herald

Monday 21 August 2017

Middle Ireland 's dirty BDSM secret finally ca me out in trial

GRAHAM Dwyer's murder trial lifted the lid on a seedy world most people knew little about.

Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of men and woman are believed to be going online to meet for BDSM - Bondage, Dominance, Sado-masochism - sex that can sometimes involve extremes such as knife play, breath play and mummification.

One man who visited Fetlife.com and Alt.com admitted he met women who were in similar situations to himself.

"Mainly married, like myself," David McGovern told detectives.

He said he was looking for "no strings attached fun" and he had conversations and "role play" with women, but he had never heard of Elaine O'Hara or her profiles "chainedbrunette" or "helpmelearn".

Dwyer told arresting gardai there were "other people" they should be speaking to who had been in contact with Ms O'Hara. They had met on Alt.com in late 2007.

She used to meet men for sex, he said, and claimed they might be involved with her disappearance and death.

Investigators did just that, and the jury heard from nine men who were linked to Ms O'Hara through adult websites or whose numbers she had on her phone.

Five of the men could not specifically remember her, two had just messaged her, but another two had met and had sex with her.

Detectives were satisfied that none had anything to do with the murder, but as the men were brought before the court they gave an insight into Middle Ireland's dirty little secret.

Robert Cullen Jones and Mark Guerin, both members of fetish site Alt.com, told a packed courtroom that they had sex with Ms O'Hara after arranging to meet her.

In her profile Helpmelearn 36/F (her age and sex), a semi-naked Ms O'Hara was pictured bent over, with her hands bound behind her back.

She loved being in chains and serving a master, but still has a lot to learn, she wrote.

Her ideal master would be "honest, loyal, frank and trustworthy, possibly caring as well", but it was her preferred likes that she ticked that shocked the most.

"Bondage, collar and leads/leash, kidnapping, knife play, mummification, sensory deprivation, spanking, slap in the face and verbal humiliation," it added.

Mark Guerin met her twice at her home around five years ago and she laid out restraints on a bed on both occasions, but had sexual relations once.

Her interests had involved "restraint, blood-letting, humiliation and degradation" but he was "more into wax play and light kink", said Mr Guerin, who went by the name Time2killindublin on the site.

The first time they met at her flat at Ardmeen Lodge, Blackrock, Ms O'Hara placed restraints on her bed and "we talked quite a bit".

paraphernalia

They did not have sex, but the second time they met - at the apartment she moved to in Stepaside - she was in a "lighter mood" and they had sexual relations.

Mr Cullen Jones met Ms O'Hara through Alt.com in March 2011 when he was online with the username Dublin_master.

The pair met for coffee in Dundrum Shopping Centre before going back to Ms O'Hara's apartment in Belarmaine Plaza, Stepaside, where they had "sexual relations".

Ms O'Hara told him that she was submissive and liked being tied up but they did not do that.

While Mr Cullen Jones was in Ms O'Hara's apartment, she showed him some "sexual paraphernalia" - handcuffs and several vibrators - which he identified as some of the items taken from Vartry reservoir.

They met again for coffee in May 2012, but it fizzled out and he deleted her phone number.

Mr Cullen Jones agreed there were various sub-divisions that were ascertainable from people's profile names.

Breath play involved restricting someone's breathing, like asphyxiation, whereas wax play involved using candles, and knife play was like cutting.

Others never met Ms O'Hara, but they were equally as open about their more unusual sexual preferences.

Bernard Grealy, who had also been on Alt.com, exchanged sexual texts with her, but they never met up.

Kurt Ronnkuist recalled exchanging instant messages with Ms O'Hara on Alt.com, but they never met.

David McGovern, who had been on Alt.com and Fetlife.com, said in a statement that he had no recollection of her and did not know who she was, but his number was on her phone.

Sean Byrne, who had been on the same two sites, was "pretty sure" he had messaged her.

A number for Patrick McGurk, who had been a user of Collarme.com, was also found on Ms O'Hara's phone, but he did not remember her.

There was also a number for Kevin Mullins, who had been on Alt.com and did not know Ms O'Hara.

Psychosexual therapist Margaret Dunne spoke to the Herald about what BDSM entails for those who practise it.

"People tended to have had quite a negative attitude towards BDSM in the past," she said.

"People who take part in BDSM are consenting adults. Their activities are very much based on communication and understanding. Mutual respect is key."

Fantasy and role-play play a big role in this lifestyle, she said.

"It's almost like theatre for people who are into it. It's a high intensity drama," she continued. "It is about achieving high intensity states both physically and emotionally. People often report that the physical and emotional sensations get so intense that it brings on a type of altered state."

This rush of endorphins can feel like something akin to a religious experience for those who are seeking gratification in this manner.

BDSM can involve pain - sometimes substantial pain - but it is never inflicted on anybody against their will.

"There are negotiations to tailor the script," Ms Dunne said.

"People may see it as an imbalanced partnership, but it's not."

preferences

While people are most likely to meet online, Ms Dunne said it is unlikely that the people will meet before they have ironed out who is going to assume the more dominant role in the relationship.

Society might see it as a deviant behaviour, but for those who are part of the community, fetish sex is very much only a variant on sexual preferences, she added.

Ms Dunne was clear that the murder of Ms O'Hara at the hands of the Foxrock architect did not seem to be a case of BDSM gone too far or gone wrong.

"The waters have been muddied a lot - it has given people a very negative view of BDSM," she said.

The reality of the BDSM world is "very, very different" from what people may believe from reading reports of the trial.

Safe, sane and consensual are the key words associated with BDSM and fetish sex.

Ms Dunne said that consent was always the fundamental element when it comes to BDSM.

People will work out codewords or signals for when they have reached their limit.

hnews@herald.ie

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