people make with violence.
“When speaking about BDSM, people tend to stereotype, thinking of black leather, someone being spanked and bondage. People are thinking specifics. But in reality BDSM is about so much more,” he explains. “It’s about the general frame, that we are working with communication, trust, what is allowed and what is not allowed, that this is an alternative form of communication.”
He goes on to say that the BDSM group consists of very different individuals. “The only thing we have in common is that we call ourselves BDSM. For some BDSM is a sexual identity where as for others it’s only to spice up their sex. What we get out of it varies greatly but mutual respect is the key, it’s the main thing.” ...
I was once a little girl too with little girl dreams. I wasn't always a sex-positive, independent diva of the highest order. I just happened to have some divergent imprinting at an early age that suggested that the traditional family dynamic (married to a dude with 2.5 children, a dog, and a white picket fence) wasn't quite the path for me.
You see, straight missionary has never worked for yours truly. I wanted it to. Heaven help me, I did. I wanted to believe that one person would ring my bell forever and ever amen, but it quite literally hasn't happened yet.
And at age 35, after a great amount of living, I don't expect it to.
Whenever I attempt to deviate from my normal (being engaged in an open relationship, swinging, and polyamory, with space for kink and fetish play) the associated people pleasing and ignoring my own needs backfires in my face. I don't represent authentically. My writing suffers. My livingness is forfeited. I have to shut down parts of myself that rallied for visibility and were ultimately victorious already. I wind up fighting old wars and that's just plain-old boring.
I've always been a bit of a rebel with a healthy respect for authority. A bit of a dichotomy. I believe that you need to know what you're up against before you defy it. You need to understand its psychology.
So I gave vanilla it's shot at age 30. You can't be an out-of-the-box freak, was my thinking.
I went back to all of the things I was taught growing up in the Midwest. I sought to digest some concepts perpetuated by the media, the church, and state. I returned to my roots just to see what would happen if I played by the rules and did what was suggested.
I was living the suburban dream. I had married the love of my life, had given birth twice, and had a decent vanilla job making 70K a year, and yet I was suffering visibly. My early imprinting came knocking — the joyously open sexual experiences with other girls that comprised my adolescence, the free-range f*ckfests of my undergrad years, the BDSM explorations with a fellow kinkster who opened me up to the wide range of possibility at my fingertips, the literal partying with rock stars who adhered to no one's code but their own and were praised for it.
You don't just forget experiences like that in an effort to blend in or to more fully grasp the vanilla experience. I started to feel the vital parts of me dying.
As a bona fide sexual freak, all I required was a like-minded community to sign off on my authenticity. When that happened, I began to appreciate myself a bit more. I gave myself the credit I deserved as someone who had figured out what worked for them and didn't seek to oppress or harm others with my thinking.
My husband and I began swinging in September of 2014 by pure accident. My Playboy Radio show did a promotion at the local sex club here in Columbus, OH, and had a blast doing so. The people were so laid-back, honest, and surprisingly hot. Everything I had heard about swingers to date was inaccurate (that they were old, overweight, and uneducated). The people we interacted with were lawyers and dentists, ex-Marines and venture capitalists; they were high achievers with about 10 percent body fat, who approached sex in a much more adventurous, lighthearted manner.
When I shared my dissatisfaction with all things vanilla, the Ohio swingers were responsive and kind. We were very much welcomed with open arms and began attending local events — parties, hotel takeovers, and other happenings. We met up regularly with like-minded couples and I engaged in a great deal of action with other women while my husband sat back, had drinks with the male counterparts, and spectated. We joined a website that catered to swingers and helped link us to other individuals in different geographic areas. Things picked up for us in a big way. Our experiences were illuminating and proved that the paradigm we had stuck to our first few years of marriage — to adhere to one another like rubber cement and to be everything to each other, no matter what — that this paradigm was exhausting to other people too and could be transformed into something more sustainable.
My friend, Dr. Zoe, has a way of framing monogamy that makes sense to me. She defines monogamy as something that exists on a spectrum. Everyone is at a different point on the scale from totally monogamous to entirely nonmonogamous. I tend to gravitate toward the nonmonogamous side of things, as does my partner. Dr. Zoe's assertion is that the more successful relationships in the world are predicated on an honest assessment of where you are at on this spectrum and partnering with someone at a similar place. When truly monogamous people partner with those who are fundamentally nonmonogamous, trouble brews. Both partners are unsatisfied. Issues like dishonesty and people pleasing crop up and people start to get pissed off and act out.This is when people start cheating, start withholding sex, have emotional affairs and "work husbands," and wind up sleeping in separate bedrooms. ...
