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Beyond Leather: The New Faces of BDSM

by M. CHRISTIAN
Published: JUNE 4, 2021
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Reviewed by Dr. Laura McGuire
on January 12, 2021
BDSM and kink are expanding into bold new territories. This ain't your daddy's leather-based community.

People have found pleasure in the giving and taking of sexual power (or just being hit or hitting someone else) since there were people, or even sticks for that matter. One of the most famous ancient examples of sex that might be considered beyond vanilla by modern valuation is the Karma Sutra, and the lesser-known Sumerian poem The Hymn of Inanna was delivering some steamy times in the cradle of civilization.

The origins of the leather community (arguably the face of BDSM thanks largely to its place in mainstream media) are a bit more recent.

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Exactly how recent is a matter of conjecture. Popular theories put it in the 1940s or so with its foundation in leather-jacket wearing motorcycle fans; later boosted by the legendary artist Tom of Finland.

To this day, black leather is considered by many to be the uniform of the BDSM community, clearly evidenced by it being a key component of so many community awards and title holders, such as International Mr. Leather, Mr. / Ms. Olympus Leather, LeatherSIR / Leatherboy, and American Leatherman…just to name just a few.

Kink: The New Generation

Part of this leather uniform can sometimes lead to a defined structure of roles and behavior. Now there is nothing wrong in this. Far from it. For many in the community, the leather world is both an ideal as well as a celebration of the often tragic, often beautiful, history of those who forged the BDSM world of today.

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Now, we’re seeing a new generation of kinky folks. While not actually rebelling against the leather community, they are expanding what it is and can be: sometimes in dress, sometimes in behavior, sometimes in activities, and always with the core that binds every part of the BDSM community together. Playing safely, sanely, and consensually.

So here is a look at some of these new faces of BDSM and what they might mean for the future of the kink community.

Manic Pixie Play

While some might like their scenes dark and brooding, the Manic Pixies are all sparkles, glitter, giggles, and fairydust. While what they dish out—and can take—might be as intense as any other BDSM play, they find excitement, or comfort, in bright colors while bringing a childlike exuberance to their scenes. Sometimes this may include age play (one or more of the consenting adult participants playing at being a younger person). It also can be more of an attitude than an actual role.

Shibari Play

Tying people up is another part of the BDSM world that’s been around for a very long time; with the Japanese art of it, kinbaku, having its roots back in the Edo period (1600 to about the mid-1800s). The Western appreciation of this bondage style, more commonly labeled as shibari is relatively recent. However, it's rapidly gaining momentum. For many, what sets shibari apart from other forms of BDSM play is its focus on aesthetics as well as power exchange: that the rigger will not just top their subject but do so artistically.

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Magical Animal Play

Kissing-kin to Manic Pixie Play, this type of roleplay embraces a more colorful and playful style—often including elements of cosplay (costume play). This new type of BDSM also has its roots in the continuing popularity of anime as well as anime-styled Western animation. Because of this, is it not uncommon to see kinky versions of characters from My Little Pony to Disney. Like with Manic Pixies, there can also be a form of age play involved. Those who participate may find a return to innocence or the ability to embrace safe vulnerability through these personas.

Long-Distance Play

Until relatively recently, it was a major headache to have any kind of quality BDSM experience with someone who didn’t live in the same city—or at least within easy-driving range. Enter the Internet and tools such as Facetime, Skype, or (for the technologically savvy) teledildonics with Bluetooth and wi-fi capabilities.

These items allow tops to reach out and verbally and even virtually touch their bottoms. True, it’s not the same thing as being in the same room together, but for those who live in remote locations, or are looking for a very specific form of play that might not be common where they live, it can be a great way to still have a quality BDSM experience.

Flexible Play

For many, the world of BDSM has a clear demarcation: on one side are the Dominants and the tops, and on the other are the submissives and bottoms. In the middle, we find the switches; those who go either way. Just as the concept of gender has become more fluid, allowing people to become who they truly are, as well as experiment with new forms of gender expression, there are those in the BDSM community who try out new and interesting roles and kinky behaviors.

This might be anything from a Dom who orders their sub to use a cane on them to those whose scenes may be power exchange flexible to match the moods of those involved. This may seem anarchistic, but others see it as liberating from what they see as overly structured BDSM play.

Spiritual Play

BDSM can be a powerful sexual and emotional experience. For many, it can also be a deeply spiritual experience. The forms this spirituality can take are extremely varied: sometimes integrated into a religion or other times being a deeply personal and unique one. One thing they have in common is using BDSM as a way to reach beyond the mind, and sometimes even out into the universe. Others use it as spellcasting: a way to positively affect their lives and those around them.

Beyond Black Leather

Leather, as previously mentioned, more than likely emerged from motorcycle clubs at the end of World War II. Today, for many, it is a powerful symbol of pride and respect, and it will more than likely forever remain that way.

Yet, the community is also growing, changing…evolving: We are seeing the emergence of, for lack of a better word, new options for BDSM.

Kinky play can be black leather, but it can also be giggling pixies, elegant rope bondage, sparkling ponies, new technology, touching the cosmos, and scenes where there are no fully defined roles.

The world, and especially BDSM, is full of possibilities. That’s the beauty of it. As long as it is done safely, sanely, and consensually, it can be whatever you make of it.

So go out there and wear your leathers—or your fairy wings—and play.

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Photo for M. Christian
M. Christian

M.Christian is an author who has been published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even nonfiction, but it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and in fact too many anthologies, magazines, and sites to name. In addition to writing, M.Christian is a respected sex and BDSM educator, having taught classes on everything from polyamory to tit torture for venues such as the SF Citadel, Good Vibrations, COPE (in Columbus, Ohio), Beat Me In St. Louis, Winter Fire, Floating World, Sin In The City (Las Vegas), Dark Odyssey, and many others.


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