Welcome to our introduction to the wonderful world of kink (or, as the textbooks like to call it, "fetish" or "BDSM"). We can't pretend to answer all your questions, but we hope this little FAQ will be a positive start.
Most of you reading this will be taking your first steps in this exciting lifestyle. Some will be trying to come to terms with a vague attraction you've always had to bondage, spanking, submission or domination. Maybe it has been a feeling you've had all your life, or something that was sparked by a single event during a shag or a relationship. You might be straight, bi or gay; you might be sexually experienced or a virgin. Kink knows no such boundaries. It can intoxicate people almost randomly.
So in lots of ways we can't tell you why you're here or even what you might be looking for, but the important thing is you are here. You've already taken a huge step.
This is a work-in-progess. If you have any questions that you feel would be ideal for this F.A.Q., even if you don't know the answer, contact us.
Am I a weirdo for wanting to explore BDSM?
In a word, no.
Let's clear up a few myths and misunderstandings about kink before we explain more about the lifestyle itself. And we make no apologies for sounding a little militant:
First, people who are into activities like bondage or spanking are no more "weird" than members of the so-called "straight" community. Nearly all "vanilla" (non kink) relationships contain an element of the bizarre and the unusual. We see right through the hypocrisy of the tut-tutting and the pursed lips of our critics. The reality is that in the "normal" community there's a huge amount of deviate activities from partner swapping and prostitution to role-play and hetero bum-sex. If we bought their twisted line of reasoning then homosexuality would still be considered a disease, even by some gays. We believe that most people have unfulfilled fantasies, and it's those who suppress or who refuse to explore those desires who are sick and self-destructive. Poor souls.
Second, having a fascination for kink doesn't make you "abnormal" any more than having a fascination for redheads or blondes with big tits. Many guys coming into the kink environment have it put into their heads that wanting to serve a master is somehow self destructive, or that loving the feel of a paddle on your bare arse makes you a freak. Again, the critics can take a hike. And seriously, anyone who wants to start fucking with your mind with psychoanalysis is completely out of line as far as we're concerned. You are not reading this because you are sick; you are reading it because you want to be adventurous and to live out your fantasies. And that's what you should be applauded for.
Just in case you want to know some of the more clinical aspects, here's a neat summary from Wikipedia.
There are only a few studies researching the psychological aspects of BDSM using modern scientific standards. A pivotal survey on the subject was published by US-American psychotherapist Charles Moser in 1988 in the Journal of Social Work and Human Sexuality. His conclusion was that while there is a general lack of data on the psychological problems of BDSM practitioners, some fundamental results are obvious. He emphasizes that there is no evidence for the theory that BDSM has common symptoms or any common psychopathology; Clinical literature, though does not give a consistent picture of BDSM practitioners. Moser emphasizes that there is no evidence at all supporting the theory of BDSM practitioners having any special psychiatric problems or even problems based solely on their preferences.
Moser's results were supported by data presented to the 2007 World Congress of Sexology by Juliet Richters, Richard De Visser, Andrew Grulich, and Chris Rissel. The researchers found that BDSM practitioners were no more likely to have experienced sexual assault than the control group, and were not more likely to feel unhappy or anxious. The BDSM males reported higher levels of psychological well-being than the controls. It was concluded that "BDSM is simply a sexual interest attractive to a minority, not a pathological symptom of past abuse or difficulty with normal sex."
Can you give me a quick explanation of what kink is all about? I'm confused.
It shouldn't come as any surprise that we don't agree on most of the textbook definitions of kink. For the record, Webster's dictionary defines it as: "unconventional sexual taste or behaviour", but that's as specific as you're ever likely to get. Taken as a whole, kink embraces hundreds of different interests, so it's quite possible that there's no real distinction between normality and abnormality in terms of numbers of people involved. Foot fetish for example crosses the boundaries into "normal" sexual interests if only because of the sheer numbers of people who are into it.
