The dark side of BDSM - and what vanillas can learn from it

Sunday, July 27, 2014

In the blog ‘When your sin is to change – How BDSM impacts (y)our reality’ we found three points with regard to the diminishing tolerance in and towards the BDSM culture. Today we look further into the phenomena that “many newcomers to the scene are attracted by the sheer sexuality of what we do, but on the other hand are not really aware where this attractions is based upon and what it actually is what they seek.

The combination of sexual curiosity, tolerance issues and unclear motivations, form an explosive trio. In several weblogs on BDSM, feminism and sexology I notice an increasing attention for violence and abuse. I will argue that this is due to a loss of tolerance. By trying to shed some light on the darker side of BDSM, I hope to come up with some material we, as a kinky community, can work with and improve on.

Observing BDSM and its effects: is it sound?
Anyone that observes BDSM subculture will notice a few mutual things. Firstly, it will be the fact that in many – if not all – cases the sheer sexuality of what we do will trigger primal instincts in most of us. Secondly, it will be clear that BDSM is much broader as sado-masochism and it in a sense is also not. Thirdly, the contrast between what happens in an actual BDSM scene on the one side and things like normal vanilla sex, public morale and social behavior on the other side, will likely put BDSM in a shady light. But is this rightly so?

Yes, it is true, BDSM can be very primal and even primitive. Actually this is one of the reasons why we do BDSM. But even when BDSM has many faces, friendly and terrifying, the control and punishment issues around power-exchange are nevertheless typical for the harder forms. There are tops and there are bottoms and their role is mostly not one of equality, but show a strikingly disrespect to what is commonly regarded as healthy. And it is true, a Master wishes to see that slut on her knees, ready to obey and serve. Thus by contrasting BDSM with ‘normality’ it becomes clear why in the past – and in the presence – BDSM is seen as a deviation from the norm; it is kinky, perverse and sometimes sickly paraphilic in the perception of the unfamiliar observer. We as kinksters may not like to hear this, but that is the way it is.

However, even when all those labels would apply, does this mean, that we have to say that BDSM is not sound? Of course we kinks say no to that and nowadays in the post-Christian West even most psychological professionals regards consensual BDSM to be perfectly fine. But what does it mean to be fine? Is there still not something unusual about it? Something dark even?

The literal dark side to BDSM and kinky play
One thing that comes to mind when visiting a fetish club, a leather party or a loosely organized munch is that many people are dressed rather dark: little black skirts, leather clothing, boots, dark sunglasses and black ties and suits. Black seems not only to be an intrinsic part of the Gothic world, but of the kinky scene too. Besides the clothing and appearance of the kinksters, also the environment is in a way ‘dark’. We speak of dungeons, crosses, chains, cages and of course the whole bunch of ‘nasty’ tools, like clamps, whips, floggers, crops and ropes. Don’t forget the royal size butt-plugs, the handcuffs and the hot candle wax, needles and slave collars. So hot, all of them! Add to that the typical roles of brutal sadist, mad scientist, pirate, kidnapper and relentless slave holder; you get the idea: BDSM is as dark as it can get.

Now, some will reply, that this is just part of our role and role play; we need the fitting surroundings and we need that particular mind set to become the vicious top or tragically pervert daddy. Just as some bottoms will be the perfect victims; whimpering, crying and full of markings due to bondage, spanking or the cane so vividly swung by their tops. And this is all true, but still dark.

Then, some will reply, that when it is all about ‘decoration’, ‘showing off’ and ‘leather, wet-look and latex’ and a bit of spiced up sex, is it more than just a game? We in the Dominion of Lord Cameron know it is. The outside appearance, the visible and tangible sides of what we do, is - as it says – the outside appearance. Beneath that, or rather, underlying the outside, there is the inside, that what we feel and the way that what we do impacts us. But is that dark?

The visible dark side to BDSM – on the surface
For someone scratching on the surface of BDSM, the show may just be eccentric behavior, or - on the contrary – precisely the play will be regarded fake, as the submission or dominance is consensual. Along the same lines, people within the kinky community see some version of BDSM praxis as normative – often their own things – whereas other BDSM forms are being downplayed. Why is that?

My personal impression is that because I consensually hang my submissives on a cross for whipping or other punishment, it is not regarded as the ‘real’ thing. To this I can only reply, consent or lack of it, does not make that what we do real or unreal, but consent is what makes BDSM sane, just as the lack of consent makes it sick. Believe me when I use that whip and swing that cane, my strokes are just as nasty. They hurt and cut and bruise, even when my bottoms do wish to have them. And it is by my power, that they kneel and get mocked. And it is due to their and mine perversion that they orgasm while being humiliated and abused. Whoever sees this as ‘just’ a game, an illusion, should question why they refuse to simply call BDSM for what it is; shadow play, dangerous and sexy alike.

