Intro to BDSM - Kink 101

Welcome all kinky and kink-curious column readers. My name is Jay and I'm a sex-positive, kink-enthusiast from Nova Scotia. Today I'd like to talk with you about the increasingly popular concept of BDSM. The term BDSM is not just something that shows up in your alphabet soup sometimes, the term stands for Bondage, Discipline, and Sadomasochism. (Some people alternatively suggest it stands for Bondage Domination, Sadism, and Masochism.) Whichever definition you prefer, BDSM refers to a collection of adult activities that involve either power exchange, bondage, or intense sensations - and often incorporates all three. These days many people use the terms BDSM and "kink" interchangeably.

 

Do I have your attention, class?

 

What do we mean by "bondage", "power exchange", and "intense sensations" in this context? BDSM activities are generally organized into short events or "scenes". A scene involves two (or sometimes more) people who have negotiated what erotic activities they do and do not want to perform. It's sort of like a date that is well planned out ahead of time. Often these scenes will involve one person taking the lead or having temporary control over the other person. When one person has been chosen to be in control this is called power exchange. When one person is tied up, handcuffed, or restrained in some fashion the activity is called bondage. For example, let's say I were to handcuff Elle to my bed and tickle her with a feather duster. In this scene we are engaging in bondage and some power exchange where I am the person in control.

 

Earlier I also mentioned intense sensations. Sadomasochism involves one person causing strong sensations in another person, often painful ones. Sometimes in a BDSM scene one person will want to feel strong physical sensations which can include pain. People who want to feel pain are called masochists. The other person in the scene will want to cause those sensations and is called a sadist.

 

Some of you may be reasonably wondering why someone would want to cause (or experience) pain, which is a fair question. Often the pain is not intense and/or is mixed with a strong pleasurable sensation or activity. You may have experienced a deep massage before, which hurts in the moment, but ultimately makes you feel better. Or you've consumed spicy food that burned your mouth, but was delicious. Both of these are situations where people experience discomfort while also enjoying the sensations, and sadomasochism is a lot like that - with the sadist providing the sensations and the masochist enjoying them.

 

Often times elements of bondage, power exchange, and intense sensations will be mixed together in the same event. If you and your partner ever agreed to an activity where you are tied up and they drip hot wax on your skin then you'd have some form of all three elements of BDSM in the same event.

Not to mention a fun evening!

 

Why do we engage in BDSM?

 

One might be wondering at this point why people would want to engage in exchanges of power, possibly cause pain, or tie each other up. There are lots of reasons people plan BDSM scenes together. Often times it is to act out a fantasy. A BDSM scene provides people with an environment in which they can freely act out fantasies and desires which are outside of the mainstream. Have you ever wanted to role play a naughty student seducing a strict teacher? Do you want to be tied up and ravished? Do you want to be handcuffed to a chair and “tortured” for information, only to turn the tables and seduce your captor? Kinky fantasies are a great way to cut loose and try something different.

 

I'll never tell! Unless you have cake and ice cream.

 

Some people feel strongly about wanting to give up control (or take control) in their lives. Often times people who are always on the go, always making decisions, or always making important choices in their lives want to let go and have someone else take the lead, to give them a break. Getting placed into bondage or handing over the leadership role to someone else for an evening is a good way to unwind. Others find BDSM is a way to spice up their sex lives and try something different. Getting blindfolded and spanked is a lot of things, but boring isn't one of them! So some couples like to dabble with kinks to make their experiences in the bedroom more exciting.

 

I'd like to point out here that while BDSM can contain elements of control and actions which appear violent, it should not be confused with violence or abuse. All BDSM scenes are negotiated ahead of time to some degree and agreed upon by all participants. A kinky scene is consensual and desired by everyone involved. This separates BDSM from abuse which is not desired and not consensual. Another key difference is it's possible for either person in a BDSM scene to stop it whenever they wish. If you are partway through acting out a kinky fantasy and decide you don't want to continue, for any reason, you can call an end to the scene. 

Never hit a lady. Unless she asks you to and has been naughty.

 

Some common terms

 

A lot of special terms get tossed around by BDSM practitioners and I will not attempt to cover them all here as it would require a small book to list them all. However, I will touch upon a handful of common ones.

