For convenience sake, we'll simply define perversion as deviation from a culture's view
of normal sexuality.
For example, let's take the Folsom Street Fair. While actual sexual activity at the Fair is discouraged and frowned upon, the dress and overall style of the attendees gives a good clue as to their interests: leather, chains, cuffs, masks, 9" spike-heel boots, spikes, whips... You get the idea.
However --- the Folsom Street Fair being what it is --- all of that is defined as normal, at least for the duration of the Fair and within its geographic boundaries. So, let's say a guy named Lenny goes to the Fair to flyer for his friend's piercing shop. He's wearing engineer boots, black Ben Davis pants, a Toy Dolls t-shirt, and has a zipped sweatshirt (a non-hooded hoodie) stuffed in his Zo-bag, along with the shop flyers and other stuff.
In this situation, Lenny is the pervert. In fact, Lenny wishes he was still seventeen and still thought spike bracelets were cool; they would have helped a little to blend in with the crowd. As it was, Lenny attracted attention to himself by NOT being dressed in leather, chains, et. al. Seriously, people stared, all day.
Lenny's sense of humor and ability to chat with strangers, no matter the situation, saved the day. Coming across a domme being pulled in an old-school, full-size rickshaw by her sub, he asked her where the fare meter was installed: both of them laughed, and the sub said, "Mistress, I know how we could make a ton of extra money!" Lenny complimented people on their... Ahh.... Well, they weren't clothes... But "costumes" would be insulting --- this ain't fuckin' Halloween for these people, it's a big part of their lives ---
Let's just say Lenny complimented people on the custom-made, damn-pricey-looking leather apparel many were wearing. People were flattered. Many, many flyers were handed out. Overall, Lenny enjoyed himself. He did, however, turn down a couple invitations to come to peoples' houses after things ended for the night: The invitations were from very large hairy gentlemen in leather thongs, motorcycle boots, and little else. Lenny thanked them and explained he had to meet his girlfriend later that evening. (Lenny was single at the time, and the only "girlfriend" he had was at the end of his left wrist. So it wasn't entirely a lie.)
In a way, there is no such thing as perversion. As long as you're staying within your species, not involving children, and there's mutual consent, anything can be "normal." If perversion is a deviation from normalcy, then it's a lot easier to make that jump than you'd ever guess. Lenny learned that damn quick.
Seriously, some of the leather gear was fantastic. No way was this stuff coming "off the rack," this was high-quality custom work that probably set the people wearing it back a pretty penny... And it was worth it. Even without the associations, I saw a lot of outfits that were just plain cool-looking, beautiful creations.
Overall though, the day made me glad I don't have a lot of sexual kink in me, I'm mostly vanilla, for at least one big reason: being into BD/SM is really fucking expensive. Like I said, the custom leather work I saw was surely expensive, like hundreds of dollars for an outfit. Plus, when it comes to actual sex, you're investing in equipment; setting up even a moderate dungeon will run into the thousands. (I suppose if you're really handy and have the tools you could build a lot of your own, but still...)
The only "toy" I ever purchased was a pair of fur-lined handcuffs for me and my then-girlfriend. We'd, uh, take turns as to who was restrained, and it was pretty lighthearted fun, no pain, no humiliation, nothing mean or cruel, just a "You can't move, so I can do anything I want with you!" vibe. The other occasions I engaged in such behavior, we'd improvise: I once tied a girl to her headboard with a mouse cable.
But yeah, that's about as heavy of kink as I get into. There are plenty of people in this world who would view that activity as horribly perverted; they'd probably read some twisted subtext into the fact that we used a computer mouse for bondage purposes.
To hell with them: we were having fun, just playing around, nothing heavy about it at all. The mutual trust and respect that is totally necessary was there. It had to be. If the girl I was with said, "Um, this is kinda freaking me out, I'm really not sure if I'm cool with this," the cuffs or cord came off IMMEDIATELY. No asking, "Really? Are you sure?" No, she just said she was uncomfortable, so that's it. And while it wasn't my scene, I knew from friends that in BD/SM when someone says, "Stop, now," you do without hesitating.
S&M aficionados have "Safe Words," because when they get into it there can be a lot of
yelling and, on the surface, unhappy noises: the sub is experiencing physical pain, and reacts accordingly. But when the one who's tied up and being whipped or whatever says that Safe Word, the game's over, period, full stop. According to my kinky friends, the restraints come off at lightning speed, both parties sit down and relax... Crack a beer, light a cigarette, and the dom will ask, "What happened? What went wrong? I thought I was within your limits," and the two of them talk it through, and then hug.
