Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What is it about BDSM?

Most young girls love horses. I read once that the smaller the child, the larger the animal they will be attracted to. It kind of makes sense: when you’re tiny and vulnerable, having something strong, powerful and friendly is a nice thought, isn’t it? Kind of like having a big, strong daddy who you know loves you and will protect you. Being carried on Daddy’s shoulders is not dissimilar to riding a powerful horse.

I think there’s a connection there to the way that many women (and men too, of course) are attracted to BDSM and, in particular, power exchange (domination/submission). Women in the past had very few choices when it came to who was going to be in charge of their lives. They usually went straight from father to husband with no chance of determining for themselves how they wanted to live. Obviously it’s very different now. Women are expected to be powerful themselves, in charge of their own lives, capable of handling anything. And we are. But I think there is still a small part of our brains that yearns for that feeling of having someone big and intimidating on our side. (I’m not going to go into religion here, but you can see the parallel.)

Think about the heroes in our romance novels. The clichĂ© is that they’re all 6’3”, ex-Special Forces, sun-kissed (i.e. rugged), and bigger than life in every possible way. If they’re not particularly muscular or trained in military combat, then they’re incredibly wealthy—which also translates to powerful. As a woman, we have some control over them, but we want them to be in charge and capable of handling anything. We like to put them in situations where they have to prove that they’re brave, capable of being warlike, and utterly dedicated to our wellbeing.

The women in BDSM novels are a little different, though, than our mothers’ “romance novel heroine.” They have troubles, of course, that they can’t handle on their own—hence the need for a hero. But they are also strong enough to submit, which is an interesting and counterintuitive concept. In our world of ultra-feminism, we like to be told that we can be strong and capable in everyday life but also be able to look to someone bigger and stronger than us when we need it. We can allow ourselves to feel cherished and protected without giving up our careers and our dignity. In the real world as well as fiction, BDSM can meet that need. Women don’t have to give up their independence in order to submit to someone—in fact, being responsible for your own happiness is a big part of the D/s lifestyle.

See my blog (www.kasialexander.com) later this week for a discussion on taking D/s even further and using it for personal and professional growth.
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