Despite the fact that we supposedly live in the Age Of Information, it’s unfortunate that there is still far too many who harbor - to put it nicely - misguided beliefs about BDSM.

Luckily, there are people, and I count myself fortunate to be one of them, who are actively working to dispel these myths and show what kink is, and isn’t. I think we all hope this will lead to greater understanding, and perhaps even acceptance, towards a form of sexuality that so many not only find pleasurable, but have also made an essential part of their lives.

What exactly is BDSM?

Before I start debunking myths, I should first talk about what BDSM is - because that’s going to play a huge part in how this list works.Technically, BDSM stands for Bondage/Discipline/Sadism/Masochism or Master/Mistress/slave, but those four initials don’t really come close to approaching the scope of what some call “alternative sexuality.”

You know, I’ve never liked that phrase: it always rings like there’s sex and then there’s alternatives to sex. As we’ll talk about very soon, BDSM can be very sexual, or not sexual at all. But, until we come up with a better term, I guess we’re stuck with it.

Back to BDSM. Calling it an umbrella term is an understatement, as BDSM is used by the hardcore leather community members (more about that later!), people who might enjoy a light spanking now and again, as well as people who engage in things like age play.

What I’m getting at is that it’s pretty damned tough to say that anything is an absolute when you talk about BDSM: even saying that it involves taking or giving up sexual control or power speaks to only one form of kink.

That being said, I’m going to be crossing out these myths with a fairly wide pen, totally accepting that in a few rare cases, there might be someone, somewhere out there who might have a contradictory experience.

Why me?

What do I know about BDSM? Well, in addition to writing for Kinkly and some other great sites, I’ve been a member of the San Francisco Bay Area BDSM scene since the late '80s, and have also taught classes on everything from polyamory to bondage for a wide range of venues.

So, I know a bit of what I’m talking about. Though, again, the scene is so vast and diverse I would never, ever call myself a true expert; I'm just someone whose been around the kinky block more than a few times.

Now that that's out of the way, let’s get to debunking these lies about what the BDSM is and isn’t and, fingers crossed, light a candle where there previously was darkness (yeah that was corny, but I’m sticking with it).

Myth: "Fifty Shades of Grey" Is an Accurate Depiction of BDSM

*Takes 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! That book is in no way shape or form anything like what BDSM is or should be about.

In fact, if anyone approaches you with that vile tome saying that they are interested in this form of play - physically or especially emotionally - you can run screaming for the hills.

Again, resorting to some necessary generalization, at the core of BDSM are three key principles: safety (that all parties work to make sure no harm is done), sanity (that everything is done with a level head), and consensuality (that everyone consents to what happens).

That book is not about BDSM but rather emotional and physical abuse. As I have to move on to our next myth, allow me to point you to The Dom, a YouTuber who has an excellent rant about it and why it is so despicable. (For a different perspective, read Why We Need to Stop Bashing 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Already.)

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

Sure, some people might have a hard time going back to plain vanilla after they've dabbled in kink, but for a large number of people, kink play is just another form of physical and emotional pleasure: one that doesn’t replace or diminish anything else.

Again, the scene is incredibly vast and mind-bogglingly diverse, so it’s hard to be really definitive, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that the number of people who do find that sexual or sensual pleasure just isn’t the same without kink play is pretty damned small.

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

BDSM play doesn’t have to involve genital contact or even orgasm, although it certainly can if you want it to. It’s all up to you and the person (or people) you are playing with.

For those into domination and submission (or Master/Mistress and slave), there may not even be physical contact: the pleasure of the parties involved is all about taking control and relinquishing it (consensually, of course).

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

As for it being the “gateway drug” for sex, while some may find that doors will open to new explorations and experiences others will be just fine/dandy with where they are.

One of the things I really love about the scene is that it truly does try to respect the people involved. As long as what you are doing is safe, sane and consensual whatever you find pleasure doing is pretty much respected: whether that’s being a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week slave or just a person who likes a little slap and tickle, we’re all pretty much in the same kinky boat.

Myth: BDSM Practitioners Are Emotionally Scarred or Have Suffered Abuse

Yes, there are some people in the BDSM community who have unfortunately experienced emotional or physical trauma but, sadly, that’s true of members of just about every community, everywhere.

There are even people who use BDSM as a form of therapy, although it is never advisable to do this without consulting a kink-supportive therapist first. If you are in looking for one, I highly recommend San Francisco Sex Information, a highly-respected free sexual information resource (and not just for the Bay Area).

