BDSM can be intimidating for newbies, so let’s start with the fundamentals: “BDSM” is an acronym that stands for bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadomasochism—the cornerstones of kinky enjoyment.
There’s an entire language for describing consensual power exchange under the BDSM umbrella. Developing this language takes time, experience and practice. There are foundational terms you can start with: words like Top/Bottom, Dominant/Submissive and one of the most important, aftercare.
A key, often overlooked part of practicing BDSM is providing aftercare for all parties involved. Whether giving or receiving pain, impact play and so on, it requires a lot of energy and effort. At first this can make the participants feel blissful, even high! However when all is said and done, folks can experience a drop from the flooding of pleasurable emotions, called a drop. This is why it is important to not only think about what you’re going to do in scene but also after to provide comfort and appreciation afterwards.
Dive into the vocabulary that helps describe your kinks and desires. This will help you find what’s out there and communicate clearly with people who want the same things as you so you can make your BDSM fantasies a delicious reality.
What exactly is BDSM?
BDSM is widely misunderstood. Sex is not always a part of practicing and playing with BDSM, however it is typically seen as erotic – regardless of if there is sex. Sometimes people mistakenly claim that BDSM is abusive or wrong, however if practiced properly then it is completely consensual and safety considerations are paramount, even if people are doing risky things like knife play or bondage.
BDSM plays with power, control, submission and Dominance. Participants often enjoy a wide range of sensations exploring the relationship to giving or receiving pleasure and pain or being restricted or even controlling another person.
Because so much of our lives are controlled, it’s excellent for many people to surrender their power and be taken control of. Consider this: External pressures determine your employment schedule, rent payments, and (ugh) taxes. BDSM provides a world of freedom to play, experiment, and let someone else take the reins. On the other hand, if you like to be in charge, you can call the shots and fully take control in a scene (consensually of course).
If you’re new to BDSM, it can be difficult to envisage it as anything other than a Red Room (thanks, Fifty Shades) with chains and whips to excite you. And while props are frequently used in practice, they are not necessary straight away. Instead, at the beginning, take things slowly discussing what sensations and scenes you imagine enjoying, until you figure out what BDSM looks like for you and your partner(s) because someone else’s approaches may not be right for you.
The BDSM Spectrum
Approximately half of the general population has participated in BDSM-related behaviours at least once. There is a wide range of ways to experience BDSM, from light, gentle play to supreme domination and inflicting pain. The beauty of BDSM is exploring what might be right for you.
BDSM is shrouded in stigma
There is a particular stigma around BDSM. This is because in pop culture associating sexuality with pain, power show, and humiliation rather than romance and tenderness is seen as “messed up” or taboo. Nonetheless, ancient cultures accepted the use of physical and mental pain play in an erotic setting considerably more than current western society.
This stigma can result in folks feeling anxious or secretive about disclosing their BDSM interest or lifestyle. This stigma also stops the spread of accurate and helpful information, which sometimes leads people to participating in acts that are dangerous because they do not fully understand the risks. This is why education, awareness and community are highly important! You would probably be surprised to know many more people are curious about BDSM than you realize! Join Foxtail to find curious BDSM goers like you. It is a totally valid, human desire that should not be supressed or shamed.
BDSM can actually have beneficial psychological effects for it’s participants, contrary to much of the stigma that it might inflict more harm. One of the foundational practices of BDSM is consent: communicating boundaries, desires and hard limits clearly and having those limits respected. Much of life is inflicted upon us or out of our control so experiencing pleasure, surrender and/or power in a safe environment can be protective and even repair past traumas for participants – if practiced properly! Make sure you’re clearly communicating with your play partners, check out our Blog for more resources on how to do this.
Safety advise and special considerations.
It is critical that BDSM includes consent. Partnerships must ensure that everyone gives an enthusiastic YES and establishes clear limits. Formal agreements, verbal agreements, and informal dialogues about desires and restrictions can all be used to create these boundaries. Because of the intensity of some BDSM scenes, it is imperative to agree on a Safe Word and Safe Signal before play. A safe word is a verbal cue while a safe signals should be determined if you’re participating in play that might surpress use of the voice – for example if you’re using a ball gag.
A popular system to use is Red-Green-Yellow, like a stoplight. Red means hard stop, Green is all good to go and yellow means slow down.
Why does BDSM feel good?
