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BDSM

BDSM, in the broadest possible sense of the definition, is a variety of practices, not necessarily erotic or sexual in nature, involving bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadomasochism, and other interpersonal relationship dynamics. Involvement within its community of practitioners can often be a matter of simple self-identification and shared experience with other members, and is welcoming of anyone with a non-normative streak of some sorts; these can include people such as animal roleplayers, body modification enthusiasts, cross-dressers, rubber fetishists, and more.

 

The acronym that we use to describe this kink today can be traced back to the year 1991, however the actual practice of BDSM and its myriad activities stretch as far back as the earliest civilizations in history, from ancient cuneiform tablets dedicated to the goddess Ishtar to ritual flagellations by the pre-Olympic cult of Orthia to certain texts on impact play found in the ever-popular Kama Sutra. From the days of antiquity to modern times, interest in BDSM and its many different expressions have always remained a fixture of the human sexual experience, and its perception as taboo gives it a form of power that no other kind of bedroom play can offer. 

 

When broken down into its individual components, BDSM ultimately stands for three separate aspects: “bondage/discipline”, “dominance/submission”, and “sadism/masochism”. Each of these categories can be considered its own distinctive form of fetish play, and there are several practitioners that refrain from overlapping their experiences into other forms of BDSM, just as there are plenty of people that like to engage in cross-play or incorporate all of these aspects into a singular, complete lifestyle. 

 

Bondage and discipline refer to the dynamics between restriction versus punishment. Bondage extends well beyond the use of straps, ropes and handcuffs and can also incorporate more abstract or practical forms of restraint, such as limiting a submissive’s interactions with other dominants or conferring certain chores to them as per their own established hierarchical needs. On the opposite side of the coin, punishment refers to disciplinary measures taken against the submissive or bottom in the event an established rule or boundary is broken, and may or may not include the addition of painful exercises; examples include light flogging, spanking, or having body-safe wax dripped over the skin.

Dominance and submission refer to the dynamics between control and compliance. Those in charge of establishing the flow of a scene or the relationship is referred to as the “dominant”, whereas the one that obeys is referred to as the “submissive”. The terms “top” and “bottom” are occasionally used, albeit they are erroneous in this application, as a submissive individual could be required to top their dominant, for example. The primary element of this part of BDSM involves the exchange of power and how this affects each participant in kind; dominants take command and guide the pace of events while the submissive does their best to engage and perform as expected of them. Dominance and submission can even extend beyond the bedroom, and may incorporate elements of daily living, like assignment of household duties or certain financial obligations. Ultimately, how this plays out is dependent on the individual and their respective partner’s perceptions of and approach to the dynamic between themselves.

 

Sadism and masochism refer to the dynamics between giving pain and receiving pain. A sadist is a person that enjoys or finds a measure of gratification in the act of inflicting pain upon their partner, whereas a masochist is a person that achieves this same sense of satisfaction through the act of receiving pain from or having it inflicted upon them by their partner. Similarly, a sadomasochist is somebody that enjoys and receives gratification from inflicting and receiving pain. Likewise, there are also many different forms of sadism and masochism that go beyond the realm of purely physical pain, and may or may not incorporate emotional and/or mental forms of pain.

 

It is important to mention again that BDSM and its various aspects do not have to be inherently sexual by nature, as there are plenty of practitioners who do engage in these activities outside of this context. Furthermore, the different elements of BDSM can be enjoyed separately or interconnectedly, and are not exclusive or bound to one another for them to be considered valid expressions of BDSM.

 

What defines BDSM as healthy, safe, and sane is the mutual practice and respect of consent; without it, these activities cannot be considered so in good conscience. Always be open to having a conversation with your partner/s about what you can or cannot tolerate during bedroom play. 

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