by Alexandra Palmer
Information about and illustrations of heterosexual cisgender vanilla sex are all many of us have in regards to formal education about sex. It is touted by some as the only sex one “should” be having unless they are at the very least a “pervert”. This hetero-cis-vanilla language we are given with which to explore our needs and desires leaves many of us feeling unwelcome and without a voice. The pressure we are under from cultural norms that disregard some sensations as valid forms of pleasure has been longstanding and influenced by history’s major religions.
Attitudes are changing, however, and people are beginning to see beyond their own narrow experiences. Only now are schools starting to educate students about LGBTQI relationships. But normalizing different sensations, wants and needs in sexual and nonsexual activity is still a very long way off in regards to being taught in schools.
Students are not being taught basic sexual literacy of how to navigate and negotiate sex for mutual benefit. They are only beginning to explore language around consent and how to effectively establish boundaries. But what about the grownups? Where can they learn about this new culture of respect and consent?
As you age the communication around sexuality dries up and gone are the days where you excitedly discuss your feelings and adventures with your friends. It is curious how the discussion fades and intimate whispers slip away and then this can morph into desires that some may bury out of fear of being “different”.
In the BDSM community, consent and communication are the primary focus, as opposed to an assumed afterthought. Carol Queen can be quoted here stating: “The BDSM players are among the only people on the planet who elevate sexual and erotic communication this way.” (Pfeiffer 2017.)
As to what is discussed: there can be hard limits (things not to be done under any circumstances), soft limits (with proper discussion preparation and mutual trust these things could potentially happen) to Kinks and Fetishes that the person desires during the scene (sexual act). There are thousands of kinks; from the very mild, such as an erotic affinity for stockings to the extreme: bondage and sadism. Nor are these preference locked in stone: one day you may be up for an intense sensation and the next you may prefer a much different type of play. People in the community see their own growth and tastes change as they become more familiar with themselves and their limits playing in a space where communication and consent are the highest priority.
By contrast, in a traditional encounter we see one party (usually a woman) say nothing and that will usually imply that the woman has consented to whatever is about to happen next (in traditional encounters its often hard to predict). In BDSM space a lack of an articulated “no” does not automatically mean a “yes”: it means that more communication is needed. At the end of a traditional encounter the act ends and often the people go their separate ways. In a scene there is aftercare that is determined usually by the sub on how they would most like to be treated after a scene. Some like to be alone; some they like cuddling; some weighted blankets. Such preferences are as individual as sexual tastes themselves.
Kink and BDSM have a place in our sexual lexicon. To ignore the healthy things that are happening in these communities because it seems extreme does not invalidate the lessons we can learn from the experience of these communities. If we all started to use these basic skills of respecting what is not yours and leaving it alone unless you have been given explicit permission to touch it. (This is honestly what it boils down to), we could create an environment of sexual safety and empowerment. We could be reinforcing those lessons just beginning to be taught to our children. We could be creating a happier and undoubtedly better and healthier sex life for ourself’s. Life is too short for bad sex. Communication and mutual consent should be in everyone’s tool kit, not just that of the kink community.