Friday, July 3, 2009

The Stacks - SM 101

SM 101, 2nd ed.
by Jay Wiseman
Greenery Press, 1996

So, you like rough sex. You want to explore it but you have this nagging feeling that it could be... oh, I don't know, a little bit unsafe. Jay Wiseman to the rescue! In just over three hundred pages Wiseman gives you a basic rundown on the safe and responsible ways to incorporate pain and power exchange into your sex life.

The book is perfectly titled -- if your college had offered a freshman seminar in BDSM this is exactly what would be covered. After dispensing with the basics Wiseman touches on how to find partners, rope bondage, non-rope options for restraint, how and where hit a submissive to cause pain safely, different flagellation instruments (hands, floggers, paddles, crops, whips, canes and the like), how and where to use clamps, a whole plethora of sensation play, humiliation, how to train a submissive, how to have a BDSM relationship, and how to find the BDSM organization in your area or create one if it doesn't already exist.

All of this information is first rate. As a former paramedic Wiseman always errs on the side of safety. He believes (as most responsible S&M players do) that if what turns you on is particularly dangerous there is probably some way of at least simulating your kink safely. As a decent human being he advocated doing BDSM with respect for everyone involved. That means negotiating your scene in detail with your play partner ahead of time. Throughout his book Wiseman makes sure that his reader never forgets that even if the violence is real (though carefully controlled) the power inequality of BDSM is entirely pretend. Even if one person acts dominent and another acts submissive they are both equals who should never confuse the roles they play with reality.

The main criticism I've heard of SM 101 in kink circles is that Wiseman is just too cautious. I see why people say that. It was a little surprising to me that Wiseman introduces his intricate "silent alarm" technique (wherein if a third party isn't contacted by the submissive by a prearranged time the third party calls the cops) before even covering the idea of a safeword. At another time in the book Wiseman suggests that all responsible dominents should keep emergency lights and full size fire extinguishers in their playroom. Valid safety concerns, without a doubt, but most of us don't even have a playroom. For most of us, it's just our bedroom and we have a small stash of kinky stuff in the closet that we'll take out if a willing person happens to wonder in. Despite what Wiseman says, most people just steer clear of open flame and play the odds that there won't be a blackout. I don't think that's blatantly irresponsible. And a scene negotiation would take years if you really covered all the things he's suggesting be covered in detail. However the point of these parts of the book is more to instill a deep respect for safety than to require the reader to follow the instructions to the letter, so Wiseman's overzealousness is easily excused.

The one criticism I will add -- this book is badly in need of a third edition. Since 1996 the kink community has largely moved onto the Internet. This book's discussion of the kink community mainly focuses on alternative papers, bulletin boards in sex-positive stores, newsletters and getting a PO Box to protect your privacy. The only time Wiseman mentions the web is to suggest a couple of newsgroups (remember those? me neither) that might have information. An SM 101 that urges readers to take full advantage of online communities like Fet Life would be a much more helpful book for newbies who are looking to make a connection with the kink community, especially if they don't happen to live in New York or San Francisco.

Despite these problems I would absolutely recommend this book. Experienced players may learn a thing or two about safety. For beginners, this should be the first book they read.