In Cambridge, Studying Bondage at the Kink Academy

On Saturday, at Harvard’s Democracy Center, I sat in the audience as a man called Murphy Blue tied up a gorgeous woman. Blue’s job: Kink Educator. The event: a Kink Academy Open House, which attracted a crowd of about 100. During Blue’s rope bondage demo, he bound the upper arms and chest of a beautiful professional submissive and was standing behind her, pulling her back against his front. Gripping the rope that bound her, he urged us to see how he could really hold her this way, and to notice how safe she could feel in his arms. Her eyes shined with pleasure.

To some, such positive reactions to being bound with rope might seem surprising. After all, the intimate side of rougher play can be hard to understand if you’re not into kink yourself. Yet anyone who’s ever longed to bite their partner’s neck will know how passionate and close it can feel; and even grasping hold of someone in gratitude can also be rough and sudden — and potentially more meaningful when intense. And the same can be said of rough sex (which, it goes without saying, needs to be boundaried and safe).

When folks who are curious but unfamiliar with BDSM, I often try to put the idea into a different context. For instance, what if you enjoyed getting your legs waxed because you liked the pain? Would that be a wrong feeling? For me, the answer is no. In fact, such bonds can be very satisfying for all involved. There are people, on the other hand, who fall for emotional pain, by dating uncontrolled “bad apples” over and over. In a caring BDSM relationship these individuals might learn to identify what they’ve been seeking, and play it out safely with a loving partner. But though it can provide healthy ways of feeling or expressing pain, BDSM isn’t only for those who’ve had dark pasts — just like eating chili peppers (which are pleasurable because they trigger our pain receptors), playing this way can be fun.

A film that demonstrates the potential of BDSM is Secretary, which I lovingly refer to as a “BDSM fairy tale.” Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, Secretary is about a BDSM office relationship that eventually heals both these vulnerable lovers … but only once they discover how to be intimate and safe. That said, as Princess Kali, of Kink Academy, said on Saturday, BDSM is also about play and imagination. It is an endlessly creative way to be close with one another, and it can lend real excitement to many sexual repertoires.

Besides, such kink involves a lot of trust, and trust creates bonding. To see what I mean, just watch a dom like Murphy Blue tying a shapely submissive. See how kind and firm he is with the rope, and notice the look of bliss on her face. That’s affection, right there.