Only a few of my non-kinky vanilla monogamous friends have seen me play as Sir Cameron. And from those few, only one could understand what was going on and this caused our friendship to intensify, or added rather a new dimension to it. With this one friend I now feel better accepted, while the others were only confronted with their personal limits regarding sanity or sound behaviour. And of course, they are entitled to their own opinion. Just as we are. Just as BDSM does sunder.

Starting from this last confrontation, that of kinky stuff with mainstream sexual ethics and praxis, it will be clear that BDSM is at least strange to most people. This makes kinky folk to strangers among their peers too. We play safe, because we do not permanently want to hurt another human being. We are sane, because we take care, know what we do and use a sound and proper technique to do it. But we are still an outsider group – which is also one of the dark sides of being kinky; we run the risk to be pathologized, labelled and discriminated. Many of us downplay such experiences, accept it as the intolerance of others, but this does not make it less real. We are ab-normal.

With abnormal, or deviant, we mean that it is not only due to our behavior that we are different, but also with regard to our underlying urges. It is a tad weird, if you get aroused by the whistle of a cane or the sound of a whip. It is a bit strange, if you like your genitals pierced with needles or take a golden shower. And it is this difference in how we experience and perceive those things that set us apart from those who do not find it sexy, or fun, or lovely.
Whether or not our urges are genetically or socially based, for most of the kinks it is clear that it is something inside of them. And as it is inside, it might take a while before it comes out. And when it comes out later, the shock is usually heavier, as it collides with many convictions we have; it also might not at all be according to the lines that we see ourselves function. We may have jobs that we can lose when we get ‘caught’. We might lose friend or family, our partner and even children. So why do we go along then?

The invisible dark side to BDSM – below the surface
To be yourself is one of the greatest challenges we can face. Becoming who you are, enfolding your potential and talents is a life-long job too. Most of us do find their way; study, get a job, have a promotion, get a partner and perhaps children. Most of us learn to take responsibility for our health, finances and relationships. We grow, as all people do.

But when you are kinky - or LGBTQ – there is another issue we have to deal with. It is the thing that we are in a way, different. To cope with this difference is easy for some and hard for others – up to the extent that their lives get ruined when coming out. Below the surface of kinksters there is a dark ocean of feelings, lusts and anxieties that tend to destabilize and confuse us.

It is hard to accept that you are a pervert. We are trained to be normal, we are expected to be normal, but sometimes we just are not. Denial of our perversion, not seeing that we are factually and also sexually different and sometimes have acceptable wishes and sometimes deviant wishes. Yet, being different does not render us wrong, inhumane or sick. When we function normally and can integrate BDSM in our life without harming other persons, when we play safe, sane and sound, we are okay. Persons with other ethics may argue here, but that will be, because they do only partly understand what it means to ‘be’ different, or that they are biased because of their worldview.

The invisible dark side of men – beyond BDSM
In BDSM theory we often find psychological and sexological theories being used to explain the development of consensual BDSM and its way of getting free from being ‘sick’. Currently the main work on this ‘verdict’ is the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM). In the latest issue DSM-V consensual BDSM is no longer regarded as a mental disorder. Even when it is still acknowledged that some paraphilias are statistically seen perfectly deviant.

What happened is that psychiatrist, sexologist and evolutionary biologist took a more practical stance on what is going on. Human sexual behaviour, preference and fantasy was acknowledged as being broad and diverse in praxis. The ethical or religious evaluation is one side that played a larger role in the past, but that psychology cannot provide. Our concept of normality is to a large extend biased by our cultural heritage. When we actually look at what kinks do and how they do it, the variance in human mating behaviour and human sexual urges is a fact. Psychology opted not to judge whether or not this behaviour was a result of sin, DNA or upbringing – even when these factors are explanatory still relevant. Instead DSM-5 accepts safe, sane and sound BDSM as acceptable when it is consensual and not harmful to others or the paraphiliac itself.

When we however use the insights that sciences like psychology has provided us with, we can see a lot of interesting things happen. Even when the way sexual urges are displayed may vary among kinky and vanilla persons, fact is that we all have sexual urges. Even when kinks act on those urges, many vanilla persons do not act on their urges. About 2/3 of the adult males have fantasies about seducing a teenager. About 70 percent of females have sexual fantasies that involve some kind of dominant pressure to get involved in sexual acts or even rape.

I am not arguing that fantasy and reality are one and the same. Obviously they are not. No sane person wants to be raped, most adult men, do not have sex with teenagers. The underlying reasons are just as obvious; we respect the bodies and the integrity of other persons; we only engage in consensual sex. At least, that is what we believe we do. Statistics however show, that sexual abuse is a bigger problem in mainstream society, as it is in consensual kink. Of course the BDSM scene is vulnerable to abusive unethical people, so it is our job to look out and practice safe and sound BDSM, to protect ourselves by avoiding situations that are possibly dangerous.

