What is BDSM? 6 Essential Concepts For Beginners

Header for What is BDSM article - Barbie and Ken dolls dressed up in BDSM clothes

 

 

You're probably here because you've come across the term S&M and it freaks you out ... but not enough to run away. There might even be a little curiosity budding under that sweet, vanilla exterior. 

 

The good news ...

 

This world isn't as terrifying as some media has painted it (or as ridiculously unhealthy as 50 Shades has portrayed).  In fact, the world is SO LARGE, there's something in there for everyone.

 

 

KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTS


 

Close up of a woman in black high heels putting one foot on a naked man's buttocksIn short, S&M stands for Sadomasochism. But an answer like that is about as accurate as my grade ten math exam and as satisfying as the series finale of Sopranos.

 

The better and more inclusive term?

 

BDSM = Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism.

 

Heavy sounding words with an entire universe of confusion and judgment surrounding it. And it does sound very dark.

 

Girl with black hair and pink underwear, wearing pink cat ears. Sitting like a cat in front of a bowl of milkYou probably think of something like the black and white image of "Steppy Leather Lady".

 

And it's true.

 

However, would you think of something like this image with "Cat Girl"?

 

This adorable, little kitten is into Pet Play. Scratching behind the ears, stroking of the back, told she’s the cutest thing ever.

 

Yep, sign me up now!

 

 

WHAT EACH TERM MEANS


 

BONDAGE = being tied up or restrained for the purposes of erotic enjoyment, aesthetic display, or somatosensory stimulation. This can include, rope, tape, stocking, ties, or anything that renders the person immobile. 

 

And yes, the fuzzy pink handcuffs in the bottom of your draw count.

 

Next is...

 

DISCIPLINE = Using rules and punishments to control or correct behavior.

 

It might sound scary (like getting caught jerking off in a church by a nun ... or 10 of them), but this can be exercised in any degree you can imagine -- but only in degrees you consent to.

 

Punishments are always discussed and agreed upon ahead of time. It can include: lectures, physical pain, humiliation (e.g. standing in the corner, naked), psychological punishments, loss of freedom (e.g. losing your computer or phone privileges)

 


“Since you can’t hold still, I’m going to have to tie you up.” or “Handwrite ‘I will not be late’ three hundred times.”


 

Or, in m my case, "Do the multiplication table without a calculator or fingers ... or toes."

 

Yeah? F-you.

 

Handsome man in suit sitting on sofa and holding handcuffs in one handDOMINANCE & SUBMISSION = The power exchange between two people. One having control over the others actions.

 

It can be done over the phone, email, text, or in person. If you hear the word “Switch”, it means the person goes both ways – dominant and submissive.

 

There are many reasons why people choose either role, but the exchange is to give BOTH parties pleasure, not just one.

 

SADISM & MASOCHISM  = This is where we get the S&M (although SM or S/M is the more commonly used acronym).

 

The pleasure derived from giving or receiving pain or humiliation. Not to be confused with the other usage of someone with cruel intentions. Aka. Assholes. 

 

 

DON'T SAY "I'M INTO BDSM"


 

It’s like saying, “I’m into sports”.

 

Okay. Fine. But which sport? 

 

Red and black leopard print flogger and paddleYou can like soccer, but loath hockey. You could have every Manchester United piece of sports paraphernalia and play on a wannabe pro team, or you could just kick around some balls once a month (which could also be deemed a BDSM activity, by the way). 

 

Someone might like many sports (and be well verse in all things related to their passion) but very few people like ALL sports.

 

Where is this sports rant going?

 

Mirror that with the umbrella term of BDSM and all its subcultures,

 

What do you get?

 

ONE SIMPLE FACT: There’s no one “right” way to be kinky.  

 

People have to do what works for them and their partner and not push it onto others (you can discuss, share, and disagree, but never push).

 

EXAMPLE: One girl could like being tied up but hate spanking while her friend is the opposite. A dude could get off wearing his wife’s underwear and ball gag while cleaning the bathroom, but only twice a year. You might like handcuffs, but not be interested in them after a few years.

 

It’s all okay.

 

Which brings us to the next important part...

 

 

TERMS AND CONCEPTS TO KNOW


 

A. CONSENT

 

One cornerstone of any healthy, respectful BDSM encounter. It is “an informed, uncoerced, enthusiastic, revocable permission for something to happen at or over the legal age of consent.”