For all the violence in S&M, it's still mostly play-acting. During a session, the one with the whip will call the sub the most foul names you can think of. Afterwards though, he (or she) would be appalled by the very idea of using that language on his or her sub. Why would you talk to a friend that way?
However. If you ignore that Safe Word, you're violating a lot of trust... And with the dangerous activities going on in S&M, to violate that trust is the worst thing you can do, in a lot of ways. Considering how tight-knit the local scenes are, even in a big town you can forget about getting with anyone again, because everybody will know you as That Asshole Who Ignores Safe Words. You'll be viewed as dangerous, rude, out of control, a psycho, and a shithead in general. Socially, you'll be greeted about as warmly as a rapist or kiddie-fiddler, that is to say, get used to drinking alone and having people just glare at you if you say hi to them. As wild and dangerous as an S&M session may appear to outsiders --- and they can be dangerous; subs have been injured pretty badly because they were pushing their own limits --- there's plenty of mutual respect, laying of ground rules and limits beforehand, and the implicit trust that the Safe Word WILL be obeyed. It has to be.
I've been playing fast and loose with the words "dom" and "sub." Talking about S&M, I was simply using it as shorthand: it's faster to type than "the one with the whip yelling abuse" and "the one strapped to the rack with a drool gag in his/her mouth and an uncomfortable-looking object inserted in at least one orifice." Actual Dominants and Submissives are a whole different scene.
And hoo boy, is it different. Especially for those who are a couple: some live their positions, 24/7. They almost never drop the routine; it can be both endearing and horribly creepy at the same time.
I was going to the Safeway on Market St. in San Francisco. Stopped about twenty feet shy of the door to finish my cigarette. Out come two girls lugging their groceries; when they're just clear of the doors the red-haired one says, "Stop." The second girl silently turns and looks at her. The first one says, "You were a bad girl in the store. Lick my boots." Without hesitation, the other one drops to the ground and begins licking Red's Doc Martens.
I watch this with a placid look on my face, still smoking. Red glares at me and says, "Help you?"
"Nope." I held up my smoke. "Just finishing my cigarette. So how's your day?"
Red smiled and said, "Pretty good, except for naughty little girls to deal with." She paused. "Cool shirt."
"Thanks." I think I was wearing a Warlock Pinchers t-shirt. "So, uh, what did.... ahh...."
Red said, "She was bad in the store. She knows she's supposed to be at my side, at all times, and she just wandered away. Didn't you, bad girl!?"
"Ah. I see."
Red commanded, "You can get up now." The other girl stood, a slight smile on her lips and eyes that were open far too wide. Something about her face, especially her eyes, reminded me of the peak of orgasm.
Red held the other girl's face in her hands and gently kissed her. "My sweet, beautiful thing," she cooed, "you must never leave my side. You always stay by me. Always." Red's hands came down to hold the other girl. They embraced and shared a long, passionate, deep kiss, both reacting as any aroused couple do. Red looked at me, smirked, and said, "I think you finished your cigarette."
"Oh, I know. I just like to watch couples in love kiss. I think it's beautiful."
The second girl rested her head on Red's shoulder. Red looked at her, stroked her cheek, and said quietly, "I love her more than.... I don't, I can't think of any good words. She is my beauty in life, my passion." Red giggled. "Yeah, definitely my passion." Each girl's hand dropped to the other girl's butt. They kissed again briefly, then Red said, "C'mon, beautiful little girl, our ice cream's gonna thaw out beyond saving if we don't start walking." They grabbed grocery bags and trudged off. The "beautiful little girl" stayed in lockstep with Red, directly at her side.
At no point had she spoken, or even made a sound.
Obviously bondage has a high degree of submission about it... But I'm the wrong person to ask, despite having tied women to sturdy objects in my youth (and been tied up myself). Like I said, that was more of a lark, goofing around. I wasn't trying to run any kind of domination/power trip on those girls, nor they me. We were giggling; it was usually the one who was free using their hands and mouth in creative and teasing ways, to see how loud and interesting of gasps and moans they could get out of the restrained person. Having a person inducing intense physical pleasure on you (To you? At you?) --- there's a whole lot of licking, sucking, and stroking involved --- and with you unable to move around much, it's an incredible sexual high. And yes, the unrestrained person gets a kick out of being in control. The other person is pretty much helpless (although I've been kicked, accidentally, from the girl waving her legs in the air) and you can arouse every special little nerve ending however you want, slowly, aggressively, gently, teasing, purposely bringing the other person damn close to orgasm... While it was never a domination or control trip, there was definitely a thrill from being IN control, driving the restrained person to an unbelievably stimulated state.... And unable to move or touch themselves.
