Saturday, March 9, 2013

Is Kinky Sex Going Mainstream?


Is kink going mainstream?

The wild commercial success of Fifty Shades of Grey seems to have produced a new chapter in the Great American Sexual Revolution. More and more people are intrigued by kinkiness. More and more are willing to try it out.

Practitioners of BDSM are clamoring for public recognition. They have formed clubs on college campuses like Harvard. It's called the Harvard College Munch. They have discovered that Harvard is nonplussed by the existence of such a club.

[For the record, BDSM is short for bondage, domination/submission and sado-masochism.]

Why is this happening? Some individuals are drawn to BDSM because it mimics an experience of childhood sexual abuse. Many others, however, are suffering the fallout of living in a pornified culture. The more people are exposed to pornography the more they are desensitized to sexual stimuli. The more they are desensitized to sex, the more effort they have to put into being aroused or satisfied.

Be that as it may, the BDSMers now want the general public to accept their idiosyncratic ways of achieving sexual rapture. They are insisting that that have a constitutional right to publicize their sexual behaviors, and that you have no right to judge them for the way they seek and find pleasure..

The New York Times seems mildly sympathetic to the rising tide of decadence. It writes:

And some real-life kinksters — a few of whom are appropriating the epithet “pervert,” much as gay activists seized control of “queer” — are wondering if they are approaching a time when they, like the L.G.B.T. community before them, can come out and begin living more open, integrated lives.

One hates to say it, but what could it possibly mean for sadists and masochists to “come out and begin living more open, integrated lives?” Why doesn’t the newspaper of record question this notion?

Apparently, “real-life kinksters” believe that they should identify themselves in public by their sexual behavior? Does this indicate that people who practice too much BDSM end up short a few little grey cells?

Picture this. A young professional woman explains to her colleagues that she had multiple orgasms the night before. And no, she didn’t achieve this apotheosis by using the Rabbit or even with her true love. No, she was being beaten, burnt and electrocuted by her favorite dom.

Those bruises you see on her face and arms… they resulted from "love taps".

Now, if she is really wants to be open and honest about her sexuality, ought she to distribute some videos of the experience? Surely, she kept an audio-visual record.

And then, if she is that open about her kink, doesn’t that mean that everyone else must be similarly open about his or her sexual preferences, sexual fantasies, sexual kinks and peccadillos.

Doesn’t the rule of relationship reciprocity require that people give back what they receive?

Need we even ask whether this type of public confession of extreme kinkiness will enhance this woman’s professional reputation? Kinksters do not worry about reputation or about anyone’s career.

The truth of the matter is that no one ever gained respect by advertising his or her sexuality. The surest and quickest way to compromise your dignity is to show the world how you have sex. 

And note the following: however decadent our culture has become, sensible people still insist on speaking of “intimacy” and “love making” more than having sex or f#&@ing.

But that is only half of the story. Over at Slate William Saletan stepped into the controversy with a sane, intelligent column about the mainstreaming of kink. He concluded that BDSM was never going to become main stream and that it should not. Not only would it offend large numbers of people, but it would also ruin the fun for the kinksters. Bringing kinkiness into the light of day would drain the pleasure.

But then Saletan took the discussion a step further and asked another salient question. Since most BDSM relationships involve mutual consent, Saletan asked, can you consent to your own abuse? “Consensual domestic violence,” he explained, is not “just another lifestyle choice.”

Uh, oh! Immediately Saletan found him besieged by the bullies of the sexual liberation movement. The pulled out their long knives and accused him of being an uptight, sexually repressed Puritan, a killjoy who wanted to ruin their fun.

Of course, half the thrill of BDSM lies in the fact that it takes place in the dark and that most non-participants do not want to hear anything about it. But the rest of the thrill of BDSM lies in the fact that it is dangerous.

Saletan is correct to call it “consensual domestic violence?” But  BDSM can very easily slide into outright violence. The issue has preoccupied the denizens of the BDSM underworld.


The BDSM scene can be violent by nature. Physical and psychological power, and the lack thereof, are at the heart of the erotic experience. As a result, sexual assault can be harder to define and harder to prove. But that’s not to say it doesn’t happen. Indeed, awareness of the problem seems to be growing, and controversies around the issue have been roiling the tight-knit fetish community all year.

Kitty Stryker and Maggie Mayhem were up late one night, chatting online. Both are known as sex-positive activists and celebrities within the sadomasochism world. That night, they began to swap sexual-assault stories and realized the experience was more common than either had known. The pair began collecting similar tales online, and it wasn’t long before they had amassed more than 300 anecdotes. The stories ranged from more benign assaults (unwanted groping) to tales of being drugged and raped. Many of the victims described abusers who were well-known members of the community, people who hosted parties or helped to organize the scene.

