There are taboos in kink—and then there are taboos in kink. You want to make kinky people unhappy? Be a white dominant with a black submissive and use the word "nigger" in your BDSM scene. The edgiest pervert in town will be up in your face, telling you you've gone too far.
And they'd be right, wouldn't they? I've been asked to be the dominant in race-play scenes, but I have firmly declined. I'm perfectly comfortable being a bitchy sadist, but to pretend to be superior to someone of color just because I'm white? Utter hateful racist epithets or hold a mock slave auction? No way! What kind of girl do you think I am? That's just wrong!
But Mollena Williams (www.mollena.com) sees it differently. Williams is an African-American writer, performer, and BDSM educator. She's also a submissive who does BDSM race-play scenes, and she's challenging BDSM people to examine that taboo. I asked her to tell me her take on it.
How do you do race-play scenes and feel okay about it afterward? "You have to know why you want to do this play. If you, as a white person, are overeager in approaching me with your fantasy of domination and oppression, my hackles go up. As the person taking the hit, I need to feel in control of the process up until I relinquish control... Those who do not know why they want this scene, who want 'payback,' who have deep hatred—I see them as very risky partners in a race-play scene. Open communication, plenty of negotiation, and lots of aftercare are essential."
Doesn't it trivialize racial inequalities to do a BDSM scene around them? "Some kink is light and fluffy, but a great deal of kink revolves around taboos, pain, and triumphing over adversity. If you think that doesn't sum up the human condition, then you aren't paying attention... Trust your partner enough to let him or her into your darkest fantasies. Of course we should do what feels dangerous and risky! Surviving danger galvanizes the soul."
Don't you feel that doing race scenes keeps negative stereotypes alive? "Absolutely. That is one reason I dive into those waters. I am of the post–Jim Crow generation. I didn't live when racism was institutionalized. However, I live in a society where racism is endemic. It is absolutely vital to tap into the past in order to handle the present and remain open to the future."
Can you have a race-play scene where both people are of the same race? Can a person of color be the dominant in a race-play scene with a white submissive? "Absolutely yes. Race play can embrace your current physical identity, but a lot of BDSM revolves around roles that we assume. If I can be a naughty schoolgirl, why can't someone else be a dark-skinned Indian person avenging herself on a lighter-skinned, higher-caste individual? The only limit is your imagination and your bravery."