13 Things You Definitely Didn’t Know About BDSM

July 27, 2017

Don’t believe anything you saw in Fifty Shades Of Grey

Whether you heard about BDSM for the first time when the world collectively freaked out over the release of the Fifty Shades books, or you’ve personally practiced it for some time, it’s one of the better known – though still taboo – sexual practices.

BDSM stands for, and includes the sexual acts of, Bondage and Discipline (B&D), Dominance and Submission (D&S), and Sadism and Masochism (S&M). Someone who says they like to get down with a little BDSM now and then could be into every single one of these kinks, or just one or two.

But whether you prescribe to BDSM exclusively or consider yourself totally vanilla, most people have, at some point or another in their sex lives, tried something a little naughty or adventurous in the bedroom, from blindfolds to handcuffs and spreader bars, all of which can fall under the umbrella of BDSM acts.

A 2005 study found around 20 per cent of adults use BDSM tools during sex, and that’s just people who use them regularly and were willing to admit to it. It’s very likely that number is actually much higher, given many of us are too shy to fess up to the fact we’re not averse to a good ol’ fashioned spanking every so often, among other things…

This is because, between the negative stereotypes around the practice, its problematic depictions in porn, and the widely controversial portrayal of it in popular films, there’s a lot of misunderstandings about BDSM; and short of meeting a dominatrix or doing a load of reading, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. So we’re here to clear a few things up…

1. 50 Shades Of Grey isn’t accurate BDSM

not accurate BDSM

When the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon took the world by storm, people in the BDSM community were pissed. While some people definitely agree and appreciate that the series made people more interested in BDSM, most people in the community read the books and thought ‘this is not right at all’.

By most relationship experts’ definition, the relationship expressed in Fifty Shades between the protagonists is very abusive and unhealthy, and the BDSM scenes Christian Grey performs are regularly unrealistic, and, often times, unsafe. In true BDSM, safety, trust, and consent are all tantamount. As a general rule, if a strange man ever approaches you and asks you to come back to his secret sex room in his home to sign a sex contract (which is exactly the plot of Fifty Shades) DO NOT go with him. You’ll probably be murdered.

2. It’s a community 

BDSM community

While some BDSMers just act out their fantasies in the privacy of their own homes, there are also dungeons you can attend, filled with people who are into the same kinks as you. In fact, there’s an entire community waiting for you if you want to get into BDSM.

Whether you’re involved in the community because you go to the weekly meetings of your local BDSM dungeon, or just engage in a forum online, there’s a whole bunch of people out there who’d love to help you learn more about and explore BDSM, so everyone is safe and supported at all times.

3. There’s lots of lingo to learn

BDSM lingo

“Dom”, “Sub”, “Scenes”, “Tops”, “Bottom”, “SSC”, “CNC”. All of these terms and many others are part of the lingo used in the BDSM community. There are too many to list here, but the above mentioned are some of the most common.

“Dom” and “Sub” are abbreviations of “Dominant” and “Submissive”. The “Dom” enjoys being in charge and a “Sub” gets off on receiving orders. A “scene” is any BDSM encounter, whether or not it involves actual intercourse, and “Tops” and “Bottoms” are similar to Doms and Subs, but are a bit more inclusive. Tops are usually people who, by their own definition ‘enjoy inflicting pain’ for sexual gratification, and Bottoms are people who enjoy receiving pain, so it’s very possible to have a submissive “Top” or a dominant “Bottom”.

“SSC” stands for Safe, Sane and Consensual, which is one of the key pillars of the BDSM community. If you’re in a dungeon and not abiding by the SSC principle, you’ll be promptly kicked out.

“CNC” stands for Consensual Non-Consent, which is the basis of slavery and rape-play. This is the practice of discussing beforehand your consent to a set of actions that could appear to an outsider as being non-consensual, but are in fact basic role-play in which one of the parties involved acts as if they didn’t consent to the sex in order to heighten sexual arousal. CNC requires a massive amount of trust in your partner, and trust is a major aspect of most BDSM relationships.

