Last night I was at a BDSM club having a little fun, and as I looked around the room I was struck by the tenderness of some of the scenes.

I watched one man take a woman to a whipping post where they stood together kissing and talking quietly. When he bound her to the post and BDSM intimacyflogged her there was no change in the emotion between them. The sense of gentleness and caring remained. He stopped now and then, moved in close to talk and kiss some more, then resumed. Their body language was open, their expressions full of warmth. I don’t know anything about their relationship. I don’t know whether they’re “in love.” But the love I saw expressed between them during that scene was truly touching.

In a different part of the room, a young man suspended a girl so she was stretched out on her side, dangling several feet above the floor. He held her up high with the rope taut, like you might with someone on a swing that you want to give a push to start them off. He kept her up there for several moments, teasing her, then let go and watched her swing back and forth, occasionally giving another push to keep her going. They laughed and played like a pair of goofy kids, and when they were done he loosened the rope and lay on the floor as he lowered her, so that she ended up lying on top of him. They cuddled and giggled a while before he finished untying her.

People who don’t know much about BDSM are often surprised to learn how intimate it can be. When doing something so intense, you have to be totally focused on the person you’re with. You pay attention to his or her body language, listen carefully to what they say, and never discount it. It requires a high degree of honesty and openness, even before you start to play. You have to sit down and talk about what both of you do and don’t want, and must be able to give and receive a great deal of trust.

Not all BDSM scenes are as intimate as the ones I witnessed last night, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But between people who have an emotional bond, BDSM can take the relationship to new depths. To focus so completely on giving the other person what he or she wants is a powerful thing. Seeing that in action was an honor.

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