INQUIRIES: Pain and Power: BDSM as Spiritual Expression

Western society is becoming increasingly secular as religion disappears from the public sphere. This developing identification has created a void as people move away from the traditional, established symbols and maps of meaning. People are still finding and inventing systems to fulfill their existential questioning, increasingly in areas that are traditionally seen as secular. Popular culture and contemporary subcultures are being utilized not just as art, entertainment and community but as religious expression. A prime example of this ‘secular religioning’ can be found in the practice and subculture of BDSM - the intentional, consensual participation in the play of pain, power and sex. The intersection of these primary forces in the human experience present in BDSM makes the practice a fertile ground for spiritual expression. The BDSM subculture can be analyzed as a ‘secular religion’ by looking at the psychology of pain and power, religious ways of hurting, and BDSM as ritual.

The popularity of traditional religions are on the decline1 as Western society strives towards secularism. People are increasingly identifying as non-religious as religion disappears from the public sphere, but this does not mean that the drives and needs that religion addresses have declined. People may be moving away from particular symbols and maps of meaning but they are still finding and inventing systems to fulfil their existential questioning, increasingly in areas that are traditionally seen as secular. One prime example of this ‘secular religioning’ can be found in the practice and subculture of BDSM.

BDSM is the umbrella term used to describe the consensual participation in Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism (most kinks fall under this umbrella). It is intentionally participating in the play of pain, power and (often) sex. The focus on the intersection of these powerful, primal forces in the human experience makes BDSM a fertile ground for spiritual expression. BDSM can be analyzed as a ‘secular religion’ by looking at the psychology of pain and power, religious ways of hurting, and BDSM as ritual.

Read the Full Article Here: INQUIRIES: Pain and Power: BDSM as Spiritual Expression by Alicia Charles D'Avalon

 


