Is 91/2 weeks long enough to learn all about bondage?

LIKE MANY people, I have mixed feelings about bondage. Of course, it's fashionable. In certain circles, I accept, you take a pair of handcuffs with you on a date as matter of course. It's regarded as perversely unworldly not at some point to have been led around in a dog-collar or wrapped up in cling film or stood in a corner, roundly insulted and made to cry. But having been thrashed black and blue only once, and then when I was seven, I feel somewhat out of my depth.

So it was tremendously exciting to read in the latest edition of The Spectator that Bondage for Beginners lessons are now available in certain parts of London, along with cruising workshops and seminars on how best to run an orgy. The writer Leo McKinstry had been appalled to discover that London health authorities were using taxpayers' money to fund organisations with names like "Rubberstuffers" and "Big Up".

Trilling with moral outrage, and with many an obligatory reference to political correctness, McKinstry attended a Bondage for Beginners meeting in Earls Court. There he was brought up to speed on simple restraining techniques, knot-tying and whip selection, given a mobile S&M dungeon (clothes-pegs, candles, sandpaper - the usual stuff) and told to go away and practise on his own. He was so scandalised by all this that he had to attend a cruising workshop in Soho to confirm just how depraved it all was.

Naturally the Daily Mail gave the story front-page-headline treatment, recounting its details with eager, wet-lipped disapproval and doubtless causing shudders of appalled delight in lounge sitting-rooms across the home counties.

But out here among the grown-ups, the question must surely be: why has this essential service so far been restricted to the gay community? Have not the rest of us the right to be shown the ropes by qualified operatives? Since the ground-breaking film 91/2 Weeks, this kind of behaviour has increasingly been presented as an entirely normal part of sophisticated relationships. It has even reached agreeable British sitcoms. Who could forget the moment in an early episode of Game On when Samantha Janus, handcuffed to a bed after some zany misunderstanding, yelped with excitement at the idea?

The problem here is that zany misunderstandings rarely occur in real life; that this whole area of mastery and submission raises questions of social behaviour rarely covered by the etiquette books.

How, for example, do you get to first base, bondage-wise? Indeed, what is first base? The problem was brought into focus not so long ago by an article in The New Yorker. A distinguished, somewhat literary female writer wrote of her particular enthusiasm for practices some way beyond the scope of Bondage for Beginners classes. The most important part of a new relationship, she revealed, was that its move beyond the conventional should always be a surprise. Shifty negotiation, a delicate, liberal-minded discussion of the acceptable parameters of pain, completely destroyed the point of it all.

Suddenly the reason for the crisis in modern sexual relations becomes clear. No wonder young men are so edgy and afraid. Who can blame them for preferring to stay at home and express their confusion and insecurity in gentle, tearful novels rather than risk the humiliation of the dating game? And no wonder, come to think of it, that alcoholism is said to be spreading like a forest fire through the ranks of young women. With their impossible demands for both sensitivity and mastery, they increasingly find themselves sitting in bars, angry, unloved and alone.

Because how exactly does a man know? A sudden impulsive move into Hitler mode, a swift, wordless journey back to a well appointed Manhattan dungeon, may work with one distinguished, somewhat literary writer for The New Yorker; with another, it will possibly land you in court with a massive lawsuit for emotional trauma and aggravated assault with a clothes-peg.

Hence the need for Bondage for Beginners workshops. When he returns from holiday, our caring Health Minister Frank Dobson should announce a government task force to look into this increasingly fraught area of gender relations. To those who complain of the cost, he should point out the vast benefits to manufacturers - factories that until recently were producing manacles for Third World governments will find that, with minor modifications, their products can be sold on every high street.

Pleasures enjoyed for so long by the cultural elite, from Swinburne to Francis Bacon, will become the people's pastime. Here at last will be an area in which Britain can cane the opposition.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone