“BDSM is Grotesque.”
A rather jarring headline, don’t you think? Sweeping in its condemnation and wholly without supporting documentation. A phrase that fits well in the fractured media of today. Allow me to don my lecturing fedora.
Like Baroque, Grotesque was originally created to describe a style of artwork. From Old Italian — (pittura) grottesca — simply meant ‘cave painting’, or ‘(Roman) pictures found in a grotto.’ Via Middle French and first recorded in English in 1561, the primary definition of the noun version of Grotesque is: a style of decorative art characterized by fanciful or fantastic human and animal forms often interwoven with foliage or similar figures that may distort the natural into absurdity, ugliness, or caricature.
The adjective arrived in 1603, and for our purposes matches up with the third of three definitions: of, relating to, or having the characteristics of the grotesque: departing markedly from the natural, the expected, or the typical.
Few would argue that Gothic architecture and 1960s concrete office buildings are both grotesque, yet they also have a beauty of form and function. BDSM is another such edifice; appearing to be strange, ugly — even frightening viewed from the outside and judged solely on appearances. The caricature of BDSM has found its high culture in Gor (even though the first Gor novel was published in 1966 and the term ‘BDSM’ was not in print until 1991) and that series is used as a whipping girl to label all D/s as perverse.
But again, if D/s departs ‘markedly’ from the natural, what exactly is being used to determine said ‘natural’ behavior? In statistics, there are two ways of measuring groups of numbers. The first is an average — adding all numbers and dividing by the total of entries — and the mean, which is taking that total number of entries and finding the point of equality with the same amount above as below. In other words, the average of 1, 5, 10, 12 and 99 is 25.4, but the mean is 10. That matters a whole lot when talking about the 1%, or the poverty line, or how many personal automobiles the average household owns. If the average participant in BDSM enjoys spanking, where does the mean fall when spanking is all over the place culturally?
Lastly, I like to think that grotesque can be utilized as a term of endearment. After all, most of us in D/s proudly claim the banner of being different. “Darling, your expertise with the paddle is grotesquely arousing. When can we do it again?”
D/s is a true partnership between equals who find things that both enjoy in a loving, respectful and most importantly, with honesty in a relationship with full knowledge, consent and trust.