REFINERY29: “Kink Helped My Mental Health”. The Healing Benefits Of BDSM

Warning: This article includes mentions of suicidality, rape, drug misuse, eating disorders and self-harm.
Two years ago, 38-year-old Alice* suddenly went profoundly deaf. She lost her job, her boyfriend dumped her and the relentless tinnitus she experienced led her to have suicidal thoughts. "Before I went deaf, I was stable," she tells me. "I had trauma but I could live with it. With the tinnitus, I wanted to die. It felt like the only option. My mother died by suicide so it felt very familiar. I came so close."
In order to distract herself from this emotional and physical agony, Alice joined a dating app. It was there that she met a man with whom she started practicing BDSM, which she credits with getting her mental health back on track. BDSM – which stands for bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, sadism-masochism – involves enacting scenarios, often in a sexual setting, where there is a power imbalance, generally between a dominant individual (a dom) and a submissive individual (a sub).
The world of BDSM is broad and incredibly diverse, encompassing everything from the use of a blindfold during sex to forms of consensual torture. It’s difficult to define and the concept is marred by misinformation perpetuated by pornography and the media (and Fifty Shades of Grey).
People with an interest in BDSM used to be considered dangerous. The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, described sadomasochism as the "most significant of all perversions" and Wilhelm Stekel, one of Freud’s earliest followers, went even further: he linked it to cannibalism, criminality, vampirism and mass murder. Until the 2013 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) – a definitive text on mental illnesses and their treatment – anyone who experienced arousal by atypical stimuli, such as feet or cross-dressing, was classified as clinically disordered, even if the fetish caused no distress or harm.
Despite this, recent research suggests that BDSM does not indicate a disordered mind and that its practitioners have relatively good mental health: they’re less neurotic, more conscientious, less sensitive to rejection and more open-minded. In 2013, a study also found that they report being generally happier than the general population. So does BDSM attract people who are naturally more well-adjusted or does BDSM improve the lives of those who practise it? Does it have the potential to heal those of us who are suffering because of our mental health?
In 2008, a paper was published which said that for most people, practising BDSM could accurately be thought of as a hobby, making it sound as wholesome as knitting or Zumba – just an innocent way to pass the time. However, when I ask around and speak to women on the kink scene, I find that they consider it to be a far more fundamental component of both their identity and their wellbeing.
Dr Gloria Brame is a clinical sexologist, sex therapist and author. "For some people BDSM is a hobby. I think it’s a weird hobby, but okay," she tells me. "For me, BDSM is a legitimate sexual identity, like being gay. It isn’t about the spanking and the whipping and the chains. I would be a kinky person without any of that. I’d still want to be in charge. It’s who I am."
"It helps me so much," Alice explains. "BDSM forces me to question my role as a disabled woman, to question the expectations I have for myself and the expectations society has for me. Vulnerability is not a weakness. I understand that now. I feel empowered through vulnerability."
Eevi* is a 24-year-old woman who talks enthusiastically and expressively about BDSM, despite describing herself as a newbie. "I’ve always been a high energy, nervous person. I got into a lot of trouble at school, for not being able to focus, for lashing out. I had anger management issues and was diagnosed with ADHD," she tells me. "As a teenager, I spiralled, I developed anorexia. Looking back, I think it was a way for me to reclaim control. BDSM is a way for me to reclaim that control in a healthier way. It allows me the possibility of healing from bad experiences, including the rape I endured when I was 18. I’ve known I was sexually submissive from a young age but after I was raped, it took on a deeper meaning."
"Of course, BDSM is just one of the ways I look after my mental health," Eevi adds. "I don't think it should be the only form of self-care, or considered as a replacement to therapy, but it definitely offers a lot of potential to process issues in a constructive way."
Lucy*, 36, is a psychology student whose own mental health journey has been tumultuous to say the least. In her early 20s she suffered with bad anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia. "I stopped eating and started to waste away," she explains. "I became addicted to [the benzodiazepine] lorazepam. Everything was just completely fucked up. I had to go into an addiction centre. After I was discharged, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder."
BDSM has always been something she wanted to explore but it was only last year, before the coronavirus pandemic, that she started attending kink events. "In the beginning I would look at people getting whipped and think, Oh my God, why would anyone want that? It looks so painful," she says, "but then I tried it and I realised that there’s this cathartic element to it. If you’re taking beatings, you’re taking lots of pain...that can be empowering. Afterwards you feel like, Fuck, I’m really strong! It’s like you get your demons beaten out of you. I haven’t had it in a while because of lockdown, and I’m craving it. It’s very strange, it’s like I need it."
Thirty-six-year-old Charlotte has been part of the kink community since 2015. Reflecting on her time in it and her preconceptions prior to joining, she says: "When I started out, my perception of BDSM was very wrong. I thought it was just a way for women to be used and abused by men. But really, it’s a way for me to communicate what I want and what I like and what I need. I’ve had depression and anxiety for most of my adult life but recently my mental health has been much better and BDSM is one of my coping strategies."
Charlotte says that BDSM is both "a lot of fun" and that it "makes sex better". More than that, she says it allows her to escape from her head. "I self-harmed as a teenager," she explains. "I’m a masochist; I enjoy the pain. BDSM has provided me with a safe space to experience that. It’s no longer self-flagellation. I’m not punishing myself because I don’t like myself."
For a self-described "overthinker" like Charlotte, being in a space where someone else takes over feels "absolutely magical".
"I’m constantly worrying about my blood sugar as I have type 1 diabetes," she says, "but during BDSM sessions, my dom will scan my glucose monitor for me. I don’t have to worry about it. I can stop being vigilant. I can relax. It resets my brain."
While conducting interviews with these women via video chat, I was struck by how much eye contact they made. We were talking about some of the most intimate aspects of their lives. I was expecting discomfort, maybe even embarrassment. But the women looked me dead in the eye – unflinching, strong, unashamed. It was, frankly, nothing short of inspiring.
"BDSM changed my life," Gloria says as she smiles and takes a long drag of her cigarette. "I feel like it has been transformational psychologically and emotionally. It radically changed my perspective, my ability to trust people. I used to have secrets I could never tell anyone, shame about my body. I was pounded down by patriarchal society. BDSM is incredibly empowering. My whole life I wanted to do these things that I thought were forbidden. Why would some guy let me boss him around, tie him up, put clamps on his nipples, you know?"
While Gloria is a dominatrix and Alice is a switch (someone who enjoys performing both dominant and submissive roles), Eevi, Lucy and Charlotte all have very submissive tendencies and often engage in BDSM play with male doms. I asked them if they identified as feminists (they all did) and suggested that by letting men hurt them, they could inadvertently be reinforcing sexist and patriarchal norms. As the standard, hackneyed and reductive critique of BDSM goes: It’s men beating the shit out of women, like they have been doing since the beginning of time…
"But you’re exposing the structural inequality," Eevi explains without hesitating in response to my question. She’s obviously considered this perspective before. "By playing with power dynamics, you’re forced to think about them and communicate about them and it makes you more critical. There are lots of people in vanilla relationships that are very traditional and heteronormative and they avoid thinking about these issues but in a BDSM relationship you have to think about them."
I’m forced to agree with her. "I think BDSM aligns beautifully with feminism," says Charlotte in response to the same point. "As a sub, I set the limits. I am in control. I have the power."
Read the Full Article Here:
Dec 2, 2020

BUSTLE: How To Get Into BDSM, Even In A Pandemic

Do chains and whips excite you? How about clear lines of communication? Before you spend your last months of quarantine building a sex dungeon in your basement, try scheduling a virtual appointment with a professional dominatrix, submissive, or kink-friendly therapist to truly prep yourself for your journey into BDSM.

