Once upon a time, the fetish world was a dark, seedy place for the hardcore enthusiast only. Thanks to the Internet, kink has increasingly entered the mainstream, but we can thank 50 Shades of Grey for really bringing BDSM to suburbia.
50 Shades has outraged pro-censorship activists and the Daily Mail more than any porn ever could, because it has penetrated the reading lists and the bedrooms of respectable British housewives. Morality campaigners, horrified at the success of the books, have tried to link them to domestic violence, and have even called for book burnings. With the movie about to be released, the anti-50 Shades campaigners have launched a boycott, calling on people to donate to sexual abuse charities instead of watching it at the cinema.
None of this outrage has made a dent in public enthusiasm for 50 Shades, or the resulting interest in BDSM.
Indeed, BDSM is now so mainstream that the DIY chain store B&Q has jumped in on the act. In a “leaked memo to staff“, B&Q have warned employees to expect a surge of interest in BDSM-related products when the 50 Shades movie premières, including ropes, cable ties and tape.
It may be a surprise to B&Q staff that there are alternative uses for these apparently boring products, but the kink community is way ahead of them. London-based dominatrix Ms Tytania enthusiastically endorses B&Q’s products:
Every kinkster knows that their local DIY store is a treasure trove of pervertables: a term used to describe every happy find in its seemingly mundane aisles. This knowledge passes from kinkster to kinkster, and it’s a good thing, because along with the instructions, come the safety rules and common sense. Ever since I discovered the kink scene in London, I’ve been told of marvellous contraptions and materials that can be bought cheaply at B&Q, how to use them, and what to do with them, safely. If you know where to look, B&Q could be your favourite sex shop.
One of my favourite activities is japanese rope bondage: the art of tying people up, securely, inescapably and aesthetically. B&Q sell my favourite rope: 6mm, red polypropylene, in their rope & chains aisle. Well, I hope they still sell it, because it’s proven to be so hard-wearing and durable, that even though I use it to suspend 15 stone blokes from my ceiling suspension (made with concrete screws from yes, you guessed it, B&Q), it still looks as good as new after more than 8 years . It’s a beautiful, solid coral red and machine washable. Soft to the touch against the skin and cut in lengths of 4, 6 or 10 metres (anything longer would be too tangly), easily the best rope I’ve ever used for Shibari.
While enthusiasts embrace the convergence of BDSM and DIY, some strike a note of caution to inexperienced enthusiasts trying out kink for the first time. Sexpert Emily Dubberley says:
If B&Q staff are going to be given a memo on use of equipment, it is important they are aware of safety guidelines so they don’t put any customers at risk. There are many great books and websites out there exploring how to practice BDSM safely: 50 Shades wasn’t written as a sex manual, but a fantasy. As such, while it may inspire you, it’s not a good idea to assume you can use it as a ‘how to’ guide: as I’m sure even EL James would agree. BDSM is as safe as any sex, as long as conducted with informed consent and knowledge: while I applaud B&Q’s approach towards diverse sexuality, and celebration of customer satisfaction, they also need to consider customer safety.
Ms Tytania agrees. Noting that B&Q’s memo had mentioned cable ties, she provides the following advice:
Never use bungee or elastic rope, cable ties or binds. Gaffer tape is OK, but it can stick to hair or beards and result on the wrong type of pain. You only want the good kind of pain during play, the type that helps you space out and drift away into submission, not the one that snaps you out of it in agony. If you are planning to give rope a try, use 3 metre long lengths that are simple to unknot and tie up the limbs only, always above or below joints. Never put rope on the joints themselves. To ensure that the tightness is right, I slip a finger between the rope and the limb: if it fits, it’s neither too tight nor too loose. And have a pair of medical scissors at hand, the ones used to cut through bandages, in case you need to cut (in this case, Boots is your friend).
So there you have it, folks: go out there and enjoy yourselves. But be careful out there.