April 1st, 2015
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neurotica bondage feature

Photo cred: Kostis Fokas

It’s been a while since my last post, which is hilarious, because the title of my first column was “IHC’s Best and Only WEEKLY Sex Column,” implying that I wouldn’t fall off the face of the earth.

I can’t tell you where I’ve been (SXSW, living my life, McDonald’s 24-hour breakfast), all that matters is that I’m back and today I have something very important to talk to you about: why BDSM is everywhere you look. Literally; look across the room you’re in right now; there’s probably BDSM over in the corner.

It’s in your coffee. It’s in the fine print in your Chili’s receipt. BDSM in the foggy mirror when you get out of the shower, staring right back at you like “Hey what’s up.” If you have eyes that aren’t currently blindfolded, you’ve probably noticed it. It’s lurking especially tough in music videos.

You seen FKA twig’s “Pendulum” video?

Your girlfriend  or very thirsty boyfriend drag your lifeless body to see 50 Shades of Grey where you no doubt had to listen to this song?

Do even listen to Ic3peak?

Have you even taken Shy Girls’ new song “Arrest Me” extremely literally?

… Yeah. People are getting tied up and spanked and blindfolded and arrested by Tei Shei right and left.

BDSM imagery in music videos isn’t anything new per se; Queen, Madonna, Nine Inch Nails all have songs that are older than you with bondage-flavored videos that would awaken the genital sensation of even the most severed spine. Even before there were MTV-style music videos, there was the Velvet Underground — a band that went balls deep into into mid-’60s taboos ranging from heroin addiction to sexual deviance. Named for the seminal masochist text, “Venus in Furs” is an ode to S&M, and when the band performed it, they had whip dancers onstage who thoroughly confused and aroused the audience, as captured in this video snippet from Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol.

But recently, BDSM has become mainstream. Thanks to 50 Shades of Grey and a handful of other imposter novellas you can buy at the airport, kinky imagery is both popular and normal, showing up everywhere from music videos to Urban Outfitters Spring douche catalogs.

That popularization has lead to stuff like Rihanna’s “S&M,” which at 67 million YouTube views, normalizes BDSM so much that it even (sadly) loses its shock value:

Continuing on the road to the mainstream, BDSM imagery is even bleeding into fashion. Halters are a thing, have you heard? Everyone is wearing chokers. I can’t buy a bra that doesn’t come with like 16 straps on it that could support the weight of a car if I hung it from my chest. I saw a dude wearing a t-shirt with a ball gag on it that said “Fuck it (me)” on it, and the only reason I didn’t take a picture of it for you is because I was too busy joy-crying.

Here are some fashion chicks who are trying to choke themselves, mmm, kinky.

bdsmneurotica

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All this makes sense though.  BDSM is captivating on multiple levels, whether its aesthetically, evolutionarily or from a marketing standpoint (mainstream America loves to capitalize on taboo subcultures … see: Hot Topic)

But what’s so attractive about BDSM itself that makes it a prime substrate for the parasite of the mainstream to feed off of?

The most compelling and prevalent aspect of BDSM is control. Control equals power. Power, in music and fashion, equals popularity and profit. And if you can captivate an audience by using images of control, what you’ve made will have a greater artistic and fiscal impact because control, or the dynamics thereof, is something we all relate to on a very base level. We all experience domination and submission in some form in our daily lives, and when such deeply psychological struggles brought get drug out into the open and expressed via sexuality, it touches people mentally and sometimes physically if they’re ovulating.

Sure, you can use traditional sex and sexual imagery to achieve control over an audience (and almost every artist does), but when you bypass the concept of seduction and intercourse and venture into the territory of restraint, pain, dominance and submission, you suddenly ask people to confront something unfamiliar and new. When used in popular culture, especially in music videos, BDSM and its related imagery enable people to connect with their sexuality in ways that are difficult during traditional sex. I’d argue that this is such a raw, taboo, marketable concept that it lends itself perfectly to depiction in music and fashion.

BDSM is also packs massive therapeutic appeal. Modern Western ego is an incredibly elaborate structure, with our culture placing more demands on the individual self than any other culture in history. Such high demands increase the stress associated with living up to expectations and existing as the person you want to be. That stress makes forgetting who you and losing yourself to desire an appealing escape. In fact, that idea is its own thing. It’s called “escape theory” and it’s one of the main reasons people turn to BDSM. This means you can make music and fashion not just enjoyable, but therapeutic.

Lastly, the motives and underlying psychological methods of BDSM go hand-in-hand with those of music. Both are the ultimate expression of individuality. Both provide creative outlets. Both are used for release and relaxation. Both necessitate a great deal of knowledge and attention to participate within their spheres. With both, people are invited to act and feel things they wouldn’t ordinarily. Both move you down a path of self discovery. One just gives you rope burn.

And, now … please enjoy my two favorite BDSM videos, courtesy of me. Don’t judge me.