In order to do some of the homework for you, Bustle's sex and relationships editor, Iman Hariri-Kia, chatted with professional dominatrix Danielle Blunt to get the real first tips for starting BDSM.

What is BDSM?

BDSM is a portmanteau that can be interpreted a few ways, but Blunt defines it as "bondage and discipline, dominant submission, sadism, and masochism."

Where do I start?

Education and community are the most important aspects for anyone who participates in BDSM, but especially for beginners. Blunt suggests following professional subs and dommes (and tipping them for their content) to explore what you like and reading websites like KinkOutEvents for educational programming and finding community.

Read the Full Article Here:

How To Get Into BDSM, Even In A Pandemic by Lauren Tegtmeyer

Dec 1, 2020


THE BODY: How Practicing Kink Helps Keep People with Disabilities Connected to Their Desires

I pull up a headless mirror pic of my body dotted in perfect circular bruises from my thighs to my neck. “But look at how purple this bruise is,” I type and hit SEND.

Taking care of my disabled body doesn’t always spark joy. It involves juggling the exhausting tasks of physical strengthening, care coordination, and medication scheduling. But snapping a pic to show off any progress, like surviving an intense cupping session, for an impact play–obsessed hook-up across the country is one way that kink keeps me connected to my desires.

Kink and BDSM existed on the fringes of my life before 2019, when I developed chronic pain as a symptom of my disabilities. I’ve been a switch and a sub near and far. Being publicly flogged at your local Eagle is part of my vacation to-do list. And admittedly I’ve always been the kind of bratty exhibitionist to send a salacious pic or two. Thanks to an enthusiastic physical therapist and the support of other kinky, disabled loved ones, I have found that these and many other aspects of my kink practice are critical parts of my pain management and mental wellness as I’ve transitioned into disability.

After interviewing a handful of disabled people who practice kink this past week, I found myself in good company.

As daily chronic pain took over my life for the last year, my typically ferocious sex drive tanked. It felt like living with chronic pain meant making a choice between using my scarce energy to manage that pain through medical interventions or not manage it at all but have potentially unenjoyable sex instead.

However, an overwhelming consensus among the people I interviewed destroyed my binary thinking by affirming that kink allows disabled people to control pain and feel good in our bodies, something that might not typically happen in our daily lives. Intense pain, unpredictable symptoms, and confronting constant ableism may dominate a disabled person’s life. But kink spaces and practices can serve as a container with accessibility and adaptation in mind.

Read the Full Article Here:

How Practicing Kink Helps Keep People with Disabilities Connected to Their Desires by Emmett Patterson

Nov 23, 2020


ACLU: To Protect Black Trans Lives, Decriminalize Sex Work

Like pretty much everything in 2020, Trans Day of Remembrance is going to be different this year. It’s going virtual. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that transgender people are still being murdered for who we are. The list of names keeps growing. This year is the deadliest ever, and it isn’t even over yet.

Thirty-seven trans people have been killed since January. The real number is probably even higher. Trans people are often misgendered by law enforcement or don’t report attacks, so we don’t even know about most of the violence that happens to our sisters. Most of the deaths this year were of Black trans women. Many were sex workers. I am not surprised. As a trans woman of color and a former sex worker myself, I know what it’s like to be targeted for who you are, and to not have anyone to call for help because your job is illegal.

I’m lucky that I was never assaulted in my 12 years of doing sex work. I’m in the minority. But I have been robbed while working. My experience showed me the difficult situation that sex workers face when it comes to reporting: I wanted to seek justice, but I was too afraid of being arrested to go to the police station.

