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What is BDSM?

What is BDSM? If you ask 10 different people, you will probably get 10 different answers. That's part of the beauty of it. BDSM is many things to many people. The easiest way to think of it is ice cream. Ice cream is the broad term. There are 100's of flavors. They are all ice cream, even though some are very different from each other. 

The term BDSM stands for Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/submission, and Sadomasochism. Generally, the term BDSM is used to refer to things in a sexual context with common BDSM equipment. However, the BDSM lifestyle includes many practices that have little or nothing to do with sex. To get a better overview of what BDSM is, let's look at each part of the word.

Domination/Submission

We start here because all the other practices usually have this as a component. Domination and submission (known as D/s) involve what we call a power exchange. This means one person, the submissive, willingly gives up power to the other party, the dominant. From here on out, they will be known as sub and Dom for brevity.

Dom/sub play can be part of a scene. A scene is an encounter. Usually sexual, but not always. We can consider two parties interacting with a specific purpose or goal in mind a scene. For example, a Dom wants to spank a sub. When this occurs, it's a scene. The sub will take orders from the Dom during the scene, then they go back to their regular roles. 

Some people choose to practice D/s at all times. This is known as 24/ PE (power exchange). The sub and Dom do not step out of their roles once the scene is over. The Dom exercises a certain amount of control over the sub at all times. 

Bondage/Discipline

To put it in the most basic terms, this means you are into tying up and spanking. You may be the one interested in doing the tying (Dom), or the one interested in being bound (sub). To further muddy the waters, are pesky switches. Myself included. Switches enjoy being a Dom and sub. They may switch in one relationship, or have two or more relationships. This allows them to be the Dom in one relationship, and the sub in the other. 

Bondage often occurs during scenes. As with all aspects of BDSM, there are different subsets. Shibari is practiced for its aesthetic beauty and the intimacy between the two participants. Suspension bondage literally suspends the sub off the ground.

The desire to restrain the sub can also be the purpose of bondage. This ranges from standard handcuffs or rope ties to predicament bondage. In these cases, bondage is usually seen as a means to an end, instead of the goal itself as with shibari. 

Discipline can be physical or mental. This is a part of a D/s relationship. The Dom will train the sub to follow certain rules and behave in certain ways. When these rules are broken, the sub must be disciplined. Discipline is often used as part of the teaching process. Discipline can also occur in forms like maintenance spankings. These occur either on a set basis or when one party needs it, and not as a punishment. 

Sadomasochism

Sadists enjoy inflicting pain on someone. Masochists enjoy receiving pain. Generally, there is some sexual pleasure derived from the pain. This is likely the most misunderstood aspect of BDSM. Light sadomasochism can be defined as spanking or light impact play. Hardcore sadomasochism often involves what's termed edgeplay. These practices are considered too risky to fall under the basic tenant of Safe, Sane, and Consensual. 

What separates sadomasochism (or any BDSM practice) from abuse is consent and intent. The sub consents to the relationship and sets the boundaries for the scene or relationship. The Dom's intent is never to truly hurt the sub. It's a paradox. Intentionally inflicting pain is often a part of this lifestyle, but inflicting harm should never be the intent. 

One of my favorite quotes is "BDSM is not about control. It is about relationships". BDSM practices can expand your horizons. Allow you to explore parts of yourself you never dreamed possible. It adds an additional dimension to a relationship inside the bedroom and out. It can bring about a level of commitment and trust that goes beyond your wildest dreams. 

September 01, 2020 by Oleksandr Yefremov

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