Just a couple of hours ago one of my coaching clients asked me what is probably the best question ever: «What is the most important thing you learned in your thirty years of doing BDSM?». A question so good I had to struggle to find a simple answer. I wrote entire books on the many important things you have to know about kink, both about technique and relationship management – things like consent, SSC, empathy, safety and more… but which one was actually the most important of them?
After a while I think I found it, and it surprised me so much that I feel compelled to share it with you. For your consideration, education and critique; in fact I’d love to hear your opinion about this. Here it is.
I can still remember very well how I felt when, as a very young man, I finally decided to embrace my slightly odd sexuality. I had harbored BDSM fantasies since my childhood, but of course I had kept them hidden to everyone – including myself, from time to time. Love, not to mention sex, is hard enough for a teen as it is and kink would have only complicated things further and made me an outcast. So I did what most people do: I kept looking for hints of “perverted” interests in every girl I met, in the hope of starting a very vanilla relationship with her and maybe, after a long while, trying to introduce the topic and see whether I had actually hit the jackpot. Like with most people, this shy strategy obviously failed. Miserably, indeed. Statistically speaking, you have probably been there yourself, and you know what I mean.
This sad state ended when I eventually mustered the courage to ditch every pretense and be straight with myself and the girls I liked. I began being politely upfront about my preferences, thinking that it was time to finally follow the mantra of every damn Disney movie and “just be yourself”. After all, if it didn’t work out there would be other billions of girls out there, some of whom would undoubtedly want to play the same kinky games I liked. This had two seriously unexpected effects.
The first was that I found out that the world was much more accepting that I had ever thought. Since that day only a handful of people rejected me for my sexuality (not including those who wanted me dead, but they didn’t get the chance to be seduced by my charm after all). The second and much more important was the indescribable sense of relief I experienced.
It was as if someone had took a huge weight off my shoulders and my soul. I could finally discard the whole second identity I had to present to everyone I met, the lies and the effort that came with it – and that left my mind so much more free to enjoy life. I was happy, free of internal conflicts, full of energy. It was not like I walked around with a neon ‘kinkster here’ sign, but I simply had no more qualms to play the part of the timid yet testosteronic stereotype of “standard full-blooded macho man”.
Recognizing how I just had no interest for the Madison Avenue-approved, white picket fence, consumeristic and sexually normative lifestyle that was forced down my throat throughout my life gave me real wellness and opened new doors. I started frequenting scene events and other kinksters for more social purposes than just to seek partners, and being able to chat about uncommon bedroom practices instead of socially-acceptable yet boring topics like sports, fashion or television shows made me feel accepted, interesting and – in one word – home. A very pleasant side effect was that I also found more potential play and life partners than ever.
So, going back to the original question, two decades ago my answer would have been: «the most important thing I learned is to embrace kink». But that would be an incomplete answer, since other things happened in the meantime.
I have written at length about the astounding changes brought on by the Internet with the new century, how not all of them were for the good, and how they ultimately contributed to expand the scene by orders of magnitude. The ability to anonymously connect with the whole world sure was important, but that’s not the end of the story. In the last ten to fifteen years the study and popularization of kink has grown exponentially, BDSM cultural events have multiplied, obtaining quality gear is easier than ever, and erotic domination and submission has become a household discussion topic.
And there’s more. Low-cost flying is now commonplace, as cheap alternatives to hotels are, even for specialized travellers. To underestimate the impact of these cultural revolutions would be missing our focus entirely.
Let me put it this way: when I started dabbling with alternative sexualities, things were hard for kinksters. I still own my first pair of quality handcuffs, which I bought in the late Eighties for the equivalent of $600 of today; I remember the agony of poste restante personals and months of waiting before managing one single actual contact with a likeminded person; I remember having to travel 1,100 kilometers to the Netherlands to visit the only BDSM club in Europe that had a one-night-every-three-months open doors policy. This is no Four Yorkshiremen rant: I just want you to understand what the world was like for unusually-inclined people until just one generation ago.
This will allow you to understand why so many people made do with whatever life threw at them. Until so very recently, passing one rare chance to hook up frequently meant not stumbling into another one for months, if not years. This widely translated into the resignation to settling for half (and often much less than half) contentment. With the exception of a few particularly large and vibrant metropolises worldwide, until the year 2000 or so kinksters often had to accept to play with very imperfect partners: abusive or borderline mental persons, ignorant and incompetent players, individuals with mismatched fetishes and plain ugly ones – all in the hope of realizing at least a speck of their erotic fantasies. The same goes for subpar toys and clothes, events and the like. Beggars, as you know, can’t be choosers.
It is no wonder if such mindset carried over into the new century, still imbuing many social circles virtual and offline. The habit is so ingrained in kink culture that people over thirty hardly notice it anymore. To old geezers like me it actually feels strange to see the new generation of kinksters, so carefree in their relations and playstyle: I often heard the hushed and outraged comments about the “lack of appreciation” for the precious opportunity they have to enjoy their sexuality with such ease. Yet that is just the natural consequence of the evolution of kink culture. The problem is, if ever, another.
Having a world of kink at their disposal, newcomers to the scene sometimes are prey to the thousand distractions of always new experiences to try, and I see them jumping from one game to another, from one partner to another without even taking the time to fully savor what they have to offer. A pity, since BDSM can be so enriching when explored in depth.
All of this, anyway, was to explain why the most important thing I learned so far is this: don’t settle for anything less than your heart’s true desire.
In these days and age, you really have no reason to renounce your sexuality but you also have no reason at all to relinquish your specific fantasies. In the last decades so many people – including yours truly, for a very little part – have toiled to give you the tools to recognize, accept and learn about your kink. You can reach out to millions of other kinksters anywhere, match your desires and make them your reality. If you don’t succeed at first, countless other possibilities are immediately at hand. Just use your right to be yourself – you won’t regret it.