Exploring BDSM

Exploring BDSM - What Is BDSM Exactly?

Ask anyone in the BDSM scene what BDSM is and they’ll tell you it’s a lifestyle. They’ll tell you it’s a way of satisfying those desires that live in the darkest recesses of your brain. It’s sexual gratification, it’s stress relief, it’s therapeutic role play, it’s exploring parts of your personality you didn’t know existed. They'll tell you that they love BDSM sex and they'll never go back to being vanilla again.

To begin with; BDSM is an acronym for… something. People dispute what it stands for but there are two schools of consideration:

Bondage, Domination & Sado-Masochism.

Or the more complex contraction of the following three groups:

Bondage & Discipline; Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Maschosim.

Whichever one might be your preference, they encompass the same things. BDSM’s synonymy with sex is clear, however BDSM is not simply a means to an end for sexual fulfilment. In fact, many practicing BDSMers will insist that there is no sexual gratification being achieved during sessions, and is more to do with the balance of power than sex.

The archetypal BDSM scene involves two willing partners engaging in specific roles; the submissive and the dominant.

Firstly, the submissive, or ‘sub’. This is the partner who is on the receiving end of the discipline. While a submissive person is often considered to be ‘weak’ by societal norms, this is a common misconception needs to be addressed. Just because someone is submissive, does not mean they should be placed below anyone else regarding their social status. A submissive is simply a person who enjoys giving up control, not someone who has no control by default.

Submissives enjoy the act of receiving discipline for many reasons. According to Fruedian Theory, all fetishes are believed to be rooted in childhood incidents which are locked away in our subconscious, so accessing them is nigh-on impossible. A common reason for people to enjoy relinquishing power is to enjoy the freedom it allows. Many submissives have to be dominant in their personal or professional lives, perhaps they are parents who often need to assert discipline to their children or maybe even to their employees. BDSM acts an outlet for them being able to let go of these responsibilities and simply taste something unlike their day-to-day activities.

The types of punishment subs will receive will of course vary depending on personal preferences and pain thresholds. While common play involves being restrained, being physically degraded by use of canes, whips or other flogging objects, or being made to perform humiliating acts such as cleaning a dominant’s feet with their mouth, there is more extreme play for those who desire it.

While I personally take the role as a dominant during BDSM play, I have occasionally sampled submission out of sheer curiosity. It was as exhilarating as I imagined; the feeling of powerlessness. It was an emotion I had rarely experienced, and it felt good to be able to bask in this alien sensation knowing that my trust was safely guarded by my partner. No one would know that I had been subject to such physical humiliation; the act would live and die in our playroom, therefore I was able to simply let go.

Physical acts aside, I also have a penchant for mental submission. My personal life involves heavy intellectual stimulation, there isn’t a second which goes by that I’m not concocting some complex, mental scenario in my brain. In order to remedy this, I enjoy the mental equivalent of being caned. I enjoy it when my partner tells me she’s done things she shouldn’t. Perhaps she flirted with someone at a bar. Maybe she sent a risqué text message to her ex-boyfriend. I know that everything she tells me if simply fantasy (well, I hope), but the moment I feel that there are things out there in the world that I don’t have control over is therapeutic for my mental state. It cleanses all of the serious, complex nonsense running through my head and invigorates my lust for both my partner and my life.

Secondly; the dominant, or ‘dom’. This is the master. The person entrusted with carrying out the discipline, and more importantly, the person entrusted not to overstep any boundaries.

In stark contrast to submissives, the dominant enjoys taking complete physical and psychological control of another person. As a sexual component, the dominant derives pleasure vicariously through the suffering of the submissive.

Although these terms, while fitting the criteria, should be used loosely. While ‘suffering’ is technically correct, neither party is truly suffering throughout the experience. The dominant is simply adhering to the request of the submissive. The dominant should never take matters into their own hands; they should only act out what has been discussed between both parties beforehand. Safety is by far the most important aspect of BDSM play; without it, most kinksters wouldn’t feel comfortable enough to indulge.

This is where the perception of BDSM culture in the mainstream world becomes hazy. Many people simply see the bizarre leather outfits, the implements of pain and the glowing red ass-cheeks and think that BDSM is simply twisted games for twisted folks. People have the idea that people who participate in BDSM are sexual devients who propably take part in bi-weekly sado-masochistic orgies. Indeed, I understand it may be difficult for people not familiar with BDSM culture to understand how and why these acts come to be linked closely with sexual fulfilment, but that is of course, not clear on the surface.

Psychological factors which go into BDSM play are still not fully understood, even by people who practice them. The role playing aspect of power play is a crucial factor, but many people do not understand how these emotions become linked with sexual desire. It is theorised to be a consequence of childhood trauma, and in turn we are all re-living these experiences over and over again.

For example, the submissive may be eager to take their punishment as a subconscious way of earning the approval of the parents who beat them. Similarly, it could be that the safety offered by a dominant master offers them a sense of protection which perhaps was unattainable when they were a child. In turn, a dominant personality may feel compelled to act out these fantasies as a way of becoming the parent who handed out punishments. It could serve as a coping mechanism or a way of coming to terms with childhood incidents which affected them.

Whatever people’s reasons for BDSM play, it has become one of the biggest subcultures in the world. It offers a sense of community and a sense of personal exploration. It offers a release unlike anywhere else in life. As I said; if you ask me what BDSM is, I’d tell you it’s a lifestyle.