Exploring BDSM in the LGBT community

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The first time I ever walked into a bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism (BDSM) dungeon was the fall of 2011. At that point in my life I was extraordinarily “vanilla.” I didn’t realize at the time that my life would never be the same.

I fell in love with every aspect of BDSM. I became plugged into our local BDSM community center in Nashville. It quickly integrated into every aspect of my life: goals, sex, romantic relationships, and who I spend time with. I began throwing myself into every educational resource, event, book, and media outlet I could find. I had found a group of people who understood my desires, personality, and sexuality, a core part of myself that I had been ashamed of for so long.

I have found that I’m not alone in experiencing stigma in the LGBT community in regards to BDSM. There are many myths about BDSM, in part because of the popularization of BDSM by the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. The Fifty Shades novels aid in enlightening the general public about our community and mainstreaming the BDSM community, as it has helped many realize how common kink predilections are. However the novels themselves portray an abusive, sexist relationship that doesn’t reflect the consent-based culture I’ve come to know and love.

The gay community, however, will likely never forget Cruising, with Al Pacino. At a deeper level, I think since LGBT individuals have had to hide who they are for so long, any activities that would make us seem more “deviant” is one more thing we’d rather keep in the closet. And what lurk in that closet?

I can only invite you to look into mine. I can describe the delightful agony of someone running their hands roughly over your flesh, smacking, punching, slapping, grabbing, and twisting, the feeling of a flogger licking your back for the first time as blood rushes to the surface of your skin and the endorphins make your head swim. I can describe being pushed when you’re sobbing, and your Daddy or Sir tells you that you can take more. I can tell you about the first time I got aroused when I licked a boot, was spat on, and more. I can even tell you about the feeling of accomplishment from preparing a formal meal for a party of 16 successfully while being in service.

Coming for you.jpgThen there's that surreal and beautiful moment when your dominant tells you that they’re proud of you and that you’re a good boy. I can talk about the powerful headspace of topping someone for the first time and having the responsibility of feeling someone writhing under your boot as you grin knowing the release they’re feeling. I could expound on the sadistic delight when you lick their tears off of their face.

All the descriptions in the world, however, wouldn't mean anything unless we’re willing to leave our comfort zones and accept whatever needs lurk within ourselves. BDSM is not all about pain. It’s not all about sex. It can be, but for me, it is something more. An array of activities, some of which have absolutely nothing to do with pain, exist within the BDSM subculture.

Have you ever wanted to be blind folded and fed strawberries? What about being tickled with a feather? Have you ever wanted to explore playing with ice or candle wax? Then you’re kinky too! We need to stop assuming that everything in the BDSM community is geared towards pain, sex, or control. It absolutely can be oriented toward those things, but it is also an outlet for self-expression, a community, a form of spiritualism, a hobby, and enables a variety of relationships.

People have many misconceptions about BDSM that cut them off from part of themselves. Watching a bondage video (while fun) can’t compare to your experience, which, when it is real, can transform your life in ways you can’t imagine. BDSM allows us access and explore hidden parts of ourselves otherwise inaccessible. BDSM can help us de-stigmatize our bodies and our sexualities. BDSM can allow you revel in pleasure and let go of the shame that might hold you back from truly experiencing joy in all its different forms. BDSM shows us that everyone’s fetishes, body types, and sexualities differ, and that that is okay. In this way, BDSM also enhances empowerment and communication and emphasizes consent culture and decision making skills that will help you explore your whole self safely, sanely, and consensually. 

 

 

 

River Johnson is a gay man from Murfreesboro. He's formerly SouthEast LeatherFest Boy 2013. He’s currently working on his Master’s in Psychology. He has taught dozens of classes across fifteen states related to BDSM, mental health, sexuality, and gender. He is an active member of Team Friendly Tennessee, the Conductor’s Leather/Levi Club, and the Music City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.