11 September 1994


Where the kinky knowledge resides!

Please send additions, suggestions, etc. to robj@netcom.com
If this posting appears truncated or damaged, contact me, also.

This FAQ list is copyrighted. The full copyright notice appears at
the end of each part of the list; please respect it.

Books could be and are being written about these questions; remember,
this is a thumbnail FAQ list. If you learn anything from this list,
hopefully it will be how many questions there are to ask, and how much
there is to learn! If you're concerned or curious about issues that
you feel are breezed over here, see the very end of this FAQ for a
list of wonderful books and sources of more information. And if you
want more ideas or discussion about anything, well, what else is
alt.sex.bondage for?

This document contains explicit sexual information. If you do not
wish to view such information, I advise you to skip this document. If
you believe this document itself is obscene, I ask you to read my
response to question 20 in part 2 (you can search forward for the
number "20" without needing to read the intervening material).

Questions answered in this list (answers which include safety infor-
mation are flagged with **):

1. What do B&D, S&M, D&S, "top", "bottom" mean?
2. What is a "scene", and what is "negotiation"?
** 3. What is a "safeword"?
4. When is pain not pain?
** 5. What are some basics of safe SM, emotionally and physically?
6. Is everyone either a top or a bottom?
7. How can I learn to be a good top?
8. How can I learn to be a good bottom?
** 9. Why is bondage fun?
** 10. Why is whipping fun?
** 11. What is body piercing? What is "C&B" play, or "genitorture"?
** 12. What is cutting/burning/branding/electrical play?
** 13. What is it about breath control? Is it safe to make someone
pass out?
** 14. What are "golden showers"? How about "scat"?
** 15. Is anal sex safe? Why do people do it?
** 16. What is "fisting"?
17. Does the way I play qualify as "real" SM? What is "real" SM,
anyway?
18. What is it about leather/latex/high heels/corsets/other fetishes?
19. What about shaving body hair and/or crossdressing?
20. Why am I defending SM?
21. Is SM degrading or abusive? Were most SM people abused?
22. Why is SM taboo, and is SM criminal, unnatural,
immoral, unethical, or unhealthy?
23. Isn't the bottom always in control?
24. Can someone _really_ be someone else's slave?
25. What are the "codes"?
26. My fantasies scare me. What if I get too into SM?
27. I want to throw a play party; how do I go about it?
28. I want to attend a play party; what is the etiquette?
29. What's the deal with this anonymity stuff?
30. Are SM people being politically and socially harassed?
31. Why are there so many postings about {whipping/pain/slavery/gay
sex/nonconsensuality/etc} on a.s.b? Doesn't that stuff belong
somewhere else?
32. I'm sick of certain topics on a.s.b. How can I avoid them?
33. I don't have access to alt.sex.bondage; what can I do to get
information about the scene?
34. What are some books/magazines/organizations/stores/news archives
where I can get SM information or toys, or meet people in the
scene?

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1. What do B&D, S&M, D&S, "top", "bottom" mean?

The easy part first: B&D = "bondage & dominance" or "bondage &
discipline." S&M = "sadism & masochism." D&S = "dominance &
submission."

People who read a.s.b are generally interested in ways to have sex
that are outside the mainstream. One of the recurrent threads on
a.s.b is the question of "what to call ourselves", since there is no
one set of sexual practices we all enjoy or are interested in, yet
there is a lot in common among all the things we talk about.

Some people enjoy submitting to another person, placing themselves
under the power of another, in a sexual context. It can be a very hot
thing for someone to say to you, "I'm yours. Use my body for your
pleasure." This is D&S; one person is dominating, the other
submitting. Slave/master, harem girl/sultan, boy/daddy, student/
schoolmistress. D&S is an erotic power game, where both people are
getting off--one on the thrill of controlling, the other on the thrill
of being controlled. This is also where the terms "top" and "bottom"
come in; the top is, roughly, the dominant; the bottom is, roughly,
the submissive.

What do tops and bottoms do with each other? Well, one good
possibility is they have lots of hot sex. Another possibility is the
top ties the bottom up in some manner, which directly and physically
puts the bottom at the top's mercy, and then the top plays with the
bottom, teasing, seducing, frustrating, and hopefully finally
satisfying. This is a bondage & dominance sort of game. Some people
enjoy playing with punishment--"You've been bad and now I have to tie
you up and spank you!" That's bondage & discipline for you.

Then there's the sort of game described by S&M--"sadism and
masochism". Whips, canes, nipple clamps, all the wonderful things
that are designed to cause, in greater or lesser degree, pain. It can
be a powerful thing to submit to someone else who wants to hurt you;
it's a fantastic gesture of trust. And as will be discussed later,
pain is not really pain anymore in an S&M game; it becomes
overwhelmingly intense stimulation, which when administered by a
skilled top can bring a bottom to entirely new heights of ecstasy.
Sometimes the D&S aspect becomes secondary to the sensual trip; you
don't have to enjoy obeying another's commands to enjoy being tied up
and whipped! And of course, pain (whether light or heavy) is only one
sort of sensation; there are many others, and all of them can be lots
of fun to play with.

This sort of trip, merging pain and pleasure to create an amazingly
powerful experience for the bottom, is sometimes known as SM: Sex
Magick. The precise definitions of B&D, S&M, whatever, don't matter
so much as do the experiences they point towards. All these areas, as
you can see, overlap and intermingle in many many ways, but for me
they all meet in the single concept of Sex Magick: taking a fantasy
and turning it into reality, creating a magical space in which
anything can happen!

While we're sorta on the subject of abbreviations, here are some more:
motos = Member Of The Opposite Sex; motss = Member Of The Same Sex;
IMHO = In My Humble Opinion; BTW = By The Way; SO = Significant Other
(i.e. lover); SMBDLMNOP = SM and BD and whatever else it is that we're
always talking about here on a.s.b; "Munch" refers to "any social
gathering of local people who read a.s.b" (it's short for
"Burgermunch", a tradition started in Palo Alto); "plonk"--see
question 32; YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary (i.e. this is my experience,
yours may be different); ObBDSM = "Obligatory BDSM"--if a post here
contains little BDSM content, the poster will put "ObBDSM:
BDSM item>" at the end of the post; YKINOK = "Your Kink Is Not
OK"--see question 17... and of course FAQ = Frequently Asked
Questions.

Oh, and the reason I refer to SM behavior as "play" here is because,
well, it ain't work! Play means nothing other than activities done
for recreation and for pleasure, and hence "play" is a fine word for
many BDSM behaviors. Many of my friends use "play" similarly.
(Though let me begin the many YMMV's by stating that many other people
who do BDSM consider it to be a very real, and deep, part of their
sexual orientation; these people find that the term "play" doesn't
adequately express how important and fundamental these behaviors and
relationships are to them. I am increasingly finding myself to be one
of these people. And for still other people, some BDSM is play and
some isn't. Confused yet?)

Just so it is totally clear at the outset, NONE OF THIS MATERIAL
ADVOCATES ANY KIND OF NONCONSENSUAL BEHAVIOR. What I am describing
here is a variety of ways for lovers to enjoy one another, if and only
if they both want to, and both give their consent. Anyone who claims
that this information is in some way advocating nonconsensual,
criminal acts is hereby charged with having failed to read and
understand what I am saying. When I use the term "SM" in this FAQ, I
refer specifically to consensual behavior. (See question 21 for more
on this.)

Finally, you've probably already noticed that we talk about more here
than just sex and bondage. If that bothers you, please, post
something _yourself_ about either or both topics! Complaining "where
are all the sex and bondage posts?" is unproductive; if you want to
see more of something, put it out there yourself. Everyone on a.s.b
is posting for their own reasons, which don't often include
titillating strangers.

But then again, this whole group is _about_ titillation--about
sonscious eroticism, about getting what you want, and the first step
is often admitting it. Read on, and enjoy! Who knows, you might be a
different person by the time you finish this FAQ... it's happened to
others before you :-)


2. What is a "scene", and what is "negotiation"?

SM has definite connotations of theater. The fact that you are a
submissive while you're playing sexually does not mean you are a
pushover in real life, nor does your being a dominant while playing
mean that you are an overbearing egotist. These are roles that you
can play; you are in some sense an actor.

Hence the concept of a "scene". A scene is a particular interaction
between a group of players, usually revolving around a bottom. It's
not a formal concept, just a handy way to describe the action. "That
was the hottest whipping scene I've ever seen!" "Our last scene
really pushed me, Master; I've never felt like that before." Usually
a scene has a momentum of its own: you (a top) will begin fucking/
whipping/sucking/whatever your bottom, you'll both be fantastically
into it, one or both of you comes/peaks/starts getting tired, and you
wind down and rest for a while and talk about what worked and what
didn't, about how the scene was for you.

Novice SM players may profit from actually taking this loose descrip-
tion and using it to structure your first scenes. If there's some-
thing you want to try, first negotiate it with your partner; discuss
what you want out of the scene (bondage? orgasm?), what your limits
are (no fucking, no tickling), and what safeword you want to use (see
the next question). Then get "into scene"--assume your roles (if
any), put on the collar (or whatever), get into the mood to
play... and play! And after the scene is over, take time to discuss
what the scene felt like for each of you. Make sure to listen to your
partner and learn how they felt, and thank your partner for
playing... after an intense scene, it's really nice to cuddle and
connect, rather than stopping abruptly and going home. A scene has a
beginning, middle, and end; all three parts are very important. (And
not necessarily disjoint; talking about how you feel and what you want
can continue right through the whole process!)

This "negotiation" concept in the SM community simply means open,
honest communication about what you do and don't want. Negotiation in
this sense is not a bargaining process, where one person is trying to
get something at the expense of someone else; it's a win-win technique
where you're both talking about what you've done and what excites and
doesn't excite you, so you can feel more comfortable and turned on
together. It's completely legitimate to talk both about your
fantasies and your boundaries--about what makes you wet, _and_ about
what makes you cringe and tense up. Telling your partner about things
that you _don't_ want them to do is valuable, as you deserve to have
those limits respected... and if you don't tell your partner those
things, they may do them, and neither of you will enjoy it. (If you
do express your limits, and your partner ignores them, that's non-
consensual, and you will want to think hard about whether you can
trust your partner. Negotiation can bring these issues into clear
focus, which can help.)

If you're just getting into SM, or just into a new relationship,
negotiation is a VERY valuable process. It can be as upfront as "I'd
really like to kiss you, does that sound good?" or as nasty as "Tell
me your deepest darkest fantasy or I'm going to stop rubbing your
cock!" Talking about what you want from your sexual relationships can
be difficult at first, but the more you do it the easier it gets and
the more you get out of it! And note that none of this is necessarily
specific to SM; negotiation is useful on all levels in all
relationships, whether they involve SM or not. Consent is much more
than a simple "yes"--any relationship, and especially SM
relationships, will do better with lots of honest talk about what you
both want, and why, and how much, and what you _don't_ want.

There are some who feel that negotiating--talking--"ruins the momen-
tum". The image they seem to have is of the lovers who need say no
words; every touch, every action, is perfect. That's great when it
happens, but it doesn't happen automatically. My personal experience
is that talking upfront makes me feel much better about whoever it is
I'm with, and much more confident that they won't do something I'm not
ready for... this in turn means I can throw myself wholeheartedly into
whatever we've negotiated. Plus, as you get to know each other
better, you'll know what you like and don't like... because you'll
have negotiated it! THEN the momentum REALLY gets rolling!

The other connotation of "scene" applies to the whole B/D/S/M popu-
lation; sometimes someone will ask another SM player "Is X in the
scene?" or "I've seen Y around the scene before." If you want to get
into the scene in this sense, look up one of the organizations I've
mentioned at the end of this FAQ list--especially the NLA, which may
well have a chapter in your area! Doing this can be very worth-
while; you can make new friends, get lots of good ideas, and find a
community that shares your interests.


** 3. What is a "safeword"?

One of the thrills of SM is that it can stretch your limitations. If
you enjoy this sort of play, you can naturally find yourself trying
more and more new things, accepting greater and greater levels of
sensation, doing and feeling more than you've ever done or felt
before.

But the process is slow and gradual, and people are not telepathic.
It may be that you are the bottom in a whipping scene, and your top is
whipping you, and suddenly it doesn't feel good anymore!! and you want
them to STOP!!! That is what a safeword is: a word that means "This
isn't working! This scene is going wrong somehow! Please stop!"

A safeword needs to be taken seriously. Sometimes you may be playing
with a top you don't know that well, and if they do something to you
you don't want, it's important that you have a way to let them know,
IMMEDIATELY. Especially if you're tied up or otherwise made helpless.

Everyone has their own favorite safeword. I personally use "Yellow!"
to mean "Something's too intense; I need you to lighten up, but I
don't want to stop the scene," and I use "Red!" to mean "I'm in
trouble and I want everything to stop NOW, no more games, scene over,
let me outta here!" Some people just have one flavor of safeword, and
use "aardvark" or some other weird word they'd never say in the
context of a scene. At many parties, the universal safeword is
"Safeword!" It's up to you. All it is is a safety valve for when
things get out of control. If your top doesn't respect your safeword,
it's a safe bet that they won't respect other limits of yours, and you
will need to decide whether you want to play with someone who doesn't
acknowledge your boundaries.

Using a safeword can be hard to do sometimes. It's important to
realize that no one is perfect, and if you as top do something that
squicks your bottom (i.e. pushes beyond your bottom's limits--
"squick" is a recent bit of a.s.b jargon), it doesn't mean you're a
bad lover or a bad person. It only means that you ran into a limit
you didn't know was there, or you were tired or disconnected and not
in tune with your bottom. It happens to everyone from time to time.
If you as top feel burned out and want to stop the scene suddenly, or
you get a powerful reaction you weren't expecting and aren't sure how
to continue, you can use a safeword too; safewords aren't just for
bottoms! If you as bottom feel like your top is pushing you, and you
don't want to play anymore, it's not fun, that's when you want to use
a safeword--your top will be glad you used it to tell them where you
were at.

A safeword is just a communication tool, nothing more, nothing less.
If you're playing intensely, it may feel hard to stop the scene, to
come back from the edge via a safeword... but if you need to, that's
what they're for. Some tops deliberately push their bottoms until
their bottoms call safeword; this way, the bottom gets the experience
of using it. A safeword that's never used can seem unusable, which
isn't a good property for a safeword.

Sometimes a top will want to gag you, whether because you're being too
noisy or they want to increase your helplessness or you've been being
impertinent or whatever. You may still want a safeword to let the top
know when a rope is too tight or the nipple clamps are pinching or
whatever. Some people put a handkerchief in the bottom's hand; if
they let go and the handkerchief falls, they know there's something
up. I personally use the old SOS signal: three loud yells spaced
evenly; "Unh! Unh! Unh!" No gag I've ever seen can stop _all_ noise,
and that signal works even if my hands are in mittens or a
strait-jacket and unable to hold anything at all.

Before playing with someone, it's a good idea to negotiate, not only
what safeword you want to use, but how you'll handle it if you need to
use the safeword. When you're just getting into SM, it's almost
inevitable that some scenes will end prematurely or abruptly. If you
acknowledge this possibility in advance, and talk about what kinds of
comforting or remedy you might like, it'll make recovering from a
mishap a lot easier and more pleasant. And because a scene goes wrong
is no reason to think that you or your partner is fundamentally bad or
untrustworthy--mistakes will happen. (If your partner doesn't want to
hear your concerns about the mishap, though, or if they belittle or
deride your concerns, you may well be unable to avoid future mishaps.
If your relationship doesn't learn from painful experience, it may not
be ready to handle doing SM. Of course, this kind of processing is a
vital part of _every_ healthy relationship, SM or not.)

Not every SM player uses safewords. Some people into SM don't find
them useful for the style of play they prefer; more straightforward
communication suffices for them. Some partners find their need for a
safeword gradually diminishes as they come to know each other better.
Some people do SM in which the bottom doesn't _want_ to have a verbal
escape route, for the duration of the scene. (This "no-safeword" play
is also sometimes called "edge play.") One thing that you will learn
about the BDSMLMNOP scene is that styles vary wildly, and peoples'
experiences are astonishingly diverse. But for many people beginning
their explorations (and many who've explored enormously), safewords
have proved very helpful.


4. When is pain not pain?

Often people outside the scene don't see the appeal in any of the
things SM people do that look painful. What's enjoyable about being
hit? Where's the fun in getting bruised?

Well, think about this. Have you ever had intense sex and afterwards
noticed bite marks on your neck of which you had no memory? What
happened was your love partner bit you, HARD, hard enough that it
bruised you, and all you felt was another jolt of pleasure. If they
bit you that hard when you _weren't_ having sex, you would scream
"OUCH!!!" because it would hurt a lot! But when you are sexually
aroused, your pain tolerance goes way up, and stimulation that you
usually feel as pain is now actually pleasurable.

This is common knowledge. Another usual explanation is that the brain
produces endorphins, natural opiates, to compensate for pain. You
actually get high off the sensation. The "runner's high" comes from
pushing the body painfully for so long that the endorphins kick in;
the rush you get after eating chili peppers comes from the same
source; and that's what makes it enjoyable for SM players to be
whipped or spanked or whatever. It's not pain, it's pleasure! All
athletes that are "hooked on exercise" are essentially masochists who
enjoy stressing their bodies to get that chemical response. So your
friend who enjoys being spanked may actually be a lot _less_
masochistic than your average marathon runner!

For just this reason, Pat Califia (a very well-known writer and SM
player in the Bay Area) uses pain as a reward, when she's topping a
masochist. Pain as a punishment can have the reverse effect, when
your bottom _likes_ getting whipped!

Endorphins are by no means The Single Explanation for why masochists
find intense sensation to be desirable. Not every masochist floats
away blissfully while being whipped, nor would they all even _want_
to. The ways to experience intense sensation vary from dreamlike rush
to stinging ouch to irritating maddening burn to soothing warmth to
tears-in-the-eyes throbbing... and whatever the sensation, there is
likely someone who enjoys it.

Also, pain is a continuum. There are many different kinds of
sensation that you can use in your lovemaking--light scratches with
fingernails, open-hand spankings, pinches, squeezes... there are many
many ways to touch someone, and all of them can be enjoyable.
Different people enjoy different levels of sensation; "different
strokes for different folks." What may be a wonderfully sensual
caress to one person may be practically unnoticeable to another, and
what may be a delightful flogging to one person may be no fun AT ALL
to someone else. Ongoing negotiation is the secret to finding the
happy medium.