There are so many other terms and lingo in the community, so do your research!

4. There’s pre-session and post-session care

BDSM aftercare

BDSM involves a lot of talking, before and after a scene, and the notion of before and after-care are massive components. Pre-session care usually involves communication about what you want to do, what you absolutely don’t want to do, how it’s going to play out, what the fantasy involves, safe words, triggering experiences – all of it. This is part of the ‘negotiating’ phase of a relationship, and is important so everyone feels safe and comfortable.

After-care is also just as important. BDSM can be extremely intense and emotional for some people, and a wrap-up session after the event to debrief and discuss the scene is recommended by most experts.

“People are vulnerable during aftercare,” says BDSM writer and educator, Clarisse Thorn.

“It can be really weird to have a scene without it.”

The partners might do something caring for the each other during these debriefs, like make and share a cup of tea, or cuddle while talking. Regardless of how it’s performed, aftercare is considered crucial to all BDSM sessions (and also one of the key elements missing from Ana and Christian’s Fifty Shades relationship).

5. It doesn’t always involve sex

more than that

While most people think of BDSM as kinky sex, it doesn’t always have to include actual intercourse. Sometimes, partners in the BDSM community won’t have penetrative sex at all, instead getting their sexual pleasure from other activities, like the act of dominating someone or being submissive to someone, whether or not that includes sex.

For example, a member of a Washington BDSM community, Julie Fennell, explains an agreement she has with her BDSM partner. Basically, whenever she wore an all-black dress around him, he was allowed to destroy it however he wanted.

“He would throw me down and rip my dress apart, and it felt like he was ripping me to shreds. It was just my dress, but it felt like he was ripping me,” she elaborates.

“The thing that sticks out in my mind is the way I felt blissfully helpless.”

Even though there’s technically no sexual contact in acts like the one described by Fennell, the experience is still considered sexual and involving elements of submission and dominance, and as such, falls into the realm of BSDM.

6. “Submissive” doesn’t mean powerless

submissive BDSM

In depictions of Dom and Sub relationships in Hollywood, the Sub is usually portrayed as a weak and helpless person, and the Dom as controlling and abusive. There’s an episode of crime-drama Bones in which a Dom wife convinces her submissive husband to murder for her. Fifty Shades might not involve murder, but it does show a relationship in which one person, the Dom, holds all the power all the time.

However, in a healthy real-life Dom/Sub relationship, it’s actually the complete opposite. While in the ‘scene’, the Dom has the ‘power’, during the pre-session care, it’s paradoxically the sub who determines what happens. They have the power to make the scene stop at any time if they want it to, and they dictate what the Dom can and cannot do or say. It’s all about trust and communication.

7. Safe words are definitely a thing

BDSM safe word

Even though the idea of a ‘safe word’ is often mocked or used as a joke in popular culture, the concept is actually an important and established norm for people in the BDSM community. Essentially, a ‘safe word’ is a word the Dom and Sub agree to beforehand which will stop the entire scene if it’s uttered. This comes in handy when engaging in CNC acts, because during these fantasies, the words ‘stop’ and ‘no’ are often part of the game and not meant to be taken literally. As such, ‘safe words’ tend to be slightly more unusual terms. So if your Sub suddenly cries out the word ‘ARTICHOKE’ during sex, all activity must stop; do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect $200, just stop.

While people in BDSM relationships might stop using safe words once they’ve been at it for a while and know each other well enough to remove them, everyone starting out should absolutely use them. The safe word can be anything you want, as long is it’s not something you’d normally say during sex.

8. BDSM requires research

do your research BDSM

Tying your blindfolded partner up with handcuffs and spanking them with a paddle is an absolutely harmless place to start with BDSM, but if you want to start experimenting with more intense elements of the subculture, you absolutely have to do your research. Using rope can be extremely dangerous if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, some toys can do real damage, and let’s not even get into the dangers of breath-play or fisting if you don’t educate yourself beforehand.