If you look around at the average Collared club night in London or at the thousands of profiles on Informed Consent, you'll see this diversity in abundance. There'll be guys who love acting the role of puppies at play with their masters, people into feet and footplay, loads of guys who love being tied up, those who enjoy spanking and whipping, and being spanked and whipped. There will be guys into wearing lycra, rubber, leather, underwear or nothing at all. Some love being mildly electrocuted, some love to be humiliated, while others enjoy being confined in a cage.
Is one kink more acceptable than another?
It's true that some kink activities are more unconventional than others but no-one should be judgmental. We're all traveling on the same strange little boat.
One of the great benefits of getting together with other kinksters whether on a social networking site or in a club is that you can explore whatever side of life you want and share your experiences with others who are travelling down the same road. For many, socialising online or for real with other kinksters means just getting a sense of what this whole crazy scene is all about.
How many people are into kink?
This is a tough one to answer, because people move in and out of BDSM activity for a wide variety of reasons. Estimation on the overall percentage of BDSM related sexual behaviour in the general population range from 5 to 25 per cent.
A 1976 study in the general U.S. population suggests three per cent have had positive experiences with Bondage or master-slave role playing. Overall 12% of the interviewed females and 18% of the males were willing to try it. A 1990 Kinsey Institute report stated that 5% to 10% of Americans occasionally engage in sexual activities related to BDSM. 11% of men and 17% of women reported trying bondage.
According to a 2005 survey of 317,000 people in 41 countries, about 20% of the surveyed people have at least once used masks, blindfolds or other bondage utilities, and 5% explicitly connected themselves with BDSM. In 2004, 19% mentioned spanking as one of their practices and 22% confirmed the use of blindfolds and/or handcuffs.
A non-representative survey on the sexual behaviour of American students published in 1997 showed 15% of openly homosexual males, 21% of openly lesbian and female bisexual students, 11% of heterosexual males and 9% of female heterosexual students were committed to BDSM related fantasies. In all groups the level of practical BDSM experiences varied about 6%.
Within the group of openly female bisexuals and lesbians the quote was significantly higher, at 21%. Independent of their sexual orientation, about 12% of all questioned students, 16% of the outed female lesbians and bisexuals and 8% of the male gays articulated an interest in spanking.
Experience with this sexual behaviour was indicated by 30% of male heterosexuals, 33% of female bisexuals and lesbians, and 24% of the male gay and bisexual men and female heterosexual women. In other words, most people who fantasise about BDSM don't ever get to live out those fantasies.
Even if this study were not considered representative, other surveys indicate similar results.
In a representative study published in 1999 by the German Institut für rationale Psychologie, about two thirds of the interviewed women stated a desire to be at the mercy of their sexual partners from time to time. 69% admitted to fantasies dealing with sexual submissiveness, 42% stated interest in explicit BDSM techniques, 25% in bondage.
(principle source: Wikipedia)
What sort of activities do kink people get up to?
There are more than 470 identified kink interests, most of which have long and unpronnouncable names. Whatever kink you can imagine is probably on that list, from getting excited about statues to having sex with trees.
In general terms, kink can be divided into two hemispheres: an interest in specific body parts, body functions or objects (say, feet or farting), and an interest in activities that may or may not relate to any specific body part (say, whipping or bondage).
According to the Independent newspaper in the UK, results from the largest global study of sexual kinks ever undertaken show that feet and shoes are by far the biggest turn-ons.
Researchers from the University of Bologna found that, among sexual preferences for body parts, feet and toes were the most popular, with 47 per cent of those sampled preferring them. They also found that, when it came to objects associated with the body, shoes, boots and other footwear scored 64 per cent.
The survey, based on the views of men and women, also revealed some of the more obscure objects of affection. These included 150 people with a penchant for hearing aids, and two whose hearts go into overdrive thinking about pacemakers.
Some 12 per cent were turned on by underwear, 9 per cent by coats, body fluids and body size, 7 per cent by hair, 5 per cent by muscles, and 4 per cent by genitals and body modifications such as tattooing.
Three per cent went for navels, ethnicity and breasts, and 2 per cent for legs, buttocks, mouths, lips and teeth.
The lowest scores went to stethoscopes, wristwatches, bracelets, nappies and catheters. Body hair, nails, noses, ears, neck and body odour all scored less than 1 per cent.