Not only abuse is an issue in mainstream sexuality. Also the doctrine of monogamy is and this is also the main source for divorce. For most people, monogamy simply does not work. Not only does it not represent their fantasy, it also can be frustrating when other things as our sexuality do not longer denote for what it is that we seek in a relationship. Even when seen from our sexual urges, a side step may be explainable, after all, we all need intimacy, love and bodily contact and sex simply is a great way of having all or most of this. Sex is something very personal and feeling sexy also makes us feel more loved, more accepted and more valuable. The big issue however with side-steps is that they normally do not involve the consent of all the partners. Which makes it cheating, lying and a most fleshly display of disrespect to our lovers.

So, we find that the notion of consent is an ethical one. Real love does not need cheating, real BDSM does not need ‘sickness’. Furthermore, we find that sexual urges are often around taboos, forbidden things or shameful desires. What the major difference is between consensual kinky people and vanilla persons, is that by playing roles, the kinks have found a safe, sane and sound way to very real do what their fantasy is telling them to be utterly hot. Equivalently, consensual swingers, open relationships and polyamory forms do offer sexual vanilla fantasies to be put into consensual practice. I guess, nobody would call this ‘not the real thing’. Consequently, BDSM is a real thing, because real people play with real feelings and desires.

How dark is dark?
What we call dark often reflects the images that we have learned during our childhood. Education, religion and other socio-cultural values tell us what is good, bad and ugly. There is a reason to ‘battle’ against these things; they are real. We humans have a dark side to us, each and every one of us. In terms of depth psychology this is accounted for with the ideas of subconsciousness (Freud) or a personal and collective unconsciousness (Jung).

Below the ‘surface’ we find the source of our anxieties, complexes and neuroses. It is a pool of forgotten, repressed or still hidden things that we label as ‘primitive’, ‘animalistic’, ‘dark’ or ‘evil’. Depending on which theory you use, BDSM is likely to be explained as the welling up of images, ideas and emotions from the non-conscious to the conscious. This can express themselves in anxiety, dreams or sexual fantasy. As such, being a sadistic villain, a raping pirate kidnapper, or the damsel-in-distress who is waiting for Prince Charming on the white horse to say her, are all expressions of similar things. These are the parts of our psyche that are hidden, emotional and often irrational.

When we grow up, we learn how to deal with these impressions. They help us to flee when danger comes up. They help us to give in and surrender, when we need to lose ourselves in our partner to find shelter, love or pain. The unconscious steers our life to an extent that exceeds what we expect to be the case and indeed is most of our behavior not very rational at all. Evolutionary theory however, thinks that our conscious and our rationality is the mechanism that sets us apart and what makes humanity to the unique species that we are.

Rational reflection on our sexual urges belongs to that uniqueness. When we question who we are and why we do the things we do, we principally have taken responsibility for our actions. Those who make use of ethical systems that do not take evolutionary biology or the findings of modern sexology and psychology into account, run the risk of clinging to ‘first repressed and then converted’ emotions themselves and judge things they do not fully understand on borrowed authority.

I can only speak for the repressive form of Christianity that I once myself was involved in. Just as most philosophers and psychologists, do I think that the religious dimension of human history itself is part of us and our heritage that on itself had and still has its function. It is up to the free individual to pick their system of beliefs, but for those Dominion of Lord Cameron it is clear, that freedom and power are perhaps just as illusionary as religious truth or scientific evidence. What we can see, taste and feel however, is that being humane to other humans is beneficial to those involved. So for us consensual BDSM helps us to find ourselves and our place in the world and sets us free and by role play lets us safely be the Ancient Hunter from the past, or Babylon the Whore herself.

From all we have seen, we can conclude that BDSM can very well be rational human behavior. And there where it is irrational, there were we merge with our roles, it is still planned and controlled by setting out a path, a scenery and a surrounding to play our roles with full conviction, while still being safe and secure.

We have also seen, that as BDSM is a very particular set of deviant needs, we are not wrong in acting on our impulses, but we have to take care to follow the rules that makes it worthwhile for all partners to be engaged in kinky play. By sticking to rules and by reflection on who we are and why we do what we do, we also can be exemplary in pursuing our sexual needs. As an adult, rational and caring pervert, we can avoid the booby traps that many non-kinky relationships suffer from. As such, it is not what we do, that makes the difference, but the way how we do it; consensual, ethical, safe, sane and sound. Add that to normal vanilla sex and many relationships will improve, while trust and care and respect can flourish there where our needs are adequately met.

Play safe and have fun – Sir Cameron

Is there Morality in BDSM and Corporal Punishment?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Morality or ethics is not something many kinky folk are concerned about. Of course, they want to do the right thing - most of the times - but as mentioned in the previous blog: “We are more a practical community, focused on human needs and humane ways to find a safe way to get our needs met”, than that we are a bunch of fancy philosophers that contemplate on the eightfold way of bondage or the epistemological consequences of dirty talk.

