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Subject: The soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm FAQ list (Part 3 of 4)

This article was archived around: 14 Sep 1997 22:28:30 -0700

All FAQs in Directory: soc-subculture/bondage-faq
All FAQs posted in: soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm, alt.sex.bondage
Source: Usenet Version


Archive-name: soc-subculture/bondage-faq/part3 Last-modified: 20 August 1997 Posting-frequency: monthly URL: http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/faq.htm Copyright: (c) 1992-1997 Rob Jellinghaus Maintainer: Rob Jellinghaus (robj@unrealities.com)
The soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm FAQ List Where the kinky knowledge resides! Part 3 of 4 This list is posted monthly, on or around the 11th. Last-modified: 20 August 1997 Please send additions, suggestions, etc. to robj@unrealities.com If this posting appears truncated or damaged, contact me, also. The World Wide Web version of this FAQ is at http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/faq.htm Please make links to this page, rather than posting separate Web copies of the text of this FAQ. This FAQ list is copyrighted. The full copyright notice appears at the end of each part of the list; please respect it. *Introduction* Soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm is a Usenet discussion group, or newsgroup, about various topics including sex and bondage. This FAQ list is my set of answers to some of the most common questions in that group. You may find it interesting whether or not you've encountered s.s.b-b itself. This document contains explicit sexual information. If you do not wish to view such information, I advise you to skip this document. If you believe this document itself is obscene, I ask you to read my response to question 20. Check out what's new with the FAQ! There is an online {http://www.st.rim.or.jp/~tku/ASBFAQ/faq.html} Japanese translation of the FAQ! Thanks very much to the translators! There is also an online {http://www.webcom.com/wunibald/asb_faq/index.html} German translation! Not only that, there's an {http://www.nsm.it/smack!/italian/asbfaq.htm} Italian translation too! Not being fluent in any of those languages, I can't vouch for the accuracy, but that's OK with me. Any other translators out there? Books could be and are being written about these questions; remember, this is a thumbnail FAQ list. If you learn anything from this list, hopefully it will be how many questions there are to ask, and how much there is to learn! If you're concerned or curious about issues that you feel are breezed over here, see the very end of this FAQ for a list of wonderful books and sources of more information. And if you want more ideas or discussion about anything, well, what else is soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm for? *The FAQs Themselves* PART 1: 1. What do B&D, S&M, D&S, "top", "bottom" mean? 2. What is a "scene", and what is "negotiation"? 3. What is a "safeword"? 4. When is pain not pain? 5. What are some basics of safe SM, emotionally and physically? 6. Is everyone either a top or a bottom? 7. How can I learn to be a good top? 8. How can I learn to be a good bottom? 9. Why is bondage fun? 10. Why is whipping fun? 11. What is body piercing? What is "C&B" play, or "genitorture"? 12. What is cutting/play piercing/burning/branding/electrical play? What are "bloodsports"? 13. What is it about breath control? Is it safe to make someone pass out? 14. What are "golden showers"? How about "scat"? 15. Is anal sex safe? Why do people do it? 16. What is "fisting"? 17. Does the way I play qualify as "real" SM? What is "real" SM, anyway? 18. What is it about leather/latex/high heels/corsets/other fetishes? 19. What about shaving body hair and/or crossdressing? PART 3: 20. Why am I defending SM? 21. Is SM degrading or abusive? Were most SM people abused? 22. Why is SM taboo, and is SM criminal, unnatural, immoral, unethical, or unhealthy? 23. Isn't the bottom always in control? 24. Can someone _really_ be someone else's slave? 25. What are the "codes"? 26. My fantasies scare me. What if I get too into SM? 27. I want to throw a play party; how do I go about it? 28. I want to attend a play party; what is the etiquette? 29. What's the deal with this anonymity stuff? 30. Are SM people being politically and socially harassed? 31. Aren't there too many different topics on s.s.b-b? PART 4: 32. I'm sick of certain topics on s.s.b-b. How can I avoid them? Also, what's with all these ads? 33. I don't have access to soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm; what can I do to get information about the scene? 34. What are some books/magazines/organizations/stores/news archives where I can get SM information or toys, or meet people in the scene? *FAQs about the FAQs* Some simple questions, answered simply. o What about the alt.sex.bondage FAQ? Alt.sex.bondage was the first Usenet BDSM newsgroup. It is currently overrun by advertising (as is all the alt.sex hierarchy). When soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm came about, I asked if I could convert the a.s.b FAQ (which I wrote) to the s.s.b-b FAQ, and people said "sure!", and I never did it. Until now. The a.s.b FAQ is now merely a reference to this one. I'm delighted to see how much of the "a.s.b-of-old" feeling s.s.b-b has recaptured. (Now I have much more of a life than I did then, which is basically why this FAQ has slipped... hope I haven't let the community down too badly by doing so much realtime pervery rather than virtual....) o How long have you been running the FAQ? Since 1991. I've gotten a lot of thanks and suggestions in that time, and I hope to make more time to work on the guts of this FAQ, which is still (to my knowledge) the best free reference about SM on the entire Internet. (If I'm wrong about this, please let me know which sites are better, so I can add links to them!) *The Appendices* The appendices are available on the World Wide Web version of this FAQ, {http://www.unrealities.com/adult/ssbb/faq.htm} *Thanks for reading!* Hope you learned something! Remember, your sexuality is wonderful; treasure it and nourish it! Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 31 July 1997 ======================================================================= *20. Why am I defending SM?