Pain is pleasure
”Shiny shiny, shiny boots of leather, whiplash girlchild in the dark. Comes in bells, your servant, don’t forsake him strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart…” the song is Venus in Furs and its words are recited, like in a liturgy of therapeutic perdition, by the immortal voice of Lou Reed, who created an eternal album together with the Velvet Underground in 1967: Velvet Underground and Nico. An LP that defined a generation, cover by Andy Warhol, a milestone in the history of rock, so much so that it was classified as the 13th in the list of the 500 best albums in the history of music by the Rolling Stones magazine. A masterpiece containing a song, Venus in Furs, that is an hymn to one of the most unknown and discussed erotic subcultures: the sadomasochism. A song derived from the romance of the same name written by Leopold Von Sacher Masoch in the end of the XIX century, a literary work that, together with that of Marquess De Sade, put the sadomasochism (term created by merging the two authors’ names: Sade e Masoch) under the spotlight, giving to it a name, an identity and some characteristics. But still today this cultural and erotic passion, essentially based on a role playing, on a relationship between a dominant and a submissive figure, generates prejudice and scandal, curiosity and sensationalism, condemn and questions. It is still hidden behind a cloud of doubt, gossip, imagination and filmography that makes it a mystery for the most. That is the reason of this journey through this world, without any stereotype, made just of words, confessions, looks and also of the contradictions of those who populate this universe.
The November mist, surrounding and hiding the outskirts of Milan, is the first curtain to pull back to enter the Bdsm world (bondage, domination and sadomasochism). A club sign not far from the subway station: this is the entrance of the Sadika, the only Italian club dedicated to sadomasochism. They ask for our documents and check our age, since only adults are allowed to enter, then the doors open. A club with soft lights, sofas, a bar, some themed objects such as whips and collars hung to the walls and finally stairs leading tho the area where the game, the show, the piéce of the sadomasochism takes place. A Saint Andrew’s cross, a cage, a stockade, a table with some cords: torture instruments you would say but, this is the key to enter the dungeons of the sadomasochism, they are necessary to give and receive pleasure instead. But this is still pain! Well, for the adepts pain is pleasure.
”This club is the only one in Italy were only sadomasochism is practiced. Every weekend from 50 up to 100 people a day come here and the adepts practice the bdsm s.s.c: safe, secure and consensual”. Diego, the club manager explains: ”Defining with one word the sadomasochism is probably impossible. It is a subculture, a pasion including many different disciplines that have in common a key concept: domination and submission. In this club for example we practice the femdom (female domination), in which women dominate men”.
Then Diego goes on: ”First of all those who practice the bondage or use instruments of pain are experienced professionals, nothing is made by chance and there are strict rules. Everything here is made for consensual and reciprocal pleasure, if someone does not want to do something he does not do it, and when someone says stop everything stops”. After this introduction Diego talks about one of the most delicate issues of this microcosm: ”Many people think that those who come in a club like the Sadika are depraved perverts. I do not agree. Those practicing the bdsm are the same people that you meet in your daily life; many of them, however, hide this passion to avoid the stigmatisation. Hence a club like this is a place dedicated to this kind of people, who can find here space and instruments to satisfy their desires without any prejudice. Anyway there are rules here and the most important is: to respect the other. So, are we perverts? In my opinion the real perversion is the sexual harassment in the subway, is imposing your will on someone who is not consensual, is acting in an inappropriate way. I do not think that sharing a common passion in a dedicated place is depraved”.
In the meantime some mistresses (the term used to identify the dominant women in the bdsm) get ready: glows and high heels, bustiers and laces; also the slaves (the submitted figures in the bdsm), with their collars, play their role and the game can start. Strokes of the whip on the back, feet massaged and adored, high heels stepping on men laying at the feet of the women.
Pain and humiliation, inflicted and received, the concept of the sadomasochism. The natural question in the head of an external spectator then is: how all of this can be pleasure? Here is the answer, given right by the protagonists of this show: ”I am a slave, thus I have a role of submission”, Luca explains, then he adds: ”I am the miserable on e in the couple, but I chose this role for myself and I like it because being humiliated, derided, being at the mercy of a woman who can do whatever she wants to me, is something that excites me, that satisfies me, because it pushes me beyond my limits and allows me to play, just like on a stage, a role that amuses me. Then, when the game is over, also my role ends and I return to be what I am, a man with a job, some friends and people who love me. It is a game that causes an adrenaline rush in me and that, just like if I was an actor, allows me to play a role for a given time”.
Claire Delacroix, a reknown Italian mistress, plays the opposite role: ”It is true that I am a little bit sadistic. But saying just that is reductive. I started practicing the bdsm with my ex boyfriend, and that is when I began to interpret a dominant and powerful role. That emotion really drove me crazy. So I started attending courses and dedicating to the bdsm in a professional way. However it is not easy the first time you use a whip: you have a lot of questions, you are afraid of hurting someone and you wonder why you seek for pleasure in this way. But in the end the answer is automatic, and it is: I am not hurting anyone. To hurt means to inflict pain with the aim of causing suffer to another person. On the contrary, I use pain to give pleasure. They say that somehow through the physical pain I give inner wellness. I feel satisfied with my role, I am happy and I am fine. And it is the same for the submitted person who plays with me. We are two grown-up people with a common passion and we satisfy it in a consensual way. If we did not like it, we would not do it”.
The games go on and Kalamos, once erotic comics author and now known in the bdsm world, performs what he calls “his art”,the erotic tickle. Another participant acts like a footrest for his mistress but the lights are about to go down, the games are almost over and, like in any other club, among toasts and chitchats everybody says goodbye until the following night.
It is almost dawn, and the rising of the sun brings also questions that are licit since they born in the head of someone who, with a look compromised by prejudice, observed the other in his real essence. Before turning off the club sign Diego concludes our conversation by making a consideration: ”One woman out of three is victim of violence in her own house. That is brutal violence, a submission imposed with physical or psychological violence on someone weaker. Then I ask: should we still be scandalized by the sadomasochism, that is practiced by adults, consensual and aimed at giving pleasure?”