In this blog we will examine the second point that was raised the last time when we looked at the diminishing tolerance in the BDSM scene; “we see an attitude when truth, morality and justice are involved that can be seen as an increasingly relativist position. As anyone has his own truth and nothing is generally valid, you can be as egocentric as it goes.”

Starting from this, we see if we can find a handle to morality that fits both modern demand and still leaves us free to pursue our lovely sexy kinky habits. If so, we can truly say that BDSM is good.

Are BDSM and corporal punishment immoral?
From the above quotes we have seen that the leather subculture has certain characteristics; firstly, we like to live and play out our kinky urges. As we are mostly lust and sex driven in this pursue, this is the dominant factor. Secondly, we are rather practically focused; concerned with the ‘when’ and ‘what’ and less interested in the ‘why’ and ‘how can we’ kind of questions. Thirdly, as a result of postmodernism most kinky folk have an attitude that is perhaps not entirely egoistic, but there is a general light-heartedness when it comes to the justification, rationalisation and morality of that what it is that we do. The hedonist pursue of sexual bliss is of course acceptable, as long as we do not lose our focus, that BDSM is first and foremost a social activity, where two or more persons get involved in play that requires both trust and care. Already here we find the seed for BDSM ethics.

Besides that; the question if BDSM is immoral, is a tricky question anyway, and this for two reasons:

1) When most in the scene are not concerned about ethics, but just do what feels right to them, can they then properly account for what they do? And should we? After all, we cannot expect that getting involved in BDSM has to come with the duty to professionally account for the ethics of the scene, particularly not when considered that BDSM is rather broad an activity. This on itself does lead to a relativist position or a one-sided view that is to overcome.

2) When most professional ethicists are not involved in BDSM, can they really understand its power and its dynamics from the inside out? In a way they probably could, but nowhere will the academic be more biased as with what she regards as perverse. A similar thing goes for many feminists when they would meet me with a teen-slave girl at my side and Sir Cameron would start talking about him being a feminist. How can you value women, when you whip them? How do you rationalize that? How can you speak of justness and morality?

When the above does make clear that inside the scene there is no real interest in the ethical question and at the outside there is no sympathy or need for an affirmative ethical yes to kink, then how do we arrive at satisfactory answers?

Can human nature or evolution theory account for morality?
For those who have read the previous posts on evolution theory and BDSM, the idea that this can provide us with arguments that justify ethical kink may not come as a surprise. Eventually, we will have to find some arguments and nature or evolutionary development can show the way in many things regarding sexology, but unless you wish to use statistics to explain our behaviour and employ statistic normality as a base for morality, nature just is a given that can be known through facts and experience. And on top of that, nature is very diverse. Let us in this respect consider parts of the social, feeding and mating behaviour of the other four of the great apes;

a. The Orangutan is a mostly solitary living fruitarian that when involved in mating rituals, stays monogamous for a while.
b. Gorillas are predominantly herbivores, live in troops and inside of that group only the dominant alpha male has several females to mate with.
c. The chimpanzee is an omnivorous but mostly frugivorous ape that lives in groups. Regarding mating rituals Chimpanzees are promiscuous but can also form temporarily or longer lasting monogamous pairs.
d. Bonobos are omnivores and tend to live in a broad community where mating is, among others, used for socializing and solving conflicts. Bonobos also perform face-to-face genital sex, tongue kissing and oral sex as the only primates besides man.

In anthropomorphical terminology we would say, we have monogamous, polygynous and polysexual apes that live either solitary, in a paternal troop or in a maternal group, while being vegan, vegetarian or omnivore. From this point of view the variety in how humans eat and copulate and socialize is just a mixture of what we find with other great apes.

I know actual people living those different things in all possible combinations, thus rather showing the natural diversity, instead of providing a justification for normal natural and abnormal unnatural behaviour. The idea that there is a right way to live together and to have sex together, is itself questionable. The fact that the question for ethics do arise in the first place is however of much more interest; after all, ethics seem to be an evolutionary trait that humans developed. As such, the question for ethical justification can be regarded as an attempt to find out how humanity functions best and how we achieve maximum evolutionary benefit out of ethical rules when sexual behaviour is concerned.

Back to sin …
In the previous blog about ‘BDSM and Sin’, we have seen that religion, ethics and social rules are closely connected to our worldview. We can distinguish their respective influences, but they do not come separate: a religion not lived by its members is dead, ethics with no subject cannot be known, a society without having their rules based in any form of belief or religion or ethics is hardly imaginable, so we are stuck with the mixture.

We have also seen that the ethical mechanisms which govern sexual behaviour more often as not are being put to use in order to support a particular view on sexuality, like cementing a religious or otherwise founded authority and to keep (repressive) institutions in place. So when we talk about BDSM in a (non-sinful) ethical context, we have to find a way around history and its obvious deficits in its dealing with human sexuality.

For a long time I have searched for suitable options, like watering down the scope of religious authority, or by trying to use atheist arguments, or even egoism – but then, BDSM can of course never solely by and for yourself, which basically means that we need social rules, which on itself are embedded in morality ... Clear, but where to find them?

