The new Cosmo is here! Joy! I don't have time to do a full Cosmocking before work! Sorrow!
So I'll just do one article, because, well. The title is "Whips, Chains, Cages... Whoa" and it's about "S&M" in the media. They say "S&M" many times and each one is like aluminum foil in my teeth.
Quick terminology lesson: weird mean sex is generically called "BDSM." (Or more expansively "kink", or various evasions like "What it is that we do.") This consists of:
-"B/D", which is "bondage and discipline" and the part of the acronym that no one ever uses.
-"D/s", which is "dominance and submission" and refers to psychological control and power exchange. (Note goofy capitalization convention. Because a Dominant gets the Big Important Letters, and a submissive is only worthy of tiny puny letters.)
-"S/M" or just "SM", which is "sadism and masochism" (or "sadomasochism") and refers to the painful stuff. This is pretty much never, ever, ever called "S&M" or "S and M" by anyone in the community.
So saying "S&M" has roughly the same effect on dedicated perverts as saying "Captain Kirk, from The Star Wars." Bear that in mind as I finally get to the actual article.
When Rihanna appeared on the cover of one of her singles wearing barbed wire, our first thought was just, "Huh, that's racy." But combined with Shakira's recent cage dancing and Christina Augilera throwing on a sex hood and caressing a bound chick in a music video, it all points to a troubling trend.
Yes, it is troubling when people half-assedly appropriate BDSM imagery without knowing what the fuck they're actually referencing. It simultaneously creates the conceptions in the public minds that "BDSM is totally crazy and dark and underground" and "BDSM is basically just sex only sexier." And worst of all, "BDSM is a costume and a set design, but all anyone actually does is sort of stand around and wiggle."
These stars are successful enough that they can call the shots when it comes to what they wear and what themes they explore. Why, suddenly, are they embracing S&M?
Because they don't "call the shots"--no one in commercial entertainment does. They can't say "I'd like to do this one in a comfy t-shirt and gym shorts," because that's not what the Marketing Oracles are favoring this week. They have to constantly get attention to keep making money, and dressing up in My First Dominatrix Costume is one way to do that.
That they're tying themselves up makes a difference. According to psychologist James Houran, PhD, bondage circles call this topping from the bottom, which means the person who's being submissive is really in control.
Okay, that's not remotely what "topping from the bottom" means. Topping from the bottom means being bossy and fussy while nominally on the bottom, and is generally considered obnoxious behavior.
Also, I can't even express how annoyed I am that they consulted a psychologist instead of, you know, a kinky person. We can speak for ourselves, assholes; we don't need you to send in an anthropologist in a pith helmet to study our quaint ways.
When stars pose in PVC or handcuffs, they're pushing our buttons, not the other way around.
Sure, because they're not really kinky. I can't speak to PVC because I don't have much interest in that fetish, but when I wear handcuffs, I sure as hell get my buttons pushed.
And that's a good thing. If I were wearing handcuffs and didn't give a crap, well, that's kind of sad, isn't it? There's this weird media ideal that the woman with no desire of her own is the master of men, but really, having sexual power shouldn't preclude experiencing pleasure yourself.
"Men like the fantasy of a submissive woman, while women feel powerful when they're wanted," he says.
In other words, men are all tops and women don't really have sexual desires but like to be pretty. Or maybe this is just rationalizing a way to say "kids, kids, you're both the top" rather than admit that sometimes submission does actually mean, you know, submitting. Because it would be so wrong if that happened.
"People are interested in eroticizing their fears, but hurting someone or wanting to be hurt is unhealthy, so S&M remains unacceptable to most people," says Christopher Ryan, PhD.
Man, I always thought PhDs required a lot of work and research, but apparently I could get one just studying my own Saturday nights.
Anyway, the question of what "unhealthy" really means or why this might or might not be true is a big complicated one, so let's just go back to our safe place of "it's okay to wear slutty black clothes, but not if you actually enjoy it." Women should be seen and not come.
Whether you realize it or not, you may indulge in some aspects of S&M yourself.
WHOA NO SHIT REALLY?
Just like how barely there hoo-ha hair came from porn, nose piercings, cutout dresses, and zip-up strappy heels got their start in S&M.
It really is just a fucking costume, huh?
The last time I indulged in some aspects of S&M, I was wearing a cotton sundress and my partner was in a geek-logo t-shirt and cargo shorts. It's too bad I left my zip-up strappy heels at home, because otherwise the way I was slapping and biting him could have been kinky or something!
Incorporating S&M into fashion is one way for us to show you're badass without venturing too far into taboo territory.
But you're not badass! I'm badass! I have been set on fire! (Actually not particularly painful with alcohol fuel. But still. It takes nerves of steel, if nothing else.) You want to be badass, go get set on fire and then wear your goddamn strappy heels.
There's nothing wrong with not being kinky. Most people aren't. It doesn't make your sex less interesting or less intense or less anything. But don't go putting on some goofy costume and telling me you're a super kinky "S&M" badass now. That's posing, it's insulting, and it's really really dumb.