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April 2017
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In the words of Alfred Kinsey, one of the pioneers of scientific sexology, it is easy to see how social and cultural contexts heavily influence people's behavioural, and more specifically, sexual characteristics: whatever the moral interpretation, there is no scientific reason for considering particular types of sexual activity as intrinsically, in their biological origins, normal or abnormal.
It is society and culture that constantly impose rules and laws about 'healthy' erotic and sexual behaviour, but what is 'healthy' and when can we talk about 'deviance' or 'perversion'?
Through an excursus of appropriate and inappropriate terminology, veering between possible and potential mechanisms that push a person to favour a certain type of sexuality that is more or less forced on him/her and personalised, this article will attempt to describe the practices that characterise so called extreme and 'incarnate' eroticism in BDSM.

Perversion vs paraphilia
As is often the case, not knowing and ignoring fundamental elements of intimate experiences between people can cause society to define people's behaviour and ways of doing things using strong and judgmental terms. When behaviour is combined with sexuality, the risk of making dangerous judgements and preconceptions becomes increasingly high. One example can be seen with how the term 'impotence' is perceived as less technical and more judgemental than the term 'erection problem'. Most probably, if a man is told he has 'erection problems', and not 'impotence', he will not experience the feelings of discomfort that the term impotence brings with it, since impotence not only implies there is a problem with the penis but also his 'power' as a MAN.
The term 'perversion' intended as 'deviant' also risks being linked to a strictly judgemental and invalidating concept. This is why, today, it is best to refer to sexual practices that appear to exceed what is commonly and socially considered to be legitimate with the term 'paraphilia'. This term derives from Greek and is composed of the prefix parà, which can have mean many things, such as at, next to, more, and the noun filia which means love and affinity. It therefore refers to the sexual excitement caused by sexual situations and objects that can interfere with the ability to experience sexual relations that are based on the reciprocal exchange of affection.
This term was introduced in 1980 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition (DSM III), in order to make the term 'perversion' more healthy and more scientific and less penalised on a moral level.
In this respect, it is useful to remember how much social context guides society and the individuals who make up the society towards the use of certain terms. In fact, how can we forget the importance that talking about 'perversion' had during Freud's time: during this historic era, Freud expressed his thoughts on perversions, defining them as 'sexual activities performed on non-genital parts of the body'. Today, however, as a result of social changes and especially the birth of sexology as a science, a similar diagnosis to that of Freud could end up defining the sexual behaviour of almost all the world's population as 'pathologic'.
The socio-cultural aspect in the genesis of paraphilias can, as Kaplan suggests, represent a simple mental strategy that uses either the social stereotype of masculinity or femininity to trick the observer about the subconscious meanings of the behaviour that he/she has in front of his/her eyes. The obsession with having to always behave in a certain way and the desperation that could occur if this 'practice' is not performed are two of the main characteristics that make any action a perversion!
According to the DSM IV-TR (2000), the essential characteristics needed to diagnose paraphilia are: having fantasies, sexual impulses or reoccurring behaviour and being intensely sexually excited about inanimate objects or about the suffering or humiliation of yourself, your partner, children or other non-consenting people for a period of at least 6 months. This behaviour, desires or fantasies have to cause clinically significant discomfort or compromise social or working situations or other important areas of functioning in the individual's life.
They can be distinguished into three different categories:
a) mild forms characterised by impulses that are not acted upon;
b) moderate forms in which the individual only acts out fantasies occasionally;
c) serious forms when the problematic behaviour is performed regularly and habitually.

Usually paraphiliac behaviour is related to individual and situational variables, however the origin can be observed in childhood or early adolescence and becomes more definite during adulthood.
By following the guidelines set out by the DSM IV-TR, new types of paraphilia can be identified:

  • Exhibitionism
  • Fetishism
  • Frotteurism
  • Pedophilia
  • Sexual masochism
  • Voyeurism
  • Fetishism for cross-dressing
  • Paraphilia not otherwise specified.

BDSM and extreme eroticism
Now we have clarified the notion of paraphilia, before addressing the concept of the practice of trampling in a simple way, we must take a look at its birth in the United States around 1985 and the movement of BDSM, which is just one word but which includes hundreds of different erotic practices and situations during which a person abandons him/herself to his/her partner wants and desires. This acronym stands to promote extreme eroticism that is separate from mental illnesses and crimes which, in the past, have shared the same terms and this has caused confusion and unpleasant misunderstandings.
BDSM is the sum of different acronyms and the four letters all have precise meanings that refer to different practices, the most common being:
B - for bondage, so ropes, knots and buckles are fundamental here, and it is a good idea to remember how much this 'letter' can imply 'constriction', 'slavery' and also 'do what you want to me!'
D - for domination and the pleasure a person gets from letting him/herself be guided by the experiences, emotions and sensations of his/her partner. As Ayzad reminds us, for some people, the meaning of D is 'discipline', that is when the person who dominates during sexual activities also sets rules for the submissive partner which will result in punishment if broken. It is up to those involved to choose how far to take this aspect of the relationship…
S - for sadism. This involves the game of experimenting very physically with the partner in an erotic situation in which both people are very much involved. All of those stereotypes typically seen in films when a person reaches orgasm by making his/her prisoner scream with pain can therefore be forgotten!
M - for masochism. This refers to all those people who have learnt to experiment, through their own senses and during an erotic situation, with intense stimuli caused by a feeling of pain and enjoying it.
Extreme eroticism is this and much more and it can be interpreted by anybody in a way that suits his/her personality and characteristics.
BDSM, as underlined before, is separate from normal sadomasochist practices since there are clear and fundamental rules which can be summarised with the SSC formula (Safe, Sane, Consensual).

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