reading series 4.1



Many people have passed through my life, and I have had many different friends. Some of these friendships were fleeting, encapsulated in a moment of time, and left there; our paths have never crossed again. With the advent of social media, I’m now part of a generation that can easily reach out to people they’ve known throughout their lives. Friendships that would have been lost due to time and distance can be renewed in ways that have never been easier. In the recent past, phone calls and letters would have been the only way to connect with people you didn’t see on a regular basis. However, not everyone is on facebook, not everyone wants their past to catch up to their present, not everyone wants to be found.

The world my children are growing up in is very different than the one I grew up in. Their friendships are intertwined with technology. Their ideas of space and distance and time are affected by growing up in a world where the internet is their primary tool of communication. If a friend moves to another state, they can still stay in touch easily through social media and can chat and skype in real time. When I was a child, if a friend moved, that meant I would probably never see them again, unless we made a concerted effort to write or phone (which would have been expensive), and even that probably wouldn’t necessarily stand the test of time. It makes me wonder how this technological immediacy to our lives also affects our ideas about moving away, starting over, making a break, or beginning again, anew.

When I met Ben, I didn’t even have a computer. I was still holding on to my old canon word processor, even though the guy at the “we fix everything” store told me that computers were the way of the future, and that sooner or later there wouldn’t be any parts available to fix my ailing word processor (which is exactly what happened). There was no such thing as cell phones. Some people had pagers back then, but neither of us did. We relied on seeing each other and talking on the phone.

Ben and I met at work and became fast friends. And not just fast friends, amazing friends, best friends. We became extraordinarily close in a very short time, and only for a short time. After a few months, he would leave the job for a new one, our schedules would no longer coincide, and eventually we would lose contact altogether. But I didn’t know that then. We had an instant, sort of explosive, friendship, where we both brought out the utmost wildness and weirdness in each other. We were searching, searching, searching. If he was into girls, I am positive that we would have become lovers. We would talk on the phone for hours in the middle of the night, giving each other reasons to stay awake and alive. We did drugs together. We drove into Manhattan, dressed to the nines, looking for the bar named Hell, and when we found it, we didn’t like it, and we caused a scene. At work, we laughed too loud and we talked too loud and we turned up the music in the cafe too loud. We didn’t care, we jumped up and down, trying to hit the ceiling with the end of our brooms.

One of the last times I hung out with Ben, we had an epic day. He wanted to get his hair cut, and I went with him to the salon. But he didn’t want to be the only one getting his hair cut, so I got a haircut too. After, we decided to check out the tattoo parlor nearby. Ben said that he wanted to get a tattoo, and he thought it was awesomely cheesy to go in and pick a tattoo off the wall. We laughed and laughed. He went to the bank to get more money, and decided to get us both tattoos. We decided to get Asian symbols, the epitome of lame, but we would rock it, we would own that shit. He decided to get his symbol tattooed high on his arm, in place of the needle. I decided to get my symbol tattooed on my wrist, in place of the knife.

“No,” he said, looking at the symbol I picked out.


I was thinking of the line from Josephine Hart’s book, “Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.”

But Ben knew better.

“Get this instead,” he said, pointing to another symbol.


That night we had a picnic on the beach and watched the sunset. We drank wine and ate bread and cheese and chocolate. Afterwards, we stopped at a carnival and rode the ferris wheel. We went back to his house and tried to sleep but couldn’t, so we talked until the sun came up and the bagel stores opened. We talked about our new tattoos, how they would be a reminder. He would always have peace and I would always have strength. We took a walk in the park and sat down by a river and ate our breakfast. He told me that he wished I was a guy. And it hurt my feelings. But it laid bare the one boundary between us. We would never be any closer than we were at that moment. I loved him then, and I love him now. And over the years, I’ve often thought of him, and always with love. He gave me an incredible gift. When the pain was so great and I thought I had lost myself and I didn’t think I could go on, sometimes the one thing stopping me was that tattoo.

Thank you, Ben.

The above picture is my own; it is a snapshot of the kanji on my wrist. Many years later, I used the experience of getting that tattoo in a poem. The poem was published, one of my early publications, and it still remains close to my heart. As part of my reading series, I wanted to share this story. You can read my poem “first, body” here.




first, body

The scar is blue-black, ink stained
into her skin. He holds her wrist like paper
thin parchment, rubs his thumb over the
kanji as if feeling for a pulse, and says
tell me about this one.
She does not name it; she knows he can see
the vertical mark running up her vein.
She tells him it was her fifth, and took
the longest to heal; the wound scabbed
twice before the skin accepted it
as part of her body.

