Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tying a Different Kind of Knot

My article on BDSM appears in this week's WE. It's pretty brief, and I had a lot of great interviews, so expect to see some follow up on this blog in the coming weeks when I have time to write a couple follow-up segments.

BDSM is emerging from the underground, revealing an all-inclusive community where sex and respect go hand in glove

BDSM is emerging from the underground, revealing an all-inclusive community where sex and respect go hand in glove

Credit: supplied

MODERN LOVE: Tying a different kind of knot

Soft music and spooning might be part of your perfect Valentine’s plans, but a growing number of consenting adults are adding a little kink to their romantic routines. From a few playful swats on the bottom to playing doctor and nurse, more and more people are opening up about their desires and needs, redefining conventional notions of sex, and in some cases, loving, respectful relationships.

The murky mixing of pleasure and pain is often a contentious issue for even the most liberal-minded people. Possibly the final frontier in taboo, bondage, discipline, and sado-masochism (BDSM) has evolved into a legitimate lifestyle complete with social functions, education, clothing, and language. Vancouver’s own BDSM culture is thriving, with a growing community (arguably the city’s only genuinely all-inclusive community) at the forefront of changing the city’s attitudes about sex.

Peter Tupper, director at large and communications coordinator for Metro Vancouver Kink, is one of a handful of people publicly “out” about his involvement in the BDSM community. He defines BDSM as a set of sexual practices involving dominance and submission role play, and other forms of erotic stimulation including confinement, impact, and a variety of other sensations. He’s well aware that to many people BDSM sounds dangerous and dirty, and he’s interested in creating more honest dialogues about sexual needs.

“Some people are wary about mixing sex and violence and they’re frightened by the connection,” Tupper says. “I think they don’t understand that often in BDSM, that’s taken in the context of a relationship of mutual trust and respect. There’s a very strong focus on the ethics of behaviour, of looking after the person you’re with, of negotiating beforehand, respecting their physical, psychological, emotional limits. There’s no standard script for a sexual encounter. You meet with somebody, you negotiate your limits, work out his or her kinks, and nothing’s taken for granted. That formalized negotiation—I think that’s something that “vanilla” people can learn from. Maybe their sexual relationships can run a little smoother through that negotiation.”

Jennifer, a sex educator and founder of Libido Events, has been a part of the BDSM community for 12 years. Her introduction came at a time when the community existed in relative secrecy, an underground assembly where you had to know someone involved in the scene to get invited to an event. She accidentally stumbled onto the fledgling community after buying a pair of stilettos to fulfill a boyfriend’s fantasy. The sales-lady slipped a leaflet about a party into the bottom of her bag, promising that “all the other girls that bought those kind of shoes would be there.”

“Implying somehow she knew what we were into, when we didn’t even know what we were into,” Jennifer recalls. “We ended up walking in the door of a BDSM party. I was flabbergasted. Within three parties, my partner realized it wasn’t the place for him, and within three parties I’d realized I’d found a home. The home wasn’t within the party, but within the community, finding like-minded individuals. They didn’t have to share the exact interests I had, but they were open-minded enough to not push people away based on what their interests were.”

An indicator of how the BDSM community has flourished is indicative at the bi-weekly Sin City Fetish parties. Organizer Mr. Dark has seen attendance at his Club 23 West events grow over the last nine years from about 150 people to 500 people, with some parties boast ing a crowd of more than 1,000.

“Vancouver is blessed with a more open-minded view of sexuality,” Dark says. “It’s become more mainstream, as many people didn’t even know they were kinky. A few years back I had a make up artist that I worked with on a film with tell me she wasn’t into kinky stuff, but then admitted that she liked to be spanked. Well honey, congratulations, that’s kinky!”

Dave Toxik (a pseudonym), an active member of the community, also sees the makings of a social shift.

“Anyone who deviates from supposed normalcy is often looked at as an outsider, as weird or wrong,” Toxik says. “That, and the guilt that is often stapled onto sexuality in North America, give you a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts — something shocking or to be mocked. But, there are columnists, TV shows, and even the Taboo sex show, that are normalizing various aspects of sexuality, including kink. So while there is still the stigma and shame associated with kink, there are segments of society trying to move toward a more neutral understanding of what it is...I can honestly say I have never met as open-minded, interesting, and fascinating people as I have in the BDSM community.”

For more information, workshops, and meet-up opportunities:

Metro Vancouver Kink
Libido Events
Gothic British Columbia
Fet Life

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