Kinky Fuckery 101: What Does BDSM Stand For?

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I wrote several pieces about kink approximately two years ago when I was writing for GetLusty, but it occurred to me recently that I don’t think I’ve ever really addressed kink for beginners here on my blog. I realize that some of my readers are vanilla, some are seasoned BDSM practitioners, and some of you may consider yourself kink-curious.

If you’re kink-curious you might have thought about light bondage in the past, or may have a fantasy that revolves around servitude. Maybe you have sexy dreams where you boss people around and punish them for misbehavior. Maybe you’ve read 50 Shades of Grey (god help you) and your interest was piqued. To the kink-curious among you: The Kinky Fuckery series is dedicated to you.

Previous lessons:

  1. Models of Consent

Defining BDSM

Bondage/Discipline, Domination/Submission, Sadism/Masochism

Leather Neck Wrist Restraint from Stockroom.comBondage

Bondage is the practice of tying or restraining a partner for the purpose of pleasure or aesthetic sensibilities. From the silk tie bondage that you’ll read about in Cosmo or 50 Shades of Grey to metal cuffs linked to steel spreader bars, playing with restraints can be a satisfying and arousing experience for all parties involved. Sometimes you will be tied up to show your submission to another, or will be chained to something so that you can be punished accordingly. Some people just like the feeling of being restrained. Others enjoy using things like rope and bondage tape for aesthetic purposes, as is the case in kinbaku (also known as shibari). Don’t worry, you’re going to learn a lot more about bondage as we go through this series… but you’re not going to learn it now.

Discipline

Discipline is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Typically this goes hand in hand with domination and submission – you’ll normally see a submissive being disciplined for “undesirable” behavior. I put undesirable quotes because some of us (particularly brats like me) may act up because we want the punishment, particularly if it’s corporal punishment.

Domination/Submission

Domination and submission are roles in a consensual power exchange. The dominant partner typically takes charge and directs the sexual encounter. The submissive partner obeys the dominant’s commands. The submissive partner may endure pain, discipline, or simply be bossed around. The submissive may worship or serve the dominant in some way. There is some wiggle room in the roles I’ve described – for example some submissives are resistant, and some dominants are loving and gentle. There are a wide variety of D/s dynamics that I will address in the future.

Sadomasochism

Sadomasochism refers to sexual pleasure that revolves around pain in a consensual setting. Sadism – enjoyment of inflicting physical or emotional pain – is named for the Marquis de Sade, a French aristocrat and noted libertine who spent a great deal of time writing particularly filthy erotic books in prison.

[Trigger warning: this paragraph briefly mentions sexual molestation, sexual violence, and some pretty fucked-up regular violence, a great deal of it directed toward children.]


De Sade’s most notable work is probably The 120 Days of Sodom, a book I read as a teenager (thanks, Internet!) and don’t recommend. You have to understand that I can be sex-positive and sex-critical, and I definitely have some harsh criticisms of 120 Days of Sodom. I’m not condemning the fart-in-the-mouth stuff, the urolagnia and scat… all of that is fine. Those things may be hard reds for me, but it’s whatever floated de Sade’s boat, and plenty of people still get off on that. No. My complaints are with the kidnapping of children and raping them, the incest and various forms of rape, the involuntary mutilation of people, and the snuff bits about people skinning children and torturing girls to death. I’m critical of the scary stuff that absolutely deserves to be condemned. That’s not what BDSM is about.


[Trigger over.]

Venus in Furs coverWhen we celebrate sadism in BDSM culture, we are NOT revering de Sade’s tendencies toward rape and murder. BDSM involves adults giving informed consent to participate in activities that are pleasurable for all parties involved. Sadism just happens to get its name from a man who liked inflicting particularly fucked-up levels of pain on people. Masochism’s etymological origins are considerably less offensive.

Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, masochism’s namesake, most famously penned Venus in Furs, another book I checked off of my reading list years ago. While I wouldn’t call the book perfect it at least has a distinct lack of murderporn (as far as I can remember), and after reading de Sade’s work that is literally all it takes for historical erotica to earn two thumbs up from me. A quick spoiler-free synopsis: The main character of Venus in Furs is completely enamored of a woman and he begs to be her slave. She eventually complies and degrades him in the ways he asks. Other things happen, the book ends, a psychiatrist names the fetishization of enduring pain after the book’s author, and Bob’s your uncle.

 

I realize that these explanations are all very brief, but there are generally a lot of elements involved in the various roles and activities covered under the BDSM umbrella, and I will touch on those in future posts. I’m trying to be thorough, but it’s going to take a lot of time, and I’m bound to miss something along the way. In any event, the next Kinky Fuckery 101 post will be about aftercare!

If you have any questions, thoughts, or interesting factoids to share about BDSM’s roles and the etymological origins of the terms encompassed by BDSM, by all means feel free to share them in the comments below!