What is BDSM? 6 Essential Concepts For Beginners

by Robyn Robyn

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


In 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.

You 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 someone dressed up in fuzzy cat ears and a tail?

Being a “kitten” that’s is into Pet Play also counts within this wheelhouse. 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.

DOMINANCE & SUBMISSION = The power exchange between two people. One having control over the other’s 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? 

You 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 versed 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.

This 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…