 

People agree to play whether through a formal contract, verbal agreement, or casual conversation – it’s anything that clearly communicates they are aware of, educated on, and comfortable with the terms set forth.

 

Hell, my man and I know each other so well, a wink will do.

 

There’s also the word “revocable”, meaning they can take back the consent (aka changing their minds) and cease play at any time they want.

 

And just for fun ...

 

Here's an oldie but a goodie - something you probably watched in sex-ed class...

 

 

 

B. SAFE

 

Since BDSM walks into the realm of risky (in varying degrees) parties must be aware of and do everything that can to avoid or minimize possible unwanted injuries, disease, or danger.

 

Aka, you can hurt someone but not HURT someone.

 

To do this, one should research and understand the kink they’re about to explore.

 

EXAMPLE: What’s the cause of compression marks, rope burn, pinching, and bruising? Don’t know? Don’t get into Shibari (Japanese rope bondage) without some serious homework.

 

YEP, a huge amount of your kink world will be...

 

Squirrel screaming NOOOOOOOOOOO!... reading and learning.

 

There is also the  ALL HOLY, ALL POWERFUL, NON-NEGOTIABLE ...

 

SAFE WORD

 

What is this word people keep going on and ON about?

 

 

It's a special word or designated movement which communicates to the person controlling the scene that there is a problem and play needs to immediately stop.

 

I know what  you're asking, "But why not just say "stop??"

 

You CAN. It's perfectly acceptable choice.

 

But yep, you guessed it, there is a 'however" coming.

 

It needs to be something you normally wouldn’t scream in the middle of an intense moment. If you're in a scenario where you want to say "stop" BUT DON'T REALLY WANT THEM TO, then it's not a good choice - it will just confuse the shit out of your Dom/Domme.

 

Something like, “Pudding!” would be better.

 

A common choice is the traffic light system:

 

  • green (keep going)
  • yellow (getting near my limits)
  • red (immediately stop)

 

 

If you want more ideas, or watch some giggle-worthy videos, take a look at:

"Good Safe Words and Interesting Uses in Media"

 

 

Keep in mind:

 

This rule doesn’t apply to only the “bottom” (someone giving up control). “Tops” are totally within their rights to use safety words as well.

 

 

C. SANE

 

We're not talking about my friend's general consensus on my state of mind ... or lack thereof. 

 

It's having a healthy, sensible, and realistic frame of mind that is free from psychological derangement (here's where my friends tend to laugh and say I'm excluded)  

 

But being 100% serious...

 

Stay away from the batshit crazy play partners and predators posing as Doms/Dommes.

 

Good partners act responsibly and exercise good judgment.

 

Gif - Retro Wonder Woman saying You Must Learn Respect and then punching a manThey have appropriate self-control and are respectful.

 

Since we’re dealing with power-exchange, and handing over large amounts of trust, making sane (controlled) choices is paramount.

 

The absence of SSC (forcing or pressuring someone to perform a sexual act that they are not willing to do and doing something that can endanger them) is rape and/or abuse.

 

It makes me vomit in my mouth when people say (or even believe) that slapping the BDSM term on abuse makes it okay.

 

Disgusting.

 

No.

 

Go to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect your f*ing 200 dollars.

 

 

LEARN ABOUT LIMITS


 

Black, leather riding crop against someone's naked backI know it's a lot of info, but stay with me here.

 

Limits are something you should talk about before you even agree to play.

 

But there's not just one kind.

 

There are ...

 

Soft Limits – something a person is uncomfortable with, can be consented to but requires a cautious approach

 

“I’m willing to try anal beads, but we need to move really slowly and be prepared for a safety word.”

 

Hard Limits – under no circumstances can the action be done, violating a hard limit is just cause for ending a scene and sometimes a relationship.

 

“Under no circumstances can you slap me in the face or insult me.”

 

Requirement Limits aka Must Limits – something MUST happen in a scene/play.

 

“You need to give me lots of kisses.”

 

Time Limits – a set period of time which a scene or relationship (e.g. contract) will last.

 

"We will play for one hour, and one hour only."

 

"No" Limits – total power exchange, consensual non-consent (highly controversial in the BDSM community).

