It brings me great shame to admit this, but I joined the Bay Area kink community after reading the world’s greatest joke, 50 Shades of Grey.
It wasn’t so much that I was inspired by the sexy-but-abusive activities in the Twilight fanfiction. Rather, I was bolstered by the positive public reaction to sexual tendencies that had always felt shameful to me. It was suddenly cool to want to be spanked, so I set out to get my ass smacked raw.
Being a naive 22-year-old with almost no dating experience, I was not prepared for the world I was entering. At first, it was pretty exciting. The BDSM social network known as FetLife let me list all the kinky things I believed I was into, like face-fucking, double penetration, and sapiosexuality. (Barf.) Not only that, I could find other people who were into the same things as me! What a conversation starter.
Online and in real-life at kink-related events, I started getting more attention from men than I’d ever experienced in my life. I learned the word “polyamory” and discovered a community of people who not only didn’t question or judge my decision to be in an open relationship, but encouraged it. Looking back, of course they encouraged it; it meant there was a chance they could fuck me.
It wasn’t long before I got my first taste of BDSM in the form of painful pleasure. Play partners showed me the ropes — literally — and I started to discover what I liked and what I didn’t like. Some of it was exhilarating, like the time I went out on a date with a remote-controlled vibrating plug up my ass that my partner would activate at any given moment. Or the time I was shibari-bound in a beautiful fashion with a man and a woman pleasuring me in tandem. I’ll never forget the hotel tryst with dripping wax and blindfolds that was everything I hoped it would be. I still regret turning down an invitation to Kink.com’s live BDSM show The Upper Floor when I had the chance. It’s safe to say I’ve never had more orgasms than I did during my kinky year.
But, believe it or not, the world of organized BDSM has a dark side to it, one that really dampens what could have been a beautiful exploration of sexuality for me.
I noticed it not too long into my adventure: Every one of the men I partnered with had different tastes, but one characteristic they had in common was that they encouraged me to push past my pre-determined limits. Whether it was disappointment at my not wanting to get peed on, or ensuring me that I could actually fit a horse-sized dick up my ass, I met boundary-pushers at every turn.
And it wasn’t just my own play partners. The more I attended kink meetups and sex clubs, several things became obvious. First, there exists a social hierarchy determined by how much experience players had, and extra points are granted to those — especially women — who cling to the fewest boundaries. Those with less experience, like me, were made to feel that we would have more value if we could only strive to be as talented as experienced kinksters.
Second, at the top of that hierarchy were dominant men, so-called masters with a capital M who would graciously provide that coveted experience. Because of their perceived royalty, members of the BDSM community turned a blind eye to the fact that these men were taking advantage of young, inexperienced women like myself, often coercing us into situations that were well beyond our hard limits. Many long-time kinksters knew these men were going so far as to rape women, but did nothing about it, so as not to disparage the reputation of the BDSM community.
It’s not to say that kink isn’t worth exploring in a community setting, or that there is anything inherently wrong with BDSM. By the end of my year in the BDSM community, I had been flogged in public, fingered in a bar, and made to explain to my doctor what all those bruises on my ass were from, so it’s not like I didn’t have fun. It’s more that I didn’t want to be complicit in abuse, nor did I want to be on the receiving end of it.
After deleting my FetLife account and throwing away my collection of leather skirts and torn fishnets, I was able to gain clarity about my sexual preferences. Five years later, I still welcome a good choking and a rigorous face-fucking, but I’ll never submit to anyone again.