Some people consider all this absurd. "How could you WANT pain?" The
best answer I can give is that some people simply seem to be
calibrated differently. They want _more_ sensation; they find the
intensity thrilling and exciting, whereas someone else might find it
overpowering and agonizing. People like different amounts of spice in
their food; why not in their sexual encounters? Each person
experiences sensation differently, and if you want more, there are
safe ways for you to get it. Getting what you want, safely, can make
your life much happier.

(For much more about sensations and sensation play, I strongly
recommend Pat Califia's book _Sensuous Magic_. See the resource list
at the end of part 3 of this FAQ.)


** 5. What are some basics of safe SM, emotionally and physically?


mation on each type of activity into the specific topic that talks
about that activity; there was just too much material under this one
topic.>

SM is often play, and as such is fun! But SM can also get intense and
powerful. Here are some useful tips for people just getting started.

First of all, communicate. Let your partner know what you want and
don't want. Keep the dialogue going; watch your partner, be aware of
what she or he is feeling and thinking, and respect his or her limits.
Establish a safeword, and make it very clear that it will be taken
EXTREMELY seriously if used. DON'T assume that your partner shares a
fantasy of yours unless you've EXPLICITLY discussed it with them; just
because someone likes being blindfolded doesn't mean they'll enjoy
being tied up. And most important, give full permission to both
people playing to stop at any time for any reason; respect each other
enough to commit to call a halt and work things out if something goes
wrong.

Be sensitive. SM play, which can (doesn't have to! but can) involve
helplessness, intense sensation, and psychological domination, is
strong stuff; it can reach deeply into someone's soul and bring up
childhood traumas or hidden fears, without warning. Be aware that you
are swimming in deep waters, and be respectful, loving, and careful.
Don't let this reality scare you away from SM, though, if you want to
experiment; let it make you more aware and open to what both of you
are feeling. Most of all, decide for _yourself_ whether SM (or
elements of SM) has a place in your sex life; don't listen when
someone _else_ tells you "SM will be OK for you" or "SM will not be OK
for you". Only you can make that decision.

Be honest. If you do not want to do something, don't let your partner
pressure you into it. When you begin exploring SM, you may often find
yourself with a partner who wants something more than you have
experience giving, or who's right now in the mood for something that
you're _not_ in the mood for. In my experience, it's generally better
to say, "Whoa, I think we're wanting different things. Let's talk."
Doing a scene when you don't really want to can result in anything
from a lukewarm scene to something you just wish was over. There is
plenty of time... honesty, and not pushing, will lay a foundation of
trust that will stand you in good stead later.

One especially charged kind of D/S play is dominance and submission,
in which the bottom gives up some of their freedom of choice to the
top, who can command them. Though many people with strong boundaries
can play like this perfectly safely (and indeed derive enormous
happiness and satisfaction from doing it), this kind of play can carry
some real emotional risks for people with low self-esteem. The risk
is that the dominant will wind up abusing their power, using the D/S
dynamic to make the submissive feel ever more worthless and powerless,
and hence willing to let the dominant take over more of their
independence.

If you have issues around your personal sense of self-worth, and if
you feel that being submissive (albeit perhaps an enticing idea) might
serve to confirm and consolidate your negative self-image, you would
do well to think hard about whether D/S play is for you at this stage
of your life. The answer may well be "no." (And conversely, if you
are considering topping someone who wants to submit because they
deserve no better, you might consider whether you want a partner who
thinks so little of themselves.) In general, it's imperative for
everyone who does SM to look hard at their motivations and their
boundaries, and to be clear on whether the SM (whatever form it may
take) is self-actualizing or self-destructive.

It may not be all black-and-white, either; there may be some
particular activities or roles or words that will make you feel
unsafe, scared, or worthless, and you may well want to avoid those
activities/roles/words. That is exactly what negotiation is for; you
have the right to do what feels good to you and avoid what does not,
and you have the right to insist your partner respect your boundaries.
(This goes for any relationship, of course, BDSM or no.) The
discussion of "when do dom/sub relationships become excessive or
abusive" is an ongoing one on a.s.b, and for good reason; it's an
important topic.

BDSM may at times be theraputic, but it is in no sense a substitute
for therapy. It's been said that "you can't take power from the
powerless." A healthy D/S relationship is grounded in mutual respect,
and in the knowledge that both partners are choosing this life in a
fully informed, non-coerced manner; the submissive is proud to submit,
and the dominant is proud to receive the gift of their submission. It
is a very different thing from an abusive relationship in which one
partner controls the other partner's entire world, with the goal of
making that partner irrevocably and helplessly dependent.

Back to the physical plane: If you are the top, and you are tying your
bottom up, keep your attention on what you're doing. Your bottom is
going to be blissing out; it's up to you to see that they're
comfortable and kept amused. The "amusement" can be as nasty as you
please, but see that they don't get _bored_; that's seldom fun.)
Indeed, if you as top really _are_ displeased with your submissive for
breaking an agreement the two of you had made, ignoring them or
sending them away may be the harshest punishment you can administer.
But that's pretty advanced.)

Remember AIDS. Almost everything beyond closed-lips kissing and
bare-skin contact is potentially unsafe, unless some kind of latex
barrier is used. No unprotected contact between any combination of
fingers, genitals, mouth, and anus; use a latex dam (or saran wrap)
for cunnilingus or rimming (i.e. oral-anal contact), gloves for manual
penetration, condoms on dildos and dicks. Use water-based lubricants
such as ForPlay, Astroglide, Wet, KY Jelly; if the lube has
nonoxynol-9 in it (which kills HIV) all the better (but some are
allergic to nono-9). OILS AND OIL-BASED LUBES DISSOLVE LATEX; keep
the mineral or massage oil away from your gloves and condoms (and
latex clothing for that matter!).

Blood, semen, female secretions, urine... all can carry HIV. Play
hard, but play safe. (One interesting thing about SM is that it
expands the range of safe ways for people to pleasure each other! But
it also expands the range of unsafe ways to play....) There are more
safety tips, but if you want the in-depth skinny check some of the
books at the end.

Many tops come up with an SM safety kit, containing (among other
things) such items as a flashlight, duplicate keys for _all_ locks,
bandage scissors (with one flat blade) for speedy bondage removal, a
first aid kit with all the standard first aid items, disinfectant
(such as Bactine or Hibiclens) for toys which come in contact with
bodily fluids, safer sex supplies (sometimes including several
varieties of lubricant--different people like different sorts), and so
on. See _SM 101_ (a book listed in the Resources section) for an
excellent description of such a kit.

And there are some things that are commonly regarded as potentially
too dangerous to do unless you've been taught by someone who knows.
Suspension is one: there are lots of things that can go wrong, and
many of them can result in severe injury. Crucifixion is an
especially hazardous form of suspension. And body piercing is also
not for the novice; it takes know-how and precision, and a mistake can
result in a really big mess.

Fortunately, most SM activities, such as bondage, spanking, and
teasing, are not nearly so severe; you can start out light and build
up the intensity as far as you both want to go. Pay attention to what
you're doing and use common sense and you'll likely be fine. In
general, start out slow and PRACTICE! You will learn quickly and
you'll have fun all along the way, and soon you'll be places you'd
only dreamt about!


6. Is everyone either a top or a bottom?

One perception that some people can have, looking into the scene from
outside, is that people are either tops or bottoms. Either you like
to dominate, or you like to be dominated. And sometimes novices
become confused, because they're excited by _both_ possibilities.

The facts are, everyone is different, and everyone has their own
preferences. I personally greatly enjoy topping my girlfriend, and
also greatly enjoy submitting to her. Some people _are_ tops in every
play situation, just as some are bottoms in every play situation--but
I know people who top men but bottom to women, people who sometimes
switch roles multiple times within one date, and every other spectrum
of possibility!

Whole scenes can revolve around the "who's on top?" question. Maybe
you can have a wrestling match, and the person who gets pinned first
will wind up being tied up. Maybe you can set a timer, and when the
timer dings, it's time to switch positions! There are as many possi-
bilities as your imagination can dream of!

Then again, maybe only one side of the balance holds any appeal for
you, and in that case, you'll want to play with folks who have little
desire for _your_ side... it takes all kinds, and all kinds are out
there.

It is also the case that there is no necessary relation between
whether someone is dominant or submissive in everyday life and whether
they are a top or a bottom. Some of the most domineering executives
secretly love being abased and abused... it's a chance for them to
lose control, to give up responsibility. And some of the most quiet,
meek, shy-looking people you've ever seen turn into demonic geniuses
of pain and pleasure when given someone to play with. Endless
variety.

It's not at all unheard of for someone who's done only one thing (for
example, bottoming) to one day start feeling the urge to top, or vice
versa. People change, preferences change, it's nothing unusual.
This, though, leads into the next question....


7. How can I learn to be a good top?

When first getting into the scene, it can often be somewhat intimi-
dating to try playing with SM for the first time, especially if
neither of you have done it before. Here's this wonderful person, who
wants you to dominate them. You tie them up, and they're helpless,
wriggling with anticipation and lust... and now what do you do?

Play with them! There are all kinds of common objects that produce
intense and enjoyable sensations when applied to a helpless lover.
Combs for dragging across the skin, feathers for tickling a frantic
foot, clothespins (use a couple or use many in artistic rows--these
can be as intense as you want to make them!), ice cubes, chocolate
syrup, strawberries (ever see 9 1/2 Weeks?), leather belts for
slapping or spanking, hairbrushes for scuffing or beating, and of
course your own fingers, mouth, genitals, and everything else. Enjoy
taking your time with your willing victim; drive them to distraction,
then bring them to the edge of ecstasy, then back off and make them
beg for more!

Remember, you can set the mood as you wish. You can be playful,
amused at your own ineptitude even while your bottom is moaning with
desire. You can be stern and commanding, sympathetic but nasty, jolly
yet sadistic--anything you please. As long as you focus your
attention on your bottom, your bottom will have a great time! Relax,
go with the flow, and if you stop enjoying it, call safeword--tops can
use safewords too.

Of course, there's no need to feel like you need to put all your
attention into pleasing your bottom; what's a good slave for if not
for pleasing their master? I've several times played with my
girlfriend and used her for my own selfish pleasure, giving little
attention to hers--and she loved it! But there is no doubt that with
pleasure it is as good to give as to receive. Just remember, commu-
nicate, be sensitive to what your bottom is feeling, and you'll have
no problem.

The one thing that is quite important to remember as a top is that you
are responsible for your bottom. As you begin playing with SM, you
may well be placing your bottom in situations in which he or she is
physically helpless and/or emotionally vulnerable. It is important
that you recognize they are placing a great deal of trust in you, and
in your ability to handle any situations that may come up. If you're
in the middle of a hot scene, and suddenly someone unexpectedly bangs
on the door, you may both be startled and shocked--but your bottom
will be immediately looking to you for protection. If something
happens that you didn't expect, take care of your bottom _first_--
reassure them that you're not going to let anything happen to them,
and then deal with the problem calmly and sensitively.

And don't be limited by preconceptions of what you "ought" to be
doing, or worries about how you're not topping "correctly". If you
start to feel pressured or insecure, take a step back, and ask your-
self what _you_ want out of the scene. Sometimes, when I've been
bottoming for my girlfriend, she hasn't been in the mood to play with
me sexually--so she made me her slave and commanded me to... bathe her
and wash her! This was lots of relaxed fun for both of us, and it let
her unwind enough to keep playing the way _she_ wanted to play. Be
honest, not only with your bottom, but with yourself. And if you are
in the middle of a scene, and suddenly your honesty says "I don't want
to be doing this" or "I don't know what my partner wants, or even what
I want," then by all means stop the scene--gracefully if possible.
Better that than for the scene to drag on until both of you are sick
of it.

If you still don't have any ideas, and if your bottom is really hot to
trot, you can always start playing with your bottom and getting them
excited in whatever way you know how, and demand that they tell you a
fantasy of theirs, or you'll stop. Talking dirty to each other
--trading hot fantasies, knowing that you can make then happen if you
want to--is the best way I know of getting ideas for scenes. This
actually goes for ALL sexual play, whether it involves SM or not!

If you want detailed descriptions of positions, possible scenes, and
so forth, you would do well to find a copy of _Sensual Magic_ or _SM
101_. See the resource list at the end of the third part of this FAQ
(and order some mail-order catalogs of SM books; lots of ideas!). Or,
post with your questions to alt.sex.bondage, asking for any and all
suggestions.


8. How can I learn to be a good bottom?

It can also be hard to learn to bottom, if what you're used to is
topping. Giving up control, surrendering, can be a difficult thing,
when you're used to holding the reins in your hands. If you find
yourself manipulating your top, trying to coerce them into giving you
what you want, then you're what is called a "pushy bottom"--a bottom
who is not really submitting, but just trying to turn the situation
around to the way they want it to go.

Some tops get off on bottoms who are defiant or subtly disobedient,
and use it as an excuse to punish; but for other tops, especially
inexperienced ones, it can be anything but fun. Making your top feel
like they don't know what they're doing is no fun for either of you; I
know, I've been there, as the pushy bottom. The solution? The next
time you play, tell yourself that you are the top's property, that
their will is yours, and that your deepest desire is to please them.
Before, if they did something you didn't like, you might have
suggested they try it another way; now, they are doing exactly what
they want to be doing, and you are grateful they're doing it. Let go
of your urges to be in control; surrender to them, and let them have
their way with you. I guarantee you will have a lot more fun than
when you were trying to top from the bottom--I know I did!

If you are still not quite getting what you want, as a bottom, this
solution may not last very long; you will probably want to talk to
your top about what your needs and desires are, and about how you can
both have fun getting to them. But the time to negotiate about what
your bottom fantasies are, and how you might want to manifest them, is
not necessarily while you're in the middle of a scene which you've
pre-negotiated. Don't get into the "Oh, yes, Mistress, anything you
want--um, uh, Mistress, you're not quite doing it right!" trap. (Can
you tell I speak from experience here?)

Relax, and respond. Quite often a top will enjoy topping you because
of your reactions--the way you wriggle, and squirm, and cry out. If
you clench every muscle and strive to endure without giving _any_ sign
that you're feeling anything, your top may get frustrated with the
lack of feedback. Let yourself feel. And don't hold your breath! Or
rather, don't forget to breathe. (If, of course, you _negotiated_ a
"stoic endurance" scene, that's different. But don't feel you _have_
to act that way. I like it when my bottoms struggle--they have a
safeword if they need it....)

Of course, nothing is cut-and-dried; just because you're on the bottom
doesn't mean you're a puppet. But there is a big difference between
being open and communicative, and trying to force things in your
preferred direction. A good bottom is one who is enthusiastic,
devoted to their top's pleasure, willing to surrender to their top's
will, open about their own desires (in a respectful manner, of
course), and happy to be bottoming.

There's a piece of common wisdom that's been around the scene for a
long time, which is: the best tops are those who started at the
bottom. I believe it's true. If you have been there, felt the bite
of the whip, struggled to get free as you were brought slowly and
teasingly to orgasm, tranced out as the sensation from the clothespins
washed over and through you... then you will be much better able to
guide someone else through that intensely magical space as a top,
because you will literally have been there. Plus, starting as a
bottom means you'll pick up a lot of hands-on (if you will)
experience! (And as with any generalized statement about SM, there
are plenty of people whose mileage varies; bottoms who've never topped
and never want to, or tops who've never gone under and are still damn
good. But even such tops often experiment with sensations on them-
selves before trying them with their bottoms.)


** 9. Why is bondage fun?

Lots of reasons. For many people, the knowledge that they are
helpless, that someone else can do things with their body and they
can't prevent them, is a powerful turn-on. "I'm going to make you
come and there's nothing you can do about it." It's a very strong
statement of trust to let someone bind you helplessly, or even
non-helplessly. How erotic, to feel yourself spread open, wanton and
wet, and to see your lover kneeling between your legs, ready to use
you for their pleasure--or to pleasure you unendurably....

For others, the simple sensation of bondage feels good. Tight
constriction can create very intense stimulation, and lots of tight
bondage can be a sensory trip, just as a whipping scene can be.
Bondage can feel comforting, pleasantly confining; you don't need to
worry about anything, since what can you do? You're all tied up, and
all that's left is to enjoy.

For yet others, it's a charge to struggle, to let your body lose con-
trol. It can really intensify an orgasm when you come with every
muscle straining against your bonds, trying to get your hands free to
smash your lover's face into your crotch, your body shaking. If you
weren't tied down you'd hurt yourself!

For me, it's all three of these reasons :-)

An especially intense form of bondage is verbal bondage: putting your
bottom in some position (spread-eagled, kneeling, whatever) and
commanding them not to move... and then tormenting them! One kinky
variation on this is as follows: have your bottom hold their hands out
in front of them, fingers splayed, each fingertip touching the
opposite fingertip. Put a penny between each pair of fingertips so
they're holding five pennies. Now order them not to let a single one
drop, on pain of some punishment or other, and then go to work! This
works best on a hard floor so you can hear the coin drop.

There are a bunch of common-sense things to know about if you want to
get into bondage. Most of these are pretty obvious, but they're
stated here because that's what a FAQ's for! The basic idea, though,
is to experiment. The first few times you won't really know what
you're doing, and that's fine! Take your time trying different
positions, different kinds of rope, whatever. And if you've got a new
idea that you want to try out before your big date... well, why not
try it on yourself? If you can get into a position comfortably, you
can probably make your bottom comfortable in that position!

Make sure your bottom's extremities don't start getting cold or
turning blue; those are both sure signs that blood isn't flowing the
way it ought to, and that isn't what you want to have happen. If your
bottom's hands are bound inside mittens or some other place that's not
accessible to you, ask them to wiggle their fingers or toes or
whatever and see if they're losing any feeling. It can be tricky to
tie someone up without making it too tight; in general, a good rule is
to tie loosely with lots of turns of rope. You can tighten such a tie
with just another turn around all the rest, and it can be a real drag
to have a bottom's foot fall asleep in the middle of a scene; this
kind of thing can feel very annoying and distracting, and can make it
hard for your bottom to concentrate on what you are making them feel.

Silk scarves, bandannas, etc. also have this problem with tightening
under tension; sometimes they get so tight they have to be cut off.
If you're a novice, you may want to avoid these hassles by purchasing
a pair of basic ankle and wrist cuffs (in leather, velcro, or what-
ever) at an adult toy store; and if you get embarrassed, remember the
old standby excuse: "It's a gag wedding gift!"

Handcuffs are sexy, but they can also be a pain. Shoddy cuffs (the
kind you buy at the sporting goods store) are liable to break while
being worn--then you have to file them off. If you want to play with
handcuffs, get a good quality pair; the usual brand is Peerless, and
they'll cost about $30, with a double lock so you can snap them on and
then lock them so they won't get tighter under pressure (as cheap
cuffs will). Handcuffs are also bare metal, and aren't good to
struggle against, as they can easily pinch nerves... padded, buckling
bondage cuffs are better for those sorts of games.

