What are you willing to wear on your next Zoom? Fetish fashion is on the rise

Models in a red ruffled bodysuit, a top with chain-link straps and high boots and bodysuit with a chain-link neckline.


You might call it the roaring ’20s for some Angelenos, but maybe not in the way you’re thinking. Not everyone spent the last year stuck inside, eating frozen pizzas or making maple syrup or baking bread or catching up on the latest shows on Netflix.

Although the pandemic may have hurt retail sectors, sales figures for niche goods, particularly sex toys and fetish fashion, helped tell another pandemic story.

Sales last year were strong, say L.A. designers of fetish fashion (source: https://dungeons.fetishclubsreviews.org/ ) , a category that includes bodysuits, crotchless underwear, bralettes, ball gags and pants made from materials such as leather, latex, vinyl, silicone and synthetic rubber.

“Compared to 2019, sales grew by 466% in 2020,” says designer Mariano Cortez of L.A.-based fetish-wear studio Busted, which offers fetish pieces ranging from latex masks and corsets to latex pants and dresses.

A model wears black pants with a white tank top and a black harness with a large silver ring in the middle.

Designer Laura Petrielli-Pulice, founder of L.A. fetish-wear studio Vex, says she also saw a pandemic-era spike in sales with more than 3,093 garments selling on her website. The figure doesn’t include her more upscale custom orders for celebrities who might wear latex garments for performances or photo shoots.

“Thankfully I already had an online store outside of all the celebrity and custom work I do,” Petrielli-Pulice says. “My web shopping was up 145% last year.”

“Over the last year our sales have increased,” says Zana Bayne, a designer who launched her brand in 2010 with operations in Los Angeles. “There were new people discovering the brand through Instagram every day. … We’ve always been really strong in terms of a direct-to-consumer, e-commerce presence. Because we had that already in place before the pandemic, we were able to build on it.”

Bayne’s appointment-only showroom is more of a working studio than a store. “I’m able to have more space here than in New York and I’m able to produce 100% in-house,” says Bayne, who closed her New York showroom in 2019. “We have all of our own machinery. So the production process didn’t stop during the pandemic. We had some employees who were able to set up at home.”

These increased sales suggest that Angelenos stuck at home last year were seeking avenues of expression and pleasure and found ways to escape boredom or pandemic fears through leather harnesses, latex gloves and TikTok fetish videos.

The unplanned hours during the pandemic have offered plenty of moments to open a fresh browser window and explore adult-oriented offerings from strip clubs launching their own virtual entertainment to professionals, influencers and amateurs creating free and paid sexual content for OnlyFans, a London-based content subscription service.

Bayne, who collaborated with Marc Jacobs and made accessories worn by celebrities including Lady Gaga and Madonna, says the renewed interest in the fetish-fashion category, in particular, is happening because of increased visibility in digital media. Also, recent attention has ballooned in part because of articles about the fetish community, including profiles of well-known dominatrices, in newspapers and magazines.

But does all of this pandemic fuss make 2021 peak fetish then?

Despite the growing interest, Bayne, who prefers to work with leather rather than latex, isn’t sure that fetish wear has gone completely mainstream. “There’s always an ebb and flow,” she says. “Every year a celebrity will wear something fetish related, and there will be a lot of people asking if fetish is more mainstream. I think fetish aesthetics will always be rooted in something taboo with the mainstream. But during the pandemic, as we’re all living through Instagram and other online portals, people are looking to express themselves more at home. These statement pieces then have an increased appeal.”

Connoisseurs of fetish gear include people working in the entertainment and adult industries as well as everyday consumers who like the apparel’s dominatrix aesthetic. Retailers say that not all shoppers of fetish wear are in kink communities. Some consumers, particularly women and members of the LGBTQ community, wear these garments and accessories to express power and dominance while accentuating their curves or bulky muscles.

Although she sells to customers internationally, Bayne says Los Angeles is home to her most passionate customers. “What makes Los Angeles unique is transit. If you’re sitting in your car, you can wear a riskier piece while going from Point A to Point B,” she says. “You don’t run the risk of getting harassed in public. I’ve never felt so free, in terms of what I wear, as I do here.”

‘It’s a way of life’

Fetish wear has been a subcategory in the fashion industry for decades, and in the way that people have reactions to nudity or physical contact, others have similar erotic reactions to seeing, touching or hearing the movement of fabrics and materials such as latex, vinyl and leather.

