Between the Lines: A Biography of bdsm – the chapter outline

Between the lines: A biography of bdsm:

Part 1: Bdsm origins

Chapter 1: Names and a parable

What is bdsm? A definition.

What sort of book is this?

  • Half of this book is a survey of what we know empirically about bdsm: its history, its “causes” and whether it’s something pathological, and the politics of living with bdsm in your life (or in your society); while
  • The other half is a story told from inside bdsm, the experience of growing up with desires that are widely despised, of hiding those desires while looking for others who are hiding, and the mistakes we make when we meet; and how bdsm can work in loving relationships.

A coda, “The parable of the broom”, illustrates how life in a bdsm relationship can be much like life in any relationship, and that little in bdsm is exactly what it appears to be.

Chapter 2: What do we know about people who take part in bdsm?

Bdsm: what we know: The 2005 and 2015 Australian National Survey on Health and Relationships together asked 40,000 people if they’d taken part in bdsm activity in the past year. I contacted the survey team and suggested further analysis.

Result: bdsm participants are the same as non-participants by all measures of psychological and social health, happiness and success. The finding made a lot of theorising about bdsm obsolete. This book will stick to what we actually know about bdsm and the people who take part in it.

Chapter 3: Like this in a shed

Bdsm life: I tell my lover the story of watching a bdsm game in a shed, at the age of four, and how that led to some revelations about myself and how my life was likely to be.

Chapter 4: Where do we come from?

Bdsm: what we know: Explores some of the theories about the “causes” of bdsm. Sets out what little we know, and attempts to provide an evidence-based theory.

Chapter 5: Angelina – texts and pretexts

Bdsm life: Learning, as a child, that bdsm interests must be hidden. An adolescent attempt with a willing partner leads to excruciating embarrassment.

PART 2: Bdsm in history

 Chapter 6: Icons and ancestors, 21,000 BCE to 300 CE

Bdsm in history: Artefacts and records of bdsm from the Palaeolithic era, through Egyption, Greek and Roman culture, to the beginning of Christian influence.

Chapter 7: Angelina’s lessons

Bdsm life: Three lessons learned from the debacle in Chapter 4. (1) Bdsm is a need, for people with bdsm desires. (2) Sexual consent is complicated; less so in bdsm, but still complex. (3) Bdsm partners are not so common that you can afford not to notice consent.

Chapter 8: Priests, poets and penitents, fourth to eighteenth century CE

Bdsm in history: Christian flagellation, also bdsm records in Indian, Chinese, Arab, Finnish, etc, literature. “Flagellation” re-emerges as a secular rather than religious practice (in the West) around the 16th century. It’s not an “aristocratic vice”: early pop culture (stage comedies, pop lit) and court records show middle class bdsm awareness and activity.

Chapter 9: Fruits of palm-tree

Bdsm life: Finally, and to some extent dressed as a pirate, I start a bdsm relationship with a submissive woman I love. Bdsm was for the bedroom only, to keep my sexual politics clear. Could I be stupid enough to throw this away?

Chapter 10: Cathérine Cadière and the rituals of bdsm

Bdsm in history: The 18th century scandal of Father Girard and the penitent Cardière, and how it defined many bdsm ideas and practices to the present day. Though it’s a French scandal, it’s the reason bdsm is sometimes called “the English vice”. It influenced bdsm’s cultural development to the end of the Victorian era.

Chapter 11: Chloe: Am I your good girl?

Bdsm life: A second bdsm relationship. We wrestle with the “I support feminism but I like to tie and hurt my girlfriend/ be tied and hurt by my boyfriend” issue. We decide, again, that bdsm is for bedrooms only. I find more reasons to think bdsm and happiness can happen at the same time.

Chapter 12: To the present

Bdsm in history: The development of bdsm during the 20th century to the present. Key issues: less “unacknowledged” bdsm as the status of women, children and employees rises, also the surprisingly late arrival of leather, and of bondage in its modern form. How the internet changed everything.

Chapter 13: Chloe’s game

Bdsm life: A silly role-playing game teaches me about giving orders, and going deeper and darker than I had before. But our time together ends.

Part 3: What went wrong

Chapter 14: Seeing Sade with a cold eye 

Getting a bad name: How the ranting nutcase Sade’s name was attached to bdsm, deliberately and literally to give bdsm a bad name. The story of a rapist, torturer, probable murderer and bad writer, told without the usual whitewashing.