Do not leave a bound person alone. Though it is a hot fantasy to tie
someone up in some precarious position (possibly with vibrators or
other devices buzzing away) and leave them to stew, in reality you
must consider: what if the house is burgled? catches on fire?
earthquake? any sort of emergency? Fun is fun, but a helpless person
is just that: helpless. A willing partner is too precious to take
risks with.

Be very careful about tying anything around the neck; anything that
puts any pressure AT ALL on the front of the neck can lead to uncon-
sciousness quickly, as the carotid arteries go right to the brain.
Likewise be careful with gags or things tied in the mouth; as well as
restricting breathing, they can trigger a gag reflex, which could be
really nasty if the bottom can't get the gag out. See the advice in
question 3 on safewords for use while gagged.

Also, be aware that if someone is standing for any length of time in
any sort of tight bondage, it can lead to less circulation to their
head; if you suddenly do something intense to that person, it may
trigger a headrush which could easily result in a faint. Always use
hooks which can be released instantly even with the bottom's full
weight on them (these are sometimes called "panic snaps" and can be
found in good hardware stores), and keep a pair of bandage scissors
handy in case ropes or straps need to be cut loose.

Be careful what you tie your bottom to; if an exposed water pipe is
handy, be aware it may heat up. Likewise with candles; be careful
when you're waving flame around someone who's bound, as they can't
flinch the way unbound people can.

If you don't have anything handy to tie someone to, you can always tie
their wrists behind their back and then to their waist. Or if your
bed doesn't hae any posts, you can wrap ropes around the legs of the
bed and spread-eagle your bottom that way. In general, there are a
million ways to tie someone up, and a little practice--on your bottom
or on yourself!--will let you improvise in almost any situation.

Below I list a few sorts of common bondage devices mentioned here in
stories and postings. If you read a term here which you don't
understand, write me and I'll add a description.

Mummification or Cocooning: About the most complete form of bondage is
to wrap someone up so they are completely immobile. The most popular
way to mummify someone is with plastic wrap. A common technique is to
wrap each limb separately, then wrap the arms to the sides, and then
wrap the legs together--and then help the bottom lie down on an
adjacent soft surface. You can then cut holes (carefully!) to access
any especially sensitive areas, or wrap duct tape over it all for
extra security, or add gags, blindfolds, etc. One way the body
releases heat is by sweating, and while mummified you can't sweat too
much, so make sure your bottom doesn't overheat--and have a blanket
ready to cover them with when you cut them out of their cocoon, using
the bandage scissors (obtainable from medical supply stores--one flat
blade makes cutting easier) which you of course have ready to hand.
And as always, monitor your bottom very carefully; they are helpless,
and your neglect or inattention could spell disaster.

Hoods: Many leather stores and artisans make bondage hoods. These are
typically constricted of leather or rubber. Some have simple zippers,
and you zip them up to secure them. Others have laces on the back
and/ or the sides, to enable the hood to be laced more tightly, for
greater bondage effect. Some hoods have eye holes, some don't. Some
hoods have mouth holes, some don't. Some deluxe hoods have built-in
earmuffs or even space for earphones, for sensory deprivation. Almost
all hoods have nose holes, for obvious reasons. Hoods can restrict a
bottom's breathing quite seriously, and tops must remain continually
aware of their bottom's condition while their bottom is wearing a
hood--especially if the hood is combined with any form of gag. Do not
leave a hooded bottom alone; breathing difficulty can come on quickly.
Some people believe that any hood without a zipper or other
extra-quick-release mechanism is too dangerous to use on a bottom. In
any case, you should have some bandage scissors at the ready if the
hood needs to be removed in a big hurry.

Bodybags: If you like being bound, the ultimate extreme is bondage
which encompasses your entire body, leaving you with no motion
whatever. Bondage bodybags (or "sleepsacks") resemble a
well-tailored, snug sleeping bag, often made out of leather or
spandex. Spandex bodybags are the least expensive, and if made from
heavy enough spandex can be very restrictive indeed. Often bodybags
have an opening at the upper end, through which you slide your feet,
pulling the bag up to your neck. Many have other openings for
genitals or nipples, so your botttom can be pleasured or tortured
while immobile. Leather bodybags can be arbitrarily complex (and
expensive); some have built-in internal arm sleeves to further
minimize motion, or suspension straps so the bag, bottom and all, can
be lifted into the air. Some have laces around the outside so the bag
can be cinched to a downright painful tightness. If you REALLY have
money to burn, you can even get inflatable rubber bodybags--get in it
and pump it up, and float away! Caveats about breathing and quick-
release apply here as well.

Hobble skirts: Fetish clothing is often designed not just to look good
and feel good, but to act almost as bondage in its own right. Hobble
skirts are a perfect example: they are simply skirts which fit very
snugly from waist down to ankles. Often the wearer can take steps of
only a few inches while wearing the skirt (thus the term "hobble
skirt"). When combined with a pair of high heels, these skirts can be
almost totally immobilizing, even without any other bondage. Leather
or rubber are (again) the typical materials, though some dedicated
tailors make their own from velvet or satin or other sensuous
materials.

Armbinders: Restraints, typically leather, that bind both arms behind
the back. Some resemble large gloves that pull up over both arms and
buckle around the shoulders. Others are straps that go down the
middle of the back and have attached wrist cuffs. In general, there
are lots of kinds of bondage gear, and you can even invent your
own....


** 10. Why is whipping fun?

One way of thinking about whipping is as another way of touching
someone. People who are just getting into SM frequently play with
spanking; it's fun to be spanked! It's a punishment, it's a strong
stimulus, it hurts very pleasurably. But if you've ever spanked
anyone for a long time you know that your spanking hand wears out
quickly!

Well, that's what whips are for--to allow you to hit someone for a
longer time, without tiring out. There are many varieties of whips
(cat-o-nine tails, heavy floggers, canes, light braided switches,
suede pussy whips, and on and on), all of which feel very different
and which have their own individual effect. A whip-loving top will
often carry a veritable arsenal of different floggers, but they are
all extensions of the top's touch. Indeed, when I whip or cane
someone, I feel as though I _am_ touching them--as though the
instrument is an extension of my arm and my desire.

There are deeper reasons why the variety is so diverse. A whipping
scene will often start off very lightly, with the top using a small
whip to sensitize the bottom and get them into the rhythm of the
scene, switching to heavier and heavier whips as the bottom gets
deeper and deeper, more and more receptive to additional sensation.
Of course, the top may choose to lead the bottom on any kind of
tactile journey the top desires--switching from stinging light
switches to biting canes to soft fleeces. (Yes, it can feel GREAT
when your top stops hitting you and suddenly brushes a velvet cloth
against your back! Or maybe an ice cube....) It's all about physical
sensation.

Quite often people in the scene describe whips as being "thuddy" or
"stingy". Thuddy whips land with a solid impact; they shove you, they
feel like a cross between a hug and a punch. Stingy whips land with a
bite; they feel like a cross between a scratch and a slap. Both kinds
of sensation are enjoyable in different ways, and a skilled top can
alternate thud and sting (and then some!) to create waves of sensation
that wash their bottom into ecstasy.

Most people enjoy a slow buildup when being whipped. This can
culminate in an explosive climax of impacts, leaving both top and
bottom drained and delighted. Or it can wind down gently, ending
casually. Or it can stop feeling good suddenly, resulting in a
safweord. Or it can turn into a galloping intense sex scene! But the
general "start slow, build up, end intensely" tempo is common to many
SM scenes: from gentle to stronger to WOW and then back to gentle,
then a little stronger, then WOW!!... and gentle again. It's the
motion of the ocean, as they say. It takes practice to know how to
use this to blow your bottom's mind, but the more you learn, the more
skilled you will be, and believe me, these skills-- teasing your
partner and making them feel better and better and BETTER --are very
useful in non-SM contexts as well!

Whips aren't the end of the story. Some people use paddles--of
leather or wood, sometimes with holes cut in them to decrease air
resistance and make for a harder impact. Paddles produce a solid
"smack!" which can feel like a super-powerful spanking. Some players
like canes, which can be thick or thin, stiff or relatively flexible.
Canes can produce some of the strongest impacts of all--the "whick!"
of a quick-moving cane is distinctive. Not everyone can handle the
intensely focused pain canes can produce, but those who can tend to
greatly enjoy it. Wooden spoons and kitchen spatulas have been
pressed into service as instruments of flagellation. For a while,
Nerf bats were very popular in some San Francisco parties I went to.
(Bonk!) If none of this makes any sense to you, well, if you have to
ask, you might not understand.

Whipping or spanking is sometimes used as part of a "punishment"
scene, in which the pretext for the scene is that the bottom has been
disobedient or naughty in some way which requires chastisement. This
can be fun to do as role-playing, but it may not work in a more
long-term D&S dynamic. Bottoms often find it erotic to receive
non-damaging sensation from their top--and of course any scene causing
permanent damage is not safe nor sane. If your bottom learns that the
best way to get enjoyably beaten is to misbehave, you will have a very
bad bottom on your hands. It is often then best to separate "play"
punishments--which are intended to be fun-- from "real" punishments
involving seriously broken agreements. Here is where reality and
fantasy need to be delicately separated, and here is where the real
world differs from S&M fiction.

When whipping someone, be careful. Heavy whipping is usually done on
the back or ass, simply because those are the parts of the body which
can take it most readily. Be careful of hitting the spine, which can
break the skin where the vertebrae come close to the surface. Stay
away from the kidneys, as kidney damage can occur if you hit them too
hard. Stay away from the neck, for the same reasons you avoided the
spine.

Be aware that if you hit someone hard enough (which may be lighter
than you'd think) you will bruise them, and if you keep going you can
break the skin, which is decidedly unsafe sex; and leather or string
whips are tough to clean. For this reason, some dedicated masochists
have their own toys which have come in contact with their blood, and
henceforth can be used only on them. Whippings like this are very
strenuous, but as with all SM, you can start out light and get only as
heavy as you want! Bruises will heal (even large ones), as will light
cuts or abrasions, but you should know how to avoid unintended damage
that won't be so accomodating.

One thing to watch for (a distant risk, but worth knowing): melanoma,
a form of skin cancer, can be worsened by skin trauma. If you see a
mole on your bottom's back that looks uneven, discolored, or different
than it used to, avoid that area, and have them see a dermatologist.

There have been posts on a.s.b that go into MUCH more detail about the
hows and whys of flogging. If you want to know more, post to a.s.b
and ask, or check out the resources. (This FAQ is not intended to be
comprehensive in every area... though it would be nice....)


** 11. What is body piercing? What is "C&B" play, or "genitorture"?

Piercings aren't just done to ears. People on this list have their
nipples, navels, eyebrows, clitoris hoods, penises, labia, and other
body parts pierced, and bits of metal permanently in the piercings.
These are the bare facts, but this practice, it turns out, has a lot
to do with SM.

Getting a piercing, first of all, is an incredibly intense rush, on a
purely physical level. It's a very powerful thing to willingly have
someone push a sharp piece of metal through your body. It can be a
level of sensation beyond any you've experienced in your life.

Once you have the piercing, it can completely change the way that part
of the body feels to you. One friend of mine said that his nipple
piercings turned his nipples from little places that felt OK to
full-fledged erotic zones connected right to his cock. He calls his
nipple piercings the best thing he's ever done for his body and his
sex life, and he seems damn sincere! The same goes for all the
piercings in the genital area; they can really make sex more fun!
There is some medical evidence that nerves around the pierced location
become much more sensitive, so this isn't mere folklore. In case it
wasn't clear, once a piercing heals, it doesn't hurt at all; quite the
opposite!

Some people get into play piercings, which are done temporarily with
very thin needles, which are removed at the end of the scene. This is
basically another kind of sensory trip, which some find very
enjoyable. The needles don't _hurt_, exactly, but you certainly do
know they're in there, and they sure do get those endorphins pumping!

You don't want to try permanent piercings unless you've been person-
ally trained by a professional; there is a lot of knowledge involved,
and you definitely don't want to get stuck with a bad piercing. Play
piercings are less hardcore, but you still want to make sure you know
sterile technique (remember safe sex!).

Does nipple piercing cause problems with nursing? Sometimes yes,
sometimes no; there are stories both ways. There are many milk ducts
in an average nipple, so the chances are good that nursing can still
happen, but nothing is certain.

For more information about piercings, see rec.arts.bodyart (or
possibly later editions of this FAQ).

"C&B play" stands for cock & ball play. "Genitorture" stands for
"genital torture". This is a subject that makes some men clutch their
nuts and run in fear, and makes other men instantly erect and greedy
for more. The male genitals are at once the most vulnerable and most
sensitive part of the male body, so of course many tops enjoy playing
with them.

Cockrings are rings that go around your cock, typically around the
base of it, behind the balls. The penis becomes erect when the blood
vessels at its base constrict (because of arousal), trapping blood in
the cock and causing it to swell. Cock rings have a similar effect,
prolonging erection in most men that use them. (They also constrict
the urethra, which will make any orgasm more painful, or even cause
ejaculate to back up into the bladder. This is not dangerous unless
done repeatedly. Experiment to find out how much tightness is too
much.)

Most are made of leather, with adjustable snaps, so you can tighten or
loosen them to fit (as well as remove them easily). Some are made of
rubber. Some are even made of metal, but metal ones can be hazardous;
if you put a too-small one on your non-erect cock, your cock may
become so erect that you can no longer remove it--and if it is too
tight, it will prevent your cock from softening. This may involve a
trip to the emergency room and the use of bolt cutters. No joke.
Some cock rings have multiple rings, for behind the balls, around the
balls themselves, and around the base of the shaft. Some people like
using _lots_ of cock rings, to stretch the balls out away from the
body.

Safety tips: The broadest guideline is to go slowly until you know how
much you can take. If the pain from a particular activity starts to
spread into other areas of the body, or if the pain lasts for a long
time after the stimulation ends, you have probably gone beyond your
limits. You won't reach this point generally if you take your time.
As with any SM practice, if you find yourself in pain later, or if you
notice any abnormalities in your cock or balls when flaccid or erect,
see a doctor. Of course, avoid any practice that seriously wrenches
or twists the genitals; there are many ligaments and blood vessels in
there, damage to which may make it hard for you to get hard. But the
cock and balls can handle light whipping or slapping, provided it is
done with care.

Of course, cock and ball bondage can be done with leather strips,
ribbons, velvet cords, etc. Be as ornamental as you please; tying up
an erect cock can create a luscious work of art, and teasing it can be
even more artistic. Don't expect C&B bondage to keep a cock hard
indefinitely; cocks will usually get soft if not stimulated, and
bondage which _will_ keep it hard may be dangerously tight. In any
event, be sure you can remove your bondage quickly, as always.

A great deal can also be done with female genitalia. Some women love
having clothespins on their pussy lips; some love light whipping on
their outer labia, or even their clitoris. Sometimes body piercings
can be used for bondage; labia piercings can hold a pussy open very
delightfully, or clit hood piercings can be tied up out of the way
with thread, leaving the clit naked and exposed. Some women like soft
fur on their pussy; others like to be alternately soothed and
tormented until they can stand no more.

Again, go slowly. Do NOT blow into the vagina, whatever else you do.
Don't leave clamps on very long until you know how much your partner
enjoys (and how it will feel to her the next day when the scene is
over). Too much of one kind of sensation can become irritating
quickly; change the stimulation, keep your bottom aroused and
surprised. There are all _sorts_ of things that can be used on female
genitals; one article I have lists "bamboo skewers, candles, cheese
graters, clips, flyswatter, ice cubes, knives, latex squares, leather
thongs, massage bongers, rabbit fur, ropes, scalp scrubber, silk,
spoons, towels, weights, and whips" as items that can be useful in
giving your bottom's genitals a ride they won't forget. (And no, you
don't do this until you cause real damage, any more than you do with
male genitals. Don't be scraping, scabbing, or scarring--these are
the most sensitive parts of the body you're playing with!)

Communication is paramount in female genital play; women's pussies
vary as much as any other part of womens' bodies (or more), and
responses will vary equally dramatically. In general, the same sort
of rhythm discussed in the whipping section is useful in cunt play,
though if anything the top needs to go even more slowly, as the
sensations will be more intense and focused than in almost any other
kind of sensation scene.

One final tidbit: apparently, for many women, a common pre-orgasmic
response is for the clit to retreat into its hood. If you are giving
your partner some very delicious sensation (possibly combined with
some just-right pain) and her clit disappears, DON'T STOP! (Unless
you _want_ to avoid her orgasm... don't push this too far, unless your
bottom's feet are tied down--she may kick.) And know your limits; if
your bottom really wants an orgasm to end the scene, giving her one
may make her EXTREMELY grateful to you, and waiting _too_ long may
burn you both out. This is good stuff to negotiate about beforehand
in any scene--how would you like the scene to end? Breaking such an
agreement will engender mistrust, but honesty, as always, will help
everyone get what they want.


** 12. What is cutting/burning/branding?

Just what they sound like. Cutting is having someone cut you,
carefully and lovingly, in the context of a scene. Burning is playing
with fire, whether it's molten wax, candles, or alcohol. Branding
is... well... branding! They're all very intense SM trips that can be
an incredible amount of fun if you enjoy them, just like all SM. They
are, of course, extremely severe and possibly dangerous, but they're
not the kind of things novices tend to get right into.

Molten wax can be mild or intense. The higher you hold the candle,
the cooler the drops will be--to a certain extent. They'll definitely
make your bottom yelp no matter what! Don't use beeswax candles,
though--they melt at a much higher temperature. If you like hot wax,
you might like ice cubes, too....

I'm considering including safety information about cutting, but since
there doesn't seem to be much demand for it I haven't written any up
yet. If you want to know more, see _The Lesbian S/M Safety Manual_
(in the resource list at the end of part 3). The best safety advice:
be taught by someone who knows how to do cuttings safely. This is
literally edge play.

Electrical play is using electricity of one form or another to
generate sensation. This is another advanced form of play which can
be fatal (lethal, deadly, murderous) if done improperly. Any
electrical play that involves current flowing through the body should
ONLY BE DONE BELOW THE WAIST; any current above the waist or through
the heart can induce immediate cardiac arrest.

There are two main kinds of electrical toys I've seen. One is a TENS
unit (Trans-Electric Nerve Stimulator, or something like that); these
units typically are battery-powered, with control of pulse intensity
and pulse frequency, and two leads that can be attached to electric
cock rings, dildoes, or what have you. These can produce sensations
ranging from a mild tingle to a thrilling trembling buzz to a serious
jolt. The other sort of toy is known as a "violet wand"; these rather
resemble hand-held power tools with little glass bulbs sticking out of
one end. When turned on, the bulb glows violet and crackles; touching
it will cause static sparks to jump to your skin, with an associated
"zap!" and a sharp shock. These do not send current through the body,
and are safe for use anywhere except the eyes--though prolonged use
will burn the skin.


