The SLAP! team received an interview request by Yahoo SG some time back, and we agreed to the interview after finding out more about the journalist’s angle for the article. We appreciate that the journalist tried her best to keep the piece informative and neutral. Take a read!
Topics related to Bondage and discipline, Dominance and submission, and Sado-Masochism (BDSM), are commonly discussed during educational events organised by local group SG Learn and Play! (SLAP!). The group was formed in 2014 – the year the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” starring Jamie Dornan (Christian Grey) and Dakota Johnson (Anastasia Steele) came out in theatres – as the founders noticed an increasing number of munches being organised among the local BDSM community.
Munches refer to social gatherings during which members of the community would meet and chat over food and drinks.
“Munches are usually the first entry point for people looking to get into the scene, because they are a safe space for people who want to meet those with the same interests face-to-face,” said SLAP! co-founder Amber, who attended her first munch about 15 years ago. “In the past, when only one group helmed the scene, there was one munch a month. Today, there are two to three munches a month, and these are organised by two to three different groups.”
From 2012 to 2016, Amber saw the number of groups being formed in the community increase from two to four; one of them being SLAP!.
While the “Fifty Shades” movie – notorious for its depictions of BDSM – made some people feel at ease discussing the subject, it has also encouraged several misconceptions.
During a recent interview with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, SLAP! co-founders Robin, Amber and Will, all of whom are Singaporeans, unanimously highlighted that, contrary to the movie, people who are involved in BDSM are not “crazy people who like to beat others up” during sex. Rather, a lot of it has to do with “communication, respect and trust”, said the trio, who are part of a six-member team behind SLAP!
“It probably seemed like a cool new thing [to most people]. But they don’t have a good grasp of what BDSM is,” said Will, a working professional in his 30s. “So, a few of us felt that education in this field would be very important in order to let new people who are joining the scene become equipped with the right knowledge [and use it] to navigate their way through this lifestyle.”
SLAP! organises free monthly educational workshops, during which facilitators will lead discussions and hands-on lessons on BDSM-related topics such as rope bondage, dominance and submission, sensory deprivation, and safety measures, among others.
Each session typically accommodates up to 20 people and is held at private residences. Interested participants can get updates on latest munches through their website or via BDSM-specific social networks such as FetLife.com.
“Our workshops are always filled to capacity. Some months are slow, especially during the holidays as people travel, but in general, we always have 20 pax per workshop,” said Amber.
Will is married to co-founder Amber, who is also in her 30s and works as a freelancer. The duo met via the now-defunct Internet Relay Chat (IRC) platform through their common interest in BDSM. After several years of friendship, they got married in 2013. The couple met Robin through munches in Singapore prior to forming SLAP! and have known him for nearly five years.
While the BDSM culture in Singapore is not as established as in the United States, Japan and Hong Kong, the trio agreed that the scene here is definitely growing, especially among young professionals.
While participants are not required to reveal personal details such as their real name, age and occupation, Will, Amber and Robin said that they were able to see common characteristics among people who attend. Most participants appeared to be in their 20s and 30s, spoke English proficiently, and are representative of the many ethnic backgrounds in Singapore.
“Most of the attendees have become personal friends and, once that ‘boundary’ is crossed, we do talk about personal details. I know which industries they’re in, although usually not the exact company they work for,” said Amber. “The people whom I know personally are managers, lawyers and finance officers. Mostly white-collar jobs.”
While many perceive BDSM as a sexual practice that solely revolves around pain, the trio see it as more than that.
“Some people see it as an art form; some like it to be playful, sensual or painful. All these terms can apply to any sort of play in BDSM, as long as the parties involved can enjoy the sensations together. You can do BDSM without touching the other person, without being unclothed and even without bringing out a single toy,” explained Robin.
BDSM in Singapore
Getting to attend SLAP! workshops isn’t easy. According to Will, Amber and Robin, joining their events involves substantial background checks.
For interested participants who are not regulars in the scene and have not attended their educational workshops before, SLAP! will conduct “vetting sessions” in small groups to find out more about their background. While these vetting sessions may not be completely foolproof, it does help SLAP! to avoid welcoming people who may be misogynistic in nature.
“We’ll ask them about their motivations in attending our events and what they want to get out of it. We will also manage their expectations in terms of the kind of behaviour that is (considered) acceptable,” said Amber.
When it comes to BDSM-related sex toys, the ones sold in Singapore can be rather pricey. This is why Robin highly recommends the use of everyday items for kink purposes, also known as “pervertibles”. These items can be found at big retail stores such as IKEA, Daiso and even pet shops.
In Singapore, premium BDSM toys can be found at local adult shops such as Alice Maple and U4Ria, where a fetish swing can set you back up to S$899. But there are also more affordable “tools” such as the ones by Singapore-based online store Nekonawa, which sells premium ropes for Japanese rope bondage play from S$20 per 8 metres.
“Some of the BDSM-specific stuff from kink stores can be very expensive and not of very high quality. For those just starting out, it’s all right to purchase cheaper items, and perhaps later on in your journey, you can spend on more expensive stuff,” said Robin, who owns both “pervertibles” and premium BDSM-specific sex toys. The most expensive toy that Will and Amber own is a S$400 metal stockade.
During their pursuit of pleasure, many members of the local BDSM community have also found themselves improving their communication skills with their partners.
Based on feedback received by SLAP!, many members were surprised to learn the depth of communication that goes into BDSM. For example, it is important for both parties to know what each other wants from a certain form of “play” and one way is to come up with a checklist to identify limits and common grounds, said Robin.
“Many of us have happy marriages and healthy relationships. Probably even more so than the (non-BDSM) couples that we know because we communicate a lot, especially when it comes to sex,” said Amber.