“What we found is that the abuse was systematic,” said Ms. Stryker, who regularly goes by a pseudonym. “People had these stories, but when they went to report them to community leaders, they were dismissed as drama. Not only that, but people were ostracized for reporting. It becomes clear how easy it is for an abuser to swoop in on a newbie.”

Meanwhile, Andy, a 24-year-old law student who lives in New York City, also began collecting abuse stories, publishing them directly on FetLife. Andy is something of a New York scene fixture, known for throwing massive BDSM galas that include such attractions as “glitter bathtubs” and fake-blood tableaux modeled on the TV series Dexter. A transgendered male, he quickly collected hundreds of anecdotes, many from fellow New Yorkers, some of which called out abusers by FetLife username. “I knew the people they were naming,” Andy said. “There were party organizers and influential people that users were saying had done horrible things to them,” he said. Publishing these accounts on the social network had a galvanizing effect. Every time someone “loved” a post it showed up on their feed. Soon, everyone on the site knew who was being accused of what—though they didn’t always know the identities of the accusers.

It makes sense. When it comes to BDSM transgression is the name of the game. To expect that people who are in the throes of a violent passion, whose consciousness is transported by the mix of pleasure and pain will respect pre-existing agreements is naive.

And note how the Observer, unlike the New York Times, looks at all sides of the argument.

But, what does it mean to consent. There’s more to it than saying Yes.  

For example, there’s the legal definition. If, Saletan points out, a sadist and a masochist draw up a contract describing what will and will not be permitted, the contract is not a binding legal document. Does this mean that, according to the law, you cannot legally consent to being assaulted or degraded?

Second, what if we remove the sex from the equation? Can two people consent to involve themselves in a mutually exploitative relationship, one where he agrees to allow her to exploit and abuse him and she agrees to allow him to exploit and abuse her? Is it an instance of relationship reciprocity? Is the behavior less abusive or not abusive at all if both parties have consented? What happens when one or both parties find the abuse to be sexually exciting. If a woman comes to work bearing bruises that were inflicted by her dom, do her colleagues have an obligation to report the abuse? Do they have the right to think less of her because she allows herself to be subjected to it?

Third, can you freely consent to be enslaved? If not, can you freely consent to play act enslavement, even if that play acting requires you to do everything that a real slave would be forced to do?


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yet another special-interest group (or should I say "specific interest group") that wants society to pat them on the head and legally accept that their behavior is okay. What's next?

If the key element of BDSM is the thrill of it all, without official or legal sanction, then you're getting on a roller coaster whose safety hasn't been certified by a public authority. If that sounds fun to you, knock your socks off. It sounds like this is part of the attraction with the whole thing. Who wants to take away the fun?

I don't give a @#$% what people do in their own bedrooms (or basements with BDSM gear). What I do expect is that they be responsible for their actions. If you think kinkiness is, well... kinky, then I suggest you own the fact that the danger of it all seems to be its most endearing attribute. If someone goes bungie-jumping and there's an accident, they tend not to be capable of telling the story. But a serially-raped, electrocuted and whipped "victim" is able to tell their tale after a BDSM episode gone wrong. And what are we to do with that? Are traditional concepts of justice relevant here? Where are the witnesses? If there are witnesses, are they complicit?

Sex is wonderful, sex is fun. But, fundamentally, sex is for bonding (and babies). If some people want to go out and treat it as a recreational pleasure-ride (pardon the pun) with the intention of mixing in a bit (or a lot) of pain, then they're going somewhat out of the boundaries of what most of us would call "normal." And making it consensual makes it, well, open to buyer's remorse. Again, what are we to do with that?

Call me a prude, but what in the world are we talking about this stuff in the mainstream press for? Isn't this something for the Village Voice or some artsy-nouveau-contrarian press outlet? The New York Times? Really? I suspect it does go back to "50 Shades of Grey." And that certainly has been exciting to a lot of women, hasn't it? We're a long way form "Peyton Place." And what's up with "50 Shades?" Rich guy, youthful excitement, rich guy, domination, rich guy, enslavement, etc.? Is that what this is about? The possibility that a rich guy may appear in your life and want to get kinky? Wow... talk about depth. I suppose if she's a 36DD-24-36, we can sell a lot of copies on the male side, too.

