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The soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm FAQ list (Part 5 of 6)

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The soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm FAQ List
Where the kinky knowledge resides!
Part 5 of 7

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
This list is posted semi-monthly, on or around the 1st and 15th.
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        http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/faq.htm
Please make links to that page, rather than posting separate
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*The FAQs Themselves*

PART 1:
 1. What do B&D, S&M, D&S, "top", "bottom" mean?

 2. What is a "scene", and what is "negotiation"?

 3. What is a "safeword"?

 4. When is pain not pain?

 5. What are some basics of safe SM, emotionally and physically?
PART 2:
 6. Is everyone either a top or a bottom?  What's a "switch"?

 7. How can I learn to be a good top?

 8. How can I learn to be a good bottom?

 9. Is BDSM sexual?

10. Why is bondage fun?

11. Why is whipping fun?
PART 3:
12. What is body piercing? What is "C&B" play, or "genitorture"?

13. What is cutting/play piercing/burning/branding/electrical play? 
    What are "bloodsports"?

14. What is it about breath control? Is it safe to make someone pass 
    out?

15. What are "golden showers"? How about "scat"?

16. Is anal sex safe? Why do people do it?

17. What is "fisting"?
PART 4:
18. Does the way I play qualify as "real" SM? What is "real" SM, anyway?

19. What is it about leather/latex/high heels/corsets/other fetishes?

20. What about shaving body hair and/or crossdressing?

21. Why am I defending SM?

22. Is SM degrading or abusive? Were most SM people abused?
PART 5:
23. Why is SM taboo, and is SM criminal, unnatural, immoral, 
    unethical, or unhealthy?

24. Isn't the bottom always in control?

25. Can someone _really_ be someone else's slave?

26. What are the "codes"?

27. My fantasies scare me. What if I get too into SM?
PART 6:
28. I want to throw a play party; how do I go about it?

29. I want to attend a play party; what is the etiquette?

30. What's the deal with this anonymity stuff?

31. Are SM people being politically and socially harassed?

32. What topics are or aren't acceptable on s.s.b-b? (including, 
    what's s.s.b-b's charter?)

33. I'm sick of certain topics on s.s.b-b. How can I avoid them? Also, 
    what's with all these ads?


34. OK, so I can't post ads to s.s.b-b.  Where CAN I post them?

35. I don't have access to soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm; what can I do 
    to get information about the scene?


=======================================================================
*23. Why is SM taboo, and is SM criminal, unnatural, immoral, unethical,
or unhealthy?*

If what I've been saying in this FAQ is accurate, then why haven't more
people heard this? Why are the prevailing images of SM so negative?

There is no doubt that they _are_ negative. Not long ago I was informed
that there are some members of the Winnipeg (Canada) police department
who believe that soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm is "a textbook on how to
torture women for sexual pleasure. It's obscene." Said police were
considering how to deal with s.s.b-b on obscenity grounds. In England
in 1991, a group of gay men who had gathered for an SM play party in
which they were using whips for pleasure were arrested and charged with
battery, EVEN THOUGH they had all agreed to be doing exactly what they
were doing, and WANTED to be doing it. Consensual SM is illegal in
England. How can this be?

The crucial distinction here is between consent and non-consent. The
difference between whipping someone in a scene and assaulting them on
the street is the difference between sex and rape. If everyone involved
agrees to what is happening, it is not a crime. If they do not, then it
is. This distinction is not in principle difficult to understand, and
being involved in SM makes it very clear. SM practitioners are _more_
familiar with consent issues than most, and as such are _less_ likely
to commit crimes of the sort that people confuse with SM. And NONE of
the material in this FAQ advocates ANY kind of nonconsensual, criminal
behavior.

Unfortunately, there are many who would be arbiters of what others may
and may not legally consent to do. I believe that consenting adults
should be free to do as they wish in the privacy of their homes. There
are many who don't believe this is acceptable. It serves them to
confuse the issue by claiming "SM people are sadistic rapists" when in
fact we are nothing of the sort. Criminalizing consensual sexual
activities (sodomy, SM, even prostitution) is an old tradition, but in
my view, an unjustifiable one.

This problem is exacerbated by the body of "scholarly research" on SM
and related practices. Almost all the books written about SM and other
alternative practices in this century have been written by psychologists
and therapists (i.e. people outside the scene), and almost all have
portrayed SM as a dangerous practice, indulged in only by "unhealthy"
individuals. The reason? Healthy individuals weren't the subjects being
studied; rather, the subjects were all seeking psychological treatment
from the authors of the books! The "studies" completely ignored the
many many well-adjusted, happy people who were also into SM. It's easy
to conclude SM is harmful when your only experience is with
psychologically maladjusted SM people, and when you aren't interested
in presenting a balanced view (as few authors are--psychologists can be
as sexually judgmental as anyone).

