Jul. 25, 2012 - Issue #875: Shout Out Out Out Out
There's more to BDSM than whips and chains
The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon has sparked a lot interest in BDSM and the idea of a dominant/submissive relationship. Just the other day I read that the website seekingarrangement.com has been flooded with women looking for a "Christian Grey" type of arrangement. I think it's great that the book has opened up the idea of BDSM to people who may have never heard of it before, but is this book and other popular representations of kink giving people the wrong idea of what being a submissive is all about?
Many people seem to believe that a kinky woman who takes the role of submissive must be weak-willed and lazy, that she doesn't want to make any of her own decisions and just wants to please somebody else. After many years of learning about BDSM and coming to know many people in the community, I can say it's actually quite the opposite. "I feel like being on the bottom is the more powerful situation in real life," says Koko, a friend and colleague who has been a part of the BDSM community for 12 years. "When everything's consensual, you are pretty much calling the shots,” she explains.
Contrary to what happens in Fifty Shades, it's the subs that make most of the decisions about what will and will not happen in any given interaction because they are the ones in the more vulnerable position. In most kink gatherings, the subs approach the dominants. "That helps not to put any pressure on the submissives with the tops going around saying, 'Hey I want to do this to you.'" says Koko, "Some people would find that hard to say no to even if they wanted to, so usually it's up to the submissives to say they want to do something with someone."
Not only do they hold a lot of the control, the subs that I know are some of the toughest people I've ever met. Submission is a trial, emotionally and mentally, and lots of kinky play is also very physically demanding. Koko says she enjoys that aspect of it because she likes to test her own limits and find out how her body responds to different types of ordeals. "A lot of submissive like their bruises because they like to see it and think 'I took those 30 cane strokes, I persevered and now I get to look at the marks to remind me of how strong I am.'"
That's not to say that all submissives like physical pain. Some simply enjoy pleasing someone in a dominant position over them. But that also is not what it might look like from the outside. Dominants are often portrayed as strong, domineering and sometimes even sadistic people who enjoy hurting others. Even though some might enjoy inflicting pain on people who want it, tops in the BDSM community also know that that they are only being allowed to do these things they love to do because their bottom trusts them to take care of their needs and ensure that they are safe. "There is a term used in the community, 'The Gift of Submission,'" says Koko, "That means a lot to me. It means I trust you so much that I am willing to be in this position with you."
The actions of BDSM might seem outrageous from the outside. Watching or reading about someone being tied up and whipped is exciting and titillating and it gets a lot of attention. But what you don't see on the surface is the truly amazing part and it is what makes the tying up and whipping possible in the first place. It's a delicate and often very deep exchange of giving and receiving, of control and surrender, and of trust, care and respect. That's the real story of BDSM. V
Brenda Kerber is a sexual health educator who has worked with local not-for-profits since 1995. She is the owner of the Edmonton-based, sex-positive adult toy boutique the Traveling Tickle Trunk.
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