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BDSM

Bondage With Benefits: What I Learned From BDSM

Published: NOVEMBER 23, 2021
Presented by SATISFYER
Speaking up, taking responsibility, staying present and trusting are all things I’ve struggled with in relationships. Learning to do those things has made my relationships so much more satisfying.

Once considered the realm of perverts and classified as evidence of mental illness, BDSM has in the last decade become pretty mainstream. From Fifty Shade of Grey to Netflix’s Bonding, its presence in the media is undeniable. As for its presences in our bedrooms? In a 2017 survey out of Belgium, 8,000 participants were asked about their interest in BDSM activities and the results showed that roughly 2 out of every 3 participants had at least some interest in getting kinky.

But what about the psychological impact of BDSM, once believed to be both big and bad? Well, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine concluded that BDSM practitioners may be "more psychologically healthy" than their vanilla counterparts while popular authors like Kate Sloan (101 Kinky Things Even You Can Do) have spoken openly about BDSM’s positive effects on their mental health.

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This doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, personally, BDSM made me more aware, more communicative, and frankly, made my relationships way better. How? Well, let’s take a look at the badass relationship lessons I learned from BDSM:

Advocate for Myself

When I got into BDSM, I very quickly became of aware of how reluctant I was to use my safeword. Why? I didn’t want to interrupt. I don't like conflict. My tendency in life is to keep quiet, to avoid speaking up, to be accommodating. I usually just wait for other people to notice my needs. (Note: This almost never works) The result is that I'm often left resenting others for being oblivious to what I need. When I carried this tendency into the bedroom it was extremely unsatisfying (who wants to resent their partner?) and ultimately, dangerous. That’s an unpleasant place for me to be and an unfair place to put my partners.


BDSM taught me to be more honest, open and upfront about my needs. That openness isn’t limited to BDSM play either. I used to worry about proposing incorporating a toy into sex play lest it hurt my partner’s feelings. But for me a wand massager (like the Satisfyer Wand-er Woman) is often the most direct route to orgasm. Thanks to BDSM, I know it’s best to just tell my partner what I need and that makes for a much more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Read: I Tried Dirty Talk in the Bedroom - Here's What Happened

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Take Responsibility

I love the sound of being a "sub". As someone who has always worked in jobs where I told people what to do, the idea of letting someone else handle all of the decisions appealed to me greatly. What I quickly realized was that that’s not how it works. There needs to be communication and boundaries need to be established. In other words, even a sub has to put in some work. In the past, I did a lot of waiting for my partners to figure out what worked for me. I figured they never told me what worked for them and they seemed to have a good time. So I just expected them to deliver the same for me. Guess how well that worked.


BDSM taught me that it’s not my partner’s job to do all the heavy lifting. Sex is collaborative and I have a responsibility too. Now when we try things like couples toys together, I’m sure to check in with my partner to see if it’s working for them and to speak up of it’s not working for me.


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Read: 5 Ways to Spot a Good Dominant

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Live in the Present

I taught and practiced yoga for years and never stopped making grocery lists in my head during meditation. I just never got the whole being "present" thing. So, when I started engaging in BDSM I would occasionally check out, especially when things got challenging. Until a partner called me on it.


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"When you do that it becomes less a thing we’re doing together and more a thing I’m doing to you, and that feels wrong," he said. Ouch. Whether you're playing naughty or just talking at the kitchen table, it’s important to stay present and aware. Really feel and enjoy what’s happening — I like to incorporate things like vibrators that feature warming technology to create even more sensation to enjoy— and communicate with your partner about this experience you are having together.

Trust

I have never really trusted other people to be careful with my body. I am not someone who does well with trust falls, partnered yoga or (tragically) massages. I’m the person to whom the masseuse needs to repeatedly say, "you don’t have to hold your arm up, I’ve got it." When I started engaging in BDSM, partners would notice that I would work the whole time, and never really hand over control of the scene. One finally said, "you know I won’t hurt you and if you safeword I’ll stop, right?”


Even though we had talked about what we were into and set a safeword beforehand, I was still protecting myself. That was my instinct. Once I realized this and let my guard down a bit, my experience with BDSM and, honestly, sexual play in general became much richer. I learned to only play with people I really trust and I’m more open to exploring things like sex toys that my partner controls because I trust that they have my pleasure in mind.

Read: Why BDSM Might Be The Sanest Sex Out There

Sex as Therapy?

So, let’s take a look at the things I learned from engaging in BDSM:
  • When I am forthright about my needs everyone has a much more enjoyable experience.
  • It’s not my partner’s job to do all the heavy lifting; I have a responsibility too.
  • It’s important to stay present and aware so relationships don’t feel one-sided.
  • Trusting a partner is necessary to have a rich, mutually satisfying experience.

Notice anything here? This isn’t just a list of things that make BDSM successful, it’s a list of things that make relationships successful. Speaking up, taking responsibility, staying present and trusting are all things I’ve struggled with in relationships. Learning to do those things has made my relationships so much more satisfying.

I don’t know that I would advise everyone who struggles in relationships to go get a paddle and some restraints; it's up to you to find the best way to learn about yourself and how you can bring a better you to your relationships. What I can say is this: BDSM made me a way better partner - both in and out of the bedroom.

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PRESENTED BY

Photo for JoEllen Notte
JoEllen Notte

JoEllen is a writer, speaker, researcher and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead.

JoEllen's book The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression & The Conversation We Aren’t Having is now available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.


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