 

As discussed above, a “scene” is a scenario where two or more people choose to engage in their kinks. Typically a scene is made up of three parts: pre-scene negotiation where everything that is going to take place is discussed; the scene itself where the fantasy is acted out; and post-scene aftercare.

 

In this case “aftercare” refers to how the people who were in the scene look after each other. Often times one or both people performing in a scene will feel tired and drained afterwards. Getting wax dripped on your body or being spanked, or tied up can take a lot out of a person. It's important to make sure both people, but especially the person on the receiving end of these actions, is looked after. They may want to be hugged, or given chocolate, or wrapped in a blanket and told nice things. Whatever it is, make sure you negotiate some aftercare options before the scene begins.

 

I feel better already!

 

Generally there are two (though sometimes more) people in a BDSM scene. The person who performs actions on the other is called a “top”. If you are the one spanking, slapping, or tying up your partner then you are the top. The person on the receiving end - the one being tied up, spanked, or slapped - is called a “bottom”. When people engage in power exchange, where one person gives up control to the other, the person in control is called the dominant (sometimes shortened to “dom” for gentlemen and “domme” for ladies). The person who has given up control for the scene is called the “submissive” or "sub".

 

Sometimes in conversations surrounding kink the terms “top” and “dom” are used interchangeable, as are “bottom” and “sub”. While mixing the terms is sometimes done for simplicity's sake it is not really accurate. A straight forward way to think of it is a dominant is the person who decides what to do while the top is the person who performs the action. Likewise, a submissive allows the other person to decide what is to be done in a scene while a bottom receives an action. Typically a dominate is also the top in a scene, but it's not necessarily so. The distinction is easier to imagine in a scene with three people. Picture me sitting off to the side in a chair and telling Elle to drip wax on Alice. In this scenario I am the dominate (the person saying what will be done), Elle is the top (the one performing the action), and Alice is the bottom (the person having wax poured on her).

 

Many people have kinky fantasies which require special equipment, or get noisy. For this reason people often play out their kinky fantasies in a designated location. A public space where people go to practise their kinks is called a “dungeon”. Most major cities have a dungeon or sex club that caters to BDSM enthusiasts.

Don't threaten me with a good time!

  

Earlier I mentioned that anyone practising BDSM can stop a scene that is in progress. Unless negotiated otherwise, simply saying “Stop” or “No, I don't want to do this anymore” is all that is required to halt a scene in progress. With that said, some people like to role play during their kinky scenes and put the bottom in a position where he or she may want to pretend to resist. These scenes, where one person appears to struggle as part of the play, are collect “consensual non-consent” (CNC) scenes.

 

Prior to engaging in this type of scene where it looks like one person is in distress it's important to agree upon a signal or word that can be called out to bring the scene to a stop. A word that is called out to stop a scene in progress is called a “safeword”. A common safeword is “red”, though any word you and your partner agree upon will do. If you are ever visiting your local dungeon or other kink event and you hear someone yell out “red” then that person wants the scene to stop and may need assistance.

 

BDSM in popular culture versus reality

 

Popular culture is often not kind or accurate in its portrayal of people who practise BDSM. Movies and books tend to paint kinky folks with one of two brushes where a kinky person is either damaged, abused, and tormented (such as in CSI); or they are glossy, billionaire mind-readers (such as in 50 Shades of Grey). Unfortunately when people visit websites dedicated to kink and BDSM practises the images and videos which are highlighted tend to be the more extreme examples of what people and practises are available. If you spend enough time browsing these on-line forums you could be forgiven for believing every BDSM practitioner is 20 years old, in perfect shape, and can create beautiful webs of pure art while spanking three bottoms at once. The truth is quite a bit more mundane.

We don't all look like this. Sorry, ladies.

 

Kinky people come in all forms - all ages, shapes, sizes, and colours. There is also an entire spectrum of involvement and intensity when it comes to people exploring their kinks. Some people very much enjoy playing at milder kinks where they get blindfolded occasionally and tickled with a feather. Some enjoy a more medium level where maybe they get dressed up in a special outfit and are spanked a little as part of foreplay. Others get more intense and might get chased naked through the woods, tied to a tree and bitten all over their body. My point is that there is no right or wrong level of engagement when it comes to kink. The experience is entirely personal.

Brings a whole new meaning to the term "tree hugger".

