Foreward to Consensual Sadomasochism

Gloria Brame’s Foreward to Consensual Sadomasochism

Self-acceptance, self esteem, pride, and dignity form the foundation of a happy life. They are also the four qualities which most novice SMers find most difficult to realize within themselves. In this culture, it is difficult to feel proud when the sting of a whip is your idea of a sensual caress. When we dare to confess our fantasies to lovers, we face rejection or are told to seek professional counseling and be “cured” of our sexual desires. (And unenlightened professionals have often tried — and failed miserably — to do just that.) We are taught that to crave forbidden sensations, to hunger for taboo thrills, to journey into sexual transcendence are sins.

More than anything, we lack sufficient role models and mentors who can show us that it is possible to explore and even to celebrate our radical sexual natures safely and lovingly.

Those of us who crave to act out the primal sexual drama of dominance and submission explicitly — whether through elaborate rituals of goddess worship or complex Master/slave fantasies, whether by submitting to bondage or having our bodies pierced — are repeatedly sent the message that who we are and what we want are all wrong. We are told this by people who represent authority in our lives — our parents, our teachers, our doctors, our clergy. Ever since sadomasochism was identified as a separate and aberrant form of sexuality in the late Nineteenth Century, ugly myths have been substituted for honest information about the carnal pleasures which are largely the outgrowth of normal and innate sexual impulses in women and men.

If we do not come to SM with doubts about our own morality, certainly once we begin to face the implications of our sexuality, the pressure is on: we grow embarrassed and ashamed of our needs; we resist them within ourselves. The sadists among us wonder if we are not secretly serial killers in disguise; the masochist wonder if they are not secretly victims. The fetishists find themselves alone, wondering whether their needs to worship feet or to wear rubber means they are sick.

I’ve heard from crossdressers, for example, that — like bulimics — they go through cycles of binging and purging. They become obsessed with dressing, amassing whole collections of clothes and toys. Once the lust wears itself down, they become disgusted or horrified by their excesses and throw everything away, vowing to never do it again, and the cycle repeats.

The anxiety about kinky sexuality is so prevalent in our culture that even those of us who have come to terms with our own kinks still often sit in judgment on the kinks of others. I remember attending an SM event once where a group of corset fetishists refused to be seated near the “whips and chains crowd.” Some of the more radical kinks — such as infantilism or watersports — are seldom if ever discussed at SM support groups.

The best panacea for this malaise of misunderstanding and prejudice about sadomasochistic sexuality is candor. The open dialogue about who we are, what we do, how we play, and what it means to us is our communal testament that sadomasochists may be unusual in their sexual drives but are nonetheless the same as everyone else: imperfectly perfect human beings.

The work to educate and enlighten was begun over twenty years ago when Larry Townsend penned the first edition of The Leatherman’s Handbook; Pat Califia has, through her spirited prose and probing rhetoric helped to make sadomasochism a clean word; joining them are authors such as Race Bannon, Guy Baldwin, Joseph Bean, the Samois Collective and a handful of dedicated newcomers. Offering how-to’s for people of all predilections, these people have advanced the dissemination of positive helpful advice on SM.

–Gloria G. Brame, Co-author Different Loving: The World of Sexual Dominance and Submission

About the Author