Could embracing BDSM transform your life? James* shares his story

James* hid in tight spaces as a child and played with ropes as an adolescent. He didn’t think much of it until later, as an adult, he felt something was missing. When he discovered BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism—the core pillars of kinky fun) and started integrating kink into his life, he faced marital and community challenges. But the journey proved worth it in every sense, as embracing BDSM fast-tracked him to a life of greater intimacy, self-awareness and a ‘homecoming’ he never knew possible. Here he shares his story.

As a very young child I’d put sharp objects in my pants and crawl into tight, dark, hard spaces. I enjoyed the pain.

I had no idea this was erotic play, yet somehow knew I had to keep it secret. Later, I forgot about this play and thought if I occasionally used handcuffs, I was ‘out there

As an adult, I had the strong sense that something wasn’t right, like there was a missing door I really needed to walk through.

I was happily married, faithful and monogamous for 20 years, with two lovely children. We had the house and white picket fence in an affluent suburb. I didn’t know it then, but I now realise I was seeking self-awareness. 

My friends took me to a BDSM club and I felt an immediate sense of coming home and community.  

I thought it was a fun thing to do, but even then I still couldn’t understand how it could become such an important thing in someone’s life. I figured it was just a bit of spice and sexual play. I realise now I didn’t really understand BDSM – I hadn’t fully immersed myself in it emotionally. 

Then, I went to the Burning Man festival and came back a new person.

I played a bit with floggers and got beaten on a St Andrews cross a couple of times in public. I saw the beautiful souls dancing in the desert and I knew I had to make that a part of my world. I came home afterwards but it no longer felt like ‘home’. I wasn’t able to fit in with the tedium of middle-class barbecues, talk of mortgages and genius children. So I started taking my artistic life seriously, began tantric practice and actively sought my community.

The difference in emotional expression between my wife and I was suddenly huge.

My wife was very traditional and I was in a place way out of her comfort zone. 

So I came up with the idea of polyamory or ‘poly’ (having intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the informed consent of all partners).

I didn’t know anyone who was poly back then, so I just did it and made plenty of mistakes. For a while, it was a logical solution. In the end, my wife and I moved in different directions with different needs, but you learn, don’t you? The poly lifestyle has stayed with me though.

Then I went on a conscious sexuality retreat and experienced ‘subspace’ for the first time. 

Subspace is a state of transcendence that many subs go into during BDSM play. To me, it felt like the deepest level of intimacy. Finally, I got it.

Throughout this journey, I’ve learned:

  • Poly brings up stuff up and offers a fast track to emotional maturity. With monogamy, it’s easy to sweep stuff under the carpet. With poly, it’s all raw and out there all the time. You have to learn how to deal with your own emotions.
  • To be radically honest. I ask for what I need and say no to what I don’t.
  • To be comfortable in my own skin. When I first started down the poly path I did have some doubts and insecurity about it. This insecurity naturally attracted judgement but I made a conscious decision not to hide anything from friends and family once I took the leap. I figured: love me or hate me, this is me so deal with it. Now I get very little judgement because I wear who I am with pride. 
  • Embracing who I am helps me professionally, too. Even though I don’t broadcast my poly or kink lifestyle in my work, my ability to truly embrace my authentic self has greatly enhanced my professional life. 
  • To take off the mask. I respect myself enough to be exactly who I am with everyone. In the past I tried to fit in and play the role that I thought society expected of me. I wore a mask. In my romantic relationships, I did everything I could to be the person that my partner wanted even if it wasn’t ‘me’. I didn’t exist and it was more of an act. I’m free of this now. 
  • To live as my authentic self, with integrity and a sense of abundance. I no longer feel afraid that love will go away. I feel whole in myself. I feel so much love from so many beautiful people (not just lovers, but also family and close friends).
  • How to be alive. My emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health is tremendous, and I feel more alive than ever.
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*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.

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