More recent events in the psychiatric community have shown a change in
opinion about SM. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric
Conditions is a document produced by the American Psychiatric
Association. The DSM-III, published in the late '80s, classified
"sexual sadism" and "sexual masochism" as disorders for which treatment
was recommended. The APA, in the DSM-IV, reclassified SM as _not_
necessarily a disorder, unless the practice of the SM produces
clinically significant ongoing emotional trauma, or leads to death,
serious injury, or disability. The DSM-IV is recognition by the
theraputic community that SM can be practiced in a psychologically
healthy way.  Specifically, _DSM IV_, © *1994*, page 529,
§302.83, "sexual masochism": Classed as a paraphilia, not a
disorder, lacking negative implications unless "the fantasies, sexual
urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment
in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning."
Sexual sadism is discussed 2 pages later, §302.84, with similar 
qualifications.

As for "natural": people have practiced SM behaviors throughout history.
Many are the saints who scourged themselves in the name of the Lord.
Using intense sensation to reach altered states of mind is a practice
as old as humanity itself--and hence can be considered in no way
"unnatural".

Our society (as do most societies) tends to ostracize the different. If
you don't fit the mold, you're weird and dangerous. People into SM don't
fit the mold. This is why there is such pressure to remain anonymous in
the scene; people have lost their jobs, partners, children, and liberty
by having their sexual preferences revealed to their community. This
stems from the same source: lack of understanding of what we do and
why, and lack of respect for what is different.

Of course, there are plenty of people who just aren't into SM. (Most
people, in fact.) There's nothing at all wrong with not being into SM,
or with not wanting to be exposed to people who do various forms of SM;
many people have emotional issues with some kinds of SM activities and
may be repulsed or disturbed by witnessing them. These people should
clearly avoid SM (and probably should avoid
soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm). I would hope, however, that even these
people would manage to learn about consensuality as it relates to SM,
and learn how SM, practiced carefully, is not abuse.

Some people feel that any power exchange between people is unhealthy.
The argument is that giving power to someone else is tantamount to
giving away your essential right to self-determination, which must be
considered an unqualified evil. Moreover, there is no doubt that many
social evils--wars, abusive relationships, et al.--derive from one
group of people seeking power over another; therefore, the argument
proceeds, it is always wrong thusly to seek power.

In reality, there are many situations in life in which someone chooses
to give some of their power over to another, because they trust that
other to use that power wisely. Examples include entering the Army
(which regulates your life for the duration of your service); getting
married (which is often a commitment to abandon some of your personal
autonomy); taking a job (which restricts your choices of how to spend
your time); and, of course, entering a BDSM scene (during which your
top has authority over what goes on). All these power exchanges are
mutually agreed upon, and are mutually beneficial; when they stop being
beneficial, the exchange itself should stop.

People whose moral codes state that all power exchange--consensual or
otherwise--is wrong should clearly not be involved in BDSM. Certainly
such people have a consistent ethical system that defines BDSM as
immoral. Short of such an ethical system, however, it is hard to see
how a BDSM relationship is any more intrinsically immoral than a stint
in the Army, or a traditional 'death-do-you-part' marriage. As for me,
I believe that in a free society, morality requires permitting each
citizen to make his or her own choices of how to live, and how to
express themselves, including sexually. Sexual rights are human rights.
If we lose our freedom to love as we choose, we lose a vital part of
what it is to be human.

These issues are very controversial, even now. In the 1992 Oregon state
ballot, voters narrowly overturned a measure named OR 9, which contained
the following paragraph:

"State, regional, and local government and their departments, agencies,
and other entities, including specifically the State Department of
Higher Education and the public schools, shall assist in setting a
standard for Oregon's youth that recognizes homosexuality, pedophilia,
sadism, and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse and
that these behaviors are to be discouraged and avoided."

Homosexuality, sadism, and masochism are neither wrong nor unnatural.
All three are consensual ways of living and loving that many people
enjoy. They are not for everyone, but nor should everyone be told that
they are for no one. Note also how this measure seeks to confuse the
issue by grouping homosexuality, sadism, and masochism together with
pedophilia, a practice which is in most places legally nonconsensual.
(It is not my intent to enter here into the debate over whether
children are ever capable of fully consenting to sexual acts. Suffice
it to say that whether they can or not has no bearing on the fact that
adults _can_ consent to SM play.) Legislating what consenting adults
may and many not do in private is neither healthy nor democratic.

