|The Many Faces of the Community|
|By Hans Meijer|
There is a wide variety of misconceptions, when it comes to BDSM. Quite a few of these will be tackled in this section. And for starters, let's talk about this "community" because, as many will argue, there is no such thing as a BDSM community.
Fact of the matter is that "unity" is a word, that does not fit very well, when it comes to BDSM. In fact, the BDSM world is largely a collection of many different vues, styles, relationships, sexual orientations, organisations and - unfortunately - personal kingdoms with self appointed gods, kings or emperors. The BDSM-world is somewhat of a jungle to put it mildly and that is nothing new. It was like that before the days of the Internet, it still is and probably always will be.
It would be very helpful if people understood, what exactly it is they are doing. Unfortunately, many do not, or refuse to and closemindedness is quite common when it comes to BDSM. However, to the outsider it soon becomes obvious that there are a few major differences and these are actually quite easy to explain. More importantly, if BDSM is more or less new to you, you may find it helpful to have something of a map of this "BDSM community".
The first thing to understand is that BDSM-people are fantasy-driven. And there is nothing wrong with that, but it does help to always keep it in mind. Ever since the Internet came about and as a result of it everyone has access to means of mass-communication it has not become any easier. Fantasy is what keeps most people going in BDSM and as a result much of what you read - either on websites, in chatrooms and on discussionlists, may not be reality, but instead people's fantasies: i.e. a description of what people would LIKE their situation to be.
Fantasy is not a problem. In fact, there is nothing wrong with it. The problem is though, that as a result it is often difficult to find out what exatly is reality and what is fantasy.
Another problem is that people fantasize about what others do. Quite a lot of BDSM people have a tendency to identify themselves with what they consider to be role models - quite often these will be other BDSM people and usually the ones they have read about on a website or have "met"- quite often during demonstrations or workshops. In most of these "role model concepts" people tend to look only at what they read or see and not at the reality of a situation. For example: yes some people may do excellent bondage demonstrations, but that does not mean their relationship is perfect, even though it seems to be like that during the demo.
Fetish, versus lifestyle, versus relationship
Ever since the Internet came about, it has become more difficult to identify what people actually do. The Internet brought us such things as cybersex and "online relationships" and - most importantly - the differences between "virtual" and "real life". In the old days we used to call this fantasy versus reality. The difference is in the fact that in the old days we usually did not know about people's fantasies. Now we do. And that is often very confusing.
For your personal map of the BDSM community it is very helpful to always check the following:
Fetishism - Most people, you will meet on the Internet (and actually, although in "smaller quantities", in real life situations) have something that is known as a "BDSM fetish". This means they are attracted by the superficial characteristics of BDSM, the clothing, the outfits, the often laid back attitude and the open sexuality. To them, just talking about it or seeing it (in movies, in action or in pictures) is THE turn on. Doing it for themselves is an entirely different story. They may fantasize about that, but it will hardly ever come to life. That is not a problem, it is just different from others.
Lifestyle - Lifestyle is the most mis-used word, when it comes to BDSM. Most people will use the word "lifestyle" to try and explain that they actually "do something" in real life, but this might be anything from tieing their partner up occasionally to a full size BDSM-based relationship.
"Lifestyle" usually does not even mean they are in an actual relationship. It might mean they (occasionally) dress themselves in leather and visit parrties or gatherings. It may mean they fantasize about having a BDSM-relationship or even seriously plan to have one. Or it might mean they are in a full Total Power Exchange relationship. Fact of the matter is that "lifestyle" usually means these people really do (want to) experience what BDSM is all about in some form. It is not a qualification for anything, neither does it imply some sort of standard or "benchmark".
Benchmarking and labeling - The biggest problem in BDSM is the tendency, many people have, to find benchmarks and label others. Since BDSM is a very personal thing, the truth is that every relationship and every emotion is personal, hence different from others. There are no benchmarks and labels do not really help either. True dominants and submissives do not excist. In fact there probably are not even good or bad doms or subs. They are just different. Something or someone may not be your cup of tea, but that does not mean it cannnot (or should not) be someone elses.
While many people look for footholds, fact of the matter is there are none or at least very little, when it comes to BDSM. That is a concept not many people can live with. People tend to look for justification and something to identify with and that - when it comes to BDSM - is next to impossible.
Other items by Hans Meijer:
Articles: The River of Hidden Sexual Eenergy