An Introduction To BDSM

BDSM is an overarching term used to describe a myriad of sexual practices outside ‘vanilla’ sex. BDSM stands for Bondage  Domination/Discipline Sadism Masochism, to some the DS in the middle stands for Dominant and Submissive/Domination and Submission. Like the term LBTIQ or with most acronyms it can mean multiple things to different people; from those involved in a BDSM relationship to those looking from the outside in. The is a multi-part series designed to give one an introduction to BDSM and its various components.

It is not intended as a guide to convert, no matter how hard i preach about the benefits of it, or the versatility of BDSM play there are always going to be some people that are simply not interested. That’s okay, it’s also okay to not be interested in every form of play that we look at over the coming weeks, but i have learnt not to yuck someone else’s yum. What I was into many years ago is not that I’m sexually interested in now and that shift has resulted and/or come about from forms of growth, an open mind and working in the spaces that i do. I will note that i identify as a switch; an individual that switches from both a submissive to a dominant role and sub-space dependent on mood and with whom my play mate is. So forgive me if i switch between the sub sets – but hopefully it will serve as a benefit to you dependent on your own roles.   I’m also not just going to talk about the things that i enjoy – that would be limiting, but I’m going to explore as much of the world as a i can, despite the knowledge that exploring all of it is an impossible task. However, here is the broad overview of what will be covered in the following weeks, subject to change as like a scene it ebbs and flows.

 

Part Two: Restraints

  • Bondage and Restraints: Case Study HC Cuffs
  • Spreader Bar/Humbler: Case Study HC Humbler
  • Gags, Gas Masks and Breathing Play/Watersports
  • Rope Play/Shibari
  • Mummification

Part Three: Impact Play

  • Masochism Definition
  • Spanking/Paddling: Case Study HC Paddles
  • Flogging Caning
  • Whips: Case Study HC Whips
  • Sensation Play

Part Four: Chastity and the Refusal of Sexual Gratification

  • Chastity Devices: Case Study HC Chastity Devices, Humbler
  • Edging

Part Five: Forms of Torture and the Re-Rise of Medieval Thoughts

  • CBT: Case Study HC Steel
  • Tit Play

Part Six: All about that buzz!

  • Electro Play: Case study Elactrastim

Part Seven:  Hanging high

  • Fisting and stretching: Case Study Speculums
  • Nipple, Clit, Ball Weights

Part Eight: Sub-spaces and Character Roles

  • Erotic Humiliation
  • Baby and Diaper Play/Infantilism
  • Brat Play
  • Pony/Pup Play
  • Exhibitions/Parties
  • Fantasy Rape/kidnapping and Other Scenes
  • Medical Scenes

Today’s first part answers the question of ‘Why Bondage?’, and will explore the idea of introducing BDSM into the bedroom, the idea of sub space (which will be dealt with along the way) and creating a safe space. Many people feel that BDSM is about abuse and trauma, the fact is that it couldn’t be further from the truth and indeed i would staunchly argue that BDSM is primarily concerned about the notion of trust, respect and communication.

Despite the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, it angered many people in the community, including myself, for its depiction of an abusive relationship between Christian and Ana where the dynamics of the relationship were unjust and not representative of the majority of negotiated BDSM relationships. I’m not going to write about the all the times where Fifty Shades of Grey glorified and defended an abusive relationship since others have written about it in mama mia. That is not to say that some of the arguments surrounding BDSM were BDSM-Phobic, some of them are, some of them are even worse than the Pro-50 shades comments. What I’m suggesting is that the depiction of the relationship within the book is not an accurate or solid indication of a real relationship.

I appreciate the fact that it struck down the taboo nature of BDSM and in parts attempted to destigmatise BDSM relationships but i find myself constantly saying that i appreciated 50 Shades as an Artwork and not as an Artform. What a lot of people don’t necessarily realize is that the ‘submissive’ is actually the one that controls the power despite ‘feigning’ submission. It is the sub that controls the scene, surrenders to it and has a choice at EVERY moment to continue surrendering to it, or with a designated safe word or signal has the power to end it. It is the dominants role to enforce that power, the nurture and care to not only negotiate with the sub but also to determine as to where and when they can push the boundaries as well as to how they’re entitled to push those boundaries within a particular scene (A scene is also referred to as play time, sex etc). We’ll explore the notion of negotiation at a later date, but i felt compelled to dispelling the myth about the ‘powerless sub’ at this point.

