Laura Zambelli

BDSM practices and contemporary forms of intimacy

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: BDSM Practices; Intimacy; Italy; Queer Theory; Kinship Studies.

In this article I conceptualise BDSM (Bondage, Domination and Submission, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) practices within the frame of contemporary intimacies. This article draws from an empirical research in Milan, involving qualitative interviews and participant observations. Initially, I present a definition of BDSM drawn from contemporary sociological and anthropological literature. Then, I focus on the literature on intimacy, the public/private divide, the marketization of intimacy, and kinship and queer studies of the last decades, to frame BDSM practices among contemporary forms of intimacy. These include practices and identities beyond the heterosexual monogamous couple, such as non-heterosexual or reconstituted families, polyamorous or bareback practitioners, singles, and others; and move outside of the primacy of the sexual realm, by shifting the attention from the supremacy of the sexual sphere and the sexual intercourse. Intimacy is here primarily intended as access to the Other; to its inner and most secret parts. In order to widen our perspectives on intimacy, I provide examples from my empirical research of how practitioners intend and conceptualise BDSM as intimacy both as a risky and unsafe activity when dealing with violation of consent, and in a positive and constructive way as a qualitatively different and rich relationship with their play partners.

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