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My roommate is into BDSM. Fine. I couldn’t care less about his sex life. He met two women at a BDSM club whom he regularly “plays” with. They enjoy being subjected to what he calls “erotic torments.” Fine. But he also watches BDSM pornography. Since he has no way of knowing if the women in the BDSM porn enjoy the “erotic torments” they’re subjected to, I don’t think it’s fine to view this pornography. These women could have been forced or they could be doing it because they’re in financial distress. Not fine. Therefore, I say it is impossible to enjoy any BDSM porn ethically. Do you agree? —He Enjoys Loathsome Pornography
Yes, HELP, I don’t. Wait. No, HELP, I do.
Goddamn English language.
What I mean to say, HELP, is that it can be ethically problematic to enjoy BDSM porn of unknown provenance. I agree with you there. But I disagree with your conclusion: i.e., that it is therefore impossible to enjoy any BDSM porn whatsoever, in any form, regardless of its provenance. Your conclusion rests on the assumption that no BDSM porn producers are using models who are just as turned on making BDSM porn as your roommate is watching it.
New technologies—credit cards, digital video production, the Internets—have revolutionized the porn industry. Yes, there are still big, mainstream porn studios pumping out product, most of it non-fetish/kink. But today there is tons of fetish/kink porn being produced by and for fetishists of all stripes. Many of these smaller porn producers are hyperethical about the use and abuse of their models. That’s particularly the case with producers of BDSM porn, most of whom are acutely sensitive to charges of brutality because, well, their products can seem so brutal.
“In my experience,” says Lauren of Two Big Meanies (twobigmeanies.com), a small BDSM porn outfit based in Seattle, “folks in the BDSM scene are much, much more scrupulous about negotiating consent, sexually and otherwise, than people in almost any other walk of life.” TBM’s owners—Lauren and Russell—don’t just make BDSM porn for perverts like your roommate; they’re BDSM players themselves, and they tap regular play partners for many of their models. As a consequence, says Lauren, “informed consent and mutual pleasure are the building blocks of what we do.”
And how does scrupulousness about consent inform TBM’s treatment of their sometimes long-suffering models? “For us personally, we make a point of letting our models know that we want them to enjoy and get off on the shoots, while providing them with ways to express and protect their own boundaries,” says Lauren.
So, before you freak out about your roommate’s porn preferences—and frankly, HELP, you could care a bit less about his sex life—you might want to ask him where he’s getting his BDSM porn.
I’m 23 and have been with my boyfriend for 15 months. About six months into the relationship, I became pregnant. It was a lot sooner than we planned for, but we decided to raise our child together and move in with each other. About three months ago, when I was six months pregnant, I was cleaning out our shared computer. I found a profile of my boyfriend on AdultFriendFinder.com. He had been e-mailing a female in her 40s, exchanged naked pictures with her, and said he wanted to meet her for “discreet 1-on-1.” I confronted him, and he insisted he never met up with her and was only on that Web site because “we were having problems.”
I was upset but decided to give him another chance because I love him. Then a month ago, I found another personal ad he placed. No naked pics this time, but the ad was also for a “mature curvy woman.” To make things worse, it was Valentine’s Day, and I was eight months pregnant! He said he sent the last e-mail because he was “bored” since he is unemployed.
Dan, I’m still with him but there are doubts in my head about trusting him. I love him and want to raise our child together, but I don’t know if what he is doing is an addiction or if he’s just playing me for a fool. Should I DTMFA? Give the relationship a chance for the baby’s sake? Please help, Dan! —Problematic Reality Engulfs Girl
If the pressures of a baby on the way drive your boyfriend into the bat-wings of curvy, older women, PREG, he’s going to be deflowering goats by the side of the road once he’s confronted with the pressures of a baby on the premises.
I’m sorry, PREG, and your letter’s a heartbreaker, but I can’t offer you the help you need. Because what you need is a time machine that can whisk you all the way back to August of 2006. Then nine-months-older-and-wiser PREG could order nine-months-younger-and-dumber PREG to have an abortion or, better yet, to not have sex with that unemployed asshole at all. But at this stage all I can tell you to do is dump the motherfucker already.
And I hope you have family nearby, PREG, because you’re going to need their help.
I discovered your column recently, and I was intrigued by the following statement from a column you wrote last December: “While most of us learn to live with and occasionally conquer our fears without eroticizing them, a number of us respond to sexual fears or traumas by incorporating them into our erotic imaginations.”
My wife gets totally turned on by fantasizing about me with another guy. She doesn’t really want me to do it with another guy, she just gets off—hard—to the mental imagery. The whole thing began when I revealed early on that I identify as a 1 on the Kinsey Scale (some same-sex fantasies, no desire to act on them). That led to whispered scenarios involving fictional characters like massage therapists, culminating in some pretty massive orgasms for both of us. Tame stuff, really, by Savage Love standards.
She hasn’t been able to understand why she has these fantasies, and why they get her so hot, especially since she doesn’t want them to move from fantasy to reality. Me, I don’t care that much as to why—I just enjoy the role reversal. She, however, agonizes over it the next day, wondering why-oh-why. It turns out she started having these fantasies when she was in a previous relationship with a guy who had sex with men before, and, she suspects, during their relationship (yes, she’s since had an HIV test). She has some fairly powerful abandonment issues, and apparently her man-on-me fantasies have become thoroughly entangled with her fears that I will cheat on her with some dude. Which I won’t, because I really and truly don’t want to.
So, my question is: Now what? The game we play is fun in moderation, and I’d hate to give it up entirely. But I’m leery of doing anything that plays on the deep-seated fears of the woman I love. Or, since people ride roller coasters and jump out of airplanes because they’re scary, should we just look at it that way and keep things the way they are? —Not One to Get All Yappy
Understanding what experience inspired her fantasies—if that experience inspired her fantasies—won’t make them go away. Since your wife will have to live with those deep-seated fears regardless, NOTGAY, it seems to me that she might as well derive some pleasure from them. So keep things the way they are.
Guys who can’t come from oral sex alone can, er, unload in this week’s web extra at thestranger.com/savage/oralnotenough. Dan Savage’s books, The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family, are on sale now. Send your Savage Love questions to email@example.com.