Tag Archive: violence

ReviseF65 meets SM Germany

Report from Folsom Europe 2004

In 2004 the federal German organisation BVSM e.V. – Bundesvereinigung Sadomasochismus e.V. – started the work to remove the diagnoses of Sadomasochism, Fetishism and Transvestic Fetishism from their national version of ICD, International Classification of Diseases, published by the World Health Organisation, WHO. This is important because, as with the earlier diagnosis of Homosexuality, the more countries that stop using stigmatizing national SM and Fetish diagnoses, the bigger is the possibility that WHO will follow suit.

The ReviseF65 committee, located in Norway, had important talks with activists from German SM organisations both during Europride in Cologne in 2002, and held a workshop during the Folsom street weekend in Berlin September 3.-6., 2004. This brings hope to intensify the work towards SM/fetish prejudices in general, and the efforts to delete stigmatising SM and Fetish diagnoses from the ICD classification, in special.

ReviseF65 attended Europride in Cologne 2002. Among other things, we had important talks with german SM-activists, and was interviewed by the magazine of SMart-Rhein-Ruhr e.V.. This organisation is running 15 BDSM-communities within 11 towns in Germany. The SMart-Info brought a lot of information about the ReviseF65 efforts to delete stigmatising SM and Fetish diagnoses from the ICD classification published by the WHO – World Health Organisation.

Three weeks before the first Folsom Europe street fair in Berlin 2004, the ReviseF65 committee got a very warm invitation from the BVSM e.V. – Bundesvereinigung Sadomasochismus e.V. to meet them at their Folsom Street Fair booth to present and to inform people about our work. This Federal German organisation had been built up in the two years since I last visited Germany.

At a very short notice, together we were able to organise the production of 500 ReviseF65-flyers in both English and German which was distributed by Ole Johnsen and Svein Skeid from the ReviseF65 committee together with Erik Weisdal during the ten hour long Saturday street fair. As if there wouldn´t have been enough work organising the BVSM booth, Raven and Jayneway managed to organise the possibility for Svein to hold a lecture on Sunday, 5th, the day after the Folsom Europe. Within few days they found a space we could use for free and even organised a wonderfull buffet. Nearly 30 SM activists from organisations all over Germany, Austria and Holland visited the lecture and took part in the discussion afterwards. During the talks at the buffet it suddenly came to happen that what was planned as a nice afterhour for the Folsom weekend transformed into a network meeting of SM activists.

Before, during and after our stay in Berlin September 3.-6., 2004, we learned that central SMart-members I talked to in 2002, was founding member of the new federal SM organisation BVSM e.V., and that one of the main goals of BVSM is to work for the deletion of SM and Fetish diagnoses from the national version of the ICD in Germany. Both SMart-Rhein-Ruhr e.V. and BDSM-Berlin e.V. also support the ReviseF65 project.

This is very important because, as with the earlier diagnosis of Homosexuality, the more countries that stop using their national SM and Fetish diagnoses, the bigger is the possibility that the World Health Organization will follow suit. This far, the diagnoses of Sadomasochism and Transvestism is completely out of use in Denmark since 1995. In the U.S., Sadomasochism, Fetishism and Transvestic Fetishism is considered to be a healthy form of sexual expression as long as it does not impair the daily functioning of the subject.

The Gay Movement more than 30 years ago considered it of fundamental importance to first delete the diagnosis of homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), before any further major human rights improvement was possible. If a group is considered mentally ill, very few people will listen to your arguments aiming at reducing prejudice in society.

The ReviseF65 movement apply the same judgement today. We consider unprofessional and stigmatising SM and Fetish-diagnoses as possibly one of the biggest obstacles to the acceptance of our human rights. Abolishing them is a very important step in the effort to reduce prejudices towards the SM-Leather-Fetish-population.

The pansexual ReviseF65 committee, located in Norway, sets focus on the lack of scientific basis for today’s diagnoses and tries to stimulate the building-up of an international activist and professional network to delete these diagnoses.

One thing I am sure of. The BDSM community is able to reach our goal ourselves. We are not dependent of the Gay movement. But we can learn from their experiences as I referred to in my lecture during the Folsom weekend. Don’t expect anybody to fight for your freedom from discrimination, if you don’t do it yourself.

Like the earlier diagnosis of Homosexuality that is no longer applied by the WHO, the SM and Fetish diagnoses are rarely used in clinical practice as a means to assist people. On the contrary the stigma attached to the diagnoses justifies various forms of harassment and discrimination of this sexual minority by the society. The ReviseF65 group can document that people are losing their jobs, the custody of their children etc., because of their SM-love, lifestyle and self-expression. Much of the discrimination is directly or indirectly a result of the diagnoses.

The ReviseF65 representatives look upon the Folsom Street Fair in general, and the Sunday ReviseF65 lecture in special as a big success. We have got feedback from our German friends that this visit and our contact can lead to closer cooperation and stronger efforts to delete the sm/fetish diagnoses.

All european Leather-SM-Fetish communities were invited to participate. One of the goals with The Folsom Europe Street Fair (like the mother arrangements in the US and Canada) was to strengthen the bonds within the Leather-SM-Fetish community, to raise money to several social projects like hiv and aids, and to reduce SM-Fetish pre-judgements by stepping in to the open public. The arrangement was supported by the City of Berlin, the Berlin Police, the Industrial Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Berlin and the Berlin Tourism Office.

What impressed us Norwegians most, besides all the people at the lecture, the wonderful weather, the very well organised street fair and all the proud and friendly leather/SM people of all colors, interests and sexual orientations, was among other things, the booths with leather- and rubber-men fighting hiv and aids, the Association of Gay and Lesbian Police Officers Berlin-Brandenburg e.V., the police Berlin with it’s contact persons for homosexual lifestyles, and not least all the SM activists at the booths of BVSM e.V., BDSM-Berlin e.V. and SMart-Rhein-Ruhr e.V. .

