BDSM as a healing modality
December 13, 2020 2:11 PM   Subscribe

New study on LGBTQ kinksters reveals BDSM's healing capabilities. NSFW reporter Ana Valens writes: "The age-old claim that 'BDSM is abuse!' has haunted online social media platforms like Tumblr and Twitter for years, much to kinksters’ dismay. But that argument now has one less leg to stand on. A new study reveals the myriad positive experiences LGBTQ people have within queer kink spaces and recommends therapists become more 'kink-aware' ..."
"Kinky & Queer: Exploring the Experiences of LGBTQ + Individuals who Practice BDSM" is a November 2020 study by Palo Alto University Professor Megan Speciale and therapist Dean Khambatta. In their work, Speciale and Khambatta examine LGBTQ experiences with kink to "gain insight on how heterosexism, racism, ableism, and other forms of oppression impact [queer] experiences of safety, inclusivity, and authenticity," the study notes.

The work's findings rely on interpretative phenomenological analysis, a research approach that studies and examines "an individual's personal perception or account of an event or state" instead of "attempting to produce an objective record of the event or state itself," as the Birkbeck University of London notes.

The authors' research pool consists of 12 queer participants, including queer people of color, people with disabilities, and transgender and nonconforming respondents. The interviewees reported that their involvement in kink and the LGBTQ community contributed "a source of great connectedness and solidarity in their lives," serving as a "protective buffer against the discrimination they faced in other realms of their lives."

"Participants viewed the kink community as a place where they were free to safely nurture and explore their desires without heteronormative judgment," Speciale and Khambatta write. "Through the practice of open communication, consent, and negotiation, participants cited that kink helped to affirm their sexual identities and witness diverse forms of sexual expression."
Here's Wikipedia's entry on interpretative phenomenological analysis.

A related piece: Kink And Trust: How Some Trauma Survivors Find Healing Through BDSM. It can be a cathartic experience.
As a survivor of sexual violence, I’ve found that exploring my kinks with partners I trust is a truly cathartic experience. It gives me a chance to reclaim my body as a source of pleasure—instead of anxiety or depression or trauma. I have complete control over how hard I want to be flogged and what sensations I want to experience with the other person. Through this, I’ve learned how to better communicate for myself and understand my desires.

BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism) is a powerful act that’s practiced for many different reasons. It can be a sexual practice, about power dynamics, or experiencing pain as pleasure. Play can even be used as a tool to help process trauma. BDSM is interdisciplinary, and therefore the actual practice varies for everyone in the community. That’s because kinks come in many forms—suspension play, role play, physical restriction, power exchange, administration of pain, spanking and age play just to list a few.

And while there’s a lot of debate around the topic of BDSM in general, people get especially up in arms when they hear that some trauma survivors have found healing through their kinks. Though psychologists have historically pathologized kinky behavior as “Sexual Sadism and Sexual Masochism Disorders”—there is research that shows people who practice BDSM are actually less neurotic, more extroverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive and have higher subjective well-being than non-kinky people. A similar U.S. study found BDSM-identified couples reported less stress as well as increased intimacy following play.

This is all to say that BDSM is a healthy and consensual form of expression—in fact, the current BDSM 4C Consent Model is based around caring, communication, consent and caution. “Fully engaged kink insists on full presence without pretense and the willingness to connect your raw humanity to another’s raw humanity,” says sex writer Midori.

Another related piece: Meet the BDSM therapists treating clients with restraints, mummification and impact play
While BDSM has typically been categorised as a sexual preference, some professional dominants have decided to apply the key principles of control and abandon to therapeutic practice. According to these specialists, their specific brand of holistic BDSM has helped clients with a range of emotional issues from trauma to anxiety.