** 13. What is it about breath control? Is it safe to make someone
pass out?

Some people enjoy playing with cutting off their air during heavy
scenes. This can be as simple as squeezing someone's neck while you
kiss them deeply, or as complex as a full-head latex hood and gas mask
over a straitjacket. As your air is cut off, you can feel sensation
more intensely; it is also a deeply intimate thing to allow someone
else to be in control of the very air you breathe. One simple
explanation is that the body's natural reaction as orgasm approaches
is shallow, rapid breathing--just like in breath control.

Needless to say, there are many things that can go very wrong; if you
pass out and someone isn't there to cut you loose and make sure you're
breathing, you can die. Not for novices. One simple way to start is
to try squeezing your lover's neck gently as you make love to them.
If it feels good, they will let you know, most demonstratively. And
you can stop instantly just by letting go. In _any_ form of breath
control, it is critical that all equipment be fail-safe, and that the
bottom's breathing is only impaired by the top's _direct_ action--not
by anything (noose, gas mask, etc) that would continue to obstruct air
if the top (for example) fainted suddenly.

Many people die each year practicing "autoerotic
asphyxiation"--wherein someone will masturbate while restricting their
own breathing, and one night they wait too long to take the bag off
their head or release the pressure on their neck, and they black out
and die. Some think, "Well, just play with a partner, then, if you
want to black out." However, losing consciousness, even for a moment,
_can_ trigger cardiac arrest. This is why making your bottom black
out is almost certainly a much riskier idea than you would think.

The same goes for anesthesia. Sometimes people think, "Hmm, it'd be
hot if I could drug my play partner--like in the movies--and she'd
wake up all bound!" Even if your play partner likes this idea, don't
do it. There is no safe way to force someone into unconsciousness;
anesthesiologists spend their lives learning how to do it, with the
best equipment, and still mishaps occur. Don't play with ether, or
chloroform, or suffocation to unconsciousness... unless you and your
partner really want to take a substantial risk of death. More
experienced people than you have died.


** 14. What are "golden showers"? How about "scat"?

Another kind of play, also known as "water sports". Basically, some
people enjoy urinating on their lovers, or having their lovers piss on
them. Pissing is really a very intimate thing; your urine is a part
of you, it's warm and wet, it feels good to let it out, it comes from
your genitals. Some get a thrill of power from having someone bound
beneath them who can do nothing but take it as the shower lets loose;
others get off on being made to pee, to wet their pants, it's naughty
and they need to be punished for it.

Safety-wise, urine is essentially sterile; it's not necessarily free
of HIV, so it's not safer sex to drink someone else's urine. Also,
urine contains mostly salts that your body is trying to eliminate, so
drinking it again will strain your kidneys. If you're drinking urine,
make sure to drink lots of water as well.

Some people are into scat play, which is playing with shit. I don't
know any who are, but they're out there. Scat is obviously even less
safe than water sports; in particular, hepatitis and intestinal
parasites can be spread by oral contact with even a tiny bit of feces.
People who enjoy rimming (oral-anal contact) should be aware of this,
and clean themselves VERY thoroughly at the least, although even
thorough cleaning will not eliminate all risk. For more on this, see
the next question.


** 15. Is anal sex safe? Why do people do it?

Anal sex, practiced properly, is as safe as any other kind of sex.
And people do it because it feels good--the anus can be an intensely
erogenous zone. In fact, far more straight people than gay people
practice anal sex! The anus contains more nerve endings than any
other part of the male body, and more than any part of the female body
except the clitoris. It's no wonder that anal sex is a part of many
peoples' sex lives.

"Anal sex" can range from simply stroking your or your partner's anus
with a lubricated finger, to actually sliding some fingers inside your
partner and stroking them, to full anal intercourse. All these things
are physically very pleasurable, and if you simply wash your butt,
there's nothing repulsive about them. The anal taboo is very old, but
there is no necessary medical reason for it if you know what you're
doing. If you're concerned about staying clean, by all means make
sure you've gone to the bathroom before playing, and wash your
ass--outside and, if you wish, inside, with an enema. If you want to
feel clean in order to enjoy anal sex, it's not hard to be as clean as
you want. (It is also very important, though, to use safe sex
techniques, which I describe a bit further on.)

The main guidelines for anal sex are Communication, Relaxation,
Lubrication. You see, your anus consists of two rings of muscle,
dubbed the external and internal sphincters. Your external sphincter
is under your voluntary control--you can relax it at will. But your
internal sphincter is _not_ under voluntary control. If you are
tense, your internal sphincter will be tight, and trying to force
anything into it will hurt, which will make you (and it) even _more_
tense. So the rule in anal sex is to go slowly; you can't force your
way into enjoying it.

Communication: talk about what you're going to do before you do it!
Don't just roll your partner over and surprise them; they won't be
relaxed and it won't be fun. Make sure you both are comfortable with
the idea of anal play. Relaxation: listen to your body. If your ass
wants to be played with, you will know; if it doesn't, don't rush
anything. Lubrication: your anus doesn't lubricate, so you need to
use a WATER-SOLUBLE lubricant such as KY Jelly or Probe. Use LOTS of
it; it's clean! The more lube you use, the more comfortable you will
be. And finally, communication again: if you haven't played with your
anus before, the sensations will be intense and strange. You may feel
like you are having a bowel movement when your partner slides their
fingers out of you; it takes some experience to realize that this
feeling is deceptive and that what you're feeling won't result in a
soiled bedsheet.

It's not enough to just clean your anus, though; your partner should
also use a latex barrier (a glove for fingering, a dental dam or a
piece of (non-microwaveable) Saran Wrap for licking, and a condom for
fucking) when having sex with you. This is true in general, but
especially true for anal sex; unprotected anal sex is the riskiest
kind of sex with regard to transmitting STDs of any sort. Also, using
protection often increases the sensation of safety and clean- liness,
which helps many people relax and enjoy the experience more. (Some
say that anal play isn't as risky as all that. The facts are that in
some cities intestinal parasites, spread by unprotected anal sex, have
been considered a serious sexually transmitted public health problem,
with thousands of people infected. Decide for yourself how much risk
you want to accept.) And anything that has come in contact with the
anus should be cleaned thoroughly (or thrown away, in the case of
latex barriers) before coming into contact with the mouth or vagina.

I already mentioned that it's not a good idea to force anything. Let
me be more emphatic: if you feel pain in your ass while you're having
anal sex, STOP. Too-rough anal sex can stress and possibly tear the
anal lining, which can lead to very serious infections. Anal sex does
NOT mix with force, and should NEVER be used as a way to inflict pain.
And if you find yourself bleeding from the rectum, go see a doctor
IMMEDIATELY. (Don't be embarrassed--they've seen it all before...
just get yourself taken care of!)

That said, I need to clarify what I meant by STOP if you feel pain.
That is what you should do: stop moving. The pain may just be your
sphincter muscle complaining about stretching a bit, and when you stop
pushing it will stop hurting--and possibly relax some more. If it
doesn't stop hurting when you stop moving, THEN you want to pull out
(slowly) and take appropriate action. If it does stop, wait a little,
then begin again... your ass will let you know if it wants to stop
altogether. (So pay attention to it! Getting drunk is NOT a good
idea, as you don't want to block out any pain you may feel. The FAQ
List No-Prize for Worst Sexual Product goes to an "anal lube" that
contained oil (and therefore couldn't be used with gloves or condoms),
AND which advertised itself as being best for anal sex BECAUSE it
contained benzocaine "for greater comfort"! If anyone did hurt them-
selves through using it, I hope they sued the hell out of the
company.)

If you want more information about anal anything, see Jack Morin's
book, listed at the very end of part 2.


** 16. What is "fisting"?

Everyone (well, almost everyone) knows what finger-fucking is.
Whether in ass or pussy, it's terrifically enjoyable to stroke someone
inside. (Fingers up a man's ass, if aimed properly, will tickle his
prostate gland, which feels AMAZINGLY good... just a little tip!) And
people are generally comfortable with the idea of finger-fucking with
more than one finger. But not as many people have been exposed to the
idea of inserting a _whole hand_ into the ass or pussy... which is, in
simplest terms, what fisting is. Yes, it's anatomically possible, and
yes, it's EXTREMELY (so I've heard) pleasurable.

That said, it's now very important to explain what fisting is _not_.
You do _not_ make a fist and ram it home. Fisting is one of the most
intimate and complete ways to touch another human being, and it is
something that has to be worked up to slowly and gently. There have
been many posts about fisting on a.s.b, talking about the proper
technique, the safety concerns, the fantastic feeling of openness and
connection, the magical plane that two people fisting can attain...
it's an incredibly intense way to make love. I can't do justice to
the firsthand descriptions others have written, but I can mention some
of the safety concerns.

First of all, cut and file all your nails until every finger is as
smooth as it could _possibly_ be. Your fingers will be in some very
delicate places--places that may not have pain receptors. You want to
make sure you minimize all chance of causing damage.

Use latex gloves. AIDS is a matter of life and death.

You will probably want to clean your bottom's GI tract out. What else
are enemas for? Be gentle with enemas; warm water is best. Don't use
detergent in enemas. Some people enjoy putting alcohol in enemas; if
you do, use a VERY VERY VERY DILUTED solution, since it will get
absorbed _real_ fast, and the bottom won't be able to expel it if they
get too drunk.

Use LOTS (and I mean __LOTS__) of lube. Push it in with your fingers.
Make a huge mess. Get it all over your hand, the back of your hand,
between your fingers. Keep applying it as you go. You can't have too
much lube. Remember, oil-based lubricants dissolve latex. Some
people like KY jelly; others say it dries out too quickly. In the UK,
a substance called "Aqueous Cream" is the creme de la creme. Others
use "J-Lube," which is a powdered concentrate that when added to water
produces incredibly slippery goo; it's sold in veterinary supply
houses! (Some people still use Crisco with latex gloves, on the
theory that the Crisco is just the best lube, and the gloves don't
break down _that_ fast. This is risky, but it's an option.)

Go slowly. Start with one finger and work up. DON'T RUSH. Be
sensitive to your bottom's feelings. You are trying to persuade part
of their body to open for you, to admit part of you deeply inside it.
The energy will move back and forth, and you'll ride it, coaxing and
pushing, in and out, moving your bottom into a trance. Keep communi-
cating with your bottom; gags, or role-playing where the bottom feels
inferior or is told to stay quiet, are not conducive to the kind of
relaxation and open empathy you'll need.

If your bottom suddenly hits their limit, you'll know; their orifice
will clench tight shut suddenly. DON'T PULL OUT. Stay right where
you are until the contraction ends, THEN start pulling out. You can
pull a muscle or two if you try to back out in the middle of a
reaction like that. If this happens, it's OK; you'll know to go
slower next time (if you both want to try again). But assuming all is
well....

When you reach five fingers, you're almost there. Now is when you
want to be most sensitive and most aware. Your bottom is going to be
flying on pain and pleasure; a sudden flinch and you'll find the
asshole (or whatever) doesn't want you anymore. Respect that, and
pull out (slowly!). But if your bottom's bottom wants it, then you'll
slip your knuckles inside, folding your thumb inside your fingers, and
(so I've been told) your hand will NATURALLY form a fist--you DON'T
need to clench your hand or anything else!

Now the real fun begins... explore, entice, pleasure your bottom, who
will be in heaven... and when it comes time to pull out, do so slowly
and naturally!

If you have more questions (as always), post to a.s.b; there have been
some GREAT pieces on fisting in the past, and there will be more if
you ask for them.


17. Does the way I play qualify as "real" SM? What is "real" SM,
anyway?

Sometimes on a.s.b, people will post wondering if what they do is
"heavy" enough to be worth talking about. How can a mere novice who
just got spanked for the first time presume to post about how it felt,
when there are people out there who wouldn't even have noticed it?

The answer to that is twofold. First, there are an infinite number of
ways to play. This is one of the reasons I like SM to mean Sex
Magick; Magick doesn't need to involve pain, or intensity, or bondage,
or role-playing, or anything at all. Sex Magick is whatever you do
that fulfills a fantasy of yours. **There is no right or wrong way to
do SM, as long as it is consensual.** If you agree to it, and if it
feels good (during and after the scene), it's the right thing for you
to be doing. This FAQ list is really just a series of suggestions;
take them or leave them, it's totally up to you.

(There are players out there who get way heavier than I ever will--
into realms that I personally consider unsafe and even a little
insane. Heck, for some people, being whipped is an insane idea. But
the most important thing is the consensuality and the mutuality of the
play--that everyone involved in the play _wants_ to be doing what
they're doing, and that everyone can call it quits if need be. What
other people think is not relevant; it is _their_ play, and _their_
choice as to what risks they wish to assume.)

Second, the "intensity" of a scene has very little to do with the
level of "physical sensation" involved. Again, the magic is in the
way it makes you _feel_. We were all novices once; we all know the
thrill of trying something new, taking your dreams and making them
real. _That_ is what makes SM intense and enjoyable--that ineffable
rush of new horizons unfolding, the incredible sensation of trusting
someone else with your body and your mind, or of receiving the gift of
control over someone else. It doesn't matter whether you get there
through S or M or B or D or none of the above; once you're there, it's
fantastic! AND, it's worth posting about!

Sometimes, discussion on a.s.b veers into a heated debate about what
is involved in "real" dominance and submission or "real" BDSM
play. The fact is, given the diversity of players and playstyles in
"the scene"--and in fact the number of _separate_ "scenes" in "the
scene"--it is hard to pinpoint any one behavior as the benchmark by
which "real" is defined. The principal common thread I can see is
that people into SM are seeking to explore their fantasies about power
and/or sexuality, to bring some of their dreams into their personal
lives.

One thing is sure: attempting to set strict boundaries around what is
and isn't "real" SM, or what is and isn't "true" submission or pain
play or roleplay, is an endeavor fraught with peril. More often than
not, people who believe they know the definition of "true" SM are
interested in flaming others who disagree, rather than in honestly
sharing their perceptions while remaining open to the views of others.
As with any labels or preset "norms" of human behavior, one can debate
endlessly about whether the "norm" is really "normal", or one can
speak from one's personal experience. The latter generally leads to
better and more revealing discussions.

One topic that does come up in this context, though, is whether only
consensual SM is real SM--or rather, whether the term "SM" excludes
any behaviors that are not consensual. As I stated in the beginning
of this FAQ, I use "SM" here to refer to acts between consenting
adults; most a.s.b posters and people in the scene likewise use "SM"
as short for "consensual SM." There is no doubt that many people who
practice consensual BDSM enjoy fantasies involving acts of
nonconsensual bondage, dominance, submission, sadism, and/or
masochism. But when it comes to real life, consent is of fundamental
importance. A story may include nonconsensual acts and yet be an SM
story; an SM relationship can become abusive while remaining an SM
relationship; but when people here on a.s.b and in the larger scene
talk about SM as it ought to be and should be (and in my experience,
as it usually is), they mean consensual, healthy SM. (See questions
21 and 22 as well.)

Some people state, "SM originally referred to the practices described
in the writing of the Marquis de Sade [to whom consent was
irrelevant], so modern SM people are lying when they say consent is
important in 'real' SM!" They're simply playing the "change the
definition of 'real' to one which I can flame about" game. Besides,
if we _were_ all lying in order to deceive people into playing with us
(so we could then abuse them), we would be doing ourselves a massive
disservice by educating people about consent and about
negotiation--knowledge which would serve to protect people from us!
You'll need to judge whether we mean what we say about the importance
of consent.

A frequently heard acronym on a.s.b is "YKINOK"--which stands for
"Your Kink Is Not OK." a.s.b is largely composed of postings by
people whose sexual practices are considered unhealthy or at least
weird by many others. We recognize here that different people really
do have different sexualities, and different preferences. Hence, we
try to avoid blanket statements such as "Behavior X is WRONG!" or
"Behavior X is NOT OK!" or more generally, "_Your_ kink is NOT OK!"
We would instead say, "Your kink would not be OK _for me_. Here are
some of the risks I see in that kink. How do you deal with them?"
From that point, discussion and education can flow, as they cannot
from a flat YKINOK. (And conversely, we don't say, "Your kink IS
OK!"--since there are almost _no_ behaviors that _everyone_ enjoys.
The OK-ness of consensual practices is, and must be, determined on an
_individual_ basis.)


18. What is it about leather/latex/high heels/corsets/other fetishes?

All these things--erotic clothing or objects of whatever type--are
"fetishes". A fetish is any object which has sexual connotations for
you. If it makes you feel sexy to wear it, or to see it on someone
else, it's a fetish. There's nothing wrong with having fetishes; in
fact, it's a rare person who _doesn't_ have any! Some people are
turned on by armpits; some by painted toenails; some by good old
lingerie. The techniques of negotiation and communication that I've
already talked about can also come in handy in exploring your
particular fetishes, whatever they are.

Leather is one of the most basic fetishes in the scene. Leather
skirts, leather chaps, leather harnesses, leather cuffs, on and on.
Likewise for latex. Much of the appeal of these two substances, it
seems to me, is in their tightness and their shininess; clothes made
out of them enhance your awareness of your sensual self, and
restraints made out of them can cling like a second skin. In general,
leather and latex are two really big categories of fetish--and a
fetish is defined as something that turns some people on; if you have
to ask, you probably won't understand!

Leather clothes absorb fluids; don't get them wet. Plain water will
damage the leather; blood or other bodily fluids will also leave their
scent in the leather. You can use saddle soap and water to clean your
leather, and neats-foot oil to keep it supple and in good con- dition.

Latex doesn't absorb water-based fluids, but oils will damage it, and
prolonged exposure to sunlight will cause it to break down. When
putting your latex on, apply lots of talc to yourself and to the
insides of your latex; this will make it easy to slide it on. Don't
pull the latex with your nails, or it'll rip; likewise make sure you
cut your toenails before putting on latex stockings. After removing
latex clothes, wash them with water to remove oils, then dry them (and
some say powder them) for storage.

There are also PVC clothes ("wetlook" clothes), which are usually
black, shiny, and stretchy. PVC is basically plastic-coated fabric,
and is washable, as well as relatively inexpensive.

Of course, good old lingerie can be very arousing indeed. It's often
true that a little clothing is even sexier than none at all. Erotic
costumes and attire can add a lot of spark to a scene; they can set
the stage like nothing else. The mind is the biggest erogenous zone,
and role-playing and mock acting can be very very hot. whether
combined with any other elements of SM, or not.

