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“Sexuality is one of the ways that we become enlightened, actually, because it leads us to self-knowledge.” Alice Walker

What is BDSM?

BDSM, also called kinky sex, is an umbrella category for all sorts of sex games and interactions. At the base of all kinky sex is the consensual exchange of power, where people negotiate together about what they do and do not want to happen in the sexy play. Often the negotiation and anticipation are half the fun. Generally the goals of kinky sex are fun and pleasure, but many kinksters are also processing their own fears and traumas through BDSM.

 An acronym, BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline (B&D), Dominance and Submission (D&s), and Sadism and Masochism (S&M). Kinky sex often happens in negotiated scenes involving some combination of physical or mental “punishment” (otherwise known as funishment because it’s usually only done if enjoyed by the parties involved), intense physical stimulation (often pain), role play, fantasy, and all sorts of sexual play. Kinksters are people who have kinky sex and often contrast themselves with vanilla people who have conventional sex.

Bondage and Discipline
In the BDSM world, bondage usually means that one person (almost always the Dominant one who has consensually assumed power in the situation) physically restrains the movement of another person (usually the submissive partner who has consented to give the Dominant negotiated forms of control for specific periods of time). Using things like handcuffs, leather cuffs, ropes, scarves, or even plastic wrap, people get creative as they tie or bind each other to beds, chairs, tables, and specialized furniture like spanking benches or Saint Andrew’s crosses. Some kinksters even suspend people with ropes from the ceiling or from a suspension rig of some sort. It can be fun for some people to be able to move around when they are bound, and if they are lucky they get to play with someone who can tie snug and often beautiful rope contraptions onto their bodies but not attached to anything else.

The one who gets tied up usually tells the person who binds them what kinds of discipline they are open to and what they do not want to happen. One of the favorite forms of kinky discipline is impact play in which the bound person gets smacked, spanked, or slapped with hands or whacked with all sorts of implements like whips, floggers, canes, spoons, hairbrushes, paddles, or switches. People also do impact play when they are not bound. Other forms of discipline include humiliation like name calling or forced crossdressing, breath play where one partner controls the other’s ability to breathe, and an incredibly imaginative range of sensation play including things like brushing skin with silk, feathers, knives, or ice, dripping hot wax on the skin, or zapping the bound person with an electrified wand that is not strong enough  to electrocute but delivers a zinging sensation.

Dominance and submission
The Dominant (D) person(s) in a kinky interaction is usually the one doing the restraining, disciplining, or directing the action. The submissive(s) partner(s) or sub generally the one who is tied up and spanked or ordered to clean the kitchen on hands and knees. Kink community members usually capitalize Dominant as a title or the name of the dominant person in order to demonstrate their supremacy, and use lower case letters for submissive or the name of the submissive person in order to demonstrate their submission to the dominant. People use all kinds of different titles in their D/s relationships like Owner/pet, Captain/sailor, Mistress/boy, boi, girl or grrl, Master/slave, Teacher/student, etc.

Switches are people who identify as Dominant in some cases and submissive in others. Things like the person’s mood, personality or gender of partner, or specific kind of kinky sex can all influence the expression of the switch in the moment. Some people even switch between submission and Dominance in the same evening.

Sadism and Masochism
Sadism is the glee of inflicting pain or humiliation on a willing lover, and masochism is the joy in that suffering or mortification. Usually people who identify as sadists say that consent and pleasure are crucial to their enjoyment of their partner’s pain: beating or molesting non-consenting people would not be as fun because the pleasure of the masochist is a key element of the experience. Some masochists like the physical pain that goes with intense stimulation, and others prefer the psychological pain of humiliation, though many like to blend both forms of pain.

Play
Experienced kinksters commonly negotiate and plan a scene before playing (participating in a specific kinky activity). While most play happens in private using improvised equipment from the kitchen or hardware store, some kinksters play in rooms called dungeons that are equipped with special furniture, such as spanking benches or Saint Andrew’s Crosses (generally a wooden cross-like structure with attachments where people can be bound to the cross). Some people build home dungeons in their basements and many major urban centers have public dungeons that charge admission and enforce safety rules.

Play also doesn’t have to require one person to have power over another. Sometimes when one person is tying the other one up or spanking them but there is no explicit power differential the person doing the spanking or tying is called a top, and the one being spanked or tied up etc is the bottom.

Together, these elements constitute BDSM. We often tend to see the patterns of our larger society play out in the kink world. Still, the great thing about play is that it really is an opportunity to play. Pretending to be someone else can let kinksters try out all sorts of different roles and see how they feel. Kinksters can try the unexpected and remember the Dominant doesn’t always have to be the one “doing” the action. There are all sorts of ways to play with these roles, some leading to fantastic orgasms, others leading to personal growth, or both at the same time. The most important things in kinky sex are that people choose consenting partners and everyone feels OK about what they are doing.

If you are concerned that your kink is a problem in your life or is following an unhealthy pattern for you, please make an appointment and we can figure it out together. Generally in evaluating this we are looking at how do you and your partners feel about the experience, how it is impacting your life, and if you are playing in a risk aware and consensual way.

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