BDSM is one of those 'Don’t knock it 'til you try it’ situations. The fact is many people don't understand the practice and there's always someone who will inevitably start ranting about BDSM and how they can’t get their heads around how anyone would want to be dominated, submitted to, tied up, spanked, beaten, deprived of their senses, flogged with whips, paddled with spiky boards or have their nipples covered in hot wax.

However, some of us understand that enjoying BDSM in its many splendored forms doesn’t make us perverts - "A pervert is anybody kinkier than you are" writes Jay Wiseman - nor does it make us philanderers or somehow less inclined to love and stay faithful to a partner.

Myths about BDSM are often hilarious, but sometimes they are depressing because they show how many people, despite the leaps and bounds we have made over the ages, still hold views that would make liberal minded individuals fear being burned at the stake.

Here are five common BDSM misconceptions, debunked:

1. BDSM = Pain

I would be lying if I said that there isn’t pain involved in the practice of BDSM. However, the idea that BDSM is all about pain is, unfortunately, a rather common misconception.

The reason there’s often an element of pain involved with BDSM is because the person on the receiving end of various BDSM activities becomes much more sensitive to all sensations, especially pleasurable ones.

"Even if you are just using one device, like a flogger, there are so many different ways to use it," says Debby Herbenick, a sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute and the author of Because it Feels Good. "One person may use it to stroke a partner whereas another person may really whip their partner."

If BDSM could be reduced to one feature, it wouldn't be pain, but rather, the exchange of power between the dominant and the submissive. This exchange of power is a practice that doesn’t necessarily involve pain at all - after all, how painful is it to be blindfolded with a silk scarf?

2. BDSM Always Involves Sex

This misconception is one that is widely held. Whilst it’s true that BDSM can be very sexual, it’s once again more about the exchange of power between a dominant and submissive than anything else.

Although BDSM is often engaged as foreplay or experimented with sexually, sex isn’t always involved. "…There are more people here that will beat you but not f*%k you than vice versa," writes prominent blogger and feminist Cliff Pervocracy.

3. Dominants are Naturally Abusive People

This common misconception is often paired with the even more ignorant assumption that all dominants were abused as children.

Sure, some dominants are inherently abusive and/or were abused as children, however, it is not often the case. Most often a dominant is a person who enjoys meeting the needs and desires of their partner - the submissive - with a safe exchange of power, often by using safe words. (Learn more in So, You Wanna Be a Dominant?).

4. Submissives Have Low Self-Esteem

Once again, although some submissives do have low self-esteem and may want to be humiliated because they think they deserve it, that’s rarely the case. In fact, the truth is usually just the opposite - submissives are usually strong people, so strong in fact that they willingly entrust their safety to the dominant.

"Being dominated and out of control can feel very sexy, especially if you are someone who is typically in control …" explains sex educator Dr Laura Berman, a frequent guest on Oprah and the Dr. Oz Show. "It can be very freeing and erotic to simply relinquish those responsibilities and tap into your sexual side without any guilt or pressure."

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5. The Dominant Controls the Submissive

"We talk a lot about the vulnerability of the submissive to the dominant. What we don't talk about as much is the vulnerability of the dominant to the submissive." - Jay Wiseman.

As far as misconceptions about BDSM go, this one is fairly understandable, but what people who hold this misconception don’t realise is that it’s precisely the other way around - it’s really the submissive who’s in control.

Why? Because the submissive is the one receiving the pleasure, or at least most of it, while the dominant does all the work. For most dominants the pleasure they derive from dominating their partner is in giving pleasure by meeting their partner's needs and desires.

These are some, though certainly not all, of the common misconceptions about BDSM. You can play a role in debunking these misconceptions by displaying good BDSM etiquette and respecting your partner. (Check out our article, Why BDSM Might be the Sanest Sex Out There, to debunk more myths about the practice.)