"People who want to live like Olympian gods must have slaves whom they throw into their fishponds and gladiators who fight during their masters' sumptuous banquets--and the pleasure-seekers never care if some blood splatters on them."
A lot of people (usually non-librarians and distinctly un-naughty school teachers) would rather dismiss kink than try to understand and appreciate the reasons behind bondage, domination, sadism, masochism, (BDSM) fetishes and other “non-vanilla” practices.
But I bet that you, my dear and curious reader, would love for me to whisper informative naughty nothings into your ear.
When I first met Cat Daddy (a self-chosen moniker), she seemed shy- all nice and no naughty. We ate Oreos and bonded over books.
I didn’t know that the 22 year old microbiology major loved to be tied down, or that she would keep my floor constantly covered with things like ropes, handcuffs, spreader bars, and silk scarfs.
While silk scarves may seem extravagant, they are a necessity. Your local thrift store will keep you stocked and if the salesperson winks at you- wink back; it’s only polite.
Tying someone down can be both aesthetic and exciting, and it’s often considered an act of utmost trust. Dominance and submission, an unequal power play between individuals, is usually negotiated before play. Sometimes this is even done through contract, in order to ensure that both parties are in agreement. Cat Daddy prefers to utilize the safe and sane route to BDSM. She writes out a list of her likes and dislikes, then meets in a comfortable space to compare lists with her chosen partner.
The term sadism - the act of finding pleasure in the degradation or pain of others - originated from Marquis de Sade’s title, the author of the infamous 18th century text 120 Days of Sodom. Napolean Bonaparte, the man responsible for approximately 2.5 million deaths during the French wars, thought the the Marquis de Sade’s fiction was written from "the most depraved imagination" and ordered Sade’s imprisonment. Perhaps the Marquis' literary fame invoked the jealousy of Napoleon, who was also a writer - but of markedly less-imaginative romantic fiction.
Vatsyayana, a celibate Indian monk who penned the Kama Sutra in the 2nd Century, wrote, "[sex] can be compared to a quarrel, on account of the contraries of love and its tendency to dispute." The Kama Sutra not only tells readers where to “strike with passion,” but how - "back of the hand, fingers constricted, fist or palm."
Pain can feel great. It leads to a rush of endorphins in the body similar to a push of morphine. Leopold Ritter Von Sacher-Masoch, like the Marquis de Sade, was an erotic author and imaginist who modeled his life after his fantasies. Sacher-Masoch traveled across Europe with his mistress, whom he requested be a "Venus in Furs" and enslave him - "the more cruelly she treats him and the more faithless she is, the worse she uses him, the more wantonly she plays with him, the less pity she shows him...she increase[s] his desire."
In his 1748 novel Fanny Hill, the most frequently seized novel from United States mail, John Cleland tells the tale of young fictional Fanny - an English prostitute- who acts as a submissive. Cleland writes that the way Fanny’s body looked when she was being whipped, “feasted the luxury of the eye.” Literature isn’t the only place that BDSM elements have been shown as both sensual and aesthetic.
Bettie Page, a 1950s pin-up model, helped bring BDSM into mainstream American culture. Her infamous photos were the subject of public hearings headed by Estes Kefauver, a senator who twice ran for president. The Kefauver hearing centered on the indecency of pornography – especially images and video featuring BDSM elements. The 1959 trial was based on the premise that “merchants of filth” were “as dangerous to society as dope peddlers.”
Bettie herself was subpoenaed for the 1959 Kefauver trials in violation of obscenity laws, after a few of her naughtier photos, of her dressed in fetish heels and black lingerie, resurfaced in a porn shop. The stills and videos of Bettie spanking disobedient yet consenting women were seized by New York police.
Fetishism, the sexualization of objects or body parts that aren’t part of the reproductive system, isn’t uncommon and foot fetishes are one of the most widely known. Maybe foot fetishism is transmitted through ink, because writers Quentin Tarantino, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce have all professed love for women’s soles, nails and toes.
It requires trust and bravery to recognize, let alone voice, sexual preferences. Never shame others. It may reinforce the normalcy of your sex life, but it is extremely harmful to the psyche - and the public image of those involved in consensual activities.
Consent, safety and communication are the most important aspects of any sexual act. Experiencing pain or distributing it is abuse if it occurs without both you and your partner’s consent. Make sure, before you play, that you and your chosen partner(s) have communicated needs, limits and safe words.
You can have sex while being fully clothed in the park, “shhhhing...” - so the roommates don’t hear, nibbling off body chocolate, pushing the cat off the bed, wearing latex and leather, or wielding a paddle. No matter how you find pleasure, remember that your body is your own and that no one should define your limits for you.