Frameworks, Rituals, Mirroring Effects. A Queer Reading of the SM Relationship


  • Massimo Fusillo



BDSM, Performativity, Power, Role Play, Ritual


Sadomasochism played an important role in Foucault’s reflection on power and sexuality; according to this perspective, some theorists highlighted the queer potential of BDSM: the ability to create a space for the experimentation of new relationalities. This vision certainly depicts some subversive aspects of BDSM culture, such as the figure of the dominatrix or the practice of gender reversal, but it sounds too anarchistic and one-sided since in the BDSM prevails a fascination for totalizing and coherent roles. This paper will argue that the queer nature of the master and slave relationship lies in its performative and ritual character: in its exaggerating scenes and costumes in a specific setting, and in its presenting power as a consensual game, based on empathy and mirroring effects. After this theoretical discussion, which will cover Lacan’s concept of masquerade as re-used by Linda Williams, the paper will analyze some of the few literary and artistic representations of BDSM devoid of stereotypes: especially some recurrent scenes in Robbe-Grillet’s production, which can be read in parallelism with his wife’s Catherine Robbe-Grillet’s activity as dominatrix.




How to Cite

Fusillo, M. (2020). Frameworks, Rituals, Mirroring Effects. A Queer Reading of the SM Relationship . Whatever. A Transdisciplinary Journal of Queer Theories and Studies, 3(1), 323–332.