But it is a total myth that the only way anyone can get involved with kink is through abuse. Researchers are still pondering the question about what makes someone kinky, just as they have tried to puzzle out the foundations of sexual orientations and gender, but to date there is no correlation between abuse and BDSM.

Read: Coming to Terms With Kink and Violence: One Feminist's View

Myth: BDSM Is Always About Pain

Just like with the sex, it is a total myth that BDSM has to always involve extreme sensations - and, yes, even what many would call pain.

Sure, there are those who find pleasure/release in the extremes but others prefer the lower-end of the spectrum or, as with the already-mentioned case of sex and domination and submission, no physical contact at all.

It's also a myth that you have to be a masochist to be kinky, as there are others who find pleasure in the the psychological, and not always physical, interactions.

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

Oh, I am so tired of this one. Part of this is also the old chestnut that powerful people like to be submissive in play.

Again, we have to talk about consent: just because someone likes to be dominated, or dominate, rarely means that they give consent for this to happen outside of the scene. In fact, in the scene it is a faux pa for someone to treat a submissive/slave as such without first asking, and receiving clear permission, to do so first.

It may not show up often in mainstream media but many Dominants are nurturing and loving: cherishing the trust that is being given to them by their submissives/slaves and seeing themselves more as teachers and mentors than as bullies. A

Myth: Black Leather the Required Uniform for BDSM

While many in the scene have embraced black leather as a symbol of kink pride, as well as honoring the long history of the BDSM community, it is far from being a requirement to be kinky.

If you ever attend a kink-friendly event - and I encourage you to do so as they can be very educational as well as a lot of fun - you’ll certainly see a lot of black and leather but you’ll also see everything from pastel latex to well-cut suits.

That said, there is the leather community, which is a respected part of the scene thanks to its educational outreaches and charitable fundraising, but they hardly represent a required uniform. (That said, some uniforms are pretty hot ...)

Myth: Ageplay Is Related to or Can Lead to Pedophilia

This is a huge one and, tragically, one that is not spoken of nearly enough. So, let me be absolutely clear that ageplay has nothing to do with pedophilia. Ageplay is where an adult roleplays a younger person or child - or interacts with another adult doing so. Even simpler: it’s an adult pretending to be younger!

Read: Help! My Partner Is Into Ageplay!

For some it can be playing with dolls, while for others it can be reliving events from their school years, but it is always done with a clear understanding that it is an adult behavior.

Like everything in this world, there is potential for abuse and emotional harm here, but responsible people engaging in ageplay understand what it is, and what it isn’t, and do it (again) safely, sanely, and consensually.

Myth: People Who Are Into BDSM Are a Very Small Minority

OK, this one is going to be a bit fuzzy as, let’s be honest here, no one’s really undertaken a worldwide survey of how many people are into kink.

That being said, according to a 2014 article from the Smithsonian (of all places), which references 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 staggering 36%.

It’s even more amazing when you consider how specific that survey was. It doesn't even take into account people who might enjoy things like spanking, domination, sex toys, nipple play, or the whole other wide universe of kinky sex.

Is an interest in BDSM rare? I doubt it. In fact, there’s a good chance that not being at least a little kinky may actually be the rare thing.

Myth: BDSM Is Emotionally and Physically Dangerous

I won’t sugarcoat it: yes, BDSM can be dangerous. But so can driving a car, cooking a meal, or just about anything else.

That’s why you need to learn as much as you can about kink before giving it a shot: read, for sure, but it’s much better to find your local kink community, or go to BDSM events and get some hands-on education.

As for where to find events or classes, well, that’s where the internet comes in. The BDSM community also works very hard to be welcoming to newcomers: showing them the ropes, so to speak (sorry about that).

It doesn’t matter that you’ve never done anything kinky in your life and are just curious: as long as you are open minded, treat others with respect and accept that you’ll make mistakes (everyone does) then before you know it you’ll be embarking on what could very well be a life-changing adventure. Or you'll just have some new great things to bring to the bedroom. Either way, you win.

The Bottom Line About BDSM

If I could leave you with anything it’s that it’s important to learn as much as you can about kink, to educate yourself in what it is and to ask questions when you find yourself feeling confused.

And, perhaps even more important, to leave behind the ignorance and biases of others who, to be honest, don’t know what they are talking about, and instead listen to those who have experienced the BDSM world personally.

There are a lot of myths about BDSM but what I know for sure is that it can be amazingly powerful - and erotically beautiful - for those who dive in.