So, what do you do when you, or your playmate discover that you’re interested in some form of BDSM? I’ll proceed with this conversation as if you are the one initiating the conversation. Well, firstly you need to determine whether you’re more into BD (Bondage) or SM (Sado Masochism). From there you need to engage in communication to determine the potential for BDSM to be included within your relationship. Do not inundate them with images and details about your innermost fantasies as you want to bring it up slowly and carefully. Chances are also good that as you and your partner begin to explore the world, you’ll develop more interests, or some interests will take priority over others.

Remember that BDSM is about trust, communication, exploration. If you can’t manage the basics of that with your partner, then you need to go deeper into the relationship. BDSM is more than about pain, power and control. It’s also about creating a particular mind space with various tools – which is why it needs to be a safe place with little distractions. This is also why leather, metal and wood feature prominently within all BDSM equipment – they create particular aesthetic moods verse other materials. The analogy i find myself constantly using is that if someone walked into a room wearing a fluro skin tight fabric vs a person walking into a room with leather pants and a jacket with red highlights – the atmosphere instantly changes. This is one of the first parts as to creating a ‘submissive or dominatrix space’ – the aesthetic value of the space where the sexual play is happening. This mind space cannot occur if there are other cracks within the relationship. The mind space is an important aspect of BDSM play, and we will go into that in more depth in a later article.  Now, if your partner has agreed to participate in the form of play you desire, then congratulations! Remember to keep negativity out of negotiations and out of the feedback. When working out a scene, give them options and praise them in ways that are constructive – i particularly liked when you looked at me whilst your were whipping me, when you did that with your hands it drove me wild. Focus on positive reinforcement and you’ll find yourself in a much better position. Consider this, asking your partner to whip you for a period of five minutes immediately creates pressure on your partner. You’ve given specific instructions for them and it leaves them very little room to move. Rather, you could say, I’d love for you to whip me for a while – can be viewed as simply stating your desires.

 

Professional People Hand Shaking
Photo: People Shaking Hands

Part One: The Negotiation

Sex is sex right? Wrong, unlike ‘vanilla’ sex where you just go with the flow when you first start having BDSM Scenes (Sexual play with BDSM elements) you can’t just launch straight into it. Not only can something go drastically wrong and create some trauma, but because there is just so many variables and types of play it’s important to narrow down exactly what you want with your sexual partner. If this sounds like a lot of effort, I’m not going to lie, it can be. More so with new play mates, less so with regular play mates. This is where the notion of communication and trust come in, and it’s extremely beneficial to engage in a negotiation with your playmate before you play. If this sounds like too much work, give it a chance, and read on before you decide that BDSM play is not for you. Scenes carry expectations, and when you’re working with expectations it’s important to note exactly what those expectations are to give the scene the ultimate chance of success. For example, if your playmate is expecting to be dominated – then you need to work out what makes them feel dominated. For some it could be restraints, for others it could be harsh words, for others still it could require you in a faceless mask and giving orders to them with or without sexual favours and/or sexual penetration. A scene can be completely non-sexual, it can be about escapism or creating a certain mind space for an individual and if you think that the scene for the day will involve sex, and they’re not expecting it you can cause a break in their mind space and the relationship can suffer a negative reaction. I’ve compiled a list of things in no particular order that you may need to consider when planning the negotiation of a scene.

This isn’t necessarily always an issue – but especially with switch’s you’ll need to consider who is actually is in charge for the scene. Unless the scene is a power struggle, which whilst an interesting concept should be left to those who are very familiar with each other. Otherwise, just a gentle touching base as to who plays role is a considered a sign of respect, trust and mutual care.

Expectations: This is an important one. The sub may have certain expectations of where the top wants them to take them (or vice-a-versa) this needs to be clearly stipulated before playing. Remember that some BDSM Scenes involve going into sub/dom space and once there if the scene is not going as to how they had initially thought it, not only does it demonstrate a disconnect between the two play mates, but it can negatively disrupt the mental space. For this example, consider waking up mid-dream and being disorientated, groggy and confused. A negative disruption to the mental space of the participant can have a similar effect. Therefore it is important that all expectations from both parties be addressed. When first starting out, it might be wise to write it down on a piece of paper together. The scene is one form of intimacy, the planning of the scene, the coming down from the scene and the discussion of the scene can be some of the most mentally intimate moments two play mates can have.

