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BDSM: Pain, Power & Pleasure

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Grab me, spank me, pull my hair! Blindfold me, tie me up if you dare! Is pain is your pleasure and you like to dabble a bit in BDSM? Well you’re certainly not alone about 25 percent of Americans enjoy partaking in BDSM “play”, some so much that it has become their lifestyle.

The exact historical origins of BDSM are not clear. There are anecdotal reports of people participating in BDSM related activities as far dated back as the late 6th century, BC. And, even then it is not clear whether or not BDSM behavior was specially intended for sexual pleasure or for cultural rituals. BDSM-like activities appear within the original writings of The KamaSutra. Within its writings, Vatsyana describes four different kinds of hitting during lovemaking, the allowed regions of the human body to target and different kinds of joyful "cries of pain" practiced by bottoms. The collection also referred to sensuous experiences which explicitly emphasizes that impact play, biting and pinching during sexual activities should only be performed consensually. Yet, others sources claim that BDSM originated at the beginning of the 18th century AD when Western civilization began medically and legally categorizing sexual behavior.

So what exactly is BDSM?

BDSM is a form of sexual expression and pleasure involving the consensual use of restraint, sensory stimulation, role-play and power exchange. The acronym BDSM is derived from the terms bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D/s), and sadism and masochism (S&M). BDSM includes a wide variety of activities, forms of interpersonal relationships, and very distinct subcultures.

Many activities found under the umbrella of BDSM include but are not limited to; various forms of dominance, submission, discipline, punishment, bondage, sexual role-playing, sexual fetishism, sadomasochism, and power exchange. Although some BDSM activities may appear to be violent or coercive, it’s important to note that BDSM is not a form of sexual abuse. All activities are conducted with the consent of all partners involved and practiced under the under the philosophy of “safe, sane and consensual.”

Activities and relationships within a BDSM realm are characterized by its participants, who usually take on complementary but unequal roles. Therefore, the idea of informed consent by both the partners becomes essential far before the roles begin. Typically participants who are active –exercising control over someone or others – are known as tops or dominants, while, those participants who are controlled by their partners are typically known as bottoms or submissives.

How’s this for an interesting historical fact? We can thank Maqruis de Sade & Leopold von Sacher-Masoch for their hedonistic desires of sexual pleasure through pain and submission. Together, these two gentlemen unwitting lend their names to become what we now know as Sadomasticism, sadism & masochism (S&M). In S&M, lovers gain sexual pleasure through either receiving or inflicting pain and/or humiliation (a sadist) or they enjoy receiving pain (a masochist). Although the names of the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch are attached to the terms sadism and masochism, the “scenes” described in Sade's works do not meet today’s BDSM standards of “informed” consent, which is a major factor in BDSM play.

BDSM actions can often take place during a specific period of time agreed to by both parties, referred to as "play", "a scene" or "a session". “Play” for a specified period of time is often called a "Session", while the contents and the circumstances of “Play” are often referred to as the "Scene". The term "Kink Play" is also used for BDSM activities, or more specific terms for the type of activity.

Although some people only engage in BDSM play on occasion through role-playing, many advocates consider it to be a way of life and are very active in BDSM communities, also referred to as kink or leather communities. Lifestylers of BDSM believe that their kinky personae are real and legitimate expressions of their identities and therefore never step outside of their mutually agreed upon role.

Why would someone want to engage in BDSM activities?

For many people, BDSM activities and/or relationships can lead to profound supernatural experiences which have lead them to further meaning on their spiritual path.

On a physical level, BDSM is commonly misconceived to be "all about physical pain". However, most often, individuals who participate in BDSM are said to desire the emotional high from power, humiliation, and pleasure. For them, their body responds to pain & pleasure in a simultaneous back and forth motion, pain is pleasure and pleasure is pain. During play, individuals may experience a rush of euphoric endorphins which speed up the blood flow, stimulate the libido and enhance pleasure all at the same time. Many have compared this feeling of pleasure to that of an outer body experience.

So You’re Ready to Play? Or Ready to Play? or Before You Play

For the adventurous deciding to participate in BDSM, always make sure that you and your partner(s) have a clear understanding of the adventure ahead. Here are a few guidelines which may help Before You Play:

  • Always make sure that play is safe, sane and consensual.
    • Mutual consent makes a clear legal and ethical distinction between BDSM and crimes such as sexual assault or domestic violence.
  • Establish a safe word or signal before you begin to play. Safe words and signals are used to stop the scene outright, while others can communicate a willingness to continue, but at a reduced level of intensity. Safe words and signals are usually agreed upon before playing a scene by all participants. When picking a safe word, pick something unusual. Avoid using STOP or NO. Oftentimes, stop and no are used as a part of the play. A safe word must not be mistaken for playful resistance.
  • Make sure that either partner does not have a medical condition.
  • Sanitize all equipment (whips, chains, flogger, etc.) before use.
  • Beware of constricting blood flow & oxygen for extended periods of time.
  • Ensure you can release the “Submissive/Bottom” from bondage or restraints quickly in an emergency.
  • Know your limits. If the pain becomes too unbearable, don’t be afraid to discontinue the play.
    • Remember to use and recognize your safe words and signals.
  • BDSM play is an act of trust. Do not engage in play with someone that is not willing to consent and respect the mutual agreement, and unskilled at using the particular “play” equipment at hand or you can find yourself in a harmful situation.

Whether you’re active in the kink community or enjoy a little BDSM play every now and then, it’s definitely a way to heighten the senses and bring variety to your sex life. So the next time your partner wants to blind fold you, tie you up or hand-cuff you to the bed and spank you just a bit, go for it and célébrer les sens, loosely translated, celebrate the senses!

And enjoy!

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