How a sophomore is making waves in the BDSM community.
By Jordan-Marie Smith
BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) is an acronym that might conjure up ideas of leather-clad dominatrixes in velvety lounges but they might not be the four letters that people associate with a sophomore college student.
Think of a typical college student’s night out. There might be basement fraternity parties, drinks at Sign of the Whale in Dupont or a quiet night watching Netflix. College of Arts and Sciences student Gwen, who asked that an alias be used to protect her privacy, does some of those things. Although on any given night she might also be suspended from metal hooks attached to a pendulum of thick ropes, arms behind her back, not very clothed and taking orders from a top, or dominant partner, in a dungeon. The Crucible in NoMa, Maryland served as D.C.'s primary dungeon for local kinksters, including Gwen.
Gwen is an up-and-coming bottom, or submissive partner, in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia's BDSM community. Her involvement in the scene started after she joined a social networking site for kinksters. Later, her friend invited her to The Crucible.
It's taken Gwen only two months to get invited to a DMV fetish ball and Philly kink convention.
There is a range of people who participate in the scene and make it their own. BDSM is a normal part of life for all kinds of people that you wouldn’t expect: Wall Street types, professors, bosses and students.
It's a scene that's often misunderstood. Despite what a majority of people might think, BDSM is not entirely sexual. Fifty percent is sexual and 50 percent is therapeutic release, according to Gwen.
For Gwen, playing is usually therapeutic. Before getting involved in the community, she worried her age would be a distracting factor. Most of Gwen's partners are much older than her, she said.
“I thought my age would freak people out. I really thought that, me being in college, they would either obsess over my age and be like ‘I have to play with her’ or ‘She’s way too young she reminds me of my own kids or my niece or my nephew,’” Gwen said. “But people really don’t care about the age.”
People who want to “play” with Gwen want to do so not because of her age, but because of her attitude when it comes to putting her trust in a partner holding the whip.
“One of the most common things I’ve gotten is people really want to play with me because, apparently, I have this energy that is super positive and open and whether you are believer of energy or play or not, it’s a factor,” Gwen said. “It’s an amazing thing to feel and to be the recipient and the cause of.”
One of her partners mentioned that her smile alone changed the energy of whichever scene they were doing at the time, according to Gwen. That excitement and happiness isn’t frivolous, she said.
“I’m not going to go willy-nilly, pell-mell jumping off the deep end and burning out,” Gwen said. “They say I’m pretty level-headed and I know what I want.” ...
After a turkey-meatloaf dinner, they went down to the dungeon and she undressed, tied her hair up, put on a cat mask and leather collar, and assumed slave position on her knees.
Even before the whip hit, the slave’s fingers curled into a fist. A spandex mask stretched over his face, covering his eyes and nose. His chin rested on the thick plastic collar buckled around his neck. A metal ring accented its front, at the Adam’s apple. Chained to a large X-shaped table, propped up in a standing position with his arms above his head and legs spread, his mouth hung agape waiting for the air to split and the whip to sing. …
Upstairs, in the living room, splintered logs of hemlock cackled and spat from inside the wood stove. The main floor of the house boasted the usual makings of a home: a dining room table with four chairs and corresponding placemats, a piano that acted both as an instrument and a bookshelf, a vintage three-seater sofa, dozens of different strands of tea in a cabinet above the stove, a guest room with a private bathroom, and a collection of empty wine bottles, mostly French, opened and shared in the house over the years by Master R, the founder of La Domaine Esemar, the only Bondage, Discipline, Sadomasochism (BDSM) chateau left in the world (and, also, a completely legitimate and legal business, where clients come for erotic, non-intercourse-related services) that specializes not only in dominant/submissive roleplaying and fetishism for paying clients, but also engages in long-term, lifestyle applications of BDSM with specific individuals. His home as well as his place of work, R, who has been running La Domaine since 1993 (and, at 65, has been practicing BDSM as a lifestyle since the 1960s) has publically announced that he will be retiring as owner of the chateau.