Svein Skeid

Leader of the ReviseF65 commitee

Sexual Freedom NOW (published 1996/98)

Testimony from Physicians and Psychiatrists
for the NOW S/M Policy Reform Statement

Physicians and psychiatrists about SM as a valid expression of adult consensual sexuality and an important part of people’s sexual orientation.


Psychiatrist Susan D. Wagenheim, M.D.

As a board-certified psychiatrist and supporter of the National Organization for Women, I write in support of amending the policy statement on consensual S/M. It is my understanding that S/M practice is a valid expression of adult consensual sexuality. In my private practice, I hear patients tell me frequently that they were “born this way”; ie submissive or dominant in sexual nature. Their experience is that S/M is their sexual ORIENTATION, and they “come out” to themselves much as homosexual and lesbian people do. With that understanding, there is no place in NOW for discrimination against a woman’s right to choose; her right to choose how, when and with whom to express her sexual self.
Charles Moser, Ph.D., M.D.

S/M practitioners have been victimized by society as a whole and by many groups that should know better. There is no credible evidence that S/M practitioners have any more problems or issues than other sexual orientations. There is no data to suggest that S/M leads to violence. All research so far, indicates that S/M practitioners are indistinguishable from individuals with other sexual orientations, except by their sexual behavior. The revision of the NOW policy is long overdue.
June M. Reinisch, Ph.D., with Ruth Beasley, MLS. The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex

St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1990.

“Researchers estimate that 5 percent to 10 percent of the U.S. population engages in sadomasochism for sexual pleasure on at least an occasional basis, with most incidents being either mild or staged activities involving no real pain or violence. It appears that many more individuals prefer to play the masochist’s role than the sadist’s. It also appears that males are more likely to prefer sadomasochistic activities than females. This means that male sadists may have difficulty in finding willing masochistic females to be sexual partners.

“If partners are located, an agreement is reached about what will occur. The giving and receiving of actual or pretended physical pain or psychological humiliation occurs in most cares only within a carefully prearranged script. Any change from the expected scenario generally reduces sexual pleasure.

“Most often it is the receiver (the masochist), not the giver (the sadist), who sets and controls the exact type and extent of the couple’s activities. It might also interest you to know that in many such heterosexual relationships, the so-called traditional sex roles are reversed — with men playing the submissive or masochistic role. Sadomasochistic activities can also occur between homosexual couples.”
Havelock Ellis Studies of the Psychology of Sex (early 20th cent)

“The essence of sadomasochism is not so much “pain” as the overwhelming of one’s senses – emotionally more than physically. Active sexual masochism has little to do with pain and everything to do with the search for emotional pleasure.” Ellis believed that culture tries to stifle our “natural impulses, which become expressed through various emotional/physical representations of the heirarchal structure of society.”
Iwan Bloch 
Strange Sexual Practices (1933)

“Sexual abnormalities” were common in ordinary people, and that aberrations and deviations were as essential to life as the “sex impulse” itself. Masochism exists among socially powerful men for whom it was a “liberation from conventional pressure and the professional mask.”
Theodore Reik’s 
Masochism in Modern Man (1941)

“Pleasure is the aim, never to be abolished and the masochistic staging is but a circuitous way to reach that aim. The urge for pleasure is so powerful that anxiety and the idea of punishment themselves are drawn into its sphere.”
Bill Thompson 
Sadomasochism (1994)

“As SM devotees carefully refine these simple acts, by dressing them up in role-play, it is easy to see how they are deliberately manipulating various forms of stimulation in the service of sexual arousal; and how this consenting scene where the submissive’s pleasure is carefully planned is obviously very different from a truly coercive act like rape, which involves aggressive action designed to inflict acute pain on a non-aroused victim.”
Dolf Zillmann (1984) [D. Zillmann along with Park Elliot Dietz are two of the world’s leading authorities on the relationship between sex and aggression.]

“As the arousing capacity of novel partners is likely to fade and acute emotional reactions such as fear and guilt are improbable accompaniments of sexual activity, what can be done to combat the drabness of routine sexual engagements that is expected to result from excitatory habituation? Rough housing, pinching, biting and beating emerge as viable answers. In terms of a theory it is the controlled engagement of pain that holds promise of reliably producing excitatory reaction for transfer into sexual behavior and experience…. Pain then always can be counted on to stir up excitement, however, pain must be secondary to sexual excitedness. It must be dominated by sexual stimulation. Only when thus dominated can it be expected to enhance sexual excitedness.”
Park Elliot Dietz (1990) [P.E. Dietz is a forensic psychologist who consistently tries to point out the absurdity of the link between s/m devotees and psychotic criminals.]

According to Dietz, the five main differences between psychotic sadistic serial murderers and SM devotees:

1. Psychotics search for unwilling partners. S/M devotees use a “safeword” that the submissive can say at any time to end the scene, thus the submissive retains real control throughout the encounter.

2. Psychotics force their acts on the victim rather than aiming at pleasing the submissive (as in s/m). The psychotic sadistic acts are quite different from s/m practices, and usually include: forced anal penetration, forced fellatio, or violent vagina-penetration with various foreign objects -rather than the penis.

3. The sadistic offenders’ demeanor is diametrically opposed to s/m devotees: usually the psychotic is detached and unemotional throughout the torture, while the s/m dominant appears to achieve a “high” or pleasure equivalent during the scene.

4. Psychotic criminals torture their victims, inflicting serious and permanent injury, trying to arouse terror in their victims. S/M devotees skillfully enhance the sexual arousal of their partner, following the rules and guidelines that were established before the scene, thus creating only the illusion that the submissive is not in control.