When asked about the uptick in reporting on polyamory, Kari Collins of West Philly tells me that she is “ambivalent.”
It’s exciting to not have to explain what polyamory means over and over again, but the representations are really limited.
“A lot of times it still seems like ‘this couple is poly’ or ‘these three people are poly’ and it doesn’t go beyond that," she says. "It’s as close to a monogamous family as we can get. It’s presented like this wild thing they do on Saturday nights. But there are so many forms that poly is taking."
Kari (who is genderqueer and identifies alternately using “he” and “she”), for instance, currently only has one partner, but his partner currently has four other relationships, and several more people with whom they share an undefined friendship-romance. Those folks, in turn, have their own network of significant others.
The web forms a polyamorous community of metamours, and nearly all of them hang out together, often playing board games. “It’s like the #1 poly hobby… It’s an easy group activity.”
For Phil Weber of Bensalem and Mae Esposito of Fishtown, board games were a major activity at a recent poly network camping trip.
This group took up four cabins – a crew of about 14 metamours and friends, hiking, making meals, and playing games. A month prior, Phil had seven partners, but one moved away and two “stepped back” – a much healthier way to describe amicable separation than “broke up” or “dumped."
He now has four partners scattered around the Philadelphia area, including Mae, with whom he’s been serious since Halloween.
“I don’t really do casual,” he says, mentioning that one of his most informal experiences was a “two-week stand.” He came to polyamory when he and his longest-term partner (with whom he’s been committed for six years) decided to open up their relationship.
For some, open relationships are something into which they stumble. For others, relationship anarchy is a conscious choice to reject a system that has proven to be untenable. And for many, polyamory is as intrinsic to their sexual orientation as their preference for men or women.
Mae explains she’d “never been great friends with monogamy.” Whether through her “fault or someone else’s” it always ended poorly, without equal agency and choice for both parties. She notes that past boyfriends might, for instance, be looking for the “next best thing” and ditch her after finding what they considered an upgrade. ...
“A Taste of Kink”, an evening of interactive kink demonstrations and discussions, recently allowed over 100 sexual health professionals from across the country to see, and perhaps experience firsthand, the dynamics and feelings associated with kink and BDSM practices.
The evening was part of the 47th annual conference of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). The conference, held June 3–7 in Minneapolis, featured over 50 workshops providing continuing education credits for sexual health professionals.
Workshop topics at the conference included GLBTQ youth, transgender health issues, gender roles, working with non-monogamous couples, and sex-positive Christianity. The conference also included a performance by Wicked Wenches Cabaret, a Twin Cities burlesque troupe.
The “Taste of Kink” event on Saturday, June 6, was co-produced by AASECT’s AltSex SIG (Special Interest Group) and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), with help from Twin Cities volunteers and groups including MSDB, Knights of Leather, MinKY (Minnesota Kinky Youth), and The Electrical Group. The event took place at Patrick’s Cabaret in Minneapolis.
The purpose of the evening was to explain the dynamics of kink and BDSM scenes, and to show non-kinky professionals how kink feels. One of the organizers explained, “We are doing this to become more professionally and culturally sensitive to the needs of the BDSM community.” Another organizer commented, “As therapists we need to be prepared to deal with this, especially with 50 Shades of Gray out there.”
The event started with a one-hour “munch” — food, nonalcoholic beverages and conversation. Local community volunteers and demonstrators wore “Ask me about . . .” name tags listing their kink interests and inviting questions from AASECT conference attendees.
After the munch, the demonstrations began. Six demo areas offered concurrent demonstrations of flogging, whipping, and impact play; foot worship; punching; spanking; sensation play; bondage and suspension; and electrical play with a violet wand.
The demonstrations showed not just technique, but also the processes of negotiation, consent and aftercare (checking in with a partner afterward to make sure everyone is okay). Demonstrators also talked about what they felt as they were involved in the activity, why they liked to do the activity they were demonstrating, and what appealed to them about it.
