BDSM under Security: Radical Resistance via Contingent Subjectivities

Parchev, Ofer and Langdridge, Darren (2018). BDSM under Security: Radical Resistance via Contingent Subjectivities. Sexualities, 21(1-2) pp. 194–211.



In recent decades, BDSM communities have engaged in a political struggle for rights by separating their practices from the oppressive gaze of legal and medical praxis, seeking to legitimize BDSM discourse and actions under the slogan of “safe, sane, and consensual.” The espousal of principles governed primarily by health and safety nonetheless carries a normalizing overtone, apparently trapping the community within the epistemic codes against which they struggle. This paper suggests that the security mechanism Foucault identifies as forming part of biopower can serve as a critical analytic capable of arbitrating between BDSM as a form of political resistance to hegemonic sexual norms and the restraints imposed by the “safe, sane, and consensual” code itself. We argue that communities using health and safety codes shift the political struggle from direct resistance to sovereign power to the transgression of hegemonic regimes of truth through contingent sexual identification and practice.

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