  

I feel this point is important and needs to be repeated. BDSM is meant to be an entirely personal and enjoyable experience. Your kinky actions, fantasies, and the roles you play should make you (and hopefully your partner) happy. It's a entirely customized experience and it should not be compared against what others are doing. If you want a smack on the bottom during sex, it doesn't make you any less of a kinky person than the one who gets spanked with a cane until they are black & blue. If you don't want to experience pain, but love the idea of being suspended from the ceiling in a rope harness, that is entirely wonderful and doesn't make you any less kinky or intense than someone who enjoys painful sensations. Exploring kink is about fulfilling what you want, not about what is popular, extreme, or visualized in movies. Make it about you and what you want; don't worry about what other kinky people are doing, they are following their own, separate paths to happiness.

 

A word of caution

 

Engaging in BDSM can be fun, exciting, sexy (though kink scenes are not always sexual in nature). BDSM is a great way to explore fantasies, spice up your sex life, and try something new. However, virtually every kink fantasy carries a degree of risk. Sometimes it is a low degree of risk. For instance, if you ask your husband to spank you over his lap then you might end up with a bruised butt or accidentally slip onto the floor. Some kink scenes carry more risk. Getting tied up and suspended from the rafters can cut off circulation to hands and feet, or having candle wax dripped on you could result in someone scorching your favourite bed sheets.

 

Performing these actions with someone you don't know well and trust carries a higher degree of risk. Often times two kinky people meet and agree upon things they find hot and would like to do to each other and feel compelled to rush into exploring their fantasies together. Some of the best advice I can offer you is to take your time. Before you invite someone into your home to tie you up or smack your booty with a flogger, get to know them a bit first. Meet them in public, talk to other people they have done BDSM scenes with to see how those went, get a feel for them. Kink can be fun, thrilling, and wonderful with the right person. With the wrong person - someone who isn't paying attention to your needs and the risks involved in a scene - there is potential for things to go badly. So get to know any potential scene partners, ask them lots of questions (especially if either of you are new to kink), negotiate clearly, and make sure you feel you know them well enough to trust them to have your well being as their top priority before you invite them to join you in a scene.

 

I'm going to be checking your references.

 

Remember, kink is a very personal thing. If someone tries to tell you you need to do things a certain way, or if they try to push you into a scene you're not interested in, you can walk away at any time. Listen to your gut - if it's nervous it's okay to exit the situation. Planning a new scene with someone should feel exciting and joyful, not scary.

 

Where to find other kinky people

 

Speaking of other kink folks, where does one go to connect with others who might have similar fantasies or wish to help you fulfill your desires? There are a lot of on-line options if you want to browse to see what is out there - and who is out there. FetLife is probably the most popular social media and networking website for kinky people. The site ALT places more of a focus on dating than social networking, but has been around for a long time. There are also some Reddit groups such as r/bsdm and r/bdsmfaq.

 

The above are approaches to finding people on-line when you want to get to know some basics, swap ideas, look at some naughty pictures, and maybe virtually network. What about meeting people face to face? One common approach is to go on-line to places like FetLife and look up events in your area. In particular look for public coffee gatherings and a type of event called a munch (or munches). A munch is a public gathering of BDSM enthusiasts who are there to mingle and get to know each other. The munches almost always take place in a restaurant or coffee shop and people dress in their usual out-in-public clothes. Conversations typically follow the usual polite flow of where people are from, if they're married, and what they like to do for fun (that doesn't involve rope and whips). Going to a munch is a good way to find like-minded people in the local area without feeling pressure to act out any kinks with people.

Hi, I'm Bob and I like being beaten with reeds.

  

Since kink communities tend to be relatively small, generally people in an area get to know other BDSM practitioners fairly quickly. This provides an opportunity to network and talk to others about who in your area is newcomer-friendly, who plays more intensely, and sometimes who to avoid if they have a poor record with being safe and respectful. Often times people who organize these public gatherings can point you in the direction of experienced kinky folks who can offer you their guidance and show you the ropes (pardon the expression). An experienced BDSM practitioner should take things slow and let you explore things at your own pace. Also, the people who run munches can often introduce you to these kind, kinky folks.

 

Thank you for reading and I hope you'll join me again next month as we explore more topics relating to exploring the sexy world of kink and BDSM.