What is BDSM?

What is BDSM?

Without benefiting of a broad mediation, talks aiming the appetite for extravagant eroticism of BDSM type, are quite marginalized in the public space, proving that sometimes even the adults are not far above the children who believe that what it is well hidden, can gradually and miraculously, be reduced to nothing. When the subject makes, however, its appearance in the pages of publications (print or online), at the news desk, in the programs focused on rating or in the discussions of ordinary individuals, it is seasoned with all kinds of stereotypes and judgments, dumbly associating it with deviance, behavior disorders or eccentricity. Or even with that kind of "craziness", adequate to medical treatments, long therapy sessions and transcendental meditations intensively practiced.

The knowledge of most about unconventional sexual activities spin, thus, in the disreputable area of myths, which amplifies the fog and confusion of novices everywhere, and the patterned portrait in which followers of this lifestyle are enclosed, is one belonging to the obscure, to the black leather and lake costumes, to the obsession for pain, to the traumatized childhood and strange frustrations.

Attempts promoted towards increasing the visibility of the phenomenon in the eyes of the ignorant crowd, are of good faith only in certain circumstances. Specifically, when they come directly from the official or informal supporters of the community concerned. Other attempts to exploit the issue, initiated by mass media, submits to a duplicitous approach, often vulgar and spectacular, like "bread and circus".

For those who really want to get informed, fortunately there are enough other sources or possibilities (websites, courses, professional organizations, etc.) incapable, though, on their own, of major revelations (intervening here also each person's ability to digest the topic) but sufficient to provide a detailed understanding on matters of form and substance, hardly discernible at first glance.

The first approach through which there must be clarified the phenomena caused by the BDSM subculture, is the one of extending the significance of specific practices beyond the superficial idea, fixed and mediocre, that everything, in the "dangerous" environment, comes down to acts of sadomasochism, promoted by all means and in any conditions, by those interested, exalted in front of adrenalin.

In fact, the name refers to a much richer and nuanced variety of behaviors sketched as follows: Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism (names used mostly in English language, although the Germans or the Japanese show an appetite far more pronounced in this direction, but the usages of promotion on the internet and posting the pronunciation in an "import" language, like "Americans are to blame!" imposed over time, this "rule"). Each of them has its own logic of interaction, with clear rules, standardized desires and expectations (but not obssesive), including the classical concept of "pain", but far surpassing it.

The history of the close link between the unusual sex and the label of "sadism", starts from the famous Marquis de Sade, famous for its intimate eccentric preferences, which the aristocrat, refractory to law and moral, did not hesitate to share them to the public through his writings.

Its role in "baptizing" the nonconformist eroticism is therefore, defining, limiting to the etymological influence, because, in terms of theory and practice, his escapades (expressions of individual instincts exclusively interested to the sexual gratification), enormously differs to what is plenary understood today by BDSM.

The term "masochist", as popular nowadays as the "sadistic", was inspired by the life and work of the Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (convinced follower of the position of subordination and inferiority, often adopted voluntarily even in the family life), being used for the first time by the psychiatrist Richard von Krafft Ebing, in the publication Psychopathia Sexualis (1886). The use of the two words in psychiatric context, was taken over also by Sigmund Freud, being crystallized by his co-worker (Isidor Isaak Sadger), on the studies about homosexuality and fetishes’ world, uniting the two terms in a resistant "marriage" until nowadays. But only in terms of language, not also conceptual.

Since the twentieth century, thanks to the activists for sexual pro-liberalization, the sadomasochism perception gradually emerged from under the medical shelter under which it vegetated until then, for the lack of choice. The intention was, of course, that along with the renaming and reforming of its full range of less usual "procedures", to embellish also the sinister reputation "enjoyed" in society. Thus, the BDSM community supporters who have promoted its new name (since 1969) have also tried to create it another identity, drawing the attention to the many metamorphoses that the phenomenon has crossed in the past reflected in historical and literary writings, until so far.

Specialists place the early years of uncensored sexuality concerns, on the same level with the dawn of human civilization. The first records originate from ancient times, historians disclosing our ancestors’ propensity to unusual love roles, practiced even in a religious framework, as for example, in the case of Assyro-Babylonians, who worshiped their favorite goddess, Ishtar (holding, among other things, the "powers" in the field of fertility, love and war), integrating without hindrance and veil, spicy sexual behaviors in the ritual activity itself.

Similar events, dedicated primarily to scenes of flagellation, were met also in Sparta or Rome, the work of historians known as Juvenal and Petronius, sitting as proof in this regard. But, beyond the fragmentary references specific to the mentioned sources, there are a number of more consistent information, such as those found in the Hindu "manual", Kama Sutra, which offers for example, an extremely eloquent image on those body parts that can be hit during sex, how to execute these hits, what safety precautions should be considered to minimize unwanted risks and how important is the participants consent, expressed in relation to the pursued acts (almost unanimous principles with the current interpretation of "hard" eroticism).

