BDSM for Noobs

 

BDSM stands for Bondage & Discipline, Domination & Submission, and Sadism & Masochism. It’s a blanket term which includes a very long list of traditionally unconventional forms of sensuality. Though it is most often practiced in a sexual context – as a form of sex – it is not necessarily sexual in itself. Simply put: BDSM does not always include sex!

What it does include are three core values: safe, sane, and consensual. These are practiced in various ways:

  1. All measures for safety are considered and implemented to minimize the risk for all participants.
  2. All decisions are made sober and rationally.
  3. All actions, including wardrobe, toys, setting, participants, etc. are done by explicit PRIOR consent of everyone involved.

BDSM, also known as “kink,” is generally performed in scenarios (with some exceptions I will list at the end) under highly structured, controlled circumstances. First, two people sit down and discuss likes, dislikes, and limits for absolutely everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING – including choosing a safe word. Then, a scenario occurs which typically lasts no more than a few hours at a time. Finally, there is often a cool down period which may include aftercare, depending on the activities.

Here are some of the primary elements involved with BDSM (though this list is not exhaustive by any means!):

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Many of these are self-explanatory, while others may require some explanation.

Objects listed here include: nipple clamps, riding crops, dildos, blindfolds, hot wax, vibrators, paddles, ben wa balls, whips, butt plugs, strap-ons, and collar/leash. There are plenty of others, but these are the most commonly used. Here is a list of common objects that can be used for BDSM.

Domination and submission, or controlling and being controlled, is a very fluid dynamic; there are many ways to dominate or submit. I will do my best to explain this objectively and plainly.

To dominate someone is to take charge of their enjoyment. As a dom, you decide what actions are done, what toys are used (if any), what positions you do, and how long the scenario lasts. You decide these things based on the following criteria:

  1. Hard limits: What the sub has decreed is absolutely not acceptable at all
  2. Soft limits: What the sub is interested in exploring, carefully and slowly
  3. Preferences: What the sub has said they enjoy doing/having done

A good dom, in my opinion, while appearing to be “using” their sub as an object, is actually more concerned with their sub’s pleasure than their own. Being a dom in itself should be an enjoyable activity, not a means to an end. It is far more important to focus on the sub’s desires because they are not necessarily in a position to explain their desires in the heat of the moment. A good dom can read their sub’s reactions and instinctively knows how to play out the scenario.

Although the dom is the one who controls the flow of the scenario, it is actually the sub who has all the power. At any time, if a sub is uncomfortable, they simply have to use their safe word to end the scenario. The sub allows the dom to be in control; they willingly give up the capacity to make decisions. As such, there is an immense amount of trust needed between both participants for this type of scenario to be enjoyable. A dom has to be worthy of the sub’s rational choice to submit to them.

Furthermore, there are two sub-types of doms/subs. The BDSM community has borrowed these terms from the gay community by describing participants as “tops” or “bottoms.” Tops are those who create pleasure while bottoms are recipients. A dom who uses ties up their sub and performs actions on them is a top, whereas a dom who orders their sub to perform on them is a bottom. Just as each scenario needs one dom and one sub, so too must there be one top and one bottom. The participants can switch from top to bottom or vice versa, but they usually have a preference for one or the other.

Side note: I’d like to point out that the tendency toward domination or submission has no correlation with gender, sex, or sexual orientation. A man or woman can be any role. Much like gender, your power dynamic is something you don’t get to choose for yourself. Some are naturally dominant, some are naturally submissive. Also your lifestyle in the real world has no bearing on your type of power dynamic. You can be a CEO and be very submissive behind closed doors, or very dominant. Your power dynamic is an extremely personal thing.

I feel it’s also important to explain that some people identify as a “switch,” meaning they are comfortable occupying either dominant or submissive roles, depending on the situation. You don’t switch while performing a scenario – you pick one role and stick with it, usually – but perhaps the next scenario you may switch to something else.

One last thing about power dynamics: these scenarios can be, and sometimes are, performed without having any sexual contact. I’d say for a majority of people, this arrangement is highly arousing and is usually performed in a sexual context, but it does not have to be. For instance, I had a friend who worked as a professional dominatrix. She had a handful of male clients who would visit her just to be degraded, flogged, and to be submissive to someone else. There was never any sexual contact whatsoever. However, I believe this is not what typically happens for most people in this lifestyle.

Much of BDSM relies on the fundamental dynamic of domination and submission. Other things, like fetishes, are usually explored within a dom/sub context. I will describe a few of the more popular activities, though keep in mind this list is not exhaustive.

Role playing involves playing out a scenario where one or both (or more) participants take on roles that are different from their usual selves. For instance, there’s doctor/nurse, teacher/student, cheerleader/coach, etc. Typically these roles involve some sort of power dynamic – that is, one role has more power and control in the situation than the other. If you can imagine a scenario between two (or more) people, you can probably find a way to role play it. Some will get very into this type of thing with costumes and settings, depending on the scenario.

Pet play is where one or more participants takes on the role of a specific animal and wishes to be treated only as that animal during the scenario. For instance, if someone identifies as a cat, they will drink milk from a saucer, chase a laser pointer, groom themselves, and other typical cat behaviour. Usually pets have a master who may control their behaviour with rewards and punishments.

Foot worship has grown in popularity in recent years and has a very wide variety of activities. Some may simply enjoy looking at feet, while others may want to lick them or have someone kick them. Some like them clean with painted nails while others like them dirty and unkempt.

Humiliation and degradation are similar though not quite the same, and may accompany any BDSM activities. Degradation is using dehumanizing language (for instance, calling someone a whore or slut). Humiliation involves purposely embarrassing the person in public, or in front of other people. One example might be forcing someone to wear a collar and leash as you walk down the street together. Not all subs want to be degraded or humiliated, nor do they have to be. A person can be dominant without embarrassment or name-calling.

Pain is a tricky concept because there are hundreds of variables. First there’s level of pain, as in how painful something can be. Then there’s where the pain can be located (ie: only on the bum, or everywhere but feet, etc). Someone people love to be bruised and scarred, others do not want any marks left on their body whatsoever. Some like multiple, less painful contact while others want a lot of pain all at once. When engaging in this sort of thing, it is absolutely vital to discuss everything beforehand so there are no miscommunications. It is also essential to understand SAFETY when it comes to pain – before trying anything, learn how and where to use your toys properly!

For more information about specific kinks/fetishes/interests, check this out.

Some people take domination/submission to a different level. Instead of playing out a structured scene, they are known as “lifestyle” doms or subs because every minutes of their day is spent immersed in this type of dynamic. A lifestyle sub still goes to work, sees friends, visits family, etc. but they do not make any of their own decisions. They must ask permission from their dom who may or may not impose rules, rewards, and punishments at their discretion. Some will even give up total autonomy over their own lives and have a dom control their finances, living arrangements, and social networks. These arrangements are very rare but they do happen.

Essentially, BDSM is whatever you want it to be. It’s a highly personal, very unique activity that will always be different for each person. It’s not all whips, chains and leather – it can also be gentle, loving, and even non-sexual. The only universal attributes to BDSM are safe, sane, and consensual. After that, the sky’s the limit!

If you are interested in learning more, or meeting with like-minded folks, check out FetLife. It’s a free social networking site for kink.

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