She watches him in the soft light,
standing before her without a shirt, sleeved
in kaleidoscopic colour. She imagines
his sun against her tree, her ankh against
his krishna, the canvas of their bodies
a landscape of hollows, flesh and bone, light
and dark, blood brain heart.
Touching his shoulder blade gently, now
she will ask and he will answer
reading the map of each other’s body
this is how they begin.


Originally published in Copper Nickel

into the woods



I am absolutely thrilled to announce the cover for Into The Woods, my collection of dark and erotic stories!! Right now, I am waiting for my proof copy to arrive!! Once I approve the proof, the book will be available for purchase.  The collection features nine stories; some of the stories have been published individually in the past, while others will be brand new to readers. There are also ex libris illustrations throughout the book by one of my favorite artists, Alphonse Inoue!!


Into The Woods …

Escape into nine dark and erotic stories which explore sex and transformation written in dreams across the body, etched in the language of skin.

Each story is interwoven with magic, music, and art, as lost and damaged characters navigate their broken worlds, searching for wholeness and connection. Many of the stories are sexually explicit, engaging the reader in aspects of kink, fetish, and BDSM play. Some stories represent sexual trauma (abuse, rape, negligence and cruelty). Other stories seek to explore the esoteric, transcendent and transformative power of sex.

Into The Woods is a unique and beautifully crafted collection of stories, rooted in the female, immersed in the sexual and the spiritual, and steeped in the rich archetypal landscape of fairy tales and mythology.


I am so thankful to Dave Mitchell and the publishing collective of Oneiros Books for believing in my work and seeing a published book in the first draft of my manuscript. I love all of the stories in this collection; they are ridiculously close to my heart. I am amazed by the way this collection of stories has grown into a cohesive body of work, and I feel both proud and humbled by this beautiful book.

I just want to also take a moment and thank all of the people in my life, who know me personally or who have grown to know me via the internet, for their constant support and love. The path of a writer is not always an easy one, and having people who believe in me, who believe in my work, and who support my efforts as an artist in this world … I am blessed in so many ways, by so many different people … Thank you. xo


UPDATE 3/21: The book is now available for purchase in both paperback and e-book formats! The paperback version includes illustrations by Alphonse Inoue. The e-book is text only. The title is still in distribution so within the next six to eight weeks, the book will be available pretty much everywhere!! So excited!!!

der kuss


I am thrilled to announce the German translation of Fairy Tale Lust, edited by Kristina Wright and published by Cleis Press: Kristina Wright’s … dann treiben sie’s noch heute. This anthology contains my story “The Kiss.” (Der Kuss!) Considering the rich history of fairy tales in Germany, it is quite an honor for this particular anthology to be translated into the vernacular. Many thanks to Kristina Wright, Cleis Press, and Bastei Lubbe.

Ich bin begeistert, die deutsche Übersetzung der Märchen Lust, von Kristina Wright bearbeitet und herausgegeben von Cleis Press verkünden: Kristina Wright Dann treiben sie’s noch heute. Diese Anthologie enthält meine Geschichte “Der Kuss“. Angesichts der reichen Geschichte von Märchen in Deutschland, ist es durchaus eine Ehre für diese besondere Anthologie in die Volkssprache übersetzt werden. Vielen Dank an Cleis Press, Kristina Wright, und Bastei Lübbe.

Liebe Freunde, Ich bin mit einem Übersetzungsprogramm, so bitte entschuldigen Sie meine schlechte Grammatik! Ich hoffe, Sie genießen das Buch zu lesen. Danke. xo


dream lover


He descended every night.

Some nights, the steps were light, and he found himself in a sun dappled wood, surrounded by blue sky and bird song, the stairs nature-made from loam and rock. Other nights, the staircase was cold and dark, a spiraling descent that saw no end into the blackness below, and Paul would guide himself by feeling the damp stone walls, moving slowly, carefully; the only sounds being the echo of his footfall and his shallow breath.

He descended each and every night, and lost himself in a world of dreams, falling deeply, dangerously, into sleep, into the blissful arms of Lily, his dream lover.

It had been months since he conquered his insomnia, the long dark sickness that he battled night after night over the previous year, leaving him exhausted each day when the sun rose. Each sleep-deprived morning Paul cursed the brightening sky, reluctant to continue what had become his life, days strung-out without promise; without sleep, there was no break, no renewal.

