BDSM is all the rage. Everyone is talking about kink. Thanks, E L James. Fifty Shades of Grey has suddenly made kink mainstream. Now that you've hustled back from the movie theater, high on your Fifty Shades Darker fix, let's explore that fantasy life on a deeper level, shall we?
You're not alone in your interest. According to a recent study 50 percent of Americans enjoy some kind of kink or rough sex fantasy, while 36 percent admit to using blindfolds and bondage gear during sex. That is a lot of people!
There are real, psychological and scientific reasons why you're fascinated by BDSM. We broke down the basics for the ultimate beginners guide to kink.
First things first, kink didn't start with E L James.
One of the things that really grinds the gears of those who love BDSM is the notion that it all started with Christian Grey. This is inaccurate. People have been into kinky sex since the dawn of time. Humans enjoy mixing a little violence in with sexuality. It's a primal urge. There has been an underground fetish community right beneath your nose this whole time.
An interesting aspect of kink's recent(ish) mainstream attention is the role the media has played. Before the internet, people thought that the only "normal" sex was vanilla, standard-style love-making. Meanwhile, there was a whole community underground exploring a darker side of sexuality. "People who felt such desires rarely or never expressed them, and many must have felt completely alone," says Sandra LaMorgese PhD, author, former dominatrix, and CEO of Attainment Studios. "Today, we are more honest with each other and with ourselves — we know that most fantasies and fetishes are actually quite common."
Kink has widely been considered taboo and wrong, which is titillating and makes us want to do it. We're fascinated by what is considered "bad."
It's about control more than anything else.
What freaks us out about BDSM (besides all the canes, ball gags, and whips), is the lack of clarity around why we're interested in it in the first place. What it comes down to is control. It's a desire to give up or receive control over someone. There is something deeply sensual about this giving and receiving — this complete power exchange.
According to LaMorgese, BDSM is often misrepresented and not fully understood. This might be why we feel so weird about it. "At first glance, BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism) may look like an abusive practice that's only carried out by heartless sadists and victims with low self-worth. With BDSM, the misunderstanding is especially profound. The practice of BDSM involves trust, compassion, love, acceptance, and surrendering control for the good of one's emotional health."
There is nothing wrong with you if you want to try BDSM. You're not a depraved soul who longs for torture . . . you're just a person with a rich fantasy life. According to a 2008 study, those who engage in BDSM are no more depraved or psychologically "damaged" than anyone else.
So, don't freak yourself out if you enjoy being spanked and blindfolded. There is nothing wrong with you.
You can always bow out.
Another thing that scares us silly? The idea that we can't get out of a BDSM fantasy once we're inside of it. Many of us (myself included, once upon a time), are apprehensive about giving up control because we're afraid we can't have it back.
This is untrue! You can always say no. BDSM is not about getting hurt against your will. It is not about exposing yourself to trauma; it's really about exploring your sexuality in a way that feels safe.
Before you try a BDSM scene (because you know you want to), discuss boundaries with your partner and figure what you are and are not comfortable with. If something feels too overwhelming in the moment, you use your safe word.
Choose a word that won't interfere with the scene (read: won't be a turn-off) — something neutral like "strawberry" or "Netflix." Your safe word means, "I need a break. Stop."
BDSM doesn't always include sex.
Contrary to popular belief and what you see in pornos, BDSM is not always about sex. In fact, a professional dominatrix NEVER has sex with her clients. Crazy, right?
The thing is, BDSM isn't always about orgasms and erections. It's more like therapy or meditation. It's a place to explore boundaries, emotions, and fantasy. Yet, it is very erotic.
"On a physiological level, the elements of fear and danger get the adrenal glands going, flooding a person's system with epinephrine, followed by endorphins. These are the body's natural painkillers, and they model opioids in how they make us feel, giving us feelings of calm, relaxation, and well-being." Says LaMorgese, "Most clients say that when a session is over, they feel a sense of euphoria or a warm, ecstatic glow. Psychologically, this sort of activity can also be very healing. Usually subs have gone through life harboring sexual desires that they feel are shameful, but practicing BDSM gives them a free space to explore their fantasies without fear of judgment and shame."
Here's the difference between Dom vs. Sub.
In your general BDSM role play, there is a dominant and a submissive. The dom has control over the sub. In Fifty Shades, Christian is the dom and Anna is the sub. Of course, these roles are completely gender fluid.
"Generally, BDSM is about dominance and submission. One person plays the "top" or dominant role, while the other plays the "bottom" or submissive role." LaMorgese tells us. "These roles often coincide with each person's natural tendencies or come from a particular desire they feel to dominate or submit. It's also possible to be a "switch," which means that you can play both roles naturally."
If you're not sure "who" you are in the BDSM sphere, there is nothing to worry about. Figuring out which role feels best for you actually takes some experimentation. You might even wind up surprised by what you're into. Perhaps you really think you're the ultimate dom, only to realize this doesn't feel right to you, and you'd much rather be tied up; that's OK!
You can try different things and see what works for you. The beauty of sexual experimentation is allowing yourself to try things and make mistakes. As long as you're exploring these fantasies with someone who you trust, you have nothing to fear.