Here's an article and photo series by Sara Elise and Daemonum X:

Perspectives on Healing and Personal Transformation Through BDSM: This beautiful photo series aims to contextualize the practice of bondage within larger conversations on personal liberation.
From the complementary perspectives of a top and a submissive, we, Daemonum X and Sara Elise, work together frequently to explore queer BDSM as an alternative healing modality and as a way to reclaim our personal pleasure, sensuality, and sexuality. As queer femme women, and Sara Elise as a survivor and a woman of color, our collective work and practice consistently aims to straddle the line between objectification and agency. We find strength in rejecting mainstream standards of sexuality, beauty, and respectability, which exist even within the BDSM community.

We created the following photo series, featuring Sara Elise tied by Daemonum X, with fetish photographer Lanee Bird to capture the practice of bondage as part of a larger conversation about liberation. These photos are part of an ongoing project to queer traditional erotica by featuring bodies in rope bondage that are not normally represented in mainstream erotic photos. The beauty of these photos is that they stand alone as powerful mirrors of our own alternative sexualities. Below are our experiences with healing and transformation through BDSM to provide additional context to this project.

Here's another piece by Valens about BDSM dating app KinkD and BDSM's growth in popularity during the pandemic. She talks about "distance domination" with dominatrix Mistress Shayla:

Is BDSM getting more popular during COVID? One sex worker says yes: BDSM is surging in popularity because it's a healthy emotional outlet, she says.
It's no secret that cybersex is having a moment during quarantine. One August 2020 study on sexual media narratives during the coronavirus pandemic reports that online sex has experienced a "destigmatization and normalization" as sexting has gone from "pathological or deviant risky behavior" to "disease prevention behavior." But COVID-19 has introduced another growing interest, too: BDSM.

During the coronavirus lockdown's first three months, New York City-based professional dominatrix Shayla Lange saw in-person sessions decrease "to almost nothing," she told the Daily Dot. But her "distance domination" work online "exploded." "I've been doing better on [sexting service] NiteFlirt than ever before, and it's been obviously a boon for people making clips and doing long-distance sessions," she said.

On a somewhat different but still related topic, here's a piece by Mistress Snow, PhD on the struggle to balance life as a professor in academia with life as a professional dominatrix:

I Told My Mentor I Was a Dominatrix. She rescinded her letters of recommendation
Something seemed off when I signed into Interfolio one late September morning, during the break between two classes I was teaching. I scanned the dossier a few times, wondering if it could be a glitch, and then it hit me: My mentor had withdrawn her letter of recommendation. In fact, she had withdrawn all of her letters, from 2016 to now. The revelation rang in my ears, like crystal shattering on the floor.

My mentor — let’s call her Anne — was the sole reason I finished my dissertation. While she wasn’t my adviser or even in my primary field, she was my cheerleader and confidante. We had become quite close. She said she felt in loco parentis; I called her my “dissertation mom.” But things fell apart when, desperate to quell her fears after a summer teaching gig fell through, I outed myself to her as a sex worker.

“You will lose all credibility,” she told me in a long, difficult email. As it turned out, in Anne’s eyes, I already had.

The power dynamics that structure mentorship in academia are nebulous at best. In my own department, the only formalized mentor-mentee relationship was the somewhat-arbitrary pairing of graduate students at varying stages of their degrees. Mentorship between students and faculty members was, by contrast, an entirely informal, ad hoc alliance. Boundaries within these relationships are similarly opaque. Mentors can resemble friends, collaborators, parents, and even, occasionally, lovers. But these relationships are never fully severed from the institutional power a mentor has over their mentee — an imbalance that mentors prefer to overlook, even if mentees never really can. Your mentee may be your friend. Your mentor is not.

This unspoken power differential is amplified by stark socioeconomic stratification. Tenure-line faculty will generally acknowledge that adjunct salaries and graduate stipends are comically insufficient, but their empathy stops short of understanding the material realities of living in poverty. Even though my “fully funded” Ph.D.-program stipend was approximately half of the local living wage, for instance, the faculty regularly implied that those of us with part-time jobs weren’t “serious” about our academic work (another reason I kept the sex work I did as a struggling student — off and on from high school through graduate school — to myself). And when it comes to the plight of adjuncts, these same faculty members seem blissfully unaware that, in the “real world,” everyone is an adjunct — every hustle is a side hustle. If it’s so bad, they ask (without looking for a real answer), then why don’t you leave? Alas, there’s nowhere to go.

