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I applaud Susan Jane Gilman’s attendance at the fetish weekend (“Capital Punishment,” 11/22). Whether she was motivated by honest curiosity, journalist’s assignment, or hopes for a sensational story, at least she stuck it out. Many faint hearts would (and have) turned tail and run from such surroundings.

However, using the HoJo weekend to exemplify B&D/S&M is akin to explaining art by describing islands wrapped in plastic by Christo or proposing John McEnroe as the norm in tennis.

The weekend was a single event organized for its own purposes. The experience of B&D/S&M runs the gamut from far more outlandish gatherings—with multihundred-dollar entry fees, international attendees and vendors, activities pushing the limits of human endurance—to quiet moments between two people with thematic music, soft restraints, and a dripping candle.

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She got so many things right, or at least she mentioned some of the underpinnings of B&D/S&M. “Safe, sane, and consensual” is more than a motto; it’s the core of the communication and negotiation between players and partners in this lifestyle. The endorphin rush was mentioned in passing; for “heavy” players, it’s a natural high actively sought and, when achieved in the highly charged setting of erotic play, provides a glow that can last for hours (at least!).

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Third Edition (DSM-III) did classify involvement in B&D/S&M a “psychiatric disorder.” Gilman could have gone on to relate what a turnaround DSM-IV contains: It’s no longer a disorder so long as one’s interests and activities do not cause harm to oneself or another, or “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” Play by the rules, don’t become totally preoccupied, keep it in perspective, don’t give up the day job—have some fun.

My spouse and I know and enjoy the company of dozens of players in the scene. Their common characteristics? Concern for safety; tolerance and acceptance of all orientations, interests, and lifestyles; mentoring and tutoring for any who request assistance in learning the proper use of equipment or techniques; the intention that each scene be a win-win situation—both (or all) travelers should reach their desired destinations at journey’s end.

Alexandria, Va.