This post is brought to you by Darling Nisi, A Purple Day in December's first-ever guest writer. It's impossible to study Prince's spirituality without also studying his sexuality. - Erica
“We don’t care about what you know, but what you’re willing to learn. You must surrender your expectations …” – Prince, Hamburg, Germany (2002)
What comes to mind when you think of BDSM? Something taboo? Something shameful? Something naughty?
It’s a term that brings out a lot of thoughts and a lifestyle that is misunderstood by many.
BDSM is an acronym that refers to a specific type of erotic behavior or play, that may involve any of the following: bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism and masochism (S&M).
But what does that really mean and how does all of this work?
Being intimate is always a vulnerable space to exist in, even more so when you’re operating outside of “common” rules. Those who seriously dabble in the kink lifestyle place high regard in trust, communication and enthusiastic consent when exploring emotional and physical boundaries with their partners. Despite what most think about BDSM, it’s much more than whips and chains! There are specific, agreed upon rules for the safety and comfort of participants, and the play is as much of a mental dance as it is a physical one. Sometimes, it isn’t physical at all! In a way, it can be a method for people to work through their anxieties in a safe space and to grow in confidence and in the expression of their authentic selves.
Imagine feeling free of judgement of your most closely held desires and fears. Imagine being totally open to experience all the sensations and emotions life has to offer. Imagine exploring the breadth of those human emotions, expressions and sensations within boundaries you’ve set with someone you trust with your body and mind.
We don’t have to imagine too much; this exploration is peppered throughout Prince’s discography. Over the years he has dabbled in BDSM ideas, maturing in the depiction of its concepts as he aged.
Below are some examples.
(Note: The year listed is when the song appears on an official album or release.)
“We’re going to do things a little different tonight. You don’t like it the same, do you? You want surprises, right? You want surprises in your love life. ... I love you. Do you love me?” – Prince, Louisville, Kentucky (2002)
Sadism: the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on others.
Soft and Wet (1978)
Hey, lover, I got a sugarcane
That I want to lose in you
Baby, can you stand the pain?
Yes, I’m addicted to your pleasure
Yes, I’m addicted to your pain
Strange Relationship (1987)
I guess you know me well, I don’t like winter
But I seem to get a kick out of doing you cold
You can fight in vain
I'm gonna have my way all night and all day
Seven tears fall like rain in between the joy and pain
*This whole song is a fully thought out BDSM scene
I can feel the tension through the crack in the door
He begs for love, while she's disgusted more
And I'm on fire, 'cause I've never seen her nude before
I wanna save her
I want to watch
All my vital signs go up a couple of notches
When he unties her and she runs for the open door
He trips and grinds her
Right there all on the floor
She's so close I can touch her
Sensation play: pushing sensory limits, thus exploring texture and sensory deprivation through whips, flagellation and edgeplay (a more extreme form of BDSM).
I was only 16 and only half a man
My sister didn’t give a goddamn
She only wanted to turn me out
She took a whip to me until I shout
Oh, motherfuckers just a motherfucker, can’t you understand?
Instead of walking inside I just knock on the door
I take a look around until she beggin’ me more, more, more
When I finally come inside I’m standin’ perfectly still
"I can’t take no more"
Pump you then I will
Passionate fashion of tongue that keeps lashing
On skin like a whip, ooh breathe in, breathe out
Slowly, slowly, ooh
Bondage: The practice of tying, binding or restraining a partner for erotic, aesthetic or somatosensory stimulation--with consent.