As for corsets and high heels: they're both restrictive garments that
enhance the curves of the body, and that work really well as part of
SM play--they can enhance the domineering tread of a mistress or
hobble the steps of a slave. They are some of the classic fetish
items. High enough heels can make it altogether impossible to walk,
which can be very sexy! Corsets, properly applied, can dramatically
change the shape of your body, while intensifying sensation through-
out. And corsets and high heels, like any fetish, can be combined
with many many different kinds of scenes.

Other fetishes: dirty jockstraps, boxer shorts on women, formal
clothes on men, cowboy gear, uniforms (police/military/what-have-
you), nurses' outfits, harem girl attire... the list goes on and on.
If it turns you on to wear it or to see your partner wearing it, why
not make it part of a scene? (A button I heard about recently: "Are
you into casual sex... or should I dress up?")

In general with fetishes, anything goes! If you find yourself
becoming more involved with a fetish than you want to be, then you can
take steps to look at your behavior and determine if you want to
change it. But if you like it, and your partner likes it (or likes
that you like it), and if it's consensual all around, then go for it!
And if you like fetish clothing, check out the alt.sex.fetish.fashion
newsgroup--it's young, but it's growing....


19. What about shaving body hair and/or crossdressing?

Another fetish many people have is smooth skin, with no body hair.
Shaven skin is silky soft, completely and utterly naked, and very
vulnerable. Shaven legs, armpits, or genitals can feel very different
indeed than hairy ones... and since the name of the game is sensation,
naturally shaving and SM can go together!

Since shaving is conventionally a female activity, it carries an added
charge when men are shaved. It can be at once humiliating and
enormously arousing. Many men enjoy shaving themselves in order to
play with cross-dressing (dressing as a woman); hence I mention these
two topics together. Shaving first.

How to shave? Use a sharp razor and a bowl of hot water; splash water
over your leg (or wherever) and lather with shaving cream. Then shave
_with_ the direction of the hair (i.e. shave down the leg towards the
ankle, or shave from the navel towards the crotch); going against the
direction of the hair can lead to ingrown hairs when it starts to grow
back. Shave with short strokes, dipping the razor frequently in the
bowl to remove the hair. If you shave only seldom, you may go through
a couple of razor blades doing your legs alone.

Some people who shave infrequently use an electric razor first to
remove most of the hair, then a hand razor for the remainder and on
the sensitive areas. (Electric razors tend to pull hair, and they are
most annoying on genitals.) Some people swear by waxing (using sticky
wax to pull hair out) or by other non-shaving methods of hair removal;
to each their own. Shaving can be part of a scene; I've seen many
gay-male SM movies with big male tops forcibly shaving their
prisoners, and I've also seen dominatrixes washing then shaving their
bottom's asses. (It's hard to reach back there yourself, and being
bound while a razor GENTLY strokes your most sensitive region is...
well... VERY intense!) Then once they're shaven, you can go on to all
sorts of other fun.

About crossdressing: many men enjoy dressing in female clothes, either
because the clothes feel good, look good, or are humiliating to wear.
Whatever the reason, there's no doubt that lots of people enjoy this
sort of thing. Makeup is often part of this sort of play, as well.
Many women also enjoy dressing up as men; switching gender roles can
open up a vast range of possibilities. Some people call this "gender-
fuck"--i.e. fucking with one's perceptions of gender, or fucking
someone who's assuming a different gender, or both.

There is a spectrum of attitudes among those who play like this. Some
just enjoy wearing opposite-sex clothes because they feel nice. Some
fantasize about actually being a person of the opposite sex, and use
those fantasies in their scenes. Some people want to take it to the
point of going out in public dressed as, and acting like, the other
gender so accurately that they pass--i.e. are mistaken for the gender
that they're assuming. They may find doing this enjoyable because of
the fun in faking people out, and/or the thrill of successfully
transforming oneself into one's fantasy image.

Some people actually feel that their biological sex is fundamentally
at odds with the gender they feel themselves to be. They may feel
like a man who happened to be born with a woman's body, or vice versa.
These people are known as transsexuals, and may have operations to
change their bodies and genitals to more closely correspond to the
gender they most identify with. Transsexuals are still very widely
stigmatized; it is not easy to live in this very gender-based and
sex-role-oriented society if you don't conform to the standard
pattern, and transsexuals definitely do not. And while many of the
kinds of genderfuck I mentioned are "play", transsexuals are not
playing; their gender identity is a vitally serious issue to them.
(Though when they _want_ to play, there are few people who know more
about it :-)

It's important to realize that these groups of people are distinct;
just because a man enjoys wearing panties underneath his business suit
does not mean he has any desire to get a sex change operation. As
with all aspects of human sexuality, gender and gender play
encompasses a wide array of levels, and honest communication is the
only way to know what a particular person is into.

Gender play can be combined with all the other things in this list to
create some extraordinarily powerful sex magick. As always, listen to
your desires, decide how much you actually want to make real (and how
quickly), communicate, and play!


20. Why am I defending SM?

One of the problems with SM is the social programming against it. Our
culture isn't used to the idea that sex is fun and pushing one's
limits in search of pleasure is a damned enjoyable thing to do.

In this FAQ posting I have attempted to explain the ways I feel and my
friends feel about SM. I am doing this because I used to know very
little about SM; I only knew I was interested. Through a.s.b and lots
of new friends and LOTS of wonderful experiences, I learned. My life
has been enriched and my relationships deepened and strengthened, by
my experience with SM, by the communication skills I've learned, and
by the sexual introspection I've performed. Now I want to describe
all that in as open and frank a manner as I know how.

Sometimes that openness and frankness slops over into apologia. I am
trying to avoid that, as I think there are few people sicker than
those who believe they have the right to tell others how to live and
love. If you believe SM is sick or disgusting, I tell you you are
simply wrong; some of the greatest acts of love I have ever witnessed
have occurred in an SM context. If you don't think you'd like it,
that's more than fine with me; I would just ask that you be open to
what the SM community may have to teach about consensuality,
negotiation, safety, and exploration.

When I first started fantasizing about SM-related activities I was
very young indeed--under ten years old. I don't know where these
aspects of my sexuality came from; certainly not from my family. But
when I started learning about SM, I was first excited that there were
others out there who enjoy these things, and then depressed that there
is lots of wrong and harmful information out there about SM people and
what we do. This FAQ list is my attempt to help spread some better
information, in the hopes that the more everyone knows about what SM
_really_ is (and what it is _not_), the harder it will be for people
to use twisted facts to condemn others because of their sexuality.

Also, there are things I'm describing that _I_ don't enjoy (at least
not yet :-) This is not the FAQ List of the Gods, so don't take it as
such; listen to what I say and draw your own conclusions. And fer
pete's sake, post to alt.sex.bondage with your questions and thoughts
and fantasies and dreams; the blood of a.s.b is always freshened by
new posters! (It helps distract us from the flame wars!)


21. Is SM degrading or abusive? Were most SM people abused?

Often people approach SM with nothing but negative stereotypes in
their mind. The will-less slave dominated by the overbearing
thoughtless master. The pervert who enjoys being hit because he
thinks he deserves no better. These images, negatively charged with
connotations of abuse, do not reflect the reality of consensual SM.

First, were SM people abused as children? This is a common
stereotype. Straw polls of people on a.s.b seem to indicate no
particular pattern of abuse, and there have been very few, if any,
scientific studies of the question. Some people see an increased
correlation, but there is little actual evidence.

This stereotype is usually just _assumed_ to be true, as an expression
of SM-negativity--"Oh, anyone who likes that must have been really
damaged as a kid." Similar claims were once widely made about
homosexuals and homosexuality. (As one data point, I personally
wasn't abused as a child, for which I'm grateful. And I'm very into
various aspects of SM, for which I'm also grateful.) In general, in
fact, no one seems to have any idea of why some people enjoy SM
behaviors or fantasies, and others don't. Rather like no one really
knows what determines sexual orientation, or preferred body type, or
much of anything else where human sexuality is concerned. The notion
of a "normal" sexuality is widely overrated... the range of variations
is incredible.

Once you actually look at people who are involved in SM, and at what
they do, you realize that what is actually happening is a powerful
expression of love, which expands into sensual realms outside the
ordinary. True SM is consensual, strengthening, and sustaining; true
degradation is _not_. Therein lies the difference, and it is truly an
all-important difference.

Occasional debates on a.s.b revolve around the (relatively few) people
who practice full-time dominant/submissive relationships. Such
relationships require lots of self-inquiry and self-examination to see
that both partners are benefiting and growing. Sometimes the claim is
made that such BDSM relationships are just ways for the dominant to
break down their submissive's will, and to accept abuse because the
submissive (according to the dominant, and perhaps also in the
submissive's own opinion) deserves no better. (This is essentially
what a wife-battering husband does: he takes control of his wife's
self-perception, and convinces her that the abuse is the necessary
price to be paid for her to remain with him; it is no more than her
due. And moreover, she is not to complain.)

This kind of relationship is _not_ a consensual BDSM relationship; the
dominant in a consensual relationship listens to and respects the
limits of their bottom, and does not seek to break down the bottom's
personality, but rather to build it up through the kind of
relationship that both enjoy and desire. Such relationships almost
always contain an "escape clause," such that if the bottom is truly
feeling deprived or abused, the bottom can ask to set the roles aside
and talk with the top as equals. (In other words, a relationship
safeword.) Such concern for clear communication when things don't go
well (as well as when they do) is the hallmark of a healthy BDSM
relationship. And every text I have read about long-term BDSM
relationships stresses the importance of emotional safety issues. (As
I mentioned previously, people who have issues around their sense of
self should be aware that SM is potentially risky in that area. Of
course, _any_ relationship is potentially risky for such people....)

Doing SM as part of a mutual, consensual relationship can be
enormously affirming. SM can be a way to give yourself to your lover
more deeply than you ever thought you could, and can give outlet to
fantasies you never imagined could come true. This kind of active,
dynamic self-expression can give a tremendous boost to the self-esteem
and the psychological well-being of both partners. Getting what you
want out of your sex life may not be a cure-all, but it can sure help
a lot. I recommend the book _Ties that Bind_, listed at the end of
part 3, to people exploring these issues.

(Some call all this doubletalk, denying that _anyone_ could ever
_really_ benefit from submitting to a lover whom they trust. All I
can say to that is, my personal experience is far otherwise, as is
that of many of my friends, and many professional therapists
acknowledge that it's quite possible for a submissive in a consensual
relationship to be very psychologically healthy. Decide for
yourselves whether we are to be believed.)

Another root of the negative stereotypes is simple aversion to
sexuality in general. The concepts of "limits" and "negotiation" are
inherently revolutionary, in a world where many people can't bring
themselves to talk about _anything_ related to sex. Yet without
understanding these concepts, it's hard to understand SM. Everyone
who first looks at SM needs to do some amount of pushing past their
prejudices; for some it's harder than for others.

Some people wonder how women into SM can consider themselves
feminists. Isn't feminism about controlling your sexuality, about not
submitting to anyone else, ever? Personally, I believe (and _many_
women on a.s.b agree) that feminism is about empowering women to make
their _own_ choices, to live life their own way, without being limited
by ideas about what women "should" do or how they "ought" to behave.
And in that light, it makes little difference whether the limiting
ideas are those of the patriarchal CEO or the "radical feminist"
criticizing SM in _Ms._ magazine; both the CEO and the writer are
attacking womens' right to do as _they_ choose.

At this point I want to include some material sent out by the
Leather/Fetish Celebration committee about abuse in the SM community.
This is valuable stuff for anyone interested in distinguishing
consensual SM from abuse; while no list of questions can substitute
for personal inquiry and knowledge of the people involved, this list
is at least thought-provoking. (There is no consent-o-meter to
determine whether someone is consenting to SM behavior; the best we
poor humans can do is look at situations on a case-by-case basis.)
Thanks, Leonard.

----------------

The Celebration Wants You to Know About... Domestic Violence in the
S/M Community

Domestic violence is not the same as consensual s/m. Yet, abusive
relationships do exist within the leather-s/m community, as with all
groups. Unfortunately, due to our sexual orientation, abused persons
who are into s/m may suffer additional isolation and may hesitate to
turn to available resources for fear of rejection or of giving
credence to stereotypes. No group is free of domestic battering; but
fear, denial, and lack of knowledge have slowed public response to
this serious social problem.

Domestic violence is not restricted to one particular group within the
s/m community. A person's size, gender, or particular sex role
(top-bottom, butch-femme) is irrelevant; anyone can be subject to
abuse.

Abuse tends to be cyclical in nature and escalates over time. It is a
pattern of intentional intimidation for the purpose of dominating,
coercing, or isolating another without her or his consent. Because of
the intimidation factor, where there is abuse in any part of the
relationship, there can be no consent.

Defining the Problem: The following questions can help a person to
define the problem, which can have characteristics that are physical,
sexual, economic, and psychological.

Does your partner ever hit, choke, or otherwise physically hurt you
outside of a scene? Has she or he ever restrained you against your
will, locked you in a room, or used a weapon of any kind?

Are you afraid of your partner?

Are you confused about when a scene begins and ends? Rape and forced
sexual acts are not part of consensual s/m. Battering is not something
that can be "agreed" upon; there is an absence of safe words or
understandings. Has she or he ever violated your limits? Do you feel
trapped in a specific role as either the top or bottom? Does your
partner constantly criticize your performance, withhold sex as a means
of control, or ridicule you for the limits you set? Do you feel
obligated to have sex? Does your partner use sex to make up after a
violent incident? Does your partner isolate you from friends, family,
or groups? Has your partner ever destroyed objects or threatened
pets? Has your partner abused or threatened your children?

Does your partner limit access to work or material resources? Has he
or she ever stolen from you or run up debts?

Are you or your partner emotionally dependent on one another?

Does your relationship swing back and forth between a lot of emotional
distance and being very close? Is your partner constantly criticizing
you, humiliating you, and generally undermining your self-esteem? Does
your partner use scenes to express/cover up anger and frustration? Do
you feel that you can't discuss with your partner what is bothering
you?

No one has the right to abuse you. You are not responsible for the
violence. You are not alone; connect with other survivors. There are
reasons for staying in abusive relations: fear of (or feelings for)
the abuser, and lack of economic or emotional resources. If you stay,
help is still available. Find out about shelters, support groups,
counselors, anti-violence programs, and crisis lines in your area; ask
a friend to help you make these calls. Plan a strategy if you have to
leave quickly. Line up friends and family in case of an emergency.

Battering is a crime. Find out about your legal rights and
options. You can get the court to order the person to stop hurting you
through an Order for Protection or Harassment Restraining Order. You
do not need a lawyer.

We Can Reduce Domestic Violence: Domestic violence does exist in the
s/m-leather-fetish community. We can make it clear that we will
listen to those who have the courage to speak out. Understand that
leaving is difficult. Let the person make his or her own choices. Keep
all information confidential. Encourage survivors to take legal action
and seek support. Help find safe housing and legal advocacy. Hold
batterers accountable and urge them to seek treatment. Deny that drug
or alcohol use can excuse battering. Support changes in that person's
behavior.

Leather groups in our community are crucial to reducing domestic
violence. Invite knowledgeable speakers; lead discussions; print up a
list for members of what resources in your area are s/m-
supportive. Educate your local legal and social service system about
our lifestyle; encourage their appropriate intervention.

Safe Link is a clearinghouse for materials and questions about
domestic violence, specifically for persons who are into leather, s/m,
or fetish sexuality. It offers a list of readings and is currently
compiling a roster of supportive speakers, shelters, and therapists,
and information on understanding and using the law. Write to Safe Link
c/o the Domestic Violence Education Project, National Leather
Association, 548 Castro Street #444, San Francisco, CA 94114; or call
the NLA at 415/863-2444, or email nlaintl@netcom.com

Posted by ixion@dorsai.dorsai.org, from the program of the Int'l
S/M-Leather-Fetish Celebration; Text provided by Jan Hall. The
Celebration specifically authorizes and encourages the reproduction
and redistribution of this information.

-----------------


22. Why is SM taboo, and is SM criminal, unnatural, immoral,
unethical, or unhealthy?

If what I've been saying in this FAQ is accurate, then why haven't
more people heard this? Why are the prevailing images of SM so
negative?

There is no doubt that they _are_ negative. Not long ago I was
informed that there are some members of the Winnipeg (Canada) police
department who believe that alt.sex.bondage is "a textbook on how to
torture women for sexual pleasure. It's obscene." Said police were
considering how to deal with a.s.b on obscenity grounds. Last year in
England, a group of gay men who had gathered for an SM play party in
which they were using whips for pleasure were arrested and charged
with battery, EVEN THOUGH they had all agreed to be doing exactly what
they were doing, and WANTED to be doing it. Consensual SM is illegal
in England. How can this be?

The crucial distinction here is between consent and non-consent. The
difference between whipping someone in a scene and assaulting them on
the street is the difference between sex and rape. If everyone
involved agrees to what is happening, it is not a crime. If they do
not, then it is. This distinction is not in principle difficult to
understand, and being involved in SM makes it very clear. SM
practitioners are _more_ familiar with consent issues than most, and
as such are _less_ likely to commit crimes of the sort that people
confuse with SM. And NONE of the material in this FAQ advocates ANY
kind of nonconsensual, criminal behavior.

Unfortunately, there are many who would be arbiters of what others may
and may not legally consent to do. I believe that consenting adults
should be free to do as they wish in the privacy of their homes.
There are many who don't believe this is acceptable. It serves them
to confuse the issue by claiming "SM people are sadistic rapists" when
in fact we are nothing of the sort. Criminalizing consensual sexual
activities (sodomy, SM, even prostitution) is an old tradition, but in
my view, an unjustifiable one.

This problem is exacerbated by the body of "scholarly research" on SM
and related practices. Almost all the books written about SM and
other alternative practices in this century have been written by psy-
chologists and therapists (i.e. people outside the scene), and almost
all have portrayed SM as a dangerous practice, indulged in only by
"unhealthy" individuals. The reason? Healthy individuals weren't the
subjects being studied; rather, the subjects were all seeking psycho-
logical treatment from the authors of the books! The "studies"
completely ignored the many many well-adjusted, happy people who were
also into SM. It's easy to conclude SM is harmful when your only
experience is with psychologically maladjusted SM people, and when you
aren't interested in presenting a balanced view (as few authors are--
psychologists can be as sexually judgmental as anyone).