The academic sex worker illuminates the insidious class tension of academia. Look at me, whip in one hand, Foucault in the other.

Here's the complete version of a piece Michael Ellsberg wrote for The Daily Beast about Mistress Snow:

Professor By Day, Dominatrix By Night: Due to college labor practices, many adjunct professors now need side hustles; Dr. Mistress Snow’s involves beating up men in a sex dungeon.
When you think of a college professor, you don’t usually think of a dominatrix. And, you also don’t usually think of someone who is so underpaid that they don’t know how they’re going to afford rent or groceries. However, due to college administrators’ relentless drive to cut labor costs via outsourcing college instruction to freelance “contingent faculty,” the latter situation of professorial poverty is increasingly common. And for that reason, at least one professor—whom we’ll meet soon—has taken up the former as a side job.
posted by homunculus (32 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite


 
Wow, very thorough post!

I absolutely can vouch for the transformative and spiritual power of formalized power and pain dynamics in a sexual relationship. And I think modern, "Western" culture in general has a lot to learn about how consensual physical pain, ritual, and sexuality can all be deeply impactful on us.
posted by latkes at 3:08 PM on December 13, 2020 [8 favorites]


What latkes said. Great post, thanks!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:17 PM on December 13, 2020 [2 favorites]


idk, I had a dom go completely ballistic at me yesterday for admitting I'd had a panic attack after a scene. Can't say I found that very healing
posted by the tulips are too red in the first place at 3:51 PM on December 13, 2020 [16 favorites]


I’m curious about how the individuals’ interpretations of their BDSM involvement (in the first study mentioned) would align with a non-interpretive study; what elements of BDSM correlate with what manner of awareness about oppression, and whether there’s any causative link. Is it the BDSM proper, or is it simply being part of a community willing to openly discuss histories of oppression?

I’d also be curious about how “correct” one’s BDSM practices have to be to align with a number of these claims. BDSM (and kink in general) covers such a wide variety of practices, both healthy and not, that “real BDSM is a good thing” strikes me as a potential no-true-Scotsman claim if the aforementioned “real” BDSM isn’t what most practice.
posted by Molten Berle at 7:09 PM on December 13, 2020 [1 favorite]


I once had a girlfriend who was into being tied up. She had also told me early into the relationship that she'd been abused as a child; so while I appreciated her trust in me, the power dynamic left me uncomfortable with such scenarios. It's not that I didn't want to accommodate her desires for any moral or judgemental reasons, but because my own reaction toward being in control of/responsible for another person was, in a word, "anxiety". I mean, what if I somehow inadvertently triggered a traumatic reaction? I would have felt terrible! As a result we never took things as far as she may have wanted. In retrospect I wish I'd had a better sense of how it might be helping her heal old psychological wounds, it would have made me feel more confident about the whole thing and more willing to follow through.

(My own misgivings surrounding "being in control" I'll leave for a separate discussion - that I'll probably never actively participate in)
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:14 PM on December 13, 2020 [2 favorites]


And I think modern, "Western" culture in general has a lot to learn about how consensual physical pain, ritual, and sexuality can all be deeply impactful on us.

I was curious about this comment--what are the consensual physical pain, ritual and sexuality in non-Western cultures you are referencing here? I have some inkling but would be interested in learning more about how you see this.

My response to all of this is: I feel like there's lots of different kink spaces out there and the queer ones I've been in are markedly different from more heteronormative ones--like anything else, kink can be oppressive and abusive but obviously, it isn't inherently so and can be cathartic and healing as well. I feel like the extremely explicit consent culture in *good* kink spaces is pretty great.
posted by armadillo1224 at 7:54 PM on December 13, 2020 [5 favorites]


I'm not really referencing non modern or non US/Western European cultures... I'm saying the culture I live in and experience daily lacks an understanding of the potentially transformative power of these activities
posted by latkes at 8:02 PM on December 13, 2020 [3 favorites]


idk, I had a dom go completely ballistic at me yesterday

Thus far my BDSM experiences have been restricted to straight men and in no way have they been 100% healing. (Broke up with the dom who engineered a super intense scene then ran off because he had to go to work and had not anticipated that I would be freaked out at the end of it. Neither had I, but I also did not know he had a set time for departure.)