He would go days without blessed unconsciousness, days without closing his red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes. Paul continued to work at the insurance agency, but he became ill-tempered, erratic. His co-workers whispered, eyes upon him, and stopped talking when he was near. A meeting with his supervisor found him demoted to paperwork and moved to another part of the building, away from customers and clients, away from the most perfunctory human contact.

Paul never had a problem with sleep before, he had explained to his new wife. They had been married for two months when the insomnia kicked in; he had two months of sleeping beside his bride before his world began to unravel.


He and Grace had met at a mutual friend’s wedding not quite a year prior. They were placed at the same table with the other single guests, an odd mix of lonely spinsters, confirmed bachelors, and distant relatives. Perhaps it was the spell of the wedding, but they felt drawn to one another. In between the salad and the main course, they began to converse; Grace criticized the greens as wilted, the steak over-done. Paul, emboldened by his visits to the open bar, had pushed away the food and asked her to dance.

They had moved together awkwardly, his hand pressed against her back, held flat against her bra strap. Grace insisted on leading; he had to keep reminding himself to follow. Later, swept away in a buzzed haze, Paul had escorted her outside for a breath of fresh air and fumbled towards her in the darkness, mouth against mouth, cheek, neck, shoulder. Grace had firmly but gently pushed him away and patted her hair back into place.

They had several, appropriately proper, dates in the months that followed, and quickly settled into a quiet routine of sexless companionship. While it was not exciting, it was comfortable; and before the year was done, they were married. Paul had hoped that the situation would improve after their marriage, when they shared a bed as husband and wife. It didn’t. Two months later, Paul found that he could sleep no more. He had a makeshift bed on the living room couch, a mockery.

At first, Grace was patient, a concerned wife. She suggested therapy, hypnosis, a sleep clinic; nothing worked.

He tried sleeping pills, taking two, five, ten, handfuls of pills that should have killed him. He began drinking, hard, hoping that he would blackout and put an end to the torture which held him awake, night after night. After a year, Grace gave him an ultimatum: either he get his sleep under control or she would file for divorce.

And as suddenly as the insomnia had taken over and wreaked its terrible havoc on his mind, his marriage, his life – it stopped.

The sleep that had once evaded him now overtook him. He could not wait to go to sleep, to alter his consciousness, to descend the changing staircase that lead, night after night, to the delicious landscape of his dreams.

But Paul found it harder and harder to wake.

The alarm became useless, and Grace found herself with the task of waking him each morning. She hated waking him. She hated the sight of his sleeping form; eyes closed, body still and heavy as death.

She shook him, yelled and cursed at him. She threw up her hands, disgusted, half-wishing he still had insomnia, half-wishing she had never married him. She wanted to leave, to just walk away from him, leave and start over. She wanted to let him deal with his nightly afflictions, let him stay in his disturbed dreams, let him sleep his life away.


“She’s trying to wake you.”

Paul touched the strands of ivy in Lily’s earth-black hair. They laid together on the forest floor. He kissed her hands, and inhaled the scent of her bracelets as he touched the climbing vines and flowers binding her wrists.

“How did I find you?” Paul asked her, gazing into her eyes.

“I found you.” Lily laughed, a light and airy laugh that fell into the air around them and rose higher, touching upon the canopy of trees and leaves above. A dawn chorus of birds answered the sound; light fell across their naked skin.

Paul ran his hands along her body, and remembered.

The first night, that first night he fell into sleep, all was blackness, a nightmare of darkness in a tangled wood. He walked into the abyss, tripping over rocks and branches. Unseen things reached out and scratched his face and arms; he was blinded by the absence of light.

Then he saw a flicker of a candle in the distance. A single, dancing flame led him forward, guiding him towards a torch-lit mansion. The expanse was grand and beautiful, and staircases were everywhere; Paul froze in the entrance hall, blinking in the surreal landscape, finding himself in an Escher drawing come to life.

A movement caused the slightest sound, and turned his eye to the small light advancing on the highest ladder of stairs. It was a blur of figure, a flicker of flame, seducing him onward. He followed, as he had followed through the wood, trusting that this strange dream would soon find him awake, bursting breathless into consciousness.

At the top of the stairs, Paul saw a sliver of orange light, a door ajar.

He pushed open the door, and there she was. A mirage, a fantasy. More beautiful than any woman, real or imagined, he had ever seen.

