With the arrival of the new ’50 Shades Darker’ movie trailer and the controversy it will spark it seems like a good time to discuss the complex world of BDSM. The simple abbreviation stands for three sets of fetishes: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism. Each of these groups are different, but share some similarities and if you find yourself a member of one group it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be a member of all three. The world of BDSM is vast and can be dangerous to those who do not know what they are doing, thus before you do anything make sure to consult a class or someone within the community for the proper way of doing things. Beyond that just forget everything a poorly written book series has taught you and behold the glory that is one of the most common kinks for consenting adults.
CONTRACTS AND SCENES
One of the terms brought up by the book ’50 Shades of Grey’ was the contract. In the book this was taken literally as a document that is signed by both parties to agree upon BDSM acts. In reality a contract is a verbal agreement of consent and discussion of desires that partners have prior to engaging in a ‘scene’. It is very important that a couple has this discussion prior to doing anything remotely in the BDSM fields because it will allows both parties to know what the other is fine with trying. The contract can also discuss different ‘scenes’ and limits that the partners desire.
The ‘scene’ is a general term for where and how you play your BDSM experience. This can be as elaborate as a pre-designed scenario or it can be something as simple as ‘in the bedroom on Fridays’. Since sex is not always a part of BDSM behavior the scene can expand beyond basic fantasy and move to things like playing as a maid/butler for your partner for the day, giving your partner tasks to complete in a given amount of time while using a butt plug, or even finding secret ways of playing with your partner in public. However, public acts are generally illegal and are not recommended as a means of foiling personal desires. Above all else, the scene should be safe because the goal of BDSM is for both parties to receive pleasure even when experiencing pain.
Finally, the contract should also be a discussion of hard and soft limits. This was one of the few things the book/movie got right. Some positions/toys/scenarios might not be acceptable to a partner while other things might have some appeal. A hard limit is something that a person cannot accept. This could be a position like reverse cowgirl or something complex like not wanting to use anything messy while in the house, but at a hotel might be fine. Soft limits on the other hand are things one might try if comfortable enough. Over time hard limits may become soft limits if the partners have grown close enough. However, never let anyone pressure you to give up your hard limits, only change them when you feel it is time. Also, if someone accidentally hits a hard limit during a scene, make sure to let your partner know, a good partner will stop and adjust the scene in order to make you feel better.
BONDAGE AND DISCIPLINE
This is a group made up of those who like to be tied up and ‘punished’ and those who like to take control with restraints and force. While this group may use straps, paddles, and insults it is not as brutal as the whips, rods, and humiliation of a sadomasochistic relationship. This type of give and take relationship can be used in role play scenes, spread throughout the day as little ‘surprises’, or even as foreplay into full sex. The grouping has the most diversity of options since everything from a playful spank while your partner does the chores to tying your partner up before sex can be part of this style of play.
The B&D style tends to be built upon trust as bondage forces someone to give up control and trust that his or her partner will do things right. If both partners want to try this type of play then they should be secure enough to trust that both parties will have an enjoyable experience. In addition, a safety word is a must because if restraints get too tight or things get too rough having a means of stopping to adjust will save both partners some pain. The safty word should be discussed prior to the scene and should be a word that is easy to remember, but not a normal word that could come out during a scene.
While it may not be for everyone bondage and discipline can be fun for those who are comfortable and trust their partner enough to ensure that both parties will have an enjoyable experience. Of all types of play this might be the most vanilla as many people have done simple B&D in the bedroom just for fun. However, like all forms of BDSM you should discuss this with your partner first and know the hard and soft limits of both parties.
DOMINANCE AND SUBMISSION
This is a style of play that focuses on one party having control while the other partner is willing to give up control. The dominant side of this paradigm can be as rough or as gentle as both partners agree, but usually this type of play is more verbal based rather than action based. However, it is not uncommon for this type of play to slide into the B&D or S&M sides of the BDSM experience. The submissive allows him or herself to be controlled in just about any aspect of life that is deemed acceptable by both parties. This can be a simple as ‘do this chore’ to ‘wear no underwear today’ to ‘act like a specific stereotype’ to just about anything that puts one person in the relationship to a position of less power.
Dominance and Submission does lend its style over to role play easier than others as long as the play is built around master and servant. Maid, butler, teacher, cop, waitress, or any other job that work as a power dynamic can be used in a D&S role play. Beyond that, the submissive can also have a day where he or she makes his or her partner feel like the King or Queen of the house. Just being at the beck and call of someone can be considered a form of play that will lead to sexual acts later in the day or night. This can also be done in public since it is less sexual than other forms of BDSM. However, do not be offended if people take offense to how you treat your submissive partner.
The D&S style is built upon respect as the submissive must be respectful of the dominant, but also the dominant must respect the submissive who is trying hard to please his/her master. This type of play is much more psychological and might not be something that many people are comfortable with especially due to the difficult act of relinquishing power and the use of verbal control. Like all other forms of BDSM setting limits and safty words is a really good idea to ensure that both partners have a good experience.
SADISM AND MASOCHISM
The most famous part of BDSM is Sadism and Masochism or Sadomasochism for short. It is the side of BDSM that is solely built around pleasure from pain. This can be considered the ‘advanced class’ as it is not something that anyone can just jump right into without some kind of training. This type of play can use whips, rods, electricity, bindings, hot wax, and many other ‘toys’ that would make the average person feel a little uncomfortable. Like the other two groups this type of play requires a discussion of what is acceptable as this type of play can get very rough both physically and psychologically. While B&D and D&S can tap into humiliation S&M can take it to extremes that not everyone can handle.
As S&M play can take cues from the other types of play the use of role playing is easy to do, but is not necessary for the scene. The most important part of this type of play is safety and to make sure that all the tools and toys are clean and used properly. The use of costumes or leather gear is not uncommon and can enhance the experience as it can make the scene more intense for both parties. It should also be noted that a safety word is a must as intense play can get out of hand and there should always be a way out if things go too far.
While S&M might be the thing that people think about most when it comes to BDSM it is also probably practiced the least since it does require a little training or access to a ‘dungeon’ which is also rather difficult to find in some regions. That being said, this type of play can be very stress relieving and more often than not doesn’t end with sex. Often it ends with the masochist recovering and taking care of any damage they may have received during the scene. It cannot be stated enough that this should be done ONLY after consulting a professional.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
The one thing that almost never shows up in media that features BDSM is the importance of after care. This is when both partners reconnect after a scene. This can include gentle sex, cuddling, a shared shower, or any number of actions that help the person on the weaker side of the power dynamic feel better after the scene. During this time the two partners can also discuss how they felt about the scene or what they would like to try next time. This reconnection should happen no matter what type of play is done and whether or not you had sex this should still be a key part of a healthy BDSM relationship.
The other point to keep in mind is that you should never stop learning about BDSM methodology and safety. There are classes, books, and instructional tapes that can help with this process. Do not rely on internet sources or works of fiction for your information as many times they will be inaccurate. Even if you are experienced in BDSM it still pays to learn more and find out what options are out there. As the main goal of BDSM is pleasure it is important to know all the ways of offering that pleasure and how to do it in a way that both partners can enjoy.
At its core BDSM is about pleasure and when a scene is complete both partners should feel a sense of euphoria. Do not approach these acts with malice, but with love because the pain you give should come from the heart and not the head. Be safe and be properly educated before trying anything with your partner. It may sound redundant, but if you don’t know what you are doing you could seriously injure yourself or someone you care about. Be safe and have fun after all the difference between pleasure and pain is all in the mind.