June 6, 2019

BDSM: What is it?

Bondage, sadism, dominance, masochism. Generally there’s a bit of rebuff when people hear BDSM. They think 50 Shades of Grey, “Oh I’d never do that,” or they wonder what the heck it even means! I’m here to explain a little more of what “being into BDSM” means, debunk a few myths, and let you know how you might go about exploring.

Bondage: this involves a range of activities, all related to restraining someone. Rope, tape, saran wrap, silk scarves, handcuffs, and many other materials can be used to do this. Some people like just their hands restrained, just their feet restrained, their whole body restrained, etc. The purpose is to be in a place of submission so your partner(s) can play with you at their mercy.

Sadist: a term used to describe someone who gets sexual pleasure from giving someone pain/humiliating them. In a healthy context, this is giving someone pain that is consenting to receiving it (and for them, the pain actually feels pleasurable!). The way a lot of people perceive it is that it’s someone who gets sexual pleasure from harming others, but that’s the not the healthy context we’re looking for.

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy from Pexels
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy from Pexels

Discipline: similar to sadism, but someone who gains pleasure from disciplining or being disciplined. For example, this could involve being told to perform a specific sexual act, and if doing it improperly, being “punished” in an agreed upon manner.

Masochist: a term used to describe someone who gets sexual pleasure from receiving pain. Again, the pain is actually somewhat (if not a lot) pleasurable for this person. It’s also someone who may get sexual pleasure from being humiliated in some way or being told what to do.

BDSM essentially involves various aspects of these four components along with dominance, submission, etc. How is it acted out all depends on the individuals involved and their personal preferences.

BDSM can range widely from being “soft” BDSM, i.e. light spanking, bondage, discipline, etc. to “hard” BDSM, which involves more intense versions of these actions. A common misconception around BDSM is that the people who are into it were abused while growing up, and this is their way of trying to resolve their trauma. While this could be the case for some trauma survivors, for many people, it is simply a pleasurable act to give and/or receive. Our bodies actually release endorphins when we are in pain to help alleviate our suffering, which is why for some people, the sensation of receiving pain is actually enjoyable. Additionally, some people enjoy being submissive because they play a dominant role in their daily life most of the time - for once, they don’t have to make any decisions and can be told what to do. For others, there’s a pleasure in actually being able to give the orders or give someone immense pleasure where the other person can’t stop you (unless they truly want to).

In the BDSM community, consent is crucial. It is very important for all parties involved to be consenting to any actions that occur (they are not wildly inflicting pain for their own pleasure, they are seeking mutual pleasure). One really helpful way of doing this is through using safe words such as “red,” “yellow,” “pickle,” or whatever word woks for the particular person. The safe word is intended to help everyone feel safe while being able to enjoy exploring and testing various boundaries.

If BDSM sounds like something you’d be interested in (whether it’s just exploring light spanking, being tied up, giving orders, or more extreme forms), this is a great site that provides a sample of what different boundaries can look like (by reviewing the contracts) as well as provides podcasts and books as a great resource as well: https://bdsmcontracts.org/bdsm-resources-reading-materials/ Plus, it’s a great way to learn more specifics around BDSM, since this blog is intended as a general intro.

One of the most important things to make note of, whether BDSM is your thing or not, is that as long as all parties are in agreement and it’s consensual and not causing any unwanted harm, it’s normal!

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Julie Labanz, MA, LPCC-S, CST

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