* One of the problems with SM is the social programming against it. Our culture isn't used to the idea that sex is fun and pushing one's limits in search of pleasure is a damned enjoyable thing to do. Moreover, there are lots of peoplpe who confuse fantasy and reality where SM is concerned, and who think that SM players do likewise. In this FAQ posting I have attempted to explain the ways I and my friends feel about SM. I am doing this because I used to know very little about SM; I only knew I was interested. Through s.s.b-b and lots of new friends and LOTS of wonderful experiences, I learned. My life has been enriched and my relationships deepened and strengthened by my experience with SM. Now I want to describe all that in as open and frank a manner as I know how. If you believe SM is sick or disgusting, that is your prerogative. This FAQ makes clear how it is not generally unhealthy to its practitioners; it is up to you whether you accept this information or not. You do not, however, have the right to stifle or censor those who would discuss this aspect of themselves, because of your personal opinion about their practices. If you don't think you'd like it, that's more than fine with me; I would just ask that you be open to what the SM community may have to teach about consensuality, negotiation, safety, and exploration. When I first started fantasizing about SM-related activities I was very young indeed--under ten years old. I don't know where these aspects of my sexuality came from; certainly not from my family. But when I started learning about SM, I was first excited that there were others out there who enjoy these things, and then depressed that there is lots of wrong and harmful information out there about SM people and what we do. This FAQ list is my attempt to help spread some better information, in the hopes that the more everyone knows about what SM really is (and what it is not), the harder it will be for people to use twisted facts to condemn others because of their sexuality. Also, there are things I'm describing that I don't enjoy (at least not yet :-) This is not the FAQ List of the Gods, so don't take it as such; listen to what I say and draw your own conclusions. And fer pete's sake, post to soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm with your questions and thoughts and fantasies and dreams; the blood of s.s.b-b is always freshened by new posters! (It helps distract us from the flame wars!) Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 11 August 1995 ======================================================================= *21. Is SM degrading or abusive? Were most SM people abused?* Often people approach SM with nothing but negative stereotypes in their mind. The will-less slave dominated by the overbearing thoughtless master. The pervert who enjoys being hit because he thinks he deserves no better. These images, negatively charged with connotations of abuse, do not reflect the reality of consensual SM. First, were SM people abused as children? This is a common stereotype. Straw polls of people on s.s.b-b seem to indicate no particular pattern of abuse, and there have been very few, if any, scientific studies of the question. Some people see an increased correlation, but there is little actual evidence. This stereotype is usually just _assumed_ to be true, as an expression of SM-negativity--"Oh, anyone who likes that must have been really damaged as a kid." Similar claims were once widely made about homosexuals and homosexuality. (As one data point, I personally wasn't abused as a child, for which I'm grateful. And I'm very into various aspects of SM, for which I'm also grateful.) In general, in fact, no one seems to have any idea of why some people enjoy SM behaviors or fantasies, and others don't. Rather like no one really knows what determines sexual orientation, or preferred body type, or much of anything else where human sexuality is concerned. The notion of a "normal" sexuality is widely overrated... the range of variations is incredible. Once you actually look at people who are involved in SM, and at what they do, you realize that what is actually happening is a powerful expression of love, which expands into sensual realms outside the ordinary. True SM is consensual, strengthening, and sustaining; true degradation is _not_. Therein lies the difference, and it is truly an all-important difference. Occasional debates on s.s.b-b revolve around the (relatively few) people who practice full-time dominant/submissive relationships. Such relationships require lots of self-inquiry and self-examination to see that both partners are benefiting and growing. Sometimes the claim is made that such BDSM relationships are just ways for the dominant to break down their submissive's will, and to accept abuse because the submissive (according to the dominant, and perhaps also in the submissive's own opinion) deserves no better. (This is essentially what a wife-battering husband does: he takes control of his wife's self-perception, and convinces her that the abuse is the necessary price to be paid for her to remain with him; it is no more than her due. And moreover, she is not to complain.) This kind of relationship is _not_ a consensual BDSM relationship; the dominant in a consensual relationship listens to and respects the limits of their bottom, and does not seek to break down the bottom's personality, but rather to build it up through the kind of relationship that both enjoy and desire. Such relationships almost always contain an "escape clause," such that if the bottom is truly feeling deprived or abused, the bottom can ask to set the roles aside and talk with the top as equals. (In other words, a relationship safeword.) Such concern for clear communication when things don't go well (as well as when they do) is the hallmark of a healthy BDSM relationship. And every text I have read about long-term BDSM relationships stresses the importance of emotional safety issues. (As I mentioned previously, people who have issues around their sense of self should be aware that SM is potentially risky in that area. Of course, _any_ relationship is potentially risky for such people....) Doing SM as part of a mutual, consensual relationship can be enormously affirming. SM can be a way to give yourself to your lover more deeply than you ever thought you could, and can give outlet to fantasies you never imagined could come true. This kind of active, dynamic self-expression can give a tremendous boost to the self-esteem and the psychological well-being of both partners. Getting what you want out of your sex life may not be a cure-all, but it can sure help a lot. I recommend the book _Ties that Bind_, listed at the end of the FAQ, to people exploring these issues. (Some call all this doubletalk, denying that _anyone_ could ever _really_ benefit from submitting to a lover whom they trust. All I can say to that is, my personal experience is far otherwise, as is that of many of my friends, and many professional therapists acknowledge that it's quite possible for a submissive in a consensual relationship to be very psychologically healthy. Decide for yourselves whether we are to be believed.) Another root of the negative stereotypes is simple aversion to sexuality in general. The concepts of "limits" and "negotiation" are inherently revolutionary, in a world where many people can't bring themselves to talk about _anything_ related to sex. Yet without understanding these concepts, it's hard to understand SM. Everyone who first looks at SM needs to do some amount of pushing past their prejudices; for some it's harder than for others. Some people wonder how women into SM can consider themselves feminists. Isn't feminism about controlling your sexuality, about not submitting to anyone else, ever? Personally, I believe (and _many_ women on s.s.b-b agree) that feminism is about empowering women to make