But that’s not with this report says. It does not claim that all BDSM experiences are positive or therapeutic. It claims that a tiny number of individuals report lots of positive experiences. That sounds about right to me. I have had lots of positive experiences, some of which I would absolutely characterize as therapeutic.

There are abusive assholes on the scene as well as insecure people who lose their shit and I have found myself in abusive situations a couple of times. Sadly, that has happened to me in non-BDSM situations as well. While it’s not true that BDSM equals abuse, it’s also not true that the kink community, straight or otherwise, is a completely healthy, consensual utopia. Still, there are indications that kinky folks tend to be emotionally healthy overall, and if I weren’t on my phone I would try to dig up some citations.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:58 AM on December 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


Ehhhhhhhh...

These threads on metafilter are a tough go for me, and a significant part of why I stopped participating as actively here, but here goes.

People get hung up in the pain and the strictness of BDSM, but a significant part of it is imaginative storytelling. It always seems a no brainer to me that connecting intimately with a partner through a full contact larp might leave you more fulfilled...

But BDSM trips all over itself on the subject of it being therapeutic or that kinky folks need it as therapy. The stereotype is the erotic continuation of abuse, but we aren't talking about something exotic.

Ever looking at the terrifying number of us that are survivors, in the human population, kink fantasies about something or another is so normal that the number of people who have fantasies of that nature exceeds even those with trauma.
posted by Phalene at 12:58 AM on December 14, 2020 [17 favorites]


Oh wait, I don’t need to look up the citations because they’re in the original post toward the bottom, no pun intended.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:00 AM on December 14, 2020


Still, there are indications that kinky folks tend to be emotionally healthy overall, and if I weren’t on my phone I would try to dig up some citations.

Yeah I know. Sorry. This happened yesterday and I'm hurting pretty badly over it as I'm now alone in the worst phase of the drop
posted by the tulips are too red in the first place at 1:51 AM on December 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


a significant part of it is imaginative storytelling.

I always think of domming as being the DM of sex.
You need to set the scene and keep the story going and make sure all the players are enjoying themselves.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:56 AM on December 14, 2020 [19 favorites]


No need to apologize, the tulips are too red in the first place! I was probably being entirely too defensive. I am so sorry you had that experience and have to navigate the drop all alone. So sucky.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:15 AM on December 14, 2020


@Just

Pretty much. I explained it to my therapist as me deciding to take us where we both wanted to go.

Arousal has two pathways, the cerebral thinky bit and the physical. Buried near the end of this piece it touches on Covid normalizing sexting, but the whole engine that powers sexting is activities that feed narrative.

The other thing these conversations miss is how *romantic* the framework kink offers. Attractions to it that are less part of the mainstream conversation, include the ability to have a ridiculous grand and dramatic experience, the sort of cycle of high passion sex and yearning that you honestly wouldn't want in your life for real, but would pay good money to read about or watch in a movie.

BDSM is both a subculture and a looser set of sexual and emotional twigs and tweaks, of which the former is only a cobbled together best practices and weird traditions we use to overtly chase the later.
posted by Phalene at 6:09 AM on December 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


Others may already know about the book, but My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday floored me when I discovered it recently. In the 1970s, she compiled a volume of first person narratives by women about their sexual fantasies.

The number of BDSM-related entries was high. As far as I could tell, many, many people have fantasies on that and so many other topics, many of them heavily stigmatized, particularly in the 70s.

Regardless of therapeutic potential, BDSM sexual interest in people (or at least women, since she only studied women), seems to be perfectly normal.
posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 6:31 AM on December 14, 2020 [6 favorites]


It's not that I didn't want to accommodate her desires for any moral or judgemental reasons, but because my own reaction toward being in control of/responsible for another person was, in a word, "anxiety".