 

 

5. GETTING INTO BDSM


 

Man in black suit holding riding crop against woman's buttocks as she lifts her skirtIt’s recommended you take your time and have LOTS of communication with your partner. It won’t happen quickly.

 

If you’re lucky you’ll find someone you can talk to and confide in, but please make sure they are they healthy kind of person to be around. If there is no one to talk to, don’t despair! There is TONS of material on the internet and in books.

 

You can tiptoe into the shallow end of the pool by trying:

 

  • Light spanking (very light)
  • Light biting
  • Tying up with fuzzy handcuffs
  • Light orgasm denial
  • Sexy/kinky clothing

 

The next part is where I get a bit ranty/preachy/whatever...

 

Read on if you want a funny story about a Japanese fetish party, or just skip to the end/

 

 

6. MISCONCEPTIONS & STIGMA


 

Society and, in a large part, media has misrepresented and painted these practices as something dark, violent, and disturbed (like an episode of Law and Order: SVU) – that only those who were abused or are bonkers like such things.

 

It’s a rather large injustice to a community that is full of wonderful, kind, open people.

 

We need to be careful not to pigeonhole people into categories based on single glimpse or a thimbleful of knowledge about that person’s life.

 

Melted wax dripping from a woman's back - red, lit candle in foregroundUnderstand, it’s all measured in experience and perceived extremes.

 

One person might equate his lady donning a strap-on with an elephant-sized dildo as grounds for divorce, while another could call it a normal Saturday night.

 

Even hair pulling, biting, and scratching nails down someone’s back during sex falls within the BDSM realm – it’s just to the lighter side.

 

As long as it’s SCC between two (or three or four...) people, it’s really nobody else’s business.

 


For example: Story Time in Japan

 

I went to a fetish party in Japan and watched a girl being tied up by a Bakushi Master (Bondage Master).

 

As he was pulling on the ropes, she started to bawl.

 

I mean, these were full on sobs as if someone just told her she had to repeat high school, Santa wasn't real, and then kicked her puppy. My first instinct was that she was in trouble and the scene should stop.

 

I looked around the crowd of admirers.

 

WTF. 

 

Why no one was stepping in??

 

As I was mentally preparing to step up and fight for the reputation of the BDSM community and all things SSC, the girl’s boyfriend came up and tickled her – tears immediately ceased and she let loose a howling laugh.

 

It was immediately followed by a string of Japanese that loosely translated into, “Stop that, you (add explicative here) !” She then looked up and the Bukushi Master gave a little smile and asked him to continue.

 

Tears started again.

 

Yep, even for someone like me who adores BDSM and general kinkiness, there are moments of self-evaluation, re-evaluation, and getting my head out of my ass.


 

You’ve also heard the term “coming out” – it’s not only for the gay community. You can find it in the BDSM world as well.

 

Many people choose to keep their lifestyle a secret for fear of judgment or repercussions – like losing your job because your boss thinks you’re going to whip out a flogger in the middle of your business meeting (even though you haven’t in the five years of previous meetings). Some, however, choose not to hide their preferences. This is also classified as coming out.

 

One last thing to keep in mind – you can try something and not like it. It’s just as okay as trying something and loving it.

 

Explore, try, and test. But above all, be SAFE!

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

 

If you found this article helpful and would like to read more, I would suggest:

 

 

Have a kinky day!

Robyn

 

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Comments (8)

  1. Don says:

    Thank You

  2. Thwomp555 says:

    I loved the monopoly parable. Those who abuse other people MUST go to jail. Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do NOT pass the GO square. Do NOT collect $200. (But why did you say f***ing $200? XD)

    1. Robyn to Thwomp555 says:

      LOL, good question. Mostly because I waver between outright swearing or half-way attempts at my own profanity filter ... swearing usually wins.

  3. Bobbi J. says:

    This was a well written and excellent description of vocabuary and basic beginner info. Great article!

  4. Rebekah K says:

    Thank you very much. It was very interesting & helpful.

  5. Kim H says:

    Thank you! I have always wondered what "Bdsm" meant. Your article was very informative. I can walk away feeling a wee bit more educated tonight.lol Very well writtten and humorous

  6. Sub says:

    Thank you. My boyfriend and I are just getting into this, well he is. This is a great guide.

  7. Betty says:

    Great article thank you

  8. Max says:

    Really interesting and helpfull, thanks.

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