their _own_ choices, to live life their own way, without being limited by ideas about what women "should" do or how they "ought" to behave. And in that light, it makes little difference whether the limiting ideas are those of the patriarchal CEO or the "radical feminist" criticizing SM in _Ms._ magazine; both the CEO and the writer are attacking womens' right to do as _they_ choose. At this point I want to include some material sent out by the Leather/Fetish Celebration committee about abuse in the SM community. This is valuable stuff for anyone interested in distinguishing consensual SM from abuse; while no list of questions can substitute for personal inquiry and knowledge of the people involved, this list is at least thought-provoking. (There is no consent-o-meter to determine whether someone is consenting to SM behavior; the best we poor humans can do is look at situations on a case-by-case basis.) Thanks, Leonard. The Celebration Wants You to Know About... Domestic Violence in the S/M Community Domestic violence is not the same as consensual s/m. Yet, abusive relationships do exist within the leather-s/m community, as with all groups. Unfortunately, due to our sexual orientation, abused persons who are into s/m may suffer additional isolation and may hesitate to turn to available resources for fear of rejection or of giving credence to stereotypes. No group is free of domestic battering; but fear, denial, and lack of knowledge have slowed public response to this serious social problem. Domestic violence is not restricted to one particular group within the s/m community. A person's size, gender, or particular sex role (top-bottom, butch-femme) is irrelevant; anyone can be subject to abuse. Abuse tends to be cyclical in nature and escalates over time. It is a pattern of intentional intimidation for the purpose of dominating, coercing, or isolating another without her or his consent. Because of the intimidation factor, where there is abuse in any part of the relationship, there can be no consent. Defining the Problem: The following questions can help a person to define the problem, which can have characteristics that are physical, sexual, economic, and psychological. Does your partner ever hit, choke, or otherwise physically hurt you outside of a scene? Has she or he ever restrained you against your will, locked you in a room, or used a weapon of any kind? <BLOCKQUOTE> Are you afraid of your partner? </BLOCKQUOTE> Are you confused about when a scene begins and ends? Rape and forced sexual acts are not part of consensual s/m. Battering is not something that can be "agreed" upon; there is an absence of safe words or understandings. Has she or he ever violated your limits? Do you feel trapped in a specific role as either the top or bottom? Does your partner constantly criticize your performance, withhold sex as a means of control, or ridicule you for the limits you set? Do you feel obligated to have sex? Does your partner use sex to make up after a violent incident? Does your partner isolate you from friends, family, or groups? Has your partner ever destroyed objects or threatened pets? Has your partner abused or threatened your children? Does your partner limit access to work or material resources? Has he or she ever stolen from you or run up debts? Are you or your partner emotionally dependent on one another? Does your relationship swing back and forth between a lot of emotional distance and being very close? Is your partner constantly criticizing you, humiliating you, and generally undermining your self-esteem? Does your partner use scenes to express/cover up anger and frustration? Do you feel that you can't discuss with your partner what is bothering you? No one has the right to abuse you. You are not responsible for the violence. You are not alone; connect with other survivors. There are reasons for staying in abusive relations: fear of (or feelings for) the abuser, and lack of economic or emotional resources. If you stay, help is still available. Find out about shelters, support groups, counselors, anti-violence programs, and crisis lines in your area; ask a friend to help you make these calls. Plan a strategy if you have to leave quickly. Line up friends and family in case of an emergency. Battering is a crime. Find out about your legal rights and options. You can get the court to order the person to stop hurting you through an Order for Protection or Harassment Restraining Order. You do not need a lawyer. We Can Reduce Domestic Violence: Domestic violence does exist in the s/m-leather-fetish community. We can make it clear that we will listen to those who have the courage to speak out. Understand that leaving is difficult. Let the person make his or her own choices. Keep all information confidential. Encourage survivors to take legal action and seek support. Help find safe housing and legal advocacy. Hold batterers accountable and urge them to seek treatment. Deny that drug or alcohol use can excuse battering. Support changes in that person's behavior. Leather groups in our community are crucial to reducing domestic violence. Invite knowledgeable speakers; lead discussions; print up a list for members of what resources in your area are s/m-supportive. Educate your local legal and social service system about our lifestyle; encourage their appropriate intervention. Safe Link is a clearinghouse for materials and questions about domestic violence, specifically for persons who are into leather, s/m, or fetish sexuality. It offers a list of readings and is currently compiling a roster of supportive speakers, shelters, and therapists, and information on understanding and using the law. Write to Safe Link c/o the Domestic Violence Education Project, National Leather Association, 548 Castro Street #444, San Francisco, CA 94114; or call the NLA at 415/863-2444, or email nlaintl@netcom.com Posted by ixion@dorsai.dorsai.org, from the program of the Int'l S/M-Leather-Fetish Celebration; Text provided by Jan Hall. The Celebration specifically authorizes and encourages the reproduction and redistribution of this information. Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995 ======================================================================= *22. Why is SM taboo, and is SM criminal, unnatural, immoral, unethical, or unhealthy?