BDSM 101: A Beginner’s Guide

brothels-blog-BDSM-Beginners-Guide

In the Australian Society of today, BDSM could be described as a relatively little known and sometimes misunderstood practice. For this reason, we will attempt to shed some light on the real, underlying meanings and the many complex structures within the greater art form of modern day BDSM.

Fundamentals of BDSM

Firstly, let us break down the components of the name. The BD stands for Bondage & Disciplne, the DS Domination & Submission, the SM Sadism & Masochism. As a whole, BDSM is a variety of primarily erotic practices or role-playing mainly involving combinations of such acts of bondage, discipline, dominance & submission, sadomasochism, and other interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practicing ‘purist’ BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience.

The BDSM Culture

BDSM communities across the globe are known to be welcoming to anyone with a nonconformist or alternative streak plus who identifies with the wider community; this can include cross-dressers, body modification enthusiasts, rubber fetishists, and others. Activities and relationships within a D/s or M/s context are often characterized by the participants taking on complementary but unequal roles where the idea of informed consent of both the partners becomes essential. The terms “submissive” and “dominant” are often used to distinguish these roles- the dominant partner (“The dom”) takes psychological control over the submissive (“The sub”). The terms “top” and “bottom” are also used: the top is the instigator of an action while the bottom is the receiver of the action. The two sets of terms are subtly different: for example, someone may choose to act as bottom to another person, for example, by being whipped, purely recreationally, without any implication of being psychologically dominated by them. The key to deriving enjoyment from the system initially may lie in experimentation to ascertain the role that suits your own personality structures etc.

bdsm culture

Individuals who can change between top/dominant and bottom/submissive roles, whether from relationship to relationship or within a given relationship, are known as switches. The precise definition of roles and self-identification is a common subject of debate within the community. BDSM is also a form of umbrella term and there are many distinct subcultures under this term. Thus, the interaction between tops and bottoms, where physical or mental control of the bottom is surrendered to the top, is sometimes known as “power exchange”, whether in the context of an encounter or a relationship.

BDSM actions are known for being scheduled in secret and continuously changing locations and can often take place during a specific period of time agreed to by both parties referred to as “play”, a “scene”, or a “session”. Participants usually derive pleasure from this, even though many of the practices such as inflicting pain or humiliation or being restrained would be reasonably unpleasant under other circumstances. Explicit sexual activity, such as sexual penetration, may occur within a session, but is not mandatory for every meeting and in some cases could be against the rules altogether of that particular ‘scene’.

The fundamental principles for the exercise of BDSM require that it should be performed with the informed consent of all involved parties. Since the 1980s, many practitioners and organizations have adopted the motto “safe, sane and consensual”, commonly abbreviated as “SSC”, which means that everything is based on safe activities, that all participants be of sufficiently sound/sane mind to consent, and that all participants do consent. Significantly it is exactly this form of mutual consent that makes a clear legal and ethical distinction between BDSM and such crimes as sexual assault or domestic violence.

In general, BDSM play is most often structured in a way that it is possible for the consenting partner to withdraw his or her consent during a scene, eg: by using a safe-word agreed on in advance. Use of the agreed safe-word or safe symbol such as dropping a ball or ringing a bell, especially when speech is restricted is seen by some as an explicit withdrawal of consent. Failure to honor a safe-word is considered serious misconduct and could even change the sexual consent situation into a crime, depending on the relevant law.

Bondage and Discipline

bondage

Unsurprisingly, specific individual tastes and preferences in the area of sexuality may overlap among these areas. Bondage and discipline are two aspects of BDSM that do not seem to relate to each other because of the type of activities involved, but they have conceptual similarities, and that is why they appear jointly. Contrary to the other two types, B&D does not define the tops and bottoms itself, and is used to describe the general activities with either partner being the receiver and the giver. The term bondage describes the practice of physical restraint. Bondage is usually, but not always, a sexual practice. By definition, bondage means binding the partner by tying their appendages together; for example, by the use of handcuffs or ropes, or by lashing their arms to an object. Bondage can also be achieved by spreading the appendages and fastening them with chains or ropes to a St. Andrew’s cross or spreader bars. The term discipline describes psychological restraining, with the use of rules and punishment to control overt behavior. Punishment can be pain caused physically (such as caning), humiliation caused psychologically (such as a public flagellation) or loss of freedom caused physically (for example, chaining the submissive partner to the foot of a bed). Another aspect is the structured training of the bottom.