I get that some people like whips and chains, and that's just wonderful. The thing is, does the trust come with it, or is this thrill-seeking? Because we all know thrill-seeking is based on risk as the foundational element of attraction. If it's mainstream or normal, it's not risky, is it? What's next? I thought electrocution was a nice place to top out, but perhaps there's more?

Going back to the beginning of this comment, I still want to know whether I'm supposed to look at BDSM as another "alternative lifestyle." Are they looking for legal sanction or acceptance? It doesn't sound like there's any grounds (or protection) with legal sanction, so we're left with acceptance. Frankly, I don't care. But we don't have to celebrate it. That's weird. Expecting great masses people to celebrate anything about you (your gender, race, sexual preference, your preference for Monopoly over Parcheesi) is bizarre to me.

Anonymous said...

Cont'd from above...

And lastly, I find it so interesting that we're at yet another juncture in our societal evolution where yet another cause is seeking recognition as a minority group... a victimized minority that demands access to human rights and dignity in the form of recognition. It never ends. Gay marriage was not an issue 20 years ago. Well, here it is. Is BDSM next? After all, they can't help being who they are. They want to enjoy life, and society is standing in the way. Ummmm... how? Why am I REQUIRED to accept you? Why am I a BIGOT if I don't like it? Why am I not OPEN-MINDED if sexual brutality is the price of admission? You do your own thing in private, we're fine. You get legal recognition, I'll tolerate it. But the next step is celebration, and I not only think that's inane, I think it's social coercion.

The ceaseless demands of these socially-marginalized malcontents are becoming boring to me. The trend is completely media-driven, unimportant, and socially divisive for no appreciable purpose.

And yes... this kind of crap really does bother me.

Tip... The Prudish, Old-Fashioned Bore

A said...

Hey I posted a comment with two video links? Where is it?

“What we found is that the abuse was systematic,” said Ms. Stryker, who regularly goes by a pseudonym. “People had these stories, but when they went to report them to community leaders, they were dismissed as drama. Not only that, but people were ostracized for reporting. It becomes clear how easy it is for an abuser to swoop in on a newbie.”

What to speak of predator abusers who are not necessarily BDSMers but pose as such to gain access to the scene, much like pedophiles try to enter vocations where they will have access to children.

On one blog a transperson (can't remember if s/he was male2female or female2male, shared how s/he was going celibate for a while to regroup after some experiences in the BDSM scene that were triggering her/him wrt past childhood abuse.

S/he really tip toed and walked on glass about it to not offend those who were having sex and to make sure they understood s/he was not shaming them or her/his celibacy was not coming from a place of shame or guilt about sex. S/he wanted to make it clear that s/he's not anti-sex or asexual but that for s/he needed a break to regroups and consider if s/he's in it for the "right reasons".

I merely agreed with her that time off sex can aid in self-reflection, growth and sometimes even self-actualization and I suggested our culture was over-sexed and its not something we really *need*.

Oh boy did s/he blow up at me, accusing me of being "anti-sex" and pushing some sort of "purity agenda"!!!

What?

I swear these people are so confused.

They don't know WHAT they stand for, if anything.

They are so wed to this "sex-positive" nonsense that even when its NOT WORKING for them, they have to defend it!

Appearantly there are more and more "asexual" people, those who do not have libidos at all, who are demanding their voice be heard in the "sex-positive" crowd too.

That if you can't shame someone for having sex, you can't shame them for not feeling any desire for it either.

Lets see how far they get.

Lastango said...

Any male thinking of getting involved in this had better remember Marv Albert... when it suited his partner to destroy him, Albert found himself in front of a judge.

If a woman invites a man to participate in BDSM, he had better think carefully about whether he is being set up.

Another Anon said...

Anonymous;
"And lastly, I find it so interesting that we're at yet another juncture in our societal evolution where yet another cause is seeking recognition as a minority group... a victimized minority that demands access to human rights and dignity in the form of recognition. It never ends. Gay marriage was not an issue 20 years ago. Well, here it is. Is BDSM next? After all, they can't help being who they are. They want to enjoy life, and society is standing in the way. Ummmm... how? Why am I REQUIRED to accept you? Why am I a BIGOT if I don't like it? Why am I not OPEN-MINDED if sexual brutality is the price of admission? You do your own thing in private, we're fine. You get legal recognition, I'll tolerate it. But the next step is celebration, and I not only think that's inane, I think it's social coercion."

Totally agree. Check out this silly TED video where the presenter starts off with the premise of its society's "job" to encourage Kink, then she switches to "its not of your business"

OK, so which is it?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n5O9tz30So

Why do they think this is the greatest think since sliced bread?

