From Migraines to Crazies: My Experiences with Research into the BDSM Lifestyle

The really great thing about writing fiction is that the creating author can make up a huge chunk of their storyline and the perimeters of what goes on within that storyline and not have to worry about whether or not such a thing does exist or could exist in real life.  Sometimes, however, even in fiction, a little (or even a lot of) research is necessary to make a really good idea plausible in the minds’ of your readers.

This article is not about how to conduct research or why authors need to conduct research. Any author worth a grain of salt already knows that research is a vital part of writing, even for fictional pieces. There are also as many different ways to go about collecting information as there are authors.  What works for one will not always be the way that another author chooses to tackle the all-important step of researching their subject matter for a novel. 

Today I’d like to share with all my fellow writers a little cautionary tale that I experienced while conducting my own research.  Several years ago I began working on a group of short stories involving the BDMS lifestyle.  At the time I was working on a story called “Chained.”  While I had written several short stories for the novel Temptation which included a large amount of BDSM elements, I wanted to write at least one story that portrayed, as accurately as possible, the real emotional bond between a Master and slave. 

I had come across numerous blogs and articles that talked about how “unrealistic” the BDSM lifestyle was portrayed in so many fictional works.  What I have since learned is that there is not any real “hard and fast” rule when it comes to the lifestyle.  Yes, there are countless advice columns, blogs, and many, many people who are willing to give anyone who cares to listen their own personal opinion of how the lifestyle should be.  However, it is all just that: personal opinions.  For every Master and slave that exists, you will find dozens who agree with their way of thinking and dozens who think they have it all wrong.  At the time, however, I wanted something more tangible regarding the lifestyle than just my overactive imagination.

I spent a few weeks reading articles and blogs, but aside from all of them having radically different opinions, they also did not address the key element that I was looking to explore in my story.  At the time I had a Yahoo! 360 page where I was posting some of my erotic fantasy stories.  I had been chatting with a female friend from my page who was supposedly a slave “in real life” as we like to say.  Her “Master” (and I use this term very loosely after speaking with this gi-normous asswipe) agreed to chat with me regarding the lifestyle and the all-important bond and trust factor between a master and a slave.

I must give pause long enough to give my own personal opinion and hard-learned lesson from this little jaunt into the unknown world of BDSM.  If you know absolutely nothing about this lifestyle, whether you plan to just research it for whatever reason or if you are actually wanting to enter it, be you male or female, if you want to protect yourself from harassment, then you must be sure to answer these two questions as follows:  If you are bottom, even if you really -do- wish to eventually find yourself a dom, then when you are asked if you already have a master then the answer is always going to be “yes” until you have done enough research about the lifestyle and the person you are getting involved with to protect your own ass should something go wrong.  And if you are a dom looking for a sub, then when asked if you are looking for a slave then the answer is always going to be “no” until you have done enough research about the lifestyle and the person you are getting involved with to protect your own ass should something go wrong.

For a bottom, if you do not fully understand what you are getting into, then you will end up like the poor woman whom I spent all those months chatting with.  For a top, if you do not fully understand what you are doing then you could end up hurting someone both physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  For those who actively “live” the lifestyle “in real life” (as in, it is NOT role play for them but the way they live their lives 24/7), BDSM is not some game that they turn on and off at their own whim.  It is very much a real part of themselves and their lives.  Of course, you will always have varying degrees of the lifestyle as it depends upon the individual.  What is most important to remember is that, for all intents and purposes, the “lifestyle” is just that, a way of life and not a game.

Here is another reason why, if asked if you already have a master, the answer is always “yes.”  It’s because a huge chunk of masters (not all, mind you) sees an uncollared (i.e. unclaimed) slave as an invitation to take what he wants.  And some of them have problems understanding the word “no” when it is used in this context:  “No, I do not want to be your slave.”  Unfortunately, the “master” I got tangled up in while doing my research not only did not understand the meaning of this phrase, he also saw my “status” as a collared slave as a challenge to try to steal me away from my “master.”

So here is the story.  The woman I had been chatting with through my Yahoo! 360 page, we shall call her “Jane,” asked her “master” if he would be willing to speak to me openly about their relationship.  I was quite happy to learn that he was willing to allow me to interview him with questions regarding my research into the emotional bond between master and slave.

We began chatting through the PM function of the Yahoo! 360 page and then progressed to Yahoo! IM.  One of the very first things he asked me was if I had a master.  While I love reading and writing about the lifestyle, I do not live it, but I already knew that the answer to this question should be “yes” if I did not want to be hounded by any master trying to convince me to become his slave.  So, of course my answer to his question was, “Yes, I already have a master and no, I do not want to switch masters, thank you kindly just the same.”  I was always very formal and polite, but I made it very clear in the beginning that I was not looking for a master and was only interested in doing research for my story.  I had given him my own set of “rules” so to speak, in so much that he was not my master and I would not call him “Master” or “Sir” (outside of common courtesy) and that the only sexual undertones that would come into our conversations would be expressed in regards to his experiences as a master.  I was not looking for any type of “relationship” and was not looking to “cyber” with him or anyone else.  I was merely doing research.

