Subcultures, Narratives and Identification: An Empirical Study of BDSM (Bondage, Domination and Submission, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) Practices in Italy
- 911 Downloads
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.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
- Bennett, A. (1999). Subcultures or neo-tribes? Rethinking the relationship between youth, style and musical taste. Sociology, 33(3), 599–617.Google Scholar
- Brumatti, F. (2011). 30 ANNI DI STORIA BDSM in Italia (1980–2010). Retrieved from www.gabbia.com/boudoir/04/01/2011/30-anni-di-storia-bdsm-in-italia-1980-%E2%80%93-2010/.
- Dalzell, T. (2009). The Routledge dictionary of modern American slang and unconventional English. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Dalzell, T., & Victor, T. (2008). The concise new Partridge dictionary of slang and unconventional English. London, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Gelder, K. (2007). Subcultures: Cultural histories and social practice. London, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Landi, N. (2011). BDSM. Ars erotica tra dolore e piacere. Rivista Di Sessuologia, 35(4), 261–267.Google Scholar
- Langdridge, D., & Barker, M. (2007). Safe, sane, and consensual: Contemporary perspectives on sadomasochism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Maffesoli, M. (1988). Le temp des Tribus: le déclin de líndividualisme dans les sociétés de masse. Paris: Klincksieck.Google Scholar
- Magaudda, P. (2009). Ridiscutere le sottoculture. Resistenza simbolica, postmodernismo e disuguaglianze sociali. Studi Culturali, 6(2), 301–314.Google Scholar
- Mains, G. (1984). Urban aboriginals: A celebration of leathersexuality. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine.Google Scholar
- Newmahr, S. (2011). Playing on the edge Sadomasochism, risk, and intimacy. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
- Redhead, S. (1993). Rave off: Politics and deviance in contemporary youth culture. Brookfield, VT: Avebury.Google Scholar
- Ritchie, A., & Barker, M. (2005). Feminist SM: A contradiction in terms or a way of challenging traditional gendered dynamics through sexual practice? Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review, 6(3), 227–239.Google Scholar
- Santoro, M., & Sassatelli, R. (2008). Lavoro simbolico e immaginazione etnografica. Intervista a Paul Willis. Studi Culturali, 2, 241–272.Google Scholar
- Santoro, M., & Sassatelli, R. (2009). Introduzione. In M. Santoro & R. Sassatelli (Eds.), Studiare la cultura. Nuove prospettive sociologiche (pp. 9–54). Bologna: Il Mulino.Google Scholar
- Sisson, K. (2005). The cultural formation of S/M: History and analysis. Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review, 6(3), 147–162.Google Scholar
- Stein, D. (2002). ‘Safe Sane Consensual’. The making of a Shibboleth. VASM scene (The newsletter of vancouver activists), September/October, pp. 1–8.Google Scholar
- Switch, G. (2001, May). Origin of RACK: RACK vs. SSC. Prometheus #37. New York: The Eulenspiegel Society (TES). http://www.evilmonk.org/a/rack.cfm.
- von Krafft-Ebing, R. (1886). Psychopathia sexualis. Eine Klinisch-Forensische Studie. Stuttgart: Verlag von Ferdinand Enke.Google Scholar
- Watters, E. (2003). Urban tribes: A generation redefines friendship, family, and commitment. New York: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
- Zambelli, L. (2016). Feminism and BDSM: Empirical findings and theoretical debates in US, UK and Italy. INSEP–Journal of the International Network for Sexual Ethics & Politics (forthcoming).Google Scholar