I'm still thinking about the objections to "Fifty Shades". So many of the articles I've found on line seem to take it as a necessity that the makers of the film should've consulted "experts and practitioners" about BDSM and followed their admonitions. Understandable, I suppose. There's a "community" that wants to be "properly" portrayed. Didn't we go through all this with gay groups in the 1970s and 1980s--- the insistence by an outsider group that they have the final word on how others portray them? For that matter, hasn't "representation" been a key issue for all marginalized groups over the last fifty years? The BDSM community is desperate to establish itself as a legitimate community, desperate to free itself from being taken as inherently about abuse and violence and misogyny. Understandable, yes. But still something that I find utterly irrelevant.
All things considered, "experts and practitioners" would be the last people I'd go to if wanted to discuss how to present s/m on film or in a novel.
I've never been much for "community". I'm not good at any of the things that build community. Whatever interest I do have in s/m isn't about community, and I suppose it's not about what writers on the topic like to call "the power exchange". I'm not at all sure what I'd ask experts about. I suppose that a skilled practitioner of shibari could tell me how to tie intricate knots and do rope bondage that's as pretty as origami. I have to laugh about that, though. I've been hopeless at knots all my life. I've always told people that repeatedly failing the knot-tying test kept me out of the Scouts. Asking about bondage itself means, well, nothing to me. The BDSM community, like any other community, must have its own terms of art, its own specialized vocabulary. That doesn't mean anything to me, either.
If I asked anyone about portraying s/m, I'd ask designers--- fashion designers and interior designers. I'd ask photographers. I'd ask rare book specialists. Really--- those are the people I'd ask. I'm not interested in the politics or ethical debates. I'm interested in the aesthetics.
I know that means I'll never be someone who's part of the "community" or the "lifestyle". My interest is about style and ritual as part of sex. My interest is always in the idea of crafted moments, in the idea of being part of a performance.
Here in the days of the gender wars, there's a part of the trans* world that is openly hostile to people who think that trans* is about sex, and even more hostile to people who are old-school transvestites, people who dress up for sexual reasons, people who are seen as mere fetishists. Authenticity is what's demanded (though authenticity is a fetish and obsession all its own).
By that standard, then--- no. I can't be interested in s/m for "authentic" reasons. I see it not as an end in itself, but as an occasion for performance. The BDSM groups I've read about disdained those who saw s/m as "dress-up" and not as a way of living. That's fine. What I do with lovely young companions is very much dress-up. It's getting into character. It's learning lines and backstories and finding the right sets and soundtrack. It's about class markers and certain kinds of style. It's a fashion statement and as formal and stylized as eighteenth-century court dances. Yes, it's all about surfaces, about how it looks. It's about its literary pedigree, too...but isn't that tied into style and looks?
I suppose that's why knots don't matter to me. Rope is too material, too...blue collar. Bind with silk, blindfold with silk. Or just cross a lovely girl's wrists and whisper to her that she's to imagine that she's bound with white silk. One more step into abstraction. Decor matters--- and nothing is in red. I just wanted to note that.
I've always said that there are two choices in sex--- hot or cold. I've always leaned toward cold. That doesn't mean heartless, by the way. But it does mean stylized, ritualized, abstract. It means seeing sex as a kind of performance piece, something where decor and dialogue and fashion matter. I've asked lovely girls to be part of what really are scripted pieces, and I've been lucky enough to have them accept. I've been lucky enough to have young companions understand that what we're doing derives from literary sources and fashion photography, that we're doing something abstract and formal.
I'd never consult "experts and practitioners". Nothing that I do is about politics or ethics. What I want with a lovely young companion is not community or even the flesh. What I want, in the end, is to tell a story, to be lost inside something worth reading, something that is about surfaces. But then--- haven't I said for years that pleasure for me is never, never unmediated?