Friday, August 2, 1996

“What’s The Deal With SM?”

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #31, August 2, 1996)

A recent fundraiser hosted by Ms. Minnesota Leather 1996 Darlette Knox featured a flogging demonstration—several concurrent flogging scenes happening on stage with suitable lighting and music. After watching the action awhile, one of the people standing in front of me asked the person to his left: “So why are they doing this? What’s going on? What’s the deal?”

Perhaps you’re asking yourself the same question—”How can pain and bondage and torture and humiliation be pleasurable?” Perhaps you’d like to ask someone else for an explanation but would feel silly admitting that you don’t “get it” when it comes to SM (shorthand for sadomasochism).

SM sex is a way of exploring and growing in areas of sexuality and relationships that people often have problems with, such as trust (before I let someone flog me, I really have to trust them) or negotiating and respecting boundaries and limits (for example, a “safe-word” is negotiated between top and bottom before the scene begins; during the scene if the bottom says that safe-word the action comes to a halt). And SM sex can be a way of discovering new feelings and sensations, of “going where you’ve never been before.”

I don’t have room to give a complete explanation of a complex topic like SM in this column, but I can point your curiosity in the direction of some answers. Many books and magazine articles have been written about how and why SM sex works the way it does. For starters, you might be interested in The Leatherman’s Handbook II by Larry Townsend (which I can personally recommend) or SM 101 (I haven’t read it, but a lot of other people seem happy with it). Let me recommend a trip to A Brother’s Touch bookstore, where they will have plenty of books and magazines to satisfy your curiosity.

What if your investigations lead you to the conclusion that SM just isn’t your cup of tea? That’s okay. Not everyone who wears leather is into SM (and not everyone into SM necessarily wears leather). No one has the right to make you feel like a second-class leatherman or leatherwoman if you choose not to play in SM settings. However, respect is a two-way street—just because you choose not to indulge doesn’t mean you have the privilege of judging other peoples’ participation in SM as healthy or unhealthy.

If, on the other hand, your investigations make you want to start exploring SM, keep in mind that you get to choose how and when. Remember that the SM mantra is “Safe, Sane and Consensual.” No one has the right to coerce you into doing something you’re not ready to do. If you feel like someone is trying to, remember that the ultimate safe-word is “No!”

Not Safe and Not Sane

A leatherman who was prominent in a certain East Coast leather community was recently found dead in his basement—hanging by his belt from an overhead pipe. The community was stunned. Was it suicide? Or was it foul play?

I later heard the death had been ruled “accidental.” My friend had evidently been “scarfing”—choking off his oxygen supply to intensify sexual feeling. Obviously, this is a very dangerous thing to do and falls well outside the boundaries of “Safe, Sane and Consensual.” Please, I implore you—don’t even think about doing this.

In early 1994 a high official of the British government died the same way, and the British tabloids had a field day with it. It even was written up in Newsweek, where I read about it. I briefly thought to myself, “What a stupid thing to do!” before turning the page.

About a week later, I got a letter from my mother. In it was a copy of that same Newsweek article and a note: “I know, I know—you’re a big boy now and don’t need your mother clucking in the background. However, when I read the enclosed article I couldn’t help thinking . . . . Sexual highs are one thing, and I know you pursue them. Just don’t cross the safety line. Know that I send this because I love you, because I care. Enough said. Much love, Mom.”

Thanks, Mom. My sentiments exactly. (Have I got a cool Mom, or what?)

Upcoming Leather Events

International Mr. Fantasy Contest

August 16-18, Omaha, Nebraska
See previous issue for details. And good luck to Mr. Minnesota Fantasy 1996, Robert Riley.

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