'Perverts' on Parade for the Right to Practise Safe Sadism
Cohen, Nick, The Independent (London, England)
BRITAIN'S sado-masochists have a dark secret - they are becoming more respectable.
When 1,000 of them march across London on Saturday, led by women sitting in carts, whipping "human ponies" through the streets as part of a weekend of "pervery", they may well look a mite strange to passers-by.
But behind the annual S&M Pride march and the workshops on how to enjoy S&M with standard office equipment (mainly paper clips and rubber bands) lie the eminently serious purposes of safe sex, legal reform and the intellectual justification of pain.
At workshops S&M technocrats will outline in great detail how to be a safe sadist.
"We're very responsible," said Spencer Woodcock, a spokesman for the march organisers. "Education is very important. Tying people up is complicated. We go down to the smallest detail, like explaining how nerves in the thumb can be cut if you make a mistake with the knots."
A fellow organiser agreed. "Safe S&M is like driving a car," he said. "If you don't learn how to do it properly, you can go out there and hurt someone."
Sadism and masochism, despite their influence on fashion, still remain beyond the confines of conventional society, as their advocates realise despite their protestations of respectability. Many of them will be wearing masks on the march. "Wearing a mask," say the organisers, "ensures anonymity and also looks very pervy."
There are bridges being built, however, with the rest of society. Last year Scotland Yard officers came to workshops to assure the demonstrators that Sir Paul Condon, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had no interest in prosecuting consenting adults. This year the emphasis will be on understanding the law.
Members of a libertarian strand of the feminist movement, Feminists Against Censorship, will be on hand to counter arguments from more conventional women's groups and maintain that sado-masochistic pornography does not degrade women but often makes them seem powerful and in control.
The image of responsible sado-masochists will be reinforced later this year when some of the best legal minds in Britain and Europe pronounce on what was the defining moment for the S&M movement, the Operation Spanner case.
The bizarre trial was in 1990. Fifteen homosexuals were convicted and in many cases jailed for practising acts of "genital torture" on each other with nails, canes, scalpels, sandpaper and nettles. …