I think this is quite common, really? It's always struck me also as being rather analogous to blues dancing: if you're an inexperienced dancer, leading is more intimidating than following because you're (at least in theory) the person responsible for directing the movenent and setting the pace. Decision paralysis is a thing, and taking lead position is something that requires a set of very specific skills to execute well. And those skills, including the confidence necessary to perform well, are something that requires practice and thought, and often quite a lot of specific forethought.

I'm often rather fascinated by the way that sub or bottom oriented fantasies are so much more common to find in the genres I read than dom or top oriented ones, and how much, mmm.... the fantasy of getting exactly what you want and need without having to submit to the mortifying ordeal not necessarily of being known but of knowing oneself and (worse and worse) having to articulate one's own desires and needs.

Trauma and the associated shame that is so much more likely to create lasting injury certainly might intensify the appeal of that sort of fantasy, but I don't think they're required for it by any stretch of the.... imagination.

Speaking of imagination, then, one thing that stands out to me about the relative frequency of submission vs dominance oriented fantasy material is that there is much less in the way of stories that inhabit a dominant perspective. By that I mean stories that invite the reader to identify with the dominant partner in an exchange and ride along in their head. And I think that does quite a disservice to people who are trying to build the skills necessary to do this well, because we are human beings who tend to have difficulty learning without the use of narrative.
posted by sciatrix at 7:01 AM on December 14, 2020 [16 favorites]


Ever looking at the terrifying number of us that are survivors, in the human population, kink fantasies about something or another is so normal that the number of people who have fantasies of that nature exceeds even those with trauma.

The massive popularity of stories like Shades of Grey (however problematic they may be), or the sheer volume of genre fiction that includes sexualized power imbalances if not full-on BDSM, gives a good indication of how common the fantasies are.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:21 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]


LIke many things, BDSM can be done terribly and harmfully or done well. As a more complex example of "done well," I really like the way Andrea Zanin (who is a top in power dynamic relationships) writes about the ways they use rope bondage--for them it's a precise tool to create experiences, and in the hands of someone who is caring and wise like they are, the experiences are positive:
Further beauty lies in the places where the psychological message is more complex. Not too long ago, for example, as I was packing to travel somewhere, Boi M was feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by all the things he wanted to do to help me get on my way. He really seemed to be upset with himself, so I tossed him on my bed and tied him up in such a fashion that he couldn’t get up. Then I started opening up my drawers, pulling out the things I needed to pack, and throwing them on him as though he were just another part of the bed. Every once in a while I’d clear a little space, give him a few kisses on the available surface, and get back to my packing process. At first I think it drove him a bit nuts to be immobilized and unable to help out; there was some crying. But after a bit of struggle he eventually relaxed into it. I kept him there for quite a while, until he finally said sheepishly, “Okay, I get it. You love me even if I’m not doing anything. I don’t have to be serving you to deserve to be loved by you.” Indeed. Without a single word, a couple of coils of rope allowed me to send a powerful message about my love for my boi that might have taken hours to pound through if I’d relied on normal conversation.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:31 AM on December 14, 2020 [16 favorites]


Andrea Zanin on Twitter: @sexgeekAZ
posted by homunculus at 7:39 AM on December 14, 2020


And I think the tendency towards a sub-focused perspective is really clear in the article, I should add. I have in fact had a therapist suggest trying out kink to me as a way of trying to grapple with my control issues... in a sub role. Now, I happen to know that for me, spending time in a sub headspace is not rewarding, is not therapeutic, and does not lead to relaxation in the slightest. I am very glad indeed that I learned that about myself before I received that particular suggestion and did not first encounter it in the context of trying to fix myself.

