Yes Master! Multimodal representations of BDSM bodies on a South African website
Bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM) both fascinates and repulses. While some are fascinated by its images of leather-clad mistresses and masters inflicting pain on willing slaves for sexual pleasure (Yes Master!), they are often also repulsed because BDSM also evokes images of sadistic Nazis and serial killers. The chic images associated with the BDSM lifestyle seem to be more palatable (a light whipping, a gentle handcuffing), but actual BDSM practices (foot worship, impact play) are still not acceptable, and BDSM is most commonly associated with deviance. Despite this negative perception of BDSM by some people, there is a thriving BDSM scene in South Africa, and participants in BDSM communities show their belonging through a specific set of verbal and non-verbal tropes. In this article, I analyse these tropes using the ‘queer theory method’ as a theoretical springboard which allows me to engage with the multimodal meanings of BDSM bodies without being confined to essentialist, stereotyped or identity-based ideas about the intersection of gender, sexuality, and race.