There’s sex, there’s kinky sex, and then there are scenes that are, to most of us, pretty far out there.
Recalls one fellow, “The first time I went to a leathermen’s sex party, I saw a lot of stuff that I expected to see, like bondage and flogging. But what really made my jaw drop was a top man using a little electrical unit that sent current through wires running to a bottomboy’s buttplug. It was more mad-scientist than sexy, but when I talked to the bottom later, he happily said, ‘There’s nothing like it.’ I took his word for it; I’ve never had the courage to try it myself.”
Shocking as electro-play may sound, there are other activities that are just as edgy. Stressful bondage can stretch bodies nearly to the breaking point. Suspension bondage leaves tied-up guys hanging in mid-air. And then there are skin-piercing scenes. In one of these “modern primitive” rituals, the “ball dance,” a participant hangs small weights or balls from thin hooks through his skin, then engages in trance-inducing choreography. Even edgier are “flying scenes,” in which hefty hooks are inserted through the flesh of the back and thighs of a guy who’s then hauled off the ground.
Then there’s blood play, including scarification scenes where intricate designs are carved into a bottom’s flesh. For the sadomasochistic cowboys among us, there’s ritual branding. And out on the farthest edges of fun—shut your eyes if you’re squeamish—some truly twisted fellows have been consensually castrated.
OK, it may seem sick or spectacular. But is it sex? There’s little doubt that there’s lots of overlap between erotic explorers and the body-play bunch. Explains one aficionado of the outré, “It may not be sex in the sense of ‘erection shoots sperm,’ but it certainly is sensual. It makes the whole body a field for eroticism, not just the crotch.”
Beyond blurring the border between sex and everything else, such extreme body play erases the line between pleasure and pain. “Most everybody accepts that a bit of spanking can feel sexy,” continues the aficionado. “Well, heavy-duty body play is just the same, only more so.” And it’s a physiological fact that exposure to physical stress can cause the body to produce endorphins, natural opiates that many SM fans laud as the holy grail of pain play.
But not everyone’s so sure. Protests one man who’s admittedly vanilla, “You can go on about endorphins or whatever. But if you require being sliced up to feel pleasure—or to feel anything—then it’s safe to say that there’s something wrong.”
Another guy, who’s been through a lot, concurs…sort of. “Back in the day, there was almost nothing I wouldn’t do for a physical rush. I was kind of a thrill junkie, but let’s face it, even being whipped till you bleed can lose its appeal.”
Our aficionado counters, “Pushing my body to its limit brings me to places I could reach no other way. I know some people might disapprove, but I always thought the point of sexual liberation is not to pass judgment about what other people do, as long as it’s consensual and safe.”
Safety should certainly be an issue. Extreme body play, done carelessly, can cause serious harm, even death. If you’re going to bottom for someone in a heavy-duty scene, negotiate fully beforehand, making absolutely sure the guy knows what he’s doing. If you want to top, don’t just wade in. Learn firsthand from experts—ideally through apprenticeship. And always run scenes soberly and wisely. In any scene where skin might be broken, that goes double.
The risky, over-the top nature of extreme scenes can be attractive to daredevils, but many in the body-play scene view their hobby less as a carnal roller-coaster ride than as a path to enlightenment. In fact, many body-play techniques are borrowed from Indian saddhus and other spiritual seekers. “In my opinion, ego loss and transcendence are goals of good sex,” says another long-time player, “and extreme play provides that more readily than oral sex, at least for us bottoms.”
Most of us, of course, will be content to suck and screw, and perhaps that’s as it should be. Recalls our vanilla fellow, “I once went to a performance where a guy was whirled around by ropes attached to hooks through his chest. It was, I’m afraid, much more scary than sexy. Call me a coward, but I’ll just stick to going down on hunky dudes.”
Simon Sheppard is the editor of Homosex: Sixty Years of Gay Erotica, and the author of Sex Parties 101, Kinkorama, and In Deep: Erotic Stories, and can be reached at [email protected] Visit Simon at www.simonsheppard.com.