Consider athletes who push the limits of their physical comfort to achieve runner’s highs or those who seek thrill through risky sports like skydiving. Consider how much joy a spicy food enthusiast feels when a pepper bite causes their lips to erupt or how terrified they feels when riding a rollercoaster or watching a horror film. BDSM is a similar stretching of your limits and experiencing a rush of accomplishment: whether that be tying someone up or receiving a flogging.
How to Practice BDSM?
You can begin by experimenting with some novel applications of BDSM. Some experts recommend taking lessons or reading books for intense erotic activities as safety is paramount. Some actions are dangerous and could result in injury if not properly safeguarded. Check out videos online, read more on our Blog and chat with season pros on Foxtail to get a taste of what’s out there.
Due to the intensity of some scenes and the sensitivity required to create them, it is critical that each person involved feels at ease and can completely express their wishes, limits, boundaries, and anything else they think is necessary to disclose.
Roleplaying with BDSM: The Possibilities Are Endless
Role playing is a popular aspect of BDSM. People are able to embody different characteristics and express themselves in ways that might be outside of their typical personality. For example, some women who embody the traditional nurturing feminine role in their day to day life can find great enjoyment in being a fierce and punishing Domme with her eager submissive. It’s quite common to find high powered, wealthy men as devoted submissives, releasing control and abandoning all of their accomplishments once they enter a scene with their Mistress.
Another way role play might show up is in power exchange scenes where there is a story playing out such as a (always consensual) kidnapping, blackmail situation, affair, or religious ritual. These storylines and the acts going on in these stories are pre-agreed by the participants. This is part of what makes BDSM taboo: the ability to explore the desires most feel embarassed or confused by.
What is the role of BDSM Sex in Relationships?
As mentioned before, BDSM and sex are not mutually exclusive. A BDSM scene or partnership does not require sex to be valid, however many times the scenes and fantasies the players are exploring are erotic in nature – even if there is no sex. The players in the scenes get to decide if they want to participate in sex acts and which ones. Part of the beauty of BDSM and why it can be healing for some, is because it builds intimacy without the implied pressure for sex. People can experience pleasure, closeness and bonding with another person without feeling forced to trade sex for the experience. That being said, there is no shame is having sex with your BDSM partner. You get to choose your own adventure!
BDSM and the law: What you need to know
Different states have different rules about various acts that you might find in BDSM. This also contributes to the behind-closed-doors nature of BDSM. Check out the laws and restrictions in your specific state and make sure wherever you are participating in BDSM it is out of sight from children and minors. Even if there is consent between two adults, authorities still may have grounds to interrupt, so make sure you’re playing in safe spaces.
Types of BDSM
There is a vast array of BDSM acts you can play with. BDSM can use pain and humiliation or role-play scenarios of dominance or submission. On the other hand BDSM can be centered around light sensation play or even rewards for chores in the forms of spankings. The world of BDSM is your oyster, so don’t be shy to be creative!
Bondage is a BDSM activity in which instruments restrain one participant during sexual interaction. The most frequent restraints are rope, leather straps, bondage tape, ties, handcuffs, spreader bars, ball gags, blindfolds, and chains. These restrictions are intended to limit the subject’s senses or freedom of movement to place control in the hands of the other partner and increase trust. While in bondage, the Top can decide how to illicit different sensations in their partner: from tickling them with a feather to scratching them with spiked wheels. Some folks enjoy sensory deprivation where they are in complete bondage and cannot move, usually with their eyes and ears covered as well.
The dominating partner establishes rules that the submissive partner must follow in the disciplinary aspect of BDSM. These regulations can be sexual or implicitly erotic. If the submissive partner violates a rule, the dominant partner will impose punishment, including withholding pleasure, inflicting pain, or imposing new regulations. In disciplinary roleplay, both partners get satisfaction in playing with power and control.
Dominance and submission
Dominance and submission are concerned with exchanging power and energy between partners. During a given interaction, one person generally dominates the other physically, cognitively, emotionally, or sexually. Switches are practitioners who enjoy switching between dominant and submissive positions in a relationship or experiencing a power exchange in a single encounter.
Sadomasochism is a form of BDSM in which individuals receive pleasure and an endorphin surge from inflicting or receiving pain. Sadists are people who take pleasure in inflicting this suffering, while masochists take pleasure in experiencing it.
What about Shibari?