* If what I've been saying in this FAQ is accurate, then why haven't more people heard this? Why are the prevailing images of SM so negative? There is no doubt that they _are_ negative. Not long ago I was informed that there are some members of the Winnipeg (Canada) police department who believe that soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm is "a textbook on how to torture women for sexual pleasure. It's obscene." Said police were considering how to deal with s.s.b-b on obscenity grounds. In England in 1991, a group of gay men who had gathered for an SM play party in which they were using whips for pleasure were arrested and charged with battery, EVEN THOUGH they had all agreed to be doing exactly what they were doing, and WANTED to be doing it. Consensual SM is illegal in England. How can this be? The crucial distinction here is between consent and non-consent. The difference between whipping someone in a scene and assaulting them on the street is the difference between sex and rape. If everyone involved agrees to what is happening, it is not a crime. If they do not, then it is. This distinction is not in principle difficult to understand, and being involved in SM makes it very clear. SM practitioners are _more_ familiar with consent issues than most, and as such are _less_ likely to commit crimes of the sort that people confuse with SM. And NONE of the material in this FAQ advocates ANY kind of nonconsensual, criminal behavior. Unfortunately, there are many who would be arbiters of what others may and may not legally consent to do. I believe that consenting adults should be free to do as they wish in the privacy of their homes. There are many who don't believe this is acceptable. It serves them to confuse the issue by claiming "SM people are sadistic rapists" when in fact we are nothing of the sort. Criminalizing consensual sexual activities (sodomy, SM, even prostitution) is an old tradition, but in my view, an unjustifiable one. This problem is exacerbated by the body of "scholarly research" on SM and related practices. Almost all the books written about SM and other alternative practices in this century have been written by psychologists and therapists (i.e. people outside the scene), and almostall have portrayed SM as a dangerous practice, indulged in only by "unhealthy" individuals. The reason? Healthy individuals weren't the subjects being studied; rather, the subjects were all seeking psychological treatment from the authors of the books! The "studies" completely ignored the many many well-adjusted, happy people who were also into SM. It's easy to conclude SM is harmful when your only experience is with psychologically maladjusted SM people, and when you aren't interested in presenting a balanced view (as few authors are--psychologists can be as sexually judgmental as anyone). More recent events in the psychiatric community have shown a change in opinion about SM. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Conditions is a document produced by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM-III, published in the late '80s, classified "sexual sadism" and "sexual masochism" as disorders for which treatment was recommended. The APA, in the DSM-IV, reclassified SM as _not_ necessarily a disorder, unless the practice of the SM produces clinically significant ongoing emotional trauma, or leads to death, serious injury, or disability. The DSM-IV is recognition by the theraputic community that SM can be practiced in a psychologically healthy way. As for "natural": people have practiced SM behaviors throughout history. Many are the saints who scourged themselves in the name of the Lord. Using intense sensation to reach altered states of mind is a practice as old as humanity itself--and hence can be considered in no way "unnatural". Our society (as do most societies) tends to ostracize the different. If you don't fit the mold, you're weird and dangerous. People into SM don't fit the mold. This is why there is such pressure to remain anonymous in the scene; people have lost their jobs, partners, children, and liberty by having their sexual preferences revealed to their community. This stems from the same source: lack of understanding of what we do and why, and lack of respect for what is different. Of course, there are plenty of people who just aren't into SM. (Most people, in fact.) There's nothing at all wrong with not being into SM, or with not wanting to be exposed to people who do various forms of SM; many people have emotional issues with some kinds of SM activities and may be repulsed or disturbed by witnessing them. These people should clearly avoid SM (and probably should avoid soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm). I would hope, however, that even these people would manage to learn about consensuality as it relates to SM, and learn how SM, practiced carefully, is not abuse. Some people feel that any power exchange between people is unhealthy. The argument is that giving power to someone else is tantamount to giving away your essential right to self-determination, which must be considered an unqualified evil. Moreover, there is no doubt that many social evils--wars, abusive relationships, et al.--derive from one group of people seeking power over another; therefore, the argument proceeds, it is always wrong thusly to seek power. In reality, there are many situations in life in which someone chooses to give some of their power over to another, because they trust that other to use that power wisely. Examples include entering the Army (which regulates your life for the duration of your service); getting married (which is often a commitment to abandon some of your personal autonomy); taking a job (which restricts your choices of how to spend your time); and, of course, entering a BDSM scene (during which your top has authority over what goes on). All these power exchanges are mutually agreed upon, and are mutually beneficial; when they stop being beneficial, the exchange itself should stop. People whose moral codes state that all power exchange--consensual or otherwise--is wrong should clearly not be involved in BDSM. Certainly such people have a consistent ethical system that defines BDSM as immoral. Short of such an ethical system, however, it is hard to see how a BDSM relationship is any more intrinsically immoral than a stint in the Army, or a traditional 'death-do-you-part' marriage. As for me, I believe that in a free society, morality requires permitting each citizen to make his or her own choices of how to live, and how to express themselves, including sexually. Sexual rights are human rights. If we lose our freedom to love as we choose, we lose a vital part of what it is to be human. These issues are very controversial, even now. In the 1992 Oregon state ballot, voters narrowly overturned a measure named OR 9, which contained the following paragraph: "State, regional, and local government and their departments, agencies, and other entities, including specifically the State Department of Higher Education and the public schools, shall assist in setting a standard for Oregon's youth that recognizes homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism, and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse and that these behaviors are to be discouraged and avoided." Homosexuality, sadism, and masochism are neither wrong nor unnatural. All three are consensual ways of living and loving that many people enjoy. They are not for everyone, but nor should everyone be told that they are for no one. Note also how this measure seeks to confuse the issue by grouping homosexuality, sadism, and masochism together with pedophilia, a practice which is in most places legally nonconsensual. (It is not my intent to enter here into the debate over whether children are ever capable of fully consenting to sexual acts. Suffice it to say that whether they can or not has no bearing on the fact that adults _can_ consent to SM play.) Legislating what consenting adults may and many not do in private is neither healthy nor democratic. (In recent years there has been a spate of articles about how SM is entering the mainstream. Madonna's book _Sex_, her movie _Body of Evidence_, and the movie _Exit to Eden_ are examples of this trend. Hopefully this will lead to more people feeling free to express their love as _they_ choose--so long as it's consensual!) The most extreme forms of SM come closest to the line between consent and non-consent. Most SM people have established safewords which they will use if need be, though if they've known their partners for long, that's rather seldom. Some people, though, do play without safewords--whether because they know their partners well enough to stay within their partners' limits and read their partners' responses, or because they enjoy the rush of playing without an escape clause. This latter sort of play is sometimes known as "consensual non-consensuality," and involves scenes in which the bottom literally cannot escape from whatever the top wishes to do. This is very advanced SM; it requires exponentially more negotiation and introspection, and even then is hazardous. Not many people do this, or want to, but some people do, and find it exhilarating and uplifting. More info is available on s.s.b-b or in some of the references... or on s.s.b-b itself, which is one of the best places in the world to hear a myriad of voices speak out about their individual ways of doing and living SM. Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995 ======================================================================= *23. Isn't the bottom always in control?* One of the paradoxes of SM revolves around consensuality. Everything in SM is consensual; although the top is in control, it was the bottom's choice to allow the top to _be_ in control. And since most of the time the top is trying to keep the bottom happy, and since the bottom knows that, isn't the bottom really in control? Yes, if your definition of "in control" is "can stop the scene". The bottom can always opt out, if it's consensual SM. But the top can go a long way towards putting the bottom under the top's spell, making the bottom submit to really strenuous bondages or beatings, using the bottom as the top pleases. One friend of mine, for instance, takes great pleasure out of hog-tying his girlfriend with her breasts bound and her hands behind her back and her ankles tied to her ponytail, then putting her on the edge of the bed and sticking his cock in her mouth. She has no choice but to suck it until he comes. Which of them is "in control"? Both of them would say that he is, and both of them are getting off on that fact, so the paradox in practice doesn't matter too much. Furthermore, negotiation can involve give-and-take; the bottom can agree to endure some pain to please the top, and the top can then (say) tie the bottom tightly and tease to the point of orgasm. A particular activity in SM can be enjoyable for its own sake, or because it's a favorite sensation of yours, or because it turns your partner on so much to do it to you or with you, or because you want to endure it out of pure stubborn pride. The paradox of control can take many forms. As mentioned previously, some especially intense players may negotiate scenes during which the bottom _cannot_ opt out. This sort of play is definitely in the minority, but it is nonetheless possible to consent to giving up your ability to withdraw consent. These scenes are sharply bounded by mutual agreement between both partners, and must be accompanied by much discussion, before and after the scene. And if the bottom later feels like the scene went bad, the negotiation should be redoubled before the next scene, if any. Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995 ======================================================================= *24. Can someone "really" be someone else's slave?* This is the last question in another guise. Is it possible for there to be consensual non-consensuality? That is, can someone agree to be in a situation from which they cannot escape, and to live that way? This topic can inspire flame wars, as follows: historical slavery was totally non-consensual and enforced by the state; at the worst of times, the life of a slave was in the master's hands. Our society today does not recognize such an arrangement. Does this mean that someone cannot truly become someone else's slave, as society would always permit the slave to back out? Or is true slavery possible as a bond between one person and another, regardless of society? You expect an answer in a FAQ? Sorry, here there are only more questions. (Though see another question for more on the hazards of that pesky word "real".) Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995 ======================================================================= *25. What are the "codes"?* Often the "hanky code" is mentioned on s.s.b-b. What is it? It's a tradition in the scene that if you're into certain types of activities you can indicate them by wearing a handkerchief in either your left or right back pockets. The color indicates the activity; the side, the preferred position (left is top, right is bottom). Some of the colors are gray for bondage (left is you like to tie, right is you like to be tied up), red for anal fisting (left fister, right fistee), and black for heavy SM (piercing, serious whipping, etc.); there are many many many more. I don't have a list handy. Sometimes the same thing is done with keys or handcuffs--keys on the left means you're a top, on the right means you're a bottom. It's all just a way to signal your preferences in a public place. Despite persistent rumors, there seems to be no "earring code" involving earrings on the left/right/both/whatever. If this is nowhere near enough detail for you, check out {http://www.halcyon.com/elf/hankies.html} Elf's hanky code list. Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995 ======================================================================= *26. My fantasies scare me. What if I get too into SM?