BDSM, sexual subcultures, and the ethics of public health discourse
The pursuit of sexual pleasure, the drive, aim, object, and satisfaction, to use psychoanalytic terms, is a process that is extraordinarily diverse and individualized; it is cultural and symbolic, as well as biological, psychological, (inter)personal, and oftentimes political. As such, sexual pleasure tends to be discounted or misunderstood by health care professionals. This is especially true for alternative or 'unconventional' sexual practices, which do not fall within the realm of traditional 'vanilla' sex. One example of alternative sexual practices is BDSM, which is an acronym for a broad range of sexual practices that focus on themes of bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D/s), and sadomasochism (SM). This chapter focuses on a critical ethnographic nursing study of BDSM that begins to redress this gap in the literature and point the way to culturally competent public health initiatives for those who practice alternative or 'unconventional' sex.