A word of warning before I begin: in reviewing this book, I’m going to use language and discuss concepts of a graphic and sexual nature that might make you uncomfortable. If you’re cool with that, then read on! But if you don’t like the idea of that, no worries! Just stop reading now and check out other great posts from our blog instead.
Let’s talk about kink, dear reader… So, what is BDSM and what is kink? Per the Cambridge dictionary, BDSM stands for bondage, discipline (or domination), sadism (or submission), and masochism. BDSM is sexual activity that can involve tying a partner up, games in which one partner controls another, or giving and receiving pain for pleasure.
A kink is a “strange” sexual habit or behavior. In general terms, one can have a sexual kink without engaging in BDSM.
BDSM 101 by Rev Jen is a decent introduction to the basics of BDSM and kinks. I actually read this book and Jay Wiseman’s SM 101 years ago, but I always got stuck on how to talk about these books. I mean, by golly, I’m a librarian for goodness’ sake! Some place us up there with sanctified church mothers and shrewd cloistered nuns who may or may not solve a mystery or two in their spare time.
But really, how does one talk about explicit material without being explicit?
I can’t, so here is a frank discussion of the book and its subject matter.
In BDSM 101, Rev Jen speaks frankly about sex, sex work, and her sexual encounters with partners and clients. The book functions both as a how-to and as a biography of Rev Jen’s exploits as a pro-sub (professional submissive) and—in her words—a “consummate perv.”
One of the things I liked about the book is that it gives simple definitions for some of the biggest “BDSM” terms.
Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC)
The understanding that everything is based on safe activities, that all participants are of sound mind to consent, and that all participants do consent.
Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK)
Risk- Aware: All partners are well-informed of the risks involved in the proposed activity.
Consensual: In light of those risks, All partners have, of sound mind, offered preliminary consent to engage in said activity.
Kink: Said activity can be classified as alternative sex.
Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink (PRICK)
This term emphasizes the concept of taking personal responsibility for your actions, as well as conducting an informed analysis of the risks.
Top: the partner that carries out the activities
Bottom: the recipient of the activities
Switch: someone who participates in both roles
I wish one of the definitions or chapters was dedicated strictly to setting boundaries. Boundaries are mentioned throughout the book, which is a relief, but I think the book should go further and dedicate a whole chapter to the benefits of setting boundaries with people — whether they’re edging you while tied to a St. Andrews Cross, or when you’re being up-sold on services at the bank.
That being said, l loved seeing Rev Jen’s list of questions to ask oneself and one’s partner(s) when engaging in kink. What is an eager yes, what is a hard pass (hard limit), and what is something you’re willing to dabble in within certain specifically defined parameters (soft limit)?
I also liked the fact that she encouraged people to explore and truly enjoy the journey of learning about what turns them – and their potential partners – on. The book also acknowledged that not everyone can go to a BDSM club (aka a community dungeon); not everyone is in a place where they can let their freak flag fly for all to see; and, not everyone is in a relationship where BDSM is on the radar for their partner(s).
Rev Jen greatly encourages exploration on the internet as much as possible. However, because the title is a bit older, there aren’t a lot of recommendations for current websites to visit for further learning.
But, however one goes about exploring their sexuality, one should always remember to be as safe as possible.