“Will It Hurt?” Kinky Expressions of BDSM

28-kinky-sex

by Randall S. Frederick

More than a few people have told me that when their partner disciplines them, afterward they feel “free” and understood. Two friends of mine from college live a “Taken In Hand” lifestyle. Taken in Hand is a predominantly Evangelical marrital arrangement where a man will discipline his wife, “as unto the Lord.” There’s a whole backstory to all of this which is very interesting from a sociological, relational, and even sexual angle, but for our purposes it is sufficient to know that this couple lives in a power dynamic where the husband is free to discipline his wife as he sees fit for offenses or “transgressions” the wife commits.

Typically, this discipline takes the form of spanking since the other forms of corporeal punishment are a bit too edgy and kinky for Evangelicals to explain but hey. There are always exceptions.

Kathy* tells me that she approached her husband Dan* “maybe in 2008 or so” about spanking her. “I just felt like we had reached a point, pretty early on, where we were trying to work through those issues every couple has and it wasn’t working.” They had finished college with me that year and moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. It was hard on both of them, they say, to navigate adulthood and responsibility. Kathy wanted to buy things for their home, while Dan was very intentional about paying off student loans and taking on the financial responsibly his parents had modeled for him, growing up. Kathy says there was a day when she intentionally spent more than Dan had budgeted. “My thought at the time was, I was working. I had earned it. And so what if it wasn’t in his budget? He kept making all these rules for me and telling me what to do with my money.” Still, she agonized in the parking lot over whether she should take the items back in for a refund “or just bite the bullet and accept it.”

It was at that point that the proverbial light bulb went off. “I just went with it. I knew he was be upset, but I didn’t want to argue. It wasn’t about being disrespectful to him, it was me being stubborn enough to go against his wishes. But I didn’t want to argue. I just wanted to skip that. I was tired or arguing.” And so, she says, she went home and told Dan what she had done. Then she proposed he spank her.

“It wasn’t like I wanted it to happen, I just knew if I did this or that, he would spank me. I think it started that way, me telling him I wanted to respect him and I knew he would be angry, but instead of fighting, just spank me and we can address it that way and get over it. Like, those are the consequences.” Dan was reluctant, but there was something exciting about it and, he agreed, it would make things a lot simpler. “I feel like [that first experience] was one of the most intimate times we’ve ever had, you know? He just loved me and we talked, and I know it sounds weird but I knew that he wanted the best for me, for us, for our marriage and family, and I felt like he didn’t want to do it but he loved me enough to do it and keep me in line. Knowing he’ll spank me makes everything simple for us.” For Kathy and her husband, corporal punishment isn’t just a kink – something that happens during a sexual experience. It is a lifestyle for them.

Many people assume that all kink or BDSM experiences (which, as I noted in part 1, can be expressed many different ways) are always sexual, which isn’t the case. BDSM can also be a form of relational care, emotional attendance, awareness and focus, and yes, recreation. Simply put, while BDSM is sexual, it is not exclusively so. Corporeal punishment takes many forms, and in this article, we’re going over a few of the more traditional expressions of bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism.

Bondage – Easily the most well known part of BDSM. Restraints. Ropes. Leather. Masks with zippers over the mouth. Ball gags. Even blindfolds and scarves tying you to the bedpost. All of these are forms of bondage. Being restrained.

If you are more traditional, or if you are just starting to explore your kinky side, I would encourage you to begin thinking about bondage as pressure. Does it feel good to be hugged, to be held, to feel the tightness of your lover’s arm around you? What about certain sensations or textures – are you aware of how heavy your favorite jacket is? Have you ever been reading a book in bed, and placed a pillow on top of yourself? Then build from those memories. The physical pressure of weight and restraint, of being pulled, of being “held down” can be very pleasurable. One of my ex girlfriends loved to play a game where she asked me to “hold her.” When I did, she would keep saying “tighter” until I was convinced I was crushing her. For her, each time I pulled her closer and held her tighter was pleasurable. Before I really understood why, there were times when she would tell me to pin her down, or “wrap me up like a burrito” in a blanket. Blindfolds were a regular thing in our apartment. So, before you allow yourself to jump forward to leather suits and German-accented dominatrices, understand that most of what is presented as bondage on television or movies (while accurate!) is the more experienced version of things we’ve been doing since childhood and are probably still doing today, whether partnered or single.

That’s a big word in the BDSM community – “experience.” How much experience have you had with a particular kink? This isn’t just a coy way of asking how into an activity you are. It’s also a way of determining whether you are aware of safety issues. Tying someone up with rope might sound like a really kinky idea, and it looks like fun in the porn you’ve been watching, but if you’re not careful, it can also be dangerous. Keep in mind: no matter what kind of sex you are having, humans are vulnerable and fragile. Porn stars are athletes because of the ways their bodies are bent and how much stress they endure. If it looks fun? There was probably a lot, a lot, a lot of thought put into it and several failed attempts until someone got it right. Talking about experience is more or less a way of asking where you are at with the kink, whether you are aware of safety and health issues, and if you are very (very) familiar with consent and how far to push someone’s limits. So when people talk about “experience” they are probably talking about any of these related topics.

  • How often do you do this?
  • Do you know when to stop, even if I do not clearly ask you to?
  • Will you take care of me?
  • How kinky are you – no really. Cut the sexy talk. How. Kinky. Are. You?
  • If I’m not sure about something, will you be able to explain it to me in a way I can understand?
  • Am I safe?
  • Are you safe?
  • Will it hurt?
  • Will you intentionally make it hurt?
  • Will I regret this?
  • Will this be fun?

