Beyond ignorance and shades: the healthy wellness of BDSM according to Ayzad

dominatrix and slave

This is a translation of an interview originally published by Fiore Avvelenato

 

I discovered Ayzad’s work thirteen months ago on Wired, with an article about the brevity of extreme relationships. I have always been curious about the world of BDSM and its mechanics (as you can see in this post). I had my first encounter with this sex art during university with Valerie Steele’s tome Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power, highlighting the close connection between fashion and fetishism, the former being an extreme fantasy in itself. It was however only with Ayzad’s I Love BDSM that I managed to see the humane side of the sex practices covered by this acronym.

Ayzad is a journalist, author and alternative sexualities expert who has been practicing BDSM for thirty years. Somebody might say the is some sort of Italian Mr. Grey, but I beg to differ. Differently from the rich, hunky, whips enthusiast, he is a healthy man free of Freudian traumas used to justify his sexual “habits”. He ventured into BDSM out of curiosity and fun, not for boredom or a revenge wish.

How did you discover BDSM?

I had my first contact with BDSM proper at 18, first discovering it through the few specialized magazines available in Italy back then, and immediately thereafter by visiting a club where I realized that the culture of extreme eroticism was way different than its violent and unhealthy representations in the media.
If we are talking instead about the earliest intuitions that tying up beautiful girls and doing stuff to them had something interesting to it, we have to go back many years when, between dinosaur hunts, we kids relaxed watching The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, an animated cartoon by the same studios of Yogi Bear that was inexplicably brimming with bondage scenes. At the end of the day, however, I keep studying and discovering BDSM every day.

 

You have been practicing it for thirty years in a country like Italy, where it is hard to freely live your sexuality. What kind of difficulties did you have to face?

The common cause of every difficulty has been ignorance. It misinterprets an art – intense for sure, yet based on mutual respect and safety – into an unacceptable aberration. So you may meet people who refuse to study and understand BDSM and practice it in unhealthy ways, other full of prejudices self-righteously judging other people’s private lives and “punish” them, but also insane characters or persons who exploit this ignorance in bad faith for their own profit.
On my website you can read for example the full history of the media lynching I suffered for months simply because I had accepted an university invitation to lecture on the topic. That incident fizzled out when the most hateful Catholic paladin was jailed (again) for soliciting underage gay hookers, and the Parliament rebuked the inquiry with which a senator infamous for his repeated attempts to reinstate the Fascist Party proposed to forbid me to speak in scholastic institutions.

 

Do you see any change of attitude toward alternative sex practices and approaching them of lately?

Definitely. If ignorance is the obstacle, with the turn of the century the ease of information and socializing allowed by the Internet radically transformed the outlook on eroticism in general. It is sad that sex education is provided more from online porn than school or family, still it is a huge step forward compared to when you didn’t have that either. The effect of this change is clearly perceived in the vastly more serene approach to sexuality of the new generations, who for example feel no problem in participating to events like Sadistique, which are opportunities to learn and have intellectual discussions besides playing, showing off and meeting new partrners. It’s a shame that the opposite also exists, that is small-minded individuals who only use the Internet to confirm and feed their misoginy and hatred for minorities. Trends like the Berlusconi-Trumpism, gender-based violence and so-called “virtual rape” are an expression of their resistance to culture and empathy. Luckily, good people are still the majority.

 

You hide behind a pen name. Is it normal to have one in BDSM, or do someone use their real names? Don’t you see a conflict in being a national authority for extreme sex and uninhibition, and hiding behind a fake name?

There are various reasons for my nom de plume, from the insignificance of my legal one to the wish of ensuring some privacy to my family and loved ones. After all, I am just following in the footsteps of Sting or Madonna.
Everyone of us takes on many identities and personas every day, depending on the situation. Thinking about it, being able to choose the name of your own erotic identity is a privilege, isn’t it?

 

Your book begins with placing tenderness and love as almost inescapable elements of this sexual art, therefore it is essential to ask your partners if they are ok with embarking on this adventure. Did you find love with BDSM, or rekindled it?

I found it when I met my life companions and I find it again every time we allow ourselves the luxury of mutually offering ourselves, baring our innermost souls. I honestly find inconceivable to live such deep encounters and not falling in love with someone who is literally offering you their life, or accepts the responsibility of directing every your sensation and emotion.

 

Please illustrate the rules to avoid getting hurt.

Keeping firmly grounded; always remembering that your partner is a person and not a tool for your pleasures; studying before acting. You probably heard about SSC, an acronym for “safe, sane, consensual” – principles that we’d better follow even outside of the bedroom, yet when it comes to explicitly extreme activities it is obvious that preparation and good sense become indispensable.

 

Which practice is the first love of BDSM beginners?

I wouldn’t know how to answer that. The great thing with extreme eroticism is how it contains countless interpretations, practices, variations: each one of us is different, and it is normal we are attracted to different things that also normally change with time, the situation and the partner we are sharing them with.
On the other hand I can tell you what is the most appreciated aspect for BDSM connoisseurs: the serenity that comes with leaving a thousand hypocrisies, postures and ideas that we thought society required of us, but that in the end turn out to be just personal and totally superfluous burdens.