Chapter 15: Fucking up – the dance of Maya, and others

Bdsm life: I enter and ruin a bdsm relationship. I horribly mangle the courting process for others. No hero, me. Scarifying learning experiences.

Chapter 16: Sacher-Masoch: just so!

Getting a bad name: The story of Sacher-Masoch, who helped give Freud the idea of the “just so story” explanation for sexual differences, and gave bdsm the idea of the eroticised slave contract. A passive-aggressive bully whose wife did not actually want to dress up in furs and whip him but was forced, by him, to do so.

Chapter 17: An outing

Bdsm life: Being outed, and ostracised. Losing friends, and the career I’d wanted. I try to rid myself of bdsm desires. I enter a non-bdsm relationship. And secretly masturbate to bdsm fantasies.

Chapter 18: Krafft-Ebing’s glass cabinet

Getting a bad name: A German doctor divided the sexually different into categories. He applied the labels Sadists and Masochists, pejoratively, and classified us with axe-murders and suicides, respectively. Before that we were just called libertines, and got invited to cheerful parties.

Chapter 19: Meeting the bdsm community: munches, lunches, bars and clubs

Bdsm life: I get involved in the bdsm community, and dating. Encounter a woman who wants me to arrange for her to be fucked by a dog. Others are not entirely accurate in their self-description.

Chapter 20: Freud squad

Getting a bad name: Freud completes the pathologising of bdsm. The oddness of Freud and Freudianism, and how they still distort perspectives on bdsm even after the abandonment and discrediting of Freudian doctrines.

Chapter 21: The ban on love

More misadventures in bdsm dating. Meet a woman who wants emotion-free bdsm. Being a little bruised emotionally, I go with that.

Part 4: Politics

Chapter 22: The enforcement of health and morality

Bdsm and sexual politics: Official attacks on bdsm organisations, publications and so on. How people can lose legal protection against rape or assault, lose access to their children, lose their careers, or their liberty, if “outed”. Bdsm people become politically engaged.

Chapter 23: Lana’s give

Bdsm life: I start a new bdsm relationship and fall in love. The sexual politics get complex. What if she wants to be submissive outside the bedroom? I am tempted by the prospect of actual rather than play power. Do I rise above temptation? No, not this time.

Chapter 24: Ideologies of intolerance, and the politics of bdsm

Bdsm and sexual politics. The religious right and the feminist criticisms of bdsm. Why bdsm isn’t patriarchy in leather drag. What does choice mean? Ethical codes for bdsm people: “safe, sane and consensual”, “risk-aware consensual kink” and other bdsm cultural rules.

What would non-discriminatory laws and social policies on bdsm look like? What responsibilities do people who take in bdsm activity have to the society they live in: safety issues, public activities and so on?

Chapter 25: Lana moves me

Bdsm life: I become the master of the woman I love, almost accidentally. It feels right and hot. Politics: A submissive person has the right to submit. I accept her trust.

Chapter 26: How shall we live?

A coda: This is where my path led me, and it made me happy, but people have to choose their own paths and outcomes. And, bdsm or not, life goes on. There’s no bdsm way of doing the dishes, or watching a video. (Or there is, but it seems too silly to bother with.) We end on a scene of perversely domestic happiness, including work, zippers, and a neighbor’s baby.

The End

2 thoughts on “Between the Lines: A Biography of bdsm – the chapter outline

  1. Interesting! And you are one heck of a writer, so that must be a riveting read. But what I want to know is: what happened with the girl who wanted to be fucked by a dog?

    And yes, of course there’s a bdsm way to do everything: naked and in chains. (Or, in your case, ordering a naked, chained sub to do it for you, I guess.)

  2. But think of the irons clanking, while I’m trying to watch a video. I guess it’d go with Game of Thrones.

    Though a (basically) naked girl doing the dishes in heels and an apron … I think I could easily develop a thing for that. And when I do the dishes I guess I could swagger about with my knee-high leather boots on. Though it takes ages to do up all the straps and laces. Even when a sub does it.

    (I think it’s worth having a submissive dress or undress me. But I’m mostly not going to waste submission on something as banal as housework, unless she specifically wants. Anyway, I’ve got a cleaner.)

    As for the girl who wanted to be fucked by a dog, well, pre-publication I’ll only allow agents, publishers’ reps, people I want to give me a blurb, oh, and maybe translators to read the draft.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.