She was lying half-suspended, reclining on a four poster bed.

The bed was shaped from earth and clay, and covered with a green mantle of soft moss. Each post was a young tree, and the canopy was intricately woven with branches and boughs. Vines of moon-flower and climbing datura were trained across it, blooming obscenely, seductively, in the diffuse light.

Her arms were raised in crucifixion and her legs were tied to each shaft by ropes of braided green stems. Torches lit the room and dancing shadows revealed walls lined with instruments of pleasure and pain. Incense burned sweetly, infusing the room with a soporific haze.

Paul felt his knees go weak, and reached out for something to support his fall. The woman in the bed did not speak. Her eyes stared through him; her face was luminous, her body was a sculpture tended by erotic hands, unreal, unparalleled loveliness.

He was sweating, desire burned through him. He took a deep breath and wiped his brow. A dream, he thought. He wanted to touch her. Could he touch her? He looked at the walls, and excruciating thoughts of pleasure dominated his mind.

“Yes” she said, raising her eyes to meet his. Hearing her voice, ethereal and sultry, caused a shock to run through his body.


The word hung in the air between them; light as jasmine and vervain, perfume wafting from an open bottle, heavy as the hanging blossoms of datura and moon-flower above the bed..

“Please” she whispered. “You know what I want. You know what I need.”

And after that first night, each and every night found him searching for the place he would find her; she was his fantasy, his deepest desire come true. There was no limit to the places they would explore; each night was an erotic feast, a sexual playground of boundless, raw desire. Night after night, their bodies twisted and entwined, aching with an insatiable craving to feed their tortured hunger.

“Paul, she’s trying to wake you.” Lily reminded him.

“I don’t want to go back.” Paul said.

“You’ve been saying that for months,” Lily frowned. “I’m starting to not believe you.”

She gave him a somber kiss, then pushed him into wakefulness.


The light hurt his eyes; Grace was standing over him. Her face was distorted in anger. His head hurt. Paul rubbed his head, trying to break through the cloudiness of his mind. He felt hung-over but he knew he hadn’t drank the night before. Or had he? He could barely remember anything these days. He closed his eyes.

Grace glanced at the watch on her arm and glared at him.

“You’re going to be late again.”

He was drifting, his hand reached out, and fell empty on the crisp cotton sheets of the bed. She was gone. He turned over, trying to find his way out of this nightmare, back to the forest, back to Lily.

“You’re falling back asleep.”

No, Paul thought, raising his hands instinctively over his ears. He squeezed his eyes shut, searching the darkness, trying to find the threads of unconsciousness that would lead him back to his dream.

“Don’t go back to sleep.”

Her voice wouldn’t let him go.

He ran desperately throughout the forest, but all was quiet, empty. There was no trace of Lily; he frantically turned around and around, calling out her name. Even the birds were silent.

Grace pulled the covers off him, exposing his body from head to toe. Paul’s feet were revealed, caked with dirt. What looked like crushed leaves littered the end of the bed. She stopped, mouth open. “What the hell?”

“Are you sleep walking now?” She exhaled noisily.

“Where the hell were you last night?”

Her voice. Paul struggled to pull the covers back over him.

“Don’t go back to sleep!” Grace yelled.

Paul lashed out, pushing her away, pushing her with such force that she lost her balance and fell onto to the floor.

“I’m done.” She screamed at him. “I don’t care if you sleep forever.”

Grace got up and left the room. The angry step of her heels pounded across the hard wood floor, and a few seconds later, the front door slammed shut.

The sound shook the floor boards.


He was descending into ruin.

The stairs were wooden, crooked, and broken in places. The house had fallen apart. The steps creaked and threatened to give under his weight. He felt the sharp pain of a splinter in his soft arch. He cried out.

Lily appeared at the foot of the steps.

“Did you hurt yourself?”

The basement of the house was dark, damp with decay. Lily looked more beautiful than ever, the dark green pools of her eyes were still and calm. Her body was adorned with flowers and leaves, and the scent of her spun around him, enchanting and intoxicating him.

“Sit down, my Love.”

Paul sat in a large wooden chair. The seat was covered with bright green moss. She knelt before him on the earthen floor and took his foot into her hands. She used a pine needle to drive the splinter out of his skin, then kissed the wound.

“I’m sorry,” she said, and backed away from him as thorny vines slowly began to trap Paul’s arms and legs to the wooden frame of the chair.

