ECOSALON: Beyond ‘Fifty Shades’- What’s the Real Deal with BDSM? Sexual Healing

 The entire universe knows that the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trailer was released last week, so if you don’t – where on Earth have you been?

I chatted with Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor of “The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales,” about kink, BDSM, and how we can go beyond “Fifty Shades”. You know you want to.

Stefanie Weiss: What’s your quick and dirty definition of BDSM?

Rachel Kramer Bussel: I usually just define the acronym – bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism, which can involve eroticizing power and control as well as eroticizing the giving and receiving of pain, pleasure, and other kinks. It’s such a wide term that it can be hard to define.

SW: How and why can it be liberating for women — especially those who have only been exposed to “vanilla” sex?

RKB: I don’t think BDSM is for everyone, but for many women, it’s a way to explicitly play with power in ways we can’t always do in our daily lives, whether because we are expected to be “good girls” or are simply bound (no pun intended) by societal and workplace rules. There are also rules in BDSM, but once you’ve agreed on those, it can be anything goes in terms of exploring and possibly pushing your own limits, by choice. For example, you can be “bad” and get a spanking or other “punishment,” but you’re playing by rules you’ve agreed to, and very possibly fantasized about.

SW: I’m loving your new book “The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales. The characters are in all positions (literal and figurative) in the submission/dom context. Women are dommes, subs, and everything in between. How is your vision different than the standard “Fifty Shades of Grey” narrative? (Which I will admit now I could never bring myself to read.)

RKB: With an erotica anthology, especially one with 69 stories, there’s much more room for variety. I wanted to give readers a range of entertainment as well as possibilities for reasons characters may enter into BDSM relationships and what they get out of them. I think something we as a culture don’t tend to think about as much are the doms; when someone wants, say, to be tied up, it’s expected that the other person, especially if they are a man, will want to. Not all kinky men are dominant, nor are all kinky women submissive, so I wanted that to come across in the book. I wanted there to be playful as well as more intense examples of kink, and show the mental as well as physical side, which is why my story is called “Reverse Psychology.” The narrator is devoted to his domme and does things to please her, not because he’s inherently into delivering pain.

SW: What myths about BDSM have been inspired by “Fifty Shades”?


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Beyond Fifty Shades: What's the Real Deal with BDSM? Sexual Healing by Stefanie Iris Weiss

August 2, 2014

PSYCHOLOGY TODAY: The Pleasure of Pain

Bind my ankles with your white cotton rope so I cannot walk. Bind my wrists so I cannot push you away. Place me on the bed and wrap your rope tighter around my skin so it grips my flesh. Now I know that struggle is useless, that I must lie here and submit to your mouth and tongue and teeth, your hands and words and whims. I exist only as your object. Exposed.

Of every 10 people who reads these words, one or more has experimented with sadomasochism (S & M), which is most popular among educated, middle- and upper-middle-class men and women, according to psychologists and ethnographers who have studied the phenomenon. Charles Moser, Ph.D., M.D., of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, has researched S & M to learn the motivation behind it--to understand why in the world people would ask to be bound, whipped and flogged. The reasons are as surprising as they are varied.

For James, the desire became apparent when he was a child playing war games--he always hoped to be captured. "I was frightened that I was sick," he says. But now, he adds, as a well-seasoned player on the scene, "I thank the leather gods I found this community."

At first the scene found him. When he was at a party in college, a professor chose him. She brought him home and tied him up, told him how bad he was for having these desires, even as she fulfilled them. For the first time he felt what he had only imagined, what he had read about in every S & M book he could find.

James, a father and manager, has a Type A personality--in-control, hard-working, intelligent, demanding. His intensity is evident on his face, in his posture, in his voice. But when he plays, his eyes drift and a peaceful energy flows through him as though he had injected heroin. With each addition of pain or restraint, he stiffens slightly, then falls into a deeper calm, a deeper peace, waiting to obey his mistress. "Some people have to be tied up to be free," he says.


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The Pleasure of Pain by Marianne Apostolides

September 1, 1999