BDSM 101

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What Is BDSM?

BDSM is part lifestyle and part kinky sex. You can play with some elements of BDSM without ever having sex. Yet, you might find that BDSM is an integral part of your sexuality and your relationships. There’s no one right way to "do" BDSM. People in this lifestyle can be male, female, transgender, straight, homosexual, or fall anywhere within the spectrum of human sexuality.

Let's break down the acronym "BDSM" into its multiple parts:

Bondage and Discipline

Bondage and discipline, at first glance, don’t appear to go together. Bondage refers to physical restraint: ropes, handcuffs, belts, you name it. Discipline refers to psychological and mental restraint: following rules and protocols or changing your behavior to suit another person.

From novelty handcuffs to Shibari and Kinbaku rope play, bondage covers a wide spectrum.

Understand this: restraint doesn’t always require toys or rope.Honor bondage is the willingness to hold a position (for example: hands clasped overhead or behind your back) until you are "released." Oddly enough, it takes a lot of discipline to be able and willing to be honor bound in such a way.

Discipline often involves following specific rules or guidelines, either for a small amount of time, such as the duration of a scene, or as part of a long ­term relationship or negotiated power exchange. Following specific protocols is also a part of discipline. This could mean always using specific titles such as "Sir" or "Ma'am" or not speaking to someone until you’re given permission.

People who are new to the BDSM lifestyle often find discipline to be one of the most difficult aspects to learn and follow. Bending to another person’s will or whim isn’t easy. Being told what to eat, where to go, or how to do something, ­ especially if you’re a fairly independent person, ­ requires a great amount of trust and willpower in addition to a desire to please.

Dominance and Submission

Dominance and submission, commonly referred to as D/s, can occur in any number of ways both online and in the real world. Dominants and submissives are sometimes referred to as tops and bottoms, although the terms aren’t automatically interchangeable. Within a power exchange, someone is on "top" or dominant and someone else is on the "bottom" or submissive to their partner. It’s possible to identify as a top or a bottom without calling yourself a dominant or submissive.

While D/s is often written and depicted as a sexual preference, most people will tell you that it's a lifestyle. The dominant in a relationship or situation is granted a specific and defined amount of control from their submissive. This happens in BDSM scenes between two people who aren’t in a relationship as well as long ­term, loving, committed relationships ­ and everything in between.

The amount of control and power a dominant accepts occurs after plenty of communication and negotiation with a willing submissive partner. Bedroom only ­ meaning sexual D/s, 24/7 lifestylers, and play partners are all commonly found within D/s. Regardless of how you approach D/s, one thing is always true: all control and power must be agreed upon by both the Dominant and the submissive.

Sadism and Masochism

Sadism and masochism are most often confused by those new to the BDSM lifestyle as a

requirement of dominance and submission. You don’t have to be a sadist in order to be dominant or a masochist in order to be submissive.

Sadists find pleasure in giving pain. Masochists find pleasure in receiving it. Pain takes multiple forms. Mental pain is often known as a mindfuck ­ making the bottom, submissive, and/or masochist believe something is going to happen or is happening that they find painful or scary. A good sadist can make the scene seem so real that you’re convinced the knife really is cutting you, the fire is actually burning you, or the person who’s touching you is a stranger.

Physical pain falls within a wide range from light spankings on the bottom up to acts that draw blood or cause burns. Whatever kind of pain you like or are willing to try, whether as the sadist or the masochist, needs to fall within your personal limits.

As with all other parts of BDSM, the practice of sadomasochism, as it is sometime referred, can occur separately from sexual activities. For some sadists, they find enjoyment in giving spankings or engaging in wax play with people outside of their relationships. Masochists, on the other hand, may play with a sadist who’s not their partner, especially if that partner doesn’t identify as sadistic.

In Conclusion

BDSM is a set of practices that can occur in or out of an established relationship. Sex isn’t a requirement or an automatic end result of BDSM play. You don’t have to like every part of BDSM to live the lifestyle. Everything done under the BDSM umbrella, as you will see later in this guide, falls within a spectrum from light to heavy play. There’s no one right way to play or to be kinky. The only real requirement is consent and safety.


Written by Kayla Lords
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Professional writer, sex blogger, erotic author, sexual submissive, and kinkster, Kayla writes more than is probably healthy over at A Sexual Being and overshares about the kinky and mundane side of her BDSM relationship. Her mission: to make BDSM, specifically Dominance and submission, less scary, less weird, and much more real and attainable for anyone willing to learn more.

 

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