Danny Thanh Nguyen AKA ByronicPunk. Is well known for his ability with floggers and whips, as well a fiction and non-fiction writer. He's currently working on a book about kink, survivalism and the parallels between the gay leather and kink community and refugees. In this first article in an ongoing series he talks about exploring BDSM.
Years ago, my best friend, knowing full well of my kinks and sexual proclivities, dared me to accompany her to hate-watch the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. Armed with a severe sense of irony, I agree. "Fifty Shits of Grey!" we cackled to ourselves, clutching a bottle of whiskey as we took our seats in a sparsely populated movie theater. And like a good Stefon sketch: It. Had. Everything. Stiff unlikeable characters. A red room of pain. Problematic representations of abuse masquerading as a Dom/sub relationship.
By the time the film credits rolled, my friend and I were hoarse from laughter. As we were leaving, she turned to me and asked, "What the fuck was up with that contract scene?" referring to a moment in the film where the two main characters sit across a table from each other, negotiating the Yes's and No's of different sex acts. Ropes and dildos were permitted; fisting and genital clamps and suspension were out.
"Well," I replied, "I can't say I'm offended by that particular scene..."
It's not that I think I'm superior to these quaint representations of kink in popular media—I'm just embarrassed by the awkward reactions its denizens tend to have towards sexual activities that I've come to think of as a casual Tuesday night. Still, there was something so grounding about that contract negotiation scene in Fifty. Because it reflected back to me a basic tool that I sometimes return to when negotiating with play partners: sitting down to review printed lists of our personal sexual turn-ons.
If you do a simple return for the phrase "BDSM Checklist" in any search engine, you'll find countless variations of vaguely similar tools that are meant to guide you through an inventory of different types of kinks and fetishes, gauging and quantifying your level of experience and interests in the various forms of play. Though there are plenty of BDSM Checklists out there that are relatively short, many can also be long, which means they are quite thorough at helping you reflect on your experiences and what context you might need in order to get into particular kinks. Even as an experienced player, I've been pleasantly surprised on occasion to find a new BDSM Checklists that highlight activities I had never considered, leaving me excitedly exclaiming, "Can my body even do that?!"
BDSM Checklists can be good for reviewing what you find erotic and why, taking more notice of your sexual history and growth. But because of the nature of longer checklists, they can take time to fill out -let alone review with a partner in a meaningful way. So, they're probably not the best thing to scribble at right before you're trying to quickly plan a playdate. Also, many of the BDSM Checklists I find online are designed with heterosexual players/couples in mind, so I have to adapt them for my cisgender gay male sexual leanings.
Still, I find that BDSM Checklists have been effective at building the vocabulary of my desires, empowering me with more precise and concrete ways of expressing my kinks with partners. Though it is not perfect, I'm quite proud of ways in which I articulate my fetishes in my own Recon profile, which has roots in having taken inventory with a BDSM Checklist. I find that my scene negotiation is more immediate and time-effective—whether I'm in a public party play space or at someone's home or even online—because of the practice I've gained from using tools such as BDSM Checklists in order to zero-in on what I don't like and emphasizing what I do like. Hopefully you'll find success in trying them out too.