But it does interest me: why is it that when we look at kink in the context of the intersection of control and trauma, we always always always focus on the experience of being a sub, and not on the experience of learning how to safely take up control and hold space for another person? I do find considerable therapeutic benefit in a number of activities that require me to take up a headspace in which I assume control of and responsibility for a situation, albeit in structured (and nonsexual) ways: animal handling, for example, and teaching. Taking responsibility up can be as thoroughly liberating as throwing it off, after all: it provides a powerful reminder that when you inhabit the position of an abuser as a peer rather than as an inferior, their poor behavior becomes even less excusable by comparison.

Why is it that only submission--to a dominant who must, it is supposed, come from somewhere and learn somewhere--is an experience we pore over and consider and evaluate for pathology and evaluate as therapy and try to understand the provence of?
posted by sciatrix at 7:48 AM on December 14, 2020 [18 favorites]


sciatrix, is that true outside of academia? In my experience as a submissive, I have spent a lot of time as an individual attempting to suss out whether a potential dom was a potentially dangerous person. But as a society, it is my sense that there are more submissives than dominants in the world and that might potentially explain why submission gets so much more focus. So many people want to be tied down and not have to decide anything for awhile. To get a vacation. But that is simply a guess.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:11 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]


TW: child abuse and PTSD






I have really bad PTSD and asthma. I just tried dating a dom, and even the parts I could handle he would be like "when I tie you to a spreader bar from my ceiling and use the blah blah blah you'll really like it" Ummmmm, when you have a dead girl HANGING FROM YOUR CEILING because you triggered my PTSD which often triggers my asthma...you won't really like it. It's NOT SAFE for everyone. Also, I don't like injury, and he always showed me pics of whip marks on girls...I don't like injury because of a childhood experience...how can I trust him as a dom if he knows this and shows them to me? I think a loving careful experience is great, but EVERYTHING we did he wanted to escalate. We switched and I have him his "dream scene" and afterwards he was already talking about escalating. I got OUT. Found someone I who is satisfied with a little light play and I've been sleeping better.

I guess what I am saying is that you have to make sure the danger doesn't outweigh the therapy, and the play isn't a kinky reenactment that is really based on childhood trauma of being hurt by someone who is supposed to love you. If your parents used physical discipline, and you find yourself in a BDSM situation and you think your mind is cleared, that might just be the only way you can feel loved...to be hurt. I think about that badly whipped woman in the picture and wonder what happened to her as a little girl. My therapist did the research when I was in the relationship and said, you are dealing with a monster, because your mother was one. GET OUT.
posted by lextex at 9:10 AM on December 14, 2020 [6 favorites]


Twitter post about this thread.
posted by homunculus at 11:02 AM on December 14, 2020


I really like the way Andrea Zanin (who is a top in power dynamic relationships) writes about the ways they use rope bondage--for them it's a precise tool to create experiences, and in the hands of someone who is caring and wise like they are, the experiences are positive

I have no specific knowledge of any of these scenes aside from peripheral curiosity, but if online dating is any indication, Shibari rope stuff is an increasingly socially-acceptable form of these relationships. For a long time there have been various codewords and phrases used by people with the preference on ostensibly cis-vanilla sites (i.e. not FetLife), so it's seemed significant to see specific mentions, if not profile pictures, illustrating it.
posted by rhizome at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2020


The massive popularity of stories like Shades of Grey (however problematic they may be), or the sheer volume of genre fiction that includes sexualized power imbalances if not full-on BDSM, gives a good indication of how common the fantasies are.

This is a minor tangent, but I always thought it was a little odd when BDSM people would go off on these books as a bad portrayal of BDSM, because - look, isn’t the book itself just a specific sexual fantasy? It’s sort of a meta-fantasy, in the way that it uses a caricature version of real sexual practices for the setting, but I think you have to give the reader some credit for being able to tell what’s not realistic even if you also want to explain that this isn’t how it’s done.
posted by atoxyl at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2020 [3 favorites]


That's a good point. Back in the 80s when I was skateboarding 40 hours a week, we would go see movies like Rad and Thrashin', members of a small family of suburban subculture-sploitation. While they always included such obligatory distractions as "unrealistic physics" and "a story," we could always find something legit to take away, if even it was only some half-cropped trick in the background. We were also a circle who communicated almost entirely by movie quotes, so at the very least, the movie would feed us that way.

