When the Whips and Chains are Optional
“I have no objection to anyone’s sex life as long as they don’t practice it in the street and frighten the horses.” ― Oscar Wilde
“Oh honey, you’re kinky.” These were words I never expected to hear. Despite being out of a disastrous first marriage in my late 20’s, I still felt completely like a sexual neophyte. I was at a polyamory munch, navigating the tumultuous waters of a newly single life, and one woman announced this to me after I’d shared some of the intimate things I’d done with my ex-wife.
It seems everyone has ideas about what is too much for sex. According to some rather grouchy people, any form of sex that isn’t between a married cis male and cis female, for the exclusive purpose of procreation, is by definition a hell worthy trespass. It’s the eternal paradox: one person’s damnable transgression is another person’s enjoyable Friday night. Arguably, if you aren’t hurting anyone, unless in a consensual and informed way, what is really wrong with it? Some people are complete busy bodies in how others get busy with their bodies.
For some people, sex needs to be very vanilla. Even oral sex seems out there for some people, despite columnist Dan Savage defending it as standard. The idea of adding optional accessories can seem weird, dirty or even unsexy to many vanilla people. There is nothing wrong with this, so long as they are able to develop mutually enjoyable and fulfilling sexual relationships with people.
However for others, the rabbit hole goes a long way down. Just a visit to a sex shop, online or brick and mortar, will offer up for your perusal products that can boggle the mind of even the hardest core kinkster. There will be things that make you go hmm, maybe, hell no and “thank you sir, may I have another?” ― assailing your imagination and curiosity. The entire realm of kink can be as simple as the inclusion of a vibrator to the complete embrace of BDSM, an initialism abbreviation which stands for different, but not necessarily separate aspects of the scene (an term to denote play events and play dynamics):
- Bondage/Discipline: this can be as simple as silken scarves and bare handed spanking to complex rope bindings, leather or metal cuffs or even specialty furniture restraints for full elaborate bondage play, with much more sensual components. Discipline can including OTK (over the knee spanking), flogging, caning, paddling or other forms of sensation play. With the designation of tops and bottoms for participants, the play often ends at the conclusion of the scene.
- Domination/Submission: Erotic power exchange is probably the most popular variant of the scene, which can often include intense one time play scenes, to lifelong complex relationships involving collaring (often synonymous with partnership). Doms and Dommes denote one end of the spectrum, and subs (typically not capitalized) represent the opposite. Many variants role play dynamics such as CGL (Caregiver/Little), puppy play, etc. also exist to convey and explore different aspects of sensual and sexual play. This is about forming emotional/psychological relationships to serve various needs that are often left over from lifetime experiences. Often dynamics such as parental worship, in the case of positive supportive childhoods, exist as the impetus to capitalize on those wonderful emotional connections. Conversely, negative childhood experiences of neglect and abuse can be re-invented, not to replay past trauma, but rather in reclaiming, empowering and reprogramming the psyche to alter the perspectives of self. For people in dominant lives, or submissive lives, claiming the opposite paradigm in the sexual and emotional context of kink play can also be exceedingly powerful, not to mention extremely cathartic. Some engage in 24/7 play where they are never really out of the scene, even while going about their jobs and normal lives.
- Sadism/Masochism: is probably the least understood dynamic, but the line between pleasure and pain is very thin, if even existent. The expression “hurt me so good” alludes to this blurred concept. For someone who is scrupulous in being gentle in their life, the attraction of letting go and inflicting pain with a willing partner can be unbelievably enjoyable in a consensual setting. Additionally, many people enjoy receiving pain, and can find sexual climax incredible heightened by its presence. Something as simple as an ass slap during sex can frequently push boundaries and buttons.
For the purposes of simplicity a bottom, submissive or masochist will collectively be called a sub, while a top, dominant or sadist will be called a dom. Another common acceptance in kink thinking is simply that not all kinks are for anyone one person. If something squicks you, but is done by others in a consensual, safe and sane way (SSC), it’s simply “not my kink” (NMK). The idea is that there should be no judgement in what others do, as it’s just simply not your cup of tea.