Well, as soon as he learned that I was already “collared” he asked me who my master was.  I immediately replied, “My husband.” 

My answer made perfect sense to both myself and my husband.  I am, after all, a married woman.  I was not looking for any type of relationship, not looking for some “fun” on the side or anything of the type.  He already knew that I was married, so to me, stating that I had a “master” that was someone other than my husband would give the false impression that I not only had sexual relations with other men outside of my marriage, which is not and has never been true, but also gave the impression that I was open to the idea of having a sexual relationship with someone other than my husband, which was also untrue.  Stating that my “master” was my husband was the only logical answer, and it is the answer that I still give to this day whenever I talk to anyone regarding the BDSM lifestyle.

This man’s instant reaction to my statement was to inform me that husbands weren’t real masters and should not ever be the master of their own wife.  He laughed at the notion, scoffed at my “relationship” and took every opportunity to belittle me as a woman.  I remained as polite as possible at this time, constantly steering him back to the questions that I had mapped out for my research for the story.

What I later learned was that this guy was a truck driver who made a habit of sweet-talking lonely housewives into becoming his “slaves.”  He then criss-crossed the country, using these poor women as his own personal sex slaves.  He made no attempts to hide the fact that he “owned” multiple “slaves” but yet he somehow managed to brainwash these women into not only being okay with him sleeping around, but also that each and every one of them were special to him in some way. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  I realize that such arrangements of a master having more than one slave at a time do actually exist and the women/men are quite happy with the way things are run.  The reason why these two individuals’ situation sent up red flags for me was the simple fact that this woman was married, with children, and doing all of this behind her husband’s back.  I could see the potential for their “arrangement” to go very wrong.  The woman herself did not seem capable of any real thought on her own, merely regurgitating the same lame-ass shit that her “master” kept saying.  One thing that I had learned through my research is that, while a slave gives herself mind, body and soul to her master, they are not stupid by any means, and certainly not incapable of individual thought.  The whole situation with these two left a bad taste in my mouth.

The next few weeks were spent with him and the lady I had met him through trying to convince me to become another one of his slaves.  The more I resisted the harder he pushed, until his “polite” façade disappeared completely.  He used “Jane’s” 360 page as his own personal rant space, calling me every insulting name he could think of, writing blog posts that stated I was a stupid whore, talentless, that my husband was not really a man, etc.  It was not until I posted several of our Yahoo! IMs to my own 360 page and let all of his “supporters” see how he was speaking to me that finally got him to shut up and leave me alone. The BDSM community in general ousted him because he had violated the all-important rule that another master’s slave is off-limits and to disrespect the slave is to disrespect the master.  The entire back-and-forth mud slinging matches were very disturbing and had me wishing I had never decided to write the story.  In reality, it ruined an experience for me that should have been informational, open, and honest.  It had me thinking twice about the entire BDSM community, which is a tragedy unto itself, because I really do find the BDSM lifestyle, community, and its members incredibly facinating.

Getting back to my tale, I had told “Jane” that soon her “master” would get tired of her and replace her with someone else.  He did not respect her as a woman, a person, nor as a slave, something that most tops actually have for their bottoms.   A few months after I finally got her crazy “master” to stop harassing me, Jane sent me a heart-wrenching IM telling me that I had been right about everything.  Her “master” had dumped her, giving her the excuse that he could not keep up with so many slaves and so she had to go.  To add insult to injury, her husband had not only discovered what she had been doing, but he also used all the posts and PMs from her 360 page to convince a judge that she was a danger to her children’s welfare.  Her husband divorced her and got sole custody of their two children. 

What I learned from all of this is that much like investigative journalism, sometimes authors who decide to do “real life” research with people instead of hardcopy sources can also put themselves in danger.  While I was not in any real physical danger from this person, I was still cyber-stalked and harassed, receiving unwanted IMs and PMs from a psychologically disturbed individual.  I scratched the story I was working on, thinking I was better off just using my imagination for inspiration on this one.

As an author, I learned a valuable lesson.  I now know that doing research before doing research can often help you keep a cool head when faced with something unexpected.  Unfortunately, my experiences with this person dampened my desire for trying to learn about a lifestyle that I still find very interesting.  I do plan to one day finish not only that story, but the rest of the series.  This time, however, if I choose to find a “real life” master to interview, I will make certain that I get to know him as a person first and a master second.


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