And after about a half hour or so of this, the restrained person would say, "Please, let me up! I'm going crazy! I need to fuck so bad I'm dizzy!"
And the cuffs would come off, and we'd ride each other like the Teacups at Disneyland.
But, it can't be overstated that our games were light-hearted, and all about pleasure. A hypothetical girl telling me, "Tie me up, all four limbs, face-fuck me, then fuck me in an abusive manner while slapping my face and calling me a cunt and a dirty whore" would have had me pulling my pants and shoes back on right quick.
While pulling on my boots,I probably would have told her, "Sure I can tie you up, but fucking you would be difficult, because there's no way I'm gonna be able to get a hard-on from this action. Honey, this is out of my league. You wanna say it's my problem, that I have hang-ups? Fine, whatever. But I can't fuck someone while pretending I hate them. Oh, and the slapping thing is a wood-killer, too. Call me a chauvinist: I don't hit women, ever. We're in the Bay Area, I'm sure you can find someone who will pretend to hate you while they fuck you."
"But it's all fake, we're just pretending..."
"Still doesn't change the fact that I'd hate the activity. You know the saying: Your Kink Is Not My Kink. I'm sorry, but I can't do what you want."
"Jesus, you are kind of a chauvinist."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm a chauvinist, I'm pent up, I've got issues, whatever. And having you address my perceived flaws doesn't change a fucking thing. Our sexual interests are too disparate for us to have fun together. If we stayed in my zone, you'd be bored, and if we stayed in your zone, I'd be miserable, if I could perform at all. Your kink isn't the sort of thing I can fake. Wouldn't you prefer I'm honest with you now, rather than us getting a third of the way in and me having a mild freak-out?"
I've had other versions of the above conversation on a couple occasions. Fortunately, we were still at the party or bar, and not half-naked in someone's room, when the subject came up. The girls, after telling me their submissive/violent kinks, both tried the "How can you say you don't like it if you've never tried it?" line.
"Well, you've described to me what you like to do, and to me there's nothing sexy about it at all. I'd hate even trying to play that role. And by the way, why the interest in me? We've not known each other an hour."
"You just seem like a cool guy, and you seem really trustworthy. I've gotta really be able to trust a dude."
"Well.... I'm flattered, I really am, and I wish I could help you out----"
"I bet you could if you wanted to."
"---- But what you like is a turn-off to me. Especially the calling you names and hitting you parts. It's a personal thing for me, I don't hit women.... And you're about to call me a chauvinist, aren't you?"
".... Actually, yeah, I was. So you're telling me you've never been with a girl that liked to be spanked?"
"I have, but Jesus Christ, that was just some swatting. The way you've been talking, you want me to leave hand prints."
"Actually I wanted you to use your belt."
"Sorry, my mistake. Look, you're asking me to act like I hate you while I fuck you, and I just can't pull that off. I'm sorry."
"I still think you could do me the way I like if you tried. I think you'd have fun, but you just don't know it."
"(*sigh*) Okay, now you're into frat boy territory. 'Just put the head of it in your mouth, baby, you'll like it.' You're being coercive, it's annoying, it's not going to work, and I've already said sorry, but no. Could we go back to talking about music?"
She glared at me for a couple seconds, grabbed her drink, and walked off.
With my limited knowledge, I have tried to speak positively of those into kink. As I've mentioned, some of these people are my friends (and sources of information), and, as in aspects of life both sexual and non-sexual, "mutual consent" is practical, agreeable, and often wonderful. My old girlfriend and I, when we bought the fur handcuffs, certainly had Mutual Consent going on: we both agreed that our playful restraint games would be fun, but more importantly had the mutual trust that the other person would not take advantage of the one who was restrained. If the restrainee suddenly said, "What you're doing? It's painful/creeping me out/no fun/just plain making me uncomfortable, I can't explain why, but it is," and Game Over. The other person would grab the key (ALWAYS in easy reach) and let the first person up. Then we'd talk it through.
This was rare, but did happen. As simplistic as our restraint games were, we'd still set ground rules: no tickling was number one! Also, no leaving the room (even if you just needed to use the can, the cuffs came off), no inflicting of pain, no penetration without consent (obviously aimed at me --- although if I asked, the answer was usually "Oh hell yes!"), and generally, no abuse.
That last one was rather vague... But we knew what we meant, and would clarify as we went along. No slapping, hair pulling (like either of us had hair long enough), pinching, or verbal abuse.... Although that one, from the outside, was kind of vague.
