Today’s introduction is long because we touch on some pretty advanced stuff. Thanks for bearing with me.
Normalizing behaviours is key to getting rid of shame and stigma, the key to promoting intimacy on our own terms. Shame isolates people, and rarely is anyone made more compassionate for others by being shunned or disconnected from society.
When we make distinctions between amazing intense, hot sex and – content warning – nausea inducing, head-spinning traumatic rape – sometimes very similar physical acts might be involved but in very different social containers. This is one of many reasons why an evidence-based, adversarial approach to justice has historically failed survivors. So is the primary difference just consent between those two acts?
If consent is the jump from rape to sexual intercourse and connection is the jump from intercourse to meaningful sex, the same is true for BDSM. Consent is the jump from abuse to BDSM, and connection is the jump from casual hitting to… an indescribable intimacy. Meaningful, connected BDSM to me even when asexual is so much more intimate than connected sex. Let’s talk about two reasons why: One is shame.
Let’s talk sadism. Sadism is the enjoyment of seeing pain suffered; it doesn’t have to be a bad word. As with masochism, these terms aren’t always sexual. Some sadists instead feel a buzz of endorphins called topspace and get naturally high. Others may feel a sense of asexual euphoria. Lord of the Flies references this when Roger leans on the lever to kill Piggy with “a sense of delirious abandonment.” Note: delirious can mean intoxication or “in a wild state of excitement or ecstacy.” Other sadists may get aroused. It might be sexual. Some might only be able to get off when sadism is involved. No matter the motivation, many feel great intimacy showing off a deep need that is so commonly shamed and stigmatized. If you know my secret, you can undo me in my life.
So long as informed, un-coerced, well-negotiated consent between adults stays in place, who are we to judge really? Why do we need to interfere with two happy consenting adults if they don’t ask us to do so? I say let them fantasize about what they want so long as their actions are ethical.
Like any relationships, sometimes kink relationships struggle or fail, and it’s important to normalize the growth process. It can get complicated to deal with the end of a consensual sadomasochistic relationship. Even the shiniest superstars often fail their way to experience and continue to struggle even once established in a community.
The second topic we’ll be discussing today is consensual exchanges of ownership like marriage. It involves exchanging sexual autonomy where both people agree to have their partner own their sexual options. It’s even criminally codified, though if the spouse says yes to a guest star, it’s only sort of adultery. All of this made sense before birth control and in part guaranteed rights for children. Modern marriage attempts to be as symmetrical an exchange as possible where both parties trade equal ownership with each other. Historically, even as recently as the 1950s and later, marriage was asymmetrical bringing to mind servitude, ownership of people, and even marital rape (or if you prefer the antiquated “marital rights” euphemism, be my guest).
It’s no wonder old styles of marriage are used as one style of consensual slavery in the BDSM community. Just as some enjoyed healthy, happy, as-consensual-as-possible marriage in the 1950s, so too do many consensual owner-slave couples today. The major difference is many 1950s housewives lived in a society ruthlessly unaccepting of their non participation and socially punishing of their withdrawal from marriage. Consensual slaves are treated far more ethically. Relationships offer slaves the ability to withdraw consent (As River Dark says, even in a relationship without safewords, shouting “civil litigation” is always a safeword). They can leave a relationship and even leave that lifestyle temporarily or permanently with less social consequence than a wife in the 1950s.
So whether it’s sadism or ownership, so long as it’s informed, pre-negotiated, consensual, who are we to judge two consenting adults? They’re probably only remixing things we already do but don’t think about.
Finally, intensity and uniqueness are key elements in forming bonds. As a switch and sometimes-bottom myself, I have submitted to pain for someone else – a very asexual thing for me – yet it was a hero’s journey. I got to show myself how strong I am. I got to survive an ordeal. I hugged the human that walked me through knowing myself better, and then I walked away with a more intimate understanding of myself. And of course, intimacy is what it’s all about on Intimate Interactions.