More recent events in the psychiatric community have shown a change in
opinion about SM. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Psychiatric Conditions is a document produced by the American
Psychiatric Association. The DSM-III, published in the late '80s,
classified "sexual sadism" and "sexual masochism" as disorders for
which treatment was recommended. The APA, in the DSM-IV, reclassified
SM as _not_ necessarily a disorder, unless the practice of the SM
produces clinically significant ongoing emotional trauma, or leads to
death, serious injury, or disability. The DSM-IV is recognition by
the theraputic community that SM can be practiced in a psychologically
healthy way.

As for "natural": people have practiced SM behaviors throughout
history. Many are the saints who scourged themselves in the name of
the Lord. Using intense sensation to reach altered states of mind is
a practice as old as humanity itself--and hence can be considered in
no way "unnatural".

Our society (as do most societies) tends to ostracize the different.
If you don't fit the mold, you're weird and dangerous. People into SM
don't fit the mold. This is why there is such pressure to remain
anonymous in the scene; people have lost their jobs, partners,
children, and liberty by having their sexual preferences revealed to
their community. This stems from the same source: lack of
understanding of what we do and why, and lack of respect for what is
different.

Of course, there are plenty of people who just aren't into SM. (Most
people, in fact.) There's nothing at all wrong with not being into
SM, or with not wanting to be exposed to people who do various forms
of SM; many people have emotional issues with some kinds of SM
activities and may be repulsed or disturbed by witnessing them. These
people should clearly avoid SM (and probably should avoid
alt.sex.bondage). I would hope, however, that even these people would
manage to learn about consensuality as it relates to SM, and learn how
SM, practiced carefully, is not abuse.

Some people feel that any power exchange between people is unhealthy.
The argument is that giving power to someone else is tantamount to
giving away your essential right to self-determination, which must be
considered an unqualified evil. Moreover, there is no doubt that many
social evils--wars, abusive relationships, et al.--derive from one
group of people seeking power over another; therefore, the argument
proceeds, it is always wrong thusly to seek power.

In reality, there are many situations in life in which someone chooses
to give some of their power over to another, because they trust that
other to use that power wisely. Examples include entering the Army
(which regulates your life for the duration of your service); getting
married (which is often a commitment to abandon some of your personal
autonomy); taking a job (which restricts your choices of how to spend
your time); and, of course, entering a BDSM scene (during which your
top has authority over what goes on). All these power exchanges are
mutually agreed upon, and are mutually beneficial; when they stop
being beneficial, the exchange itself should stop.

People whose moral codes state that all power exchange--consensual or
otherwise--is wrong should clearly not be involved in BDSM. Certainly
such people have a consistent ethical system that defines BDSM as
immoral. Short of such an ethical system, however, it is hard to see
how a BDSM relationship is any more intrinsically immoral than a stint
in the Army, or a traditional 'death-do-you-part' marriage. As for
me, I believe that in a free society, morality requires permitting
each citizen to make his or her own choices of how to live, and how to
express themselves, including sexually. Sexual rights are human
rights. If we lose our freedom to love as we choose, we lose a vital
part of what it is to be human.

These issues are very controversial, even now. In the 1992 Oregon
state ballot, voters narrowly overturned a measure named OR 9, which
contained the following paragraph:

"State, regional, and local government and their departments,
agencies, and other entities, including specifically the State
Department of Higher Education and the public schools, shall assist in
setting a standard for Oregon's youth that recognizes homosexuality,
pedophilia, sadism, and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and
perverse and that these behaviors are to be discouraged and avoided."

Homosexuality, sadism, and masochism are neither wrong nor unnatural.
All three are consensual ways of living and loving that many people
enjoy. They are not for everyone, but nor should everyone be told
that they are for no one. Note also how this measure seeks to confuse
the issue by grouping homosexuality, sadism, and masochism together
with pedophilia, a practice which is in most places legally
nonconsensual. (It is not my intent to enter here into the debate
over whether children are ever capable of fully consenting to sexual
acts. Suffice it to say that whether they can or not has no bearing
on the fact that adults _can_ consent to SM play.) Legislating what
consenting adults may and many not do in private is neither healthy
nor democratic.

(In recent years there has been a spate of articles about how SM is
entering the mainstream. Madonna's book _Sex_, her movie _Body of
Evidence_, and the movie _Exit to Eden_ are examples of this trend.
Hopefully this will lead to more people feeling free to express their
love as _they_ choose--so long as it's consensual!)

The most extreme forms of SM come closest to the line between consent
and non-consent. Most SM people have established safewords which they
will use if need be, though if they've known their partners for long,
that's rather seldom. Some people, though, do play without
safewords--whether because they know their partners well enough to
stay within their partners' limits and read their partners' responses,
or because they enjoy the rush of playing without an escape clause.
This latter sort of play is sometimes known as "consensual
non-consensuality," and involves scenes in which the bottom literally
cannot escape from whatever the top wishes to do. This is very
advanced SM; it requires exponentially more negotiation and
introspection, and even then is hazardous. Not many people do this,
or want to, but some people do, and find it exhilarating and
uplifting. More info is available on a.s.b or in some of the
references... or on a.s.b itself, which is one of the best places in
the world to hear a myriad of voices speak out about their individual
ways of doing and living SM.


23. Isn't the bottom always in control?

One of the paradoxes of SM revolves around consensuality. Everything
in SM is consensual; although the top is in control, it was the
bottom's choice to allow the top to _be_ in control. And since most
of the time the top is trying to keep the bottom happy, and since the
bottom knows that, isn't the bottom really in control?

Yes, if your definition of "in control" is "can stop the scene". The
bottom can always opt out, if it's consensual SM. But the top can go
a long way towards putting the bottom under the top's spell, making
the bottom submit to really strenuous bondages or beatings, using the
bottom as the top pleases. One friend of mine, for instance, takes
great pleasure out of hog-tying his girlfriend with her breasts bound
and her hands behind her back and her ankles tied to her ponytail,
then putting her on the edge of the bed and sticking his cock in her
mouth. She has no choice but to suck it until he comes. Which of
them is "in control"? Both of them would say that he is, and both of
them are getting off on that fact, so the paradox in practice doesn't
matter too much.

Furthermore, negotiation can involve give-and-take; the bottom can
agree to endure some pain to please the top, and the top can then
(say) tie the bottom tightly and tease to the point of orgasm. A
particular activity in SM can be enjoyable for its own sake, or
because it's a favorite sensation of yours, or because it turns your
partner on so much to do it to you or with you, or because you want to
endure it out of pure stubborn pride. The paradox of control can take
many forms.

(As mentioned previously, some especially intense players may
negotiate scenes during which the bottom _cannot_ opt out. This sort
of play is definitely in the minority, but it is nonetheless possible
to consent to giving up your ability to withdraw consent. These
scenes are sharply bounded by mutual agreement between both partners,
and must be accompanied by much discussion, before and after the
scene. And if the bottom later feels like the scene went bad, the
negotiation should be redoubled before the next scene, if any.)


24. Can someone "really" be someone else's slave?

This is the last question in another guise. Is it possible for there
to be consensual non-consensuality? That is, can someone agree to be
in a situation from which they cannot escape, and to live that way?

This topic can inspire flame wars, as follows: historical slavery was
totally non-consensual and enforced by the state; at the worst of
times, the life of a slave was in the master's hands. Our society
today does not recognize such an arrangement. Does this mean that
someone cannot truly become someone else's slave, as society would
always permit the slave to back out? Or is true slavery possible as a
bond between one person and another, regardless of society? You
expect an answer in a FAQ? Sorry, here there are only more questions.
(Though see question 17 for more on the hazards of that pesky word
"real".)


25. What are the "codes"?

Often the "hanky code" is mentioned on a.s.b. What is it? It's a
tradition in the scene that if you're into certain types of activities
you can indicate them by wearing a handkerchief in either your left or
right back pockets. The color indicates the activity; the side, the
preferred position (left is top, right is bottom). Some of the colors
are gray for bondage (left is you like to tie, right is you like to be
tied up), red for anal fisting (left fister, right fistee), and black
for heavy SM (piercing, serious whipping, etc.); there are many many
many more. I don't have a list handy.

Sometimes the same thing is done with keys or handcuffs--keys on the
left means you're a top, on the right means you're a bottom. It's all
just a way to signal your preferences in a public place.

Despite persistent rumors, there seems to be no "earring code"
involving earrings on the left/right/both/whatever.


26. My fantasies scare me. What if I get too into SM?

Sometimes people who are attracted by some aspects of SM worry that
they will immediately go from enjoying spanking and light bondage to
fisting and golden showers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

SM is a blanket term for a huge variety of alternative ways to make
love. This FAQ list has outlined some of the possibilities. No one I
know enjoys _everything_ on this list; _everyone_ has their own
preferences and levels of tolerance. Some like bondage but dislike
pain; some like latex but dislike leather; some enjoy piercing but not
whipping; some like tickling and nothing else!

This means that negotiation is always important in SM; you never know
what someone's tastes will be until you ask. It also means that
whatever your level, however hard the play that you enjoy, there are
people out there who share your tastes. Be a dabbler or be a life-
styler, or be anywhere in between! And don't worry; the operative
word with all of these practices is _pleasure_. If you don't like it,
you won't enjoy it, and you won't do it!

Some people have fantasies about heavier SM trips than they would
enjoy in real life. To those people, I say this: fantasies are not
reality. It is well documented that many women have rape fantasies
from time to time; this does not mean that those women want to be
raped. SM can involve playing on the edge between fantasy and
reality, using that fantasy energy to create something fantastically
strong and passionate in the real world; but this does not mean that
fantasies are anything but imagination, or that fantasies will become
real without your choosing to make them so.

If you feel that doing SM might make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe,
or make it harder for you to maintain your sense of self-worth and
pride, those are excellent reasons to avoid doing SM--or at the very
least to only do those sorts of play that don't tear you down but
instead build you up. SM is an intense form of relating, and not
everyone is ready for that; if you don't think you are, don't do it
that intensely--and if you're not sure, go slowly. What's the rush?
Do what you honestly want to do, and what you feel ready for.

Some people getting into the scene almost have a mental checklist of
stuff they want to try. They spend a year or two burning through the
checklist, having a great time, always desperate for the next
experience. Then they get to the end of the list, and suddenly they
don't know what's next. This can be a very empty feeling. SM is not
an end in itself, but a means to connect with others; it is ultimately
about relating, and about developing yourself.

If you are worried about getting "too into SM", it means that you are
sensitive to your spiritual and sexual development, which in itself
means you have less to worry about. Trust your instincts. SM is
nothing but opening up the the powerful energy within us all, and
being willing to experience that energy with and through others; it is
intimate and loving. Even a hard scene, involving ruthless domination
and serious pain, is an act of love, and a very deep one at that; it
takes a lot of trust and a strong connection between the people
involved to create such a scene. The more aware of Sex Magick you
are, the better a communicator and lover you will likely be--and you
don't have to be a heavy player to understand Sex Magick.

People who think that all BDSM behaviors are unhealthy or destructive
sometimes come out with a claim like, "Just you wait, you may start
off by enjoying being spanked, but before long you'll be liking being
bruised, dismembered, flayed, and murdered!" This is, simply,
ridiculous. While many people do find their tolerance for pain
increasing as they do BDSM, many others find no such effect, or even
have no interest in experimenting. It seems that for most people,
their internal "thermostat," the level of stimulus which makes them
hot, is pretty much constant. And certainly I know of no one
practicing consensual SM who perpetrates serious injury on their
lovers. The SM scene is rife with information about how to inflict
intense sensation without causing permanent or unintended damage of
any kind. Recognize these kinds of alarmist claims about BDSM as the
scaremongering that they are.

And finally, after all is said and done, you may _still_ have some
fantasies that you recognize as too intense or too contrary to your
nature to actually perform in a real-life scene. This is quite
common, as well; we all have desires which we recognize are not safely
fulfillable. Do not do anything that you feel you should not or
cannot do, even if the desire remains strong; or at least, if you do
choose to explore that desire, go very carefully and be prepared to
back off if you find your suspicions confirmed. If it hurts not to
fulfill the desire, that's part of what maturity is about--rejecting
desires that pull you into things that are no good for you, while
choosing that which will affirm you. And in any case, the process of
introspecting, of asking yourself what you want (and what you will
permit yourself) and why, can be vital to your growth and your sense
of yourself. Life is change, and every choice carries _some_
risk... decide for yourself what path you want to walk.


27. I want to throw a play party; how can I go about it?

Occasionally on alt.sex.bondage there is a flurry of email about some
event that recently occurred (often in the SF Bay area) at which many
net.folks were in attendance, and about the tremendously enjoyable
things that transpired there. Then others around the country post,
wishing they lived out here too. Well, you don't have to live out
here to have a play party!

What is a play party? A party where your guests can (and hopefully
will) play with each other! It can be as simple as a backrub circle
which turns into more intimate activity, or it can be one person who
gets clothespins applied to them while others watch and contribute
energy before going off into their own scenes, or indeed anything at
all. The idea is to enjoy each other, to communicate and share the
pleasure that touching and playing can bring. If there is a common
interest in SM, that's convenient, as lots of things can be initiated
with a simple pair of handcuffs or a whip that looks like it'd feel
good; also, if the guests have played with SM, they will understand
the need for negotiation, and they will know what it is to respect
another's limits.

Some tips: Don't encourage alcohol; make it BYOB. This makes the
party safer, and the drunker you get the less likely you are to really
be able to fully negotiate and communicate. Minimize video and loud
music; this causes people to interact with each other, which is the
whole point, rather than sit back and stay out of the action. (Good
party music can help set the mood, though.) Keep condoms, dental
dams, latex gloves, lube (water-based!), betadine (if piercers or
cutters are present), bleach (for cleaning toys), and paper towels
handy; this makes people aware that they can easily play safely--a
matter of life and death--as well as expressing the hosts' concern for
the guests.

If possible, have several playspaces (i.e. rooms where people can
recline and play with each other); this lets the exhibitionists
exhibit, while the more private ones can be more private, and the
heavy players can play heavily (serious whippings, candles, etc.)
without freaking out the folks with lighter tastes. Have some
knowledgeable people take turns as safety monitors; if anything's
going on that looks unsafe or nonconsensual, give those people
authority to take action. Establish a party safeword (a great one is
"Safeword!"). In general, make your place into a safe space, a haven
where people can unwind and enjoy each other to whatever extent they
want to, without feeling pressured or uncomfortable.

Possibly the most helpful tip: if you can, try to get a group of
people in your area together, and try to get activities planned
between parties--lunches, group shopping trips to your local toy
stores, movies, etcetera. It's hard to overcome the barriers to
trusting someone enough to have sensual or sexual contact with them,
especially in our pleasure-negative society; therefore, things may not
get off to the rollicking start you could wish for at your first
party. If there are a couple of exhibitionists to break the ice,
though, it helps; and as people get to know each other better and get
to be friends, it will increase the level of fun everyone will have!


28. I want to attend a play party; what is the etiquette?

The simplest way to fit in in a play party is to behave politely.
There will be people right in front of you who are doing very sexual
things. They are doing them for _their_ pleasure, not for yours.
Stay away from the action unless invited to participate-- and a glance
in your direction does not constitute an invitation.

The people who really interfere with the energy of a party are the
people who seemingly assume that just because the scene is taking
place in a semi-public context means that comments from the audience
are okay fine. They're NOT. The top in the scene is concentrating on
the bottom's pleasure, and the bottom is almost certainly in a very
private mental space. Neither the top nor the bottom will appreciate
being yanked back to reality by a loud suggestion or greeting. If you
want to compliment them on something, WAIT UNTIL THE SCENE IS OVER and
they're circulating and being sociable again! Interfering with a
scene in progress is inexcusably rude, and if I were dungeon-mastering
I would throw you out of the party for doing it.

Once you understand that scenes are private even though they're taking
place in public, the question then becomes, how can you watch without
detracting from the energy of the scene?

There definitely are people who interfere just by watching. They've
been dubbed "energy vampires" in the past. These people are watching
the action as though it was a porno movie--as though the intense magic
taking place in front of them was no more than a bad fuck flick where
the actress is half asleep. They have no empathy, no sense of
connection to what's going on; they might as well be in a movie
theater.

If you have the ability to watch what is happening with an open heart,
if you can pick up on the energy and send your own good wishes towards
the participants in the scene, you will be much more valuable as a
watcher. Public players never object to an enthusiastic audience
which can appreciate the way they're playing! An audience which
values the gift of being allowed to watch, and which contributes its
goodwill towards the play, can be a delight; an audience which watches
without giving and without connecting takes the life and spirit out of
the scene. (And remember, a good audience does NOT make comments that
the players can hear--an audience doesn't interfere with the
performance!)

You can be a part of the magic without playing yourself. All it takes
is an honest enjoyment of what's happening combined with politeness
and tact.

If you _do_ want to play, and there's someone you want to play with,
you can ask--but be prepared to accept a "no, thanks" gracefully. If
you are comfortable mingling and making small talk, you'll be more
likely to find someone with compatible desires--after all, everyone
else there has similar tastes! There often will be rooms for heavy
play and rooms for hanging out and socializing; don't try to do one
activity in the other activity's space.

(It helps if you dress sexily, even if you're not playing--the more
leather and lace there is to look at, the better!)


29. What's the deal with this anonymity stuff?

There are many people who post to alt.sex.bondage through the wizvax
Anonymous Posting Service, and many others who post from pseudonymous
accounts. The reasons are obvious; "kinky sex" in our society is
stigmatized, and being openly interested in sexuality or alternate
sexual practices can result in personal and professional consequences
including losing one's job, losing one's friends, and if child custody
is involved, losing one's children. Yes, in America today, you can
lose custody of your child if it becomes known that you practice SM.
(This is not merely anecdotal; people on the net have had these things
happen to them.) Oral sex is a crime in some states! After reading
this FAQ, it (hopefully) should be clear how twisted this situation
is, when acts of love can be used as evidence of psychological damage.

This is why many choose to write and post anonymously. By using a
pseudonym, they can say what they want to say, while remaining free of
the nastiness that could ensue were their coworkers to discover their
interests. Homosexuals know what it's like to be ostracized for their
romantic and sexual preferences; SM devotees are, in some ways, in the
same boat. It's a strange world, where love is perceived as evil, and
beauty as ugliness....

Anonymous posters are not cowards. The consequences I have outlined
are enough to make anyone question whether posting under their own
name is worthwhile. Those who choose to do so are not necessarily so
much courageous as lucky--lucky to be able to be out, to declare their
lifestyles openly. (Note that pseudonyms are sometimes used in real-
life situations, as well; there are many netters who go by their net
names even at social functions.)

