It’s the weekend and Sushmita, 26, enters her house in Pune and kicks off her shoes. Walking up to the shoe rack, she flings all the shoes across the hall. Within minutes, her husband, Vivek, a 30-year-old IT professional, strips and crawls across the floor, gathering the shoes in his mouth and putting them back on the rack.
Married for a year, this “deeply-in-love couple” decided to move away from “vanilla” sex, for a life of Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission (BDSM). They are among an increasing body of young Indian couples driven by SM, or sado-masochism, a practice which thrives on sexual abuse — both physical and mental. For them, sex is incomplete without a good spanking.
In BDSM parlance, Sushmita is the “dom” and Vivek the “sub.” The Bengali wife punishes her Maharashtrian husband, who begs for more. And in their blog later, he thanks “mistress” Sushmita profusely for her “kindness.”
Details of BDSM are mostly conveyed through the Internet, often with pseudonyms, for couples are wary of social censure, the law and stalkers. “Unnatural” sex is punishable by law under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Few figures are available on how prevalent BDSM is in India, but dozens of Indian sites cater to the interests of the community. One international site on BDSM has had over 11,000 hits from India.
Savio, a Mumbai-based IT professional fond of BDSM, likes to keep his identity a secret and is careful about whom he gets involved with. “With so many psycho cases floating around in cyberspace, I have to be careful,” says the 30-something “dom.” Before a female “sub” passes his acid test, she has to produce an HIV-free certificate.
While BDSM mostly thrives underground, Sushmita and Vivek give blow-by-blow accounts in their blog of bedroom tales revolving around abuse and humiliation. They also plan to include a list of BDSM couples in India in their blog, which is aimed at encouraging other sado-masochistic couples to share their stories online and make BDSM a “more natural practice.”
BDSM, clearly, takes different forms with different people. For some, it translates into chains and whips. Some — like the Pune couple — like to role play. “More than the physical pain, I think the humiliation of being spanked with his own belt gives us a better high than the physical pain,” says Sushmita.
Some experts believe that BDSM is a form of abuse that one partner inflicts on the other — and the victim is often a woman. “Sado-masochism is a psycho-pathological problem,” stresses Dr Prakash Kothari, the Mumbai sexologist. Couples can be physically injured and undergo mental trauma.
Dr D. Narayana Reddy, a sexologist in Chennai, treated a patient who had suffered a tear around her nipple when her husband used a clothes pin on her breasts during intercourse. “Many women do not report abuse, succumbing to their husband’s threats of seeking gratification outside marriage,” says Reddy.
Surat-based sexologist Paras Shah says his women patients often come to him with deep bite and scratch marks inflicted on their bodies by their husbands. He recently treated a husband who would tie a noose around his wife’s neck and walk her on all fours in the bedroom. “These men say they feel they are in control when they abuse their wives,” says Dr Shah.
Often, there is a background to a person’s need for violence. Dr Reddy talks of having treated a man who used to get sex workers to flog him. “It was his way of punishing himself for not being able to save his wife who was raped in front of him — while he was tied up by her assailants,” he analyses.
But for many couples, BDSM enhances sex. Savio says he got into BDSM when he was in his late teens, but has never tried to analyse why he likes getting brutal in bed. “I just give in to my impulses with the right partner and enjoy it,” he says. Savio does not feel bad about spanking and whipping his sex partner. “I pamper her later,” he says.
The Internet abounds with dominatrices such as a woman called Aditi who bestows on herself titles such as “goddess” and “mistress.” Some post tantalising pictures with their profiles on social networking sites such as Orkut. There are several images of feet clad in strappy sandals and slippers. A young bespectacled woman is shown licking the toes of a foot clad in a bright red clog, while another woman yanks her hair. Also common are thumbnails of women riding stallions, and occasionally pictures of Bollywood beauties are posted.
Aditi, for one, is fond of watching Hindi films that remind her of BDSM. “This afternoon I watched Amrita Singh using a bull whip on Amitabh Bachchan, in Mard,” she writes in one post. A “housewife,” in her post says she “deeply desires” to dominate girls, whom she wants as her slaves. “I demand deepest respect from you…. Slaves, welcome to my kingdom,” she signs off. Another woman invites people to an “in camera” session, with props such as high heels and rubber bands.
A “slave” in his post asks for advice on choosing a “dominating woman” in an arranged marriage. “How can I make her dominate me, especially physically in (the) bedroom or in private (no public humiliation, as I have a good reputation)?”
When Sushmita’s marriage with Vivek was arranged, BDSM was never discussed. It was only four months into the marriage that she says she discovered a folder tucked away in his laptop containing 5KB of femdom videos. Soon, theory was put into practice. “After every punishment session, I feel like I’ve fared brilliantly in my exams,” says Vivek.
The need for control is an element common to “doms,” regardless of sex. Sushmita says she enjoys her power over her husband. Their BDSM lifestyle, she adds, has also increased her decision-making power at home. “I do get Vivek to do some of the household chores, for which he needs additional motivation,” she jokes.
But Sushmita says that their sex roles have to be carefully guarded. “I need to ensure that our actions or words — and particularly mine — do not leak into our everyday life. I love to humiliate and insult my slave but I don’t like to insult my husband or hurt his self esteem. It is a challenge to balance between a wife and “mistress”, slave and husband. But, if you do, it can be a wonderful experience.”
Vivek, for his part, says he trusts Sushmita never to cause any real harm to him. When things go out of hand, there is always a code word that brings the proceedings to a swift end. Till then, of course, there is work to be done. The shoe rack, for instance, needs to be stacked. And, of course, with the clothes off.
(Some names have been changed to protect identities)