“I’ve always wanted to do this. I’ve always had the crazy idea of having my own S&M chateau and end up retiring up here,” explained R, who, starting this year, has officially passed the whip down to Mistress Couple, who acts as Head Mistress and is currently training mistresses to work under her. She had been living at La Domaine full-time since last summer and, downstairs in the dungeon, was now flogging Slave Destiny—one of ten house slaves at La Domaine—as he bent over a horse’s saddle, his fingers clenched through every stroke of her treatment. …
Does your media agency have resources for these special interest pieces?Contact the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom for interviews and information on kink and open relationships. NCSF is the national advocate for consensual adult sexual expression.
There has been a significant interest in BDSM sparked by the wildly successful Fifty Shades of Grey. Similar topics appeared in recent TV Shows from CSI to House to Desperate Housewives, and even animated shows such as American Dad.
Furthermore many people, married and otherwise, are discovering and practicing non-monogamy. From polyamory to swinging to open relationships, a notable percentage of the public are shifting their relationship parameters in an honest and ethical fashion. These people are taking cues from books like Opening Up and The Ethical Slut, along with TV Shows such as Showtime’sPolyamory: Married and Dating.
A compare and contrast: What the movie got right, what the movie got wrong and what you need to know about kink.
“Who, What & How”
The kink subculture: What its practitioners like to do, and the kind of people who are kinky.
“What is Consent?”
Consent is enthusiastic and informed agreement, without coercion or pressure, and is agreed upon while you’re of sound mind.
Open relationships aren’t just sexy storybook fantasies. Relationships with more than two people take honesty, effort and ethical agreements.
“Persecution of Kinksters”
Job discrimination and child custody challenges result in only one-in-three people being “out” about their involvement in kink.
“Kink is not a Diagnosis”
The American Psychiatric Association agrees that kink is a healthy form of sexual expression.
The NCSF is the national advocate and resource for consenting adults who engage in kink and non-monogamy. The NCSF is a coalition of educational and social groups across America, along with the businesses that serve them and individuals who are kinky. Since its formation in 1997, the NCSF and its programs have significantly changed the way the media, legal and psychiatric professions view kink and non-monogamy.
For now, a few teasers. Firstly Mr Dornan arrived direct from one Mr Eddie Redmayne's stag do (Eddie stars on our January issue collector's cover, get it here). We have never seen anyone so tired and still vertical. Yet even one-step-short-of-comatose he sent the temperature through the roof.
Secondly, he told us all about researching the part of Christian Grey. So how does a nice lad from Holywood, Co. Down, prepare to play THIS sexual sadist (as opposed to the sexual sadist serial killer he plays in The Fall)?
He visits a sex-dungeon of course. "I went there, they offered me a beer, and they did…whatever they were into. I saw a dominant with one of his two submissives," he says.
There was plenty of kink... and plenty laughter. "I was like: 'Come on guys I know I'm not paying for this but I am expecting a show.' It was an interesting evening. Then going back to my wife and newborn baby afterwards... I had a long shower before touching either of them." ...
Finally, a video game that may start to undo all the damage that "Grand Theft Auto" has done. (Maybe.) Hurt Me Plenty — an interactive, online game now available for free download — teaches you how to engage in BDSM practices safely. All you need is a trackpad.
The game begins with a consenting partner (whom developer Robert Yang describes as a "hairy beefcake") kneeling on all fours, ready for you to administer some light BDSM. Swiping your hand along your computer's trackpad, sort of as you would when spanking someone, garners a reaction from your partner ("Yes, Mistress!"). It's a pretty brief game, and you win when your partner is sufficiently aroused and you've maintained the intimacy of your sexual encounter.
If any boundaries are crossed (if you spank too hard or for too long, for example), your partner in the game shouts "STOP!" When that happens, it's safe to say you lose — and that you have a few more rounds to go before you understand how to be respectful in your little 3-D bedroom. Of course, the game doesn't address the complexities of negotiation with an IRL partner; the use of safe words, for example, or any two-way discussion of boundaries is notably absent. But, despite its playful name and relatively simple design, Hurt Me Plenty aims for a teachable moment. It reinforces the necessary rules of playing with submission, dominance, and pain with a sexual partner: that these practices should be carried out in an open, safe way, preferably with plenty of enthusiasm.
