Peace and Justice

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Question

I'm in my first year of college. Since high school, I've been politically aware and left of center. That awareness has included reading a lot of feminist authors and correcting my behavior so that I won't be a sexist asshole. But I am dating a woman who has asked me to explore S/M with her. She wants me to tie her up and treat her roughly during sex. She's also asked me to spank her. I just don't know if I can do these things. They run counter to my values about equality and gentleness. I don't want to be the kind of man who would hit a woman or degrade her. And yet I really love my girlfriend. I want her to be happy with our sex life. I can't talk about this with my friends because we are part of a small community of activists on campus, and I don't think her sexual fantasies should become a topic of gossip. Can you help me to sort out this dilemma?

Answer

I believe that doing S/M, if both parties are enjoying what's happening and have consented to it, is not incompatible with feminism or other progressive political beliefs. There's some misogyny in commercial, mass-market pornography, but most modern participants in the BDSM scene are offended by sexism, racism, or other prejudicial behavior. Read Jay Weisman's S/M 101, my own book Sensuous Magic, or Dossie Easton and Janet Green (???) The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book. These books will give you more information about how to play out fantasies of dominance and submission in the context of a loving, respectful, and equal relationship.

While it's possible to do S/M and still march against the WTO, I wouldn't advise anybody to do something sexual that they don't enjoy. Experiment with a very low level of play and see if it makes your dick get hard. Hold your girlfriends down the next time you make love, or have her kneel to give you a blowjob, with her hands held behind her back. Or if you are willing to go all out and try tying her up or spanking her, be my guest, after you've either read one of the above safety and technique books, talked to somebody in the scene who is experienced, or gone to some how-to meetings at a local BDSM support group.

The basic safety issue with bondage is to prevent obstruction of the airway and avoid pinching any nerves or damaging any tendons. Leather bondage cuffs are used not just because they look hot, but because the width and the padding spreads pressure out along the circumference of the wrist and prevents damage to nerves or connective tissue. It's generally not a good idea to put rope around bare wrists or ankles unless you slip a folded washcloth underneath the rope. I would also suggest looping the rope around the joint at least three times. And do not use a rope any smaller than a 3/8" diameter.

With spanking, you want to avoid hitting anything that could be permanently damaged. Use your open hand only. Remove rings. Strike only the fleshy part of the buttocks or the thighs. Do not strike the lower back, lest you bruise her kidneys; and do not strike the backs of the knees. Cupping the hand will trap air and make the blow quite loud; it also bruises and smarts more. Spanking on a dry skin hurts less than spanking on skin that is wet. The spanking should be interspersed with soft strokes, tickling, caresses, and investigation of her vulva. Inserting a vibrating egg or an ass plug prior to the spanking can make it sexier.

Think of S/M as psychodrama. Two people are play-acting, dressing up and playing pretend. There's no real intention to injure the other person or control them, and certainly no anger or desire to inflict harm. The difference between S/M and an assault or a rape is the difference between a rollercoaster ride and being thrown off a cliff. You may scream during the rollercoaster ride; you may be scared or thrilled; you may sweat and your heart may pound. But it's something you decided to do