English Literature contains also clues concerning the particularities of BDSM area, which were not at all unknown in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on the contrary: epigrams of the poet John Davies, talk about the profession of "Mistress" (1590) and the novel of the writer John Cleland (Fanny Hill, 1749), depicts, lacking discretion, episodes of flogging carried out sexually.

The past certainly hides many more such cases than they are revealed in the fiction, religious texts or any other material evidence attesting their existance. And, even though many like to put on the back of modernity everything that is not consistent with a normative and conservative system of thinking (as if all the "evils" in the world came together with the industrial revolution, television or Internet), the reality is that also in earlier societies, people abandoned themselves to all kinds of borderline experiences, investing with various valences their sexual choices (especially). The responsibility of modernity is simply to bring to light (through its various mass media means), a fact already existing, reconsidering its phylosophy, placing its motivations and effects in a more generous frame of personal or group freedoms and depriving it of the aura of crude sensationalism it is usually clothed.

Shaping the whole BDSM story in a form preceding the one through which it is defined today, began in the twentieth century, with the expansion of the porn industry, receptive to including in its photographs and film productions of images, respectively the scenes with „unusual” sexual tint (the first such works dating from the period 1950 to 1960, being signed by Irving Kalw).

A significant contribution to the crystallization of this subculture, was also brought by the "Gay Leather" collectivity (a summation of groups, small groups, clubs and organizations emerged after the Second World War, which generously opened their lists of adherents, to all gay women and men interested in assuming or militating for an alternative lifestyle). It subsequently became the environment in which followers of eroticism based on domination or submission found their place, forming altogether, the ramp to launch their own ways of expression.

What helped, in order to reach its goal (ie promotion), it was also the development of Internet services, which, over time, has allowed all those passionate about the subject, to virtually socialize with people of the same nature, to exchange knowledge and impressions, fears and concerns, dilemmas and solutions for the problems that raised their interest. Also, thanks to the multiple possibilities offered by the virtual space, there were made available to ordinary people, the fruits of what later would become a highly profitable business, namely: the trade with sex toys and "nice" accessories, but also of those appropriate to atypical meetings (whips, handcuffs, clothing made of leather or latex, etc.).

Given the fact that the target group of these "dangerous" products were not identified exclusively with the gay or bisexual community, nor with the exclusive heterosexual one, there were included consumers from all "areas", dissolving, thus, the equal sign set at the beginning, between the homosexuals of Gay Leathers and the addicted fans of BDSM community. The latter ones stood up slowly on their own feet, becoming independent (representatives of an independent ideology and philosophy that would capture, more and more the attention of curious people). But not always in a positive sense, quite the contrary.

The word with which BDSM practices are assimilated in general is: pain. Most often, mentioning these sexual preference, evokes for ordinary people, the bleak picture of aggressiveness, of mature games, exacerbated, where sex is assimilated with fear, hardness or punishment, paradoxically leading to a macabre and perverse pleasure of the characters involved. No wonder in these conditions, the fans of extreme sex are seen as some individuals always in contrast with normality, to whom it would not hurt at all a regular visit to a psychiatrist or an urgent reassessment of notions about love and eros, in the obvious direction of adjusting them to the standard view (belonging to the mass, of course). However, what the uninitiated ones are missing, is the fact that not getting pain at any cost is the ultimate goal of those who are out of the pattern of "stable" relations, but the power exchange realized between partners (the inequality of roles due to which one is allowed total control, and to the other the obedience; to one the role of "decision" and to the other the role of "execution").

The whip, flogger, handcuffs or on the contrary, the common household items, vested with erotic functions, the slapping, pinching and other similar things, are only "simple" tools and methods used to materialize somehow the "exchange of authority" in order to give voice to the inner needs of participants (those to dominate or to fully submit, when they love unconditionally and intensely).

Moreover, the whole dynamic is shaped by these two roles polarizing the undertaken actions (dominance and submission), so that one of the partners becomes Dominant, the other Submissive. Though, the terms are not always interchangeable, the label of Dominant/Submissive being linked in particular to behaving actively or passively in the relationship, regardless of the determined ranking.

Although the preference for one of these two "positions" does not depend on factors such as the morning, over the day or evening mood of those involved, but is stable in time and space, in agreement with a potential valued most of the times unilaterally, there are also situations in which roles can be exchanged (the Dominant switches to Submissive and vice versa). The reason for power exchange is either the experiencing desire (to put oneself in the shoes of the other), either enjoying the differences, when both partners are either submissives or dominants and want to give each other the opportunity to taste the "guilty pleasures" according to their own way of being.

No matter how risky and irresponsible this approach might seem at first glance, those who are experiencing it in their lives, do not simply acts by their ear, but in accordance with certain very clear principles, characterized by a complexity that seems like coming from a pretious university course, of whose scrupulous observance depends the whole fate of the "student" in question. Entering such a land at all smooth and banal, may prove to be unproductive, even harmful when it takes place without a prior theoretical training, being able to leave a bitter taste to the one committing the imprudence to crave a thing for which he is not properly trained.