You’ve heard about it in the papers and you’ve seen and heard allusions to it in pop culture (hello, RiRi), and perhaps you’ve dabbled in it a bit yourself—or were always curious about what that might be like. Bondage & Discipline/Dominance and Submission/Sado-Masochism, better known by its stage name BDSM, is a type of sex that involves domination and the relinquishing of control.

 

If you’re not into BDSM yourself, or aren’t familiar with what it really is, there’s probably still a chance that you’ve seen some of the iconic paraphernalia associated with it: handcuffs, ties, whips, chains, and all the leather you can image. We’re here to answer a few basics about this very popular form of sexual pleasure and play.  Plus, this handy guide to BDSM terminology will also provide you with some need-to-know basics for a BDSM beginner.  

 

While archaeologists have found evidence of BDSM culture in relics that date back to the Mesopotamian and ancient Indian, Greek, and Roman eras (can you say ‘flagellation,’ anyone??), modern BDSM rose to some prominence (or, more accurately for the times, notoriety) in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The “sadomasochism” in BDSM got its name from a Frenchman named Marquis de Sade, who was born in the mid-18th century. He was one of the first people to document sexual fantasies that included violence and behavior that was considered unchristian and even obscene. This dude spent most of his life in prison. There was also an Austrian man named Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who lived and died in the mid-19th century. Masoch, masochism. You get the idea. This guy was a writer and journalist who preferred to talk about women who claimed control in the bedroom, particularly in his famous novel Venus in Furs, which explores female dominance.

 

Today, BDSM is a widely practiced phenomenon, and people use social networking sites and groups online to connect with other community members—though it’s not exactly a closed club. And under the umbrella of BDSM, there’s definitely a spectrum—not all of it is chains and dungeons and dog collars and whips and fire (though more power to those who do incorporate all of the above). Teasing, light choking, verbal commands, spanking, and things of that lighter nature all take inspiration from BDSM.


Something that you’ll hear from almost all people who seriously practice BDSM is that the most important element is communication and clear boundaries. Sometimes this is referred to as “RACKing,” or “Risk Aware Consensual Kink, which are the BDSM community guidelines on how to make sure everyone is aware of the dangers they consent to,” according to GQ. Anyone engaging in BDSM should be with a partner (or several) who will listen to their needs, concerns, fears, excitements, kinks, and everything else in between. I mean, really everyone should be with partners like that, but especially when pain is involved. As with any sexual act, enthusiastic consent is key. When you give and receive it, the exploration is endless.

 

by Emma Glassman-Hughes

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