HOME l ORGANIZATION l NEWS l INFO l TOPICS l RESOURCES l LINKS l INDEX
Do's and Dont's of Kinky Sex
Sex Talk Realness: BDSM
BDSM and Better Mental Health
25 Facts About BDSM That You Won't Learn From 50 Shades of Gray
Three Couples Try Bondage for the First Time
BDSM is a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, role-playing, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who don't consider themselves BDSM practitioners, inclusion in the BDSM community and/or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. Interest in BDSM can range from one-time experimentation to an active lifestyle. It is sometimes referred to as kink sexual identity.
The term BDSM derives from joining the term B&D (bondage and discipline) with S&M (sadomasochism or sadism and masochism), or as a compound initialism from B&D, D&S (dominance and submission), and S&M. Regardless of its origin, BDSM is used as a catch-all phrase to include a wide range of activities, forms of interpersonal relationships, and distinct subcultures.
BDSM is typically included under the sexual minorities umbrella to include individuals with alternative sexual expression. Researchers estimate that 5-10 percent of the US population engages in BDSM activities for sexual pleasure on at least an occasional basis. The BDSM community is made up of a good mix of heterosexual and homosexual practitioners. Here is a breakdown on the sexual orientation of BDSM people:
BDSM communities generally welcome anyone with a non-normative streak who likes to engage in kinky activities and exotic forms of sex play (usually referred to as fetishism) that might include such acts as spanking, whipping, pinching, flogging, binding, and more. Most activity centers on dominance and submission. Incidents are mild or staged activities that involve no real pain or violence. There is never an intent to exploit, demean, abuse, or harm a participant.
Domination & Submission: The BDSM Relationship Handbook by Michael Makai
Different Loving: The World of Sexual Dominance & Submission by Gloria Brame, John Jacobs, William Brame
S & M 101 by Jay Wiseman
Master's Manual: Handbook of Erotic Dominance by Jack Rinella
Erotic Slavehood by Christina Abernathy
Come Hither: Common Sense Guide to Kinky Sex by Gloria Brame
Diary of a Submissive by Sophie Morgan
When Someone You Love is Kinky by Dossie Easton
Defense of Masochism by Anita Phillips
Radical Ecstasy by Dossie Easton
BDSM Activity: Whips and Chains
Since the popularity of the book, Fifty Shades of Grey (by E.L. James, 2011), there has been an increase in the number of people who are curious about BDSM. This phenomenon has given rise to newcomers who might not be aware of the cultural norms and protocols that have been established in the BDSM community.
BDSM activities are between consenting adults and might include such elements as tickling, teasing, spanking, paddling, hair pulling, pinching, bondage, biting, scratching, torture, punishment, begging, flogging, whipping, slapping, hand cuffs, ropes, chains, wax dripping, crossdressing, leather clothes, collaring, and intricate role play. These activities, usually applied mildly and lightheartedly, are intended for fun and sexual exhilaration.
Symbols used in the BDSM community and fetish subculture include the Triskelion (left) and the Leather Pride flag (right).
BDSM activity often centers on dominant and submissive play (master/slave, top/bottom, boss/secretary, teacher/student, owner/pet, bears/cubs). Dominant practitioners might be called Daddy Doms or Mommy Doms. Submissive practitioners might be called Babygirls or Leatherboys. Sometimes BDSM involves regressive activities in which a person acts like a baby and seeks to be mothered (Age Play, Infantilism). Sometimes BDSM involves role play or costume play (cosplay), in which participants dress up like specific characters. Sometimes BDSM involves dressing up and acting like animals (Puppy Play, Cat Play, Pony Play, Furries)
The BDSM community insists that activities should always be safe, sane, and consensual. BDSM activities almost always involve planned or structured experiences. They can be staged or scripted scenes (sessions) or role plays. Activities are said to be conducted in a controlled environment. Oftentimes the activities are negotiated and agreed upon in advance and committed to a formal contract.
Sometimes sessions might involve high-risk or "edgeplay" activities. Typically, a "safe word" is utilized ("red" is a popular word) as a signal to give participants a chance to slow down or stop at any time during the proceedings.
The BDSM umbrella also includes couples who engage in swinging and polyamory.
The strong fashion influence of BDSM is evident in such groups as motorcycle gangs, heavy metal, goth, and punk.
The BDSM community mandates that activity should never involve children. It should never cause permanent harm or injury. It should never cross over into exploitation, abuse, rape, incest, domestic violence, or any criminal acts.
SAFE / SANE / CONSENSUAL
Safe, Sane, Consensual (SSC) - In
the BDSM community, safe, sane, and consensual are the common
principles guiding relationships and activities. BDSM
activities should be:
Safe: Being responsible.
Taking care of each other. Being knowledgeable about safety
concerns. Attempts should be made to identify and prevent
risks to health. Don't be reckless. Minimizing
dangers. Protecting yourself and your partner from STDs
and other hazards.
Sane: Activities should be
undertaken in a sane and sensible frame of mind. Establishing
trust. Using good judgment. Activities should be
reserved for mentally and emotionally healthy individuals.
Knowing the difference between fantasy and reality.
Consensual: All activities should involve the full consent of all parties involved. Respecting limits and honoring agreements. Observing rules and protocols. No pressuring.