Read the Full Article Here: ACLU; To Protect Black Trans Lives, Decriminalize Sex Work by Kaniya Walker 

November 20, 2020


MBG: A Beginner's Guide To Erotic Hypnosis, An Orgasmic Experience For The Mind

Hypnosis has been used for centuries to induce dreams, recall memories, and transform habits. So it makes sense that it could also be used to elicit pleasure. That would be erotic hypnosis, also referred to as hypno-sex. But the erotic in erotic hypnosis means more than orgasms.

What is erotic hypnosis?

Erotic hypnosis is the use of hypnosis to elicit a particular sexual goal in some shape or form, whether it's a hands-free orgasm or just a pleasurable and relaxing state of mind. It involves one person guiding another person into a trance-like state using just their voice and then suggesting certain attitudes, behaviors, or actions.

"Erotic hypnosis has a way of enhancing the things that the subject already enjoys. It can draw things out that would otherwise stay hidden, allow the hypnotee to be more sensitive, and lower inhibition if that's what they want," hypnodomme and certified hypnotist Katherine Dire tells mbg. "It's a way of playing with sexuality in a way that is a little indirect."

Reasons someone may want to practice erotic hypnosis:

  • Increase awareness of touch, mind, and sensation
  • Control pleasure during or after trance
  • Induce hands-free orgasms
  • Enhance role-play and fantasy
  • Experience something "taboo"
  • Transform a kink or fetish
  • Let go and relax

How it works.

Every session starts with you and your hypnotist laying the foundation. You'll talk about your goal for the session, your soft and hard limits, and insight into your life. The more pieces of the puzzle they have, the better.

Then, the hypnotist suggests you into a trance.

During hypnosis, a person's attention leaves their immediate environment and clings to "inner experiences such as feelings, cognition, and imagery," according to research by hypnotherapist Ann Williamson.

You enter a consciously induced trance that mirrors lighter trances you already experience at least twice a day. When we wake up and run off our list of to-do's, when we recap our day before bed, and when we zone out mid-drive and miss our exit—all are types of trances.

How you experience a trance depends on the suggestions the hypnotist makes. Your relaxed state of mind can resemble sleepiness, grogginess, fuzziness, or floating. "Everyone experiences hypnosis differently. Some get extremely relaxed, some get turned on, some don't experience anything, and some get amnestic," says Dire.

You stay in that deep state of relaxation until the session is over or something snaps you out of it.

Read the Full Article Here:

A Beginner's Guide To Erotic Hypnosis, An Orgasmic Experience For The Mind by Alex Shea

Nov 21, 2020


VICE: Canada Just Opened Its First Shelter Exclusively for Sex Workers

Canada’s first shelter exclusively for sex workers opened its doors on Monday in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The temporary shelter, run by WISH, a support organization for women and gender diverse folks in the street-based sex trade, operates 24/7 and offers on-site laundry, washrooms, hot showers, a lounging area, and 23 beds, three of which are reserved for COVID-related isolation.

The new shelter also shares a backlot with WISH’s long standing drop-in centre, where clients can meet with nurse practitioners and access meals, among other programs. A safe respite site is also available.

WISH executive director Mebrat Beyene told VICE News the organization had been hoping to unveil a permanent shelter for sex workers, but the pandemic changed their plans. Instead, WISH opened a temporary emergency shelter, in partnership with BC Housing and the city, with plans to renew it in a year.

Read the Full Article Here: VICE: Canada Just Opened Its First Shelter Exclusively for Sex Workers by Anya Zoledziowski


JEZEBEL: A Biden Win Is Not a Victory for Sex Workers

In the run-up to the presidential election, leading sex worker rights advocates are trying to anticipate the impact of either candidate’s win—and it’s the possibility of a Biden presidency that elicits both deep concern and cautious optimism. While most of the advocates I spoke with strongly favored Biden over Trump as a candidate, none considered his theoretical presidency to be a default win for sex worker rights. Penelope Saunders, executive director of Best Practices Policy Project, a group dedicated to supporting sex work advocacy, observes that many of the politicians running against Trumpism are aiming for the restoration of the Obama-era. “The hope is that politics will return to normal—and ‘normal’ for sex workers’ rights is not good,” said Saunders. “We have to hold in our minds that [a Biden victory] is not a victory for sex workers.”

It’s only by comparison to President Donald Trump that Biden can be considered “good” on sex worker rights. As Kate D’Adamo, a partner at the social justice collective Reframe Health and Justice, puts it, “Under Biden, it is gonna be tough. Under Trump, it’s going to be a lot harder for a lot of people.”

