Dear Dr Ren:
I’m a 20-year-old gay man. I watched some porn that happened to include a scene with spanking. I was surprised by how much it turned me on.
I’ve never done this before. I wasn’t physically or sexually abused as a child, so that’s not where this comes from. I don’t want to be like those people, but I can’t get the images out of my mind.
What does this mean about me and my future sex life?
Yours is a typical response to a recognition of kink awareness.
When you say you don’t want to be like “those people” I wonder what you think they must be like. Do you envision people who enjoy spanking as leather-clad, body-pierced, tattooed freaks who gather to have sex publicly and inflict pain on one another? That is a common misconception, but it is far from the truth.
Dr Charles Moser found in his research on those who practice BDSM (BD = bondage and discipline, DS = domination and submission, SM = sadism and masochism) that “no study has demonstrated that SMers possess any special psychological characteristics that set them apart in any way from the general population.”
In other words, they’re just normal folk who account for about 10 percent of the population, just as gay men do.
What makes them — and now you — distinct is appreciation of an erotic recognition of a mutual and consensual power exchange in which one partner plays a dominant role and the other a submissive role.
Intense physical stimulation, which may look or feel like pain, is often a feature of this theatre. So is intimacy and trust.
What you have already realized, Vanilla, is that once SM has captured your erotic attention, you will long to experience its fulfillment.
This is different from not liking a particular sexual activity such as fisting. This is a sexual language recognized upon first hearing, just as you described your reaction when you viewed the spanking scene.
Does this mean you will become incapable of intimate, eye-gazing sex? No more so than learning to speak Urdu would render you unable to speak your mother tongue.
We receive from sex what we bring to it. Loving intimacy can be a part of the SM experience even as the missionary position can be a joyless exchange between strangers. The more ways we have of expressing ourselves, the richer our expression can be. You have discovered an additional pleasure, not a substitute.
You ask what this means about you. Time will tell. Perhaps a little light spanking will satisfy your craving, or perhaps it will simply whet your appetite for more erotically intense sensations.
You don’t mention whether you want to spank (top) or be spanked (bottom) or both (switch), and you needn’t decide now.
You will need to learn some basic rules. They’re easy: safe, sane, consensual, and respect for others. You will also want to learn some anatomy so you don’t damage easily injured areas. There are organizations that will be happy to guide you.
As to what this means to your future sex life, being kinky is just another closet door you will have to open with your boyfriends. Granted, SM is often misunderstood and feared, but you’re already a gay man — you and your lovers understand prejudice and misconception. And SM is less demonized in the gay community.
You will learn to drop a code word into your conversation and see if it is picked up. You may pop in your tape that started all this and watch your date’s reaction to the spanking scene. You will learn how to introduce the topic of SM, and to respond to it.
You will not be alone in your interest, you know. There are clubs and parties you can attend where you will be just one in the crowd who appreciates various SM behaviours.
The coming out process for BDSM is the same as for being gay, but with less societal support. Still, even fetish gear is finding its way onto fashion runways. Acceptance follows tolerance. The fringes inexorably move to the centre, replaced by new fringes. You will take your place wherever you find your comfort. There is no rush.
It used to be that most people did not discover BDSM until their 30s, but the availability of information is changing that. It could be that some level of maturity is necessary to manage the depth and intensity that SM brings to sex. You may not want to wade into it just yet. Then again, you may want to dive right in.
If so, remember that relationship formation is one thing while SM is another. Getting involved with someone who does not share your kinky penchant requires complicated negotiation. You would be wise to look for boyfriends who share your interest in a little slap and tickle.
At 20, you know you are gay and suspect you may be kinky. You may have a rich and varied sexual script ahead of you. You needn’t be fearful of your sexuality. There are adventuresome lovers awaiting you. Have fun exploring!