The nature of ethics
One of the characteristics of morals is its ability to show why we should follow them. For this, we obviously need practical support for our morals; in the sense that it does work. It does not need to work flawlessly or perfect, but it has to show its merits as people show the tendency to drop behaviour that does not lead to the desired results. A good example of a working ethical concept in BDSM is the familiar ‘safe, sand and sound’ credo, which has proven to make the community a safer place than it was before. The issue with this kind of rules that are based on practice, is that they are not regarded as generally valid. And – inevitably? – ethics that are not universally valid are seen as relativist.

The question mark behind ‘inevitably’ already makes clear that the claim of universality is indeed a questionable one. It seems however, to be the claim that is the trade-mark of constitutionalized morality; in that view morality is not only intrinsically universal as a human trait, but also universally valid in its object or in the propositional content of its assertions. An example can clarify what is meant here: not only is claimed by most monotheistic religious teachings that e.g. sexual fidelity is a human ethical rule that is valid for all times and societies, but it is also seen that this is best lived out within a – long term - monogamous relationship. Meaning that we cannot e.g. have sexual fidelity in a polyfidelity community – which is obviously a false conclusion, as we can.

We have opted for the view that morality is a universal trait in the sense that most properly functioning human beings to some extend carry moral values that are used to get right from wrong. Humans, so it seems, are ethical beings. Concerning this functional use of ethics, as a human tendency, I have a cautious yes. But with regard to the alleged ethical truths, it seems much harder to argue in favour of their universality.

Behind the concept of universally valid truths, beliefs and dogmas, lies the assumption that we can relate them to something universal. Most of the times the connection to a divinity, a religion, an ideology or a popular worldview is regarded as justification to attribute truth to such conceptions. Now is it – due to lack of a universal frame of reference – impossible to decide what assertions of truth are universally valid, if any. With regard to some laws of nature, we know that the laws are valid, thus true. But this use of the word true can be misleading in the context of true morals. We have the logical use of true and false, or the ethical use of right and wrong, but truth is a sort of slippery thing.

Ethics and truth
The point is that many ethical problems are such in character that a simple true or false in the logical sense cannot be made. The reason is that when we look at one assertion at the time, like (p1) Monday it rained and (p2) Tuesday is was sunny, we could say, that indeed it rained on Monday, so the statement (p1) is true. But it did also rain on Tuesday, so the statement (p2) is false.

It does not work like this with ethics, as from statements that are expressed in propositions we can say whether or not their propositional content is true (or false), but ethical judgements are complex and do not come in single independent assertions. On top of that from behaviour, sentiment or feelings we cannot easily make similar truth claims. We cannot attribute logical truth to ethical answers in the same way as we apply truth with propositions – then for a proposition to have meaning, that what is asserted needs at least to be true. Nevertheless, it is also clear that certain moral principles must work, and in this sense be true, otherwise no sound person will felt bound to that principle for guiding their life. We thus expect morals to be true, binding and lasting.

The idea behind universally valid ethics is that we perhaps cannot prove the truth of an ethical position, but that we can logically deduce the rationality of it. The advantage – so it is argued – would then be, that anyone could reach a similar conclusion based upon logic and not on (irrational) sentiment. We would thus be justified in holding something for right and other things for wrong when we can find compelling logical arguments to support our claims.

Beyond philosophy
The introduction of justice and (logical) justification into ethics might at face value be a rationalistic tendency – and it for sure started like that – yet, the problem with the concept of logical justification does not lie in the rationality of the arguments as such, but in the expectation that they are universally valid and in the depreciation of sentiment (as it seems rationalists through the ages felt somewhat uncomfortable with sentiment).

With BDSM being very much an endeavour that requires gut feeling, sentiment and intuition – besides a proper attitude and technique – any morality based upon mere rationalism reduces human experience to the part that we rationally can account for. Yet, from BDSM as praxis, we know that unconscious and repressed motives urges players to do what they do to a much larger extend as logical arguments do. After all, we do not get turned on by arguments, but rather by seeing, touching and thinking.

The idea that human behaviour is anything near being rational is plainly delusive. Consequently, we should distrust any ethical system that does not take into account that we are animals, evolved animals for sure, but nevertheless. Therefore, we should have rational argumentations, but not a rationality that is directed against or suppressive towards the non-rational side of humanity. Sex has never been a rational thing, but a biological issue, with rationality, ethics and emotions attached to it for sure, but reproduction is reproduction.

Beyond rationalism
We have just seen that there is a tendency to explain human behaviour with morals that favour rational arguments over sentiment. Universal concepts have reigned over large parts of humanity when it comes to sexual preferences, sexual tendencies and sexual identity, but none of these ethical conceptions seemed to have been built entirely on logic, but rather on religious or political views.
When for a justification of ethical sexuality such ideas of universally valid concepts are dictating, which are based upon worldviews that deny the relevance of modern scientific theories - regarding evolutionary theory and the finding of sexology, e.g. concerning DNA hard wired gender identity or sexual preference – we are definitely entitled to check if such presuppositions do actually find a confirmation in reality. It is my opinion that they do not adequately do so. Nor logic nor empirical facts support such claims.

