Don’t put your whips and chains away just yet!
“Over the Valentine’s Day weekend, following the Fifty Shades relaunch, we sold out of cheap handcuffs, anal lubricant, and spreader bars. I think that is a big testament to the influence of Hollywood on sex practices for new kinksters” says Tessa Brooks from “Spot of Delight,” a London, Ontario sex shop.
The shop, which is located at Richmond and Dundas, is experiencing the significant impact that sexualized entertainment is having on the normalization of fetish culture and sexual practices. The culture of Bondage, Dominance, Submission, and Masochism (BDSM) seems to be making its move to mainstream with so many movies making it seem quite normal.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the Fifty Shades of Grey series: Anastasia Steele, a sexually inexperienced young woman having an affair with Christian Grey, a powerful businesses obsessed with the life of kink.
Young adults have been fascinated with the casual hook-up for years, despite the initial negative stigma around it, putting relationships to the side and bringing sex into the forefront. According to Rebecca Clarke, a 20-year old student who is removed from the BDSM scene, “casual hook-ups have become the norm for young adults, especially throughout post-secondary institutions.” Many young women have seen the Fifty Shades of Grey films, sparking curiosity and conversation about the BDSM culture. Will this be another example of curiosity taking control, or will the next norm potentially be casual-BDSM?
In 2015, the Kinsey Institute, at the University of Indiana, reported that one in 20 adults regularly engage in BDSM related practices. This report was filed the same year as the release of the first Fifty Shades of Grey film. According to Clarke, “BDSM is becoming more mainstream, ever since the Fifty Shades series was released.” Clarke continues, “No one is surprised to hear the term BDSM anymore.”
With the new familiarity of BDSM, young adults are having an increasing curiosity to explore their sexuality. Allison Heights, a 21-year older student from Montreal has always had more of an interest in relationships than casual hook-ups, but says, “I think that I would try BDSM depending on its level of intensity. I wouldn’t want to do anything that is painful or scary, but I can understand the curiosity with it in terms of domination.”
The Fifty Shades of Grey series and the increasing curiosity associated with BDSM culture has initiated an online response as well. Casual hook-up applications (apps) such as Tinder, have been on the rise for years, becoming a popular way for young adults to find mutual attraction. However, in 2015, a new version of the hook-up app was introduced into the online dating world. It is known as Whiplr, a casual hook-up app designed for the BDSM community. As the first and largest mobile community for “kinksters,” Whiplr is introducing young adults into the fantasy realm of BDSM.
Kinksters from various locations have demonstrated an interest in the app. According to a male Whiplr user, “I joined the app to explore my sexuality a bit, my fantasies. Go beyond vanilla.” Several users admit to downloading the app out of a curiosity for exploration. However, you will also find more experienced users known as “Masters” on the app.
A male Master, with over 20 years of experience in BDSM, joined Whiplr to help educate curious men and women on the practices of BDSM. Explaining what a Master is, he says, “a Master is one who is capable of owning slaves, not just submissives, littles, pets, sex toys, or ponies. In my particular case, I also own and train dominants and submissives. I train both men and women to become dominants or better submissives.”
Whiplr’s creation was inspired by the Fifty Safes of Grey series, bringing the world of kink from entertainment to reality. Despite its association with the film, many people involved in the culture do not think that the film series depicts BDSM accurately. According to the Master, the difference is like a “bicycle ride and a motorcycle ride,” the films do not accurately define the realities of the practice.
He explains, “Mr. Grey is not a dominant. He is weak and were it not for his money, he would be better described as a man who enjoys aggressive or even violent sex. Being a dominant has nothing to do with violence or aggression.”
Although we are yet to see if Whiplr will hit the mainstream, young adults that are currently unassociated with the BDSM culture are intrigued. Chloe Walker, a 20-year old student, says “it’s awesome that there is a hook-up app for the BDSM community! It’s a great example of how the stigma surrounding the culture is being torn down.” Walker thinks that sexualized entertainment plays a role in the normalization and says, “now that BDSM is becoming more mainstream, you have two types of people. The ones who have watched Fifty Shades of Grey and now think they know what BDSM is, or you have the people who create the stigma around BDSM.”
It appears BDSM is slowly making its way to mainstream, leaving one to question what will be next to normalize in the realm of sexuality and fantasy?
Walker says, “What turns someone on is not something to criticize. However, I draw the line at bestiality.”
*Names have been changed and omitted to protect the privacy of individuals.
Photo Cred: WEHEARTIT