* Sometimes people who are attracted by some aspects of SM worry that they will immediately go from enjoying spanking and light bondage to fisting and golden showers. Nothing could be further from the truth. SM is a blanket term for a huge variety of alternative ways to make love. This FAQ list has outlined some of the possibilities. No one I know enjoys _everything_ on this list; _everyone_ has their own preferences and levels of tolerance. Some like bondage but dislike pain; some like latex but dislike leather; some enjoy piercing but not whipping; some like tickling and nothing else! This means that negotiation is always important in SM; you never know what someone's tastes will be until you ask. It also means that whatever your level, however hard the play that you enjoy, there are people out there who share your tastes. Be a dabbler or be a lifestyler, or be anywhere in between! And don't worry; the operative word with all of these practices is _pleasure_. If you don't like it, you won't enjoy it, and you won't do it! Some people have fantasies about heavier SM trips than they would enjoy in real life. To those people, I say this: fantasies are not reality. It is well documented that many women have rape fantasies from time to time; this does not mean that those women want to be raped. SM can involve playing on the edge between fantasy and reality, using that fantasy energy to create something fantastically strong and passionate in the real world; but this does not mean that fantasies are anything but imagination, or that fantasies will become real without your choosing to make them so. If you feel that doing SM might make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, or make it harder for you to maintain your sense of self-worth and pride, those are excellent reasons to avoid doing SM--or at the very least to only do those sorts of play that don't tear you down but instead build you up. SM is an intense form of relating, and not everyone is ready for that; if you don't think you are, don't do it that intensely--and if you're not sure, go slowly. What's the rush? Do what you honestly want to do, and what you feel ready for. Some people getting into the scene almost have a mental checklist of stuff they want to try. They spend a year or two burning through the checklist, having a great time, always desperate for the next experience. Then they get to the end of the list, and suddenly they don't know what's next. This can be a very empty feeling. SM is not an end in itself, but a means to connect with others; it is ultimately about relating, and about developing yourself. If you are worried about getting "too into SM", it means that you are sensitive to your spiritual and sexual development, which in itself means you have less to worry about. Trust your instincts. SM is nothing but opening up the the powerful energy within us all, and being willing to experience that energy with and through others; it is intimate and loving. Even a hard scene, involving ruthless domination and serious pain, is an act of love, and a very deep one at that; it takes a lot of trust and a strong connection between the people involved to create such a scene. The more aware of Sex Magick you are, the better a communicator and lover you will likely be--and you don't have to be a heavy player to understand Sex Magick. People who think that all BDSM behaviors are unhealthy or destructive sometimes come out with a claim like, "Just you wait, you may start off by enjoying being spanked, but before long you'll be liking being bruised, dismembered, flayed, and murdered!" This is, simply, ridiculous. While many people do find their tolerance for pain increasing as they do BDSM, many others find no such effect, or even have no interest in experimenting. It seems that for most people, their internal "thermostat," the level of stimulus which makes them hot, is pretty much constant. And certainly I know of no one practicing consensual SM who perpetrates serious injury on their lovers. The SM scene is rife with information about how to inflict intense sensation without causing permanent or unintended damage of any kind. Recognize these kinds of alarmist claims about BDSM as the scaremongering that they are. And finally, after all is said and done, you may _still_ have some fantasies that you recognize as too intense or too contrary to your nature to actually perform in a real-life scene. This is quite common, as well; we all have desires which we recognize are not safely fulfillable. Do not do anything that you feel you should not or cannot do, even if the desire remains strong; or at least, if you do choose to explore that desire, go very carefully and be prepared to back off if you find your suspicions confirmed. If it hurts not to fulfill the desire, that's part of what maturity is about--rejecting desires that pull you into things that are no good for you, while choosing that which will affirm you. And in any case, the process of introspecting, of asking yourself what you want (and what you will permit yourself) and why, can be vital to your growth and your sense of yourself. Life is change, and every choice carries _some_risk... decide for yourself what path you want to walk. Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995 ======================================================================= *27. I want to throw a play party; how can I go about it?* Occasionally on soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm^ ^there is a flurry of email about some event that recently occurred (often in the SF Bay area) at which many net.folks were in attendance, and about the tremendously enjoyable things that transpired there. Then others around the country post, wishing they lived out here too. Well, you don't have to live out here to have a play party! What is a play party? A party where your guests can (and hopefully will) play with each other! It can be as simple as a backrub circle which turns into more intimate activity, or it can be one person who gets clothespins applied to them while others watch and contribute energy before going off into their own scenes, or indeed anything at all. The idea is to enjoy each other, to communicate and share the pleasure that touching and playing can bring. If there is a common interest in SM, that's convenient, as lots of things can be initiated with a simple pair of handcuffs or a whip that looks like it'd feel good; also, if the guests have played with SM, they will understand the need for negotiation, and they will know what it is to respect another's limits. Some tips: Don't encourage alcohol; make it BYOB. This makes the party safer, and the drunker you get the less likely you are to really be able to fully negotiate and communicate. Minimize video and loud music; this causes people to interact with each other, which is the whole point, rather than sit back and stay out of the action. (Good party music can help set the mood, though.) Keep condoms, dental dams, latex gloves, lube (water-based!), betadine (if piercers or cutters are present), bleach (for cleaning toys), and paper towels handy; this makes people aware that they can easily play safely--a matter of life and death--as well as expressing the hosts' concern for the guests. If possible, have several playspaces (i.e. rooms where people can recline and play with each other); this lets the exhibitionists exhibit, while the more private ones can be more private, and the heavy players can play heavily (serious whippings, candles, etc.) without freaking out the folks with lighter tastes. Have some knowledgeable people take turns as safety monitors; if anything's going on that looks unsafe or nonconsensual, give those people authority to take action. Establish a party safeword (a great one is "Safeword!"). In general, make your place into a safe space, a haven here people can unwind and enjoy each other to whatever extent they want to, without feeling pressured or uncomfortable. Possibly the most helpful tip: if you can, try to get a group of people in your area together, and try to get activities planned between parties--lunches, group shopping trips to your local toy stores, movies, etcetera. It's hard to overcome the barriers to trusting someone enough to have sensual or sexual contact with them, especially in our pleasure-negative society; therefore, things may not get off to the rollicking start you could wish for at your first party. If there are a couple of exhibitionists to break the ice, though, it helps; and as people get to know each other better and get to be friends, it will increase the level of fun everyone will have! Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 31 July 1997 ======================================================================= *28. I want to attend a play party; what is the etiquette?* The simplest way to fit in in a play party is to behave politely. There will be people right in front of you who are doing very sexual things. They are doing them for _their_ pleasure, not for yours. Stay away from the action unless invited to participate-- and a glance in your direction does not constitute an invitation. The people who really interfere with the energy of a party are the people who seemingly assume that just because the scene is taking place in a semi-public context means that comments from the audience are okay fine. They're NOT. The top in the scene is concentrating on the bottom's pleasure, and the bottom is almost certainly in a very private mental space. Neither the top nor the bottom will appreciate being yanked back to reality by a loud suggestion or greeting. If you want to compliment them on something, WAIT UNTIL THE SCENE IS OVER and they're circulating and being sociable again! Interfering with a scene in progress is inexcusably rude, and if I were dungeon-mastering I would throw you out of the party for doing it. Once you understand that scenes are private even though they're taking place in public, the question then becomes, how can you watch without detracting from the energy of the scene? There definitely are people who interfere just by watching. They've been dubbed "energy vampires" in the past. These people are watching the action as though it was a porno movie--as though the intense magic taking place in front of them was no more than a bad fuck flick where the actress is half asleep. They have no empathy, no sense of connection to what's going on; they might as well be in a movie theater. If you have the ability to watch what is happening with an open heart, if you can pick up on the energy and send your own good wishes towards the participants in the scene, you will be much more valuable as a watcher. Public players never object to an enthusiastic audience which can appreciate the way they're playing! An audience which values the gift of being allowed to watch, and which contributes its goodwill towards the play, can be a delight; an audience which watches without giving and without connecting takes the life and spirit out of the scene. (And remember, a good audience does NOT make comments that the players can hear--an audience doesn't interfere with the performance!) You can be a part of the magic without playing yourself. All it takes is an honest enjoyment of what's happening combined with politeness and tact. If you _do_ want to play, and there's someone you want to play with, you can ask--but be prepared to accept a "no, thanks" gracefully. If you are comfortable mingling and making small talk, you'll be more likely to find someone with compatible desires--after all, everyone else there has similar tastes! There often will be rooms for heavy play and rooms for hanging out and socializing; don't try to do one activity in the other activity's space. (It helps if you dress sexily, even if you're not playing--the more leather and lace there is to look at, the better!) Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995 ======================================================================= *29. What's the deal with this anonymity stuff?* There are many people who post to soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm through the wizvax Anonymous Posting Service, and many others who post from pseudonymous accounts. The reasons are obvious; "kinky sex" in our society is stigmatized, and being openly interested in sexuality or alternate sexual practices can result in personal and professional consequences including losing one's job, losing one's friends, and if child custody is involved, losing one's children. Yes, in America today, you can lose custody of your child if it becomes known that you practice SM. (This is not merely anecdotal; people on the net have had these things happen to them.) Oral sex is a crime in some states! After reading this FAQ, it (hopefully) should be clear how twisted this situation is, when acts of love can be used as evidence of psychological damage. This is why many choose to write and post anonymously. By using a pseudonym, they can say what they want to say, while remaining free of the nastiness that could ensue were their coworkers to discover their interests. Homosexuals know what it's like to be ostracized for their romantic and sexual preferences; SM devotees are, in some ways, in the same boat. It's a strange world, where love is perceived as evil, and beauty as ugliness.... Anonymous posters are not cowards. The consequences I have outlined are enough to make anyone question whether posting under their own name is worthwhile. Those who choose to do so are not necessarily so much courageous as lucky--lucky to be able to be out, to declare their lifestyles openly. (Note that pseudonyms are sometimes used in real-life situations, as well; there are many netters who go by their net names even at social functions.) This means that it is rude to inquire as to someone's actual identity if they choose to use a pseudonym. It is also rude to tell others of their real name, if you somehow become privy to it, without first asking them; they have entrusted you with something that they don't want commonly known. DON'T OUT SOMEONE IF THEY DON'T WANT TO BE OUTED. You yourself may not need a net.name; that doesn't mean you can take others' anonymity any less seriously than they themselves do. This goes for the net and for real life. If you meet someone at a party who you've known from the net, they'll probably still want to be known under their net name, and if you're writing about that party later, make sure you have their permission before describing them or scenes in which they participated (even if you use only their net name). It is an open question whether the world would improve if everyone outed themselves. Some say that we need to get all kinky people out of the closet, so everyone'll realize how many of us there are (and there are many!). Others, myself included, believe that everyone should be free to choose how they want to live their life--including choosing to be anonymous. Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995 ======================================================================= *30. Are SM people subjected to political or social harassment?