What I observe is that similar circumstances for similar people result in similar ethics. The philosopher Richard Rorty once described ethics as not concerned with dilemmas between loyalty and justice, but rather as conflicts of loyalty towards larger groups and loyalty towards smaller groups. Another thing that Rorty addresses is the issue of redefining justice as loyalty to a larger group instead of something that is universal. Moral dilemmas are in this view not seen as a conflict between reason and sentiment, but rather as conflict between loyalties toward different groups. This means that for us to belong to a group, we have to share the same moral values, if we do not, we cease to be part of that group.

If we e.g. assume that there is no transcendent being – a.k.a. God – who by revelation tells us how to behave in the bedroom - we would be left with nature (as ‘creation’ a smaller ‘group’ as a Divinity transcending the universe). Similarly to the sexual behaviour of other great apes, we could convincingly argue that kink is partly genetically founded and thus a perhaps uncommon, but nevertheless natural behaviour for humans. It would rather be statistics that say what is normal and what by exceeding two times the standard deviation is abnormal, not ethics.

Kink and abuse
When kinky behaviour is an integral part of humanity, we can ask where the difference lies between whipping slaves in the 16th century and BDSM-Mistresses whipping their sex-slaves. What is the difference between rape and rape-play? In a way it may be that the actions look very much alike and for certainly the experience will have larger emotional overlaps, but there is a fine difference; this is found in the presence of consent as a result of rational agreement. This is what BDSM sets apart from abuse. And together with feminism, we find many religious doctrines towards women and their sexuality in principle more abusive as BDSM de facto is.

Contrary to the brutality that we sometimes do display when we are in a scene, the reality of safe, sane and sound BDSM is rooted in the consent of all the participating players. This consent is not mere consciously made, but also an expression of our own free will to participate in role play in order to get our needs met. This means that both sentiment as rationality are involved and seasoned BDMS players take good care that not only emotions like lust or greed or violence are the ones that motivate us, but also genuine interest in the wellbeing of our partners.

By taking care for each other kinks add ethical motivations to the play and show responsibility towards fellow human beings. Of course you can also play unethically, e.g. when you do not protect yourself and your partners against possible diseases or when you or your play partner is cheating on someone else. As any act also sexual acts are subject to social rules, when BDSM would be unethical, it would have no rules at all. So the question is not if morality is not a human trait, or not if BDSM had no ethical consequences, but rather what arguments can be given to justify our actions.

Kinky ethics
When morality is part of human behaviour and there are no universally valid ethics to be found, the question is how to arrive with ethics that would have our ethical obligations met. If we take up the concept of consent once more, but this time taking it to a broader field, we will soon arrive at the conclusion, that any group and their social behaviour has much to do with consent. When two parties differ about what the proper behaviour would be, they talk, negotiate and find a solution that is acceptable. In this sense, the power a manager has over her employee’s is not much different from the power she has over her slave-boy in the night after work. In both cases there is a relationship that has authority and different roles involved, in both cases the partners involved are consenting; the slave-boy could anytime use his safeword to get out if he would; the employee has signed a working contract.

Any unforced agreement between free and sane individuals creates trust and a bond. We feel connected to a group because we can identify with what they do and who they are and what they represent. For this reason BDSM roles – except for 24/7 relationships – are mostly temporal role play. After the session is over the Mistress is mom and part time pharmacist again and the toy-boy goes back to his job as senior bank manager.

The above example shows, that by being able to choose our roles and to be able to have different social roles in different social settings, we show not only that we can differentiate between when what sort of behaviour is appropriate in what context, but also that we do remain our identity; we are neither fully this or that, but always act in accordance to the kind of relationship that is involved:  family father, car mechanic, lover and friend; as such, BDSM is just another form of a psychological role we play including the corresponding (ir)rational behaviour.

Yet, it would be wrong to regard BDSM as merely something primitive. It takes a lot of time to get close, to build trust and to learn how to please one another. It takes a lot of courage to do some of the things we do, like being vulnerable, like getting hurt, like being honest about your own desire. Name calling is just a primitive reaction in itself; for those who never have thought about BDSM beyond the usual prejudices: BDSM is about fun, about trust, about very sexy things that make us feel good and secure. This is what people in the scene are looking for, this is why they do what we do. Just as any alternative form of behaviour, we try to play by the rules that enable us to achieve our common goals. That these goals and our ways of achieving them are not mainstream does not per se render it wrong. That these goals are historically seen not morally sound, says perhaps more about historical ethics and their sources, as it does about BDSM in its modern guise.

