Sex or Sickness?

Author: J. Mikael Togneri ©

Used With Author's Permission


Seen from the admittedly biased vantage point of the absolute lifestyle, BDSM as a whole has depreciated remarkably over the past twenty or thirty years. It would seem that the downward spiral has finally hit rock bottom, not with a resounding crash, but with a soft, apologetic and nearly inaudible “thud”. To hear the “experts” talk about it these days, one is left with the distinct impression that BDSM is either a sexuality or a mental illness. What the mainstream claims about itself is, on the face of it at least, their own business. However, it rubs off unfavourably on the rest of us, and that makes it ours, too.

The mainstream BDSM views are extremely well documented in print and on the Internet. Meanwhile, because we do not subscribe to those views, such august on-line institutions as SubNation and Powerotics, among others, have consistently attempted to vilify the absolute lifestyle. Indeed it cannot be denied that when we are confronted with those who apparently dislike us so intensely, we often find ourselves yearning for the open-minded and tolerant warmth of the Iranian Ayatollahs. In order to redress the balance, therefore, here is one “absolutist’s” viewpoint.

It has of late become more and more a matter of political correctness to describe our lifestyle as a matter of personal sexuality; something that we do in private whilst in all other contexts we are completely indistinguishable from our non-BDSM surroundings. That contention is of course manifestly absurd. One quite simply cannot build an entire lifestyle around something as relatively superficial as sex. A lifestyle is defined as the manner in which one conducts one’s life. One’s sexuality is therefore a lifestyle choice, a part of a much more comprehensive whole. If BDSM is to be one’s lifestyle, it must encompass rather more than just the way one chooses to seek sexual gratification. It must be the foundation of everything that one does, and everything that one is.

It should be borne in mind that the fallacy of BDSM as primarily a sexual pursuit is a relatively newly developed notion, propagated by certain individuals and communities in an effort to mollify our hostile non-BDSM surroundings. Aside from having as much effect as mosquito repellent on a ballistic missile, this “strategy” has also seriously backfired. Thus, when during the latter half of the 1990s mainstream fashion enjoyed a short-lived flirt with fetishist clothing and accessories, the BDSM community was literally overrun by narcissistic posers who really have nothing to do with the lifestyle at all, except that they have adopted our “uniform” and symbols as a matter of fashion trend.

The arrival of these people on the scene has further served to cloud the issues, because while they perhaps consider their sexual activities to be very advanced and sufficiently non-conformist to be hip, they hardly qualify as BDSM. Having taken the ball and run with it, it is no mystery that they should endeavour very enthusiastically to maintain the perception of BDSM as something that belongs exclusively within the realm of sexuality. After all, fashion-consciousness indicates a strong desire to be accepted by one’s peers, and whilst dipping one’s toes in the “dark side” is considered adventurous and “in” nowadays, any further and more serious immersion definitely is not.

That BDSM naturally attracts self-absorbed hedonists and jaded thrill-seekers should come as no surprise to anyone – this has always been so. However, by creating and perpetuating the misconception of BDSM as kinky sex, those individuals and communities within the lifestyle who do so, have done it untold damage by actively welcoming these undesirables into our midst. Not only have they opened the doors wide for the influx of many people who do not belong here, they have also played right into the hands of those who would persecute us for our alleged perversity and immorality.

The religious repressionists among our antagonists would not have had a leg to stand upon, had it not been for this ludicrous distortion of the BDSM lifestyle. Most, if not all, the local and national legislation around the world that would brand BDSM lifestylers as criminals, is based on sexual morality. The American Religious Right, for example, is not exactly renowned for its insistence upon the equality of the sexes and the dignity of woman as an independent human being. To them, the mere fact that she is female automatically makes her a glorified servant. The only objection these people have to BDSM is that they consider it sex, and in this they have received the full support and co-operation of many who call themselves adherents to our lifestyle.