He looked at Lily in alarm. “What is this?”

“You said you don’t want to go back.”

Her face was sensual and cruel as she circled him. “And yet, you do. You leave me over and over again. You go back to your wife, to your life, your life! While I am here, alone in this wretched and desolate place, waiting for you.”

“Lily, I want to be with you. I love you.” Paul struggled against the restraints. His heart began to beat wildly.

“Help me.”

She looked into his liquid, desperate eyes, then kissed him on the lips, drawing his hungry breath into her mouth with furious desire.

When Grace returned from work, she walked angrily into the house, placed some boxes on the floor, and slammed the door. Paul’s car was still in the driveway; he had missed work again.

It didn’t matter, she had made up her mind; it was over. A friend from work had offered her guest room until Grace could find a new apartment. She only needed a few personal items for the remainder of the week; she would make arrangements to retrieve the rest of her possessions later. She grabbed a box and stalked into the bedroom, not even noticing the dirt on the floor.

Her eyes instinctively flicked towards the bed, where she knew he would be asleep. She stood in the doorway, stock-still, unable to make a sound.

Paul’s body was tied to the bed frame, shrouded with green leaves, tangled with roots, and entwined with creepers and flowering vines. Moss covered his eyes; earth filled his open mouth. He did not hear her scream.


The first weak rays of sunlight slowly aroused his shadowy form, and he began to awaken. He opened his eyes and found himself next to Lily, sheltered under a canopy of twisted branches and vines. Morning Glories bloomed around them as the sun stretched and began to flood the sky. He reached for his dream lover, lover of dreams, and fell into the light.



bedded bliss by kristina wright


“In a culture obsessed with sex scandals, casual hookups, betrayal, infidelity, divorce and midlife crises,” Kristina Wright asks, “Where are the other couples like us – the couples who fell in love, tumbled headfirst into bed and are still there, tangled amongst the sheets, laughing, living and loving, for better or worse, every single day of their lives?” The answer to that question is found within the pages of Bedded Bliss: “We are here, we are still in love and lust, and we are happy to share our stories, knowledge, and advice with others.”

Bedded Bliss is unlike other books on sexuality and relationships because of the uniquely personal and practical wisdom shared throughout its pages. This book reminded me of “If the Buddha Married …” by Charlotte Kasl, taken a step further into the complicated and messy reality of sex and love in everyday life. Guided by the warm and welcoming voice of Kristina Wright, the reader is taken on an exploratory journey to the heart of what makes a long-term relationship work. This book is an inspirational and motivational asset to any couple interested in maintaining the love and lust that brought them together in the first place and/or reinvigorating and celebrating the passion to be found again and again in a happy and healthy sexual partnership.

This book understands the importance of sex as the central ingredient keeping “lust ever after” in a life of loving and living together, and offers the reader many ideas for keeping our relationships vibrant as we continue to evolve and grow as individuals and as couples. Bedded Bliss offer a refreshing and realistic look at what makes a married relationship work, and work well, as we navigate a life of personal changes, families, children and parenting, middle-age, hard times, and stress. Throughout, Bedded Bliss is accentuated by the absolute thrill of sharing a committed relationship for better or worse and celebrating the love, lust, communication, trust, playfulness, and intimacy therein.

“Say yes to each other. Every day you’re married, every anniversary you celebrate, say yes happily and with wild abandon,” suggests Kristina Wright, knowing that passion, awareness, acceptance and gratitude are at the root of a happy and healthy marriage. This mindful yes renews our commitment to ourselves and each other, reminding us that love is a flexible, organic, and ever changing gift to be nurtured and celebrated. Bedded Bliss is filled with the many ways we can say yes, illustrated by real life experiences, humor, anecdotes, practical suggestions and advice, and personal, provocative stories by Sommer Marsden, Christopher Cole, Charlotte Stein, Kristina Wright, Jeremy Edwards, Christine d’Abo, Donna George Storey, Robin Elizabeth Sampson, Anya Richards, Heidi Champa, Michael M. Jones, Kate Dominic, and Evan Mora.


Bedded Bliss – A Couples Guide to Lust Ever After
by Kristina Wright
Published by Cleis Press
ISBN 978-1-57344-964-9

Available through: amazon, Barnes and Noble, Cleis Press, and wherever digital and physical books are bought and sold!

