Things you should definitely know about BDSM

Things you should definitely know about BDSM

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First things first: Here’s what BDSM actually stands for:

BDSM includes bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism & masochism (S&M). The terms are lumped together that way because BDSM can be a lot of different things to different people with different preferences, BDSM writer and educator Clarisse Thorn, author of The S&M Feminist, tells BuzzFeed Life. Most of the time, a person’s interests fall into one or two of those categories, rather than all of them.

It doesn’t always involve sex, but it can.

Most people think BDSM is always tied to sex, and while it can be for some people, others draw a hard line between the two. “Both are bodily experiences that are very intense and sensual and cause a lot of very strong feelings in people who practice them, but they’re not the same thing,” says Thorn. The metaphor she uses for it: a massage. Sometimes a massage, however sensual it feels, is just a massage. For others, a rubdown pretty much always leads to sex. It’s kind of similar with BDSM; it’s a matter of personal and sexual preference.

BDSMers are just as stable as people who prefer vanilla sex.

“In my experience, it’s easier for people to get into BDSM if they don’t have a history of abuse, people who are in a more stable place in their lives,” says Thorn. A 2008 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that people who had engaged in BDSM in the past year were no more likely to have been coerced into sexual activity and were no more likely to be unhappy or anxious than those who didn’t do BDSM. And actually, men who engaged in BDSM had lower scores of psychological distress than other men.

That said, BDSMers do not judge people who aren’t into it, explains Thorn. The term “vanilla” isn’t meant to be derogatory, just to refer to non-BDSM sexual acts or people who aren’t interested in kink.

There are dominants, submissives, tops, and bottoms.

So you’ve probably heard about dominants and submissives (if not, the dominant enjoys being in charge, while the submissive enjoys receiving orders). But BDSMers may also use the terms “tops” and “bottoms” to describe themselves. A top could refer to a dominant or a sadist (someone who enjoys inflicting pain), while a bottom could refer to a submissive or a masochist (someone who enjoys receiving pain). This allows you to have a blanket term for those who generally like being on either the giving or receiving end in a BDSM encounter. And there’s no rule that says you can’t be both dominant and submissive in different circumstances or with different partners.

Before you go past the VERY basics, do your research.

Using a blindfold or an ice cube or fuzzy handcuffs you got at a bachelorette party are all relatively harmless beginner behaviors if you’re into them. But before you play around with some of the trickier tools, you need to learn how to do so safely. Even a rope or a whip can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Hell, you can even mess up with your own hands (think: fisting): “[Some people] think they can clinch a fist and stick it inside somebody,” says Brame. “That’s a good way to really injure someone and send them to the hospital.” (Instead, she suggests an “enormous amount of lubricant” and starting with two or three fingers, then slowly and carefully building up to the whole hand.)

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