Home / Features / BDSM – It’s not as weird as you think!
images

BDSM – It’s not as weird as you think!

Chloe Osmond

BDSM doesn’t receive much mainstream representation, and when it does, it’s usually the bad kind. If Fifty Shades of Grey is your only point of reference on the topic, I urge to you to begin your education anew. Let us, however, not dwell on the sins of E.L. James for too long, because BDSM – contrary to popular belief – can actually be both a valid and nuanced lifestyle. 

The acronym BDSM stands for ‘Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism’. A BDSM relationship or lifestyle needs to include just one of these feature to be classified as such. These traits can be present on a 24/7 basis – often by the ongoing performing of the dominant and submissive roles – or limited to play sessions or “scenes”. 

There is a misconception that BDSM is merely about extreme sex, and while this can play a role in some relationships there is much more to it. BDSM relationships need not be sexual; there are many asexual or non-sexual people who enjoy the lifestyle that comes from a BDSM relationship. The lifestyle itself is actually incredibly flexible and can be adapted to the specific needs and desires of the participants.

There is also a false idea that BDSM glorifies abuse. It would be ignorant to disregard the fact that BDSM has been, and continues to be incorrectly used to mask abuse in relationships. However, the main principle that governs all legitimate BDSM relationships is the SSC rule, which dictates that all scenes and relationships should be ‘Safe, Sane and Consensual’. At the start of a relationship or scene, two – or more – rational, consenting adults will have a conversation in which guidelines, boundaries, limits and safe words are set to ensure both parties are comfortable with what will follow. Any breaking of these rules can be seen as abuse. Many participants of BDSM lifestyles make use of contracts to further establish rules and guidelines. These are legal documents, which, in multiple niches of the community, are signed at a ceremony comparable to a “vanilla” wedding ceremony. This is usually referred to as a “collaring ceremony”, during which, the Dom (dominant individual) will present the Sub (submissive individual) with a collar as a symbol of their relationship. This contract can be legally voided by both parties at any time.

Furthermore, BDSM is not based in violence or hate. In fact, there is as much space for love, mutual respect, care, and especially communication in BDSM relationships as there is in “vanilla” relationships. For many, the BDSM lifestyle is just a way to add more fun and excitement to an already strong relationship.

The Submissive is not viewed as less important by the community, as society (through common misconceptions) portray them. BDSM works on a form of power exchange. The Submissive has all the power to set out specific guidelines and boundaries and the Dominant is free to do as he/she pleases, strictly within the confines of those limits. Some participants will partake in extreme “total power exchange” in which the Sub agrees to forfeit all rights to his/her Dom, but this is not common and requires education and communication to execute safely.

If you are picturing a dark dungeon filled with scary metal and leather contraptions, some branches of BDSM may surprise you. Take Petplay for example – don’t worry, no actual pets are involved – where the Submissive (pet) takes on the role of an animal (some common ones include kittens, puppies, foxes, ponies, bunnies etc.) and the Dominant (owner, caregiver, master, Sir or Mistress) cares for them as such, maybe by petting them, feeding them or entertaining them with toys. The pet may wear ears, tails, collars and other gear during play or on a daily basis. The draw here, is that you don’t have insecurities or responsibilities when you’re a cute fluffy kitty. Another example is the Caregiver/Little (CGL). This lifestyle entails the Submissives (littles) who want to be in a childlike state, and the dominants (daddies and mommies, masters etc.) who want to care for them. In this case both parties enjoy an atmosphere of unconditional love and care.

Of course there are niches which thrive on enduring and inflicting pain, degradation, playing with sensations like hot and cold, edging (orgasm control), voyeurism and exhibitionism (watching or being watched respectively) and the list of kinks and fetishes goes on endlessly. To some these may seem frightening, yet to others, titillating. 

But consider how aspects of BDSM are present even in “vanilla” relationships. Think of spanking, baby talk, subtle degradation, use of handcuffs and restraints, or how some people enjoy being with a partner who takes firm control of a situation. BDSM natured relationships, and aspects of BDSM exist in many relationships and are far more common than you think. The sooner we destigmatise BDSM and stop the kinkshaming, the more we can focus on educating people about what BDSM actually entails. In this way, more people may be educated and possibly interested in getting involved in BDSM relationships that are safe, consensual and most importantly, fun for both parties so that they can get to know themselves, their bodies and their partners. 

Images courtesy of Lelo-Volonte

Leave a Reply