Are you into people in distress or a state of vulnerability? Do you get complicated warm and fuzzies when your favorite fictional characters get all beat up, sick or otherwise utterly wrecked?
Do you want a fandom/fetish culture that defaults to either female gaze or gender neutral & queer friendly?
Whether you daydream about nursing people back to health, being the cause of the challenges of the victim, both, or just being an omniscient observer of the resulting drama, whump might be for you!
What is whump?
Fandom has a remarkable ability to not only create transformative works, but also provide a giant pool of folks to discuss what aspects in a creative work really appeal to them. While the marketing side of all the media we consume is well aware putting its characters through the ringer is a way to please the audience, the term whump describes a fandom who have identified these scenes hold a stronger appeal.
A better discussion on the history and resources about it can be found on the Whump page of the Fandom Wiki. However, in short introduction, the term is generally agreed to have come from the Stargate fandom. There it was initially used in reference to the mishaps of a specific character “Danny Whumping”. Since then, it’s become a focus in its own right, both in content tagging and creation prompts of fan and original work, and in lovingly archived lists of existing media.
Events for creators (and curators) of whump include the annual “Whumptober“, while sites like Ao3 (Archive Of Out Own) and tumblr are major hubs for content.
What are the dynamics of whump and how does this relate to BDSM?
Whump fans, in talking about their interest, use gender neutral language to describe three different roles that commonly pop up. The primary focus is the victim or “whumpee”, but there may also be an interest in the “whumper” who caused the injury or state of vulnerability, and potentially a “caregiver”. The cause of distress and vulnerability for the whumpee could just as easily be an accident, a disease, and so on. Whump may also focus on emotional torment or distress of the victim, as much as physical harm.
For some fans, other than the suffering of the victim, the interest might be in how the caregiver reacts and supports, while others might enjoy a dark dynamic where they focus on the whumper, often as a captor or nemesis. Some, of course, blend both whumper and caregiver, or include all three. Whump content can also swap off roles as a story about the characters progresses.
Kink aware folk may pick up on the fact that this drama replicates elements of dominance and submission, as well as sadism and masochism. While it’s not as typical to overtly label things as BDSM, framing may include non-consent scenarios that reflect fantasies of ownership and control, and regularly depict bondage, as well as occasionally using paraphernalia like leashes and collars.
Does whump have to be sexual for its fans?
To be honest, this is one of those places where things you might consider conventional sex isn’t a big focus. It might be equally or even more accurate to summarize whump as a romanticization. However, as with anything else romantic, where that shades into the erotic is deeply individual.
Whump, as an interest, also dovetails into the varied experience of the asexual spectrum. In this context, sexual desire may be present, but the sexual attraction to people is absent or requires an additional brokering factor. This is also true for other parts of BDSM.
I am a sub who likes femdom, what does whump have to do with me?
Well, my dear gentlefolk, one of the main things whump does is celebrate male vulnerability, and masc bodies in bondage and other positions of subjugation or control. For female sadists in particular, whump also provides an alternative for us that isn’t focused on our objectification.
I flag this because male subs report they struggle to connect with and understand the needs of women who might be into them. While I don’t suggest finding your nearest whump blog on tumblr and demanding the owner dominate you, if you don’t mind that it’s going to be a disproportionately female gaze friendly space, you may find a community that celebrates male vulnerability rather than shames it.
It’s also insight into the porn dommes like, which is generally a pretty good thing to have insight into as you bridge the gap between an abstract idea having a woman dominate you might be hot to connecting with individual women.
If you are reasonably literate, you are also perfectly able to participate in content creation and curation, with the fandom defaulting to gender neutral language such that you may find common ground with your fantasies. I regularly counsel sub guys that erotic writing is a great equalizer, much as text RP is often a good gateway to connecting with folks who would otherwise feel threatened by being courted.
Finally, If you like people looking at you and thinking you are hot, if you don’t mind a little SFX for bruise makeup, artful trickles of fake blood, etc… you are uniquely able to appeal to an underserved market. This is obviously a more out there suggestion, and most folks aren’t setting out to be amateur fetish models. Nonetheless, if you are trying to get people excited to look at you, you have a clear direction of imagery that has an audience.
Is whump safe?
Whump is as safe and BDSM or other “dark” content. The focus on fictional depictions of suffering provide a first layer of safety, both avoiding the use of real imagery and real accounts of violence, and a strong awareness this isn’t something one would wish on an actual person or an actual dynamic. Fans of whump don’t even seem as interested in replicating facsimiles of the scenes or dynamics they admire, rather creating fan and original works exploring the topic.
Critics of fandom also point to the problem of straight women fetishizing violence against another vulnerable group, gay men. It is absolutely accurate that a lot of whump is depicted as M/m. An immediate counterpoint might note media depictions of violence are also disproportionately male-on-male, making fetishization of them more straight forward. Further, a characterization of whump being cis straight women perving on (imaginary) cus gay men is unfair. Folks involved are disproportionately AFAB, but much more likely than the general population to identify as queer, including genderqueer and trans masculine.
Counter-criticism might also observe that female sexuality is disproportionately policed in a way that expects replication of gendered norms for goodness and softness. Further, while much visual content is male on male, pains are taken to use gender neutral language (whumper/whumpee/caregiver) in fandom discussion, indicating an awareness this is not supposed to be an act of erasure or real gay men, or an effort to depict gay relationships as inherently more violent than straight or sapphic relationships.
Nonetheless, nothing is exempt from discussion of appropriation of identity or where admiration of tropes or imagery might bleed into real life. However, as a community it’s clear members are largely aware of both intersectional concerns and the boundaries of acceptable conduct in real relationships.