6 BDSM / Kink

The BDSM Questionnaire

Read the following descriptions of scenes. For each one decide whether you would be concerned or not if a client revealed taking part in this activity. Which are most concerning and why? Make a list of the ones which concern you most and the criteria which you find yourself judging them on. Do this before reading on to the commentary below.

1. An individual gets a rush out of being put in terrifying situations which makes him scream and cry out in fear. He engages other people to put him in a special device which will result in these effects. When his time in the device is up, his face is white and he has tears in his eyes, but he begs them to let him go through it again.

2. An individual pays a stranger to carefully insert sharp pieces of metal into parts of their body. This leaves permanent scarring and sometimes results in infection.

3. A man dresses his female lover in revealing clothes and a collar, telling her that she is to obey him for the evening. He takes her out to a club where he parades her round and makes her fetch his drinks. Later he has her publicly strip and perform sexual acts on him. She leaves the club feeling very proud of herself and her body. Back home the scene is over and she takes the dominant role when they have sex.

4.Two people arrange to take part in a public scene. They spend a great deal of time preparing separately in advance. On the night they dress for the occasion in clothes made of satin. Watched by a gathered group of people they strike each other. The scene is considered successful if one of them briefly loses consciousness. The beatings are so severe they can result in permanent damage.

5. A group of men go out for a night with the intention of humiliating one of their number. The victim is aware that he is to be put through a gruelling process and implicitly consents to it, despite not knowing quite what events are to unfold. He is eventually stripped naked, handcuffed, chained to a post and left alone and unprotected on a public street.

6. A woman slowly inserts twenty needles just below the skin of her friend’s arms and chest, being careful to use new needles and antiseptic wipes. The friend feels that she has gone into an altered, almost spiritual, state of consciousness. Once the needles are removed and appropriately disposed of she feels extremely relaxed and pleased with what she has endured.

7. A small group of people arrange to meet in a private space in order to watch others role-playing being raped, humiliated and tortured. They find this an enjoyable way of spending their evening.

8. An individual gives his life over to his master. He won’t do anything that is disapproved of under to code of rules his master has set. He won’t allow himself to experience sexual satisfaction until he has undergone the procedures his master sets out as necessary, although he often finds himself in a state of arousal and wishes he could. He mostly spends time with other people who have also pledged themselves to the same master, although none of them has ever met him in person.

9. A woman restrains a man and beats him on various parts of his body, telling him he deserves to be punished and carefully but firmly slapping his face if he disobeys. Eventually he breaks down crying. At this stage the scene ends and she holds him and speaks kindly to him, encouraging him to explore the emotions it aroused. He loves these scenes as they are the one time in his life when he doesn’t feel he has to be in control and responsible.

10. A woman spends several hours preparing her appearance in the hope of pleasing her lover. She chooses from items of clothing on which she has spent several thousand pounds, all of which painfully restrict parts of her body, forcing it into an unnatural shape and making it impossible for her to function normally. Over an extended period of time she knows this will damage her permanently. She winces as she walks towards him but smiles when she sees that she has been successful.

11. A group of people use ropes and harnesses to dangle themselves from the ceiling or other dangerous heights. Although they know this can result in broken limbs or worse, they continue to do it, enjoying the immense buzz of physical and psychological excitement they get from putting their lives at risk. This particular fetish results in a number of deaths each year.

12. A woman asks strangers to cause her extreme pain to her genital area. She does this regularly, as she feels more attractive following the painful session. Sometimes, she’ll even do it to herself. If it’s done right, no permanent harm results.

13. During the evening at a London venue the clientele encourage each other to push their bodies to the limits with various different activities, some of which cause a great deal of pain, others which they know will significantly decrease their life expectancy. By the end of the evening some have had unprotected sex with anonymous strangers and several of the group have become violently ill following their activities.

 

Commentary on the Exercise

When this exercise has been used in training for practitioners, some of the main criteria which people have used to distinguish scenes that concern them include the following:

  • How much harm it causes, or has the potential to cause
  • How much control the individual/s involved have over the situation
  • Whether the individual/s involved have consented and have the capacity and information needed to consent or whether they are coerced or forced in any way
  • Whether those involved have an existing relationship or are strangers
  • How common/normal or uncommon/abnormal the activities are
  • How culturally accepted or not the activities are (are they culturally transgressive?)
  • Whether the practice is being conducted for reasons of sexual pleasure or other forms of pleasure

This latter three criteria are shown to be key when it is revealed that most of the ‘scenes’ are actually common, culturally accepted behaviours. The scenes actually describe:

  1. Someone who loves theme park rides.
  2. Piercing/tattooing
  3. A genuine BDSM scene
  4. A boxing match
  5. A stag night/batchelor party
  6. A genuine BDSM scene
  7. Watching an 18 rated movie in the popular ‘torture porn’ genre e.g. ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel’
  8. Many religious people’s experience
  9. A genuine BDSM scene
  10. Wearing high-heeled shoes
  11. Rock-climbing
  12. A bikini wax
  13. A night out at a nightclub with excessive drinking, smoking and eating the hottest curry on the menu

This can lead into a useful discussion of how we judge practices more broadly. Which of the criteria above are relevant and useful to apply and which are not? What place does the practitioner have in making such judgements and under what circumstances?

This exercise was first published in:

Barker, M. (2005). Experience of SM Awareness Training. Lesbian & Gay Psychology Review, 6 (3), 268-273

For a further consideration of this exercise, and another training tool see:

Barker, M. (2007). Turning the world upside down: developing a tool for training about SM. In D. Langdridge and M. Barker (Eds.) Safe, Sane and Consensual: Contemporary Perspectives on Sadomasochism. pp.261-270. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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