“D” is one of my own personal play partners and a close friend. The first time we met at an itty bitty subterranean shibari bar in Osaka, I got half-naked and he tied me up in front of his Japanese boss. Good times! Being that “D” and I comprise a gay-man-plus-bi-chick combo, our dynamic has always danced along the tantalizing border between a sexual partnership and a strictly-friends vibe. What binds us is our penchant for masochism, passion for active consent, and desire to help newbies steer clear of hazards and abuse in the BDSM scene. Many thanks to “D” for participating as my first Kink Out Loud interviewee.
Molly: Is it correct to say you identify as a switch?
D: I guess so? In general, I'm very blurred. As a gay man I'm 50/50 versatile, but open (to an extent) to flirting and playing around with women, but when it comes to BDSM I do whatever’s necessary.
When it comes to my sexual partnerships, it depends on my mood and the guy. Sometimes I want to top, sometimes I want to bottom. The same goes for BDSM. If my partner likes to play a particular role, I can fill that.
Generally speaking, my partner’s needs come first, and my wants are dependent on the situation. The best possible scenario for me is when someone else is similar and we can have a push-and-pull, swap scenario.
Molly: How would you describe your relationship with BDSM?
D: I'd say my relationship to BDSM is mostly voyeuristic. I'm way more passive or observant than I am a participant. That doesn't mean I won’t participate. I'm just more likely to sit back and enjoy, unless I’m asked to join in.
I got my start by sneaking into a BDSM club in LA at 17, but I had no idea where I was going at the time. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to get in, but once I did I had a great time watching others, and was happy to explore more afterwards.
Molly: What types of activities do you enjoy, and what activities are limits for you?
D: I like spanking and rough play with paddles and the like, rope bondage (giving and receiving), and more recently, play with wax candles.
I've tried, but did not like, anything involving needles or knives, nor emotional/social domineering. I'm fiercely independent and don't want to be anyone's slave or dog. Basically, be nicely mean to me, and I'll be nicely mean to you.
Molly: From what I know about you, you got into BDSM relatively early. How did you become interested in kink and what was that like?
D: A friend's coworker wanted to go to a gothic industrial club in Hollywood and invited me to join. Before we left she asked if I had ID, but I was underage. We went anyway, and she went into the club alone and borrowed someone else’s ID while my friend and I waited outside.
After we successfully got into the club, I saw people of all genders topping one another. If you know clubs in LA, you’ll know it’s very hard to get in anywhere if you don't have the right outfit. This place was very different. I clearly didn't belong there, I was too young, but everyone was very accepting.
It was so exhilarating, but the openness and friendliness was what kept me coming back to the BDSM community.
Molly: What's your favorite thing about BDSM? Why do you enjoy it as much as you do?
D: My favorite thing about BDSM, when it’s done properly, is the mutual respect and understanding I’ve found in the community. I know there are those who seek to abuse for their own gain, but there are others who seek to give in a thoughtful way and not cross any lines that they shouldn’t. It’s a great exchange of trust and affection of two (or more) people giving up, and giving to, one another.
Going back to my first experience at that club in LA: anywhere else would've turned me away for the clothes I was wearing, but in that club there were topless people in black boots with electrical tape over their nipples, along with people in denim shorts and sandals. Everyone was welcome. Overall, the BDSM scene tends not to judge and allows people to breathe and live freely.
Molly: What do you find most challenging about BDSM? Have you run into any really difficult experiences?
D: What can be most challenging is either a lack of communication, or even more worrisome, an UNWILLINGNESS to communicate.
While acting as a sub, there have been times when the dom had a different agenda. While acting as a dom, there were times when my sub didn’t set their boundaries clearly enough. Both situations led to an aftermath of discomfort, awkwardness, or even devastation.
I personally have not experienced anything too traumatic, but I take a lot of care when I top, and am also quite clear about communicating my boundaries when I bottom.
Molly: I know how important consent is to you in the context of play. How do you think practitioners can ensure consent during scenes?
D: Consent is clearly paramount. However, we can’t possibly communicate about every possible aspect of play in advance, and things often change in the moment. Sometimes our moods change, and something that was off limits in the beginning is now an option, or something that was viable before no longer is.
In any case, opting to stop and reevaluate, take a break, and discuss whether or not to continue is the right choice. Constant, incessant check-ins and discussions are needed, and while that may sound like a bit of a buzzkill, check-ins are there for everyone’s safety. As you gain more practice, trust, and affinity with your partner, you won’t need to check in as often.
Molly: What advice would you give to someone who's just getting their feet wet in BDSM?
My advice for beginners? Take it slowly and start from the shallow end of the pool. It’s all too easy in the beginning to get caught up with someone far more experienced than you and end up in an one-sided power dynamic.
Novices can often go out of their depth and do things that are far more dangerous than they realize. People can, and have, killed each other because they were not aware of the seriousness of what they were attempting.
Find some knowledgeable and agreeable people to lead you along, or another beginner who’s willing to start from the basics. While there are predators out there, there are even more lovely, kinky, considerate people out there who love to play. Go find them.