The idea of bondage, domination, submission, and pain sounds quite scary and yet tantalizing to many. There is a lot of excitement and controversy around BDSM (Bondage, Domination, and Sadomasochism) as it is becoming more acceptable in mainstream society. Artists such as Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Rihanna glamorize the lifestyle in their music and videos, and the publishing of 50 Shades of Grayhas brought the fantasy to many households across the globe.
Some look at those who participate in BDSM as a group of strange, sexual deviants that are trying to resolve some sort of childhood trauma through domination and pain. Others look at it as a pleasurable activity that can add excitement and intimacy to sexual experiences. Regardless if you are pro, anti, or even on the fence about BDSM there is a lot that can be learned from those who participate in BDSM culture and that is consent.
There are many levels of BDSM, and some of you may have experienced a few activities without even realizing it. The most common forms can include the use of blindfolds, restraints, pulling hair, dripping hot candle wax on the body, and maybe a little bit of spanking to name a few. The more advanced participants might visit dungeons (open play spaces), play with blades, electrocution, ropes, leather, clamps, and the list goes on. Those who participate in the more advanced forms of BDSM usually refer to themselves as being part of “the lifestyle;” which includes guidelines to protect those actively involved in BDSM from various legal, physical, emotional, and financial consequences. Transparency and consent are very important to those active in the lifestyle.
In the BDSM lifestyle the term “scene” is often used, and is the beginning process of consent before any acts occur. A scene is a script for all aspects of activities that will be taken place prior to any “play” occurring. All participants discuss and agree on the beginning, middle and end of the scene. They discuss personal boundaries, who will be the dominant, who will be the submissive, what toys to include, safe words, and stages of the play. Some scenes include sexual activity and some don’t depending on the individuals’ agreement. There is always room for spontaneity, but in general all activities are agreed on BEFORE the activity even occurs, and oftentimes a contract is signed between all parties. Many BDSM communities even strongly discourage the use of alcohol or drugs during a scene. This helps to ensure that all parties are safe and have full consent within activities. In many play spaces intoxication is completely prohibited, and members are asked to leave the property if suspected. Full consent is extremely important within BDSM.
The use of safe words and/or body movements is very important in a scene. If someone is playing the part of the submissive, also known as the bottom, it is important that they communicate beforehand their safe word/body motion to let their dominant/top partner know when the scene is becoming too much for them to handle or if it is time to stop. In general, the submissive partner holds a large amount of power in scenes because they control the levels of intensity for both partners. There is usually a yield word/motion and a stop word/motion. Having good chemistry with your partner is very important prior to and during the scene. In general, if someone has to use their stop word/motion the scene has gone too far. Attunement is very important between all parties, and it’s not a good for someone to be known for taking things too far in scenes. Accidents do happen, but in general the use of stop words means the person wasn’t paying attention to their partner’s needs.
Just imagine if we took all these examples of consent, and applied them to “vanilla” (non-BDSM) sex. What would sexual intercourse look like if all parties agreed beforehand what their rules and boundaries were, when and where they would have sex, and their safe words/body motions? What would happen if both parties had to really make sure they paid attention to their partner’s needs during sex? How about negotiating sex without the use of alcohol and substances? The reality is that if you need substances to have sex there are probably some underlying issues you may need to reflect on before having sex with anyone else. How about signing a contract prior to sex? Some may look at all the rules as a burden, but are the long-term effects of having partially/non-consensual sex really worth it? Next time you have sex consider how much energy you have put into protecting yourself and your partner legally, physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Think about what allowing for transparent discussions on sex with your partner(s) can do for your future sexual experiences. There is a lot that can be learned from our BDSM communities.