By 1974, Vivienne Westwood showed that fetish themes are, according to historian Valerie Steele’s book “Fetish: Fashion, Sex & Power,” “increasingly assimilated into fashion.” That’s when the now-80-year-old British designer turned her store into a fetish boutique and renamed it Sex.

Jemima Kirke wears a black fetish-inspired dress and Lena Dunham wears a pink one

In the decades since, fetish apparel has appeared in fashion shows by labels Christian DiorThierry MuglerDolce & Gabbana, Givenchy and Versace, and designers and retailers have gone mainstream and diversified their fetish and fetish-inspired collections beyond clubwear.

In general, sexual fetishes have been a theme explored in film such as the “Fifty Shades” series and in new books including writer Jane Boon’s novel “Edge Play,” which was published last year.

For more fresh takes on the subject, look no further than Scottish designer Christopher Kane’s fall/winter 2019 collection — it offered a sartorial celebration of fetishes such as “Looner” and “Rubberist” — or recent fetish-inspired looks worn by Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Kendall Jenner or Kelly Clarkson.

Beyoncé holds a microphone and smiles while wearing a black bodysuit

One of the most popular materials used in fetish wear is latex, which has a distinct texture and clings to and easily molds the body. As a bonus, it makes a specific sound that emphasizes movement. Some latex fans find it aesthetically pleasing, while other aficionados crave or require it to have a satisfying erotic experience.

“Latex is completely different from other materials because, for some people, it’s a way of life,” says Renee Dekker, marketing and business manager at the Demask fetish fashion store in the Netherlands. (The European retailer, which had a bricks-and-mortar L.A. outpost, shuttered its American store because of the shutdown. The brand still has an online store and a flagship shop in Amsterdam.)

“It’s really a happy shopping experience for people, more than other items. It’s totally different than working with a normal shop,” Dekker says. “In a lot of cases, people are insecure or unsure but have this fascination. They have this fetish they are curious about but still haven’t worked out. Shopping for this latex is a big step.”

Kendall Jenner poses with her hand on her hip, wearing a latex and floral gown

Cortez originally opened his appointment-only studio in Los Angeles as a streetwear boutique in 2016, with a style heavily influenced by underground subcultures. He shifted to focusing on fetish gear in 2018, although his brand still offers sweatshirts and other casual tops. Cortez says customers love bolder looks with a luxurious yet unabashedly BDSM aesthetic.

“We really tried to highlight the wearability of latex. It’s not only a fetish material,” Cortez says. “It’s a fun way to express yourself in uncertain times.”

Cortez says accessories such as latex gloves and masks have been top buys for consumers.

“Where we are in Los Angeles is great because of the entertainment industry,” Cortez says. “There was a huge boom in 2020 with the entertainment industry using latex, celebrities like Lady Gaga and the Kardashians. We do a lot of celeb work. Now most people are familiar with latex.”

A model wears a black pencil skirt with a white long-sleeved top and a wide black belt and choker.

Since 2000, Petrielli-Pulice’s studio has offered a range of jackets, stockings, gloves, full catsuits, pants and dresses. She agrees with Cortez about latex. “Now latex is so popular it has, for sure, spilled over into many different genres,” Petrielli-Pulice says. Vex’s fetish selections generally cost between $90-$900.

What items have been popular this last year? For Petrielli-Pulice, top sellers have been gloves, bodysuits, leggings and stockings, which have been sought after by customers outside the entertainment industry.

Bayne says her bandanna was the most popular item because it can be used as a face covering.

Beyond the challenges

The last year hasn’t been without problems for some fetish designers. During most of the pandemic with stores closed or opened with limited capacity, most retailers turned to their e-commerce shops as well as social media to promote and sell goods. That wasn’t the easiest option in the fetish community.

Petrielli-Pulice says social-media platforms, including Instagram, have censored images featuring models in latex.

Although there’s no official policy against fetish fashion, nudity and sexual solicitation are prohibited on Instagram. However, form-fitting fetish garments are so sexualized that they are often wrongly categorized.

“Because latex is seen as inherently sexual, many of our products are not approved to be shown in our Instagram shop,” Petrielli-Pulice says. “We overcome it by using things like Linktree to drive traffic and sales to our website. We also cross-promote on different social media platforms to ensure our audience is seeing what we post.”

