Done right, BDSM is a gateway for self-discovery and haute exhibitionism.
I’m writing to you now from Paris, the last leg of my trip. I got back to my flat at Le Marais at around 5 a.m., from an excellent first time at a swingers club, and it turned out to be a cultural and philosophical experience, aside from it being social a
AS VIOLET WRITES TO ME IN SOLEMN, POETIC,
verses from Paris, detailing the intemperate realities of her sex life, I am staring wideeyed into the screen of my computer in Manila, astonished that the orgies captured cinematically by Stanley Kubrick in Eyes Wide Shut, turn out to be, after all, an accessible reality. Apparently, the club privat or club exchangiste, as they say in their local parlance, is rooted on the culture’s traditional penchant for kink (Marquis de Sade, I’m looking at you…). I mean, Yelp.com has a list of the best swingers clubs in the city.
vacation,before itinerary Violet her was spent passedfinal filleda jaunt throughwithfew in weeks occasionalParis. Viennain Although Europe sightseeing,and Ibiza her for engagingpart of the in plan: some play kinky sessions proclivities booked was witha playmates, fellow BDSM practitioners, who she connects with via the social network FetLife.com.
“Recently realized that an uncommon kink that I have is being a label whore,” reads her profile on FetLife. “Call it materialist, consumerist, or even Marxist, I indulge in
luxury labels and love to strut around and play in designer duds. Can’t resist Christian Louboutin shoes, YSL leather outfits, Kiki de Montparnasse lingerie, Agent Provocateur lace blindfolds, Hermès collars, etc. I like being tied up with Chanel silk scarves and ribbons, get spanked with Dior leather belts, slapped by a hand wearing Patek Philippe or Jaeger-LeCoultre, and fucked in nothing but my heels and jewelry. I also enjoy using these implements on partners even if they literally don’t know what’s hitting them. Please leave your entry-level Louis Vuitton and Rolex at home. And take this part of my profile with a grain of salt.”
Identifying herself as a “heteroflexible princess by day, slut by night,” when Violet is not cracking her whip on a titillated sub—she works as a sales, PR, and marketing associate six days a week, and maintains a moderate social life. Having only started with FetLife late last year, Violet says it has since become a great place for her to learn more about herself and have some fun.
“I’ve always been a curious cat and had a relatively early sexual debut. I accidentally read a headline about orgasms in Cosmopolitan when I was about seven, and tried to ask some adults in the family what the ‘Big O’ was! Sex and the City was on TV when I was nine; pop charts were churning out songs suggestive in nature; and the Internet was revealing itself to be a place where you could find just about anything.” Raised in a girls’ Catholic school where virginity was taught to be “the best gift you can give to your husband,” Violet set off to explore sexuality on her own—a reality that rings true for many teens who are left with numerous unanswered questions. “They barely touched up on holistic Sex Ed in high school, so I had to research about protection, diseases, and the physiology and psychology of sexual interaction. So at an early age, I had an inkling about the concepts of pleasure (sex) and romance (love), but also knew that one could exist without the other.”
She was around 16 when she first began to explore her carnal desires with other people. “One of the first few times I had sex involved circumstantial exhibitionism, and that was exciting for the both of us.” In the first semester of her freshman year in college, she had her first three-way, and shortly after that, started exploring with female partners. By 21, she was meeting up with men casually, engaging in one-night stands. By 24, she was dating someone 12 years her senior, and when that ended, she had a phase of “wanting to fuck only men who were younger.” Then that got exhausting too, so she went back to dating within her age bracket and lifestyle. “As you may now deduce, I’m quite liberal sexually and otherwise, and definitely have experimental phases,” she says. “Being an only child to a single parent, I always joke that my ‘daddy issues’ manifests in Freudian slips in and out of my sex life—but with the appropriate education, necessary cautions and proper partners, I enjoy sex very much.”
In her earlier sexual encounters, the kinks came in the form of mental foreplay, subliminal triggers, blatant moves or total performances. Some of her partners would be open to it, others, not so…which is why “communication, respect, and trust” are key to the practice, says Violet.
“That being said, I am not immune to bad sex and bad people. I’ve had a few sexual encounters that ended comically (at best), uncomfortably or even tragically (at worst). Even though you’ve known someone for years, you can’t always predict the outcome of your interactions or gauge their true intentions. One relationship turned out to be ultimately traumatizing, demoralizing and damaging. As a result, there was an entire year or so that I had completely no appetite for sex.”
She overcame this period by rehabilitating herself, and slowly regaining control of her sex life. “BDSM actually helped a bit,” she says. Signing up for FetLife opened that world to her, and allowed her to play a power position, which re-instilled an innate sexual confidence.
