Fantasy feels good. It’s malleable, predictable, controllable and mouldable. It’s shaped perfectly to fit into all our crevices and to stroke all our sensitive spots.
Reality, on the other hand, is often uncomfortable, unpredictable and uncontrollable.
WHERE IS THAT GREY LINE BETWEEN FANTASY AND REALITY IN BDSM?
It’s probably worth asking, before going any further, whether BDSM play is a form of interactive fantasy.
I don’t mean play-acting or role-play. But, isn’t BDSM one step removed from reality?
You could apply it to any form of BDSM play, but let’s make it obvious by using the controversial topic of “rape play” as an example. This could be:
• A personal fantasy.
• An interactive fantasy.
A personal fantasy would be a masturbation fantasy; lying in bed and fantasizing that you’re being raped (or raping) in a back alley, for example. Then you cum, get up, pour a drink and turn the TV on. The fantasy ends and can be switched off.
An interactive fantasy is something which 2 people explore together, in this example with one “forcing” the other through something. They know the person, so it remains a fantasy and it is safe. But, the fantasy ends when the Dominant decides that it does.
In reality, rape would be unquestionably horrendous for anyone and it’s not BDSM. BDSM is always consensual.
To extend it a bit further, are M/s or D/s relationships/interactions a form of interactive fantasy too? In the same way as BDSM play, aren’t they underpinned by a consensual agreement to perform certain roles?
It’s an uncomfortable thought, that what we do might have some element of fantasy mixed in to it, but it’s worth thinking about. For the sake of clarity though, let me stick with fantasy meaning personal internalized fantasy and reality meaning the world outside of that.
HOW FANTASY CAN DESTROY THE REALITY
Fantasising is a creative exercise. It’s limited only by our imagination.
Yet, psychologists will tell you that we tend not to exercise that unlimited potential. We identify a few favourite records and we play them over and over again. And, the more we replay these fantasies, the more stable they become. Every detail excruciatingly thought through, every sequence carefully planned.
When the fantasy gets reinforced with pleasure of some sort (such as masturbation), it can become that precise sequence and set of details that are arousing.
So, what happens when an actual portion of the fantasy is experienced in real life, or at least attempted? There is this constant comparison in the mind between that super-idealised fantasy and what is actually happening.
Think of it like visiting the Seine after looking at Monet paintings for 10 years.
“The banks have mud on them!”, “Everything looks too crisp and clear!”, “This doesn’t look like what I wanted it to at all.”
This situation renders you completely unable to lose yourself in the moment, which (usually) is an integral part of the fantasy.
WE ALL NEED TO TRANSITION, IN THE END
Fantasy works until reality starts beating down your door. And, it will. Perhaps it will be as random and simple as an unexpected encounter, or perhaps it will come in the more serious form of illness, alienation or isolation, or some other uncomfortable and uncontrollable aspect of life. When it does come, it can come on its own terms, not yours.
Life means feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting… reality is the state of being awakened within one’s own senses. It’s not some “state of mind” that we can transition in and out of at will, and it is where we all end up, whether we like it or not.
Getting back to what I was saying earlier about BDSM’s place in personal fantasy, interactive fantasy and reality, the cool thing about BDSM is that it affords the best of both worlds. It hovers somewhere in the grey space between our own internal world and the harsh unpredictability of a world outside our control. When approached realistically, I think you can live your wildest lifestyle fantasies. You just need to be committed to honouring your desires for both fantasy AND reality.
feature image: Photo and makeup by Ryan Burke, earrings by Edgar Moser