A model wears long-line boots and a bodysuit with ruffled shoulders.

According to Liza Crenshaw of the Instagram communications team, the social media platform doesn’t have a policy against images of latex garments or fetish fashion, assuming those images don’t involve nudity.

“There may be some cases where we would limit how we’re recommending” latex fashion content, Crenshaw says. “We want our platform to be a place where people as young as 13 feel safe.”

Social media posts, however, weren’t the only obstacle for fetish designers during the pandemic. Petrielli-Pulice and Cortez say that shipping delays were as well.

The designers say shipping delays during the last year were a major nightmare as disruptions refigured supply chains and distribution flows for fashion retailers. Both have small crews in L.A. working behind the scenes on garments and fetish goods and sales and they have adjusted to pandemic-era setbacks and delays.

“All of our latex comes from the U.K. For half the year, we weren’t able to get another shipment,” Cortez says. “Luckily, a manufacturer in Los Angeles, the Stockroom, let us buy latex from them. We went from shipping an average of 30 packages a month to 200 packages a month. It took about six months to get it under control.”

Thinking about the pandemic and the spike in business, Cortez says, “People are thinking more about latex this year because there isn’t a lot else going on. Valentine’s Day was different this year.”

src Latimes

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A sex coach explains why Indians continue to feel guilty about seeking help for intimacy issues

Certified sex and couples coach Pallavi Barnwal — also a columnist, author, and TEDx speaker — has been working hard to give it a vocabulary, to educate couples on how it plays a pivotal role in intimacy and overall health

Written by Prerna Mittra | New Delhi |
Updated: April 22, 2021 2:27:24 pmsex coach, who is a sex coach, sex coach in India, sex coach busts myths about sex, sex and intimacy of couples in India. relationship issues, couples coach, marriage, marital issues, infidelity, indian express news“There is an absolute lack of awareness about sex in India. The major reason being the stigma attached to it,” the sex and couples coach said. (Representational image/Pixabay)

The dreaded three-letter word — ‘sex’ — has the potency to make many Indians convulse. And yet, there is a strange interest and covert obsession with it which, more often than not, postulates unpleasantness and unease.

For centuries, little awareness about sex has perpetuated violence, lack of consent, and false ideas, thereby stigmatising the act, labelling it a ‘taboo’, and brushing it under the rugs of culture and sanskaar.

But certified sex and couples coach Pallavi Barnwal — also a columnist, author, and TEDx speaker — has been working hard to give it a vocabulary, and to educate people and couples on how it plays a pivotal role in intimacy and overall health.

Recently, she chatted with indianexpress.com and talked about it, debunking some common myths surrounding sexual pleasure, and why people should cease to feel embarrassed about it.

“There is an absolute lack of awareness about sex in India. The major reason being the stigma attached to it. It is seen as shameful, dirty — if you talk about it, you will get judged: log kya kahengey, family kya kahegi? There are these concerns. I get mails and comments from people saying, ‘We want to comment on your post, but are scared of what our boss or family will think of us’,” Barnwal said, adding that most people often base their lives on social standards which “do not favour a sex-positive society”.

Before the pandemic, she used to conduct group workshops, where they talked about the fundamentals of a relationship. “It is not that it’s always couples that approach me for intimacy coaching. Sometimes it is just one spouse — worried about the state of affairs in the relationship — reaching out for help. The other spouse may not be willing [to seek help], because, in India, any kind of counselling or coaching is frowned upon… For a lot of couples, if they are reaching out to a therapist or a counsellor, they think the relationship is doomed. That leads to them suffering silently for years,” she offered.

In the pandemic, just like many other things, relationships got tricky, too. Socialising has reduced, leading to many couples spending more time with each other — which may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it has got a flipside to it. “You have this increased dependency on one partner, leading to more issues around expectations. I always say that one person cannot fulfill all your needs. People need to have a good social network. Things get more complicated in families where you are staying with your in-laws, and don’t have enough privacy,” Barnwal said.

So then, does she have many couples approaching her with their sex/intimacy and relationship issues? “A lot,” she said. “And this is just increasing every day. Mostly, these are sexual issues, but they are preceded by relationship issues,” she told this outlet.

