Misconceptions in BDSM

(work in progress)

BDSM is Not Safe

I think one of the most common misconceptions about BDSM is that it’s not safe. Because when one typically describes what happens in a BDSM session (e.g., someone gets tied up, gagged, beaten with an implement etc ) it sounds dehumanizing and violent. But what often gets glossed over is an important part of BDSM that always comes right before the session, which is the “negotiation.” It’s here where the top and bottom discuss their boundaries. The bottom shares with the top their interests and limits (e.g., what they’ve explored before, what they haven’t experienced but are curious to try and their hard limits). It’s also in negotiation where the Dom and sub establish the safe word, a word that once uttered, it can stop the session. It’s in the negotiation of these boundaries that there is freedom for the Dom and sub to go pretty far and deep in their play. With a safe word, clearly articulated boundaries and the sub’s consent, the Dom has license to push the sub to the edge of their limits. That’s what makes BDSM such a thrilling experience, you’re exploring your limits in a safe, sane, and consensual context.

BDSM is not Sane or Normal

Another misconception about BDSM is that one must be kinda “off” or crazy or had some terrible childhood trauma to be into it. And it probably comes back to (again) the way the act of BDSM is typically described (e.g., bondage, torture, etc) devoid of the safe, sane and consensual context in which they exist.

It begs the question, why would someone subject themselves to being bound, tortured, humiliated and submitting to another? And because we normally avoid these experiences, logically it must mean you’re abnormal if you’re into something like pain and submission. But I think that’s exactly why BDSM exist. In a safe and judgment-free context, you’re exploring experiences that you don’t typically get to experience (and you’re “supposed” to avoid) in your everyday life.

And one of the reasons why it may seem “crazy” to someone that somebody would be into such painful and degrading acts is that we’ve been socially conditioned to avoid pain and submission, especially men. Which is why my job as a professional dominatrix exist and the job of a dominatrix is a woman’s job. If you think about it, it’s very very rare to find a professional male Dom but there thousands of professional Dommes in the world. I think it’s because it’s “normal” or more sociably acceptable for a woman to ask her male lover to tie her up and spank her. But if a husband or boyfriend were to ask that of their wife or gf, they risk being rejected and judged as being “gay” or “crazy.” That’s why a good portion of my clients have wives and girlfriends who know nothing about their kinky desires. Because they fear judgment and rejection from their partner if they were to tell them the truth.

Why these Misconceptions Persist

And that’s how these stereotypes and stigmas persist. It all starts with what society deems as normal and abnormal. We have been conditioned to avoid the very acts of BDSM (pain, bondage, submission), so those who seek it must be abnormal. And those who harbor these innermost desires have internalized its stigma from society and as a result don’t talk about it out in the open. It’s a secret many (men) keep and only share with a pro Domme. And the more we stay in the closet about it, the more we perpetuate its stigma and stereotypes.

How do we Dispel these Misconceptions?

To change an outsider’s perspective on BDSM requires an insider to come out and speak their truth and tell their story to dispel its misconception.

Like homosexuality, there was a time when homosexuality was taboo and stigmatized, and those who were gay stayed in the closet because they thought there was something wrong with them and they feared rejection and judgment if they were to come out. But once there were enclaves and cities (like San Francisco) where people were safe to come out, they began to own their sexuality and truth. And one by one, people started changing their minds about what homosexuality was when thy met someone who was gay and realized they’re not “abnormal.” And that’s how the discourse and perception of homosexuality became normalized.

I think we have to the BDSM movement that in the same w ay as  the LGBTQ movement. It’s an alternative form of sexuality that was once heavily stigmatized. But over time, when more people come out and share their stories and humanize their sexuality, the more we can be seen, heard and accepted.

Conceptual Change through Social Media

When I first started working as a pro Domme in 2005, it was still a very underground profession. I only told my close friends what I did. I hid my sidejob from my family and academia (I was a grad student at the time). Barely any dommes I knew were out with their other work and family. And almost all my subs/clients were not out with their friends, work and family. But a decade later (around 2015) I’m now out with my family (albeit I was outed by my sister to my parents) and academia (A few years ago, I outed myself to my former graduate advisor).

I attribute the rapid destigmatization and growing acceptance of BDSM in the past decade to the emergence and widespread adoption of social media. Social media has become a space for professional and lifestyle  kinksters to share a part of themselves and for kink communities to organically evolve.

Around 2014 was when I noticed that more and more dominatrices were starting to create profiles for their professional personas on Twitter. Twitter became a platform for submissive to find and follow dominatrices in different cities all over the world. And for us pro dommes (and other sexworkers) it became a way for us to find and connect with each other.

The more Dommes and subs create online profiles and put their authentic voices out there, the more out we are. And the more we can share our stories and experiences, the more we can change the way people perceive us..

More Work to be Done

Of course it hasn’t been a smooth ride to full acceptance. In the past few years, a lot of the social media platforms that we use (e.g., tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, etc) are censoring our voices and images by shadow-banning censoring or even deleting us.1Much thanks to SESTA/FOSTA Our sadomasochistic imagery can very quickly be reported as sexually explicit or  bullying.

And that’s why it’s important for us to create our own platforms. By creating truly safe spaces for ourselves and for our friends and allies to share our stories and express ourselves, we can create a more cohesive portrait of who we are, why we do what we do and share the truth and beauty of our fantasies and play.

Therefore, to dispel these misconceptions, we have to come out and share our stories. And to come out, we have to create a safe space for us to play in and express ourselves..

 

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Back to contemplating playing with me