When it comes to sex and sexuality, the word ‘community’ is very popular. For example, I considered myself a part of the BDSM community for a very long time because it provided a place, structure, and group of people with whom I could seek revelatory experiences with sex. Over time I’ve come to question the word ‘community’ and how it’s used. It’s often disputed in an all or nothing way which I think fails to capture the situation. Human behavior is not black and white. It never has been, it never will be. There are a confluence of factors that go into the way that people lead their lives and it is not my place to say that someone will or will not experience a sense of community, nor can I speak to the impetus that brought them there. Some people will come and go, others will come and go and come back again.
I’ve been doing an extensive study of religion lately and a lot of it has been very illuminating for the structure of sex communities. Sex is a state of altered consciousness and as such, it has a lot in common with religious communities. Emile Durkheim, for instance, speaks of religion as a “manifestation of social solidarity and collective beliefs.” In their estimation, members of a society create sacred objects, rituals, beliefs, and special symbols to integrate their culture. Even this can be too simple because there is so much diversity in cognitive and phenomenal displayed in any given religious experience.
Some define religion as something that necessitates communion with the supernatural, others do not. The reliance of symbol and rite as a means to organize abstract concepts in terms of concrete symbols to make speculation possible is a key component but may not always be seen. Again, the diversity of religion and its expression makes a definition hard to pin down. There are the ideas and beliefs we hold deep in our hearts and there are our ways of relating them to others around us. As I continued reading, I realized that in many ways the BDSM subculture is very much a ‘religious institution’ by the more broad definitions that highlight their social and cultural implications. This is no surprise: sexuality and sexual rites have been parts of religion since ancient ages. I think also of how common it is to hear someone describe good sex as, “seeing God” whether or not they were believers in an extra-corporeal entity.