I must start this blog by giving a huge shout out to David Ortmann and Dr. Richard Sprott. Their book “Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities” is one of the best I have read and really conveys the importance of knowledge when working with people who want to engage in safe and effective BDSM relationships. You can check out their book on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Sexual-Outsiders-Understanding-Sexualities-Communities/dp/1442217367/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493306645&sr=8-1&keywords=sexual+outsiders). Another little disclaimer: I am avidly against 50 Shades of Grey. It does not accurately represent a BDSM relationship or BDSM sexual practices given the lack of consent, harm-based manipulation, and inaccurate utilization of BDSM tools. While this blog is not about my disdain for 50 Shades, I’ll let a real Dominatrix explain that a bit more in one of my favorite Try Guys videos:
What is BDSM? BDSM is an acronym for different types of sexual and power dynamics in some relationships. It includes Bondage and Discipline (B/D), Dominance and submission (D/s), and Sadism and Masochism (S/M). Each of these specific areas have intricacies and complexities which are going beyond the simple intro of today, but as Ortmann and Sprott put it, BDSM “describes forms of sexuality that incorporate restraint, pressure, sensation, training, and elements of both erotic and nonerotic power exchange between the parties engaged.” Now, on to what BDSM is NOT! BDSM is not rape, it is not domestic c violence, it is not a mental illness, it is not harmful. There is a lot of stigma associated with the use of alternative practices in relationships particularly the use of pain, toys, power dynamics, and fantasies that go against the norm. A huge reason for this is a lack of correct information about the ins and outs of BDSM. Today is merely a toe in the waters of BDSM and designed for those who want to learn more about these practices, but it is not a how-to-guide for entering into the world of BDSM. Well then, let’s dive in!
1. Consent is key! In BDSM relationships, there is clear consent about what is going to happen as well as boundaries set in place if someone feels unwilling to proceed. This is where some people mix up BDSM and sexual assault. In sexual assault, there is not consent. In BDSM, there is ALWAYS consent. Even though both situations may look similar on the surface in regards to power dynamics or even physical pain, they differ in most regards, but especially in regards to consent.
2. It’s ultimately about pleasure. In some BDSM dynamics, physical pain or discomfort is part of the excitement which leads to high levels of arousal. Pleasure and pain combinations are found in both BDSM and non-BDSM sexual relationships given the eroticism level of that combination. For example, biting someone’s lip during sex is not exclusively part of the BDSM world, but it does classify as a pain/pleasure dynamic. Spanking during a sexual encounter does not necessarily mean you’re engaging in BDSM dynamics, it just might mean that you feel increased arousal when your buttocks feel a temporary sting. BDSM practices can be incorporated into sexual relationships without making it a dominant aspect of your relationship. But it is also important to know that everyone loves differently, everyone screws differently, everyone feels differently; as long as there is consent and everyone is of consenting age, anything really goes.
3. Start slow and with purpose. When learning about BDSM initially, it can feel quite overwhelming. Not just when facing the stigma related to your sexual interests, but also when just delving into the ins and outs. Communication with partners is going to be key, which for many is a bit scary; it’s very vulnerable to share your fantasies with someone especially if you’re still figuring them out yourself. Start by first answering this question: what turns you on? For some, this question is difficult to answer, which is why I ask the second question of what does NOT turn you on? Exploring sexual relationships and eroticism is intimidating because we worry we’re “weird” or “strange” or a “freak.” Sex is a natural part of life, yet so many feel ashamed of it. Your body is amazing, it has the potential for so much pleasure and maybe for you, pain helps tap into that pleasure.
4. Power plays in the bedroom are different than power plays in the boardroom. A criticism I have heard from some regarding BDSM and women is that it is “anti-feminist.” Here is a little secret, BDSM is entirely feminist! It sets the stage for consensual, pleasurable, communicative, and loving relationships, which is very in line with the idea of feminism; for those who don’t understand feminism, it means males and females are equal in all their rights. We talked about consent earlier and having a voice, which is exactly what makes BDSM relationships so exciting for many people; it allows for equal say in how you interact, what happens to you, and what it means to you. Power dynamics are complex, but a simple example I have comes from an old story I heard long ago about a CEO and a Dominatrix. People were so confused why such a strong man who dominated in the boardroom wanted to be dominated in the bedroom. The simple answer was he wanted a break from control. Power dynamics highlight our own complexities, we aren’t one note and our sexual needs go beyond who we are in different areas of our lives.
5. Sex changes over time. As you learn more about your body, your interests and fantasies, and if partners change, sex is going to change as well. Humans are designed to evolve and sexual relationships do as well. If you were not into BDSM-type activities 5 years ago that doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot be into them now. Time changes every one of us, experiences change every one of us, it makes sense that those experiences would help shape who we are as sexual beings as well. This is where the education comes in. Read about sex, read about power dynamics, go visit your local Love Store or Lover’s Lane and start looking at different toys, games, and lubes, watch Dr. Ruth (she’s a hoot, it’s fantastic), listen to love and sex podcasts, visit FetLife. We live in the era of Google and there is so much out there in the world, the odds are that you are not alone in your kinks.
If you would like to learn more about BDSM, sex therapy, or just have genera questions about sexual functioning, please do not hesitate to call me at 702-587-1573 or email at email@example.com