What is BDSM?

What is BDSM?

Since the release of 50 Shades of Grey, people have been more and more interested in dipping their toes into the “scene.”

We want you to enter with a sense of confidence and pride in your knowledge and well prepared for some things you’ll probably encounter.

What does BDSM mean?

BDSM stands for more than you may think! Many people have the concept that it is all about whips and chains. However, what it’s really about is consensual power play, or when two adults both enthusiastically consent to acts of giving away or receiving a sense of power for sexual gratification.

Key Terms

A few things you should know before we proceed are:

  • Dom/Domme or Dominant: This person seems to be controlling the other person(s) involved. A Dom typically refers to a male, whereas Domme usually refers to a female. These are terms usually used to identify yourself within the community. Note: In writing, you should capitalize the word “Dom” to show their role and power.
  • Sub or submissive: This is the person seemingly giving away their power during BDSM play, they are the one who usually receives punishment or rewards from their Dom. Many people use this term to identify themselves within the community. Note: the word “sub” or “submissive” should be lowercase in writing to show their submission to their Dom or Domme.
  • Switch: This is a person who switches between Dom/Domme or sub/submissive roles and usually doesn’t have a strong preference for which part they take or taste on a case-by-case basis.
  • Powerplay: This refers to getting sexual satisfaction from either, seemingly, giving away your power and being ordered around, or apparently, being in control of another person. It is an eroticized version of dynamic roleplaying.
  • The Scene: This is a generic term used to describe the BDSM community at large. People may ask you if you are “in the scene,” as an example.
  • A Scene: Note the slight difference. A scene usually refers to a single, pre discussed and pre negotiated “play session” between two or more people involved in the scene.
  • Scene Negotiation: This is a dynamic conversation held between all parties involved with a scene that is being discussed. Each person, regardless of their role in the scene, gets an equal amount of power to agree to what will happen and precautions participants should take.
  • Kinky vs Vanilla: Many people in the BDSM scene will refer to themselves as “kinky.” Other people who do not participate in kink related activities are typically referred to as “vanilla.”
  • Hard limits/soft limits: These are things you are not interested in doing or may have a slight interest in trying. Hard limits are as they sound, a resounding “no” in all circumstances. Soft limits mean that you’re usually uncomfortable with the activity but may be interested in trying it at some point. There are tons of helpful info sheets you can print offline to see what your limits are!
  • Safeword: This is either one word to express that you want the play to stop or a series of words to tell your comfort level. For example, a single safeword can be something you would never say in sexual activity, such as “lychee.” Or, you may use a series of words such as the stoplight system, “green” means to continue or intensify. “Yellow” is slow down or proceed with caution. “Red” means stop what you’re doing immediately.

Bondage and Discipline

Bondage: restraining a person in some way that restricts their movements. This may be handcuffs, rope, or even the tie you wore to work today.

Discipline: the agreed upon rules or system of punishment or rewards for certain behaviours. This may be things such as being whipped or spanked for disobeying or permission to orgasm for good behaviours.

Dominance and submission

Dominance: The act of power play where one person is (seemingly) in complete control of another person(s)

Submission: The powerplay position where one person consents to a Dom’s requests.

Sadism and Masochism (or SadoMasochism)

Sadism: Enjoying in someone else’s pain, humiliation, or discomfort

Masochism: Enjoying in your pain, discomfort, or humiliation

The Power of Consent

For an outsider viewing a BDSM scene, it may seem like the participants are not consenting to what is happening to them. Participants may even say words like “stop” or “don’t do that,” this is why you have safewords.

It’s about seeming realistic and playing out fantasies in a safe space where everyone agrees to what is happening.

There are two main aspects of consent that you need to consider before agreeing to play with another person.

Informed Consent

Informed consent is the first step in negotiating a scene. Everyone should understand precisely what is to be expected and what should happen.

This consent is freely, willingly, and given in a state of total sobriety. Informed consent is vital before engaging in a scene. All parties should be aware of anything that could go awry.

Dynamic Consent

Things change during a scene. Sometimes you cannot speak because of gag or other reasons; this means you need to communicate in different ways. You may find that you enjoy the idea of something much more than actually having it done.

All partners’ responsibility is to maintain a watchful eye for hints of body language that may portray how their partner is feeling or experiencing the scene.

Anyone can withdraw consent at any time. You need to be very aware of any change in your partner during activities, even if they’ve previously consented to them.

How do I get started in the BDSM Scene?

There are plenty of how-to guides out there if you’re interested in getting involved with your local BDSM scene. Usually, the best place to look is on FetLife.com to see if any munches are happening near you.

A munch is generally a casual, social event where members of a particular BDSM community meet up for lunch, drinks, or coffee. It’s almost always an easy-going and laid back atmosphere where newcomers are welcomed to join.

Sometimes, if you and the group vibe well, you may be invited to join a more formal BDSM activity at another time.

Alternatively, the group may speak privately after meeting you to see if multiple members agree that you would be a good fit for their particular group.

Don’t get your feelings hurt if you don’t get an immediate invite to a BDSM play party. There are tons of different communities and groups out there, and there will be one that suits your unique personality and interests.

You may also find someone at a munch who will be willing to mentor you and help you enter the BDSM scene. Many Dom/Dommes find this helpful as there is a lot to know about setting up scenes, safety, and finding your voice within the powerplay relationship.

Essential BDSM Gear

If you’re ready to dip your toe into the BDSM scene, then we always suggest starting with a BDSM kit. These usually contain all the essential toys and gear you’ll need to get started. They’re an affordable way to learn what you like and don’t like before you consider investing a healthy sum in particular toys.

A few things we suggest you get started with are:

  • Restraints – we strongly recommend you do not get started with rope or handcuffs. These can both cause serious physical harm if not used properly. Leather cuffs or nylon cuffs are safe, easy to remove, and shouldn’t leave any lasting marks.
  • Blindfolds – or other forms of sensory deprivation are vital for helping the sub enjoy themselves without distractions. There are tons of different styles and materials available, so choose the one that feels best against your skin.
  • A whip or flogger – or another form of impact play item will be great for variety. Using just your hand will get tired, and it will be monotonous for all participants. Keeping your impact play repertoire varied will ensure that everyone finds exactly what they want.
  • A collar and/or leash – Worn by the sub, typically, collars can help the person adjust to their bedroom role and feel submissive to their Dom/Domme.
  • A gag – Usually worn by the submissive as well, the gag can be any shape. The ball gag is the most popular and prevents them from making a lot of noise. Simultaneously, it also helps the submissive feel secure in their role.

The bottom line is, there is a lot to know about BDSM. This will not be our last article on the subject!

To play safely and knowledgeable, make sure you do your research and know your limits. Talk openly and freely, and make sure you know how to keep you and your play partners safe.

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