5. Psychotics usually have a past history of sexual crimes such as rape or incest. S/M devotees are average people who typically don’t have criminal pasts.
The sociologists took their lead from the anthropologist Paul Gebhard, whose 1968 essay “Fetishism and Sadomasochism” undermined the idea of individual pathology by pointing to sadomasochism’s cultural roots, and the futility of defining a widespread and diffuse sexual practice by reference to a few “extreme” examples. He stated that S/M practices were “only prevalent in its organized form in literate societies full of symbolic meanings.” This means that far from being a manifestation of a base instinct, sadomasochism required a considerable amount of intelligence and organization.
1929 Hamilton survey on marriage habits: 28% males and 29% females admitted that they derived “pleasant thrills” from having some form of “pain” inflicted on them.
William A. Henkin, PhD.; November 1992 letter to the committee that advocated changes to the entries on sexual sadism and masochism in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“In conclusion: consensual sadomasochism offers its adherants an opportunity to explore paraphilic urges and fantasies, not in a dangerous or debilitating fashion, but in a safe and supportive manner, where those urges and fantasies can be pleasurably satisfied, and where their values in a person’s psychic life can be revealed.

“Within the past decade prominent clinicians and scholars in the fields of psychoanalysis, clinical psychology, and clinical sexology, eschewing the received wisdom of past masters who south to fit clinical observations to their theories, rather than the other way around, have instead made serious attempts to understand the activities of consensual sadomasochism as well as the dynamic processes that underlie them, and to devise theories that fit the evidence they found in the lab, in the consulting room, and in the field. They have proposed that consensual erotic power play is not a psychiatric disorder: that instead, it can simply be a form of sexual pleasure, and that as a path of psychological and spiritual development it can even be the evidence and experience of triumph over childhood adversity.

“Absent distress, harm, or functional impairment, to define such activity as a mental disorder is to place chains on the human spirit, and to produce a chilling effect on the very processes we as psychotherapists are trained and charged to abet: the healing and liberation of damaged and imprisoned personalities, and their integration in the full creative expression of human beings.”
Dr. William A. Henkin, 1989 presentation to the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex (now Sexuality) with Sybil Holiday, published in 1991 as “Erotic Power Play,” Sandmutopia Guardian.

A Clinical Introduction:

“Everyone accomplishes some degree of self-identification in the normal course of growing up. But the process of growing up is one of acculturation as well as one of maturation, so that as we are in the midst of discovering all those special attributes that make us who we are, we are simultaneously being trained to subdue, suppress, or otherwise disown important facets of ourselves. In the ensuing confusion, few people grow up whole. Instead we are to one degree or another dis-integrated, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as being separated into component parts or particles; reduced to fragments; having had our cohesion or integrity broken up. Disintegration is the condition that as adults we either accept or try to alter.

“One of the most direct ways I know for a person to gain access to hidden facets of his self, and hence to move toward integration, is to explore his sexual personas ; and one of the most direct ways I know for a person to explore his sexual personas is to examine the attitudes he brings to sexual activity. But to examine sexual attitudes usually requires more than intellectual assessment: it first needs exposure, practice, and hands-on experience. It also requires a perspective concerning the variety of people’s experiences that is not influenced by cultural norms.”

On negotiation:

“Negotiation includes both initial and ongoing, verbal and non-verbal communications. In erotic power play, negotiation is the underpinning for consensuality: you cannot agree, or consent, to give something if you do not know it has been requested, or to accept something if you do not know it has been offered. In addition, the more completely and openly people negotiate about what they want or have to offer, the more they establish their parity, as it is difficult for unequals to negotiate truly: all parties know that ultimately the person with more inherent power can pull rank.”

On Ritual:

“A major function of ritual is to let us know who we are beyond the confines of our small, individual selves. Baptisms, confirmations, bar and bas mitzvahs, long pants, graduations, marriages – all ceremonies tell us, even as they announce it, who we are to ourselves, our families, our friends, our communities, and our world.

“Anthropologists, ethnologists, mythologists, and other psychologists of culture note that where a heritage of meaningful rites of passage does not exist, people will feel enough of a spiritual imbalance to make up rituals of their own. It’s become a cliché that our society offers us a paucity of rituals that touch the spirit, and that those that exist are for the most part competitive or not negotiated: football games, invasions of small islands, and the episodic opportunity to vote for more of the same.

“In erotic power play, rituals of substance can be conceived, developed, and executed in ways that can touch their participants on numerous levels at once: they can be physical, emotional, cognitive, or spiritual; sexual, political, and religious; they are simultaneously as sophisticated and creative as the human imagination can make them, and as basic and primitive as the psyche’s drives for power and sexual fulfillment.”

SM versus abuse

Among other sources, this text is collected from Jay Wiseman’s book “SM 101” and Park Elliot Dietz, one of the worlds leading authorities on the connection between sex and violence
http://www.greenerypress.com/articles.htm
http://members.aol.com/NOWSM/Psychiatrists.html/#Psychiatrists

SM versus violence

1. Perhaps the biggest difference between a violent sadist and an SM Master is that the former destroys the self confidence, value and dignity of the victim. An SM Master does the opposite.

2. SM sexual games have neither perpetrators nor victims. An SM scene is a win-win situation for mutual satisfaction.

3. The submissive partner wishes and longs for the domination. Most people do not want to be abused, and consensual domination is not abuse.

4. Planning, communication and warming up (like in extreme sports) are essential for preventing damage. Sadistic psychopaths, on the other hand, damage their victims, physically and emotionally, deliberately.

5. A sadistic psychopath has usually a history of sexual abuse like rape and incest. Sadomasochists are, as a rule, ordinary people without criminal records or criminal interests.

6. SM is played out in safe settings and safe ways. Abuse is out of control.

7. SM games are negotiated beforehand by equal partners. They decide upon limits and safe words. A perpetrator decides unilaterally without any concern for the wishes, limits or the well being of the victim.

8. SM games contain rules that are mutually agreed upon. In an abusive relationship there is no agreement and the victim has no rights.

9. SM is built upon respect and confidence and is always consensual. Abuse is non consensual and ruins the relationship.

10. The violent sadist is cold and without empathy during the torture. The SM Master uses communication and empathy to find out what turns the slave on.

11. An SM relationship can be loving, intimate, and involve personal growth. Victims of violence experience anxiety, guilt, shame and powerlessness.

