Subcultures, Narratives and Identification: An Empirical Study of BDSM (Bondage, Domination and Submission, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) Practices in Italy
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I present a subcultural analysis of the Italian Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM) community based on recent empirical findings. The research involved over 1 year of participant observation into the BDSM community of Milan and 43 interviews with members or key witnesses. Throughout the article, I explore the heuristic value of the category of subculture in highlighting important features of BDSM groups. Subcultures are intended as formed by: (1) norms, behaviours, narratives, and artefacts that circulate in a group, and (2) a sense of identification, or subcultural participation in a community. I then present four ideal types of BDSM practitioners based on the degrees of subcultural identification with the group and of display of BDSM-identification throughout practitioners’ everyday life. Some empirical examples are provided. In addition, I describe the formation of the BDSM subculture in Italy in the last 40 years as recollected by long-term members and key witnesses. Besides, I discuss its most recent developments. A subcultural analysis of BDSM groups allows the identification of group elements like power structures and shifting roles, and the different degrees of emotional and cultural involvement of social actors in the group.
KeywordsBDSM Italy Subculture Bondage Domination Sadomasochism
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The author declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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