 

You wrote a topical noir novel titled Original Sins, where an extreme practice gone wrong got someone killed. Which is the most outrageous accident happened in the history of this sexual art?

Reading the news you somehow frequently stumble on tragic “kinky games”-related stories, but when you further examine them you always notice they aren’t about BDSM but people who haphazardly imitate what they saw in online porn videos, without any actual preparation. Looking at this from a merely statistical standpoint and considering that 10% of the population loves domination and submission eroticism, you realize that compared to the total number of games, the paltry disasters in the news are the very proof of the efficacy of the safety and respect culture promoted by BDSM people.
If you want to get morbid, however, the absolutely most dangerous sex practice isn’t even part of BDSM and is breath control, autoerotic asphyxiation, which on average kills three persons worldwide every day.

 

You are also a personal coach. Can you recognize at first sight a dominant or a submissive?

You don’t have to be a coach for that. After you’ve hung out in the BDSM scene for a while, you learn to almost instinctively tell apart people’s preferences. The fun and more useful thing however is to identify the various inclinations outside of that milieu.

 

What kind of consultancy are you asked from companies approaching the alt-sex market?

They range from marketing (BDSM is very used in advertising, even in very subtle ways) to product studies, from events and locations creation to seriously particular needs. Most requests however still come from people convinced that “those into oddball things” are a naive bunch of easily duped marks – only to retreat with their tails between their legs when they realize that they are people used to exercise their critical thinking instead.

 

Are in your opinion fashion, fetish and BDSM strictly connected by the concept of restrainment and costuming they are founded upon?

There are no doubts about the former two: after all, fetish isn’t anything but “fashion” when sensuality and seduction are turned up to the max. In BDSM role playing games and their outfits are more of a tool that helps to leave daily identities behind, thus allowing you to immerse into the erotic spirit without burdening yourself with inhibitions, worries and other annoyances.

 

As someone who lived there for a while, I have to asky you why do fetish fashion and BDSM practices are so prevailing in the United Kingdom?

The United Kingdom became in fact the established land of the fetish genre in the Nineties, with several world-famous designers and shops concentrated mostly in London, where Holloway Road even got the popular nickname of “Fetish Street”. The basis of all that came from the legendary sexual repression of the British, that since the late Eighteenth century got sublimated in their fixation with corporal discipline – so much that the rest of the world called it “the English vice”. If we consider that British schools began to ban caning only in 1987 (and up to 2003 in certain territories), it is easy to guess how deeply rooted a certain imagery is in the local culture. This gave rise to a demand for professional dominatrixes, who openly publicized their lawful activity. When phone boxes still existed, for example, it was normal to find them plastered with tart cards, leaflets competing to catch the attention of potential customers. The best way to stand out was to appear in spectacular outfits, so some artisans specialized since the Sixties in creating what we today would call fetish clothing. Where there is clothing there also are their admirers, so London also is where a number of magazines catering for that public were created, perfect to allow the above-mentioned ladies and artisans to advertise. The publications employed photographers who contaminated the art galleries scene with their shots; that cultural imagery spilled into the clubbing world with enormous organizations like Torture Garden. Clubbers wanted to dress that way too, hence fetish boutiques – and so on. It was a maelstrom that fed on itself for quite a long time, although the phenomenon is dwindling now.
The most interesting aspect is how all that contributed to opening the mind of the general public about alternative sexualities. At the end of the day, it has been largely the effect of non-hypocritical sex work laws, which generated a market so successful we are still discussing it today. Who knows what would have happened if the legendary Italian fashion was free to explore similar directions.

 

And as a journalist myself, I just have to ask you why you call yourself a “reformed journalist”?

I have always been living off my writing and for a very long time I loved newsrooms. About a dozen years ago however journalism as a profession quickly lost its values: searching for news and analysis almost entirely disappeared in favor of regurgitating press releases that only benefit the corporation or politician du jour. Also, more recently we had the phenomenon of clickbaiting and of “news” conceived exclusively to raise anxiety, hatred or fears in the audience to keep them enthralled, with no consideration for their well-being whatsoever.
If we then add to this the undignified economic treatment the so-called “content creators” are subjected to, you can see why I had an outburst of self-respect, threw my badge away and preferred to dedicate my time to create something that makes people feel good instead, or at least entertains them. The thousands of emails I received in these years from those who benefitted of my works suggest I did the right thing…

 

This Valentine day many girls and especially many inexperienced adult women will go see 50 Shades Darker. Do you have any suggestion to give for a better viewing of a story whose “BDSM” is pure fantasy?

Just the same suggestion I give to anyone who watches porn or other kind of entertainment: if you like those fantasies enjoy them, but please remember they are fiction. In real life driving like Vin Diesel ends with a painful body shop bill, marrying a person who loves you gives much more satisfaction than drooling after movie stars, and to have fun with BDSM you don’t need penthouses and helicopters, but just a healthy approach you can also learn from a book.
And come on… how can you feel anything for a sociopathic chard like Mr. Grey?

Line
Line