12. Many SM practitioners switch roles during the interaction, from time to time, or as a personal development. In an abusive relationship the roles, as a rule, are static.

13. SM is often practiced with support from friends and often in an SM environment. Abuse, on the other hand, requires isolation and secrecy.

14. The dominant in the SM relation respects the borders of the partner. To the extent the borders are stretched, it takes place according to mutual agreement.

15. Using a safe word (e.g. “red”) the slave can immediately stop the game for whatever reason, whether it is physical or emotional. A victim has no such possibility with a perpetrator.

16. SM role-playing typically ends with mutual cuddling and evaluation.

17. The SM slave typically feels grateful to the Master. A victim is not grateful.

18. SM people don’t feel that they have any rights to control their partners by virtue of gender, income or other external, circumstances. Perpetrators often do.

19. There are reasons to believe that SM, like other kinds of consensual sexual practices, liberate bodily and emotional energy, promotes health and prevent violence.

See also: Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity. Self and society in late modern age. Stanford University Press. Stanford.

SM versus abuse

Among other sources, this text is collected from Jay Wiseman’s book “SM 101” and Park Elliot Dietz, one of the worlds leading authorities on the connection between sex and violence
http://www.greenerypress.com/articles.htm
http://members.aol.com/NOWSM/Psychiatrists.html/#Psychiatrists

SM versus violence

1. Perhaps the biggest difference between a violent sadist and an SM Master is that the former destroys the self confidence, value and dignity of the victim. An SM Master does the opposite.

2. SM sexual games have neither perpetrators nor victims. An SM scene is a win-win situation for mutual satisfaction.

3. The submissive partner wishes and longs for the domination. Most people do not want to be abused, and consensual domination is not abuse.

4. Planning, communication and warming up (like in extreme sports) are essential for preventing damage. Sadistic psychopaths, on the other hand, damage their victims, physically and emotionally, deliberately.

5. A sadistic psychopath has usually a history of sexual abuse like rape and incest. Sadomasochists are, as a rule, ordinary people without criminal records or criminal interests.

6. SM is played out in safe settings and safe ways. Abuse is out of control.

7. SM games are negotiated beforehand by equal partners. They decide upon limits and safe words. A perpetrator decides unilaterally without any concern for the wishes, limits or the well being of the victim.

8. SM games contain rules that are mutually agreed upon. In an abusive relationship there is no agreement and the victim has no rights.

9. SM is built upon respect and confidence and is always consensual. Abuse is non consensual and ruins the relationship.

10. The violent sadist is cold and without empathy during the torture. The SM Master uses communication and empathy to find out what turns the slave on.

11. An SM relationship can be loving, intimate, and involve personal growth. Victims of violence experience anxiety, guilt, shame and powerlessness.

12. Many SM practitioners switch roles during the interaction, from time to time, or as a personal development. In an abusive relationship the roles, as a rule, are static.

13. SM is often practiced with support from friends and often in an SM environment. Abuse, on the other hand, requires isolation and secrecy.

14. The dominant in the SM relation respects the borders of the partner. To the extent the borders are stretched, it takes place according to mutual agreement.

15. Using a safe word (e.g. “red”) the slave can immediately stop the game for whatever reason, whether it is physical or emotional. A victim has no such possibility with a perpetrator.

16. SM role-playing typically ends with mutual cuddling and evaluation.

17. The SM slave typically feels grateful to the Master. A victim is not grateful.

18. SM people don’t feel that they have any rights to control their partners by virtue of gender, income or other external, circumstances. Perpetrators often do.

19. There are reasons to believe that SM, like other kinds of consensual sexual practices, liberate bodily and emotional energy, promotes health and prevent violence.

See also: Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity. Self and society in late modern age. Stanford University Press. Stanford.

LEOP-What is SM?

Written by Susan Wright and Dr Charles Moser

In the last decade, SM awareness has exploded into popular culture. SM is commonly depicted in advertising, books, movies, music, and is becoming commonplace on television. SM has been positively covered by Newsweek, Time, Ms. Magazine, the New York Times and many other national publications. SM fashion accessories have become commonplace, as have jokes about SM play. Yet separating the truth about SM from the stereotypes can be difficult.

The present booklet is an attempt to educate the public about sadomasochism (SM). The following are some answers about consensual SM that are supported by scientific research.

1. SM is a Sexual Orientation or Behavior *

2. SM is Safe, Sane and Consensual *

3. SM is not Domestic Violence *

4. The Psychiatric Opinion about SM *

5. Should I be Afraid of People Who Enjoy SM? *

6. How Many People Engage in SM Activities? *

7. More Information About SM *

APPENDIX A *

Excerpt from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition. *

1. SM is a Sexual Orientation or Behavior

SM is a sexual orientation or behavior among two or more adult partners. The behavior may include, but is not limited to, the use of physical and/or psychological stimulation to produce sexual arousal and satisfaction. Usually one partner will take an active role (top or dominant) and the other will take a passive role (bottom or submissive). SM practitioners can be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, transgendered or intersex individuals.

SM is not easily defined; the range of behaviors are quite broad and most participants do not enjoy all of the activities or roles. The problems with the definition are discussed at length in an article by Weinberg, Williams and Moser. They found five features present in most SM interactions they studied:

 

      1. Dominance and submission – the appearance of rule and obedience of one partner over the other;

         

         

      2. Consensuality – a voluntary agreement to enter into SM “play” (interaction) and to honor certain “limits” (ground rules of how involved and in which direction the play can proceed);
      3. Sexual content – the presumption that the activities have a sexual or erotic meaning;
      4. Mutual definition – the assumption of a shared understanding by the participants that their activities are SM or a similar concept.
      5. Role playing – the participants assume roles either for the interaction or for the relationship that they recognize are not reality.

Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J., & Moser, C.A. (1984). “The social constituents of sadomasochism.” Social Problems, 31, pg. 379-389.

