To some people, the term BDSM brings to mind images of people tied up in chains, in some dark secret dungeon and being whipped senseless in some type of twisted if not macabre pleasure. You know, an indulgence for those bordering of mental illness. This of course could be seen as true in some instances but this is not what BDSM is all about. BDSM cannot be defined by one activity alone, in fact it would be accurate to say that BDSM cannot be defined by any number of activities, it’s a lifestyle choice, which is entirely unique.
The term ‘BDSM’ encompasses an immeasurable range of sexual, sensual and intimate activities. The most common can include power or role-play, a range of sensory games from the extreme infliction of intense pain to the gentle tease of a feather and much more. Many have even participated in an act that could sit under the caveat of BDSM without even knowing it and this style of sexuality is ever on the increase whether you are aware of it or not.
So, what exactly is BDSM?
The term BDSM itself is actually made up from abbreviations of other terms. B & D represents ‘bondage and dominance’ or ‘bondage and discipline’. D & S represents ‘dominance and submission’ and S & M represents ‘sadism and masochism’. With all these terms sitting under the BDSM belt it is easier to see exactly why BDSM can be extremely hard to define and is simply more straightforward to view as a way of life.
As well as being hard to define there are also no set practices within BDSM. For many, it is seen as a way to add an element of spice and enjoyment to their sex lives. Others can view BDSM as a way to gain fulfillment or a temporary release from everyday life, a kind of escape if you will. Still others will view it as a way to deepen the bond between partners. This list of varying views could continue but it is far simpler to point out that there are possibly as many views as there are people involved in the subject. Although the list of views varies dramatically the people behind them all share something in common and that something is known as SSC.
Like BDSM, SSC is also an acronym. It stands for Safe, Sane and Consensual. Safe means that precautions are taken to prevent harm or injury to those involved. Sane means that mental and emotional safety is also cared for and consensual almost speaks for itself; all parties involved agreeing to participate without coercion.
BDSM involves, but is not limited to, any one or a combination of the following practices. The practice is as varied as the people involved in it. The main thing is eroticism.
1. Bondage: refers to the practice of physically restraining a person, by means of devices such as handcuffs, rope, chains etc.
2. Discipline: refers to the process of punishing or being punished.
3. Sadism: refers to deriving pleasure of personal gratification from causing pain, suffering or cruelty.
4. Masochism: refers to deriving pleasure from mental, emotional or physical pain.
While the major sub-groupings of BDSM are within its own definition, it encompasses a very wide variety of practices, some being obvious and others not so obvious. They include;
1. Servitude or slavery
6. Sensory deprivation (Example, blindfolding)
7. Body piercing and tattooing
8. Movement restriction
9. Sensation-play (Example, tickling)
10. Medical procedures
What sort of people practice BDSM?
Contrary to the images imprinted in our minds by the media, BDSM is not necessarily hardcore sadism or pornography. People of all walks of life, from various backgrounds and nationalities, all sexual orientations, perform BDSM activities. Participants are, in most cases, normal well-adjusted, and respectable people in their communities. In fact as much as 50% of the population have a varying degree of interest in the subject and that’s with them being knowledgeable enough to know what it encompasses. If you include in those figures couples that may have restrained each other to a bed or the simple use of a blindfold you could expect that percentage to soar. Historically this behavior was listed as a psychological problem in a similar vain to masturbation and homosexuality. Today, however, as are homosexuality and masturbation becoming increasingly accepted in society, so is BDSM.
Is BDSM abuse?
People who practice it say they do so for fun. The emphasis is on SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual). It is not about dominance or forcing another person to do things they don’t want to do. It is about both parties doing what they do want to do. It involves two happy parties.
BDSM can also be subtle and highly erotic, as in the case of tickling or stimulating sensitive body parts with a feather, paintbrush or similar object. There may or may not be pain.
The majorities involved in BDSM share a heightened sense of responsibility and respect for their partners. BDSM has absolutely nothing to do with violence against a helpless victim. It is this kind of common misconception that responsible BDSM participants wish to dispel. Restraining a partner and beating them is not BDSM but simply brutality. The heightened sense of responsibility and respect often results in a positive side effect of superior levels of communication, which, in the BDSM world, is essential, and something that the majority of mainstream couples would be advised to adapt.
Responsible participants practice the use of good communication up front, the use of a ‘safe word’ which will stop the action immediately and a period of communication after any event to discuss what could be better for the next time.
There are as many reasons as there are people. The most obvious is good old fun. Some people do it to fulfill their fantasies. For others it is the role-playing. For some it is simply the feeling of dominance or submission. The list is endless.
One thing you can be sure of is that BDSM will always attract a certain curiosity. People will come from all genders and orientations establishing common ground between heterosexuals, homosexuals and any other orientation that you can think of. Before you dismiss BDSM and vouch that you would never participate in such an act or lifestyle, can you be so sure that you haven’t, to a certain degree, done so already?