Shibari is simply tying up a person for aesthetic purposes—perhaps in a gorgeous or elaborate design, usually with some rope. While Shibari is most commonly employed as a demonstration of skill and creativity, it has also been traditionally utilised as meditation, relaxation, and trust-building practice between two people.
Tell me the purpose of Shibari?
Shibari promotes self-care, self-love, self-confidence, self-exploration, and positive bodily qualities like empathy and attunement. Partners frequently describe this as “deepening their intimacy with one another and forming a stronger bond.” It can also be a way to push the rope bottom’s (persona being tied) limits by holding positions for longer than is comfortable while being tied. Upon being untied, the rope bottom or rope bunny may feel a rush of relief and relaxation from stretching out of their comfort zone.
Tell me the benefits of BDSM?
More people, including scholars, are recognising the advantages of BDSM. It can assist in relieving stress and even establishing trust in relationships, for example.
Stress Levels Reduced
According to some studies, partaking in BDSM practices might cause biological responses similar to the serenity you might feel after or after a fulfilling yoga session or the “runner’s high” you receive from intensive cardio. These exercises can lessen the amount of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) in your body.
Lowering cortisol helps us feel better mentally and it can also improve our physical health. Lower cortisol levels protect us from health problems, such as high blood pressure, weakened immunity, and insulin resistance.
Improves Mental Health International Society for Sexual Medicine researchers undertook a study to explicitly analyse the mental well-being of those who like participating in BDSM. They did so by examining the essential personality qualities of each individual.
These characteristics included their attachment styles in relationships, general well-being, and how sensitive they were to rejection compared to a control group.
In addition to improving your overall communication skills, those who use BDSM with their long-term partners generally report a greater sense of trust.
Improved Communication Skills
While some may believe the opposite, discussing parts of BDSM with your spouse can improve your sexual relationship and bring you closer together.
How many people practise BDSM?
About 47 percent of men and women fantasise about dominating sexually, whereas somewhat more females and slightly fewer guys feel intimidated. According to the survey, over 47 percent would like to have a different sexual experience, and 34 per cent have done so in the past. It’s no wonder that when you search for “BDSM” on Google, this page receives over 500 million hits.
The importance of communication, consent and using safe words
How can someone striking you not be considered a crime? It is the strength of acceptance. “Anthropologists frequently consider the importance of consent as dependent on the subject’s observed behavioural indications of curiosity or willingness.” “The BDSM community goes a step farther, needing both explicit and tacit agreement.”
The history of BDSM
Suprisingly, the church is a big part of the history of BDSM. In the 10th Century, monks participated in the practice of self-flagilation as a way to show their devotion to God. Little did they know, they were also receiving an extreme endorphin release making them enter into a blissful state, often receiving “holy visions.”
Throughout the ages you can see instances of people coming together in groups to participate in rituals that might inflict pain, bloodshed and group sex as acts of service and devotion to the Divine.
How can you safely try Kink at home?
Before you dive into the world of kinky sex activities, here are a few things you should know:
- Conduct research to discover more about what you or your partner want. The more you know, the better you can communicate.
- Given the kink world’s extremes, do things slowly to avoid feeling scared and prepare yourself step by step.
- Communicate your kinky wants clearly to your partner(s) and ensure that you have their permission, and vice versa.
- It might not be exactly what you envisioned in your thoughts the first time, but that’s fine. There’s a difference between fantasy and reality, and that’s ok! It’s important to learn to adjust expectations so you can truly enjoy yourself.
Responding to a ‘no’ or ‘stop.’
You can always greet the rejection or stop with thanks and acceptance when someone sets a boundary. The exploration of limits in sexual imagining is intensely personal and susceptible to individual tastes.
Consent should be freely given and reversible at any time. Many people believe that you agree until it’s done if you consent, but that’s not the case. Consent is always revokable, no matter the circumstance. Learning to accept a no gracefully is key if you are to be a trustworthy and reliable BDSM play partner.
BDSM can help you become a better communicator and advocate for your own needs. You can gain confidence while feeling vulnerable when playing and practicing BDSM.
You’re in charge of your BDSM ship, and that’s a massive part of its appeal. It’s up to you how it looks and what you hope to get from it. Don’t be fooled into thinking differently by mainstream culture.
If you want to make friends in the BDSM scene, visit Foxtail. Foxtail is a sex-positive social network with members worldwide. Don’t be shy it’s free to join.