2. SM is Safe, Sane and Consensual

SM-Leather-Fetish educational and social organizations consider the cornerstone of SM activity to be the guidelines: “safe, sane, and consensual.” While it is possible to do any activity in a reckless and dangerous manner, SM is no more dangerous than skiing or other thrilling activities.

*Safe*

Safe is being knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what you are doing, and acting in accordance with that knowledge. Safety includes the responsibility of protecting yourself and your partner from STD (sexually transmitted disease) infection including the HIV virus.

While the media often portrays the more extreme SM behaviors, the reality is that a lot of SM play never goes beyond a playful spanking. Just as there are ways to reduce the risk in activities such as scuba diving or driving a car, there are ways to reduce the risk and engage in SM behavior safely.

The organized SM community is active in promoting safety seminars and teaching the practitioners how to engage in these behaviors safely. The fact that SM practitioners are not clogging the emergency rooms every weekend, is an indication that these programs are working. If SM injuries were occurring, it seems obvious that the press would be highlighting this for the entertainment of its readers/viewers.

*Sane*

Sane is knowing the difference between fantasy and reality. Fictional accounts of SM are often distorted for fantasy sake, and are not representative of real situations and relationships.

Sane also distinguishes between mental illness and health. A real distinction between mental illness and health is when a behavior pattern causes problems in a person’s life. Washing your hands until the skin is peeling off, or so frequently that you can not otherwise function is a sign mental illness. SM, like any other behavior, can be a sign of psychiatric problems. However the vast majority of its practitioners find that SM enriches and promotes functionality in the other areas of their life.

*Consensual *

Consensual is respecting the limits imposed by each participant at all times.

Consent is the prime ingredient of SM. One difference between rape and heterosexual intercourse is consent. One difference between violence and SM is consent. The same behaviors that might be crimes without consent are life-enhancing with consent.

The type and parameters of control are agreed upon by the people involved, and the ongoing consent of all participants is required. Some practitioners use a safeword, which is a designated word that signals the scene must slow down or stop. Rick Houlberg writes in “The Magazine of a Sadomasochism Club: The Tie That Binds”:

“The only “cardinal” rules which the Club’s membership insists each member must uphold are that all SM activities must be consensual, nonexploitative, and safe. As children are not considered to be able to consent, all activities must be between adults. The consensual and safety rules of the Club are constantly being reinforced. Safety and etiquette issues, including restrictions on overt and heavy drug use, are strongly stressed at new-member orientations and in all written materials produced by the Club.”

Rick Houlberg (1993). “The Magazine of a Sadomasochism Club: The Tie That Binds.” Journal of Homosexuality 21 (1/2), Haworth Press: pg. 167-83.

3. SM is not Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of intentional intimidation of one partner to coerce or isolate the other partner without consent. Abuse tends to be cyclical in nature, escalates over time, and characterized by apologies between the episodes that it will never happen again.

SM is not abuse or domestic violence because:

      1. SM is voluntary. The partners agree to erotic power exchange of their own free will and choice. Either partner is free to leave at any time. The fact that SM relationships do split (amiably or not) without retaliation or violence supports the importance of this distinction.
      2. SM is consensual. All partners involved agree to what is going to happen. Discussion of limits is usual and customary. Violation of those limits is a serious offense within the SM community.
      3. SM partners are informed. Participants involved in erotic power exchange have an understanding of the possible consequences.
      4. SM partners ask for and enjoy the behavior; they are often disappointed if the behavior does not happen. There is no apology for the behavior after it is over, rather both partners are happy and satisfied that it occurred.
      5. SM partners take great care to make sure that their activities are as safe as possible. To truly damage their partner would deny themselves of being able to participate in the behavior. Individuals that violate their partners limits soon find that they are lacking partners in which to engage in the behavior. To emphasize the point, SM groups frequent hold educational meetings on how to safely engage in the behavior.

Nonetheless, as with any group of people, you will find cases of domestic violence among SM practitioners. The organized SM-Leather-Fetish community does not condone domestic violence and actively encourages victims and abusers to seek help.

Sociologist Thomas S. Weinberg is the author of numerous professional articles on human sexuality in various scholarly journals. In Studies in Dominance & Submission, Dr. Weinberg says:

“While the individuals we have discussed are different in many ways there are, nevertheless, some common themes running through them. These similarities are all related to S&M as a form of social interaction. For example, the importance of learning both attitudes and techniques through a socialization process is evident in all of these … In order for an S&M scene to be successful, from the viewpoint of both partners, it must be collaboratively worked out. Unless there is satisfaction on the part of both master (or mistress) and slave, the relationship will terminate. Thus, there must be agreement on the scene and consent given by both parties. Adjustments must be made by participants so that they are both stimulated.”

Thomas S. Weinberg (1995). Studies in Dominance & Submission, Prometheus Books: pg. 89.

4. The Psychiatric Opinion about SM

In recent years as more research has been published, the mental health and medical communities have begun to accept that SM is a safe, legitimate pursuit.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) which defines currently recognized mental disorders, SM per se is NOT a mental disorder. In their diagnostic criteria for both sexual masochism and sexual sadism, the DSM-IV states that SM only becomes a diagnosable dysfunction when:

“the fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”

In addition, the DSM-IV clearly allows for non-pathological sexual behavior:

“a paraphilia must be distinguished from the non-pathological use of sexual fantasies, behavior or objects as a stimulus for sexual excitement.”

[The entire diagnostic criteria for sexual masochism and sexual sadism are reproduced Appendix A.]

5. Should I be Afraid of People Who Enjoy SM?

You do not have to be afraid of people who engage in SM. SM players are doctors, lawyers, teachers, construction workers, fire fighters, secretaries and everything else you can imagine.