However this doesn't give the full picture. Many people into kink are interested in activities as much as specific body parts. Bondage is so popular it has almost become mainstream. Electrocution using safe and low voltages is extremely popular, as is spanking, whipping and humiliation.
Specific clothing — often called "gear" — is also popular. Leather, rubber and lycra are frequently enjoyed by kinksters.
Why am I into kink? What caused it?
The causes — if any — behind any interest in kink will be as many and varied as your imagination stretches. There is no single cause, any more than there's a single cause that creates an interest in sports or hobbies.
Ask yourself why you feel the need to ascribe a cause to your fetish. OK, so you're into being spanked and whipped. Why does that require any more soul searching than if you were into extreme sports (or indeed any professional-level sport), or if you are an army cadet that playfully exchanges gut punches with his mates until one or other drops winded to the floor.
We'll repeat what we quoted above from the clinical investigations.
The BDSM males reported higher levels of psychological well-being than the controls. It was concluded that 'BDSM is simply a sexual interest attractive to a minority, not a pathological symptom of past abuse or difficulty with normal sex.'
Is BDSM legal?
We're going to confine the detail here to the UK environment, as that's where Collared and Informed Consent are based. If you'd like to check out the legal status in Germany, Italy and other countries please refer to the Wikipedia article on BDSM as a starting point.
British law does not recognize the possibility of consenting to bodily injury. To a significant extent such acts are illegal, even between consenting adults, and these laws are enforced. This leads to the situation that, while Great Britain and especially London are world centers of the closely-related fetish scene, these are generally private events for the BDSM scene which are in no way comparable to the German "Play party" scene. The main UK "entry point" BDSM club, Collared, allows participation principally on a membership basis and with full notice given of any possible kink activities that might arise in the club events.
Following Operation Spanner the European Court of Human Rights ruled in January 1999 in Laskey, Jaggard and Brown v. United Kingdom that no violation of the Article 8 right to privacy occurred because the amount of physical or psychological harm that the law allows between any two people, even consenting adults, is to be determined by the jurisdiction the individuals live in, as it is the State's responsibility to balance the concerns of public health and well-being with the amount of control a State should be allowed to exercise over its citizens. In the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007, the British Government cited the Spanner case as justification for criminalizing images of consensual acts, as part of its criminalization of possession of "extreme pornography". From 26th January 2009 it has been illegal for anyone in England and Wales to possess an "extreme" image, even if the activity itself is legal. For more information about this law and its implications visit Backlash UK
Possibly the best resource on the legal status of BDSM in the UK can be found on the Spanner Trust website. Here's a couple of extracts to give you an overview of the difficult situation in UK law.
SM activity is an illegal assault if it results in marks or injuries which are more than transient and trifling. These words are highly subjective and open to interpretation. The following are likely to be considered by Judge Rant to be illegal: heavy beatings which leave lasting marks; any activities which leave scars, bruises etc. A heavy love bite could now be unlawful. There are some areas which are well clear of the ruling. Fantasy sex, role playing and dressing up are outside his judgement. So you can wear as much leather, rubber, uniforms and fetish gear as you wish. Bondage falls outside his judgement too, if there are no lasting marks.
Shaving, mummification and watersports are unlikely to be considered assaults. It is likely that mild corporal punishment, where there is no injury, would be considered trifling. However you should be aware that the judgement does not define what is trifling and the ruling is open to many interpretations. Any prosecutions which attempt to define these need to be fought, supported by the best, well-informed legal advice
I'm worried that engaging in BDSM will put me at risk of breaking the law. What can I do to help protect myself?
Make sure to read the previous section in this FAQ. It may be that your particular interest carries little or no legal risk. Again we're going to revert to the ever-helpful advice given by the Spammer Trust:
This article cannot encourage you to break the law. However it can offer you advice on what you should avoid. If you believe you may have engaged in SM activity which could be classified as actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm, then you can only be prosecuted it there is evidence against you. This evidence could be your own statement, or that of another participant. The evidence could be in the form of documentation such as letters, photographs cassette recordings or videos.