KRISTINA WRIGHT ( is an award-winning author whose erotica and erotic romance fiction has appeared in over seventy-five anthologies. Kristina is a member of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, and Passionate Ink. She also received the Golden Heart Award for Romantic Suspense from RWA for her first novel Dangerous Curves. With a BA in English and MA in Humanities with an emphasis on women’s studies and popular culture, Kristina teaches both English and Humanities at the college level. She lives in Chesapeake, VA.

on bdsm


BDSM: Bondage. Discipline. Dominance. Submission. Sadism. Masochism.

I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for quite some time. With the inclusion of my story “Ring of Fire” in the anthology Best Bondage Erotica 2014 (edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and published by Cleis Press), I have been thinking a lot about bondage and BDSM and how people perceive and understand these expressions of sexuality.

I write in different genres, and I’m aware that some people who like my poetry may be getting more than they bargained for when they read my erotica! I know that everyone has different boundaries, and sometimes my familiarity with erotica and sex based communities makes me think that people are much more sexually open, aware, and educated than they actually are. At the core of BDSM is both sex and education. Most people who identify with BDSM share an open mind, self-awareness, a strong interest in sex and sexuality, and a willingness to learn, to experiment, and to explore sex in its many different facets.

People who engage in BDSM can have very loving, stable, and healthy relationships. People can also engage in BDSM activities without having any relationship outside of play. The dynamic can be monogamous or poly. The people involved can be homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, and any other type of orientation one can think of. The rules are made up by the players, and the essential ingredients for a strong BDSM relationship are the same ingredients that make up any other “type” of intimate relationship – communication, trust, respect, and love.

The fact is that BDSM is a label. It’s a label that opens the door to kink and fetish very quickly. And once that door is opened, there is a whole world to explore. Using this term is a way to identify a certain set of behaviors that occur, but that doesn’t mean that two people who are “into BDSM” are into the same things. The label covers a very broad category and attempts to define types of sexually charged behaviors, so we all have a general understanding of what we’re talking about when we use the term. Still, our connotations of these definitions vary greatly, even among people who self-identify with BDSM.

Because I have written several stories relating to BDSM themes, I feel that I have a responsibility to provide some type of map and to define the terrain I’ve asked the reader to travel. Sex is an incredibly personal subject. I feel that BDSM is inherent to sex, meaning that BDSM activities exaggerate and amplify what is already present within us and underlying our sexual interactions.  I believe that is the most important connection that many people fail to understand about BDSM.

When two people have sex, at some point, one of them will have to be the giver and one of them will have to be the taker. This is the natural sexual dynamic, and it is a power dynamic. Often, people who consider themselves “normal” enjoy the feeling of being weighed upon by another body or being held down while having sex. They enjoy the sensory stimulation of touching and being touched. They like sex hard and rough. They like sex soft and gentle. They enjoy learning about sex through each others bodies. They like wearing special things to feel sexy and to give visual stimulation. These are “normal” feelings, explored and taken to a further extreme in BDSM.

Within the world of BDSM, there is some specific vocabulary. When people engage in BDSM, they are “playing.” The event in which two or more people are playing together is called a “scene.” I think it is important to note the meaning these words have in our general vocabulary to understand this mindset. In BDSM, playfulness and creativity are celebrated. Roles are taken on which further exaggerate our natural tendencies. People into BDSM are categorized in roles of Dominant, Submissive, and Switch.  A dominant person (also known as Top, Master, Madam, Mistress, Sir) is a person who likes to be in control and who prefers to be the sexual aggressor. A submissive person (also known as Bottom, Sub, Slave) is a person who relinquishes control and prefers to be the sexual recipient. A switch is a person who “switches” between these two roles.

Power play is an important aspect to BDSM, but both dominants and submissives have their own particular power. Communication and trust are prerequisites to play, and essential to the BDSM dynamic. The terms of Dominance and submission are rooted in sexual expression and often, one’s personality and sexual behaviors coincide and follow a similar patterning. However, a type-A person who is aggressive and appears to be a control freak may not necessarily be sexually dominant – that may be an area of their life where they willingly and gratefully give up their sense of control. Giving oneself to another is an act of power. Submissives are not doormats. Dominants are not tyrants. Sex is full of variables, and uniquely specific to each person. Our impulses, needs, wants, and desires are part of our genetic make-up,  hardwired from birth, and are either nurtured or repressed.