Before diving headfirst into these aspects of BDSM, you have to read up on the kink. There are countless books on the topic, as well as BDSM conferences, classes and online networks you can attend if you think it’s something you might be interested in.

“The vast majority of BDSM education is how to maximize ecstasy and minimize risk,” explains sex expert and author of Different Loving, Gloria Brame.

“It’s about finding out how to do all the things you fanaticize about, and how to do them safely.”

9. There aren’t always whips and chains involved

ball crusher BDSM

When they hear ‘BDSM’, most people think of a leather-clad person wielding a whip, or someone chained to a bed. And while whips and chains do have their place in some people’s BDSM treasure troves of toys and tools, not everyone in the community uses them.

Some people are more into dominance involving zero pain or toy play at all, instead just agreeing to do everything their Dom asks, or any other kind of play which doesn’t involve toys. There isn’t a concrete pattern or model a BDSM relationship has to follow, including the typical tools Hollywood tends to associate with the subculture.

10. It can be a group activity 

orgy BDSM

In most places, there are professional BDSM dungeons where you can engage in public BDSM shenanigans to your heart’s content. These organized dungeons are usually monitored by people who know how to safely engage in a range of different BDSM activities, so it’s less dangerous to to experiment with your sexuality there than in the privacy of your own home, especially if you want to engage in scenes that have more potentially dangerous components.

Sure, there’s a bit of an exhibitionist thing happening at public dungeons (watching is encouraged), but there are usually rules in place to make it less creepy than it sounds.

And while dungeons and meet-ups are definitely a part of the the BDSM community, you don’t have to go to one to partake in the practice. You can definitely do it in the privacy of your own home and still classify yourself as a BDSMer. You do you, boo.

11. “Vanilla” isn’t a dirty word

vanilla sex

People who aren’t into BDSM sex acts or aren’t interested in kink are referred to as ‘vanilla’, but this is never meant to be used as an insult, just as a way to differentiate between sex acts and preferences.

While in the ‘real world’, vanilla sex is often the only kind of sex deemed appropriate, in the BDSM community, vanilla sex is the less-common. It’s also important to note BDSMers might not do a scene every time they have sex, and some couples are more than likely putting the handcuffs down and doing it missionary sometimes as well, just like people who prefer vanilla sex may sometimes want to mix up their sex life a little bit.

12. People who like it aren’t ‘damaged’ 

don't judge me BDSM

“Anyone who is into that sort of stuff must be really fucked up,” is an extremely common view on BDSM sex, which hasn’t been helped by Christian Grey’s admission he likes BDSM because of past abuse in the popular Fifty Shades books. People seem to believe if someone likes being abused or dominated in the bedroom, they must have grown up in an abusive home or be unhinged in some way, and are dealing with their trauma by being flogged.

However enjoying BDSM does not mean you enjoy being abused, or abusing other people. It’s just one element of someone’s sexuality and lifestyle. Regular folk enjoy all sorts of different kinks, fetishes, and ways to have sex, and science hasn’t found any evidence that past abuse or trauma has an effect on whether someone is more or less likely to be into BDSM. In fact, it might be the total opposite.

“In my experience, it’s easier for people to get into BDSM if they don’t have a history of abuse, people who are in a more stable place in their lives,” says Thorn.

13. It’s perfectly healthy

different strokes

Just like someone who’s into any other kink or kind of sexual kink is perfectly healthy, so is being down with BDSM. One of the key factors on BDSM is acceptance, and being open about your sexuality and fantasies, which is a pretty healthy outlook to have on sex in general.

And in fact, being into BDSM can actually be really good for your mental health. A study from the Netherlands found out of 1300 ‘vanilla’ and ‘BDSM’ people, the people who were into BDSM had healthier brains. So, no, enjoying a little domination or machoism in the bedroom doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you at all. And let’s face it; we should all be free and open to enjoy the kind of sex we want to enjoy, as long as it’s safe and consensual.

Images via elitedaily.com, photobucket.com, giphy.com, tumblr.com, bustle.com, wifflegif.com, pinterest.com.

Comment: Have you ever been involved in the BDSM community? 

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