Spanking – Like Karen and Dan, spanking is a really popular form of power. The spanker is the one with authority (at least they think they do!) and the person being spanked is being corrected or “put in their place.”

Talking about this article with a friend, she asked me how spanking became sexualized. As a mother, she “simply didn’t get it.” She was sure somebody at some point “made it a thing, but who was the first person who was like, Oh this is totally a thing, I’m very aroused by this?”

I’m not sure, to be honest. That’s a history lesson for another time. However, I know there are three important points to talk about for our understanding of spanking as a sexual act today. The first is Marquis de Sade, a philosopher and eroticist. De Sade wrote at least three erotic tales, Justine, Juliette, and 120 Days of Sodom. Because of his personal life and the subversive nature of the novels, de Sade spent the last 29 years of his life imprisoned and in various asylums – but not before his stories found an audience. To speak of “sadism” is, of course, to speak of de Sade, a man who derived so much pleasure from hurting others.

The second point would be the “revival” of de Sade’s essence in British erotica at the turn of the century. Setting aside the Victorian quest for knowledge and legitimate sciences, many of the elite led secret lives of mischief and orgiastic pleasure. Organizations like The Hellfire Club emerged, as did a popular theme in erotica – the schoolboy whipped by his schoolmaster, nanny, or servants. 

The third is the story of Sabina Spielrein, a psychoanalyst who worked with Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. Before all of that, Spielrein was a patient of Jung. In 1904, she was admitted to the Burgholzli Mental Hospital near Zurich where Jung had been appointed deputy director. Under Jung’s treatment, she disclosed that her father had frequently beat her as a child and that she derived masochistic pleasure from this, continually and frequently fantasizing about those experiences while she masturbated. She and Jung became lovers and, it was later discovered, they practiced spanking and discipline to modify behavior. Of course, some of this we might attribute to a Victorian tendency to institutionalize women who exhibited “hysteria” or sexual desire distinct from “enduring” sexual advances from their husbands for the sole purpose of bearing children. To a great extent, I believe our cultural fascination with “broken girls” or the supposition that women who enjoy sex “too much” were abused as children stems from Freud’s analysis of Spielrein, but let’s not get distracted.

While these points are different from the BDSM practices we know today, they are historical calling cards that inform our understanding of sexual “deviance” and remind us that people have been enjoying spanking and being spanked for a number of years. Spanking for the purposes of sexual pleasure is not some new thing that humanity discovered in the 1950s with Bettie Page. Instead, we would be better served looking at the random appearance of “deviance,” too often suppressed, that has been appearing in cultural artifacts, erotica, medical reports, and double entendres for centuries.

Whipping – Going a step further, whipping is stepping it up. Spanking can be various kinds of thick, wide objects used for impact play. Paddles, hands, rolled up newspapers – whatever. Whipping thins that out, leaving streaks (which hurt more) for an interposed effect that separates and refines the pain. Belts or, yes, whips are often used but whipping can take several different forms. A double over strip of rope, for example, or cord. Sometimes whipping can be severe, other times it may be very light and playful.

When experimenting with whipping, remember to take it easy and build. Many kinksters who are just getting into whipping have gotten their images of what it is “supposed” to look like from porn, where professionals have already warmed up, been lubed up, suited up, have discussed limits and tested those limits already before the camera starts recording and are being paid to endure probably more than what it actually arousing to them.

To them, I would say go slow. Go easy. Build toward the goal you want to achieve. Whip lightly and gently. Cracking the whip away from your partner – just the sound – can be very arousing. You don’t need to whip them so hard and so forcefully that it draws blood on the first stroke.

Intense Stimulation – “Intense stimulation,” I say, “can be as light as a feather or a shocking as a cattle prod.” Light kink with feathery toys or maybe ice cubes are a good introduction to sensory stimulation. When you feel something touching your skin, you will likely experience a small thrill. But further down the spectrum, intense stimulation can involve things like nipple clamps, genital clamps, small to pretty significant electric shocks, Wartenberg wheels, even small cuts, needles, or being suspended from hooks. For those who like to avoid devices and props, choking a partner could very well fall under this category since asphyxiation is rather intense.

It should be clear that intense stimulation has immediate physical effects and should be explored only once an emergency plan in place – having a first aid kit ready, knowing where the nearest hospital is located and how to get there, etc. are vital to ensuring the safety of everyone involved.

Body Modification – For brevity, I’m going to summarize this section. Corsetting, tattooing, piercing, and scarification are pretty standard forms of body modification. Very often, they are not “just” a tattoo or scar but have some specific meaning behind them.

I know a woman who has a tattoo of a black spade on her ankle to indicate her sexual availability for black men – and only black men. I also know a couple who have matching tattoos because they wanted to always have a symbol of their love and commitment to one another. When I worked for a bookstore, I was made aware of how popular corsetting was (and is) in Southern California. It’s become popular to have scars as “war wounds” of particularly intense sexual experience.

Whatever avenue of kink you are exploring, I would still encourage you to think it through, have a plan, have a safe word when things get too intense, and always communicate.

Look forward to the last piece in this series, Part 4, where I will be discussing fetishism, transgenderism, body fluids, and other subjects in BDSM practice, play, and lifestyle.

Until then, Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Continued from Part 1: Lessons of BDSM

Continued from Part 2: Genres of BDSM

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