50 shades darker and truer: Ayzad explains BDSM – The Elle interview

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This interview was originally published on Elle. This version reintegrates the many links that were left out by the publisher.

 

50 Shades of Grey and Darker raised the curtain on BDSM. Ayzad, the leading Italian expert, reveals what it is really about

by Valentina Maran

 

The second tome of 50 Shades is back and we are back talking about BDSM: what it is, how it is practiced, and what revolves around the world of domination and extreme eroticism is a topic for Ayzad, the leading Italian expert on the subject.

Before you run off to get your whips, handcuffs and contracts to sign like they do in the 50 Shades of Grey movie, before hogtying in a badly done bondage your sweet (and screaming) partner, take a minute to read what we talk about when we are talking about a real domination relationship. And let’s see how to avoid stupid errors, because yeah, there are risks, and pretty serious ones.

 

Hi Ayzad, given the historical phase I’d say we can start off with muckracking – or sad-racking maybe, since neither of us like it but it is so good for SEO positioning:
How did 50 Shades Darker – and of Grey before that – contribute to change the approach to BDSM? Was it something good after all, or did it damage the idea of it anyway?

Let us make an important premise: 50 Shades has nothing to do with BDSM. When I interviewed her, even the author herself stated that her intent was simply to write a typical romance novel, with the one difference of including explicit sex scenes. It was the massive global marketing operation it was launched with to label a normal Harlequin fantasy, with standard genre characters, as the “gret reveal of the secret world of domination eroticism” – with both positive and negative effects.
On the one hand in fact Anastasia and Mr. Grey’s success proved once and for all the widespread interest toward a type of relationship and sexuality different than the tired “advertising-ready family values”. This made socially acceptable to talk about things that 10% of adults have always done anyway, maybe unreasonably anguished from feeling “abnormal”. More acceptance for diversity is always good.

On the other hand, however, countless naive persons took the protagonists’ delusions at face value and imitated them in good faith, without realizing that they are lunatics born into a literary genre that commonly depicts rape as acceptable, calling it ‘forced seduction’. The result was a big step back for women, not to mention the psychological and physical damages incurred by those who jumped into BDSM unprepared for activities that are, after all, extreme. For example: there is a great Washington Post article that shows how 50 Shades caused a peak in kink-related ER cases.

 

You are the biggest Italian expert and among the leading BDSM educators worldwide: what is the expert life like? What expectations do people have of you when they meet you?

Oh, I lead a very mundane life: I awake at 11 for breakfast in bed served by my latex-and-stiletto-clad slavegirls, then half an hour of swimming in the pool in the west wing of the castle, afternoon in the boudoir, then the usual little evening orgy… No, seriously, while somebody really thinks I’m a sort of cross between Batman and Rocco Siffredi, my days are like those of any other scholar. Most of my time is spent studying, correlating information and writing for my website or a new book. The most unusual thing I do is maybe personal coaching, that is helping people to find the ideal strategy to solve their alternative sexuality-related issues. But in fact there also is the organization of BDSM events. And the seminars about the various practices. Mmm… You know what? Come to think of it, there actually is some chance it is not such a banal life after all. If you want to read a very sensationalized version of it you can find it in Original Sins, a noir novel I set in the Italian world of kink.

 

You go by a pen name: how important is privacy for you?

Just enough. For example, I don’t even have a Facebook profile but just a fanpage. Generally speaking, it seems a reasonable approach to avoid needlessly exposing my loved ones to the hostility of the few fanatics that can however become very violent toward those who do not conform to their skewed ideals.

 

How much intolerance there is against what you teach and advocate for?

As I was saying: not much, but you occasionally stumble into very ignorant, very problematic or very manipulated by higher interests people, convinced they have to fight a crusade against “perversion” – something that obviously only exist in their fantasies. The most glaring and in the end most ridiculous example (Note – You will need an online translator for that link) happened years ago, when an invitation to lecture at a Milan university unleashed a media attack campaign that harassed me for months – until the “pious man” behind the whole thing was arrested again red-handed in company of underage male prostitutes. And I’ll skip the details about the senator who, between his frequent proposals to reinstate the Fascist Party in Italy, demanded that another university banned me from speaking about non-normative sexualities…

 

What do you fear the most in the current Italian political climate? And in the American one?

In the United States there is a paranoid and revenge-obsessed sociopath who, for the next four years, will always be within five metres from a switch he can use to unleash a global nuclear apocalypse. In Italy we have our petty politicians, who by comparison all look like great statesmen. I don’t know which of the two things terrorizes me the most.
If however you were referring to the state of education to sexuality, we undoubtably live a moment of obscurantism that is very dangerous for the collective health and the social downfall, from gender-based violence to slutshaming, to witch hunts. Regrettably, the solution won’t be coming from the institutions, so now more than ever it is important to make a popular effort to spread a culture of ethical sexuality, maybe inventing new entertaining formats.

 

In your opinion what are the risks, especially for the younger generations, in stumbling so easily into online porn material? Can we sexbloggers do something to contain this sexual stuff, or at least use it for culture?

The problem isn’t really online porn, as much as the lack of better alternatives for sexual education. If families and schools maintain the fiction of sex not existing and not to be spoken about, hooray for porn to give you at least a rough idea of what it is! Of course we should at the least spread the concept that porn is fiction and not a documentary, and that the real world requires ethics, consent, prevention and so on that you obviously never see on YouPorn.
I believe that sex bloggers often focus a bit too much on reviewing vibrators while ignoring all the rest, maybe also out of a lack of preparation. Pity, because sites like ours are very popular and could be ideal platforms to spread a healthy culture of sexuality!

 

You run Sadistique, a very particular club where BDSM enthusiasts can find everything they may desire. How difficult was opening it, and what did it give you in these years?

Sadistique actually is just a monthly event I organize in Milano in a club owned and managed by others. It was born twelve years ago without particular problems, as an opportunity for kinksters to meet and for curious people to learn more about BDSM. Compared to other parties or allegedly fetish/kinky nights is its characterized by a very polite, clean and safe environment, with a relaxed atmosphere allowing to really get to know each other and exchange ideas besides practicing your preferred games. It hosts a different topical art show each month, technical workshops, a photo set and other opportunities to immerse yourself in a culture of actually “safe, sane and consensual” eroticism, as they say. Financially I earn nothing to speak of out of it, also given the extra-low entry costs – but the satisfaction of seeing so many serene and smiling people has no price.

 

You are soon going to lecture at the Rome BDSM Convention, where they discuss hot and curious topics: can you list some and give us a little preview?

The Rome BDSM Conference is the largest European event dedicated to the culture of domination and submission games, with people coming from all over the world and about eighty workshops over three days of full immersion hosted at a hotel just oustide town. I find it a unique experience, that allows you to personally experience how much better it would be a world where sexuality is lived serenely instead of weighing it with hypocrisy and neurosis as it is commonly done.
My personal contribution will be four seminars on topics running from cornerstones like Consent, Negotiation and Safeword to highly specific subjects like electroplay, but you can really find everything there.

 

If you hadn’t been Ayzad and your life didn’t take this path, who would you be?

In a former (working) life I have long been a scientific journalist, but also a movie critic, a comicbooks expert, a videogames designer… All in all, I believe I would have found some way to enjoy myself and help people have more fun anyway, but for the moment I like this one best.

 

If you want to learn more about BDSM I suggest reading Ayzad’s books: they are very well written, and they offer a fun and yet very analytical approach to these practices.

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