ENTER THE DUNGEON
FetLife is like Facebook for the kinky— you can “add” friends, and there are online communities you can participate in. Once active on Tinder, Violet traded out the infamous dating app for this libertine one, preferring it because there was less guesswork involved. “It turned out to be a better medium to meet like-minded people because of the profile format, where you can indicate at once your orientation, fetishes, limits, etc.”
The initial sign-up process asks you to determine what category you fall under in the BDSM scale, and when I once thought there were only two (a dominant and a submissive), I was surprised to click the dropdown box and see that there were 66 options. From a straightforward Dom, through all iterations of “Spank” (Spanko, Spanker, Spankee), to Sensualist, Sissy, Leather Man, Leather Boi, Primal Predators, Preys, Big, Middle, Little, and Pup… signing myself up, I opted for the second to last option: Undecided—and then realized I had no idea what the hell I was getting myself into.
Violet sent me a voice note: “You are right, it’s a very intricate world. There are so many new terminologies that I didn’t understand. So again, it’s really about self-discovery. I noticed that most people on their profiles had the results from this BDSM test...” she sends me a link to bdsmtest.org, “so I took the test as well and there are a lot of questions where you have to rate how much more likely you are to do something, versus not [doing it]. I think it’s a pretty good measurement of exactly how deviant or obedient you are in the BDSM chart.”
LET’S TEST THE KINK OUT OF YOU, exclaims the opening page of the link in big, bold, letters. I got excited: am I a slave or a voyeur—I wondered, eager to see where of the 66 labels I fit the most. Only to find that the test itself requires you to identify with yet another string of labels: the choices for sexual orientation goes up to eight, including heteroflexible, pansexual, or asexual. While I’ve always been a believer that there is more to gender and sexuality than just black and white—when the spectrum of colors are laid out in front of you to choose from in a dropdown box on a website—I never thought that I could be so… black and white. “Strictly heterosexual” I click, sheepishly.
I like to be dominated, especially in the bedroom, reads the first question. I click the circle that’s the brightest green: Absolutely agree.
I like receiving pain during sex and seeing the results of it (marks/bruises, makeup running caused by tears, etc.) afterwards.
Hmm… I ruminate over this thought. Disagree, I click.
I enjoy being kept as a pet: in a cage, eating out of a bowl, being petted/caressed, etc.
I don’t hesitate: Absolutely disagree.
I enjoy people seeing me being naked or having sex, even (or especially) when they didn’t intend to do so.
I start squirming in my seat: Disagree.
As the test gets longer, it also gets deeper and darker, and I kind of wish I made a mental briefing with my subconscious to prepare for this. From wanting to know if you like to be “verbally degraded or called humiliating names,” to asking whether “sexual torture turns you on,”—I’m definitely no square, but this was intense. When my results come out, I am not so surprised: 100% Switch (someone who likes being both top and bottom), and 99% Vanilla (someone who is not into BDSM). I am also a little bit disappointed in myself… that was anti-climactic. Interestingly enough, though, the test does reveal that I am 99% non-monogamist (into open relationships), 76% Experimentalist (wants to try it all), and 47% Ageplayer (daddy/daughter or mommy/ baby role play, not necessarily incestuous in nature)...still, Marquis de Sade is not impressed. I understand now why BDSM is a form of self-discovery: I don’t actually really know what I like and what I don’t like—I’ve never tried them...the burning question was: am I willing to find out?
Violet is 95% Switch, 88% Brat (a submissive who acts up), and 80% Rope Bunny (enjoys being tied or bound). She is also part Degradee (someone who enjoys being sexually degraded), Dominant (a person who exercises control), and Masochist (a person who enjoys pain). “I’m a woman of many tastes and eccentricities, and until now, it’s still a journey
for me to find out what I like and don’t like, and I’m mostly up to try new things,” says Violet. “I do have limits—soft limits and hard limits—but again, it depends on what it is and who I’m doing it with.”
READY TO PLAY
For people who are curious about getting into BDSM, munches are great place to start. A “munch” is a community event where local kinks regularly meet to talk and share knowledge. It usually takes place in a vanilla setting, during the daytime, and no playing is involved. First timers are encouraged to join, actually, to see what kinds of fetishes exist, and also to understand from first-hand stories that there are lines that can and can’t be crossed; that there are precautions, too. Which is a relief to hear, in fact, because a subculture based on sex and violence is bound to have its shortcomings. Some dominant men can become abusive to unknowing submissives, mostly girls who readily assume the role because it is the norm they play in society. Then there is also the extreme and dark side of BDSM: gunplay (including actual or simulated firearms), scat play (a.k.a feces play) and cock and ball torture (self-explanatory). Violet chimes in on her limits, “absolutely nothing involving shit, animals, children, near death, or the dead.” I’m not even surprised anymore that the categories (some illegal, by the way) exist. But the pillars of BDSM is that everything must always be done in a sane, safe, and consensual environment—otherwise, there’s no place for it in the community. In which case, if all goes well, and two mature, consenting, adults agree to their own limitations, one can imagine (or at least try very hard to understand), it can be fun.
