"We're not crazy in Sweden anymore" said Ethical Hedonist over dinner last night. He's becoming increasingly active in the politics of the BDSM world, and relates these bite size nuggets of news with enthusiasm. I've long been aware that given the medicalisation of sexuality what I want from a partner is not a "natural" baby-making drive, but rather a terrible condition afflicting my poor, underdevelopped brain, and it's nice to know there are some countries who accept that there are different strokes for different folks.
The difficulty that I find with considering a penchant for BDSM as a mental health issue is that all desire starts with the mind, so by classifying some activities "bad" then by following the logic backwards (and it is, indeed, backwards logic) these terrible thoughts must therefore derive from some fault within the psyche. Rather than starting with a poorly brain and working out what it is making that person do. Because, of course, we can't see into someone's mind, we can only judge their status by their actions and actions are codefied by society. Change societies (like going to Sweden, for example) and you change the perception of the action. What is good becomes bad and vice versa. Black hat to white with a quick costume change, the important thing to note is that the activity itself has not changed. Like a chemical catalyst it remains unaltered, but it does cause an awful lot of reaction.
I view BDSM as being fundamentally amoral, that is, outside of the scope of a moral framework. Neither good nor bad simply something done without concern for societal norms or prejudices of right and wrong, between consenting adults whose only value judgement would be based on pleasure and sensation. Morals only enter into it when we are talking about how we manage these interactions: are we being honest, fair and caring? Morals relate to the motive and the method of the activity: how we go about doing it. A shorthand for an idealised sexuality, where everyone is free to stick whatever the hell it is into wherever the hell it is as long as that's what all adult participants willingly signed up for and are happy with. I love these ideas and would wish them for everyone, because I do not see the value in laws that intrude or put expectations on what we do to our bodies, in private, of our own free will. I am, however, not the arbiter of law, sadly, and that means that what I do is considered to be "wrong". Even though I know it's not, and the existence of national boundaries of legality further compounds my argument - I'm either sick in the head or I'm not. I can't possibly have a disorder in England whilst being hale and hearty in Sweden. That would be like being "a little bit pregnant". It just doesn't happen.
For the moment, I am ill and in the UK. And situations like this are unlikely to change overnight. Everything we do requires others, and with other people come their thoughts, lives, past experiences and current beliefs. Society, in short. We have to live somewhere. I just don't particularly like the idea of home being where the headache is.
2 weeks ago