Limits: Everyone has limits. If you’re not interested in oral sex, then that needs to be set up as a boundary. Your yes’s and no’s to what can and can’t happen during a scene need to be acknowledged, understood and respected. To disrespect one’s limits is a huge breaking of trust. Sure, you can negotiate how to push someone’s limits, but one should never break those limits. There are several pages online as to the BDSM Scene checklist, which would provide you with a clear cut and physical example of negotiating ones yes’s and no’s/limits. If you’re a switch, you will need to fill out two check lists as sometimes one’s sub mentality Vs their top mentality are two very different things.

Play Types: This can also come down to expectations and limits but due to the sheer size of those three components, this needs to be separated. It also comes down to your BDSM compatibility. If you’re a dominatrix specialising in Sado Maschism (Pain and Torture) and your sub is more interested in restraints, then they either needs to be a compromise, or if it comes down to the make or break checklist – a new play mate needs to be found. Don’t force either partner to engage in a scene or type of play that they’re not familiar or comfortable with. Focus on their strengths first and introduce your desirable play type in small doses. This ensures that your desires are being met, but at a pace that’s safe for you both. Particularly for dangerous types of play such as suspension, breathing, mummification, etc it’s important to make sure you take it slow. Play types include medical play, spanking/whipping, sensory deprivation, suspension, humiliation, restraints etc.

Gear: How will you achieve the expectations and play types discussed above? What clothing will be worn, will it be leather? Will you use leather restraints or steel, what kinds of toys can and can’t be used. All this needs to be discussed so there’s no unpleasant surprises. For example, in a sub state – I cannot tolerate water – despite enjoying temperature play. If there is water involved I become panicked and immediately disengage from the scene. Therefore, during sessions, water is not permitted within earshot. In a Dom mind set, I love using water. Whilst this is not exactly gear, it relates to how the gear can and can’t be used and should be discussed at some stage.

Health Concerns: If you’re engaging in flogging, and you’re on blood thinners you need to tell your partner because you pose a risk of being easily bruised, if you’ve had recent surgery, broken bones, sore joints, or any other kind of health problems – then both parties need to be advised. Even diabetics, if the scene goes over time and you’re in you head space and suddenly crash. . . well you get the idea.

Safety Measures: What will you do if something goes wring? If you’re using rope how will you get someone out of the rope safely, without risking injury to them?

Sexual Activity: What, if any, sexual activity is permitted? Remember that some scenes can be purely non sexual, and can simply be about demanding your sub to clean the house In a particular outfit, or cater to your every whim or desire. There does not have to be any touching or penetration, or sexual contact for it to be a scene. I hate to be the PC guy here, but if you violate the ‘contract’ of negotiated sexual contact, then it is still considered sexual assault. If you’re sub says no, unless it’s previously arranged, no means no.

Safe Words: Safe words are an agreed term(s) that can serve several purposes. It’s easiest to describe the process in the stoplight sequence.

  • Green = I am okay, keep going/go harder
  • Yellow = you are approaching my limit and back off, slow down.
  • Red = Stop the scene immediately

This three way system is a useful system to use without necessarily breaking the scene, asking your partner what their colour is they can tell you how they are with the scene. It’s also useful to include a yellow/amber/warning stage as otherwise if the top isn’t attentive, or something outside of their knowledge has/is occurred/occurring. It’s useful to have the ability to say slow down, not there yet in a single word.

Safe words should always be previously arranged and should be easy to say words – but words that will seem out of place within the context of the scene. Simply a stop might work for some, but dependent on the scene saying stop might not actually give any indication or it is difficult to determine the context behind the word. IE, a ‘forced’ scene.

There may be a time when you need to use your safe word. When this occurs, you need to make sure that you re okay first. Ask your play mate to help you, get you water, or whatever you need to help calm the situation down. Perhaps something was triggered, perhaps a line was crossed. It is paramount that you look after yourself first. Then you can communicate what happened to your playmate. Being a dominant it can be quite damaging to lose control of the scene and you can feel like shit for not noticing that your sub was approaching their limit, and you can both be in your own little worlds. For this reason it is important to check in with each other, using positive language.

By Stephen Smith a Consultant from Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centre

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Andrew is right into the Fet Lifestyle and enjoys BDSM. He has written about these subjects in many arena’s and is an expert at Shibari. He shares his knowledge by working with Adultsmart a sex toy store. Enjoy the descriptive and educational articles he has written.

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