If you are questioned by the police, remember that, whatever they say, you are under no obligation to say anything to them, even if they arrest you. However it may in certain circumstances be in your interests to answer police questions at a Police Station. You should NEVER try and decide this on your own. You should ALWAYS seek legal advice. If you are arrested you must ask for a solicitor as soon as you arrive at the Police Station. Solicitors are completely free whilst you are in police custody.
Don't let the police persuade you that waiting for a solicitor will delay your detention. Don't be taken in by a friendly copper who "just wants to help you through this difficulty". The police have no right to search your home unless they have a Warrant or unless you are arrested for certain types of offence.
Don't be taken in by statements by them to the effect that, it you admit the offence, things will go easier for you in court. Or that, if you give them details of other people's activities or identities, they will go easy on you or 'let you off'. Without your statement, they may have no evidence to convict you or your friends. Always insist on having a solicitor present when you are questioned. These are your rights. A videotape or photograph, cassette recording or letters which identify individuals engaging in SM scenes which could now be unlawful will provide the police with good evidence with which to bring a prosecution. Be aware that identification of individuals can come from recognisable surroundings or body markings such as tattoos or piercings.
Prosecutions since the Spanner Case
Since the original case there have been a number of police raids, arrests and prosecutions for both gay men and heterosexuals based on the possibility that they had engaged in illegal SM activities. In a raid on a house in Hoylandswaine in West Yorkshire 36 gay men were arrested and their clothing and accessories were taken away. Despite persistent questioning the men refused to divulge any information to the police about their actual or intended activities and in the end no charges were made. However it took the men some time and legal assistance to recover all their property.
Two further cases concerned heterosexual married couples. In both cases the husband had placed serious marks on his wife's body in the course of a consensual SM scene. In each case when the case came to trial the Judge ruled that what took place within the confines of a consensual private relationship was of no concern to the court. These cases do not invalidate the original Spanner judgement nor is it clear how they affect SM activity outside heterosexual marriage.
I keep hearing about "doms and subs". What does this mean?
A Dom is a dominant person, or one who acts dominant in his relationships. A Sub is a submissive, who allows the Dom to take a controlling role in the relationship or activity.
You'll find — probably from your own feelings — that much of this is about whether you "do" things to another person or want to have then "done" to you. This is a complex issue, but at its most simple level it's about whether at any one moment you want to be submissive or dominant.
Few people just "think" puppy. They either think of "being" a puppy or "handling" a puppy. Similarly, people don't just think "spanking". What they imagine is spanking or being spanked, along with everything that goes with that activity.
None of this is meant to put you in a pigeonhole. Many guys move freely from submission to domination. There are no rules. There is no normality. Just enjoy yourself.
What's the difference between a dom and a sub, and a master and a slave?
There are some specific difference between these roles, though there's also a huge grey area in between.
Generally speaking, a scene involving a dom and a sub is often based on a "per session" agreement. That is, the activities are often quite informal and unstructured. I want to dominate a sub, and the sub agrees, then we start the action. Afterward we might have a cup of tea and chat about what worked and what didn't. The roles often do not extend past the agreed session period.
During a session a sub might call his dom a "master" but while he is performing the role of master, he often is not the sub's true Master. For that commitment to be made there is often a long process of trust-building. A Master and Slave relationship is usually a little more structured.
The Master/Slave relationship often transcends sessions and moves into a more continuous life situation. It is a situation that frequently requires a commitment from both sides and agreement on an often complex set of norms and expectations. You can read a model Master/Servant contract here.
Does BDSM have to involve sex?
Absolutely not. Although many "scenes" will involve being naked, teasing the genitals, and generally creating a horny time, many situations — if not most of them — never end up in sex.
This doesn't mean of course that one or more people involved won't have sexual feelings. Of course they might. Being restrained or spanked for example can be amazingly horny. Sometimes events just move toward a sexual outcome, but often they don't. Again, there are no rules. Just go with the flow.
Having said that, everyone has the right to set limits on the activities. If you don't want any sexual contact then you need to be clear about that from the very beginning.
This is a work-in-progess. If you have any questions that you feel would be ideal for this F.A.Q., even if you don't know the answer, contact us.