In her 1983 book Erotic Power, sociologist Gini Scott examined the dynamics of the heterosexual SM subculture. She stated:

“Unlike the psychiatrists and psychologists who deal primarily with psychologically troubled individuals who are also interested in D&S [Dominance and Submission], I did not find them to be psychologically troubled or socially inept; rather, a spirit of good humor and fun prevailed, and the participants appeared to be mostly attractive, quite ordinary-looking people who had ordinary relationships outside the D&S scene… A vast variety of people with a diverse range of erotic interests participate in sadomasochism. Their backgrounds, activities and attitudes are quite unlike the social stereotype that depicts sadomasochism as a form of violence, mischief, or mayhem perpetrated by the psychologically unstable who seek to hurt others or to be hurt themselves… At the core of the community are mostly sensible, rational respectable, otherwise quite ordinary people. Thus, quite unlike its public image, the community is a warm, close and supportive one.”

Gini Scott (1983). Erotic Power, Citadel Press: pg. x.

6. How Many People Engage in SM Activities?

A handful of significant sociological studies have been done to determine percentage of the population engages in SM activities:

The 1990 Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex reports:

“Researchers estimate that 5-10 percent of the U.S. population engages in sadomasochism for sexual pleasure on at least an occasional basis, with most incidents being either mild or stage activities involving no real pain or violence. Most often it is the receiver (the masochist), not the giver (the sadist), who sets and controls the exact type and extent of the couple’s activities. It might also interest you to know that in many such heterosexual relationships, the so-called traditional sex roles are reversed — with men playing the submissive or masochistic role. Sadomasochistic activities can also occur between homosexual couples.”

June M. Reinisch, Ph.D. with Ruth Beasley, M.L.S (1990). Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex, St. Martin’s Press: pg. 162-163.

A new Playboy poll by Dr. Marty Klein appeared in November, 1998, p. 81:

18% of the men and 20% of the women have used a blindfold during sex.

30% of the men and 32% of the women have tied someone up or have been tied up during sex.

49% of the men and 38% of the women have spanked or have been spanked as part of sex.

A survey by Hunt (1974) of 2,026 respondents found that 4.8% of men and 2.1% percent of women had obtained sexual pleasure from inflicting pain and 2.5% of the men and 4.6% of the women obtained sexual pleasure from receiving pain. These numbers are probably underestimates, because the erotic response to “pain” is only one aspect of SM. (M. Hunt, Sexual Behavior in the 1970s, Chicago: Playboy Press.)

A mid-1970s independent research organization poll funded by Playboy surveyed 3,700 randomly selected students from 20 colleges found that 12% women and 18% of the men had indicated a willingness to try bondage or master-slave role-playing. (Playboy, “What’s Really Happening on Campus”, October 1976.)

A survey by E. Hariton (1972) found that up to 49% of women fantasize about submissive scenarios during sexual intercourse with 14% doing so frequently. (E. Hariton, “Women’s Fantasies During Sexual Intercourse with their Husbands: A Normative Study with Tests of Personality and Theoretical Models'” unpublished doctoral dissertation, City University of New York.)

Paul H. Gebhard, is an anthropologist and was the executive director of the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University from 1956 to 1983. Gebhard noted in Fetishism and Sadomasochism (Dynamics of Deviant Sexuality, 1969, pg. 79.) that “consciously recognized sexual arousal from sadomasochistic stimuli are not rare.” The Institute for Sex Research found that one in eight females and one in five males were aroused by sadomasochistic stories.

In 1929, Hamilton’s marriage habits survey reported that 28% of men and 29% of women admitted they derived “pleasant thrills” from having some form of “pain” inflicted in them. (G.V. Hamilton, A Research in Marriage, Boni, New York.)

7. More Information About SM

*Why do you call it SM instead of S&M?*

The term “S&M” stands for Sadism and Masochism, and the historical definitions and depictions of S&M are often stereotyped and nonconsensual. The term “SM” stands for sadomasochism, which is a type of sexual orientation or behavior. Many people call it SM to emphasize the need for consent since both behaviors are united in a single word. SM is also sometimes referred as “leather,” “Dominance & Submission,” “D&S” and “BDSM”.

*Where did the terms Sadism and Masochism come from?*

As the language has evolved, the contemporary definitions of sadism and masochism are changing. Sadism no longer implies non-consensuality, nor does it imply violence. It simply means that someone receives erotic gratification from the infliction of psychological or physical stimulation on a consenting partner. Conversely, a masochist is someone who enjoys receiving that psychological or physical stimulation.

The term ‘sadism’ was popularized by psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in 1886 and stems from the writings of the Marquis de Sade (de Sade’s writing style had been referred to as “le sadisme” for years, Krafft-Ebing was the first to use the term in a clinical manner). The case histories he reported primarily concerned nonconsensual sexual violence and were not about what we now call SM.

Krafft-Ebing also coined the term ‘masochism’ to describe the enjoyment of sexual servitude. He took the term from the writings of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a prominent Austrian novelist, who wrote about his own masochistic desires in novel form. Sacher-Masoch was alive at the time and not very happy about having a perversion named after him, as it defamed his grandfather. Sacher-Masoch was given his hyphenated name as an honor to his maternal grandfather; his mother was the only daughter of an esteemed public health physician. Dr. Masoch convinced the Austrian government to install the sewer system of Vienna, thereby preventing uncounted epidemics. It is ironic that this public health physician is remembered for a sexual diagnosis rather than for the good he actually accomplished.

*Why do people do SM?*

We do not know why some people are heterosexual and others are homosexual. We do not know why some people eroticize breasts and others legs. We do not understand how people develop any particular eroticism. We do know that no one has found any characteristic in childhood history, birth order, etc., that is more common among SM practitioners than the general public. Specifically, there is no indication that SM practitioners are more or less likely to have been spanked as children, or to have been the victim of sexual or other abuse as children.

Andreas Spengler did the first major study of those who identified as SM practitioners (1977). The only thing these devotees had in common was their high standard of living, social status, and education. 90% were perfectly happy with their sexual preferences, with their biggest burden being the social stigma attached to these acts. (A. Spengler, “Manifest Sadomasochism of Males: Results of an Empirical Study,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 6, pp. 441-56.)