(In recent years there has been a spate of articles about how SM is
entering the mainstream. Madonna's book _Sex_, her movie _Body of
Evidence_, and the movie _Exit to Eden_ are examples of this trend.
Hopefully this will lead to more people feeling free to express their
love as _they_ choose--so long as it's consensual!)

The most extreme forms of SM come closest to the line between consent
and non-consent. Most SM people have established safewords which they
will use if need be, though if they've known their partners for long,
that's rather seldom. Some people, though, do play without
safewords--whether because they know their partners well enough to stay
within their partners' limits and read their partners' responses, or
because they enjoy the rush of playing without an escape clause. This
latter sort of play is sometimes known as "consensual
non-consensuality," and involves scenes in which the bottom literally
cannot escape from whatever the top wishes to do. This is very advanced
SM; it requires exponentially more negotiation and introspection, and
even then is hazardous. Not many people do this, or want to, but some
people do, and find it exhilarating and uplifting. More info is
available on s.s.b-b or in some of the references... or on s.s.b-b
itself, which is one of the best places in the world to hear a myriad
of voices speak out about their individual ways of doing and living SM.

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995
=======================================================================
*24. Isn't the bottom always in control?*

One of the paradoxes of SM revolves around consensuality.  Everything in
SM is consensual; although the top is in control, it was the bottom's
choice to allow the top to _be_ in control.  And since most of the time
the top is trying to keep the bottom happy, and since the bottom knows
that, isn't the bottom really in control?

Yes, if your definition of "in control" is "can stop the scene".  The
bottom can always opt out, if it's consensual SM.  But the top can go a
long way towards putting the bottom under the top's spell, making the
bottom submit to really strenuous bondages or beatings, using the bottom
as the top pleases.  One friend of mine, for instance, takes great
pleasure out of hog-tying his girlfriend with her breasts bound and her
hands behind her back and her ankles tied to her ponytail, then putting
her on the edge of the bed and sticking his cock in her mouth.  She has
no choice but to suck it until he comes.  Which of them is "in control"?
 Both of them would say that he is, and both of them are getting off on
that fact, so the paradox in practice doesn't matter too much.

Furthermore, negotiation can involve give-and-take; the bottom can agree
to endure some pain to please the top, and the top can then (say) tie
the bottom tightly and tease to the point of orgasm.  A particular
activity in SM can be enjoyable for its own sake, or because it's a
favorite sensation of yours, or because it turns your partner on so much
to do it to you or with you, or because you want to endure it out of
pure stubborn pride.  The paradox of control can take many forms.

As mentioned previously, some especially intense players may negotiate
scenes during which the bottom _cannot_ opt out.  This sort of play is
definitely in the minority, but it is nonetheless possible to consent to
giving up your ability to withdraw consent.  These scenes are sharply
bounded by mutual agreement between both partners, and must be
accompanied by much discussion, before and after the scene.  And if the
bottom later feels like the scene went bad, the negotiation should be
redoubled before the next scene, if any.

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995
=======================================================================
*25. Can someone "really" be someone else's slave?*

This is the last question in another guise. Is it possible for there to
be consensual non-consensuality? That is, can someone agree to be in a
situation from which they cannot escape, and to live that way?

This topic can inspire flame wars, as follows: historical slavery was
totally non-consensual and enforced by the state; at the worst of times,
the life of a slave was in the master's hands. Our society today does
not recognize such an arrangement. Does this mean that someone cannot
truly become someone else's slave, as society would always permit the
slave to back out? Or is true slavery possible as a bond between one
person and another, regardless of society? You expect an answer in a
FAQ? Sorry, here there are only more questions. (Though see another
question for more on the hazards of that pesky word "real".)

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995
=======================================================================
*26. What are the "codes"?*

Often the "hanky code" is mentioned on s.s.b-b. What is it? It's a
tradition in the scene that if you're into certain types of activities
you can indicate them by wearing a handkerchief in either your left or
right back pockets. The color indicates the activity; the side, the
preferred position (left is top, right is bottom). Some of the colors
are gray for bondage (left is you like to tie, right is you like to be
tied up), red for anal fisting (left fister, right fistee), and black
for heavy SM (piercing, serious whipping, etc.); there are many many
many more. I don't have a list handy.

Sometimes the same thing is done with keys or handcuffs--keys on the
left means you're a top, on the right means you're a bottom. It's all
just a way to signal your preferences in a public place.

Despite persistent rumors, there seems to be no "earring code" involving
earrings on the left/right/both/whatever.

If this is nowhere near enough detail for you, check out
{http://www.halcyon.com/elf/hankies.html} Elf's hanky code list.

