Being into bdsm means knowing that you’re different from most of the people around you. I learned that early. I was with my older brothers and sisters – who didn’t want a 4-year old’s company, but my parents hadn’t given them any choice – and they went to an abandoned forest workers’ hut, that happened to be in the neighbourhood.
Bottles got spun and boys kissed girls, girls cuddled boys, and the penalty for losing a round of any game they played was taking off an item of clothing. And so on.
Anyway, I was much younger so I didn’t take part. I mostly climbed up the shelves on the wall, and found a place where I could look down if I wanted to. A lot of the time I just day-dreamed. But one day they played a game of “school”, where, at the end of each round, someone got spanked. A girl called Donna getting spanked caught my attention, very strongly.
With my little four-year-old hard-on.
That’s not “why” I’m into bdsm, of course. I was already into bdsm before I entered that shed; I just didn’t know about it. Rather, it was the first time I realised that this was something I was into. It was going to be important to me. And it wasn’t important, it seemed, to anyone else who’d been in that shed.
The second thing I learned was even less welcome: people who had this sexual interest weren’t admired and respected, to put it mildly.
People like me were the villains in movies and TV shows. We were evil. We were sick. I was a priggish little bastard when I was a kid, so I wasn’t happy about being evil. I wanted a moral pass-mark, at least.
So I devoted most of my life to Good Works. My first job was as a psychiatric nurse. Then I did a social work degree. I helped set up the first domestic violence women’s refuge in my part of the world. I set up the first union for unemployed people that’d existed, in my part of the world, since the 1930s. I helped set up Shelter in my part of the world.
I went on anti-racism events and got clubbed by cops. Though ridiculously straight, I’d put on my pink triangle and go on gay rights marches and vigils. You get the picture.
One thing that strikes me, looking back on this period, is that I hardly ever hung round with political people when I wasn’t doing politics. I didn’t actually like them very much.
I didn’t like their jockeying for power, and I didn’t want power for myself. The social changes I worked for all had the effect of sharing out power, not concentrating it. Especially not into my hands.
(The people I hung round with were more drug-oriented artist types. Much more fun, and much sexier.)
My point is that I wouldn’t have done all this, I don’t think, if I hadn’t felt guilty about being into bdsm. I wanted to be a good person. You know, not a saint, but at least not as floridly evil as a James Bond villain. Or Frank Thring.
They were all good causes, and I’m still proud of the work I did. But in part it was compensation.
It meant that in the self-critical darkness of the night I could argue to myself that I couldn’t be all bad. I might be one sick fuck, but at least I was a useful one.
Has anyone else had their life course shaped in this way, by social attitudes to bdsm?