“If something happens in the relationship, sex goes on stand-by. Sex and intimacy are closely related. For a lot of people, they cannot have sex without intimacy. Relationships are fraught with challenges — the most common of them is in-laws’ intervention. And in the early stages of marriage, there may be a complete power imbalance between the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law. And in some situations, everything is fine, but someone may be conditioned to believe that sex is dirty, and that it is only for procreation, leaving [their partner] starving for sex.”

While sex is but an aspect of a relationship, what is it that a sex coach really does? And how different is their field from that of a relationship expert or counsellor?

Barnwal explained, “It is not always that a sex coach cannot be a relationship coach, that these are two different things”.

“I have been with a group of counsellors who felt uncomfortable dealing with sexual problems if the client presented the same… During the course of their psychological counselling, if the client shares they have some kinks or fetishes, even fantasies, or some kind of sexual abuse [they have experienced], they actually do not how to speak about it; then they reach out to me, asking if I can handle the client.

“In the West, sex therapy, sex coaching, or sex education is far more popular and acceptable. There, a lot of marriage therapists and counsellors work as sex educators, sex coaches and sex therapists. It is not strictly two different things, for sex and relationships often go hand-in-hand for many couples…”

The sex coach went on to share that among the many queries that come her way, there are a few that she receives repeatedly. “There is something that we call a ‘sexual desire discrepancy’, meaning one person in the relationship wants more sex than the other… The second one is a sexless marriage, wherein there is a total lack of sex — no sex has happened in 5, 10, 15 years. The reason is the shame, dirt and guilt attached to sex… The third one is kinks and fetishes. I get emails from men who want to try out BDSM, being a ‘submissive’. Some may have fetishes for feet or leather. Most of these men have said that their spouses think of them as mentally-retarded. BDSM is not a pathology, if it is consensual, adult and pleasurist,” she said, adding that she also receives concerns regarding infidelity, where one partner has strayed.

“Maybe because of some problem [in the relationship], or even if the relationship is going great, they want novelty, thrill, and adventure… something to feel alive and passionate.”

Barnwal made it clear that as a coach, her job is not to “recommend solutions”. Her role is to “facilitate a way where the client is able to make a choice”, to give them a “suitable language to define their concerns”.

Primarily, she is approached by people in heterosexual marriages or relationships, sometimes from people who identify as asexual, and “gay men who want to date”. Barnwal rues that there aren’t enough people who are trained in “sexuality education”. That she has had clients who have said they got judged by gynecologists for having premarital sex, or for being queer. “Sexuality is a part of a person’s overall well-being, and its appetite differs from couple to couple,” she said.

In heterosexual relationships, Barnwal said, there is a myth that it is only the man who desires sex. Sometimes, it is even the woman who complains her partner has low libido, while she has a high-sex drive. “Some men reach out with a compulsive habit of watching porn. There may also be performance anxiety, premature ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction in men. In women, it may translate to pain during intercourse. In my practice, I have also seen distinct cases of men wanting to try out non-monogamous relationships,” she remarked.

src Indianexpress

Former soldier charged with keeping a slave

A former soldier has been charged with slavery offences after being arrested in a Bunnings car park at Armidale on the NSW northern tablelands.James Robert Davis, 40, has previously been the subject of a documentary boasting about his BDSM lifestyle and being in a relationship with multiple women.Today, five women who live with him, came to support him at Armidale Local Court where he appeared via video link from the police station.

Former soldier James Davis, 40, has been charged with slavery offences. (9News)

The court heard Mr Davis was accused of “possessing a slave” and “causing a person live in servitude” at Maroubra in Sydney’s east in 2013. Yesterday, Australian Federal Police raided the remote property where he lives with his partners, seizing several items as part of an ongoing investigation. Mr Davis is the leader of a cult like group called the “House of Cadifor”, where Mr Davis calls himself the “patriarchal overlord” and all of his partners call him  “master”.”[People] think I must be some kind of abusive oppressor, a misogynist, manipulator, or even a monster,” he said in a documentary. 

Mr Davis was arrested in a Bunnings carpark. (9News)

“But the truth is, I’m just a guy who loves both freedom and commitment, and who was lucky enough to find some incredible women to love, and who love me back.In videos posted by the group online, the women he lived with bow down when he walks into a room.”Good morning Master, your owned property Slave 808497061 has missed you, and is here presented ready and waiting to serve you,” one woman said to him as he sits back on a couch.