If you do too much, your skin will be sensitive to touch
The first person to touch you, you want to fuck
You take them to your crib and you tie them to a chair
And you make funny faces ‘til they get real scared
Then you turn on the neon, then you play with yourself
‘Til you turn them on
Sexy MF (1992)
We need to talk about things, tell me what ya do
Tell me what ya eat, I might cook for you
See it really don’t matter ‘cause it’s all about me and you
Ain’t no one else around
I’m even with the blindfold, gagged and bound
I don’t mind, see this ain’t about sex
It’s all about love being in charge of this life and the next
Eye Hate U (1995)
I’d like to have the defendant place her hands behind her back
So I can tie her up tight and get into the act
The act of showing her how good it used to be
I want it to be so good, she falls back in love with me
1000 X’s and O’s (2015)
I wanna hold you, tie you up in lace
I wanna kiss you, kiss you all over your face
I wanna love you all up and down
Give you love like you never had
Blindfold, gagged and bound
Dominance and Submission: a set of behaviors, customs and rituals involving the submission of one person to another in an erotic episode or lifestyle.
The Continental (1992)
Shall I write the alphabet?
Or shall I just write my name? Why?
You tell me, you're the ruler in this telephone game
I could be a slave when it comes down to you
I'll do any and everything you want me to do
U know why?
'Cause I want you to have fun
So how you wanna be done?
Black pepper, grind you please
Make a brother happy
On your knees
Ho ho ho ho
Hold me tight, choke the bird
Kept Woman – Bria Valente, written by Prince (2009)
Was it his cologne or the style of his hair
They told me I should stay away and not go there
Sometimes I'm all alone and don't see him
I wish it was different but I don't care
I'm a kept woman
He don't see nobody but me
We got a pretty little house
And only me and him got the key
A kept woman
Sometimes I don't know why
A kept woman
Sometimes I cry
He likes it when I dance for no reason
He likes it when I dance
But he doesn't like it when I raise my voice to him
I try to stop but I can't …
He's the hotness in my fire
I give him anything he desires
It may sound crazy but it suits me fine
'Cause ain't nobody ever take away what’s mine
'Cause I'm a kept woman
'Cause he's every single thing I need
And everything in between
Don't you know that I’m a kept woman
Ooh, loves me like no other
A love you never seen
I'm a kept woman
And I'm his queen
Gun Play: the act of using either a loaded or unloaded firearm during BDSM and sexual play.
I can see the curtain wrestled from the wall
I can see her hands tied, I can see it all
He pulls a gat
This is how they play the game
And I'll 'round the back
'Cause curiosity, it knows no shame
Her eyes are closed but there's no penetration
He just makes her point the pistol to his nose while he masturbates
And now I see a tear heading down towards her smile
What happens next, it all depends upon your style
S&M Groove (2004)
Freaks gonna bob 2 this
Here Eye Come – Bria Valente, written by Prince (2009)
Don't ever stop what you're doin'
Oh, I feel like that dirty blonde girl in "9½ Weeks"*
*9½ Weeks is a 1986 film starring Kim Basinger that depicts a sadomasochistc affair
“Feel ashamed and ordained …” – Prince, "When Eye Lay My Hands on U" (2004)
Prince once noted that his most erotic material was in his vault, but we see that he shared quite a few special moments over the course of his career. There is sometimes an assumption that sexuality presented in these taboo ways is shameful or not becoming of what Prince represented. However, looking past BDSM stereotypes, one can see that this lifestyle is very much about the freedom to explore the limits of human expression without judgement. It’s an opportunity for people to be their whole selves with people they trust, and that can be a spiritually ecstatic and deeply intimate experience no matter how sexuality is expressed.
These BDSM themes and other erotic and fetishistic explorations quite literally span from Prince’s very first album, 1978's For You, to his last, 2015's HitnRun Phase Two. They even still show up during his spiritual walk in the Jehovah's Witness faith. Check the last bit of "Mellow" from The Rainbow Children for his offer of musical accompaniment for your “personal time;" or the bridge of "Incense and Candles" from 3121 for what he wants to smother you with; or what’s buried in the mix in the bridge of "This Could Be Us" from Art Official Age for what he would like to clean, how he would do it and what you can look for in your gratitude for said cleaning; or "Xtraloveable" from HitnRun Phase Two for how he'd like you to dress while dancing. Perhaps it is worth considering that even his most “taboo” songs are not out of character for his creative expression at all. Instead, they are examples of how Prince’s work documents the full range of human intimacy.
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