Rarely addressed in the mainstream – though the explosive success of novels such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” suggests change – its practitioners often face stigma.

Some in the Lebanese community have responded to the stigma by banding together for regular meetings starting in September 2011.“We’ve built this group as a way to be there for newbies ...

All she knew was “this was part of who this man was” and she liked it, she says.

Femdom dating in beirut-81Femdom dating in beirut-80Femdom dating in beirut-54

Sitting outside a coffee shop in Sassine, Ziad gestures to himself and says, “Look at me. ”It’s a fair question, like other members of the clandestine Lebanese BDSM community with whom the Daily Star spoke, Ziad comes across as an average, middle-aged guy, the kind you’d expect to see at the office or chain smoking in a cafe.

Human sexuality comes up in ordinary conversation often, but BDSM – an umbrella term for bondage, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism – is not a sexual preference many understand.

Not just on the communal level, but also between couples in a relationship, such as Charlotte and Ziad.

For Charlotte, exploring her limits with Ziad was an awakening. The man she was dating at the time tied her up, cut her with a razor and made her stand in the corner, though at the time she was unaware these were sexual behaviors that would fall under the BDSM classification.

SAFETY FIRSTWhile there are a wealth of different practices that fall under the BDSM umbrella, one unifying characteristic is safety. That’s what gets him off.”Whatever the fetish, there are two key things: safety and consent.“There are ways to do it safely, as not to leave marks if the person doesn’t want marks, and if the person wants marks, there are ways not to do any damage,” Hadi says.

Hadi, who was trained as a master at the Black Lotus Academy in Paris and can teach others professionally, explains that different people are interested in different kinks, which can range from role playing or the use of collars, whips, canes and floggers, to the more extreme, such as burning. What is striking about the BDSM scene is the communication.

to try and promote awareness for anybody who wished to listen,” says Hadi, a group founder and a “master,” meaning he prefers to play the dominant role.

The group counts about 10 members, all of whom reside in Lebanon.

Ziad gave Charlotte an extensive list of kinks for her to explore so that she could determine her limits.