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995
=======================================================================
*27. My fantasies scare me. What if I get too into SM?*

Sometimes people who are attracted by some aspects of SM worry that they
will immediately go from enjoying spanking and light bondage to fisting
and golden showers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

SM is a blanket term for a huge variety of alternative ways to make
love. This FAQ list has outlined some of the possibilities. No one I
know enjoys _everything_ on this list; _everyone_ has their own
preferences and levels of tolerance. Some like bondage but dislike
pain; some like latex but dislike leather; some enjoy piercing but not
whipping; some like tickling and nothing else!

This means that negotiation is always important in SM; you never know
what someone's tastes will be until you ask. It also means that whatever
your level, however hard the play that you enjoy, there are people out
there who share your tastes. Be a dabbler or be a lifestyler, or be
anywhere in between! And don't worry; the operative word with all of
these practices is _pleasure_. If you don't like it, you won't enjoy
it, and you won't do it!

Some people have fantasies about heavier SM trips than they would enjoy
in real life. To those people, I say this: fantasies are not reality. It
is well documented that many women have rape fantasies from time to
time; this does not mean that those women want to be raped. SM can
involve playing on the edge between fantasy and reality, using that
fantasy energy to create something fantastically strong and passionate
in the real world; but this does not mean that fantasies are anything
but imagination, or that fantasies will become real without your
choosing to make them so.

If you feel that doing SM might make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe,
or make it harder for you to maintain your sense of self-worth and
pride, those are excellent reasons to avoid doing SM--or at the very
least to only do those sorts of play that don't tear you down but
instead build you up. SM is an intense form of relating, and not
everyone is ready for that; if you don't think you are, don't do it
that intensely--and if you're not sure, go slowly. What's the rush? Do
what you honestly want to do, and what you feel ready for.

Some people getting into the scene almost have a mental checklist of
stuff they want to try. They spend a year or two burning through the
checklist, having a great time, always desperate for the next
experience. Then they get to the end of the list, and suddenly they
don't know what's next. This can be a very empty feeling. SM is not an
end in itself, but a means to connect with others; it is ultimately
about relating, and about developing yourself.

If you are worried about getting "too into SM", it means that you are
sensitive to your spiritual and sexual development, which in itself
means you have less to worry about. Trust your instincts. SM is nothing
but opening up the the powerful energy within us all, and being willing
to experience that energy with and through others; it is intimate and
loving. Even a hard scene, involving ruthless domination and serious
pain, is an act of love, and a very deep one at that; it takes a lot of
trust and a strong connection between the people involved to create
such a scene. The more aware of Sex Magick you are, the better a
communicator and lover you will likely be--and you don't have to be a
heavy player to understand Sex Magick.

People who think that all BDSM behaviors are unhealthy or destructive
sometimes come out with a claim like, "Just you wait, you may start off
by enjoying being spanked, but before long you'll be liking being
bruised, dismembered, flayed, and murdered!" This is, simply,
ridiculous. While many people do find their tolerance for pain
increasing as they do BDSM, many others find no such effect, or even
have no interest in experimenting. It seems that for most people, their
internal "thermostat," the level of stimulus which makes them hot, is
pretty much constant. And certainly I know of no one practicing
consensual SM who perpetrates serious injury on their lovers. The SM
scene is rife with information about how to inflict intense sensation
without causing permanent or unintended damage of any kind. Recognize
these kinds of alarmist claims about BDSM as the scaremongering that
they are.

And finally, after all is said and done, you may _still_ have some
fantasies that you recognize as too intense or too contrary to your
nature to actually perform in a real-life scene. This is quite common,
as well; we all have desires which we recognize are not safely
fulfillable. Do not do anything that you feel you should not or cannot
do, even if the desire remains strong; or at least, if you do choose to
explore that desire, go very carefully and be prepared to back off if
you find your suspicions confirmed. If it hurts not to fulfill the
desire, that's part of what maturity is about--rejecting desires that
pull you into things that are no good for you, while choosing that
which will affirm you. And in any case, the process of introspection,
of asking yourself what you want (and what you will permit yourself)
and why, can be vital to your growth and your sense of yourself. Life
is change, and every choice carries _some_risk... decide for yourself
what path you want to walk.

Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995
=======================================================================
Thanks for reading!
Hope you learned something! Remember, your sexuality is wonderful;
treasure it and nourish it!

Created 10 August 1995, last updated 2 15 Dec 1999, and copyright
{http://www.unrealities.com/adult/copyrite.htm} by Johnson Grey
{johnson_grey@unrealities.com}.

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