It is not every day a person gives a presentation about kinky practices at a university.
Nov. 12, Sophie Hart enlightened students about how to become safely involved with kink and debunked misconceptions about BDSM.
Hart began by explaining what BDSM stands for because there are three acronyms within it. BD stands for bondage, which involves restraint, and discipline, which involves a punishment or humiliation for an action. DS stands for dominant, a partner who performs an action, and submissive, a partner who allows the dominant to perform the action on them. Hart said this is more of a relationship style. SM stands for sadism, people who seek to give pain, and masochism, people who seek to receive pain.
Hart said sadists and masochists receive a lot of flack because people misinterpret why they enjoy giving or receiving pain.
“The body releases endorphin when it senses pain,” Hart said. “Masochists like the rush and feel euphoric. Sadists enjoy providing the good pain masochists want.”
Hart said even though some members want to hurt other members, they do not want to cause harm. Hart stressed safety, negotiation and consent are extremely important in a BDSM relationship.
“If you don’t have a lot of safety concerns, you’re doing it wrong,” Hart said.
Hart said before two or more people start a scene, they negotiate what each other wants and what limits they have. Hart said limits include flogging a back, but not a butt.
Wicked Wanda, a dominant who taught BDSM 101 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said there are two types of limits.
Wanda said a hard limit cannot be negotiated or change during a scene. On the other hand, a soft limit can be negotiated and the dominant can attempt to push this limit if the submissive consents to it. Every limit must be set before the scene.
“One should never attempt to negotiate in the middle of the scene,” Wanda said.
During the presentation, Hart defined consent as an agreement of what people will do during a scene. The members of the BDSM and kink community want their play to be safe and to make sure people know what they are doing.
“One thing you will find about about our lifestyle is that we communicate a lot,” Wanda said. “Sometimes to the point of ridiculousness.”
One of the ways people find others to safely play with is by attending social gatherings called munches.
“Munches are important if you want to get involved because that’s how you meet people,” Hart said.
Wanda said at munches a responsible group leader will identify new members and are open to questions people have. Wanda said they encourage new members to ask questions about who they want to play with.
“If there is a person who is seen as a risk player, we make sure newbies are warned of them,” Wanda said. “We have actual facts and not just random gossip.”
The community emphasizes members’ safety, but the public still has many misconceptions about them.
Hart said the misconception she hates the most is that people believe sadists are evil. She said every human possesses some sadistic tendencies.
“May I remind you that anyone who watches contact sports is a sadist?” Hart said. “They see an injury and do not look away and possibly even hope for an injury on the field, that’s sadism.”
Hart said this does not mean humans are evil or sick.
“The thing that’s unhealthy is not embracing it,” Hart said. “It’s forced underground, and we pretend we don’t like it which causes self-loathing and self-hate.”
Wanda said it is easy for the public to typecast members of the BDSM and kink community as freaks who take and give abuse.
“I sincerely believe we are the last mainstream taboo,” Wanda said. “We are still perceived as an exotic indulgence that should be purged and “normalized” since it is not normal behavior.”
In reality, abuse is uncommon in BDSM and kink relationships. Hart said since people negotiate on what can and cannot happen, it leaves little room for abuse.
Despite this, the public remains ignorant to the true practices and values of the BDSM and kink community due to its stigma. One aspect the public often does not know about is therapeutic practice called aftercare.
Hart said people can experience submissive or dominant drop. They will feel depressed, guilty or hopeless because their endorphin is dropping. Wanda said aftercare varies between partners and may include cuddling, being wrapped in a blanket and left alone, massages or being fed chocolates.
“Aftercare is a very personal experience,” Wanda said.
Hart said even though they cause pain, they care about their partners and will negotiate beforehand to have necessary items ready for aftercare. Whatever the needs are, Hart stressed they prepare for the provisions to be available immediately when the scene ends.
“One of my favorite parts of playing is the aftercare because you feel so intimate and it is affirming,” Hart said.
There is a lot for the public to learn about the community and, as Hart said, many people might be secretly interested in BDSM or kink. When asked what she wants people to learn, Wanda responded with a positive answer.
“To enjoy the journey, delight in their bodies and the sensation they will experience,” Wanda said. “To be true to themselves, to spank and to take absolute joy in what they do.”