BDSM 101.

There’s no BDSM textbook. Well sorta. I mean I’ve looked on Amazon. Here’s stuff I’ve gone over with clients when they are first exploring this world.

The definition is Bondage, Domination, Submission/Sadist, Masochist.

Let’s break it down.

Bondage- Being tied up/restrained. There are actually people who specialize in rope and learn very cool ties.

Domination- Part of a D/s (Dominant/submissive) dynamic. I know every one’s thinking it, the D would be Christian Grey in 50 Shades. But for real, 50 Shades leaves a lot of stuff out.

Submissive- The person in the D/s dynamic who submits to a dominant. This can take many forms and variations in a one time play or a long term D/s dynamic. Submission can evolve into slave/master dynamics and/or Daddy/little or Mommy/little dynamics. They are pretty much what they sound like.

Sadist- Some one who derives sexual pleasure from inflicting pain.

Masochist- Someone who derives sexual pleasure from receiving pain.

That’s a lot to process. So just think about it for a minute.

BDSM falls under the broad category of kink. Within the D/s dynamic there are individuals who identify as a switch. These are people who can dominate or submit depending on the partner or situation. Dominant does not mean male. Just as submissive does not mean female. There are many female Domme’s and many male sub’s.

How did I learn about BDSM? Work. I worked with clients in “the lifestyle” as many Kinkster’s call it. I had a client who identified as a “little” which is part of a daddy/little dynamic. I had to learn about it. Fast.

I found fetlife. It’s super pervy- social media for Kinkster’s (There is pornography on that site so don’t go on it if you’re not able to tune it out or if you find that offensive). However fetlife actually houses amazing writers where there are A LOT of blogs about BDSM and I soaked it all up so I sounded like I actually knew what I was talking about with BDSM clients. Because for real, I couldn’t find a textbook. But I have found two authors on fetlife who actually published some works on amazon.

I also spoke with therapists who specialize in sex therapy and who also work this population of individuals.

I unknowingly built a niche. And it’s fun. What I’ve learned about BDSM dynamics is that when done right, there is a tremendous amount of trust, deep connections, a need for recovery from play, some people with strict rules and definitions, others who are more fluid. Kink is a world in and of itself.

When done correctly BDSM is the opposite of abuse. It is not a reason to commit some one (yes that’s happened to a couple of my patients after they told their previous provider they are in a d/s dynamic). And a provider who doesn’t take the time to understand it is really doing their client wrong.

I remember working inpatient and a patient disclosed they were a masochist in a d/s relationship. I remember my old school Attending just crossed his arms and said gruffly, “You use safe words?” the patient said yes. “You consent to everything beforehand?” patient said yes. My attending nodded, and the interview proceeded. Had I known then what I know now my respect and awe at his acceptance and knowledge in that moment would have been much more than it was.

BDSM is ultimately individuals seeking fulfillment sexually and/or romantically in a way that is authentic for them. It should be consenting adults engaging in a pre-arranged situation or scene that has been talked out with safe words to slow it down and/or halt it completely (Often yellow and red are used. Though some people in the community think that’s too easy?! And they use something random like noodleCaboodle or something weird.)

For people who want to explore their sub/dom/switch/little/daddy/sadist/masochist/top/bottom side…don’t just dive in. Do your research. Understand what should happen, what you are entitled to ask and know ahead of time. Research “negotiating a scene” “aftercare” and “hard limits and soft limits”. Know that there are plenty of individuals who prey on newbies whether you identify as a top or bottom dom or sub. But there’s also a thing called “Sub-frenzy” google that too. It’s real. I’ve seen people get taken advantage of in that state and it’s not safe or good.

There are beautiful and lasting BDSM relationships. There are short or long ugly one’s too.

If you are interested in exploring or starting to explore BDSM do so with caution. You don’t want to be tied up, cuffed, blindfolded, gagged, with some one’s hands around your neck, when you realize you have no way to safe word and maybe this was a bad idea.

The biggest blunders I’ve seen are ignoring your gut, because a person is all into diving into BDSM so they ignore warning signs that this person is nuts. And it doesn’t end well. I hear so many bad stories of people first starting out. Part of the issue being they have no one to ask or talk to about any of this. Because of the stigma society carries toward alternative sexual practices. But we are good with “grabbing a woman by the pussy” when she doesn’t consent. I mean really. Sorry. One political jab. No more.

If you are not into BDSM no problem. But if a friend of yours is…don’t shut them down or shut them out. Because they need support. They feel alone. And if you are that person starting a dive down the rabbit hole…research, find people within the community, find mental health professionals who see kinky individuals. Find support. Positive support. Set boundaries. Stick to them. Be safe. And freaking use a safe word and plan for being gagged and tied- plan for a safe signal (some people will hold something in their hand and drop it if they need to stop for some reason. Be creative).

BDSM can be healing for people, a release, comforting. BDSM is not reserved for the LGBT community. There are plenty of heterosexual individuals who practice BDSM. What I’ve learned is there a LOT of kinks and fetishes. It’s not a one size fits all. It can help heal people, but can also leave deep scars when not practiced appropriately. Basically proceed with caution, know what your getting into, and have fun!

“Diversity is strength. Difference is a teacher. Fear difference and you learn nothing.” Hannah Gadsby