Last night I stayed up until 1:30am to watch The Great British Sex Survey on Channel 4. It was a simple task that would take me no more than just over an hour. No big deal, right?
For most of it, I was fairly agreeable. I was able to play along with the “guess the sex toy” games. I’m no expert, but I’m no beginner, either. The one that I was familiar with, much to my husband’s shock and horror, was The Humbler.
From the start, most of it seemed fairly straight forward. In at number 10 was cross-dressing, 9 was watersports, 8 was body parts (feet, namely) and all fairly standard stuff.. Then we got to 7 with humiliation, and that was when the horror sunk in.
We were introduced to a young man who felt the appeal to public humiliation. Fine by me, but not something I have done before. The Mistress in question, who I am praying was told to act up for the cameras, had her new submissive stand in a spot in a public area and wait for her. She had him carry an umbrella for her to walk under until they got to a sex shop. There, things really took hold.
His task was to enter the store and buy some stockings, a book on bondage and some massage oil. Mildly humiliating, but he was in the right place for those items. She then gave him a minute to shop, through out which she supervised him and ordered him about. Each time he dawdled, she used an electric shock (heaven knows where that was located) and escalated the voltage when his minute was up.. Once he’d collected up his purchases and headed to the checkout, the Mistress burst into the store, asked him what he was doing, called him a “dirty pervert” and shocked him, repeatedly, to the horror of the shop assistant.
I have two objections to this. First of all, it was incessant and abusive for a first-timer (I wasn’t surprised to later learn that he felt public humiliation wasn’t for him!). Secondly, she involved a non-consenting person in their scene. This is the reason so many of us go to clubs and events. This is the reason so many of us have to dial things back in public and can’t walk our partners on a collar and leash. You cannot behave this way where there are non-consenting adults and children on every corner – to do so is obscene!
After that, we went through some other more common kinks, food play, leather and latex, role play (I was shocked to learn that most people have a kink for doctor/nurse roleplay, the more you know..), all fairly normal stuff. Then we got to Number 2.. BDSM.
Now, I am wholly and quite proudly a BDSM “practitioner” and have been for nearly 12 years now, so I know my stuff. However, my problem with the show was three-fold.
Firstly, they repeatedly referred to my husband’s kind as “perpetrators” and my kind as “victims”. This is so very, very wrong. It makes what we do sound like a crime, when none has been committed.
The difference between a crime and BDSM? CONSENT!
We. Are. Not. Victims.
They. Are. Not. Perpetrators.
BDSM is driven by consent, trust, and quite often, a deeper kind of love.
To think that someone is comparing what we do as criminal makes me sick. It wounds me. The amount of trust required in a BDSM relationship is exceptional. In some cases, we quite literally put our life in our partners hands. Why? Because we trust them.
My next gripe, BDSM is a “6-for-4” acronym, and Channel 4 succeeded in misinforming all of its viewers in their broadcast. They told viewers that the B&D stands for Bondage & Discipline, and the S&M stands for Sadism & Masochism, but in the middle of that is D&S, the foundations of what we do, which stands for Dominance & Submission. Dominance & Submission allows the consenting parties to decide, essentially, who is in charge. It spares a power struggle which could end up in cuts, bruises, bite marks and take-downs – Unless that’s your thing, of course!
Finally, the documentary talked about “tying him up”. As anyone who has seen the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey will know, it’s not only Dominatrixes and men, there are male Dominants with female submissives, women with women and men with men. BDSM is not a cookie-cutter dynamic, we are not one-size-fits-all.
Channel 4, I implore you, if ever you release a programme like this again, make sure you have your facts and terminology correct. This is not an act, a freak show or a crime. This is a relationship, this is a lifestyle
This is who we are.