The BDSM community in its modern form – one where people can meet one another online or go to specific events at pubs and clubs to meet others with similar sexual interests – is one that has evolved over time. Prior to this current incarnation, the sexually and gender diverse BDSM subculture took the form of the very queer leather subculture, a subculture primarily made up of leather daddies who looked more like the interpretation of leather man in the Village People than Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades films. It’s best not to mention Fifty Shades around the BDSM traps though – they don’t love that book for its misrepresentations of BDSM and lack of consent within its pages, something kinksters take very seriously.
Like a bad dye job, it’s easy to see the queer roots of the BDSM scene, even with all the frequent portrayals of BDSM in pop culture which serve to make BDSM more heterosexual. There are still people – straight and queer alike – practicing what kinksters call ‘old guard’ leather, but for the most part, even the most basic of kinksters still hold a slightly queer view of sexuality.
Dave, who still identifies as “one hundred per cent straight – no question!” will tell you that he has ‘played’ with another man, and really enjoyed it. Although quick to point out that he didn’t experience sexual contact with the other man, Dave describes some light S&M which he says was very eye-opening. Dave tells SBS Sexuality that he couldn’t have this sort of experience with a woman, as “they’re just not strong enough. They can’t throw you around like a bloke can.”
Deb, another kinkster who spoke with SBS Sexuality, says that although she is an out bisexual - with everyone in her tight group of friends knowing about her orientation - one does not need to be bisexual to play with anyone of any gender in the BDSM community. She points out that she sees plenty of people of mixed sexual orientation playing together. “I’m bi, but I don’t mind what others call themselves,” she says.
"At the end of the day, we’re all human and we’re all here for a good time," she continues. "If someone calls themselves straight in the BDSM community, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll only play with people of the opposite sex. You just need to ask someone you’re interested in if they’d like to play, and you play. It’s so much more simple here than in the vanilla world.”
With more emphasis on consent, Deb says that for her, there is a difference between sexual orientation and sexual identity, saying that orientation is “who you do” and identity is “how you talk about who you do.”
Deb's partner Jack has a different view. Identifying as homoflexible, Jack says: “It just means that I am mostly gay, but for the right connection, I’ll go straight.” When asked how this differs to his partner’s bisexual identity, Jack concedes that it’s not all that different, and goes further to say that none of the labels matter anyway, since outside of their relationship, the only play they experience with anyone else is purely non-sexual BDSM play.
With all of this non-sexual (or 'no sexual contact', to be precise) play going on, Dave points out that even though he is strongly in the heterosexual camp - despite his playing with other men in the BDSM context - he is aware that plenty of other people within the BDSM community see their gender and sexual identities as being quite fluid. “We’re all a little mad around here,” Dave he says with a sardonic grin. “It’s not like the rest of the world where you get to be only one thing and that’s it.”
He adds: “You can be whoever you want to be, and just have fun. Life’s pretty short, you know?”
In a world of binaries, it’s easy to see why the sexual rebels love the BDSM community so much. People with all sorts of identities gather, able to play with others of mixed orientation without fear of judgement. It seems the BDSM community is one big sexy adult playground.
It is that freedom from judgement that drew Jack to the BDSM scene over regular gay clubs. Enjoying the variety of people he met, Jack tells SBS that he appreciates that no-one in the BDSM scene judged him for being a gay man who fell in love with a bisexual woman. “There’s nothing better than finding your people, and feeling accepted,” he says.
The BDSM community has long been one of pushing boundaries, and the pushing of boundaries around sexual identity and sexual orientation seem to be the current hot buttons to push. If the sexual rebels are doing this now, will everyone else be following suit into the world of post-sexual-identity soon, too?
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