Dominance and Submission

Dominance and submission is a set of behaviors, customs and rituals relating to the giving and accepting of control of one individual over another in an erotic or lifestyle context. It explores the more mental aspect of BDSM. This is also the case in many relationships not considering themselves as sadomasochistic; it is considered to be a part of BDSM if it is practiced purposefully. The range of its individual characteristics is thereby wide. In some contrast to conventional relationships, BDSM participants go to great lengths to negotiate the important aspects of their relationships in advance, and to take great care in learning about and following safe practices.

Sadism and Masochism

Historically, Sadomasochism refers to the aspects of BDSM surrounding the exchange of physical or emotional pain. Sadism describes sexual pleasure derived by inflicting pain, degradation, humiliation on another person or causing another person to suffer. On the other hand, the masochist enjoys being hurt, humiliated, or suffering within the consensual scenario. It should be noted that sadomasochism does not imply enjoyment through causing or receiving pain in other situations (for example, accidental injury or medical procedures).

Misconceptions of BDSM

On a physical level, BDSM is commonly misconceived to be “all about pain”. Most often, though, BDSM practitioners are primarily concerned with power, humiliation, and pleasure. Of the 3 x categories of BDSM, only sadomasochism specifically requires pain, but this is typically a means to an end, as a vehicle for feelings of humiliation, dominance, etc. The aspects of D/S and B/D may not include physical suffering at all, but include the sensations inherited by different emotions of the mind. Dominance & submission of power is an entirely different experience, and is not always psychologically associated with physical pain. During the activities, the practitioners may even experience the flow of natural endorphins comparable to the so-called “runner’s high” or to the afterglow of orgasm. This trance-like mental state is also known as “subspace” for the submissive, or “topspace” for the dominant. Some use the term “body stress” to describe this physiological sensation.

Types of BDSM Play

Different types of play that BDSM participants may engage in range from Bondage, Cock and ball torture (CBT), Control, Erotic electrostimulation, Edgeplay, Flogging, Golden showers (urinating), Medical play, Paraphilic infantilism and Predicament bondage to Sexual roleplay, Spanking, Wax play, Suspension and Tickle torture. Aside from the general advice related to safe sex, BDSM sessions often require a wider array of safety precautions than vanilla sex (sexual behaviour without BDSM elements). In theory, to ensure consent related to BDSM activity, pre-play negotiations are commonplace, especially among partners who do not know each other very well. In practice, pick-up scenes at clubs or parties may sometimes be low in negotiation (much as pick-up sex from singles bars may not involve much negotiation or disclosure). These negotiations concern the interests and fantasies of each partner and establish a framework of both acceptable and unacceptable activities. Additionally, safe-words are often arranged to provide for an immediate stop of any activity if any participant should so desire.

BDSM types of play

Standard social etiquette rules still apply when at a BDSM event, such as not intimately touching someone you do not know, not touching someone else’s belongings (including toys), and abiding by dress codes. Many events open to the public also have rules addressing alcohol consumption, recreational drugs, cell phones, and photography. BDSM is practiced in all social strata and is common in both heterosexual and homosexual men and women in varied occurrences and intensities. Not much empirical research has been done on gender differences or prevalence rates of categorized roles within BDSM. A recent Australian demographic study found higher rates of female participants than males though this should not be generalized other than to say that BDSM categorically opens its doors to all who share a genuine interest in the process as a lifestyle construct and as an ultimate form of expression.