Continued from Play on the Edge III
How could I bring closure to my project? The advice of my contact was to get “real” by moving out of the world of the imagined and theoretical and into the lives of those who actually live and breathe the lifestyle. With her assurances that everything would become crystal clear once I was in the company of the converted, I decided to attend the local SPICE (South Florida People Involved in Consensual Endeavors) meeting. I’d had what I considered to be a taste test and I was fairly optimistic on the long drive from Miami to North Broward. I am not sure what I expected from a group of people who were involved in the lifestyle, but I was certain I wanted to learn. Sometimes when you step into a space that is not your own, the people who normally live there ask you to leave. I often find however that when those people are living in a space that is on the fringe, they ask you to come in. At the Off the Cuff monthly meeting at Club Kink in Pompano I could not have felt more welcome. The discussion was candid, earnest and funny. The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. If I had expected to meet a crowd of freakish sex fiends, I was in the wrong place. To be sure these couples did have sex, plenty of good kinky sex, but they weren’t freakish.
I was awed by the support I received and by how those who were offering their help considered it as crucial to my having a safe and high quality experience. John Warren, the author of The Loving Dominant, and his wife Libby, were veritable encyclopedias, full of unlimited knowledge on the topic of BDSM. John is a true academic and a faithful practitioner, who has written quite a few books on the subject. He has over thirty years worth of intimate knowledge on kink and an awareness of its history that goes far beyond that. John, Club Kink’s manager, an experienced dominant, had come to the club as an observer for almost two years before he actually participated in play. He encouraged me to let him & Jane (the life partner he’d met at play party) know when and if I was interested in visiting the club on a guided tour. Rick, a dominant and clinical sexologist who ran the meeting, talked openly about his own missteps when he entered the lifestyle and how lucky he was that his wife Sandra had stayed with him while they learned together. All agreed that the best way to bring "new blood" into the lifestyle is to guide, teach and mentor them in the ways that they can fulfill their needs and desires. All considered meetings like Off the Cuff essential to this process. I heard a few horror stories, a few happy endings and added a lot more depth to my knowledge of what it meant to be in a BDSM relationship. By the time the meeting was over I had a great deal more knowledge than I had come in with. I had a pocketful of phone numbers and email addresses and entreaties to contact them if I had any questions. I had come to an educational support group meeting and asked for help, information and direction. I left feeling welcome, wanted and safe. If I have questions and concerns as I continue this journey, I know I have guides should I need them.
According to Dr. Peggy Kleinplatz “Our bodies are the repositories for memories, fears, secrets, hopes and dreams”. Kleinplatz asks us, “Why stop at orgasm when we can aim for ecstasy?” “Maybe”, she suggests “we really ought to consider learning from those who aim high – from those who aim to get all that they can out of their sexual encounters and refuse to settle for perfunctory sex. They aim to use sex as a vehicle for personal growth and transformation and interpersonal intimacy. If the means they use are outside the conventions and constraints of ordinary sexual relations, so too, are their goals extraordinary.” Out of the ordinary indeed; from the first time I read it, this passage stuck me as truth. During this project I’ve been challenged. On some level I’d like to think I haven’t had to stretch myself at all and that my mind is and will continue to be completely open. Except that if I am honest, I will admit that I had to adapt and encourage myself to embrace quite a few ideas that hadn’t been part of my world view. I have evolved and been transformed and emerged anew, and for that I am truly grateful.
BDSM, like swinging, preferring blonds, enjoying women with huge silicone implants – it’s all considered to be fetish. A fetish is any interest or desire that may not fall into the "Judeo /Christian norm". More officially, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, a fetish is “something, such as an object or a nonsexual part of the body that arouses sexual desire and may become necessary for sexual gratification“. Exploring BDSM is also an exploration of self. Everyone whether they admit it or not, has a little kink desire in them. There are three essential things I’ve discovered or had reinforced during this project. First, there are more “good” people (judges, senators, doctors, lawyers....etc) in this lifestyle than the average person realizes. Second, being in the lifestyle or interested in it does not make you “bad”, sick, crazy or perverted. Mostly being part of the lifestyle makes you honest. Third and most important, Y.K.I.N.M.K.B.Y.K.I.O.K. Translation - Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is ok! Not everyone is going to have the same interests in the lifestyle. My partner and I may not have the same interests, but in the learning process we'll hopefully come to find that we can work with our different likes to grow and play together. In Kinkorama Simon Sheppard emphasizes that “sadomasochistic sex, especially the traditional leathersex variety, is chockablock with rules and rituals. It’s fun, of course, but these road rules also exist because this stuff is scary. Kink involves a radical vulnerability that is always at least a little risky because it’s letting the big, hungry animal out to play." I didn’t expect that the lessons I learned from this experience would be about the importance of honesty and intimacy in relationships. I definitely could not have known that the meeting would have taught me more about the nature of human attraction and the simple yet very complicated things those who have “vanilla” sex take for granted. The credo of " SSC - Safe, Sane, and Consensual" is something most BDSM participants live and play by. It struck me, much to my surprise, that individuals who partake in the BSDM lifestyle have much safer sexual interactions than the rest of us. What lessons should those in the vanilla community take from this? Just how much of the Hippocratic entreaty first do no harm do we take into our relationship, our homes, our bedrooms?
Ultimately I am just one of many chefs in the gourmet restaurant of life, tasting different dishes on my own journey of sexual exploration and discovery. Many of us will opt for a life of happy absolute vanilla. An adventurous few, more than the rest of us may think, will visit the kitchen of Kink, even if only on special occasions. We will dine at the table of desire, maybe even attempt to sneak a guilty peek at the dark molten chocolate of dessert, burning our fingers on the oven door in the process. In the end there is no right technique, and certainly there is no perfect recipe. We make choices. We make mistakes. We evolve. As Sheppard reminds us “For better or worse – for better and worse – we make up our lives as we go along.” So at this, the end of my little adventure, I raise my plate of dribbled chocolate sauce and crumbs and say - thank you sir, may I have another.
*References available on request