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What BDSM Can Teach Us About Community, Safety and Consent

An illustration featuring four people who are participating in the BDSM lifestyle. The person on the very left has light brown skin and a brown afro and is wearing a fishnet top with long sleeves. They have leather straps around the upper half of their body and are wearing a leather cuff around their neck with a leash attached. Next to them is a person with darker brown skin with a larger black afro, wearing sunglasses and a fishnet tank top with leather straps and chains on it. They're smiling and wearing a leather cuff necklace. On the right is a person wearing a leather mask that covers all of their face except for their eyes with pointy ears on top. They're wearing a black tank top and a leather collar around their neck with a leash attached. In the background is a masciline-presenting person wearing a black driving cap and sunglasses with some leather straps on the upper half of their body. There are palm trees in the background.
Charnel Hunter

It’s time to put down “Fifty Shades of Grey” … and learn about BDSM that’s rooted in community, healing and self-exploration.

Bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. These are the sexual preferences and behaviors described by the acronym BDSM.

Yes, there are leather, whips, chains, humiliation and pain. But these practices, which have been around for centuries, are a path to opening up a world of self-acceptance, healing and community.

Host Anita Rao learns about this inner world of BDSM from two educators and leaders in the community. Smoky is the co-founder of Obsidian, an organization that creates kinky events and education for people of color in Los Angeles. And Dia Dynasty is a professional dominatrix in New York (check out her previous interview with Embodied here).

Anita also talks with scholar Amber Jamilla Musser about how the concept of “masochism” has evolved over time, including the way that feminists have critiqued and embraced it. Amber is the author of “Sensational Flesh: Race, Power and Masochism” and an English professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Additional thanks to Bodacious Beautee, Phrygian Monk, Allie Eve Knox and Vanessa Carlisle for contributing to this episode!

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Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Paige Miranda is a producer for "Embodied". Previously, she served as WUNC’s 2023 AAAS Mass Media Fellow.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.