Stories

BDSM Parties as Spectator Sport

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One of the main principles of Burning Man, that odd party out in the Nevada Desert, at the end of which they burn a huge effigy of man in celebration of whatever you think in your mind should be celebrated, is that there are no spectators. Everybody is a participant. Everyone is the artist, and nobody is the critic. This way, all the analysis of what is going on stays personal. It also means that everybody is complicit in the art that is happening.

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In practice, of course, there are many spectators. There are many more than there used to be, not that millions of extra dollars have been pouring in to make it less of a place for genuine weirdos and more of a summer playground for jerkoffs from the tech industry.

When I went to Burning Man, way back in the folds of ancient history, there were still bros who would show up on the last night, replete with hand-held videos cameras, not caring how much they were charged to be let in on the night of the burn if it gave them a chance to film a bunch of drunk people having a truly bacchanalian orgy out in the desert night.

Maybe those guys with the cameras were part of the art, in their way. When you start to ask what art is, or what participation entails, the answer keeps moving a little further away, each time you reach for it, like an aloof house cat who wants to be seen, but not necessarily petted.

There are BDSM parties where people gather around the spectacle of a public humiliation at the center of the room. At least one person is the focus—the one who is debased, restrained, maybe whipped, gagged, pissed on, forced to suck countless cocks.

It is a strange submissive position to be in because the person is ostensibly the lowest creature in the room, the one deserving of all of this punishment. Yet, without that person, this kind of party just doesn’t happen. Being this vulnerable and weak takes a lot of strength.

Other people offer up the verbal abuse, the flaying, and the body fluid. Others, beyond this, may be there simply to observe, to pleasure themselves, and to fill the room with their energy. They are the mob that gathers round the scene simply to witness. Are they part of the art? Maybe they are artists, not spectators.

The act of making something public takes a lot of participation. What would professional baseball be, played in an empty stadium?

It sounds strange, but this kink party couldn’t happen without the silent perverts watching, wrapped along the walls.

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Tell us what you think!

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