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‘Playing’ With Race: BDSM, Race Play, and Whiteness in Kink

Morgan Oddie

BDSM (Bondage/Domination/submission/Sadism/Masochism) is often assumed to be automatically subversive of gender and sexual norms through its non-normative sexual practices. By deliberately or unintentionally ignoring race, there is considerable risk of the perpetuation of tacitly racist, neoliberal and hegemonic ideologies about sexuality and intimacy. In this article, I take up race play as an entry point to the implications of the practices existing at the nexus of sexuality, gender, race, and class. Specifically, how race play is raced to only include non-white bodies, as one aspect that reflects the oppressive impact of white supremacy in BDSM. With its practices of playing with hyperbolic racism, race play confronts notions of disguised racial superiority, and is, therefore, often a source of discomfort among BDSM practitioners. To highlight these themes, I examine how some of the markers of BDSM that have drawn from historical chattel slavery have been de-racialized in the process of neoliberal private desires and politically correct colourblindness.

Keywords: BDSM, Race, Kink, Bodies, Sex Studies

Morgan Oddie holds a doctorate from Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. Their dissertation examined the dynamics of gendered bodies, pain, and power in consensual sadomasochistic (BDSM) queer communities. Other academic interests include feminist horror films, sexuality and popular culture, and secularized religious rituals.