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The Mass Media

“Yes, Mistress.” The Myth and Mystery of BDSM

Yes, Mistress. The Myth and Mystery of BDSM

BDSM: Bondage/Domination/Sadomasochism. For only three words, this term packs quite a wallop. Interestingly, it is a social taboo that’s been around for centuries, and we never seem to get over ourselves about it. BDSM is the politically correct term for a wide range of sexual and non-sexual deviancies that make up the world of kink. It’s a blanket term that many people have come to misunderstand and it’s my job to carry the torch down into the dungeon and show you what it’s all about.

The term BDSM covers everything from foot fetishes to exhibitionism, from age-play to ritualistic piercing and from power exchange to pain-play. The chasm is deep and wide where BDSM is concerned and everyone has a different take on the subject. There are those who enjoy being punished, being beaten, being humiliated, being subjugated, being pierced, being teased, being displayed and even being regressed to an earlier period in life.

Equally, for everyone interested in the previous activities, there is someone who enjoys assisting, enforcing, placing, engaging and observing someone in them. For every dominant (Master or Mistress) personality, there is a submissive (slave or bottom) one just waiting to serve them. Quite often people who are dominant in the day to day life enjoy taking a submissive role and vice versa. In this great battalion of contained dominance/submission there are many sub-camps. There are those who enjoy their kink in a sexual sense, those who do not, and those for whom the kink is merely a precursor to sexual activity.

However, BDSM is not about sex, it’s about power exchange and role-playing. The “players” meet one another through a wide variety of networks. Before the Internet, there were newsletters, magazines and clubs where the adventurous soul could meet and socialize with others like him/her. Boston itself has seen many such clubs and though the trend as of late is to move somewhat underground to private parties and clubs, there still exists the old standby.

Manray, located just down the street from the Middle East in Cambridge has a Friday night gig they refer to as “Dungeon Night.” While not as racy as it used to be, this evening of dancing and light BDSM play is a good way for the new or shy kinkster to sample the wares. Also, although now but a mere memory, Boston sported the only club, Quest, in the nearby area to allow open “scene-ing” or public BDSM play in it’s “dungeon” several years ago. Due to society’s and government’s unwillingness to suffer something they didn’t understand and felt unable to control, this club, eventually closed shop.

New York City seems to have a more liberal stance on the subject of public “scene-ing.” Well known in many circles is the difficult, but not impossible to get in to club called Hellfire. This club sports some pretty interesting sights. The emotionally overburdened Catholic can pay a visit to Hellfire and leave feeling as pure and free from sin as a newborn baby. This is where the werewolves frequent for their Saturday evening sex-on-the-beach cocktail.

It is very important to note, for those contemplating an outing to such a club, the following guidelines apply: there is most always a dress code indicating fetish wear (clothing with ornaments that indicate dominance or submission, i.e. leather, silk), or at least black and white with dress shoes. Observation etiquette requires that observers do not gawk, but watch others play respectfully without interference.

Fetish wear itself has taken hold of the GenX crowd and moved on to the Me generation. People of all associations are wearing fetish gear these days. Some stores in the area specialize in leather and chains garments of all varieties. Hubba Hubba and Hot Topic are the most well known of this genre of clothing stores, although the more mainstream department stores are beginning to add a few items to their collections as the desire for cutting edge apparel grows.

Regardless of where the “players” meet or what they wear, they all have one thing in common; consensuality. Safe, sane, responsible adults engage in BDSM. Those who do not fall under all four of those criteria are criminal, each in their own way. BDSM is NOT about rape, battery, assault, lack of safety, non-consensuality, or pedophilia. BDSM NEVER involves anyone under the age of 18. The span of individuals interested and active in the community ranges from waitresses to judges, from doctors to janitors. It is very likely that your next door neighbor has had an encounter or two themselves.

Now that we’ve established the guidelines, let’s discuss the lifestyle itself. Your average BDSM kinkster is part of a local network of others interested in recreation of a different sort. When two “players” meet they establish guidelines for play. Many people prefer to use the “checklist.” It’s a widely accepted list of dos and don’ts (available online) that partners fill out and exchange during the early negotiation period. Through this list, the dominant and submissive come to understand what activities/situations the other is willing or unwilling to engage in. This may be something as simple as a stated refusal to be blindfolded or as complex as an aversion to wearing the color pink with penny loafers. This icebreaker quite often enhances the experience for both partners as they discover secret desires they share.

At this time, the responsible kinksters agree on a “safeword.” This is a word that has a low likelihood of being used as part of scene conversation. The popular consensus on this word seems to be that the most expressive of terms is “RED.” This word has an emergent connotation to it and gets across the notion of wanting to stop the play, at least temporarily, to negotiate a change of plan or just for a break if things become too intense for either partner.

Then the play begins! I cannot comment on the events that transpire for these players except to say that it is completely within the realm of their shared imaginations. Anything goes as long as it’s safe, sane, adult and consensual. For the more curious reader who is not content with my ambiguous explanation, there are books available that are none too shy about divulging these secrets.

“Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism” by Philip Miller and Molly Devon is a comprehensive and engaging romp through the world of BDSM. It is a thorough guide to sadomasochism by two experienced players. This unabashed, entertaining book strips away myth, shame, and fear, revealing the truth about an intense form of eroticism too long misunderstood and condemned. It is fully indexed and includes over 225 photos and illustrations, a 250-plus word glossary, appendices with over 650 contacts for SM related clubs, stores, craftspeople, computer BBS, and literature. This is by far the best introduction to the world of BDSM available and it can be ordered from any bookstore!

As with everything, the world of BDSM has a controversial side to it. The most recent example of this is an incident that occurred in our own state. On Saturday, July 8, 2000, in Attleboro, Massachusetts, the Attleboro police broke up a BDSM party and two individuals were arrested. One of the individuals was charged with assault, because when the police came to the door and insisted they let him enter, he held his foot in the door jam. This is the perfect example of the assumptions about the scene that the general public and society as a whole have about BDSM. This was a party held at a private residence, between a number of consenting adults. There was no crime committed there and since then all charges have been dropped.

Unfortunately, BDSM is one of the biggest targets for constituencies whose agenda it is to stir up controversy. Bill Clinton fell to these same contingencies with his sex scandal. The most important thing to note is that with Clinton as with the BDSM raid, the people who are outraged are the media and law enforcement, because it’s their job. The public (as a whole) agrees that it’s none of our business. And so it is with all things private. If you don’t know it, find out. If you don’t understand it, ask someone about it. For more information on the “Paddleboro Case” go to www.paddleboro.com.

When it comes down to it, this is all just information. What you decide to do with it, is your choice. I hope that I have been helpful in bringing you all to a better understanding of what is BDSM and what is not. Do you understand? What? Just say, “Yes, Mistress.”