Friday, June 16, 2006

What is BDSM?

When many hear the term BDSM they begin to imagine sinister underground dungeons where by leather wearing pierced masochists impose excruciating pain on their victims. 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, two activities, or even three, in fact it would 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 is it? 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.

Contrary to popular belief BDSM is not that irregular. 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 behaviour 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.

As well as being hard to define there are also no set practices within BDSM. For many, possibly the majority, 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 fulfilment or a temporary release from everyday life, a kind of escapism 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.

The majority 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.

As confusing as BDSM is it is far easier to see why some misconceptions are formed. Most physical or 'scene' practices generally are not what they seem. The stereotypical image of the dominant doing as he/she wants with complete disregard to the submissive is one that plagues the BDSM community.

In reality nothing could be further from the truth, the submissive always has the final say. 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.

Another common misconception is that BDSM is dangerous. Certainly some specific activities are more athletic than others but running an ice cube along a partners' body probably isn't life threatening. For the more strenuous activities it is advisable that the players are in good physical shape and have a good understanding of what they are doing and this is where the community aspect can play a helpful part. The shared education and experience of others can prove invaluable. Furthermore BDSM is not intended to be sexist. Sexism imposes dominant/submissive roles according to gender whereas BDSM roles are designated according to feelings and shared eroticism.

The more elaborate BDSM activities take a lot of preparation, attention, time and energy. When it comes to sex many practitioners often find themselves having more non-BDSM sex than they do BDSM sex but as we've already discussed it's not all about sex. BDSM is as much an attitude as it is an act and often spills into non-sexual related activities. A simple everyday task of travelling could see the dominant driving to express power or the submissive driving as an expression of caring for the dominant. Who's actually in charge can be far from obvious.

So who likes BDSM? I think the more appropriate question is who doesn't like BDSM? People interested in BDSM come from all walks of life. From those with abusive backgrounds where BDSM activities are part of the healing process, those with healthy backgrounds who are looking for fulfilment to those who are identified as 'lifers' who have had fantasies from as far back as they can remember and are now making them a reality.

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?
Author Info:

Jenna Stevenson is a tester of adult sex toys at Batteries Not Included. Her reviews and opinions on sex toys can be found at http://www.batteries-not-included.co.uk

1 comment:

Marie said...

I wish people understood this better. We have been currently forced into the legal system not because we commited henious crimes, but because my fiancee made a mistake. And why? Because the CPS worker involved dosen't lile BDSM or our lifestyle choices.

God help Amercia stay free. No- we're not ffree anymore. God help America regain Her freedom.