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"Workshop uncovers healthy side of sexual expression, BDSM"

on Saturday, 12 November 2011. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The Brown and White

As part of Lehigh’s power and privilege series the Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted a workshop on Tuesday Nov. 8 exploring the seemingly taboo sexual expression of BDSM, an acronym that refers to Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadomasochism and Masochism.

BDSM involves the consensual exchange of power in erotic or sexual situations. Although BDSM has been largely viewed with disapproval in mainstream society, it has become more recognized and popularized by recent media attention, including Rihanna’s hit, “S&M.”

The concrete associations with BDSM commonly include whips, chains and handcuffs during erotic situations in order to feel pleasure out of pain.

“I didn’t know that BDSM was a real thing, or a big deal, or even considered a form of abuse,” said Roshni Desai, ’15.

BDSM is a unique way of sexual expression, that to some, might seem like sexual abuse. However, focus of the workshop was to put BDSM in a different light, differentiating it from sexual abuse. It analyzed how the tenants of BDSM go far past the chains and whips into the concepts of power, privilege, and gender equality.

One of the main topics of the workshop was exploring the guiding principles of BDSM. The main principles are safety, to hurt but not harm, to be self-affirming but not self-destructive, to be fully consensual and never under the influence of any form of substance. Along with these principles, BDSM is always negotiated and agreed upon ahead of time, and it can be stopped in any instant for any reason, giving both parties equal control.

These principles alone refute any association between BDSM and sexual abuse. Because of these principles, BDSM provides a mental escape to a place where there is equal power and privilege between both partners, regardless of their gender. So, when looking beyond the whips and chains, to the principles and morals of BDSM, it proves to be a healthy form of sexual expression that is merely just misunderstood by society.

“It is my hope that students will leave the workshop understanding BDSM as a normal and healthy form of sexual expression, that they will be able to differentiate between BDSM behaviors and sexual abuse and that they will begin to explore some of the power and privilege around gender and sexuality,” said Brooke DeSipio,  assistant director of the Women’s Center and host of the event.

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