Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality.

Author:Bishop, C.J.
Position:Book review
 
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Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality

Margot Weiss

Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2011

336 pp., $24.95 trade paperback

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan.

Margot Weiss provides an in depth ethnographic study of the BDSM community as it exists in the San Francisco Bay area during the early 2000s. Using a plethora of qualitative data gathered among willing BDSM practitioners, Weiss succeeds in her exploration of BDSM within the realms of capitalism, feminism, racism, sexism, the political sphere and even exploration of the self. The author takes her data and creates what she calls "circuits," where aspects of BDSM, the individuals involved and more global social constructs are brought together in a unique form. (These circuits can vary depending on what is being examined). Should the BDSM communities that exist outside the San Francisco Bay area show similar elements to those observed by Weiss (as I suspect they do), then this book serves as a crash course for those in the academic or general communities who wish to have a better understanding of BDSM and all the intricacies therein.

The book begins with a prologue that is informative as it delineates relevant terminology. Specifically, Weiss breaks down the subtleties that exist within the language used both in the BDSM community and in the general public's descriptions of BDSM practitioners. For example, "the acronyms BDSM and SM are used interchangeably to denote a diverse community" (p. vii). This small piece of information is important as it informs the reader that any situation where "SM" may be encountered, does not necessarily refer to sadomasochistic practices alone. Weiss also partitions the acronym "BDSM" into its three basic components (B&D--bondage and discipline, D/s--Domination/submission, SM--sadomasochism) and provides examples of activities that may be involved within each of the components. The breakdown of "BDSM" illustrates the dichotomy of "SM" within the BDSM community, where the acronym SM has a double meaning (describing both the community as a whole but also pain/sensation play). Besides providing clarity and definitions for various acronyms used, the author introduces and defines new terms for the reader. For example, a "scene refers to a specific BDSM encounter" (p. viii) that is considered to take place in a bubble outside of reality. Also, a "top refers to the person on the giving end of any...

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