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10 BDSM Myths You Probably Believe - Debunked

Published: JUNE 29, 2022
Forget myths and biases and get to know BDSM for what it really is. Busting these 10 myths is a great place to start!

While we supposedly live in a time where everything we'd ever want to know about anything is a Google search away, there still remains a lot of mistaken beliefs about BDSM.

Fortunately, kink-experienced folx like myself are doing their best to dispel these myths. Hopefully, this will help you better understand—and from there, accept—BDSM: a form of sexuality so many not only find pleasurable but have made an essential part of their lives.

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What Is BDSM?

BDSM stands for:

Though, as you'll soon learn, BDSM is far more than that.

Think of BDSM as an umbrella term covering all sorts of activities and interests—from dedicated leather people (more on them later) to fetish enthusiasts as well as those who enjoy a light spanking now and again.

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READ: The Ultimate Guide to Impact Play Toys and Spanking Implements.

So no one—not the least of which are BDSM community members—has the right to proclaim what it is or isn't. Even saying it involves taking or giving up sexual control or power addresses only a single aspect of it.

Myth 1: "Fifty Shades Of Grey" Is An Accurate Depiction Of BDSM

*Takes a deep breath* NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO *takes another deep breath* NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!

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In no way, shape or form is that book a factual depiction of real BDSM play. If anything, it's the complete opposite.

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I'd go so far as to say it and its equally wretched sequels should be avoided at all costs. Not only is it filled with dangerous misinformation, likely to cause serious injury if attempted, but the so-called dominant is a textbook example of sexual assault.

YouTuber Dominic Noble has an excellent rant about "50 Shades of Grey" and why it is so despicable.

READ: 5 Real Life BDSM Stories You Won’t Find in 'Fifty Shades of Grey.'

At the core of real BDSM are three key principles everyone must adhere to:

  1. Safety. You must understand the emotional and physical risks you take by participating in BDSM, hope for the best while preparing for the worst and respect everyone's limits.
  2. Sanity. No one should be judgmentally impaired or feel coerced into playing.
  3. Consent. Unequivocal agreement must be given for anything and everything taking place and that can be rescinded at any time, for any reason, without fear of reprisal.

SSC, as it's called, has also been updated to include RACK and PRICK. The first acronym stands for "Risk-Aware Consent and Kink": Participants shouldn't just agree but demonstrate their understanding of the risks involved and then articulate their likes, dislikes, limitations and so forth.

"PRICK" means "Personal Responsibility, Informed, Consensual Kink": Everyone's got to understand and accept what they're getting into—and if they, or whoever they're negotiating with—can't agree, they shouldn't play.

If you're interested in kink, do yourself a favor and don't read "50 Shades of Grey." Instead, take the time to learn about what BDSM actually involves—especially how to do it safely!

Myth 2: BDSM Leads to a Lack of Interest in Vanilla Sex

Sure, there'll be those who might find it difficult to return to plain vanilla after going kinky. But for most, BDSM is another form of physical and emotional pleasure which never replaces or diminishes anything else they enjoy.

Though the BDSM community is incredibly vast and mind-bogglingly diverse, I'll go out on a limb and say the number of people who find sexual or sensual pleasure isn't the same without kink play is pretty damned small.

Myth 3: BDSM Always Involves Sex and/or Is a Gateway to More 'Extreme' Forms of Sex

BDSM doesn't have to involve genital contact or even orgasm. (Though it can if you want it to, of course.)

For example, power exchange fans—as in dominants and submissives—may or may not physically interact: Their pleasure deriving from either consensually taking from or willingly relinquishing control to another person.

READ: 6 Orders for a Submissive That Have Nothing to Do With Sex.

As for BDSM invariably leading to ever-intensifying sexual experiences, some will be inspired to try new activities while others might be fine and dandy with staying where they are.

One of the things I adore about the BDSM community is its respect for diversity. Whatever you're into, you'll be welcomed—as long as it's safe, sane and consensual. Whether you're a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week slave or someone who likes a little slap and tickle now and again, everyone's alike in their kinkiness.

Myth 4: BDSM Practitioners Are Emotionally Scarred or Have Suffered Abuse

Various members of the kink scene have endured emotional or physical trauma, though no more or less than any other community.

There are even people who employ BDSM as a form of therapy. But it's not advisable unless you consult a kink-supportive therapist first.

READ: What Happens in Sex Therapy - From A Real Sex Therapist.

If you need even more evidence, researchers at San Francisco Sex Information have been delving into why or how someone is kinky—and so far they've found little or no correlation between abuse and BDSM.