The parts of ourselves that are nurtured will continue to grow and develop. The parts we repress can lead to dysfunction and distance from the self. There are certain instances where repression is necessary in our society, and this extends into what is considered taboo. For example, movies are rated according to language, violence, nudity, and general adult content. Some of these topics may border on taboo, but because of the cathartic nature of the medium, these topics are considered acceptable within the parameters of consent and age restriction. Something taboo goes against the rules and mores of a given society, and is generally considered “wrong.” Any society that does not want to descend into absolute chaos needs some type of outline and structure. Rules are necessary to define what is acceptable and not acceptable for a functioning society.

Taboo subjects that are sexual in nature include necrophilia, rape, bestiality, child molestation, and incest. In all these cases, the taboo arises because of the concept of “consent.” A person who is dead, unconscious, or raped is taken without consent. Animals have no way to consent, or even comprehend the nature of human sexuality – just as children are not capable of that kind of understanding. Any being who is forced into a sex or sexual situations without their consent can be psychologically and physically damaged.The taboo against child molestation and incest protects the child’s vulnerability within social and family structures and their dependence on the adults in their lives to teach them right and wrong. These taboos exist as a measure of protection.

BDSM edges taboo because of how it intertwines sex and violence in ways that may make some people uncomfortable, but it is not taboo primarily because it is consensual. It is spoken about and defined in ways to achieve a deeper relationship with sexuality and sexual expression. It is a deliberate and conscious engagement with agreed upon rules and limits. Sex itself is a violent act. There is nothing subtle about penetration. The act of sex is invasive and intensely personal. BDSM plays with and exaggerates what is already present in sexuality in order to go deeper into sexuality, to push against boundaries and limits and explore the edges, to expose and manipulate the exchange of power in sex, and ultimately, to understand ourselves better as sexual persons.

One aspect to BDSM that many people don’t seem to like is that some of the behaviors can be perceived as violence. Hitting and striking a person is perceived as violent, and violence in our society is generally looked down upon. We provide avenues for violence through television, video games, movies, sports, etc … one could look at BDSM as another type of avenue. The fact is that human beings are naturally a violent species. Anyone who has worked with very young children can attest to that. We train children not to hit. We train them not to bite. We teach them that expressing anger in violence is bad. And that works for the greater society, so we can coexist and live together somewhat peacefully. But the violence is still within us. We repress it and we channel it in other ways.

Why is it okay for one person to hit another in the context of BDSM? I feel that the biggest reason why it is okay is because it is not the kind of violence that springs from anger and rage – it is sensory stimulation and sexualized touch. It is consensual enacting and conscious agreement, and that is not really violence. We have learned negative associations to expressing touch in a rough manner. We all have different thresholds for what we consider pleasure and what we consider pain. Those who venture into BDSM seem to have a higher need and threshold for sensory stimulation (which includes a range of soft touch to hard touch, neither of which is good or bad).

All BDSM literature says that one should never play with his or her partner if there is real anger involved, and goes further to say that drugs or alcohol should not be used during play so that each partner is as cognizant and aware of what is going on as possible. Safety is another aspect to BDSM that differentiates the type of violence that is being accessed. Many people use a “safeword” to make sure that the play will stop immediately if someone becomes uncomfortable. In BDSM activity where hitting and striking is involved, there are still limits; breaking the skin and leaving lasting marks or scars are unacceptable by most standards. BDSM play demands a higher level of education and awareness about sex and during sexual activities because of the risk levels involved.

As I said before, I feel that BDSM is inherent to sex, meaning that BDSM activities exaggerate and amplify what is already present within us. We are a violent species who have attempted to train ourselves that anger is bad and violence is wrong. And we have learned to express our anger positively and channel our aggression and violent tendencies in ways that are safe. We have received so many mixed messages about sex and sexuality and gender roles and power dynamics while growing up, we have very complicated feelings about ourselves as sexual beings, and this all comes out during sex. As a result, some people are very distant from their sexual selves. There may be fear or guilt or embarrassment involved. However, there is always potential to heal, to change, and to grow. The risk of opening oneself up is worth the reward of understanding oneself better. The fact is that sex is not only one of the greatest mysteries of life, it is the key of life. Sex is the essence of our existence.

Engaging in BDSM activities and behaviors in a conscious way explores our personal and social and sexual boundaries, and provides a framework to do so positively and safely. There is always risk involved. High risk players engage in more extreme types of BDSM, but they also have a higher responsibility to make sure that they are well educated in what they are doing, so that everyone involved has the best experience possible, and no one gets killed or seriously injured while playing. Knowledge is the highest form of power.

