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Kinky Sex 101: Bondage In The Media

May 09, 13 Kinky Sex 101: Bondage In The Media

I’m behind on my TV shows, so this week I was trying to catch up. I was really excited to see a particular episode of The Following because there was going to be BDSM club as part of the storyline and I had hopes they would portray these folks in a positive and realistic light. WRONG!  They wimped out and followed the party line: if it’s kinky, it must be sick! The so-called dominatrix was a WIMP, she whined and cried and let her submissive kidnap her without a fight. And, of course, the only reason they even brought the club and the Dominatrix into it was to show how sick the cult member was. Well, DUH!  He was in a cult lead by a serial killer!

The mainstream is being fed a line of malarkey about how BDSM practitioners are all sick and demented and criminal. I’m really tired of the how media — and I include books, movies, news reports, bloggers, and TV shows in “media” — gets it wrong and presents it as THE TRUTH.

Let me be fair here, I’m not Pollyanna either. I’m not going to tell you that there aren’t folks in the BDSM lifestyle who aren’t sick… there are. I won’t tell you that abuse doesn’t happen… it does. But the ratio of sick to healthy and abusive to non-abusive is about the same as it is in the mainstream. We aren’t all like poor Christian Grey in 50 Shades; terribly conflicted millionaires who were abused as children, found our only comfort in sick and twisted BDSM sex play and were SAVED (cue the Disney music) by some innocent poor princess who cured us!  Ta-Dah!

Yeah, I know. Most folks don’t think that deeply about the underlying assumptions of their media, but I’ve got two degrees in English literature. Sue me. You SHOULD care that much, because whether or not you actively think about those assumptions, you buy into them. We all do. Something off the wall that came from those books is that bondage toy sales went up about 300 percent after they came out. Kinda sexy, right?

Okay, so who are these kinky people?  Believe it or not, they are you, your neighbors, the lady at church, some dude standing in the grocery store line. Maybe it is that little old lady who sits next to you on the bus and knits all morning. A recent positive light article in Psychology Today estimates “Two to 3 percent of American adults play with BDSM, most occasionally, some often, and a few 24/7. That’s around 5 million people. Meanwhile, around 20 percent of adults report some arousal from BDSM images or stories.”

Remember, this covers a HUGE spectrum. Do you like your significant other to hold your wrists down during sex? Have you ever done a role play scene; pool boy, kinky nurse, teacher and student? One night stand pickup?  Have you ever used a blindfold during sex? Or had rules to play by?  If you answered yes to any of these, you, my friend, are kinky. Welcome to the clubhouse!

It is a really big, really diverse club. I know folks that very quietly play such games in their own home and never say a word. I know a lady who supports herself and two live-in submissives being a phone Domme, I know a gentleman who lived as a human “pony” for years, and another who goes around the country giving seminars.

Back to my original point for today: the media SUCKS at portraying kinky folks. We have jobs, we live normal lives with kids and families and all the responsibilities and joys of your life (that is, if you aren’t one of us.) We just have a little something extra going on the side, a little lagniappe, as my grandmother would say.

So, what got me going on this rant today?  This month, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is releasing the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This is the holy grail of diagnostic tools for mental disorders, the be-all end-all last word on what is, and isn’t, a mental illness. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has been petitioning and working to have most BDSM-related activities dropped as mental disorders. I would dearly love to tell you that has happened, but let’s be realistic. These folks just consented to remove homosexuality as a mental aberration 20 years ago.

What has happened, however, is that the Paraphilias Subworkgroup at the APA has agreed, Kinky is not a diagnosis. Let me break that down for you. Paraphilia is defined as “a condition in which a person’s sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme.” So, if you have a thing for women’s shoes, or toe worship, or spankings, you officially have a paraphilia. The scientists and doctors in the paraphilias subworkgroup (read that the folks in charge of this section) have finally decided that unless such needs cause you mental distress, you can be healthy and still be kinky. Until this revision, anyone with a kink had a mental disorder. This time, they are marking a line down the middle saying that there’s a difference between paraphilias and paraphilias disorders. Weeeelll doggies! Isn’t it nice of them to figure out not everyone who likes a bit of excitement isn’t ill?

There have been some really neat, unbiased studies out about BDSM lately, looking at the psychology and philosophy of the lifestyle and its practitioners. Those studies are very recent, however, and the DSM-V isn’t even out yet, so maybe expecting mainstream media to catch on this “fast” is asking a bit much. We’ll see.

Image Credit: Veronika Vasilyuk / Shutterstock

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About 

April Flowers is a wandering gypsy, with a deep-seated conviction that every road she has not yet traveled is an adventure waiting to happen. Mentally and emotionally unable to stay in one place very long, April and her bright yellow Xterra can be found anywhere between Texas and South Dakota, following the wind. When she isn't hiking, kayaking, or flipping a coin to decide which way to turn on the next highway, she can be found writing everything from awesome redOrbit.com articles to a truly terrible novel and some stinky poetry.

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