The season-four premiere of Mad Men didn't just introduce SCDP’s cute new office and Peggy's adorable new haircut, it set up what could be this fetishistic show's kinkiest sexual relationship yet: Don Draper, the “son of a whore,” is regularly sleeping with a prostitute — and asking her to slap him, too. As far as mainstream TV dramas go, this is fairly unprecedented stuff: Masochism is typically treated as joke (Desperate Housewives) or as prelude to grisly murder (CSI). On Mad Men, however, Don’s shocking but brief, slap-happy sexual interlude is not just stratospherically, nakedly Oedipal, it makes sense — both for him, and as a kind of mirror of fans' obsession with the show. Weiner could kill this story line at any minute, but it will be fascinating to see how far he pushes it — and us.
Which means it’s especially helpful at KinkForAll, a conference about sexuality’s more intricate possibilities. Attendees, whose name tags feature blog pseudonyms or Twitter handles, deliver 20-minute presentations on everything from the logistics of orgy participation for oral-herpes sufferers to the latest in “teledildonic” technology. (Another session, about the importance of keeping one’s “real life” and “kink life” separate, explains why KinkForAll participants’ full names won’t be revealed here.)
DSM-IV, which was published in 1992, defined kinky behavior as a “paraphilia,” a fancy word for any path to sexual arousal that’s not standard foreplay. The language of DSM-IV “is unclear and sometimes contradictory about whether a paraphilia is a disorder,” says Susan Wright, spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy group for the BDSM, swing and polyamory communities. Although the language hasn’t been finalized, it’s looking as if DSM-V, which will be published in 2013, will make it clear that a person can be kinky without having a disorder.