From all we have seen, we can conclude that BDSM can very well be rational human behaviour. Where fundamentalist moralist differ from pragmatic moralist is to which extent they regard freedom of sexual expression a human right or not. Based on evolution theory, there is no need to discriminate on gender, race or sexual preference. Not at all, provided that this behaviour is not harmful to one self or others. The protection of our own kin is just as natural as it is with other animals. For this reason, universal human rights are a good example that ethics are needed in order to secure our evolutionary survival; it protects humans against inhuman acts and violation of their rights and integrity.

From the point of history, BDSM never had the change to evolve, because the social restrictions put upon kinky persons where so severe, that BDSM urges needed to be repressed. It is still so in those areas of the world were our personal freedom is limited by laws, religious convictions or powerful social groups. History also shows that we evolve, and this gives us hope that also our ethics will evolve until it encompasses all the different groups there are, but without the need to go beyond negotiating consent. No violence, no repression, no discrimination, no abuse.

We have also seen that I draw heavily on the concept of humanity as being meaningful in itself. Whoever means to be able to transcend this meaning and follow a ‘higher call’, should also realize that more moral wrong has been wrought by ‘higher calls’ as by BDSM – if any. Moreover, we might still consent regarding human personal integrity and freedom, even when some readers carry beliefs that they hold for better as the moral that I here argued for. Such believers might even have good arguments for their views, but as long as they cannot be rationally argued, by compelling evidence or prove, we are stuck with history, sentiment and repressed freedom and that has never proven to be a wise choice.

So, is BDSM good? In a way this will always be a point of discussion, but when BDSM is ethical and humane, why should it be wrong? Sir Cameron and his Dominion Members, the Friends, Submissives and Councils of the Court, as well as Members of the House Cameron, for our part, have chosen to live a BDSM lifestyle based on ethical non-monogamy and feminism. And as long as we act on those principles and form a community of trust, our BDSM is definitively good.

Play safe and keep heathy, have fun – Sir Cameron

P.S. These blogs are long. Thank you for reading it to the end. In the near future we will look into evolutionary mating behaviour and aggression.

When your sin is to change – How BDSM impacts (y)our reality

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sin a big word. Loaded with images from age old religious convictions, we often connect sin with God, Church and all kinds of forbidden forms of sexual expression. For this reason, sin is not a popular term in the BDSM-world. We are more a practical community, focused on human needs and humane ways to find a safe way to get our needs met. Why then sin?

In this blog entry we will examine the connections between sex and sin as seen from four different angles: the religious view, the societal view, the feminist view and the sex-positive BDSM view. Together this will provide us with insight of the past, present and future of BDSM actions. And of course, the sin to change …

From sin to sex – unavoidable from a religious point of view
For many of us who still have been raised in a Judean-Christian context, the step from sex to sin is only a small one. Assuming that the Old Testament was written in Babylon; the Bible can be seen as a collection of religious texts that date back roughly 2-2.5 millennia ago. As such – seen from a literal perspective – they accordingly represent the views of the individual authors and the cultures they lived in.

So seen, there is nothing wrong with these ideas; they are part of history and some of these values have been proven useful and other have not. Otherwise, there seems to be something wrong with these ideas, as they are still regarded as an authority by many followers of the one Christian faith. And for those who see a larger entity or power behind the texts that we have, the views on sex that the historical authors once had, are often seen as binding for all ages.

But it is not this kind of more or less Christian concept of sin or sex I wish to address, but rather the effect that change has on tradition. Any acceptance of new convictions brings along that we now reject other convictions, because we no longer hold them valid. So seen, traditional views on sexuality, perversion of sexuality and the morals of sexuality are not easy to change as long as the institutions that maintain the moral, religious or legislative power do not likewise see this change of mind as necessary. Therefore, for a majority of the world, their sexuality is not based on freely living out what they desire, but rather to conform their sexual identity and urges to the strict guidelines of the religions they adhere to.

From sin to sex – hardly avoidable from a societal point of view
When religious convictions regarding sexuality govern large parts of the world, they also do in most societies. Due to the separation of Church and State in the free West, some critique on religious authority has started to grow since the renaissance and lead to the current situation of declining numbers in Christian converts, the rise of fundamentalism and many wars between science and religion.

In the free West, human rights have become the basis of public morality, but still religious convictions do play a major role in the assessment what sexual behavior is acceptable for society and what not. We only have to look at China, where despite being an essentially atheist culture, nevertheless the sexual freedom is very limited. As with many not so open societies, political views have taken the place of religious texts and even when sex offenders are called offenders and not sinners, the result is the same; rejection of who those people are and punishment for what they do.

In a way, even in the free West we needed quite some time to free ourselves from prejudges. Less than forty years ago same-sex orientation was seen as a mental disorder. Sadomasochism still is by many in our ‘open minded’ society. And the mechanisms are always the same; those who  have the power to influence moral findings use all the power they have to continue their own story of what is right and wrong.