Myth 5: BDSM Is Always About Pain

That BDSM has to involve extreme sensations—what many would call pain—is flatly untrue.

Agreed, they are those who, for whatever reason, find it pleasurable. But there are also people who prefer their play to be on the opposite end of the sensation spectrum.

So, no, masochism isn't mandatory for you, or anyone else, to be kinky—just like physical contact isn't necessary for power exchange or domination and submission play.

Myth 6: Submissives Have Low Self-Esteem and Dominants Like to Hurt and Control People

I'm so tired of hearing this. To set the record straight, a minority of BDSM practitioners are dominant or submissive outside of community events or play sessions.

In fact, it's considered a serious faux pas for someone to treat a submissive/slave as such without asking and receiving permission to do so.

It may not appear in mainstream media all that often. Still, a lot of dominants are nurturing and loving: respecting their submissives/slaves and the trust they've been given and seeing themselves more as teachers and mentors than bullies.

READ: 5 Ways to Spot a Good Dominant.

Myth 7: Black Leather is Required for BDSM

Chocolate and peanut butter; black leather and kink—it's not at all compulsory. (Black leather, that is, not chocolate and peanut butter. Unless you're allergic.)

If you attend a kink-friendly event—which I encourage you to do as they can be very educational and a lot of fun—mixed in with chaps, vests and the rest of the leather communities' regalia, you'll see fetish-fashion latex, well-cut suits, bare skin and everything in-between.

With its long-standing traditions, annual awards, educational outreaches and charitable events, black leather remains a highly honored part of BDSM culture—but it's not a community requisite.

So feel free to let your freak flag fly! If you like black leather, make a few community friends who can explain the dos and don'ts of wearing it to help you from stepping on any black leather-booted toes.

Let's get this right out in the open. Age play has absolutely nothing to do with children or anyone under the age of consent.

What does involve are adults roleplaying, i.e., pretending, they're younger than they biologically are.

READ: Help! My Partner Is Into Ageplay!

It can be enjoyed solely with other age play enthusiasts or in the presence of someone or someone assuming the role of a nanny, parent or teacher.

Dolls, games, storytime, diaper changes, consensual punishment or humiliation play might or might not occur in addition to moments of parental care and affection.

Myth 9: Only A Minority Of People Are Into BDSM

This one is going to be a bit fuzzy as no one's undertaken a worldwide survey of how many people are kinky.

But according to a 2014 article from the Smithsonian (of all places), referencing a study from the condom maker Durex, the number of people in the U.S. who "use masks, blindfolds and bondage tools during sex" is a whopping 36%.

That's even more amazing considering how that survey was not taking into account people into things like spanking, domination, sex toys or nipple play.

Is an interest in BDSM rare? I doubt it. Rather, it looks like not being kinky is less common.

Myth 10: BDSM Is Emotionally and Physically Dangerous

I won't sugarcoat it: BDSM can be dangerous. But so is driving a car, cooking a meal and a host of other everyday activities.

And like getting behind the wheel, chopping veggies, or whatever else you do, to stay safe, you need to learn as much as you can about BDSM before giving it a shot.

That means reading about kink or, better yet, checking out your local kink scene and attending BDSM events to get some much-needed hands-on education.

Don't worry if you're nervous. The BDSM community prides itself on welcoming newcomers and showing them the ropes (pun absolutely intended).

READ: Everything You Need to Know About Attending Your First Rope Bondage Conference.

It doesn't matter if you haven't done anything kinky in your life and are merely a little curious. As long as you're open-minded, treat others with respect and accept you'll make mistakes (everyone does), before you know it, you'll be well on your way to what could be a life-changing adventure.

The Bottom Line About BDSM

Together with learning everything you possibly can, it's crucial to use your newly developed kink awareness to leave ignorance, intolerance, judgment and recklessness behind you.

And listen to people who—via their real-world BDSM experiences—know what they're talking about.

Alas, I've only been able to tackle a few of the more egregious kink falsehoods here. But here's one final, undeniable truth I want to leave you with:

For all of its faults, BDSM can be amazingly powerful—and erotically beautiful—for those willing to genuinely try to understand it.

READ: The Joy of Finding Your Fetish.

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Photo for M. Christian
M. Christian

M.Christian is an author who has been published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even nonfiction, but it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and in fact too many anthologies, magazines, and sites to name. In addition to writing, M.Christian is a respected sex and BDSM educator, having taught classes on everything from polyamory to tit torture for venues such as the SF Citadel, Good Vibrations, COPE (in Columbus, Ohio), Beat Me In St. Louis, Winter Fire, Floating World, Sin In The City (Las Vegas), Dark Odyssey, and many others.


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