This makes for strange bedfellows, of course. Put somewhat crudely perhaps, among the Right Wing Christians it is often a case of wife-beating being perfectly acceptable, except if she gets off on it. Among the radical feminists, by contrast, it goes without saying that wife-beating is entirely unacceptable no matter the circumstances, but to hear them pontificate on the issue one must suspect that it is especially repugnant to them if she gets off on it. What the BDSM-equals-sex crowd don't seem to realise is that while they are being so helpful in putting the Religious Right and the Feminist Movement into bed together, it is the BDSM lifestyle that is ultimately getting screwed.

It is indeed very typical that the very same people who first drone on and on about BDSM being kinky sex, are then astonished that professional dominatrices are routinely and indiscriminately prosecuted on prostitution charges. But you can't have it both ways, can you? If BDSM is nothing but sex, then pro-dommes are by definition being paid for sexual services. And once again the most effective ammunition in the repressionist arsenal comes from among our own.

The wrongful and very hurtful refusal on the part of society to distinguish between sexual kink and sexual crime has not done the lifestyle any favours either. That certain people equate BDSM lifestylers with incestuous, child-molesting, serial killing zoophiles (again, observe the preponderance of sexually oriented terms), is in part caused by the previously mentioned religious reactionaries. (It will be noted that the more puritanical and anti-sexual a person’s morality is, the more dirty-minded and perverse imagination s/he will invariably possess). It is also caused by those criminals who are attracted to BDSM imagery and practice, of course, but it is their psychopathy that distorts the image of BDSM, not BDSM that creates the psychopathy. However, what little has been done to address this issue has been defeated from within the ranks of BDSM itself, by people who have accused others of being criminal or insane, or both, simply for having chosen a different approach than their own.

As a result, the lifestyle in North America is under constantly increasing attack by intolerant reactionaries and radical feminists alike, who persecute the true lifestylers for “crimes” they do not commit and would never dream of committing. In Europe, meanwhile, the widespread commercialisation of BDSM, of late in conjunction with the said fashion trends, has all but obliterated the true lifestyle venues outright. Even very established and venerable BDSM clubs have degenerated into simple fetish sex-clubs for the young, rich and beautiful.

The responsibility for these developments falls squarely upon the collective shoulders of the aforementioned SubNation, Powerotics and their ilk. Even the Old Guard must accept some of the blame. They are not educating the general public; they are merely preaching to the converted. They are not helping to bring about a more tolerant environment; they are feeding the prejudices of our persecutors, and antagonising the undecided. And they are not even trying to promote tolerance and acceptance within the lifestyle itself; quite on the contrary.

It is sometimes said that in terms of social acceptance the BDSM lifestyle is some twenty years behind the gay community, and this has been borne out in most of Europe, at least. The apparent delay in notably the Anglo-Saxon countries is once again due to the influence of those who present BDSM as a sexuality. The reason for which most other Western countries view the lifestyle in a somewhat more tolerant light these days, is that the BDSM communities there have successfully shown that, just like the gay community, ours extends beyond mere sex, and is first and foremost a matter of social and personal identity.

So no matter how the mainstream defines what it is that they do, absolute BDSM is neither sex nor sickness, but a complete lifestyle, and arguably the only approach to BDSM that can truly be said to possess that distinction. The absolute BDSM lifestyle is a matter of who and what we are in the universal scheme of things, rather more than what we do and how we do it. We are what we are, and we lead our lives accordingly. We make no apologies, because there is nothing to apologise for. This is our real “crime” in the eyes of our critics: our refusal to jump on the bandwagon of the lowest common denominator.

The absolute lifestyle is not intentionally exclusive, but then again it is not particularly inclusive either. To pursue the lowest common denominator is after all to elevate mediocrity to an ideal. There are definite limits to how far one can stretch oneself in order to accommodate just about anyone, without stretching oneself too thin. The more shades of grey one acknowledges in order to ignore the fact that some things actually are black and white, the less definition one can maintain.

And absolute dominance and submission is our definition.


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