From sin to sex – sometimes avoidable from a feminist point of view
Feminism brought many good things to society. The best thing was that they brought back the awareness that when female rights are ignored, society as a whole cannot prosper and grow. As such feminism was a mechanism of change which – amongst others - did address female sexual rights – regarding birth control, regarding the own legitimacy of female sexuality, regarding respect and safety for females as sexual beings.

So seen, did feminists add to necessary changes in society, but its effects could have been much larger if not religious convictions would have claimed control. With this I mean the idea of female superiority – which is not there – or the idea of regarding all institutional power - and particularly abusive power – in Government, Church and society, as strongholds of male interest.

Together with this battle of the sexes, also the view on what female sexuality was or should be got very thoroughly deconstructed and reconstructed again. As any theorist or activist is influenced by their individual upbringing, sub-culture and experiences, feminism fell apart in many different groups that consequently started to battle for the label of ‘true’ feminism.

There was and is still more openness for change, growth and maturity, but the energies now seem mostly spend or directed at New Age religious movements. Once academics discovered feminism, the warriors of the first two waves were regarded as too radical and normality set in as usual.

From sin to sex – avoidable from a BDSM point of view
Leaning on sex-positive feminism, many same-sex persons and kinks started to free themselves from the shackles of religion, tradition and Freud. Sex is no longer seen as sin, but sin is seen as holding on to truths that find no warrant in reality. Sin is in a way seen as failing to be the person one could actually be when one would be liberated and free.

The mechanisms that govern such a process are based on views like the above mentioned sex-positive feminism, but also on new insights in genetics (with regard to the gender issue), evolution theory (with regard to the development of sexual behavior) and in sexology (about how sex actually relates to us being human).

From depth psychology we have learned that most of our psyche is still subconscious. We learned about how desires function, how society and religion influence our behavior and how we can connect religious issues and concepts like sin, guilt and freedom with rational concepts like Archetypes of God, the Great Mother, the Shadow and the eternal male Animus and the eternal female Anima, to name just a view.

Taking those mechanisms into account, sex-positive thinking has brought us a revaluation of sexuality which effects in less condemnation and more patience, acceptance and understanding for both modern and historical views.

From sin to sex – The sin to change …
The sin to change is taking the chance of improving your sexual life. This can be seen as a sin, when your society does not agree with that change. For BDSM this is still the case for most of us. Many of my friends outside and in the Dominion cannot fully out themselves; too hard the consequences regarding our jobs, neighborhood or families.

When Sir Cameron goes out with two of more women, you see the people think. Once you cuddle all of them, a hand here, a kiss there, you literally see their worldview displayed on the screen of their facial expressions. Disbelief, disgust, envy, curiosity; to name just a view. Which is all okay, of course. No one should think that these persons are not entitled to their opinion, but it sucks big time, when you go out with your subs and then get remarks like; “do you wear something under that?”, “do you need a real man?”, “may I try her ass too?” (males do ask things like that) and “why do you do that?”, “have you been a victim, or manipulated?” or “dumb sluts!” (which are typical female remarks).

Out on the street you can expect intolerance, after all, we are the abnormal with a sick sexuality. Yet even the BDSM scene itself is again getting less tolerant as it was in the nineties. For this I see a few reasons.

  • First we have the enfolding curse of pornography that uses sexual images to govern our sexual experiences and does not communicate that masturbation fantasies are not a good recipe for relations and sexual interactions that are not based upon fucking like animals.
  • Secondly, we see an attitude when truth, morality and justice are involved that can be seen as an increasingly relativist position. As anyone has his own truth and nothing is generally valid, you can be as egocentric as it goes.
  • Thirdly, many newcomers to the scene are attracted by the sheer sexuality of what we do, but on the other hand are not really aware where this attractions is based upon and what it actually is what they seek.

In a next blog, I will work out these three points in order to see what challenge we face and how we can use pornography, egoism and curiosity for the better of all of us.

Summarizing we can say that sin and sex have a common past. Sin and evil are intrinsically religious concepts that are used to show how we can live a life in honor of the Deities such religions represent. Control over sexual behavior also meant control over the population, consumption and satisfaction. It that what comes naturally, is converted into a culture of shame and guilt, the priests and prophets have a valuable coin that can be cashed in any time they choose.

Resistance against change in sexual behavior can thus be seen as an attempt to conserve power. An understandable but not always reasonable mechanism. At the end, the facts usually wins. If not, the casualties will be high; as history has shown, when most perverts have been victims and have been pathologized in order to avoid having to change the leading opinions.

The solution will be to avoid both terminology like sick or discriminated, but to dynamically use the concept of ‘sin’, ‘evil’ and ‘bad’ to explain where history and tradition got it wrong. Because humans are very sexual beings, the number of listeners will grow. Perhaps if we learn to channel sexual energy properly, a better world will get closer – at least it will have a lot more fun.

Enjoy and stay healthy

Sir Cameron