BDSM Is Not So Grey

As a sexologist, I have been teaching about bondage, dominance, sadism, submission and masochism since the beginning of my career. To be clear we are talking about binding someone or being bound, dominating someone either psychologically or physically, submitting to someone fully, and the receiving of or giving of pain.

imagesWith the release of Fifty Shades of Grey and other interest in the media, more people are now taking notice of an old school form of psychological and bodily pleasure. But neither the activities themselves, and the discussions that go into planning them are grey! And it widely accepted now that more and more every day people bring some of this into their own bedrooms (or the bedrooms of others!).

But there still exists many assumptions and misunderstandings about kink (an umbrella term for all the above). So here are 10 things you may not have known:

10) BDSM does not mean you have to be into it all. At its basic level, kink is about exploration of fantasy and the senses. It can be psychological or physical. But it means outside of the ordinary or typical experience. But just because you like one kind of play, does mean you have to like them all. Most people only engage in a handful of activities that feel good to them.

9) Not all people wear leather. The media coverage would have us believe that everyone is adorned in either leather or latex. And while many scenes may involve this style of dress, it is not compulsory! Leather and latex are often prime choices as they heighten the senses due to their smell (olfactory), and stretchiness against the skin (tactility), and sheen (visual). But it is not for everyone. And you certainly don’t need to wear leather to experience new sensations.

8) Most people already do it.  Since BDSM really stands for activities that stretch the mind and body, many people are already engaging but may not identify it the same way. Gentle hair pulling, pinching, scratching, biting, tying someone up or being tied up, using handcuffs, using food, playing with temperatures (like ice cubes), and role playing are all a part of the gamut. BDSM is a matter of degrees.

7) BDSM is not always about sex. Most people have learned that heightening sensations is always about sex. While it can be very arousing and many people do engage in play below the belt after arousal, sometimes kink is just about kink. And many people engage in different kinds of play for play itself. It does not always have to lead to sex, or an orgasm. Sometimes a psychological release can be just as good.

6) Many people have play partners. On the same lines as above, BDSM does not always lead to sex. And in fact the exchange of any fifty-shades-300bodily fluids (from either the mouth or genitals) needs to be explicitly negotiated before hand. For some people, a kink partner and a sex partner are one in the same. For others they are separate. And so unless a kink partner is also a life partner and sex partner, this assumption can not be made.

5) The dollar store is your best friend. Many people invest heavily into beautiful (albeit expensive) floggers and paddles made from all sorts of materials that bring different sensations to the body. But since BDSM is really about the senses, if you are on a budget, then take a trip to the dollar store. There are hundreds of items that you can include in your toy chest that won’t cost you very much: sponges, sos pads, feather boas, dusters, cutlery, other kitchen tools ect… Think of anything that might feel different against the skin. While a nice flogger may be a treat for some, you can also have a night of new sensations for under $10!

4) The largest organ of arousal is the brain. This is why “dirty talk” is so arousing to couples. Just the thought of doing something out of the ordinary is often enough to get the juices flowing! And research shows that the more education and life experiences a person has, the more open they are to new sexual practice!

3) Preparing the body is essential. If you will engage in more advanced techniques of bodily pleasure, like whipping and paddling, it is essential to prepare the body first. The body processes “pain” differently when it is relaxed and turned on than when it is not. Give the body a nice massage before beginning.

2) Not all pain is equal. We usually associate pain with something negative. And that is because pain is typically unexpected or unwelcome (think of getting your finger slammed in a car door!). But when pain is negotiated in advance, is expected, is controlled, and the body is warmed up, then it often can be experienced as pleasurable. The keys here are that it is wanted, and the person on the receiving end (the sub) is in control of how much, how fast, how hard, and when it stops.

1) All play must have a safe word. Whether you are doing light touches, deeper sensations, or role playing, there must always be a word that either party can use that stops the scene immediately. This must be negotiated in advance. While everything in BDS is negotiable, a safe word, and respecting it, is not.

1c5fa75d381be45486815de5faff63a8Note: try to find a word that is outside of the traditional “no”, that only the two people understand. And if verbal cues are not possible because of a restriction to the mouth, then find a physical cue or hand gesture that will be understood.

We all have limits. Everyone has what are called hard and soft limits. Hard limits are things you would never try. They either are too repulsive, too scary, too triggering or not physically possible. They should not be up for discussion. But people also have soft limits. These are the things that people may consider trying, under the right circumstances, with the right person.

And the number one misconception about BDSM is that it is about violence. What is seen from the outside is often very far from the truth for the people involved.

In violence, the person receiving has no control over any of it. In BDSM they do. In violence it is about hurting someone. In BDSM it is about pleasuring someone. And violence makes people afraid of one another. BDSM, done right, brings people closer together.

I have always marveled at how people who engage in kink have well defined abilities to discuss consent, way greater than the average person. Most people just jump in to sexual situations without discussing their wants, desires, and boundaries and limitations first. BDSM play takes a lot of thought. It takes a lot of talk. It demands negotiating and it requires control. When it comes to this kind of play, and requesting and giving consent……there is no grey on the issue.

Kink play can bring couples to a whole new level of interest and commitment together. Have fun playing safely, sanely, and consensually!

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