It was primarily a matter of style. It was one thing for me to straddle her while she was cuffed, teasing her nipples and gently rubbing her box, and telling her what a nasty little girl she was, does that feel good? Horny little thing, this is all you think about, isn't it? Dirty naughty girl....
As opposed to "Worthless cunt slut" and "Goddamn whore, I should roll you over and fuck your ass until you like it." Um, right out for us. Not my style, being yelled at and threatened (she didn't like anal, so threatening to fuck her ass definitely counted as a threat) would have certainly killed it for her.
I did have a very bad experience once, with a different girlfriend.... And an object lesson in always having the handcuff key, like, right there. I'd brought up the subject of playing around with the cuffs, and she thought it sounded like good, mildly kinky fun. She was looking forward to it. So that night we were in her room and, um, progressing well, when she asked when I'd cuff her. "Whenever you'd like to try," and she stretched up and grabbed a rung of her headboard. I got the cuffs on her and was kissing her; we kissed for maybe forty-five seconds....
.... And then her eyes got huge, she started hyperventilating, and whimpering out, "Get them off! Get them off now get them off now now now get them off NOW PLEASE get them off...."
Holy SHIT. I grabbed the key and got one shackle undone, freeing her from the rung, but the other one was still on her wrist and she was staring at it like it was a poisonous spider, and she was shaking so bad the whole bed shook.... And she was starting the "Get it off get it off get it off" bit again, but I couldn't because she was shaking so hard. I finally ended up having to force her forward, literally kneel on her left arm to hold it still, and was finally able to get the other shackle off.
Meanwhile she's still having a full-blown panic attack, a class-ten freakout kneeling in the middle of the bed. I did the only thing I could think of, which was to hold her close and keep telling her gently, "It's okay, this is Lenny, it's gonna be alright, I won't let nothing hurt you, it's all okay...."
After a little while, her breathing slowed some and she put her arms around me, hugging me back. I swear, we stayed like that for an hour, her hugging me, me holding her close and stroking her hair. Her breathing slowly but surely returned to normal. We finally broke apart (a painful move for me; I'd been twisted in a weird position the entire time so I could hug her face on). All I could say was, "Jean, I'm so sorry..."
"My god, Lenny, I don't.... That wasn't..." And she burst into tears.
So we held each other some more (lying down this time, thankfully) with me feeling like the biggest evil scumbag in the world; I felt like checking my driver's license for the name 'Mengele.' I got up long enough to grab some water and a roll of toilet paper (for her sniffling) and laid back down next to her.
"Will you stay with me tonight? Please? Don't leave tonight?"
"No problem, that's fine. I'll be here as long as you need." (Why you want to be comforted by the asshole shithead who gave you a Grade-A panic attack is beyond me, but hey, glad to do it.)
"Um, is it okay if we don't fool around or screw?"
"Oh hey, that's totally fine. Don't worry about that." (Shucks, and I always get so turned on by women I've traumatized.)
"Jean, um, if it won't freak you out.... What happened?"
"I don't know. I honestly don't. I remember you cuffing me and thinking, 'Ooohh, this should be fun!' and the next thing I knew it was like the whole planet was sitting on my chest and then when I tried to move and could't, everything went grey and I just freaked. I was sure I was gonna die if I didn't get out of those cuffs."
"Did anything.... Like, bad ever happen to you?"
"What do you--- Oh, no, nothing like that."
"I'm so sorry, I feel like such an asshole, I never should have suggested--- "
"Lenny, shut up. It wasn't your fault. How could you have known? Shit Lenny, I didn't know either! It was like--- " She sat up in bed "--- claustrophobia. It was like that, only way worse."
"Please just tell me I'm not an evil bastard. I mean, it was my idea..."
"Lenny, stop it. You're not an evil bastard. You suggested the cuffs, but I was the
one who thought they were a great idea. Damn, I'd been looking forward to using them ever since you suggested it! I thought they'd be fun!" She laughed. "We'll just have to figure out some other way of being nasty together."
"Does you liking having your butt smacked when we do it doggy style count? I like that one, we could spend more time working on that."
"I was thinking more of a dog collar and chain for you."
"Works for me. Then we'd have no excuse to not do it doggy style."
"I'm exhausted, dog-boy. I need to sleep.... Lenny?"
"Please hold me."
So I'm happy with my vanilla ways. No equipment to buy, no welts to heal, no tongue streaks on my boots.
I still wouldn't mind having some of the leather gear I saw, though. Some of that shit was awesome.