"Fashions fade, but only style remains."
I'm always going to support a woman who favoured androgynous styles. There are fashions (popular styles and practices) in BDSM as in everywhere else. Tastes change as time goes on, not only in fetish wear but in what people do, how they do it and with what.
There is a current yen for Ultra Violence in public play, particularly scenes that resemble, and in some cases are, "proper" fights: grappling, wrestling, punching, kicking and martial arts. Ultra Violence is a very showy form of BDSM, and as an exhibitionist I can fully understand the attraction. It's big, loud and brash, it looks terrifying and makes everyone feel hopped up on adrenaline as well as feeling like they are in Fight Club.
Now, I perform violence when I do live torture shows and I have been known to enjoy struggle play. But those are much more about the illusion or threat of violence. It is very rare that I hit or am hit with anything like full force. In private, I don't actually play especially hard as my first preference. Generally, I like the more D/s aspects of care and control. When it comes to pain delivery I tend to go for very focused and detailed "sharp" pains such as needles or electricity. So whilst UV is on my kinky spectrum, it's not my number one priority.
There's an anxiety from certain quarters (warranted or not) about the safety of UV and following from this, some criticism of how younger members of the scene are playing and allowing others to play - I include myself in this since I've had such comments directed at groups I'm involved in. I'll admit that I have also been a little unnerved at the prevalence of such play, especially when it seems to involve blows that are not pulled and using techniques that stem from combat training rather than play techniques.
However, UV is an exciting form of play, and given that nothing we do in BDSM (or in life) is without risk, what exactly is the problem here, if everyone is consenting - is it just another in the long list of things that we have done to upset our elders and supposed betters on the scene or do we risk overlooking a serious concern in favour of turning into yet another Old Guard vs New Guard false binary debate?
I've outlined the attractions of UV, so here's some of the problems. I think we need to be mindful of the way that this can make the scene can look to outsiders. This is something of a concern, because attracting and maintaining new blood (and new, male submissive blood in particular) is an ongoing issue. This isn't to say that we should reign in our passions or our predilections because of fear of what other people might say, but it is worth bearing the "trend factor" in mind when you are dealing with new folk. Or indeed if you are new (hi!) and you see/hear about it.
The problem with trends is that whenever something is a la mode, it becomes common to talk about and to display it in public. It becomes representative of the scene as a whole. It can even be a major part of what the scene is and there is a danger that something which is simply The New Black becomes a shibboleth for entry into Kinksville. This could be true of any sort of play, not just UV - and it marks certain sorts of play as "better" than others (which, unless we are talking about genuine and real safety concerns, doesn't exist). So if the cycle of trend makes something out to be the be all and end all, then there's an issue. There's nothing more damaging for the scene, and by extension for ourselves, as making people feel excluded because they don't play hard enough, heavy enough or in X or Y fashion.
The second point is more related to the type of BDSM that UV represents. Excessive force is dangerous, especially martial arts or fighting styles - that's what they are for. They are not designed for play, they are designed for hurting people. When it comes to any sort of heavy, fast, violent play (of which UV is only one) things can go wrong and people can get actually hurt. So, knowing that, and being a bunch of responsible, peer-supportive type kinksters, what do we do?
I've had innumerable conversations about UV and recently organised a small peer learning workshop with martial artists and stage combat practitioners. Now, we didn't reach any grand or dizzying conclusions beyond anything you might know yourself, but the event was well worth doing because it reinforced some points I've suspected:
People are squishy and vulnerable. Oh how true this is! There's nothing like a room of perverts with mixed fighting skills to show you just how many ways there are to really hurt someone. And these aren't "just" punches and kicks, these are broken bones, broken backs and going-to-a-hospital-in-a-hurry injuries. More to the point, even amongst the four of us, there was extra-ordinary variation in where and how the same action hurt, or didn't hurt, how it could be done or if it could be done at all.
Combat training that teaches you to kill people is dangerous. I did say they weren't ground breaking conclusions. But it's always worth checking the obvious. And we decided that some things are just not safe in a play context and cannot be made sufficiently safe. There is a school of thought that all risk can be mitigated, and whilst that is true, we do not all have multi-million pound budgets and sometimes the reward is not worth the effort needed. We worked on ways to deliver the same result in different ways.
Violence - and simulated violence - is hard to do even if you know how to do it properly. We all warmed up, stretched, talked through what we were doing and knew what we were doing. We still made mistakes. We forgot things that we had been taught. We landed funny. We hit harder than we should have done and began to react in "non-play" ways: this was especially the case when we got "in the zone", which is precisely the sort of situation that is likely to occur in play - adrenaline and excitement can take over even the most careful, controlled and experienced person.
Your environment and your partner will be as much, if not more, of a factor than you. We were working in an extremely controlled and safe situation. During a scene it is unlikely that there will have been, as in this case, step by step discussion of what is going to happen, your partner will not know everything you are going to do. You will not know everything about how they will react, and even if you have prepared the space yourself you may not be aware of all environmental factors.