Anyone of you ever feel that you are in a constant ‘crossover’ situation? To me, it seems eternal. I was born in a year ending with ‘9’ on a date ‘11’. I am, like many of us, a part of the switch from one century to the other (1999 to 2000). It was a big deal! Wasn’t it? Then again, when I was in the third year of college, ours was the last batch to deal with that syllabi — it was set to change the very next year.

With writing erotica (which I started writing quite late in life), the same trick came to play. To write or not to write it wouldn’t have been a question if: If I belonged to the previous generation, I would have perhaps never attempted erotica, neither thought about it because I wouldn’t have even known it! And if I belonged to the next generation, I would have probably written it in my early 20s and not put myself through — ‘is it okay to write erotica?’ Hell! Of course, it is!

But I belong in the middle. And that’s where all things get tricky.

My introduction to BDSM or waking up to it has been part of this ‘middle’. I never heard of it growing up. None of us do, anyway. But the point is, today, even a 16-year-old knows about it! (I was told by a reader at a Human Library during one of my sessions that her 14-year-old son had asked her to buy him Fifty Shades of Grey).

But I didn’t even know what it was when I watched Secretary (watch it if you haven’t. Highly recommend). However, that film did something to me. I wanted to know more, because I found it mysteriously interesting. I wanted to know more of the original Mr. Grey and what made Lee stoop before him. I later realized — she stooped to conquer. Watch the film. Watch the film.

I remember I spent days reading up on BDSM. I just couldn’t stop. It was intoxicating. And liberating, because all these years (late 20s and early 30s), I spent thinking I was twisted in my head. I was not, I finally realized; because I finally realized that there are people who like kink, and that, it is ‘normal’. I perhaps can’t tell you enough of what it feels like to have a validation, without seeking it, like this. You have to go through the process to understand it.

And then. And then, Fifty Shades of Grey happened, and ruined it!

Okay, let’s give credit where it is due. The film, more than the book (the book later went off shelves like hot cakes), did wake us up from our slumber announcing, ‘hello! Kink exists!’ And a dialogue ensued. But that’s about it. It did nothing more for the BDSM community. In fact, it’s a very wrong portrayal of the community. The more sequels there were to the film, the more disappointed I was.

A film like Fifty Shades, meant to entice, sent me to sleep! In a bad way! I found it that boring. Also, because I could see through the film — it was trying too hard to play the BDSM card, but couldn’t even touch it. Literally. I felt cheated. And like me, a lot others did; those who do understand what BDSM actually is. It’s exciting, it’s explorative, it’s expressive, and it’s enticing.

But for the majority, it’s perverse and an overdose of sex and violence.

BDSM is largely misconstrued, and that, owes to our lack of knowledge and understanding about it. This in turn is because of the taboo attached to it, more so due to our ‘accepted’ notion of accepted sexual activity per se. An incident from college comes to mind. I had a girl gang and one fine day, there was this girl who was telling us that she and her boyfriend kissed! If you know, girls talk in details! So, she gave a detailed information of ‘before, during and after’ of that kissing scene. Now, while everyone in the group couldn’t stop awww-ing listening to her, my mind was busy imagining a better way to kiss and I was like: damn! This kiss should have been like this. But did I say that out loud? Of course, not!

I am glad; however, that years later, when I penned erotica, I based my characters (subtly) on Dominant and Submissive. Yeah, ‘subtly’. I am still testing waters, but I would definitely want to graduate to it, eventually. Also, PS: My characters aren’t based on any shade of grey.

BDSM refers to Bondage and Discipline; Dominance and Submission; and Sadism and Masochism/Sado-Masochism.

Before you jump to conclusion already, hold on for a bit. BDSM is not all whips, ropes and leash as most commonly portrayed and perceived. It’s not about the self-confessed Dom a.k.a. Christian Grey whipping his Sub Ana with a belt because he ‘desires to punish her’ and she tells him to show ‘how bad it can get’. No! Neither is it about merely ‘using’ the other person as/for self-pleasure. Nor about violence and degradation. There’s a fine line, yes, and it is never meant to cross. BDSM is about equals, enjoying equal pleasure, in equal measure, with consent. Yes, that word ‘consent’ is paramount in BDSM. Anyone not adhering to it is violating the principles of BDSM.

I had met an andrologist here in Hyderabad a few years ago, to discuss BDSM for an article I was working on (that article never happened, by the way — I couldn’t find people who could talk about the subject). This andrologist told me that when he was studying Psychology and Sexual Medicine, BDSM featured in a chapter under ‘Perversion’. Why? You may ask today. We have sex prescribed for us over generations, don’t we? Anything deviating from that prescription is deviant, hence perverse. The chapter, he said, basically talked about the ‘violence’ involved in BDSM — bondage, tying, spanking, edging, asphyxiation, etc. True. There is risk involved. That’s where and why communication is a major part of BDSM. Two people willing to indulge in a scene (a scene is a discussed and agreed upon activity with a beginning, middle and end) talk and work out the details before attempting anything. And that brings us back to consent. Like mentioned earlier, spanking, edging, use of ropes and whips are part of BDSM as is fingers and tongue. But none of this is done without consent and never to an extent that becomes violent. The murder of 21-year-old Grace Millane comes to mind here. The defense attorneys cited Grace’s involvement in BDSM as a possible reason for her death, saying she was on various BDSM dating sites and had expressed interest in bondage and breath-play. It was also reported that she had once asked her ex-partner to choke her during sex. But she didn’t consent to her murder! That’s exactly what the jury said (thankfully): ‘you can’t consent to your own murder’.

Enjoying sex the way she liked it didn’t kill her.

BDSM is only used as a form of exploring excitement and always with safety words — red, yellow and green or anything two consenting adults chose to use as safe words.

Now, tell me, in which other relationship would you find ‘consent’ playing a major role? Or, having safe words to stop your partner from doing what he/she is doing because you are uncomfortable with it? None. It happens only in BDSM. Not to forget ‘after care’ which is compulsory. A Dom/Domme (Dominatrix) is expected to indulge his/her Sub in ‘after care’ after a scene. This is done to calm the Sub down and make her/him feel loved and wanted and cared for.

Moreover, BDSM is not all about sex. In fact, there is possibility of no sex at all and still have a Dom-Sub bond, because BDSM is more about mind play than it is about the body.

It is about vulnerability and the display of it unabashedly. That’s why BDSM is intense. The Master (Dom) has to excite the Sub’s mind enough for her to willingly submit. I knew of someone who had a similar relationship with his Sub. They never met, I am told. But they had, by his own admission, the ‘sexiest’ bond ever. They dwelled upon each other’s minds, playing games that brought both the parties involved immense satisfaction. Interestingly, I have always believed that it is the Sub who is the real/actual Dom. It’s the Sub who plays the better game.

And for those wanting to learn, there are BDSM institutes to teach you the art of role playing and what BDSM entails, such as Columbia University’s Conversio Virium and Iowa State University’s Cuffs, and many others I am sure.

People often talk about BDSM culture as a ‘fetish’ and refuse to accept that love can be a part of it. BDSM is all about consent and that’s where true love is.