What is BDSM? Bondage & More 101

It’s all fun and games till somebody gets hurt (but even then, sometimes they like it)

Sometimes, people involved in the BDSM scene say that the now infamous Fifty Shades of Grey book and movie series was their push into finally exploring the kinky practice for themselves.

Since it was first published, though, many articles have pointed out the erotic novel doesn’t really represent BDSM well.

Throughout the book, the main character, Anastasia, is subjected to emotional abuse from her “dom”, Christian Grey, and her safety and consent are ignored.

None of this has any place in real BDSM relationships, which should be built on mutual trust and respect.

More knowledge is always more power, so if you or a partner are wondering about experimenting with BDSM, get educated with some of these basic points to see if it’s for you before diving head first into sexy town.

What does BDSM mean?

The acronym BDSM stands for:

  • bondage and discipline (B&D),
  • dominance and submission (D&S),
  • and sadism and masochism (S&M).

Those three categories together make up the umbrella term “BDSM” which includes a variety of different sexual activities involving power plays between two or more people.

Author Janet W. Hardy describes in The New Topping Book that BDSM is:

“An activity in which the participants eroticize sensations or emotions that would be unpleasant in a non-erotic context.”

Most individuals tend to be interested in one or two of the BDSM categories rather than all three, but the practice can be a lot of different things to different people.

Different roles

Most forms of BDSM have two main roles: the dominant (dom) and the submissive (sub).

The dominant is given the power in the relationship and may use it to give commands to the submissive.

These commands can sometimes be nonsexual, such as simply telling their submissive to rub their shoulders, or overtly sexual, such as telling their submissive to bend over for a spanking.

Some may assume men are always doms and women are always subs, or that BDSM is only practiced by heterosexual couples, but these roles can be filled by anyone who wants to adopt them, regardless of gender or sexual identity.

Common terms used by queer members of the BDSM community are Top and Bottom, rather than Dominant or Submissive.

What about Consent?

BDSM is built on giving and receiving consent, that’s what makes it fun.

The dominant enjoys receiving their submissive’s trust in them that they will respect their boundaries while telling them what to do and inflicting pleasure or pain (depending on the situation).

The submissive enjoys giving over control to be told what to do, all while knowing their safety and wellbeing is the first responsibility of their dom.

Before any sexual activity is engaged in, doms and subs must take the time to go over what they do and don’t like, as well as setting rules both parties are comfortable following.

Engaging in BDSM should be enjoyable for all involved, not just the person giving orders.

Check-Ins and Safewords

Even after boundaries and limits have been agreed upon, dominants should still check-in with the submissive during a BDSM encounter, or a “scene.”

Circumstances and feelings can change, so a sub may agree beforehand to being blindfolded thinking they will enjoy it, but then feel differently once it is actually happening.

Some doms may ask the sub if they are ok using a rating scale, “On a scale of 1-10 how good does this feel?”

Others may use the color scale (Green for ‘Go’, Yellow for ‘Slow Down’, Red for ‘Stop’), or have the sub use a safeword to signal the activity is over.

Safewords are agreed before you start, and should be a term you wouldn’t normally say during sex.

 

Keep in mind these are just the basics of BDSM. It is an entire community filled with unique individuals and different sub-genres, such as Pet Play and rope bondage.

Take the time to research to make sure your fumbling is safe, sane, and consensual.

And check out BuzzFeed’s cool video “Ask A Dominatrix” to learn more about the people who engage in BDSM and what they love about it:

For more on sex and intimacy and working out the stuff you like, check out this guide from Brook, a leading sexual health charity.

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