AASECT members then had the opportunity to try, or “taste,” the practices being demonstrated if they wished, and many of them did. Their tastes gave them firsthand experience not only with one or more BDSM practices, but also with the processes of negotiation, consent and aftercare — and with the use of safewords. As someone commented, “This isn’t just PowerPoints or slideshows; this is experiential learning.”
For your humble columnist, a nonprofessional spectator, the evening was a series of amazing moments. It was interesting to see the slightly startled expression on someone’s face as they felt the electric charge of a violet wand for the first time, or the blissful expression on someone else’s face as they were having their feet worshipped. ...
Trending News: Women Are More Likely To Initiate An Open Relationship
Why Is This Important?
Because the lady in your life may not be as opposed to spicing things up as you’d think.
Long Story Short
OpenMinded.com, a site for people looking for open relationships, surveyed their members and found something surprising: Of the couples in open relationships, two-thirds were initiated by women. This seemingly dispels the notion that it’s primarily men who want extramarital partners.
As someone existing in a happy, plain-vanilla marriage, I do not get polyamory. The promise of getting some strange on the side does not, for me, offset the theoretical headache that would come with having an extra significant other. But then again, it’s not really for me to “get.” Some people have clandestine extramarital affairs, which just about everyone condemns as immoral. But some couples, be it a proclivity or a last-ditch effort to “save” a relationship, willingly engage in sex with people other than their dedicated partners. What may surprise you is that, if open relationship site OpenMinded.com is to be believed, the majority of those open relationships were initiated by the women.
OpenMinded says they surveyed over 64,000 couples registered to use their site. Of the couples engaging in open relationships, two-thirds of them say it was the woman’s idea. If true, this flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that says men are the ones who can’t bear the idea of sleeping with the same person until death do them part. ...
If your only reference for the life of a male dominant is 50 Shades of Grey, you have a lot to learn.
We caught up with award winning male dominant Master Dominic, to find out what life is really like when you kick people in the balls for a living.
How does a professional male dominant start his day?
My day starts quietly – it’s relatively banal really: have breakfast, check e-mails, shower and turn the computer on to start work. I could make something more interesting up, but that’s pretty much it.
My sense of humour/tolerance for people doesn’t kick in until at least an hour after I’ve woken up so everyone who values their extremities continuing to be attached to their body gives me a wide berth. But from there
How many clients do you have on an average day/ week?
You get a hell of a lot of timewasters, so a busy day can suddenly become a very empty one and vice versa. It varies massively though; you’ll get a week with three sessions a day, and then a week with two sessions full stop.
On your website you mention your ‘exacting standards’ – can you give us an idea of what these are?
I expect you to be polite, concise and honest, and in return I will be too. If you send me an e-mail written in text speak calling me ‘mate’, you’re not getting a reply. If you’ve failed to get it right that early on we’re not a match.
That’s part of the vetting process. You get people who want to fight you for dominance and I have no time for that. Part of being good at the job is being able to assert yourself effectively, of course, but there’s only so much you can do if someone isn’t prepared to buckle under. So, stating that I have standards, and then going on to explain them underneath with the ‘standards based on obedience and mutual respect’ line is a way of establishing the dynamic and setting boundaries from the minute you first get in touch. ...
Miley talks politics, her sexuality, and working with the LGBT community
BY LENA DE CASPARIS
In the issue Miley, 22, talks about her role as a gender activist and a politically engaged young woman, on a mission to make the world more tolerant, and gender and sexual identities less fixed.
Miley discusses why she decided to use her power, and popularity, to do something important by setting up her charity The Happy Hippie Foundation. ‘I was kind of embarrassed that I got paid money to shake my ass in a teddy bear costume,' she says, 'I should not be worth the amount I am while people live on the streets.’
As a provocateur she's acutely aware of how to command attention to get her voice heard, ‘If you get your tits out, and they are all looking, then you can use that space to say something and get them to listen,’ she continues later.
She then goes on to discuss her opinions on gender, and relationships saying, ‘I’m very open about it – I’m pansexual. But I’m not in a relationship. I’m 22, I’m going on dates, but I change my style every two weeks, let alone who I’m with.’
Read the fascinating interview in full in this month’s issue of ELLE Magazine. ...