*SM is about love and pleasure*

SM is about sensation and stimulation, exchanging power, trusting one’s partner, and sharing love and pleasure. Some SM practitioners seek “pain” but they want the sensation administered in a way that is ultimately pleasurable to them.

Sociologists Weinberg and Kamel wrote in 1995:

“Much S&M involves very little pain. Rather, many sadomasochists prefer acts such as verbal humiliation or abuse, cross-dressing, being tied up (bondage), mild spankings where no severe discomfort is involved, and the like. Often, it is the notion of being helpless and subject to the will of another that is sexually titillating… At the very core of sadomasochism is not pain but the idea of control–dominance and submission.

Thomas S. Weinberg and G.W. Kamel (1995). “S&M: An Introduction to the Study of Sadomasochism,” S&M: Studies in Dominance and Submission, Prometheus Books, pg. 19.

Havelock Ellis, M.D., produced a groundbreaking study of sexuality: Studies of the Psychology of Sex, in which he wrote that the concept of pain is much misunderstood:

“The essence of sadomasochism is not so much “pain” as the overwhelming of one’s senses – emotionally more than physically. Active sexual masochism has little to do with pain and everything to do with the search for emotional pleasure. When we understand that it is pain only, and not cruelty, that is the essential in this group of manifestations, we begin to come nearer to their explanation. The masochist desires to experience pain, but he generally desires that it should be inflicted in love; the sadist desires to inflict pain, but he desires that it should be felt as love….”

Havelock Ellis, M.D. (1926). Studies of the Psychology of Sex, F.A. Davis Company, pg. 160.

APPENDIX A

Excerpt from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition.

These criteria are listed in the Paraphilia section, pg. 525.

Diagnostic criteria for 302.83 Sexual Masochism

      1. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound or otherwise made to suffer.
      2. The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Diagnostic criteria for 302.84 Sexual Sadism

      1. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving acts (real, not simulated) in which psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim is sexually exciting to the person.
      2. The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

ICD Revision White Paper

Oslo, Norway, September 24, 2009
Dead links updated November 22, 2011

ICD Revision White Paper to WHO from Revise F65
(
Revise F65’s first report to WHO)

By Cand. Psychol Odd Reiersøl and Revise F65 leader Svein Skeid
Proposal to the ICD-11 Revision of Chapter V, Mental and Behavioural Disorders, F65 and F64.

Invitation from WHO to Revise F65

We want to thank classification coordinator Dr. T. Bedirhan Üstün M.D. at WHO in Geneva for inviting Revise F65 to collaborate with the work leading up to the ICD-11 revision.

In an email of May 7, 2007, Dr. Üstün wrote:
“The revision process of ICD from 10 to 11 is about to start and will be revised for the 11th version tentatively in 2015. The revision work will include special attention to Chapter V Mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99). Thanks for your interest in the ICD work and we hope to collaborate with you in the revision process.”
T. Bedirhan Üstün, M.D., Coordinator, Classifications, Assessment and Terminology, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.

Revise F65 was formally established in Norway in 1997 with the purpose to abolish the SM and fetish diagnoses in the F65 category of the ICD.  Among the Revise F65 members are health care professionals and human rights activists. During these years, articles have been published and presentations have been given (1,2,3,4,5).

In our opinion the following four ICD diagnoses should be abolished:

  • F65.0 Fetishism
  • F65.1 Fetishistic transvestism
  • F65.5 Sadomasochism
  • F65.6 Multiple disorders of sexual preference

In addition the F64.1 Dual-role transvestism diagnosis should be abolished.


Health political and professional arguments for the human rights reform

In our opinion the five above mentioned diagnoses should be repealed because they are superfluous, outdated, non scientific and stigmatizing. The article by Reiersøl and Skeid in “Sadomasochism, Powerful Pleasures” (1) gives thorough argumentation for removing the F65.0, F65.1 and the F65.5 diagnoses.

As the F65.6 diagnosis combines several diagnoses including the three above mentioned, it should also be removed. The F64.1 diagnosis is a bit special in the sense that it is classified as a gender identity disorder type diagnosis, but it is very similar to the F65.1. A separate section describes the issue in more detail.

 

Health political arguments

The diagnoses were repealed at a national level in Sweden January 1, 2009 (6,7). The Dual-role transvestism and the SM diagnoses were repealed in Denmark respectively August 19, 1994 and May 1, 1995 (8). The health authorities in these two countries cited in their reasoning; health political, health promoting and human rights arguments.

The Swedish board of health used the following phrases:

  • “not perverse” (7,9,10)
  • “not illness” (7,9,11)
  • “private matters” (7,9)
  • “citizens entitled to equal rights” (9)
  • “no reinforcement of prejudices” (7,9,11,12)
  • “from earlier times in history” (7,9)
  • “risk of social stigmatizing” (11,12)
  • “entitled to self confidence in the same way as homosexuals” (9)

Private matter

The Danish decision was made by the health minister, Yvonne Herløv Andersen, referring to this type of sexual preference as a private matter that has nothing to do with society (8).

The newspaper Dagens Nyheter November 16, 2008 quoted the head of the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), Lars-Erik Holm: “Society has nothing to do with the sexual preferences of these individuals” (7,9).

According to Nettavisen November 17, 2008 the head of the Norwegian Directorate of Health (Helsedirektoratet), Bjørn-Inge Larsen, said: “There is no basis, neither within today’s social norms nor within health political thinking, for labeling several of these phenomena as illnesses” (10).

Stigmatizing

The Swedish revision was done because these psychiatric diagnoses “may contribute to preserve and reinforce prejudices in society, which in turn increases the risk of social stigmatizing of individuals” (11).

“The abolition of  the diagnosis of homosexuality I believe to a certain extent has contributed to a different view than in the 60’s and 70’s of homosexuals in the general population. The abolition gave the homosexuals self confidence because they no longer have a psychiatric stigma. We hope that the current revision will give a similar result”, said  the head of the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), Lars-Erik Holm (9).