Another Anon said...

This is a funny parody about a certain demographic's penchant for talking about their sex life

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s84qym3mEpo

Anonymous said...

One other thing about all this...

I have a friend who is an extreme skier out west in Jackson Hole. He loves it. Loves it. Jackson Hole is the backcountry skier's paradise... offering a land beyond the conventional athlete's threshold. And this is in a sport that is pretty exciting conventionally.

Jackson Hole backcountry skiers don't have to be dropped off a helicopter onto some glacier. Instead, they go "out of bounds" on the mountain, and ski at their own risk, as is clearly marked, signed and roped. It's a great arrangement between the law and the thrill-seeker. Yes, there are helicopters and ski patrol people who can come after them if there's an accident, but the understanding is that such care is in a "wilderness context," and not readily available.

For years, the ski patrol and the out-of-bounds (OB) skiers were mortal enemies, with the OB people sneaking around, trying to avoid the ski patrol revoking their ski passes. Yet the cool thing is that the OB folks knew what they were doing, and the inherent dangers. Eventually, the ski patrol and OB'ers reached a peace of sorts. They established protocols, with boundaries clearly marked with "Ski at Your Own Risk" signs, and an understanding of "wilderness context" limitations for evacuation and medical care.

The thrill-seekers (the Jackson Hole Air Force) were happy, and the ski patrol were reluctantly satisfied that the JHAF was affirmative accepting the reality of their choices. Now they're friends and collaborators, with an arrangement that exists to this day. Jackson Hole is the premier mountain for skiing, especially backcountry skiing.

The modern part of the agreement is that backcountry skiers are required to wear an avalanche transponder, which will give GPS coordinates and a strobe to search-and-rescue personnel, when activated. Pretty fair compromise, I'd say. OB people are free of encumbrances, and ski patrol is able to address problems and log patterns.

Contrast this with BDSM "protocols." There is no comparison. None. Wearing a GPS device would no doubt "take away from the mood."

What we see here is that these folks want all of the authority and freedom, with none of the responsibility. Pretty screwed-up, if you asked me.

Look, you want your counter-cultural revolution in sexual attitudes? You want to push out the boundaries of what's acceptable in the mainstream and what's not? You want to have unrestricted fun? That's okay with me as long as you act like the adult you purport to be and own the risks. That's all I ask. A bunch of extreme skiiers in Jackson Hole are owning it... why can't you?

Can't wait to see the "BDSM Federation" start a registration program that gives each "dominant" and "submissive" a device that tracks their comfort zone with the whole experience. Would such an arrangement work? I think not. It would never work. it defeats the intention.

Tip

Dennis said...

There is an old adage. "People do what they want to do and then find justifications for their actions." Not to put too fine a point on it, but once one justifies one form of perversion then all forms of perversion become possible. The justifications for one sets the standard for the next form. If BDSM is acceptable then does it not follow that bestiality is acceptable?
If homosexual marriage is acceptable then it follows polygamy, or maybe pederasty is acceptable? If one is allowed to chose death for human beings at the beginning of life does it not follow that choosing death at the other end of life is justifiable? Does it not follow that death is perfectly acceptable for people who might not have a perfect life because of some disease or malady?
At some point, no matter the issue, all things become possible though the justifications posited for everything that came before. The acceptance of evil comes in small steps until one has signed their own death warrant. One can either climb to great heights or one can descend to the depths of HELL.
Quite frankly I don't understand the need to do damage, no matter how it is defined, to another human being for the fun of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm following the kerfluffle w/bemused amusement. Several reasons. Here's 2:

1. Sedulous avoidance of BDSM in the gay community, where it's Huge.

2. Same goes for hetero BDSM where male is Submissive. That's also Huge. -- Rich Lara

Another Anon said...

"1. Sedulous avoidance of BDSM in the gay community, where it's Huge.

2. Same goes for hetero BDSM where male is Submissive. That's also Huge. -- Rich Lara "

You mean the media avoids discussion of BDSM in the gay community or the hetero version in which males are subs, on purpose?

Why do you think that might be?

Anonymous said...

1: Pretty much everything gays do (besides holding hands) is under Interdict.

2: Doesn't fit the Damsels in Distress narrative. -- Rich Lara

John said...

Outstanding blogging......
Internet Marketing Techniques That Really Work for any business growth johnphanchalad.net

Julia said...

Using sex toys is one of the kinkiest sex ever! I suggest to use a best-selling waterproof vibrator like Wet Wabbit Waterproof Vibrator