Mr Davis has a number of partners who participate in his BDSM lifestyle. (9News)

The 40-year-old has previously been very open about his lifestyle, but in recent months he and his partners have deleted their social media accounts.”I think every man needs a cage in their room. It helps managing extra girlfriends and sleepovers a lot easier,” Davis said in the five-part series he filmed about his life. Davis did not apply for bail but is expected to apply next week.

src 9news.com.au

Study shatters the myth that BDSM is linked to early-life trauma

No, being interested in BDSM does not mean you had a traumatic childhood.

JAIMEE BELL05 January, 2021

woman's hands bound with ribbon BDSM

Study finds no significant link between traumatic early life experiences and BDSM practices as an adult.Credit: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS / Adobe Stock

  • BDSM is a kind of sexual expression and/or practice that refers to three main subcategories: Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/submission, and Sadism/Masochism.
  • It has been widely speculated that many BDSM practitioners or people who enjoy the BDSM lifestyle are drawn to it because of sexual trauma they experienced in the past.
  • This 2020 study claims that BDSM practitioners deserve perception as normal sexual practice free from stigmatization rather than deviant behavior.

BDSM is a kind of sexual expression or practice that refers to three main subcategories:

  • Bondage and Discipline (BD)
  • Dominance and submission (DS)
  • Sadism and Masochism (SM)

It has been widely speculated that many BDSM practitioners or people who enjoy the BDSM lifestyle are more drawn to the kinky lifestyle because of sexual trauma they have experienced in the past.

2020 study smashed this myth by surveying 771 BDSM practitioners and 518 non-practitioners from the general population. These participants all completed a survey assessing BDSM interests as well as the Brief Trauma Questionnaire that is used to gauge traumatic events, and the Relationships Questionnaire that is used to assess a person’s attachment style.

What is the Brief Trauma Questionnaire?

The BTQ, as it’s referred to by the National Center for PTSD, is a self-report questionnaire derived from the Brief Trauma Interview. This questionnaire is used to assess whether an individual has had an event that meets the criteria for traumatic events.

What is the Relationships Questionnaire?

The RQ, as it’s referred to by the Fetzer Institute, is a four-item survey designed to measure adult attachment styles. There are four main attachment styles: secure, dismissive-avoidant, anxious-preoccupied, and fearful-avoidant. This article does a wonderful job summarizing the various attachment styles by comparing them to relationships on the television show “How I Met Your Mother.”

No, being interested in BDSM doesn’t mean you had a traumatic childhood


While many may assume being interested in BDSM may mean you’ve experienced unhealthy or violent relationships/situations in your formative years, this study explains why that myth should be put to rest.

BDSM practitioners across the study scored higher levels of physical abuse in adulthood. However, no significant differences emerged for other traumatic experiences (including childhood physical abuse or unwanted sexual trauma).

There have been many accounts (such as this) from BDSM practitioners that have claimed there is a certain “healing process” involved in finding a trustworthy BDSM relationship after escaping from a toxic relationship. This could account for why people who have experienced physically abusive relationships as adults then turn to the BDSM community and BDSM-related sexual interests.

When it came to the Relationship Questionnaire, people who engaged in the BDSM lifestyle more often scored in the “secure” attachment style than people who were not BDSM practitioners. While many BDSM practitioners had secure attachment styles, there was also a significant spike in anxious-preoccupied attachment styles when it came to people who practiced BDSM. In particular, the “secure” attachment style was associated with BDSM practitioners who identified as “Dominant” and the “anxious-preoccupied” attachment style was associated with people who identified as “submissive.”

There are no findings to support the hypothesis of BDSM being a coping mechanism for early life dynamics or trauma.

This authors of the study claim that BDSM practitioners deserve perception as normal sexual practice free from stigmatization rather than deviant behavior—and the final results of the study support this idea.

Are people involved in BDSM practices more aware of their attachment styles?

While many people insist engaging in BDSM practices means you’ve had significant traumatic experienced that led you to do so, there are some experts that argue BDSM practitioners are actually more in tune with their own psychopathology than people who do not engage in BDSM activities.

BDSM involves a diverse range of practices which can involve role-playing games in which one person assumes a dominant role and the other assumes a submissive role. These activities are often intense and can involve activities such as physical restraint, power plays, humiliation, and sometimes (but not always) pain.

According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, people involved in BDSM may actually be more mentally healthy. The study suggests people who engage in BDSM activities often show more extroverted qualities and tend to be more open to experiences and more conscientious. They also tend to be less neurotic and less sensitive to rejection. The study also showed BDSM practitioners had a more secure attachment style, which is supported in the more recent study listed above.

