In Salon, Annalee Newitz wrote about a quaint little San Francisco B&B that offered specialized services to the BDSM community before George W. Bush was inaugurated:
In a quiet San Francisco neighborhood, surrounded by views of tree-covered hills, a quaint little B&B welcomes visitors from across the country. Guests can choose from four well-appointed rooms in this refurbished turn-of-the-century house, all personally decorated by Elizabeth, the proprietor. While they’re staying at Elizabeth’s B&B — called Differences — guests are also welcome to use all the amenities of the house: an extensive dungeon in the basement, metal hooks tucked into lacy corners and the genuine antique bondage devices adorning the rooms. Of course, guests will also need to make their own pancakes — B&B stands for bed and bondage here. Elizabeth doesn’t do breakfast.
Like other renegade subcultures, S/M is gradually becoming gentrified. This is partly economic — getting flogged on a Friday night isn’t as cheap as it used to be. Dozens of exclusive sex stores have popped up, peddling high-end toys, devices and leatherware. A typical private “play party” runs each guest as much as $30 (this is a site cost — you pay for the space, not the sex). Certain clubs even enforce a pricey dress code: If you aren’t all gussied up in latex or leather, you don’t get in the door.
This isn’t the kind of gentrification one sees in urban landscapes where yuppies suck up all the warehouse spaces and formerly low-income housing. Nor can one locate some previous version of the S/M community that was less wealthy. Indeed, tracing S/M’s origins back to its Founding Daddies — the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch — one finds that S/M’s earliest class connections are purely aristocratic.
Odder still to an outsider would be the experience of attending an S/M seminar at QSM’s San Francisco warehouse, where a room full of well-dressed people in orderly rows of folding chairs watch politely as a well-known “dominant” demonstrates how to torture nipples correctly and why it’s important to employ bondage devices that won’t cause nerve damage. To avoid appearing “unsafe,” players plan their taboo violations and transgressions to a ‘T.’ It can be too much — Joe, a member of the coordinating committee for the Third Annual Leather Leadership Conference, notes ruefully that “the S/M community is, at times, overwhelmingly geeky. Players will spend hours and days debating finer points of flogging safety instead of just getting together and having fun.”
Given the lack of law-breaking and general air of wholesomeness in the S/M scene, it’s no wonder that Jack and Jill Suburb have come to join the fun. The question is, what gets lost in the translation when S/M values begin to percolate into the white-picket-fence world of middle America?
H/T to “SG” for the link.