PVV – all signs point to… BDSM?

I have a confession to make – I don’t know too much about BDSM.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know what BDSM (a composite acronym for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism) technically is… but only in the most basic sense.

I’ve read more than plenty of “literature” (read: school-type stuff) on the subject, and I’ve watched a fair amount of BDSM-themed adult content. I’ve also conducted confidential in-depth interviews with adult performs wherein we discussed their experiences during professionally produced BDSM shoots.

But in terms of “real world” experiences, I’ve not heard much from BDSM practitioners themselves. Interviews about professional sex performance don’t necessarily get at the whole of one’s private sex life; I don’t hear many causal anecdotes about BDSM practice from social friends; and I don’t follow many blogs, etc written by members of BDSM communities… at least not closely.

So, for various reasons, I feel decently versed in BDSM academically, sociologically, and within the context of professional adult production; but I’m not exactly sure how BDSM practice operates on a daily basis in folks’ everyday lives.

But lately, many signs seem to be pointing me towards engaging BDSM and exploring BDSM-related issues more directly and fully. For example…

A while back, ZP sent me a link to a post on Clarisse Thorn’s blog.  Clarisse is a self-described “Chicago-based, feminist, pro-BDSM sex-positive activist.” In the specific post forwarded by ZP, she was discussing and questioning the stereotype/idea that love can’t be part of a BDSM relationship. I found her discussion veeery interesting…

For sure, it’s likely that some BDSM practitioners don’t love their partners… but how is that different from other sorts of sex practice in any other population?  I mean really – has “love” been involved in every sexual encounter you’ve ever had and/or in every sexual encounter you’ve ever heard about? I’m gonna go with probably not.

Whatsmore, if you think about the amount of careful time and energy BDSM practitioners must put in to planning and carrying out a session… well, how can that not require some form of love?

Sociologically speaking, the over-generalization (no love in BDSM) that Clarisse calls into question is related to many all-or-nothing assumptions that often (mis)characterize discussions of sex. It also gets at even more deep-seated, problematic ideologies about love… about what it is and what it supposedly should be.

Hmmm…

In another example, I recently was reading a post from Charlie Glickman, an adult sexuality educator and all around interesting individual. In this particular piece, Charlie wrote about consent as an imperative dimension of sex positivity. Not too wild of an idea I would say, but this post was particularly interesting because it engaged consent in the context of a very touchy subject – sex in public.

For this discussion, Charlie considered BDSM specialists Kink.com and their even further nichey sub-genre production, Public Disgrace.

Presumably, one mainstay of this sub-genre is the titillation that comes from humiliating disgrace and sex in public; thus, in a Public Disgrace scene, women performers are disgraced and then have some form of sex in public with any number and/or combination of others. Or as Kink/Public Disgrace puts it:

“Public Disgrace is public sex, flashing, exhibitionism, voyeurism, and erotic female humiliation at its finest. At PublicDisgrace.com, women are stripped naked, tied up, bound, punished, and fucked hard by big cocks. Naked women are exposed and fucked in public bondage. Bound women suck cock and are fucked in the ass in public. Girls are stripped naked, tied up in bondage on city streets, and fucked for everyone to see. At PublicDisgrace.com, you’ll see girls bound and giving head and handjobs to strangers and pornstars alike… This is high definition porn that is guaranteed to satisfy your public humiliation hunger.” (quoted text has been copy edited some)

Some of the shoots take place in relatively private public spaces, like bars and restaurants; but others are shot in relatively public public spaces, like a town square or on a sidewalk (ie and fyi – super not safe for work).  Because of variable laws pertaining to sex and nudity in public, this iteration of Public Disgrace often happens outside the US. Interestingly though, in instances/scenes of Public Disgrace in more public settings, it seems that the actual sex happens in a relatively private outdoor area. (this assessment is based on my perusal of a small sampling of Public Disgrace trailers only, thus I could totally be wrong about this statement’s veracity overall)

So then, according to Charlie, one obvious issue that emerges from Public Disgrace centers on consent – what if some bystander doesn’t consent to view, thus necessarily participate in, public disgrace and sex?

Oh man, did I find that interesting!! In many respects, I completely agree with Charlie’s points surrounding consent. I fully support persons’ rights to engage in whatever lifestyle and sex practices they choose (as long as, of course, everyone involved is a willing participant), which also includes not being “forced” to watch people being disgraced and/or fucked in public.

But this is a slippery slope.

Now, forget for a moment any variability that may be introduced via international locations and laws… and disregard the fact that the extra-type folks you may see floating around in the background of professional adult productions while performers are mid-fuck are generally well aware of what’s going on in the first place…

Certainly there are people out there who object to any and all types of PDA and various stages of un/dress, and certainly there are people out there who would object to PDA and un/dress from specific groups of people. Thus, although kissing is certainly not fucking, the jump from “I don’t consent to watching a public disgrace” to “I don’t consent to watching XXX kiss in public” is not too too great. Meh.

There was much heated and interesting conversation in the comments following Charlie’s post. Just about every point was well made… And just about every point highlighted the complexity of this issue.

In addition to addressing issues surrounding consent, Charlie also touched on issues of presumption and stereotype. As Clarisse also said, regular BDSM practitioners can presumably see through the dramatic hype that necessarily accompanies filmic and literary depictions of BDSM… kinda like emergency room doctors could see through the dramatic hype of “ER” (1994-2009). But maybe BDSM novices and/or those outside the community cannot? I mean honestly – after watching “ER,” I totally thought Goose had gone to medical school. (jkjk!!)

But seriously: although “ER” is a silly metaphor and although there is no way to ever *really* know what people internalize from filmic and literary texts, it’s interesting to consider what misnomers and stereotypes about BDSM communities and practices may be perpetuated by BDSM-type activities occurring in more public public spaces.

Although the universe has certainly presented me with even more BDSM-related signs as of late, just these two from Clarisse and Charlie are enough to show me – BDSM appears to be yet another marginalized and commonly misunderstood sex-related practice that is both complex and interconnected with much of what we all do as a culture and society.

I certainly need to explore BDSM and BDSM-related sociological issues further. But in the meantime, I’m gonna go watch me some doctors playing volleyball in a locker room shower!!

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