In honor of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, UCLA’s 7000 in Solidarity is hosting its own annual campaign in order to raise public awareness regarding sexual assault, as well as to educate the UCLA community on how to prevent sexual violence. One of the 28 events put on this month is BDSM 101: Sexy, Safe and Consensual.
In the last couple months, BDSM has become a popular discussion topic because of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Rather than keeping it a taboo subject matter, 7000 in Solidarity has teamed up with a professional dominatrix to discuss the BDSM culture, consent and how to engage in consensual bondage and submission play with your partner in a safe way.
Mistress Justine Cross has been a lifestyle and professional dominatrix in L.A. for seven years. She is the owner of two private dungeons: Dungeon West and LA Douleur Exquise, and she is a hostess of kink and fetish events and also a media personality. She came in to have an open discussion on the ins and outs of BDSM and how learning about it can help us eradicate rape culture – and here’s what we learned from her talk.
1. Weirdly enough, most people don’t know what BDSM stands for. So what exactly does BDSM mean?
BDSM is an overlapping abbreviation of Bondage and Discipline (BD), Dominance and Submission (DS), Sadism and Masochism (SM). Bondage is consensually tying, binding or restraining a partner for erotic simulation. All types of material can be used from ropes to saran wrap. Dominance is psychological restraining with the use of rules and discipline. Sadism is the tendency to gain sexual pleasure from the act of inflicting pain. Masochism is the tendency to gain sexual pleasure from one’s own pain.
2. How can you start getting into BDSM in a safe way?
In the words of Mistress Justine Cross herself, “throw glitter, not shade, and don’t yuck someone’s yum.” In other words, be open-minded and do some research into what you and your partner may or may not like. You can try going to lifestyle events, such as one’s at Mistress Justine’s very own Dungeon West and get an inside look at to what BDSM is about. But make sure to go with your partner or friend, if you’re just starting out. There are many ways to slowly ask your partner to engage in BDSM, but just doing it without his or her prior knowledge or consent is not okay. If you want to find out more information on your own, there are plenty of forums and social media networking sites that can also show some insight into different fetishes or “scenes.”
3. That leads me to question number three. What is a “scene”? And how do you prepare for one?
A scene is the time period of the BDSM activity. Before you begin, there should be an ongoing open discussion sharing one another’s limits, medical conditions, level of impact, etc. Like most people know, there should definitely be a designated safe word involved, whether it’s “popcorn” like in Family Guy or simply “red, green, yellow” like the stoplights. This prevents any nonconsensual acts and prevents sexual violence.
Surprisingly enough, both parties should make sure the other has eaten before so the chance of passing out is lowered. After a scene, there is a sense of disorientation as if coming out of a trance-like space, a feeling known as “subspace.” Mistress Justine suggests that the dominant partner needs to take care of the submissive in this state and cater to his or her needs, whether it’s getting ice cream or having sex, or maybe, nothing.
4. As a dominatrix, is BDSM all about sex?
BDSM certainly can be part of foreplay, the context for an entire sexual scene and indeed a sexual lifestyle. But contrary to popular belief, the act of intercourse is not a necessity and many “scenes” involve no sex at all. Mistress Justine does not have sex with any of her clients and BDSM does not always mean sex.
5. So what does this have to do with Sexual Assault Awareness Month?
BDSM emphasizes the importance of negotiation and consent. Those who engage in it properly are constantly discussing each other’s limits and checking in on each other throughout. People can engage and fulfill their sexual desires and fetishes in a safe way where both partners are on the same page. When participating in BDSM, the partners should be safe and make attempts to identify and prevent risks to health. Additionally, they should participate in the activities in a sane and sensible state of mind. And most importantly, they should have full consent of all parties.
Mistress Justine Cross is always available to talk if you have any more questions regarding BDSM culture, safety, or if you need some recommendations for places to buy toys!
Or you can check out some other resources to learn more information.
Need someone to talk to?
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)