BDSM 101

Inspired by this post over at SM-Feminist, here’s my personal list of things I’d really like folks to understand about my particular flavor of sexuality before engaging in a debate with me about it. Please keep these points in mind before commenting.

* Being a submissive or masochist does not mean that a person has an interest in receiving nonconsensual pain, abuse, or rape. It does not mean that she has an inherent sense of worthlessness, is cowardly or “mousy” in her relations to others, or is incapable of standing up for herself.

* Being a dominant or sadist does not mean that a person has an interest in committing real, nonconsensual pain, abuse, or rape. It does not mean that she has an over-inflated sense of herself, is domineering and controlling in her relations to others, and is incapable of tolerating criticism.

* There are many varieties of sexual expression found within BDSM, including masochistic doms, non-submissive bottoms, and switches.

* Some people into BDSM are aroused by the fact that it is transgressive and “perverted.” For many others, this has no bearing on their sexuality. For some, this fact is nothing more than (at best) an annoyance and (at worst) a threat to their well-being.

* BDSM is not the same as a leather / rubber / vinyl fetish, although for some these interests do overlap. Not all female doms wear corsets and high heels; there is not a dress code for being kinky. Not all kinky people use whips, handcuffs, chains, and leather restraints.

* Some sado-masochistic people believe that their inclination towards domination or submission stems from their gender. Many others don’t. There are large numbers of male submissives and female dominants, not to mention all the trans and genderqueer folks. To say that BDSM is about “men dominating women” is not only factually inaccurate, it is dismissive (or perhaps just ignorant) of the gay leather community that birthed social BDSM organizations.

* BDSM is not restricted to a particular sexual orientation, race, ability, age, political ideology, or religious affiliation.

* People in a “24/7” d/s relationship, in which the members often identify as “master” and “slave,” are not necessarily “always in scene.” Rather, they may simply enjoy having their relative roles inform their everyday interaction with each other, to varying degrees. Slaves do not always have their entire lives regulated by their master, but only certain components of it.

* Identifying as a dominant/sadist or submissive/masochist is not the same as sexual experimentation or trying out a blindfold or some toys to spice up your sex life. It is not a “phase.” It is a sexual identity.

* Kinky people do not always have multiple partners. They are not always involved in “the scene.”

* Sado-masochism is not necessarily the result of childhood abuse, trauma, or rape, and is not necessarily linked to mental illness. Some kinky people do tie their past experiences to such things, which is fine, but I am not one of them. I can’t explain to you why I enjoy the things I do, and I shouldn’t have to.

* Sado-masochism is not the result of The Patriarchy. This is silly and reductionist, and negates the experiences of every kinky person who is not strictly a male dom or a female sub.

* Sado-masochists do not actually want to live in a world of strict hierarchies, slavery, authoritarianism, or oppression. (Most of us, anyway.)

* Being kinky is not “weird” or “gross” to me; it’s who I am. Please understand that before making comments about BDSM being perverted and sick.

* Do not assume that because I can say all of this now means that I haven’t ever considered the exact opposite of every point I’ve made. Do not assume that I have not “examined my desires.” Please understand that I have struggled for many years to stop hating myself for my desires, and that your comments can cause a lot of pain. The bad kind.

3 comments so far

  1. mehitabela on

    YES! Thank you for making sense!)

  2. Mottled on

    I love your last point.

  3. ggg_girl on

    Don’t let the vanilla feminists bring you down 🙂


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