Additionally, it’s been hypothesized that people involved in BDSM are more mindful during sex than those who do not engage in BDSM practices.

src Bigthink

Bondage for beginners – expert advice on how to get started

The most important thing to learn when getting started is general safety. Picture: Pixabay
The most important thing to learn when getting started is general safety. Picture: Pixabay

By Gerry Cupido Time of article published Apr 13, 2021

When you’ve been with someone for a long time, and find yourself in a sexual rut, it’s normal to want to try something new in the bedroom.

With love, trust, respect and a mutual desire to explore new sexual avenues, there’s so much to discover.

Bondage and BDSM, which was always seen as the “darker” side sexual practises, has gained popularity over the past few years.

Movies like Fifty Shades of Grey has shed a softer light on the subject and peeked the curiosity of those seeking sexual adventure.

However it’s not a sexual practise you want to enter blindly.

It’s not like trying a new sex position.

If you’re serious about exploring this practice we’ve asked Marika Leila Roux, who’s a sex expert and chief executive of Shibari Study, to share some tips and advice for first-timers.

The art of Shibari. Picture: Pixabay

Do some investigating

The best way to get started is to watch a lot of videos, browse through pictures and read articles about Shibari and other bondage practices.

There’s so much available for free on the Internet nowadays. A great resource can be found on our site in the theory and inspiration section!

It’s good to take the time to investigate your motivations and to discover your personal interests, turn-ons and expectations before practising with other people.

Learn about the techniques

When it comes to learning the techniques, due to social distancing, the only option is to learn online and practice at home with your partner/s or close friends circle.

Whenever possible again, I advise to combine online learning with in-person classes with qualified instructors.

There are pros and cons to both, but a combination of the two is ideal. Shibari Study offers online classes for all levels, including total beginner classes.

These classes are designed to take you from touching your first rope all the way to tying beautiful harnesses and enjoying playful floor-based sessions.

All the basic knots and techniques can be practised without a partner – on a chair or on yourself – so you can build confidence and experience before moving on to partnered tying.

Shibari Study offers online classes for all levels, including total beginner classes. Picture: Pixabay

What should you know beforehand? How can you make sure it is safe?

The most important thing to learn when getting started is general safety and to invest serious effort into grasping the basic techniques.

Regardless of your goals, I always recommend a “low and slow” integration method and to make sure that the basics are fully understood and mastered before moving onto more challenging exercises.

Good communication with your partner(s) before, during and after each session is also crucial for a safer practice.

Of course there will always be some sort of risk in playing with ropes, but as long as you do your research you should be able to mitigate the outcome and create a fun and enriching experience.

Establish and update your own personal risk

A risk profile is an evaluation of an individual’s willingness and ability to take risks and what they are comfortable with.

It is a way of describing the types, severity, and likelihood of various risks and how they relate to your willingness to participate in certain activities.

Risk profiles are a vital element of RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink).

How can you make sure everything is consensual?

I cannot stress enough the importance of thoroughly educating yourself about consent and negotiations and making sure that your partners are sufficiently informed as well before engaging in rope bondage (or any intimate activity involving power-exchange for that matter!).

Each partnership and context is different, and the methods used to negotiate and navigate a session consensually should be adapted to their unique needs and dynamics.

Here is some general advice I can share that has worked for me:

If you rely only on implied consent, there is room for misinterpretation. You cannot count on someone being able to read your mind any more than you should assume you can correctly read theirs.

Cultivating mutual self-awareness as well as good communication skills is the key to successful and empowering rope experiences.

Don’t be afraid to have a frank and honest conversation about desires, boundaries and consent with your partner/s.

It is important to know your partner’s unique views on Shibari and their consent philosophy.

Remember that consent goes both ways; it is important that everyone involved – tying or being tied – explicitly and honestly states their expectations, limits and experience.

Be sure to discuss all of these things beforehand, especially if tying with someone new.

It is very important to learn how to properly and usefully negotiate with your partners. Seek first to understand, then be understood.

Taking the time to negotiate a session and understand your partner’s and your own desires and expectations can be really exciting and a way to connect deeply.

I’ve had several pre-rope negotiations that were as fulfilling as the rope session itself!

src iol.co.za

When does BDSM cross the line into abuse and slavery?