Read the Full Article Here: JEZEBEL: A Biden Win Is Not a Victory for Sex Workers by Tracy Clark-Flory

November 3rd, 2020

 

 


INQUIRIES JOURNAL: Pain and Power - BDSM as Spiritual Expression

The popularity of traditional religions are on the decline as Western society strives towards secularism. People are increasingly identifying as non-religious as religion disappears from the public sphere, but this does not mean that the drives and needs that religion addresses have declined. People may be moving away from particular symbols and maps of meaning but they are still finding and inventing systems to fulfil their existential questioning, increasingly in areas that are traditionally seen as secular. One prime example of this ‘secular religioning’ can be found in the practice and subculture of BDSM.

BDSM is the umbrella term used to describe the consensual participation in Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism (most kinks fall under this umbrella). It is intentionally participating in the play of pain, power and (often) sex. The focus on the intersection of these powerful, primal forces in the human experience makes BDSM a fertile ground for spiritual expression. BDSM can be analyzed as a ‘secular religion’ by looking at the psychology of pain and power, religious ways of hurting, and BDSM as ritual.

Pain is the most familiar and universal characteristic of all human experience. It is a sensation that is inexorably bound with mental and cultural experiences and is often accompanied by an intellectual or emotional judgement. All embodied experiences, including pain, are a mix of “biological facts and cultural consciousness (metaphors, emotions, attitudes).” (Glucklich, Sacred Pain, 14). Pain is not the same as suffering. Suffering is not a physical sensation but an “emotional and evaluative reaction to any number of causes, some entirely painless.” (Glucklich, Sacred Pain, 11). Pain can actually be a solution to suffering. As Glucklich put it, pain can be a “psychological analgesic that removes anxiety, guilt, and even depression.” (Glucklich, Sacred Pain, 11).

The theories of scholars who have “set the agenda for the cultural construction of embodiment” over the last few of decades, such as Micheal Foucault and Julia Kristeva, require that pain discourse “reflect the way cultures ‘construct’ the individual as a self and as a member of the community.” (Glucklich, Sacred Pain, 14). According to Glucklich, theories of pain fall into four broad categories: normative (a theological argument for the value of pain within a specific tradition), critical (“a conversation with the first stance, in which the theorist has not altogether disengaged his discourse and reduced it to a separate level”) , descriptive (the reasons for using pain are the ones stated by the practitioners themselves, whether explicitly or symbolically), and reductive (explains the use of pain by reducing it to a more abstract “fundamental” level of description such as biology, sociology, or psychology). Glucklich posits that reductive theories are the only real explanations for religious pain.

He goes on to describe several psychological models of pain that are related to religious understanding of pain and power: juridical, medical, military, athletic, and magical.

Juridical pain is punishment by “some personal agency (such as God, satan, or demons) or by some impersonal mechanism such as karma.” (Glucklich, Sacred Pain, 16). This punishment can be seen as just or entirely unwarranted (such as with the biblical case of Job). As Glucklich iterates, “pain may be taken as punishment, but the loving punishment inflicted by a metaphorical father, by God, in order to educate those whom He loves. It educated them for patience and perseverance, which are necessary for salvation.” (Glucklich, Sacred Pain, 21). The juridical model accounts for a large percentage of the cases found in religious literature, and many pain patients still use it’s language in secular and medical situations today.

Within the medical model, religious sources often describe pain as medical and evaluate pain as a beneficial experience. This is not a claim that pain is a pleasant experience but that pain benefits, or heals, the soul. This is the idea of pain as spiritual medicine and it’s values are echoed in the classical medical notion that the cure can be as painful as the disease.

Read the Full Article Here:

Pain and Power - BDSM as Spiritual Expression by Alicia Charles D'Avalon

Nov 1, 2020


New NHRC Advisory Recognises Sex Work as Work, Addresses Key Women's Issues

In a major victory for women’s rights in India amid the COVID-19 pandemic, campaigns led by several advocacy groups have resulted in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issuing fresh advisories to states.

The NHRC advisory on the rights of women, in the context of COVID-19, was issued on October 8. It was based on impact assessment done by experts. The NHRC had constituted a “Committee of Experts on Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Human Rights and Future Response” in order to assess the impact of the pandemic on the realisation of the rights of the people, especially the marginalised sections of society. The advisory addresses important issues for women workers like Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), Anganwadi workers, migrant and unorganised workers, adolescent girls and women in prisons.

Read the Full Article Here: New NHRC Advisory Recognises Sex Work as Work, Addresses Key Women's Issues by Sumedha Pal

October 10th, 2020

 




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