Nonsense. All humans have the urge to dominate, submit, and inflict or receive pain locked down tight somewhere in the basement of their minds. A healthy society finds ways to create safe outlets for these feelings.

If anything, BDSM allows people to express their desires for domination and/or submission, sadism and/or masochism in a socially healthy way. If these urges were not expressed sexually, with the full consent of the partners involved, then they would most likely manifest themselves in other, destructive forms, such as:

A: Neurosis, brought about by bottling up these "bad", "naughty", "wrong" and "shameful" feelings. Preventing expression of desire doesn't make it magically disappear and can, instead, severely damage a person psychologically.
B: Sociopathy. The need to dominate could be expressed by intimidating and/or attacking innocent people. The desire to submit to control can, left unchecked, lead to dissolution of identity and absorption into a hive-mind. And, clearly, we don't need people wandering around with the need to inflict pain on passersby.

Sex is a Dionysian outlet. It allows us to set aside our rational selves, the selves that we need to live in a society, and exult in the Id. Sublimating those desires we can't express socially into sex play (the reverse of the classic definition of sublimation) allows us to blow off steam, so to speak. Assuming, of course, both partners are consenting.

I, personally, believe that the existence and acceptance of consensual BDSM, and other "kinky" sex play, is the sign of a society healthy enough to know how to deal with the darker sides of its members.

There might be more to the assertion that "BDSM is the sign of a sick society" than meets the eye. Its advocates might really be saying "BDSM is the sign of a society in which Christianity has lost control." This controversial sexual practice performs many of the functions that used to fall under Church canon, and may (I'm not drawing any conclusions here, just presenting my ideas) be simply the secularization of instinctive human practices that were, for years, the province of religion.

Think about it. For centuries, churchgoers have been going to confession, asking for punishment from priests. A dominant in a Church-controlled society could (at least partially) satisfy his natural urges by becoming a man of the cloth, assigning penances of varying cruelty to believers in exchange for the forgiveness of their sins. If there was a stronger sexual component to his urges which the confessional couldn't satisfy - well, there were always plenty of altar boys around. The submissives thus had a predictable outlet available every Sunday for their control-surrendering impulses, as sure as the church bells tolled.

The principles of BDSM are, in many ways, an integral part of the Christian religion. Taken to their extreme, flagellant monks could inflict grievous wounds on their own bodies and believe themselves closer to heaven. Black-robed Inquisitors could take holy delight in torturing heretics on the rack and burning them at the stake. Next to these atrocities, voluntary dripping candle wax and lashes from a leather whip aren't just innocuous; they're downright progressive.

With BDSM's rise in popularity, the religious ecstasy associated with sadomasochistic practices has largely been replaced with that of the sexual variety. "Forgive me father" has, for many dominants and submissives, been supplanted by "whip me master." Dominance and submission can now exist in a community of voluntary association, their pleasurable aspects highlighted and destructive impacts minimized. These impulses are a part of many people's nature; their manifestation as BDSM may not be the sign of a sick society so much as a secular one in which the chains of the past don't carry the weight they once did.

Kinky sex has never precipitated genocide or inquisition. Don't waste your energy pointing fingers at this straw man - if you want to fix the problems of society, you've got to find their roots.

Ahem.
Given that the preceding discussion has largely taken place in (or at least largely alluded to) a judeo-christian paradigm, I feel compelled to step in as E2's taoist chaplain and provide an alternate viewpoint.

Thus:

Dominance and Submission are obviously aspects of Tao. The Yang is dominant, the Yin is submissive. In order for a relationship (or a society for that matter) to be in balance, there must be a dominant half and a submissive half. If, in a relationship, there is a dominant partner and a submissive partner, this is hardly abnormal. It is, in fact, super-normal. The couple has become a perfect expression of balance. Rather than condemn such people and their practices, we should applaud them for attaining such perfection.

FMGPD
The watchwords for the vast majority of BDSM enthusiasts are these: safe, sane, and consensual. You will hear these words mentioned at BDSM conventions, in BDSM publications, in BDSM books, and in BDSM forums. The focus of the majority of BDSM in North American bedrooms is on an enjoyable and safe (both physically and mentally) experience for both parties.

The rising popularity of BDSM may be a result of the sexual repression that exists to a greater and lesser degree in our society, but I'm not convinced it is the sign of a "sick" society. It is an activity that brings great joy to many people, and it is an activity with does not involve anyone against their will or cause any permanent harm or even any temporary harm, since I would be very hesistant to call mild pain which is enjoyed harm.

Don't get all freudian on me, and I won't get all freudian on you. Okay?

Surely, anyway, this is based on the idea that we all share the same tastes, and that some tastes, because the majority don't share them, are in some way sick?

One goes into these situations with one's own prejudices and presumptions intact. For K9 (no, I'm not bitching, I think K9's opinion is perfectly valid and intelligent), with his/her stated views, to go into a BDSM scene would be, yes, 'sick' (his/her words, not my judgement). For someone who didn't see it this way, and simply saw it as good clean wholesome fun, to go into a BDSM scene would not be the sign of a sick anything.