This means that it is rude to inquire as to someone's actual identity
if they choose to use a pseudonym. It is also rude to tell others of
their real name, if you somehow become privy to it, without first
asking them; they have entrusted you with something that they don't
want commonly known. DON'T OUT SOMEONE IF THEY DON'T WANT TO BE
OUTED. You yourself may not need a net.name; that doesn't mean you
can take others' anonymity any less seriously than they themselves do.
This goes for the net and for real life. If you meet someone at a
party who you've known from the net, they'll probably still want to be
known under their net name, and if you're writing about that party
later, make sure you have their permission before describing them or
scenes in which they participated (even if you use only their net
name).

It is an open question whether the world would improve if everyone
outed themselves. Some say that we need to get all kinky people out
of the closet, so everyone'll realize how many of us there are (and
there are many!). Others, myself included, believe that everyone
should be free to choose how they want to live their life--including
choosing to be anonymous.


30. Are SM people subjected to political or social harassment?

Like all alternate sexualities, SM is stigmatized in many ways by most
of society. In extreme cases, SM players are prosecuted legally. or
persecuted by people who would _like_ to so prosecute them. This
section of the FAQ describes some of these ongoing battles. (See
question 22 for a brief mention of one recently-vanquished challenge.)

First, the most serious anti-SM action in years: the Spanner case. In
Britain in 1992, sixteen men who had attended an SM party were
convicted of assault, despite the fact that everything that happened
at the party was fully consensual. The sentence was four to six years
in prison.

The defendants appealed, and eventually reached the highest court in
Britain, which issued a judgment rife with the worst and most
inaccurate popular misconceptions about BDSM, ignoring everything that
is now widely known about how it is safe and consensual. This
judgment is a travesty of human rights, and flies blindly in the face
of medical and psychological fact, in favor of prejudicial ignorance.

The men involved are now pushing to take the case to the European
court of human rights. They need any and all assistance. An
organization named Countdown on Spanner was formed to pursue the
appeal as far as necessary. Countdown on Spanner can be reached via
Snail Mail; C/O Central Station 37 Wharfdale Road London N1 Great
Britain Please include a SAE. Or contact via e-mail:
phas@siva.bris.ac.uk

Another situation demanding attention is the censorship being
practiced by Canadian customs. Canada has no First Amendment, and
Customs has been seizing gay and lesbian erotica, especially
SM-related material, and preventing it from reaching bookstores in
Canada. This arbitrary action has made it very difficult for many of
these bookstores to survive. The Canadian government, via Customs, is
silencing the voices of those who want to talk about their sexuality.

Little Sisters Bookstore in Vancouver is suing Customs, asserting that
Customs should not have the right to seize books on suspicion of
obscenity. If the case is won, obscenity will have to be determined
by the courts, not by Customs. It is not at all certain that the case
will be won; a recent Supreme Court decision in Canada used language
from American anti-porn activist Catherine MacKinnon to define
pornography as material that is "violent" or "degrading" to women.
Such laws can be used to keep ANY SM-related material from ever being
published--which is exactly the intent. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin
have repeatedly pushed for such legislation in the United States as
well. The Canada case is thus very relevant for Americans into SM.

If you can contribute, please write to Little Sisters Defense Fund,
1221 Thurlow Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6E 1X4. The
case will be expensive, and help is badly needed.

America has its share of official persecution of SM, though not so
seriously as in the Spanner case. SM clubs are still associated by
the media with unsafe sex, whether or not the club requires safe sex
(as almost all do). Of course, the current ignorance of consensual SM
in America leads to regular prosecution of people producing erotic
material, whether videos, magazines, or pictures. Legal fees from
obscenity proceedings brought by the government can put a small
producer or publisher out of business before the case ever comes to
trial. For example, movies involving bondage together with sex are
essentially censored in this country, because of such government
action. Self-righteous dictators such as the Rev. Donald Wildmon
exploit untruths about SM to help them determine what may and may not
be shown in the media.

Most of all, learn for yourself about the realities of SM, as opposed
to the myths. And speak out against oppression born out of ignorance.


31. Why are there so many postings about {whipping/pain/slavery/gay
sex/nonconsensuality/etc} on a.s.b? Doesn't that stuff belong
somewhere else?

Every now and then, someone posts to a.s.b asking why there are so
many postings about some topic that's not straightforward bondage.
Wouldn't it be a good idea to split the group, so the {gays/heavy
players/people into whipping} could go off and be by themselves?
Wasn't alt.sex.bondage created for the purpose of discussing bondage?

The answers are no and no. a.s.b was created in response to a joke
that turned serious. The group has no explicit charter, and no set of
guidelines as to what is and is not appropriate.

What a.s.b has evolved into (and actually has always been) is, as the
intro to this FAQ states, a group for discussing "ways to have sex
that are outside the mainstream". This is an awfully wide descrip-
tion. There is room underneath it for discussing everything from "how
do I tie someone up?" to "how can I play with razors safely?" to
"what's it like to love someone of your sex?"

The inevitable consequence of this is that people sometimes get
exposed to material that squicks them. That's life in the big net.
There is no guarantee that everything on a.s.b will suit your personal
interests. The general rule of the net applies here in spades: if you
don't like it, hit "n" and ignore it. It's guaranteed that there are
many many out there who _do_ like it. Remember, limits are relative;
many of the "heavy players" you read about started as novices them-
selves, and the person who just described their intense whipping scene
may be unable to handle even the lightest tickling... food for
thought!

I just finished reading a few stories about nonconsensual rape and
sadistic murder that were posted netwide. I personally disliked those
stories. Do I think they're appropriate for a.s.b? Not really. Can
I stop them from being posted? Nope. Can I ignore them? Hell yes.
Remember, a story is a fantasy that someone bothered to write
down... and fantasies can't hurt anybody--if you don't like it, ignore
it! That is certainly more productive than flaming the person who
wrote it.

Can the ferment of different topics and views on a.s.b degenerate into
chaos? Yes, and it sometimes does. But more frequently, the mixing
of interests and ideas generates a really wonderful dialogue out of
which new knowledge and fantasy is born. Novices pipe up with
questions that spark an insightful reply by an old-timer. Old-timers
post about some experience that gets lurkers' juices flowing
everywhere. Someone who knows a lot about one kind of play tries
something new and posts about it. And the words flow on and on.

a.s.b works, like no other group I know of on the net. So don't be
too hasty with that "n" key... you might learn something!


32. I'm sick of certain topics on a.s.b. How can I avoid them?

a.s.b, like all Usenet groups, has its share of flame wars. Many of
them revolve around questions of whether particular BDSM activities
are healthy or not (the usual answer: "They're risky, but it's
possible to do them safely and beneficially, and many people do"), or
whether alt.sex.bondage is a heterosexist group or not (I'm not gonna
tackle _that_ one here, yet). One common feature of all, though, is
that some people get burned out on reading all the hundreds of
articles in the thread.

The solution? Most newsreading programs support a tool called a "kill
file", which is a list of subjects and/or authors that you are NOT
interested in and never want to look at. Different newsreaders have
different ways of using killfiles. I use rn, so my example will refer
to it. (If you use a different program, see the documentation for
that program.

To add a particular subject (say, "FAQ List") to your killfile in rn,
go to alt.sex.bondage When you are reading the group, type ^K
(control-K). This will put you into an editor which is editing your
killfile for alt.sex.bondage. Type the following:

/FAQ List/h:j

then exit your editor. What that line says is "junk any articles
which contain the text `FAQ List' in the header." Replace "FAQ List"
with the subject you dislike or the user ID of the person you no
longer wish to read, and presto, your blood pressure will be much
happier.

I've been told the following about the "gnus" newsreader: "In gnus,
from the subject buffer, on an article from the person you wish to
kill: type meta-k [gnus-Subject-edit-local-kill], C-c C-k C-a
[gnus-Kill-file-kill-by-author], C-c C-a [gnus-Kill-file-apply-
buffer], C-c C-c [gnus-Kill-file-exit]." "C-a" stands for
"control-A", and "meta-k" stands for "escape-K." The text in brackets
isn't stuff you should type; it's just explanation of what each set of
keystrokes means.

If you use nn, track down a post written by the victim to be
killfiled, and just hit 'K' (capital-K). Follow the somewhat cryptic
prompts, and respond according to your needs. For example:

nn gives you you respond
------------ -----------
AUTO (k)ill or (s)elect [...] k

AUTO KILL on (s)ubject or (n)ame [...] n

KILL Name: (=/) /

KILL Name (regexp): FAQ List

KILL in (g)roup 'alt.sex.bondage' or
in (a)ll groups a

Lifetime of entry in days (p)ermanent [...] p [or 21915 to 25568]

CONFIRM KILL Name perm regexp: FAQ List y

If you use tin, you can either hand-edit .tin/kill (instructions
should be given in that file), or you can hit control-K while reading
any article. This will toss a nice menu on the screen. Just follow
the prompts. For example:

tin gives you you respond
------------- -----------
Kill type: Kill [return/enter]

Kill text pattern: FAQ List [return/enter]

Apply pattern to: [spacebar until "Subject: & From:
lines" appears, then hit
return]

Kill Subject [...]: No [return/enter]

Kill From [...]: No [return/enter]

Kill pattern scope: [spacebar until appropriate
choice appears, then
hit return]

Two pieces of jargon related to kill files: Sometimes you will see
someone responding to something egregiously stupid (in the responder's
opinion) said by someone else. The response may look like, "Ho, hum.
" What is plonk? Plonk is the sound of someone being dropped
into a kill file; the respondent is announcing that they are
permanently killfiling the original poster. Other times, a poster may
be annoying lots and lots of people on a.s.b, and someone will post
something like "Everyone PISS on this guy!" PISS stands for Passive
Intentional Silence Strike, and basically means that everyone should
just ignore the poster, rather than arguing and/or flaming. The idea
is that if the person can't get a rise out of anyone, they will get
bored and leave. It very often works, too... or at least it reduces
the wasted bandwidth.


33. I don't have access to alt.sex.bondage; what can I do to get
information about the scene?

A question I've been getting more and more often as my FAQ spreads
outwards into the world is, "I can't read alt.sex.bondage, but the
stuff you talk about in your FAQ sounds really interesting. Are there
any ways for me to access alt.sex.bondage, or do you know of any SM
groups or BBS'es near me?"

First off: unless you have access to a system which gets USENET news,
and alt.sex.bondage in particular, there is no way for you to read
alt.sex.bondage. There are no mailing-list gateways or FTP archives
of alt.sex.bondage. There may be public-access net sites in your area
which you could use to access a.s.b.

Second: I don't track very many local SM organizations, beyond the
ones I mention at the end of this FAQ. So please don't ask me for
information beyond what's contained here.

HOWEVER: There is a way you can get answers to your questions! If you
have email access to the Internet, you can use an "anonymous posting
service". A posting service is a program running on some
Internet-connected computer. You can send email to the service, and
it will remove your userid from the email, append a newly-generated
anonymous userid, and post your email to alt.sex.bondage! Anyone can
send you mail in response, and the service will forward it to you. So
if you have questions about SM resources in your area, use an
anonymous posting service to send your question to a.s.b (for example,
"I can't read alt.sex.bondage, but I'd like to know whether there are
any SM groups in Vancouver. Please reply by email"). You will
definitely get more responses than you would any other way.

(Of course, if you _can_ read a.s.b but don't want to post under your
real name, you can use a posting service for that; that's what they're
mainly for.)

Anonymous posting services come and go, but here is the big one (as of
September 1994): "help@anon.penet.fi" "???WIZVAX???". Send mail to
this address for more information. You can apparently post articles
non-anonymously by sending them via email to
alt.sex.bondage.usenet@decwrl.dec.com or alt-sex-bondage@cs.utexas.edu
(or just about any other group for that matter...at least the ones
that are common/current).



34. What are some books/magazines/organizations/stores/news archives
where I can get SM information or toys, or meet people in the scene?

First off, I don't have the time to track electronic resources--
archive servers, FTP sites, etc.--since they come and go on an almost
daily basis. If you want to reach any archive servers or suchlike,
you'll need to post to a.s.b (anonymously, if you wish) to ask where
they are this week.

That said, read on to find out where you can get SM stuff or learn SM
tricks or meet SM people!

This list is (permanently and congenitally) incomplete and needs all
the entries it can find--address corrections especially appreciated.

Other groups that are in some ways related to a.s.b are alt.sex.
spanking (for folks who are into that in particular), alt.sex.fetish.
fashion (for lovers of sexy clothes), alt.sex.stories (often there are
SM-related stories posted there), and so forth.

Nonfiction books: (If you liked this FAQ, you will very likely enjoy
these books. These describe consensual SM as I have been using the
term in this FAQ, and are all excellent resources for learning.)

Pat Califia, _Sensuous Magic_ (New York, Masquerade Books, 1993).
ISBN 1-56333-131-4, softcover. Pat Califia is a legendary writer
about SM behavior and SM fantasy. This is her latest book and I
recommend it unhesitatingly. It is in my opinion hands-down the best
how-to book about SM, combining fictional vignettes with sincere,
quality information delivered as effectively as possible. If you are
into SM, you will learn from this book; and if you liked this FAQ but
want more details, this is THE BOOK for you. Order it from Good
Vibrations (see the store list below).

_Different Loving_, by Gloria G. Brame, William D. Brame, and Jon
Jacobs (Villard Books, New York, 1993, ISBN 0-679-40873-8), is a
thorough, non-judgmental work describing all aspects of SM sexuality.
There are hundreds of interviews and lots and lots of accurate
information. If you ever wondered whether there was anyone out there
as kinky as you, buy this book, and know you're not alone. It's a
survey, not a how-to, but there's lots of safety information in it
anyway. 539 pages! The more of it I read, the more impressed I've
become.

A brief and excellent introduction to safe SM is _The Lesbian S/M
Safety Guide_, edited by Pat Califia and published by Lace
Publications (an imprint of Alyson Publications). There is
information in here on everything from physical safety to emotional
issues to negotiating with bottoms to consensual slave contracts.
It's written about lesbians, but very little of the information is
actually gender-specific. Excellent.

Larry Townsend's _The Leatherman's Handbook II_. This is fairly
widely available, and is by all accounts the best resource for gay
male SM information. I personally have never read it, but it's widely
known. (The first edition is still available, but II contains more
information about AIDS and safer sex, so it's probably what you want.)

_On the Safe Edge: A Manual For SM Play,_ by Trevor Jacques, with Dr.
Dale, Michael Hamilton, and Sniffer. ISBN: 1-895857-05-8 (pbk.) This
new book comes recommended by many reputable and knowledgeable people
in the scene. It's a how-to with lots and lots of safety information.
To order directly, call WholeSM Publishing (SAN S1196111) at: (416)
962 1040 (after October 17th.) or you can reach the authors at
72624.3533@CompuServe.com

_Coming to Power_, by SAMOIS, published by Alyson Press. This is a
book about lesbian SM, written by a former Bay Area women's
collective. It has a huge spectrum of pieces from hot fantasy to
personal history to political pronouncement. Very worthwhile for all
who are interested in SM, lesbian or otherwise.

Mark Thompson (editor), _Leatherfolk_, Alyson Press. An EXCELLENT
anthology about the SM scene in America, from the 1930s through the
present. Focuses mainly on the gay and lesbian SM communities, but
contains much worthwhile material for anyone interested in any aspects
of SM.

_Learning the Ropes: A Basic Guide to Safe and Fun S/M Lovemaking_, by
Race Bannon, Daedalus Publishing Co., 4470-107 Sunset Blvd., Suite
375, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Available by mail from the publisher @
$12.95 + $2.50 s/h (CA residents add 8.25% sales tax). Race is a
well- known figure in the SM scene, and by all accounts this book is
quite comprehensive, describing all aspects of safe SM from the
physical to the spiritual. If you liked this FAQ, I'd guess you'd
like this book.

_SM 101_, published by Jay Wiseman, PO Box 1261, Berkeley, CA 94701.
$19.95 will get you this book, which is one of the most thorough and
in-depth explorations of SM safety and SM practice I have had the
pleasure to read. I would consider this book very valuable for anyone
who is wondering "how do I get started?"--Jay has many relatively
specific examples and tips on how to make your scenes delightful and
memorable. He's an opinionated guy, but then aren't we all?

Jack Morin, _Anal Pleasure and Health_, Down There Press, Burlingame,
CA. This book has the complete lowdown on all aspects of anal sex--
safety, hygiene, emotional issues, you name it. Extremely valuable
information, well presented.

Robert J. Stoller, _Pain and passion: a psychoanalyst explores the
world of S&M,_ 1991, New York et al.: Plenum, X, 306 pp. ISBN
0-306-43770-8. I've heard that this book does an excellent job of
revisiting (and refuting) the common Freudian biases against SM, in
spite of several far-from-objective judgmental sections.

Two other psychoanalytic books dealing with SM (neither of which I've
read) are _Dark Eros_ by Thomas Moore and _Masochism_ by Lyn Cowan.

_Sadomasochism in Everday Life: The Dynamics of Power and
Powerlessness_, Lynn S. Chancer, 1992, publisher momentarily unknown
(but soon to be added), ISBN 0-8135-1808-3. Chancer's book takes a
long, hard look at the many social contexts in which one group
exercises power abusively over another. It's a fascinating
perspective from which to analyze racism, sexism, etc., and there is a
fair amount of material about BDSM in the sense it's been described in
this FAQ.

_Ties that Bind: The SM/Leather/Fetish Erotic Style_ by Guy Baldwin,
M.S. I'm lacking complete bibliographic information for this book,
which is too bad, as it's a standout. Baldwin is a therapist who sees
many people in the SM community. He has a unique healer's perspective
on many of the emotional and psychological issues that arise for
people in the scene. If you are doing a lot of thinking about whether
SM is right for you, or if you're working on your SM with your partner
and you want another point of view, do yourself a COLOSSAL favor and
buy this book. (You can order it from Mr. S Leathers, or from QSM.)

_The Sexually Dominant Woman, A Workbook for Nervous Beginners_, by
Lady Green. (Lady Green's book is supposed to be very good for those
who barely know where to begin.)

Fiction books: (Not all of the scenarios in these books are what I
would call consensual SM, but as stated earlier, fantasies are not
reality, and neither are erotic stories. Don't take these books as
seriously as you would the ones above. Hopefully everyone is now
thinking, "Well, duh! Obviously!")

Anne Rice has written a number of books with SM themes. As A. N.
Roquelaure, she released the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy: _The Claiming of
Sleeping Beauty_, _Beauty's Punishment_, and _Beauty's Release_, in
which the hero and heroine are subjected to all kinds of wonderfully
sensual torments. Something for just about everyone. Also widely
available is _Exit to Eden_, under the name Ann Rampling; the first
part of the book is the most SM-y.

