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What is BDSM? An in-depth Beginners Guide

What is BDSM? An in-depth Beginners Guide

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Whether youve heard about it from a friend or read about it in a book, BDSM has been getting some attention in recent years. But whats BDSM? And how is it different from everyday sex? Stay tuned to find out more about BDSM meaning, practices, and how to explore.

What Is BDSM?

BDSM is actually an umbrella term for a variety of sexual and non-sexual activities. Because it encompasses so many activities, it can be a little bit difficult to define BDSM. However, in most cases, one partner takes control or becomes dominant while the other relinquishes control and becomes submissive. For some, this dynamic is occasional, but others choose to make it a regular occurrence.

What Does BDSM Mean for Partners?

If you already have a significant other and are curious about BDSM, its a great idea to talk to your partner about the topic. It is important to start slow and explore at a pace where you are both comfortable.

What Does BDSM Stand For?

What Does BDSM Stand For

BDSM stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism.  For many participants, BDSM means stepping out of conventional roles and exploring their sexual likes and dislikes.

History of BDSM

Elements that fit into the BDSM definition have long existed throughout the world. However, modern BDSM emerged from the leather movement that began after the second world war as soldiers returned home.

About BDSM in Pop Culture

While many people have heard about BDSM via the novel-turned-movie 50 Shades of Grey, not all representations are accurate. In fact, the mere mention of 50 Shades may earn you a frown from many within the BDSM community due to the fact that the male main character, Christian Grey, skirts the line of consent- a big no-no within the BDSM world. For those who have read the book, the aspects of abuse and non-consent are very different from what BDSM stands for, which is why youll want to do more research before getting into it if youre only going off what you read in the book or saw in the movie.

Major Aspects and Vocabulary

Some Common BDSM Terms You Should Know

While there are a lot of activities that technically qualify for the BDSM lifestyle, some aspects and BDSM terms are more common than others.

Play: The term is used to describe BDSM activities during a scene.

Dominant/ Top: This is the partner that typically takes control during the situation. This is also the person who is responsible for ensuring that their partner is safe during the session.

Submissive/ Bottom: This is the partner that is on the receiving end of whatever activity is happening. The submissive is generally obedient to the dominant. However, it is also the submissives job is to communicate clearly with the dominant.

Switch: While some people prefer to be dominant or submissive consistently, others enjoy both roles equally. A switch is an individual who can act as either the dominant or the submissive during BDSM play.

Scene: In BDSM, a scene is a pre-planned space where the activity takes place. This may be a public place such as a BDSM club or dungeon or a private place such as the bedroom. How a scene is planned depends on the participants.

Dungeon: While the term sounds scary, a dungeon is a special location for BDSM scenes. Another term for dungeon is simply a BDSM club, and the place is often equipped for restraints and other toys to make play more enjoyable.

Consent: Regardless of the activity, consent is always the priority. Either partner has the right to withdraw consent, and the key to any successful BDSM activity is open communication. Some partners utilize the Red, Yellow, Green System where green means that the submissive partner is comfortable, yellow means to proceed with caution, and red means stop.

What is Bondage? While it isnt required, bondage is often part of BDSM. This can be sexual bondage, but it isnt limited to sex.  Bondage may include cuffs, tape, gages, rope knots (such as in shibari), blindfolds, and other ties.

Impact Play: This may involve spanking, riding crops, paddling, and hitting. Again, consent and safety are key in differentiating impact play from abuse. There are several important things to keep in mind with impact play, including where and how hard to strike. Open communication between partners is also essential.

Discipline: Due to the dominant/submissive dynamic of BDSM, it is not uncommon for rewards and punishments to come into play. Punishment can include spanking, while rewards might come in the form of multiple orgasms. Again, discipline isnt a necessary aspect of BDSM, but it can be a fun addition.

Orgasm Control: This is another common aspect of BDSM. This can play into the discipline aspect or work with the technique of edging to produce a more intense experience.

Role-Playing: While role-playing in BDSM definitely isnt required, it can be fun. You can role-play as anything you want, but roles that allow for a major power dynamic, such as teacher and student, are common.  

Tips for Beginners

BDSM Tips For Beginners

If youre looking to explore the world of BDSM, heres are a few tips.

Check Out Local Events: FetLife and other sites often have listings of local events that are open to beginners. Some places even offer BDSM 101.  

Use Common Sense: While the BDSM community is all about safety, there are still predators. As with exploring any new event, make sure that you follow common-sense safety procedures. If you are single, meet someone online who is into BDSM, follow the same safety procedures as you would for any other form of online dating.

Learn the Rules and Follow Them: Do a bit of research to learn the rules of the BDSM community. In most ways, the rules arent too different from those found in polite society.   

Be Honest: Let people know that youre newer to the scene and ask questions as they happen. This also means letting your partner know if something makes you feel uncomfortable or feels too painful.

If youre curious about BDSM, its definitely worth further exploration.  Remember that you can choose what goes and what stays. 

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