Continued from Play on the Edge II
In my conversations with people in the “lifestyle” as it is called, I discovered that there is a lot regarding BDSM that we vanilla folks have no idea about. As with any kind of ignorance there are also a lot of lies we tell ourselves about so called “deviant” sexual practices that allow us to place ourselves in the church steeple and they the “other” into a dungeon. Little do we know that most of the time, they like it there. BSDM is more about trust respect and yes safety, than I ever could have known looking in from the outside. There is a kind of communion between top and bottom, master and slave, dominant and submissive that speaks to a level of honesty and shared commitment to the experience that I doubt most couples reach. During play there is a sense of security achieved between submissive and dominant, borne out of chivalry dictated by strict codes of behavior. According to Easton & Hardy “All these structures are there to help you get as big as you can, and your bottom as small as he can, while ensuring your safe return to your normal size when you need to go back. Like Alice’s looking glass, they enable you to wander safely through the topsy-turvy dreamscapes of fantasy, where pain is pleasure and cruelty is love “(p. 20). For the submissive there is honor in giving over control and pride in the discipline submission requires. For the dominant nothing can happen without the permission of the submissive. Theirs is often a stressful experience with release and exhilaration only possible through the pleasure and release of their bottom. Within their shared experience exists a place where the person who assumes the less aggressive pose is actually the one in control.
Pat Califia suggests that “S/M is usually dealt with in an abstract, self-righteous way by feminist theorists who believe it is the epitome of misogyny, sexism, and violence”. Although I don’t agree with the radical feminist’s take on sadomasochism, I hadn’t previously seen BDSM as empowering for the submissive. How could there be a place of power beneath the hands of a man? If there is power, real power there, then on some level how can you be female and not interested in the “lifestyle”. That BSDM and the fantasies it makes real occur at an intersection between desire and power isn’t hard to believe. Who among us doesn’t like a little bit of power? As Sheppard stresses, “we are all straining under the burden of mortality, no matter what myths we may construct that promise a happy ending to our earthly lives”. His theory proposes that one way past that heavy load is to use our bodies for pleasure, connectedness, and yes SEX. I am obliged to agree with him. Power-based sex has a touch of the supernatural. The journey it involves is a sharp and treacherous path to self-knowledge. That such a journey could be a meditation or a weird kind of salvation seems possible to me. I’ve been told that the experience of the submissive can be transformative, and the pride generated by each successful scene akin to that felt by a warrior following a difficult conflict, having worked against resistance towards ultimate triumph. Who wouldn’t want that kind of rush?
Califia reminds us that “sadists and masochists are stereotyped as people who are out of control, sick or criminal, or incapable of acting in their own or other’s best interests”. But the more we look carefully at the line between vanilla sex and the body stress sought out by some S/M people, the more it begins to waver and blur. Dominance of one kind or another is inherent to the act of sex itself. Most people enjoy the weight of their partner’s body on top of them, being grabbed, moved around, scratched and even bitten at the height of passion. How does one move from forceful sex to BDSM? How many steps are there until one reaches the other side of that line? I decided that I needed some more information. Voracious reader that I am, I have been reading about sex since I was 12. It made perfect sense that I should turn to books to better explore the BSDM lifestyle. I made my way to the Miami Beach Regional library on South Beach, the only library in Miami-Dade County that stocks S/M related topics. Along with curious looks and unsolicited commentary from the male staff, I left with an arm full of titles that I hoped would take me safely and purposefully to the other side of the line.
Two weeks later, after endless conversations, clarifications and assurances, my partner and I stood on the edge of our grand adventure. Appropriated informed, I felt ready to create a sizzling meal of sexual fantasy, intrigue and what I hoped would be more than a little bit of fun. We had mentally prepared ourselves for just about any outcome. He was worried he would get too far into things to come back safely. Although I wasn’t certain I would like it, I was more than a little excited by that idea. I took a trip to Fetish Factory in Ft. Lauderdale for appropriate attire. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that on some level the clothing, a heady mixture of latex, leather and lace, comes with a power all its own. By the time I looked at myself in the mirror I felt a lot more like a determined dominatrix than a sweet and willing slave. Despite this, for our inaugural scene I was playing the part of the submissive. I was prepared to be fully devoted to that role. In the end, as novice cooks in the kitchen of the Kink my partner and I didn’t do too badly. Our BDSM buffet had a dash of minor bondage and a sprinkle of spanking, mixed liberally with a handful of verbal abuse, a shower of role play and a steamy dish of homemade porn for desert. In the role of bad little girl I was shameless and be assured, I was punished thoroughly. The experience was almost as shocking as it was exhilarating. Lying in a sweaty heap at the end of it all, I felt like Alice peering into the rabbit hole. We’d made a good first effort but we had barely scratched the surface and I knew I wanted more. So I decided to go in search of guidance.
Have you ever sought out an instruction manual?