/Me forgets what point me is trying to make

Different strokes for different folks. For me to indulge in perfectly 'normal' heterosexual sex, with the lights turned off and in the missionary position, of course, would, to my mind, be the sign of a sick society. Sign of male dominance, compulsory heterosexuality, my own self-destructive urges, whatever. Presumably, to your average perfectly normal vanilla heterosexual, wouldn't see it this way. But then, I'd see them as playing out a microcosm of sexism, homophobia and sheer, unadulterated, boredom and apathy. (Do me a favour and don't vote me down because you don't agree with this premise. It's an example, not something I think should hold true for everyone). Sadomasochism, as far as I'm concerned, is the sign of a society comfortable with its desires, and not desperate to hide behind 'natural' and 'normal' activities.

I'm a country boy, and quite naïve. For all these years, I've thought that sex was a matter of getting naked and rolling around with somebody I care about, or even somebody I love. I really did think it had something to do with affection. There's a story -- probably a myth -- that the Inuit refer to sex as "laughing together". They may not really say that, but it strikes a chord with people. They remember it and repeat it. It always made perfect sense to me. Lots of others seem to agree, so I never gave it much thought.

Oh, how wrong I was!

Now I discover that we've all been confused. If we were really in touch with ourselves, if we were really comfortable with our sexuality and had genuinely honest and loving relationships with our partners, we wouldn't waste our time on that sick "affection" crap. Instead, we'd give in to our natural, instinctive desire to dress up in SS uniforms and drip hot wax on each other's nipples.

All this time, I've been in the hellish grip of a twisted, self-destructive urge to kiss pretty girls. What the hell was I thinking?! All the healthy people have been tying them to racks and hitting them with swagger sticks, like we were meant to do! What sane people would want to take each other's clothes off, when they could be putting on some kind of ad hoc amateur theatrical production instead?

I admit it: I've been one of those sick freaks who gets off on physical intimacy instead of hardware. What a fool I've been! But I'm ready to repent. I've seen the light, and I want to get my life on the right track.

Whether BDSM is a sign of a sick individual or not, I don't know, as it can certainly be one of the more extreme fetishes and sexual desires. But it has always existed, in one form or another, in the same way as homosexuality and paedophilia have always existed. The differing times give society different attitudes towards these sexual 'deviancies' (ie: not your usual man/woman missionary position sex), and this is how BDSM measures whether our society is 'sick' or not.

The number of scandals with paedophiles in children's home in the United Kingdom is sickening. Positions of power have always been abused in different ways. Are we to say that the beating from a nun was always metered out just for punishment, or to sate their appetite for sadism?

Laws change, too, as parodied by this Chris Morris' Brass Eye Special quote:

Narrator: Victorian Britain. This man is having sex with a ten year old girl. ... But this isn't paedophilia, the girl's a whore.
Girl Whore: Can I have some money now, please?

Is it better that BDSM has come 'out of the closet', where good, safe guidelines can be drawn up? Or is it better that it be practised in secret, where the willingness of the bottom could be doubtful?

Surely the mark of a sick society is one that represses urges such as BDSM and says 'they don't exist', letting them continue unhindered, harming innocent, non-consenting victims?


LIFO - last in, first out... if this is getting too big, start pruning from the bottom...

Modern society is sick, and I believe that BDSM is, indeed, on the whole a symptom of it, like a fever is a symptom of an infection. This is because personally, I have a fairly good idea of where my urges to submit come from: My relationship with modern society. I can just about cope with it, 'just about' being the operative phrase.

Let me explain. To illustrate, I'll divide people into three classes. Of course, any division of people into classes is futile in a greater perspective: There are people who divide people into groups, and there are people who don't. But for the purpose of this writeup, allow me to do so.

There are people who can cope: They choose life, to use the Trainspotting turn of phrase.

There are people who can't cope: They choose freaking out, killing themselves, joining the Scientologists or Hare Krishnas. They choose heroin, choose living off a monthly handout from the government, choose a career as an eccentric artist if they've the talent.

And then there's those in between, like me. I can just about hack having control over my own destiny. I can just about hack getting an education, working a 40-hour week, paying the rent, doing the laundry, maintaining an acceptable social life, keeping the house clean, the whole nine yards. But it's hard.

And I like to be allowed to let go for a moment. There is glorious freedom in loss of self-control, as anybody who's ever had a great night out on the town with the aid of a drink or eleven knows. I've known plenty of people who drink 'til they're drunk and smoke 'til they're senseless to satisfy this urge.

Me, I like to be told what to do, to fall under someone's command, to relinquish control, to be someone's plaything instead of my own person. This is how I lose control, and it is safe, it doesn't cost a thing, and I get to please someone else at the same time. It's all good. It is indeed symptomatic of my problematic relationship with the world today, but it is, on the whole, a benign symptom: I really like having someone collar and leash me, talk dirty to me, and come on my face.

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