* Like all alternate sexualities, SM is stigmatized in many ways by most of society. In extreme cases, SM players are prosecuted legally. or persecuted by people who would _like_ to so prosecute them. This section of the FAQ describes some of these ongoing battles. (See another question for a brief mention of one recently-vanquished challenge.) *The Spanner case* First, the most serious anti-SM action in years: the Spanner case. In Britain in 1992, sixteen men who had attended an SM party were convicted of assault, despite the fact that everything that happened at the party was fully consensual. The sentence was four to six years in prison. The defendants appealed, and eventually reached the highest court in Britain, which issued a judgment rife with the worst and most inaccurate popular misconceptions about BDSM, ignoring everything that is now widely known about how it is safe and consensual. This judgment is a travesty of human rights, and flies blindly in the face of medical and psychological fact, in favor of prejudicial ignorance. The men involved are now pushing to take the case to the European court of human rights. They need any and all assistance. An organization named Countdown on Spanner was formed to pursue the appeal as far as necessary. Countdown on Spanner can be reached via Snail Mail; C/O Central Station 37 Wharfdale Road London N1 Great Britain Please include a SAE. Or contact via e-mail: phas@siva.bris.ac.uk. There is also a {http://www.csv.warwick.ac.uk/~esrhi/span1.html} Spanner web page. *Canadian censorship* Another situation demanding attention is the censorship being practiced by Canadian customs. Canada has no First Amendment, and Customs has been seizing gay and lesbian erotica, especially SM-related material, and preventing it from reaching bookstores in Canada. This arbitrary action has made it very difficult for many of these bookstores to survive. The Canadian government, via Customs, is silencing the voices of those who want to talk about their sexuality. Little Sisters Bookstore in Vancouver is suing Customs, asserting that Customs should not have the right to seize books on suspicion of obscenity. If the case is won, obscenity will have to be determined by the courts, not by Customs. It is not at all certain that the case will be won; a recent Supreme Court decision in Canada used language from American anti-porn activist Catherine MacKinnon to define pornography as material that is "violent" or "degrading" to women. Such laws can be used to keep ANY SM-related material from ever being published--which is exactly the intent. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin have repeatedly pushed for such legislation in the United States as well. The Canada case is thus very relevant for Americans into SM. If you can contribute, please write to Little Sisters Defense Fund, 1221 Thurlow Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6E 1X4. The case will be expensive, and help is badly needed. *America* America has its share of official pesecution of SM, though not so seriously as in the Spanner case. SM clubs are still associated by the media with unsafe sex, whether or not the club requires safe sex (as almost all do). Of course, the current ignorance of consensual SM in America leads to regular prosecution of people producing erotic material, whether videos, magazines, or pictures. Legal fees from obscenity proceedings brought by the government can put a small producer or publisher out of business before the case ever comes to trial. For example, movies involving bondage together with sex are essentially censored in this country, because of such government action. Most of all, learn for yourself about the realities of SM, as opposed to the myths. And speak out against oppression born out of ignorance. Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 10 August 1995 ======================================================================= *31. Aren't there too many topics on s.s.b-b?* Every now and then, someone posts to s.s.b-b asking why there are so many postings about some topic that's not straightforward bondage. Wouldn't it be a good idea to split the group, so the {gays/heavy players/people into whipping} could go off and be by themselves? Wasn't soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm created for the purpose of discussing bondage? The answers are no and no. s.s.b-b was created in response to a joke that turned serious. The group has no explicit charter, and no set of guidelines as to what is and is not appropriate. What s.s.b-b has evolved into (and actually has always been) is, as the intro to this FAQ states, a group for discussing "ways to have sex that are outside the mainstream". This is an awfully wide description. There is room underneath it for discussing everything from "how do I tie someone up?" to "how can I play with razors safely?" to "what's it like to love someone of your sex?" The inevitable consequence of this is that people sometimes get exposed to material that squicks them. That's life in the big net. There is no guarantee that everything on s.s.b-b will suit your personal interests. The general rule of the net applies here in spades: if you don't like it, hit "n" and ignore it. It's guaranteed that there are many many out there who _do_ like it. Remember, limits are relative; many of the "heavy players" you read about started as novices themselves, and the person who just described their intense whipping scene may be unable to handle even the lightest tickling... food for thought! I just finished reading a few stories about nonconsensual rape and sadistic murder that were posted netwide. I personally disliked those stories. Do I think they're appropriate for s.s.b-b? Not really. Can I stop them from being posted? Nope. Can I ignore them? Hell yes. Remember, a story is a fantasy that someone bothered to write down... and fantasies can't hurt anybody--if you don't like it, ignore it! That is certainly more productive than flaming the person who wrote it. Can the ferment of different topics and views on s.s.b-b degenerate into chaos? Yes, and it sometimes does. But more frequently, the mixing of interests and ideas generates a really wonderful dialogue out of which new knowledge and fantasy is born. Novices pipe up with questions that spark an insightful reply by an old-timer. Old-timers post about some experience that gets lurkers' juices flowing everywhere. Someone who knows a lot about one kind of play tries something new and posts about it. s.s.b-b works, like no other group I know of on the net. So don't be too hasty with that "n" key... you might learn something! Previous section Created 10 August 1995, last updated 14 November 1995 ======================================================================= Hope you learned something! Remember, your sexuality is wonderful; treasure it and nourish it! Contents copyright (c) 1992-1997 by Rob Jellinghaus. Redistribution of this FAQ or portions thereof from soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm to any online or offline publication requires permission of the author (robj@unrealities.com). Copies for individual use are OK. -- Rob Jellinghaus robj@unrealities.com http://www.unrealities.com/robj