Point being, we could almost always provide a counterpoint to parents and posers who might ridicule the movies as time wasted, to identify an entry point to the uninitiated. "Come for the Josh Brolin, leave with the memory of then-newborn street skating and a very early Red Hot Chili Peppers performance."

I won't go so far as "there's a grain of truth in every Showgirls and Glitter," but I suspect 50 Shades has something going for it.
posted by rhizome at 11:51 AM on December 14, 2020 [3 favorites]


I mean... How much does the general public know about realistic BDSM? If they could sift through a caricature version of a kink relationship and find truth, would there still be conversations about 'can BDSM be healthy' in 2020?

At what point does caricature versions become dangerous? I'm not trying to pick on anyone here, just... I don't want the public to have to determine what's caricature of something like my gender transition or my girlfriend's life in a wheelchair. If we apply that to something like race, is that ok?

Yes, 50 shades is famously bad fanfiction turned unlikely blockbuster. There's nothing wrong with the basic fantasy- improbable billionaire sweeps improbably basic girl out of nowhere and turns her successful and important and they find what seemed to be genuine love... But the problems arise in how shockingly bad the caricature version of kink is in 50 shades. And it definitely had some real world consequences where the community had to deal with a influx of curios people (Good!) with really bad basic expectations from the books.
posted by Jacen at 4:46 AM on December 15, 2020 [3 favorites]


NSFW BDSM imagery: Mistress Odette Engle shares some photos from her dungeon. Now, is it just me or does the stapled body look like Beaker from the muppets (minus the nose) with his eyes and mouth stapled shut?
posted by homunculus at 4:54 PM on December 15, 2020


Kink is, fwiw, more than just BDSM. You can absolutely be kinky without a power dynamic, without pain, without bondage, even without sex, if you don't like those, and still be practicing valid kink. Sensation play comes to mind. Even with those elements, they don't have to be unidirectional or with consistent roles/modalities.

One of the connections I draw between kink and queer physical intimacy (and being kinky doesn't make you queer to be clear) is that LGBTQ+ folks don't have a normative physical or sexual experience already. In a healthy interaction there needs to be discussions, and active and affirmative consent, to establish what each party wants.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 5:57 PM on December 15, 2020 [4 favorites]




I definitely recommend the above video by Mistress Evilyne, especially for those who find the idea of substituting BDSM for therapy problematic. Her criticisms would also apply to the Metro article about "BDSM therapists" in the FPP. Also, her cat is entertaining.

[Note: I dropped two whole paragraphs when I was composing this FPP, and the kindly mods just added them back in for me; they're the now two last paragraphs in the first blockquote under the fold. Thanks mods!]
posted by homunculus at 2:18 PM on December 16, 2020 [1 favorite]


As someone who whose first experience with BDSM involved a master who was a sadist (I am not a masochist), it was a revelation to discover that there are dominant people who call themselves sensual or sensuous doms. Some people really enjoy controlling other people and get a sexual charge from that. But the control does not necessarily need to involve pain, suffering, or punishment. So FYI to newbies: there are dominant types in the world who are not sadists. It took me a few years to understand that. (Thanks to the person who pointed out that there are many types of kink that do not involve BDSM as well.)

Many of my kinky experiences have been been highlighted by mindful moments that were akin to meditation but more satisfying for me. I have ADHD and I have run across a fair number of neurodiverse folks in the so-called community. For me, BDSM in particular is the fastest way of getting me out of my head and into my body. And because it’s almost impossible to get me out of my head and into my body, BDSM has been especially attractive.

I re-read Fifty Shades of Grey relatively recently. And while it’s badly written it is also a page turner because this young woman is having amazing sex basically every other page. I understand the appeal of that book as a woman who has had more bad sex than good sex over her life. It is not a realistic depiction of BDSM but there would have to be about 1 billion books publish to create a realistic depiction of BDSM. Some of them would involve abuse; most of them would not.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:04 AM on December 20, 2020 [2 favorites]


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