WHY B&D IS SO POPULAR
By Bill Dobbins
I’m told that the two fastest growing types of porn on the Internet are transsexual porn and some kind of bondage and dominance or S&M. The popularity of transsexual porn is largely due because with so much sexually explicit content available it is becoming harder and harder to find something that is taboo, forbidden or truly shocking. Sexy women with that little something extra is that kind of new transgressive image.
But the idea of some kind of role play involving dominance and submission seems to me to be something very different. This has a long presence in history. In a B&D transaction, the role of each individual is clearly defined. One has all the power the other none. There are ideally agreements regarding rules and limits as to what kind of behavior is acceptable or not, but once established the dominant partner assumes all the power and the submissive gives up all power and control.
I think a primary reason people find this so exciting has a lot to do with the stresses and anxieties of sexual courtship. There are courtship rituals involved in the mating of all animals. Males compete with each other to mate with females, sometimes males perform courtship behavior (Bower birds) or display sexually attractive features to attract mates (Peacocks). The types of courtship behavior across the animal kingdom is incredibly varied.
But when you are dealing with big brained human beings courtship becomes all the more complicated. There are not only sexual drives involved but very deep-seated and powerful emotional elements as well – plus cultural norms to be observed. There are couplings that involve short-term relationships and others that result in extended or even permanent pairings. But there is one element involved in virtually all courtship among humans – and that is fear of rejection.
Human beings are anxious when it comes to being rejected in almost all aspects of our lives. But when it comes to sex we are at our most vulnerable when it comes to the prospect of being rejected by a sexual partner. Countless plays, movies, novels songs and poems have dealt with the complications of the mating ritual and courtship behavior. And it is clear that being motivated by sex and love can result in the highest emotional highs and lowest lows, great joy and deep sorrow, pleasure and pain – and too often jealousy, aggressive and sometimes violent behavior. Even suicide.
But there is almost no possibility of rejection in a consensual dominance/submission transaction. The dominant can exercise total power within the terms of the agreement and the submissive simply accepts whatever happens. There is no anxiety about whether one partner or the other will judge the other because of the desire for unconventional sexual desires. That is all settled in advance. So behavior that might not be acceptable between real-life partners can be freely indulged in the B/D relationship.
In addition, many B/D practices are extremely stimulating, involving things like tight bondage, infliction of some degree of pain, humiliation and many more. This is very different from the more narrow range of sexual practices most experience in their everyday relationships. Quite often there is an escalation of these practices over time as what was once extreme becomes “normal” and moving to the more extreme is necessary to keep the experiences exciting.
Bondage and dominance is a category closely associated with sadomasochism – made into enduring literature by the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. But the vast majority of B&D relationships, although some pain may be involved, do not involve cruelty or actual intent to harm.
One aspect of physical experience that helps fuel this type of transaction is that the more sexually aroused we become the more what would normally be experienced as pain becomes to feel more like pleasure. The dominant partner has to be very aware of this because it is possible, in infecting pain intended only to be sexually stimulating, the submissive will be so relatively insensitive to this pain that some degree of unintended physical damage can be inflicted without realizing this until later.
So I think the popularity of dominance/submission transactions is very deeply rooted in the human psyche. It takes away the fear of rejection in sexual relationships and is not limited by the kinds of behavior usually considered normal and which people are often very reluctant to ask a partner to perform. Your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend may not be open to the kind of sexual activity you yearn for. But your B&D partner will be.
This allows individuals to explore aspects of their own personality that might normally be repressed – such as taking pleasure in exercising extreme sexual dominance or giving up all ego and will and becoming subject to the power and control of a partner.
The experience of total sexual power is very exciting. And so is putting ourself in a position of absolute sexual vulnerability. So while B&D activity may not be considered to be “normal,” it is probably far more common that most believe.
Bill Dobbins is a professional photographer, videographer and writer based in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited as fine art in two museums, a number of galleries, and he has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:
The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Taschen)
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