“There are many different aspects of BDSM that I enjoy,” says Violet, who begins to tell the story of the time she spent one weekend training a slave. She has the Polaroids to prove it: In one photo, she is elegantly clad in lingerie and knee-high stockings, legs hung over what looks like a king’s throne. In another, a man is seen on his hands and knees on the floor, and a glass of juice is propped on his back. “FYI, I’m usually attracted to AFAMs [a foreigner in Manila],” she says, laughing. “I don’t know, it’s a preference that I have. I met this Italian,” she says, referring to man on all fours, “and when I checked out his FetLife profile, it turned out he was a sub. I hadn’t been playing with a male sub for a while...I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, so I would always make subs address me as, ‘my lady’ (laughs) just for fun. Normally, I don’t like to go to seedy motels, I like hotels—but then I thought, why don’t we go to the Game of Thrones-themed room cause I’ve never been, and I was super living the fantasy. He was butt-naked the entire time, and he wasn’t allowed to stand up,” she says laughing. The man actually preferred that Violet do all the decision-making: when to go, what to eat, what to wear. She made it clear that there would be no sex involved. “He was there at my service only. He said the session was quite intense as I was ‘so cruel,’ but he deserved it and liked it… by the way, he came into his own mouth (laughs).”
“I think the fun part is the power play— seeing this big white guy just crawling in front of me, doing whatever I told him to do. He wasn’t allowed to stay on the bed—I’d let him lie on the floor, or in the bathroom, I guess it’s a little sadistic. I think it’s actually more sadistic in a mental sense than a physical sense.” Violet references comedienne Ali Wong’s standup special Baby Cobra to describe the rush of the mental power exchange. “[Wong] likes it when a white man is eating her out, because she says she feels like she’s absorbing the white privilege. And I think that’s how I feel also when I’m with white men, you know, and they’re like in between my legs, or beneath my feet. Like yeah, that’s your place,” she snickers.
After playtime, which doesn’t always involve sexual intercourse, comes the aftercare, or the time after the scene when the two participants step out of their roles, calm down, discuss, and reflect on what just happened. “You try to come back down to earth and assess your feelings. Because imagine being thrown around, slapped, and essentially punished—to make you feel safe and sane again, you need an aftercare session. There could be cuddling, or hugging, basically to make you feel normal again.” In some BDSM relationships, aftercare includes caring for the wounds that may have been inflicted during the scene. And it is during this time, says Violet, that the human aspect becomes most important. “I think for BDSM, and I read on this as well, you have to have a deep understanding of human interaction to be able to properly participate.” To truly grasp the concept of BDSM without making it just about the sex and the violence, “it is such an intellectual lifestyle, so you can’t just go blindly into it. And again, the aspects of respect, trust, honesty must be there.”
She admits, “I’m not as active as the people who regularly do play dates or workshops… a lot of them actually devote a lot of their time to BDSM. I’m not by any means a pro on the issue, but I like to talk about it with other people because I want them to understand that we have to be open-minded to different desires and personalities. You’re also challenging what you already know. For me, BDSM has been a gateway into discovering more of myself, regaining control of my sex life, and an outlet for me to explore the different sides of my self versus my day-job-vanilla-self. I don’t know if I’ll be doing it for the rest of my life. But at this stage in my life, it’s been fun.”
It’s six hours behind in Paris, and Violet is just about to start to her day—she is excited to wear the latex suit she just purchased from designer William Wilde, who also makes the outfits for the likes of Kylie Minogue and Rihanna. She has a scheduled play date with a cosmopolitan Parisian at a beautiful neoclassical hotel called Maison Souquet, which used to be a pleasure house, and is a minute’s walk away from the Moulin Rouge. They will grab dinner and stroll along the Palais-Royal. And then, at the end the night, they will drop by Les Chandelles, a chic Parisian swingers club that Vanity Fair reported themes its Tuesdays as “Politicans’ Night.”
I imagine her strolling the streets of the city in her thigh-high boots and cheeky bustier—meanwhile, at the blinking fluorescent afterglow of my office computer, I click the link back to the BDSM test … Being treated with little or no respect during sex arouses me. I click…