Defining BDSM

Bondage is the physical restraint, binding, or tying of the body for the purpose of heightened sensory and sexual response. It is also a visual aesthetic. This is the area that includes ropes, chains, and blindfolds and seems to be the area most people are comfortable with. On Valentines Day, one can see a plethora of bondage type toys in the most normal of stores. Red plastic handcuffs mingle with chocolate hearts in the aisles and it all seems very acceptable.

Types of bondage range from low risk to high risk. Using a blindfold can increase sensory response and is considered low risk. Being suspended or hogtied in bondage also increases sensory response, but carry higher risks and require more education to execute. Besides physical bondage, there is also a mental type of bondage, where a person belongs to another.  A Dominant belongs to his or her submissive as much as a submissive belongs to his or her Dominant, no matter what the power differential is during play. This kind of dynamic is already found in our institution of marriage. The concept of “collaring” in a BDSM relationship is a symbol akin to a marriage ring.

Discipline is the controlled use of force for the purpose of sensory stimulation, and an activity that expresses controlled violence. I already spoke at length on the role of violence in BDSM, and all of what I have said applies to discipline. Instruments such as whips, floggers, and crops are used to strike and hit the body. This is an area of BDSM that I think most people are uncomfortable with. People immediately think of abuse and all of the messages we have been taught that violence directed towards another is wrong. But Discipline can also include feather-play, tickling, and light touching.

There is a danger of people who have abusive tendencies being drawn to BDSM. However, the use of discipline in a BDSM relationship differs most importantly from abuse in the fact that it is consensual, controlled, and sensory. It is not anger or raw violence. Again, there is a level of education and knowledge base to be achieved before engaging in Discipline. One needs knowledge of the body and knowledge of the tools involved to safely engage in this kind of sensory stimulation.  This activity can be low risk or high risk depending on the extremity in which Discipline is used.

Discipline is also used for the psychological purposes of “punishment” and “training.” I use these terms in quotes because punishment and training in BDSM world relates to play.  A person can be “punished” for any number of reasons, but the punishment is never given in anger, because without that control, this activity could move outside the realm of play and into the realm of abuse. These are risks that people knowledgeable about Discipline are aware and conscious of. It is one thing to take things to the edge; it is quite another to fall over it.

Sadism and Masochism are not really activities, although combined with other kink and fetish behaviors and aspects of bondage and discipline, they could be. Sadism refers to people who enjoy giving pain. Masochism refers to people who enjoy receiving pain. While there are some people who engage in this type of pain-play, I believe that Sadio-Masochism is an antiquated label that does not account for the range of feelings and sensations most people actually experience during BDSM.  S&M was one of the first terms that people used to label and identify this type of edgy sexual activity and is still strongly associated with the newer term, BDSM.

People have come to prefer the terms of Dominance and Submission to express these roles because these terms seem truer to the power exchange inherent in sex. Still, Dominants are often seen as sadists, because they are the givers, and submissives are often seen as masochists, because they are the receivers. These definitions are inaccurate because they are based upon the idea that BDSM is all about pain. Again, it is essential to understand the nature of “play.” The dominant partner does not want to truly hurt the submissive partner. Neither does the submissive partner want to be truly hurt. Some people have tried to use the term “pleasure-pain” to differentiate these feelings and sensations from true pain. But the fact is that our vocabulary doesn’t account for physical force without qualifying it as good or bad.  A hard touch does not always equal pain. A hard touch is not always meant to give pain. Touch is a range of intensity.

Further Reading

Because BDSM is such a vast subject, it is impossible for a single post to address all aspects and variations on what BDSM is and what it means. Sex, sexuality, and sexual expression are an important and necessary part of who we are, and the answers to these questions will be unique to each person. I encourage you to explore further! There is a wealth of information to be found in books and local communities and online. Here are a few interesting articles I found to jump start further reading:

A Loving Introduction to BDSM by Michael Castleman, M.A. (Psychology Today, 2012)

BDSM Can Be “Love Sex” Too by Clarisse Thorn (Clarisse Thorn, 2011)

Sacred Sexuality & BDSM / Power Exchange: ‘A Union of Love’ by W.A. Henkin, Ph.D. (Temple Illuminatus, 2011)

I also recommend Wikipedia’s article on BDSM for a thorough reading of the encyclopedic aspects of BDSM, from general information to psychology to history to literature.



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