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Are you BDSM enough?

We all have our ups and downs.

I, for one, recently received an email from someone who rediscovered me last week after following me back when I was still writing extreme erotic stories (I stopped about 25 years ago). «I’ve seen your videos,» she wrote among other things, «and you are very different from what I imagined.»
This is something I’m told relatively often: I know I look like a seminarist myself, and in fact if she set out with the idea that I was The One True Übermaster of Darkness™ one can see how the message hinted that she was kinda disappointed. The fact is, however, that there are at least two ways of looking at domination and submission erotic games.

On the one hand there is that of fantasies, which are mainly about awakening instincts that are nestling somewhere in your general underpants area.  Down there it’s a much easier game than it seems: all you have to do is brush up on the archetype playbook, dim the lights and muster your deep voice, just like when you are reading the Big Bad Wolf pages to Jimmy the Simple Nephew.

«Step closer to the dark cavern of my heart, if you dare. We both know how torn you are by the craving of dropping your mask, freeing yourself from the exhausting act of the good girl, the superwoman, and finally be yourself, without pretense. Come, and I’ll rip the clothes from your body and bare the female; the animal of ignored and defenseless flesh, trembling in the grip of my fingers and teeth.
Leave behind you the forever rendering doubts of not being enough. Bound within these ropes, taut with the ancient art of an exotic knowledge reserved only to noble priests of pleasure like me, you will see the true measure of your worth in the turgid marble of my supreme virility. Because no, you really are not worth enough – but through my stern training I will sculpt you in the most splendid creature of all times and universes. I promise you will cry until you won’t be able to think straight anymore due to the tortures of my hidden chambers of sighs, that you will suffer until you’ll forget your own name, that I will stomp your soul fracturing it into a thousand shimmering splinters. But I also promise that if you will accept my marks on your skin with true sincerity, I will present you with new thoughts, a new name and a new soul and let you be reborn screaming the most intense orgasm of all of your life – and together we will fly into the infinite abyss of my Dominant essence…»

I mean, it’s cute, isn’t it? I know a few dozen guys – and gals, of course – that thanks to this approach put so many notches in their headboards that they are now sleeping on futons. There’s the fact that, on closer inspection, they needed all those conquests because in the long run the script cannot hold up. Unless you really are a true Christian Grey clone with the penthouse, the helicopter and not a damn thing to do all day, at some point you are bound to get surprised in your fuzzy slippers or swearing at the office manager – and you can say goodbye to poetry. Not to mention to your marbleness, on which perhaps it is better not to base your entire strategy on anyway.

On the other hand we have a more pragmatic approach instead, that besides arousal also takes into account earthly matters such as the safety of practices, personal well-being, the practicality of situations or the mundane reality of everyday things. On the whole it definitely works, but there are no shortcuts: to follow this path you have to come down to earth and study a lot before jumping in.
It goes without saying that, especially if kink is your job, you’re more likely to look like a stuffy philosophy professor than a superhero ripped on Viagra. That’s just the way it is.

However, if there is no rational doubt… well, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that events like this make me feel a little insecure myself. What if by dint of intellectualizing eroticism, I lost sight of the visceral emotion of all those games that got me into all this stuff in the first place! So I did a little soul searching, made some practical checks – and no, mission control confirmed that everything was still okay, thank goodness.

My point is, I’m not alone in harboring this kind of occasional insecurity. As a coach, I’ve been approached several times by people afraid of “not being kinky enough.” These cases are not so different from those who desperately turn to a sexologist because they don’t feel up to the feats of porn stars: as much as we are well aware that it is fiction largely aided by direction and editing, that little bit of performance anxiety is always lurking inside.
Both experienced sinners and newcomers to the universe of alternative sexualities, it is easy to confuse the idealized images of erotic fantasies with real life, or to fear that your partners will demand constant Flogging Grand Prix-levels of experience. It happens to even the best of us, and the solution is usually to remember that sex – of any kind – should be done for pleasure and enjoyment, not to meet arbitrary externally imposed, and often imaginary, standards.

But it doesn’t end there.

 

What is BDSM?

I was still laughing at human weaknesses, when I was hit by another sucker punch. The phone rang, and a dear friend and colleague asked me point-blank: «What defines BDSM?»

It’s a question I’ve been asked at least thirty thousand times over the years, so I fed him the various answers I have reached over time one after another. «It is the set of those erotic games in which one partner chooses which emotions and sensations the other will feel, and the latter agrees to experience them to the fullest without objecting to anything that falls within their agreed limits»; «It is the art of making yourself vulnerable»; «It is the circular energy exchange in a relationship characterized by power imbalance»; «It is like marriage, but consensual»… And yet, no. Each definition was received with an unobjectionable observation: «and how would that differ from the definition of kink in general then?»

I must say that this particular person and I share the questionable hobby of stewing over philosophical issues that would drive even Byzantine theologians crazy. His point of view, however, wasn’t wrong: if we start defining as ‘BDSM’ even a little friendly spanking or having blindfolded sex, the abysmal distance from the supremely transcendent ecstasy typical of proper domination appearss so clear that even an idiot would notice something amiss.
But, darn it, that’s exactly what I have been doing for a while myself.

More and more often, when I get interviewed I tent to oversimplify the matter, partly so that my listeners don’t fall asleep and partly to reassure both those who still fear that certain variations are the stuff of bloodthirsty Satanists, and those we were talking about before – anxious of not being sufficiently alternative.
Therefore, it’s no wonder that the girl who saw my videos was disappointed: may have I turned into a perversions boomer? Another check with mission control… no, definitely not. But even if that was the case… what does constitute the boundary between “BDSM” – the kind one person in six dreams about – and a billion other non-normative erotic games, including making shadow puppets with your cock?

If, like we said, it is unjust to discriminate people for the way they enjoy their sexuality, it cannot be the intensity of the practices, their frequency, and come to think of it not even what they consist of. If I gaze at my partner and I make her have an orgasm just by ordering her to, with no physical contact, that’s no less domination than inflicting her torments that would make Beelzebub’s knees quake – quite the contrary, in fact! The same goes for that couple whose whole game lies in the imposition for him to only wear clothes chosen by the lady, since that gives them both pleasure like so many darkroom athletes can only dream of.
So, why applying an electrostimulator where the sun doesn’t shine is BDSM, but doing it to a daikon is not?

Spoiler: my friend wasn’t entirely convinced with my conclusion in the end. However I believe today I have one new, further answer to that recurring quesiton. In my view, BDSM is not a set of practices, dynamics, accessories, aesthetics or other stereotypes at all: BDSM is first and foremost a culture.
More precisely, it is a culture that with time created and refined a series of tools like safewords, negotiation, safety rules and so on, that even involuntarily tend to develop empathy and disarm the dangerous and pathological forms of the domination and submission instinct present in any mammal, humans included. Each one of us then chooses how to adapt this culture to their needs, limits, context and aspirations.
So, once again – provided you have the humility of learning before diving into something that is also called ‘extreme sex’ for a reason – it is absurd to fear “not being BDSM enough” or, worse still, not practicing “true BDSM”.

So, out of occupational disease, I seized the opportunity and wrote an article to reassure those who, one time or another, may need it. Myself included.

As I said: we all have our ups and downs. I am marking today as a definite up.

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