In a press release NCSF, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, applauds the Swedish decision, and says:

“We know from the hundreds of requests for help that NCSF gets every year through our Incident Response program that the Sexual Sadism, Sexual Masochism, Fetishism and Transvestic Fetishism diagnoses in the DSM reinforce the negative stereotypes and stigma against alternative sexual behaviors.” (13)

The Norwegian Directorate of Health has since 1996 as a goal to work for counteracting the stigmatizing of sexual minorities (14).

The strategy plan for prevention of HIV and STD points out “the danger of stigmatizing and discriminating against vulnerable groups when doing  preventive work, and the importance of a holistic approach to sexual identity, sexual health and sexual behavior” (15) (pdf file).

Preventative measures

In our opinion, outdated and non scientific diagnoses such as these, constitute an infringement of the human rights of the minorities that are described, and they hinder prophylactic health care efforts that are needed in these groups of people. Deleting the diagnoses may strengthen the “identity building” of the SM/fetish population and contribute positively to the “collective self respect” which is necessary for reaching the group with preventative measures like HIV and STD prevention.

According to Norwegian health authorities “A person’s possibility for self protection against a virus that is sexually transmitted is only to a certain extent influenced by knowledge. The feeling of self value necessary for demanding or having a wish to protect oneself is influenced by societal factors, and only a few of these factors are under the control of the health authorities. We emphasize that the cooperation with marginalized and vulnerable groups has an influence on what could be called a collective self respect” (16).

The Norwegian health authorities have taken an active interest in improving the self respect and the identity of the SM group, to increase the ability of protection against sexually transmitted diseases (17).

Discrimination

For many people, SM and fetishism is more than just behavior, it is part of their sexual orientation and identity (23). In our opinion, stigmatizing minorities by considering their personal orientation as a psychiatric condition is as disrespectful as discriminating against people because of their race, ethnicity or religion.

Like the earlier diagnosis of Homosexuality that is no longer applied by the WHO, the SM and Fetish diagnoses are rarely used for therapeutic purposes. Instead, these definitions are abused to justify harassment and discrimination of the SM/fetish population from laymen and judicial institutions.

Much of the discrimination is directly or indirectly a result of the diagnoses. A psychiatric diagnosis may have a major influence on a person’s possibility of getting work and on the evaluation of a person’s ability to raise children, for example after a divorce.

As with other forms of abuse, women are the main sufferers, losing their jobs, or even their children, because of their SM/fetish love, lifestyle and self-expression (18).

The Norwegian National LGBT Association (LLH) and the National coalition for sexual freedom (NCSF), have published respectively a case study and a survey indicating the stigmatizing function of the F65 diagnoses and that these diagnoses legitimize discrimination (18,13,19).

By repealing the diagnoses, the sexual minorities in question may breathe a bit more easily and be less afraid of private and public discrimination.

In a letter of June 11, 2003 to Revise F65, the Norwegian Association for Clinical Sexology says:  “The Norwegian Association for Clinical Sexology in its support wishes to emphasize that the use of psychiatric diagnoses in relation to homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual fetishists, sadomasochists and transvestic fetishists is stigmatizing and therefore an encroachment upon this group as a whole”.

Safe, sane and consensual

There is no reason to doubt that the SM movement has  “grown up” and taken responsibility over the last 20-30 years, by establishing safe words, security routines, pride symbols and normative measures like the internationally recognized moral and ethical principle “Safe, sane and consensual”. As opposed to dangerous perpetration, SM activities are mutually wanted and consensual activities that produce health promoting and pleasurable hormones (20,21,22,23,38).

Kink Against Racism

Leather and SM people against nazism

Europride 2002 in Cologne. Photo: Svein Skeid
The European leather/SM movement has a long tradition against rasism and nazism. As early as in 1978 the AGM of ECMC – the gay “European Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs” – discussed how to stop Nazi elements from infiltrating their member-clubs.

The ECMC member club MS Panther Köln, in 1993 started “Leder gegen Rechts”, and decorated an “anti-nazi fleet” during the CSD (Christopher Street Day) parade that year.

Illustration right:
The German ECMC-club Rote Erde “Leder Gegen Rechts” 1993.

In 1998 the ECMC AGM, with their 50 european member clubs included an article in their Constitution against “Racist and Nazi attitudes, manifestations and actions, as well as membership in corresponding anti-democratic organizations”.

Fetisch gegen Rechts
More than one million people saw the five km long Europride parade 2002 in Cologne, included the huge anti-nazi-wagon from the big Cologne leather bar “Chairs”.
Picture left, Photo: Svein Skeid.

There was also a “Leder gegen rechts”-booth during the Folsom Europe Street Fair in Berlin in September 2004.

 

HERE IS THE TEXT OF THE 1998 ECMC RESOLUTION:
The ECMC AGM 1998 approves the following resolution:
“Racist and nazi attitudes, manifestations and actions, together with membership in ditto antidemocratic organisations is not consistent with membership in our democratic ECMC-clubs.”

Arguments for the proposal:
“The intention with this proposal is to secure the address lists and membership archives of our member clubs from being misused by antidemocratic elements.
We also carry the above resolution to foster fraternal brotherhood with our foreign cultural individual members and in solidarity with ECMC clubs fighting against nazi violence and for information about the difference between leather and nazi.
Today there is different attempts of building up networks of gay leather nazi organisations in Europe. We see this as a threat against the security of our ECMC-clubs and individual members.
The european leather community has a anti nazi tradition. Already in 1978 the ECMC AGM discussed how to stop nazi elements from infiltrating our member clubs. With the above resolution we want to confirm this anti nazi attitude.”

 

No nazifetish at Gear Fetish.
The gay leather internet community GearFetish.com takes stand against German swastikas and other nazi related symbols (Juni 1, 2005).


People of all colours at Folsom Street Fair Europe in Berlin 2004, picture right. The big street fair also included a “Leder Gegen Rechts”-boot.
Photo: Svein Skeid