Last night, Four Corners revealed a number of allegations against a self-described “BDSM master”, James Davis, recently charged with federal slavery and servitude offences by the Australian Federal Police in New South Wales.

The alleged offending occurred within the context of a polygamous BDSM lifestyle, with a number of young women allegedly pressured into sexual activity and subjected to physical violence by Davis and other men.

BDSM activities pose a number of unique challenge for police and prosecutors, who may not be aware of the distinction between consensual fun and abuse and other crimes under criminal law.

One of the authors here, Nadia David, has spent six years researching BDSM, consent and the criminal law, speaking with hundreds of people who engage in these activities to gain a better understanding for the community.

What is BDSM?

BDSM (which stands for “bondage submission sadomasochism”) is a broad term used to describe sexual activities involving dominance, submission and control.

BDSM activities range from rope play and spanking to piercing and nipple clamps, but all typically involve one (or more) partners taking on a more dominant role during sex, while others are more submissive.

Most BDSM activities are limited to discrete play sessions between partners, but some people engage in “full-time” or “24/7” relationships involving dominance and submission.

BDSM practices and interests are not in themselves pathological, nor is there a strong connection between engaging in BDSM practices and risks of sexual offending.

recent study in Belgium found that 46.8% of the general population had engaged in BDSM-themed activities at least once, with 12.5% doing so on a regular basis.

One Australian study from 2008 found that 1.8% of sexually active people (2.2% men and 1.3% women) had engaged in BDSM activity in the previous year. This study didn’t find any significant differences between people who took part in BDSM activities and the general population in terms of mental health.

Whips and collars are commonly features in consensual BDSM play. Shutterstock

What’s the difference between BDSM and abuse?

One of the most vehemently argued positions taken by anti-BDSM commentators is that BDSM is a replication and extension of male violence against women and other men and the broader misogynistic patriarchy in which women are oppressed.

There is certainly a more than passing similarity between BDSM and gendered violence to the casual observer.

But there are two elements in authentic BDSM practices and relationships that are simply absent in abusive relationships and sexual encounters: consent and rules. These include myriad tools to ensure the safety of participants, such as checklists and traffic light systems.

Our research reinforces that all BDSM practitioners consider consent to be absolutely fundamental. Consent is so ingrained in BDSM culture and practice that discussions before sexual play usually involve every detail of the planned session, including the exact activities that will be undertaken.

BDSM players use systems to ensure their partner is still consenting throughout the session and any transgression of this approach is taken extremely seriously as a violation of consent. Spontaneity is not prized in the BDSM world – consent is.

In BDSM, consent is not a passive acceptance of a proposition. It is very common for “dominant” players to only perform acts with “submissive” partners when that person asks for it. Dominants who push submissives or start play without explicit agreement are considered to be potentially abusive within the BDSM community.

What does the law say?

Davis, the subject of the Four Corners story, was charged with a number of federal offences, including reducing a person to slavery, intentionally possessing a slave and causing a person to enter into or remain in servitude.

A wide range of other criminal offences could apply to BDSM activities that are abusive.

Under NSW criminal law, for example, consent requires a person to freely and voluntarily agree to sexual activity. (Other states and territories have similar laws.) The use of “slave contracts” and other fantasy objects in BDSM activities does not alter the requirements for free and voluntary agreement under the law.

Sexual consent can be withdrawn at any time. Moreover, consent in response to intimidating or coercive conduct or other threats is not real consent.

In addition, in common law jurisdictions, a person can be charged with assault or injury offences whether or not the injured person had consented to the conduct. This places “riskier” forms of BDSM, such as piercing and knife play, in a legal grey area, even when enthusiastic consent is given.

BDSM practitioners, however, are often failed by the criminal justice system. Those who report non-consensual play to police are often met with derision and a refusal to investigate, including victim-blaming and slut-shaming.

Domestic and family violence can exist in all forms of relationships, including BDSM relationships. So it’s crucial for everyone who engages in BDSM activity to be aware of the distinction between harmless kink and violence, and take consent seriously.

What is also important to remember is that BDSM is not domestic violence in itself. If all players are enthusiastic and consenting, then it can be a perfectly healthy form of sexual expression.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, contact 1800 RESPECT through their toll-free national counselling hotline or online. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Red Cross Support for Trafficked People Program on 03 9345 1800.

src Theconversation