Most people in his upscale community knew Robert Bashara as a successful businessman, prolific charity fundraiser, Rotary Club president, church usher and married father of two who volunteered at his kids' volleyball and soccer games.
And that upstanding image might have remained intact – if his wife hadn't been killed. The spotlight of suspicion turned to Bashara, revealing what prosecutors say was a murder-for-hire scheme and what witnesses describe as a secret double life of meeting other women for bondage, discipline and sadomasochistic sexual encounters, some in a basement "sex dungeon," and snorting cocaine on a private golf course.
The two wildly contrasting sides of Bashara, 56, emerged during a two-month trial in a Detroit courthouse, where jurors this week are slated to begin deciding his fate. He's charged with first-degree murder and related charges after prosecutors say he hired his handyman to kill his wife of 26 years, Jane, 56. The marketing executive at an energy consulting company and mother of the couple's two children, now in their 20s, was found strangled and beaten on Jan. 25, 2012, in her Mercedes-Benz SUV in a Detroit alley.
Bashara wanted her out of the way, prosecutors allege, so he could "continue his BDSM (bondage dominance sadomasochism) lifestyle with his mistress, Rachel Gillett, and potentially other 'slaves,' as well as tap into Jane Bashara's retirement funds," according to the Macomb Daily.
Bashara has denied any involvement in his wife's death.
During the trial, jurors heard all about that fetish lifestyle in scenes that sounded like they could have come from Fifty Shades of Grey or another lurid tale from the kinky world of BDSM, where Bashara was known as "Big Bob."
One woman told of going with Bashara to a sex dungeon in the basement of a building he owned, where she was tied to a cross and flogged, according to the Detroit Free-Press.
Another described a sexual encounter with Bashara that included a "thrashing" so rough that "it left marks for three months" and a choking so severe that it caused her to lose consciousness, The Detroit News reports. ...
At the holiday Pop-in@Nordstrom shop, offerings include snowflake sweaters, penguin beanies, wool scarves and a selection of black leather harnesses — for humans, not reindeer.
The harnesses were designed by Zana Bayne, who has almost single-handedly elevated the harness from the boudoir and bondage and into fashion. She has made custom pieces for Beyoncé, Madonna, Lady Gaga and FKA Twigs, and her line is sold at high-end stores like Comme des Garçons (Rei Kawakubo owns two herself), Dover Street Market and Selfridges.
“I wear mine with a boring white oxford shirt,” said Olivia Kim, Nordstrom’s director of creative projects, who brought the line to the store, “but they also look great over dresses. It’s the perfect example of what an accessory does: accentuates clothing.”
Ms. Bayne has a similar harness philosophy. “It’s a layering piece to add to an outfit,” she said. “The physical aspect of having something cinch you in makes you hold yourself higher. But I always warn people that if you wear it out, people are going to pull on you. It brings something out not just in the wearer, but in those around her.”
Ms. Bayne also makes bags, bustiers and collars, as well as a men’s line, with prices ranging from $120 for the most basic harness to $2,300 for a leather sheath of linked hand-cut leather stars. (Gwen Stefani wears the sheath for a cover shoot for the March Cosmopolitan.)
The work is remarkable in its craftsmanship (lately she has been experimenting with laser-cutting), but what really makes it stand out is the thematic nuance and subcultural charge in each piece, which is a lot of depth for an accessory.
As with an abstract painting, what viewers see depends on their perspective. The wearer may see a flattering belt, while others see overt sexual allusions.
“I’ve never aimed to shock,” Ms. Bayne said. “My design comes from a naïve place, and I think, ‘Of course someone will wear this,’ and then it comes out ... I don’t want to say harder, but maybe not as innocent.” For her, it is never about subjugation.
“Wearing a collar can make you feel like the most powerful warrior in the world,” she said. ...