I’m not seeking to define any of these three aspects of BDSM, as each has entire collections of books explaining them in incredible detail. Each has a place, and many people who appreciate them in their play as something that helps build their complete relationships with others, as well as their inner identities. As many have stated, this is not what you may have read about or saw in Fifty Shades of Grey, but rather part of practices, sexuality and a history that goes back a very long way. I mention them for explanation only, as kink as a whole is not all or nothing.
I’m reminded of that startling revelation, all those years ago, in that I didn’t think I was kinky, more correctly that kinky. I explored different things with my partner because she enjoyed them. For me, it was more a desire to please my partner, to find ways to make her feel good and enjoy pleasurable experiences together. Albeit our intimate encounters didn’t explore pain, but stimulation of pleasurable responses. I found that I wanted to explore more.
I found myself going to various Hollywood clubs, which were more focused on dancing, but the nuances of the gothic and industrial genres of music lend to fetish being a welcome, if not inclusive, prospect. This is where I first got to see the doms showing their sensual talents. Granted it was very performative in nature, and definitely of a more PG-13 nature, but it was very intoxicating to watch, while cooling off from interludes of alternative dancing to moody swaying music or swatting the imaginary flies that seemed to pester the average industrial dancer. What drew me in, beyond the blindfolds, the ritual and the outfits often being not much more than the creative application of electrical tape, was the tenderness often shared between seemingly newly acquainted partners. It wasn’t the impacts that intrigued me, but the tenderness expressed. The simple caresses and attention to a sub was very beautiful to behold. I wanted to experience it myself.
I started doing my research and made purchases, as well as some very personal hands-on acquisitions, of various restraints, toys and particularly floggers. The idea of many of these toys was less about the hardest application to flesh, but the softest. Dragging a flogger gently across exposed skin can have a greater reaction that a full impact. For kink it is often the nuances, not a intensity, that factors the most.
But toys are not a requirement. With an imaginative mind and a willing partner, an incredibly erotic and powerful bond can be shared intimately. A gentle caress of the fingertips across the exposed nape of the next can cause amazing reactions. The brushing of lips below the navel can run shudders up a willing spine. I noticed that the most bonding moments would occur between partners, not when using implements, but by the simple pressing of bodies together. A single momentary embrace and caress can be more powerful than all the toys in the play bag.
Safety, of course must be adhered to even in less intense play and intimacy. I personally recommend using a three word safeword scheme:
- Green: This is simply a term to establish if things are fine in the scene, to be used by the dom. With a newer partner, understanding their responses can be difficult. Simply saying this when unsure as a dom, will allow a newer sub to respond with another harder safeword if necessary, without removing either partner from play. With experience, this can be abandoned.
- Yellow: The scene is simply getting too intense. This is a good method for pushing soft limits, things that border personal limits by are still something a sub wants to explore. If a sub is particularly tired, or in a bad headspace, then this is a good means to redirect a scene but not end it.
- Red: The sub has passed a breaking point and things must stop. Bonds need to be removed and aftercare needs to start. Later on, discussion of what went wrong is critical. This doesn’t mean a weakness in the sub, or even a failing in the dom. Many things can trigger an adverse reaction, as well as miscommunication.
The reality is that nothing within the spectrum of kink is a requirement for any practitioner. You don’t have to subscribe to any particular aspect of it either. Your labels are entirely yours, despite what people may claim for you. I personally fall into the service top aspect the most, as my personal enjoyment is typically derived from the pleasure and experiences of my partners via intimate acts of service. I can enjoy much more vanilla play, and something like a full body massage can feel very much like a scene too. I’ve had partners that wanted absolutely nothing to do with any part of kink, as well as partners who wanted to visit the sex shop on the very first date. All of these experiences have become part of me as sexual being and the positive gasp of a partner, whether in my bed or on my play table, is what drives me.
I define my kink level. I define my capacity to adore, cherish and share with my partners, in the ways that fulfills both of our needs. I enjoy doing my best at becoming a truly attentive lover and kink practitioner with them, whether they’ve been naughty or nice, preferably both.