Anything written by Pat Califia (_Macho Sluts_, _Doc and Fluff_,
_Sapphistry_, and her new book _Melting Point_). Alyson Publica-
tions (40 Plympton St., Boston, MA 02118, (800) 8-ALYSON) publishes
her stuff. She's very well known in the scene and she is a hot (as in
boiling-glowing-volcanic-nuclear-SUPERHOT) writer. Be warned, though;
_Doc and Fluff_ in particular is not for the faint of heart! If what
you want is SM erotica, _Macho Sluts_ or _Melting Point_ are the
ticket.

_Leatherwomen_, edited by Laura Antoniou, Rosebud Press, ISBN
1-563-33095-4. $4.95 at most book stores or direct order from
(800)458-9640. This new paperback is an anthology of S/M fiction by
women. It's very very hot stuff! Some of the fiction in this book
rivals Pat Califia's work, which is high praise indeed. Get it.

_The Slave_, Sara Adamson, Rhinoceros Press, 1994, ISBN 1-56333-173-X.
A surprisingly straightforward look at a woman's search for--and
discovery of--a dream life of servitude. I enjoyed it greatly, and
not only was it hot, it made me think. Recommended. Her earlier book
in the trilogy, _The Marketplace_, is also excellent.

Some guest recommendations:

"_Masochism_ (New York: Zone Books, 1991). This book consists of a
translation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's _Venus_in_Furs_, prefaced
by a long essay, 'Coldness and Cruelty,' by the French philosopher
Gilles Deleuze. To quote the dust jacket: 'Deleuze's stunning essay
is an attempt to restore to Masoch's work the rigorous and informed
philosophical examination that is due it.'.... I think Deleuze shows
that Masoch has a lot more to say to the BDSM community than Sade
does."

"Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality (Carol Vance, ed.)
The Scholar and Feminist Conference at Barnard in 1982 was almost
ripped apart when politically correct feminists tried to suppress
feminists who wanted the freedom to enjoy power exchange. This is a
collection of papers and talks from this watershed of the Woman's
Movement.

"S&M: Studies in Sadomasochism (Thomas Weinberg and G.W. Kamel, eds)
This is a collection of essays on the nature, origin and development
of what they call sadomasochism. Some are decent; some have points of
interest; a number are so far off the mark as to be laughable.

"A Taste for Pain: On Masochism and Female Sexuality (Maria Marcus)
The author, a self-admitted masochist, explores the existing
literature on sadomasochism from a very personal, insightful point of
view."

Three sources for people who are into spanking in particular:

CF Publications, PO Box 713, E Setauket, NY 11733.
Newsletters, stories, fiction.

CD Publishing Corp., 213 Valley St, Ste 228, South Orange, NJ 07079
Information, newsletters, personal ads.

Shadow Lane, PO Box 1910, Studio City, CA
One of the best, with lots of materials, videos, et al.

Videos:

_Safe, Sane, Consensual SM_ is a documentary consisting of interviews
with 20 experienced SM players, discussing their experiences and
viewpoints. I know several of the people interviewed, and what they
have to say is very worth hearing. $49.95 + $5 S&H; California
residents add applicable sales tax. You must state that you are over
21. B&D Video Production and Distribution Company, 2215-R Market
Street #214, San Francisco, CA 94114, (415) 863-0199 (call for
quantity discounts).

Jay Edwards Collection/Close-Up Productions/John Floyd Productions,
P.O. Box 691658, Los Angeles, CA 90069. These companies release
various heterosexual bondage videos, mostly with women as the bottoms.
Very popular.

_Learning the Ropes,_ Ona Zee Productions, P.O. Box 9951, Marina Del
Rey, CA 90295. Ona and her husband Frank have put together seven
(going on eight) instructional videos about BDSM, on topics from
bondage to dildoes to whips and hot wax. I've heard they're very
worth getting.

Act quick and get in on this: "We (Corporation for Multicultural Arts
and Entertainment Broadcasting, a new non profit orginization) are
currently producing a television program called Alien Death Squad. It
features bondage/fetish gear from around the world, bondage/fetish
mags i.e <<O>>, Skin Two ect.., Bondage fetish clubs from around the
world, Anime, Live Action, Computer animations and demo's, music
video's, and other cyberculture items. If you have any video footage
, magazines, periodicals, news, or info we would like to see it and
possibly air it. Also if you would like to join the Alien Death Squad
send us email to Cybortronik@pan.com to keep up to date on the TV
show, plus other special offers. Video formats we accept are 3/4 inch,
VHS, SVHS. Printed material will be scanned and put into computer
slide show."

Magazines:

_Sandmutopia Guardian_, by Desmodus, Inc., P. O. Box 410390, San
Francisco, CA 94141-0390, (415) 252-1195. $24 for six issues
(US/Canada). A very good how-to magazine, focusing on the basics of
SM play (lots of reader articles and B&W pictures), with lots of
listings of clubs around the US. The magazine was having trouble for
a while, but a new editor (Pat Califia) is once again making it into a
factual, detailed reference magazine like no other. Get all the back
issues you possibly can.

_Skin Two_, Freepost, 23 Grand Union Centre, Kensal Rd, London W10
5BR. A VERY classy magazine, all glossy with excellent articles and
photos, with lots of emphasis on latex but good material for anyone
into SM, as well as a HUGE section of magazine, book, and store
listings in the back of every issue. They take credit card orders at
081 968 9692. Highly recommended.

_Brat Attack_, P.O. Box 40754, San Francisco, ,CA 94140-0754. A
magazine by SM dykes, and mostly for SM dykes, though the writing is
smart and funny no matter what your crotch looks like. Subs are 10
bucks/3 issues. Fish, the founder, was looking to sell it, last I
heard.

_Body Play and Modern Primitives Quarterly_, Insight Books, P.O. Box
2575, Menlo Park, CA 94026-2575. This magazine, published and edited
by the celebrated Fakir Musafar, has monthly articles on subjects from
corseting and wasit training to tattoos, piercings, and intense SM
practices. Very well produced. Subs are $45/4 issues. [May be
defunct.]

_Frighten the Horses_, Heat Seeking Publishing, 41 Sutter St. #1108,
San Francisco, CA 94104. FtH has only gotten bigger and more inter-
esting with every issue; each has a good balance of non-fiction (quite
often actively political) pieces, sexy fiction for ALL kinds of
tastes, and news and reviews of the sexual revolution. Subs are $16/4
issues. Unfortunately spotty publication record recently.

_Bad Attitude_, P.O. Box 39110, Cambridge, MA 02139. Bigger than
_Brat Attack_, and mostly fiction, again by SM dykes. Some very
strong and gripping stuff. $24/6 issues.

<<O>>, c/o Dream Dresser, Inc., 1042 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington,
DC 20007. <<O>> is for those who love latex. Some of the most
beautiful fetish photography I've ever seen. Subs are $150 for six
(legal-size, full-color glossy, 80-page) issues.

_Venus Infers_, 2215-R Market Street, Suite 294, San Francisco, CA
94114. $8/issue. This is a new, smart, hot S/M magazine by lesbians
for (mostly) lesbians. It's got art, it's got writing, it's got good
design. It's got what it takes. Recommended.


Organizations:

First of all, people who read a.s.b or other SM mailing lists often
form social groups in local areas. Sometimes these groups have
meetings which are open to anyone who wants to swing by. The best way
to find out about these is to post to a.s.b (see question 31 if need
be) and ask whether there's one in your area.

Science fiction cons also often have play parties, which are usually
announced on the net beforehand, and sometimes discreetly advertised
at the con. This is another reasonable way to meet people in the
scene.

There are various regional organizations which continually fluc-
tuate. Look in the back of the _Sandmutopia Guardian_ or _Skin Two_;
they generally include a list in every issue. And look up your local
adult toy store or leather store; they may have leads on any SM groups
near you. Look around--there are lots of people out there who like
this stuff! Here are some of the best-known and most-established SM
organizations:

QSM, PO Box 882242, SF CA 94188. QSM is the best organization in the
world for learning about SM. QSM holds many different classes and
workshops on all aspects of SM. Write to them to get on their mailing
list or to preregister for classes--they also have an extensive list
of books and magazines available by mail order (all the books and
magazines listed above, and then some!).

The Southbay Leather and Uniform Group (SLUG) is an omnisexual club
whose purpose is to promote educational, social, and charitable
activities among people with an interest in Levis, leather, and
uniforms--and all that usually goes with them! The address is SLUG,
Billy De Frank Center, 175 Stockton Avenue, San Jose, CA 95126, (408)
929-SLUG.

The Eulenspiegel Society, PO Box 2783, Grand Central Station, New
York, NY 10163-2783, 212-388-7022. A long-running club for SMers on
the right coast. Well known. They put out a quarterly 64-page
newsletter, as well as another magazine for leatherfolk of color.
Weekly meetings.

The Society of Janus, PO Box 426794, San Francisco, CA 94142.
Organization in the SF Bay Area, open to all genders and persuasions.
Janus is a very safe organization for novices to join. They are aware
of anonymity issues, and hold a variety of workshops and social
events, as well as publish a monthly newsletter.

Threshold, 2554 Lincoln Blvd, Suite 381, Marina Del Rey, CA 90291,
(310) 371-6504. This LA-area group is the best-known pansexual SM
organization in Southern California, and holds a variety of events
from educational to social to political.

BackDrop Club,PO Box 390486, Mountain View, CA 94039-0486. Office:
415-965-4499, BBS: 415-964-3100, FAX: 415-964-3879. A 4,000-member
club, with their own large clubhouse, BBS, and reference library.
They say they are open to people of all sexes and sexualities who
share an interest in SM; play parties, social events, support and
discussion all take place through BackDrop.

The Black Rose, in the Washington DC area. (301) 369-7667 (voicemail
number with address information). A pansexual SM support group with
meetings every Tuesday night. They hold a social event once a month,
open to those who've attended at least two weekly meetings. There are
also subgroups (one is women-only).

Chicagoland Discussion Group, 3023 N. Clark St #806, Chicago, IL
60657-5205, 24-hour info-line 312-281-1097. A pansexual SM/fetish
group, with events, a newsletter, parties, and outreach. A wide
variety of interests are represented.

LUXURIA, PO BOX 53063, Ottawa, ON, K1N 1C5; (613)567-9033. A
pan-sexual-orientation & kink group whose main focus is networking and
info exchange. There's a magazine, phone line, and BBS echo dedicated
to it.

APEX, the Arizona Power Exchange, 5821 North 67th Avenue, Suite
103-276, Glendale, Arizona 85301. We are a pansexual, panfetish
support and social group, for people with dominant/submissive desires,
treating the S/M, B&D and fetish experience with acceptance, respect
and dignity. For meeting locations, please call (602) 906-0851.

The National Leather Association, 584 Castro Street #444, San Fran-
cisco, CA 94114-2500, (415) 863-2444. A nationwide group open to
everyone into leather/SM. The NLA has many local chapters; there's
probably one in your area! They hold social events, support groups,
political rallies, and lots more besides. If you want to meet other
like-minded people, the NLA's a fine place to start.

San Francisco Sex Information, (415) 621-7300. SFSI is a volunteer
information and referral service for all aspects of human sexuality--
SM included! If you have a question about some scene you've done or
are considering doing, and you want to talk to someone who can answer
your questions anonymously and nonjudgmentally, give us a call! (I'm
a volunteer, and it's really great!) In fact, if you have a question
about ANY aspect of human sexuality, we can help. The lines are open
3 to 9 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday, and from 3 to 9 most
Sundays as well.

Atlanta S/M Solidarity, P.O. Box 8361, Atlanta, GA 31106. A Georgia
group of SM enthusiasts, with workshops, socials, etc.

The D&S Society of Baltimore, DSSB@aol.com, P.O. Box 20248, Towson, MD
21284-0248. Information line (410) 385-3331. A Pansexual BDSM
support group with events and meetings the first 2 Friday's of the
month and a members only Social on the 3rd Friday of the month; also a
newsletter.


Mail-order houses:

Most of these places require you to state that you're 21 or over when
ordering. (This list in particular could use all the expansion it can
get, since I know little about toy stores outside the SF Bay Area.
Send me your favorite local shops' addresses, and I'll put 'em in
here!)

As I mentioned above, QSM does mail-order of books and magazines.

Good Vibrations, 1210 Valencia, San Francisco, CA 94110, (800)
BUY-VIBE (289-9423), goodvibe@well.sf.ca.us (yes, they are on the
Internet!). An excellent non-sleazy erotica store, woman-owned, with
lots of good books and magazines about sex and a nice selection of
basic sex toys. If you want to order any of the books in this FAQ,
you could likely get them from here--and if not from here, from QSM.
Not an SM store, but a good one nonetheless. Send them $5 for
first-class-mailed catalogs of their books and toys.

Mr. S Leathers, 310 7th St., San Francisco, CA 94103, (415) 863-7764.
Possibly the best-stocked store for SM equipment in the world. Lots
and lots of really well-made bondage gear, including metal shackles
and leather straightjackets, and a HUGE handcuff selection, not to
mention amazing amounts of leather and rubber clothing. They have
just completed a two-volume 160-page gorgeously-photographed catalog
of all of their wares; it's available for $15.

Leather Masters, 969 Park Avenue, San Jose, CA 95126, (408) 293-7660.
Leather Masters is a toy store featuring custom leather, cleaning and
alterations, novelties and cards, body piercing, B&D equipment,
videos, and latex. Mail order catalog and newsletter are available.

Northbound Leather, 19 St. Nicholas St., Toronto, Ontario M4Y 1W5. +1
416 972-1037. This is an up-and-coming leather store with an
excellent reputation for quality and for unusual latex and leather
good. Two *very* nice catalogues (one clothing, one toys) at $10
each, applicable towards purchase. Fit guaranteed for mail order if
their (very detailed) measurement instructions are followed.

Slimwear of America, P.O. Box 997, Eastsound, WA 98245, (206)376-5213
(machine), (206)376-5231 (fax). A widely-known supplier of rubber-
wear and assorted latexery. Clothes catalog $17.50, hood/gag listing
$6.00, both $22.00 postpaid.

Heartwood Whips of Passion, 412 N. Coast Hwy. #210, Laguna Beach, CA
92651. Some of the best leather whips and floggers to be found,
anywhere. Jeanne's whips are works of art, whether they're being used
or not.

Bondage, James Bondage, Inc. 7926 Woodvale Cir., Tampa, FL 33615,
(813) 443-3658. Purveyors of assorted bondage gear, videos, and
magazines, I believe.

JT Toys, Inc., (800) 755-TOYS, jttoys@world.std.com. JT (Joel Tucker
by name) has an excellent selection of quality SM equipment and prices
lower than any. Plus he's a great guy to do business with.

Cecilia Tan, a long-time presence on a.s.b, now has a business:
Circlet Press Mail Order Books, P.O. Box 15143, Boston, MA 02215. She
says they carry all manner of kinky and erotic fiction and nonfiction,
specializing in leather/fetishes/SM. A catalog is free with a 29-cent
SASE or by email (she's ctan@world.std.com).

Constance Enterprises Ltd., PO Box 43079, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043.
Also Dressing for Pleasure, 590 Valley Road, Upper Montclair, NJ,
(201) 746-5466. An upscale business, selling fashions and toys for
people into BDSM.

Il Bolero, 6846-6842 St-Hubert St., Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2S 2M6,
(514) 270-6065. Don't know much about this store except that it's got
a lot of Northbound Leather's stuff.

Bon-Vue Enterprise, Inc., owned and operated by Bill and Debbie Majors
(who sometimes post to a.s.b), produces B&D videos, magazines, comics,
art portfolios, pocket books, and other products; most of their stuff
is male dom/female sub. They also operate the Hedonism BBS at (310)
631-7697. A catalog is $5.00 and can be obtained from: Bon-Vue
Enterprises, Inc., P.O. Box 92889, Long Beach, CA 90803. They offer a
total satisfaction guarantee policy that is "unique in the adult
industry". Phone: (310) 631-1600.

BR Creations in Mountain View makes custom-made corsets--P.O. Box
4201, Mountain View, CA 94040, catalog $5. Excellent quality.

Mark I. Chester makes spandex body bags and hoods; he's at P. O. Box
|42501, SF, CA 94101, (415) 621-6294.

For a sharp touch, get some Vampire Gloves from Leonard at Lucifer's
Armory. Contact ixion@dorsai.org, Box 808, 874 Broadway, New York, NY
10003.

ASLAN LEATHER by Carrie, 363 Sorauren Ave. Box 58, Toronto, Ontario,
Canada M6R 2G5, (416) 538-9759. Carrie makes non-leather bondage
equipment, for vegans who eschew animal products in their toys. (She
also makes leather stuff for the rest of us.)

I'm told that you can call (800) 305-5525 for a catalog of modern
chastity belts.

The classic magazines of "love bondage" (i.e. pretty women posing in
lingerie and bondage) are available from Harmony Concepts, Box 69976,
Los Angeles, CA 90069.

A wide variety of sexy spandex bondage gear is available from Noelle
Nielson Softwear, Box 69826, Los Angeles, CA 90069. Write for
information.

Here's a rather hot ad I recently received: "JG Leathers is a
manufacturer of custom, specialized, leather and rubber discipline
harnesses. Types include pony- girl or pony-boy full-body harnesses,
with separate bridle and bit, cow-girl or cow-boy milking discipline
harnesses. All harnesses designed and manufactured to be suspension-
capable, and when used in conjunction with speciallY modified gas
masks can also be used for sensory-deprivation, breathe control, and
electrical 'aversion therapy' techniques. Standard toys are also made
to the customer's specifications. Catalogue costs $5.00 usd/$6.50
cad. The address is JG Leathers, 5324 10A Avenue, Delta, B.C., Canada
V4M 1Y6."

The Naughty Victorian (2315-B Forest Drive, Suite 68, Annapolis, MD
21401; Tel.: 1-800-778-7428; Fax: 410-626-1879). Offering "the finest
body of literature, clothing, implements and accessories" for "the
practice of adult domestic discipline." Catalog available for $5.

For those who enjoy making their own toys, I'm told that a great
source for leather hides and tools is the M. Siegel Company, Inc., 120
Pond Street (Route 126), Ashland, MA 01721. Phone (508)881-5200, fax
(508)881-5203, orders only (800)932-8956. They keep odd hours and
have certain minimum-order sizes, so call first.

(If you're in San Francisco, stop by Stormy Leather, 1158 Howard St.,
San Francisco, CA 94103, (415) 626-1672. A woman-owned store with an
excellent selection of sexy leather and latex clothes, good basic
bondage gear, and a wonderful magazine and book section. They cater
to both men and women, so they'll have toys to fit you; they also do
custom orders. They have unfortunately stopped doing mail orders.)

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Hope you learned something! Remember, your sexuality is wonderful;
treasure it and nourish it!