The leather subculture denotes practices and styles of dress organized around sexual activities that involve leather garments, such as leather jackets, vests, boots, chaps, harnesses, or other items. Wearing leather garments is one way that participants in this culture self-consciously distinguish themselves from mainstream sexual cultures. Leather culture is most visible in gay communities and most often associated with gay men (enthusiasts are nicknamed "leathermen"), but it is also reflected in various ways in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight worlds. Many people associate leather culture with BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sado/Masochism, also called "SM" or "S&M") practices and its many subcultures. But for others, wearing black leather clothing is an erotic fashion that expresses heightened masculinity or the appropriation of sexual power; love of motorcycles, motorcycle clubs and independence; and/or engagement in sexual kink or leather fetishism.
Gay male leather culture has
existed since the late 1940s, when it likely grew out of
post-WWII biker culture. Early gay leather bars were subcultural
versions of the motorcycle club with pioneering gay motorcycle
clubs including the Satyrs, established in Los Angeles in 1954;
Oedipus, also established in Los Angeles in 1958, and the New
York Motorbike Club. Early San Francisco clubs included the
Warlocks and the California Motor Club, while early clubs in
Sydney included the South Pacific Motor Club (SPMC). Leather
Clubs for gay men started in Amsterdam and Berlin in the 1950s,
and in Sydney from 1970.
In 1964 an article on Life magazine with a significant amount of prejudice, drew attention to the gay leather community. The "Tool Box" bar in San Fransisco was the target of the prejudice, although not specified, it was heavily speculated. The fourteen page article titled, "Homosexuality in America" also brought leather subculture to the attention of isolated and closeted gays.
These gay clubs, like the clubs of straight motorcycle culture in general, reflected a disaffection with the mainstream culture of post-World War II America, a disaffection whose notoriety — and therefore appeal — expanded after the sensationalized news coverage of the Hollister "riot" of 1947. The 1953 film The Wild One starring Marlon Brando wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a leather jacket, and Muir cap, played on pop-cultural fascination with the Hollister "riot" and promoted an image of masculine independence that resonated with some gay men who were dissatisfied with a culture that stereotyped gay men as effeminate. To that end, gay motorcycle culture also reflected some men's disaffection with the coexistent gay cultures more organized around high culture, popular culture (especially musical theater), and/or camp style. Perhaps as a result, the leather community that emerged from the motorcycle clubs also became the practical and symbolic location for gay men's open exploration of kink and S&M.
BDSM Terms and Definitions
Age Play: Usually referring to
mommy/baby role play, implying a nurturing relationship.
Animal Play: The sub acts or dresses like an animal (puppy, cat, pony).
Bondage: Acts involving the physical restraint of a partner.
Bottom: One who receives physical sensation from a top in a scene. The one-done-to rather than the doer.
Collared: Submissive or slave who is owned in a loving intimate relationship.
Collaring: The formal acceptance by a dominant, of a sub's service, or the "ownership."
Consent: Mutual agreement to the terms of a scene or ongoing BDSM relationship.
Contract: A written-out agreement between the dominant and submissive. It can be formal, and is usually written after much negotiation by the dominant and the sub, outlining what structure, guidelines, rules and boundaries to the relationship are agreed upon by the two.
Dom: Dominant. A person who exercises control. Contrast with submissive.
Domme: Woman who exercises control (Dominatrix).
Fetish: A specific obsession or delight in one object or experience.
Masochism: Act of receiving pain for sensual/sexual pleasure.
Masochist: Person who enjoys pain, usually sexually.
Munch: A meeting or get-together of a group of BDSM people, usually in a "vanilla" setting in street-appropriate attire.
OTK: Over the knee. refers to spanking or paddling.
Spanking: The erotic spanking of another person for the sexual arousal or gratification of either or both parties.
Sadism: The act of inflicting pain.
Sadist: Person who enjoys inflicting pain, usually sexually.
Safeword - A codeword a bottom can use to force BDSM activity to stop.
Sub: Submissive. Person that gives up control.
Top: Person "doing the action." Contrast with bottom, person receiving the action.
Vanilla: Someone who is not into BDSM. Alternatively, sexual behavior which does not encompass BDSM activity. The term is sometimes used in a derogatory sense.
Listed here, for entertainment value, are publications and movies with a BDSM theme:
Fifty Shades of Grey / Book Series by E.L. James (2011-12)
The Story of O / Book by Anne Desclos (1954)
Nine & Half Weeks / Book by Elizabeth McNeill (1978)
Dezemberkind / Book by Leander Sukov (2004)
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty / Book Series by Anne Rice (1983)
Gor Series / Gorian Novels by John Norman (1966-13)
Fifty Shades of Grey / US Film starring Dakota Johnson & Jamie Dornan
The Secretary / US Film starring James Spader & Maggie Gyllenhaal
Nine & Half Weeks / US Film starring Kim Basinger & Mickey Rourke
Quills / US Film starring Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslett, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Caine
Preaching to the Perverted / British Film
The Piano Teacher / French Film
BDSM and Psychotherapy
There have been many efforts by institutions to marginalize subgroups, including members of sexual minorities, of which BDSM is considered a part. Mental health professionals have sometimes been insensitive to the BDSM community and have oftentimes lacked accurate knowledge or understanding about the BDSM community.
Beginning with the DSM-II, Sexual Sadism and
Sexual Masochism have been listed as "sexually deviant behaviors."
Sadism and masochism were also once found in the "personality
disorder" section. Sexual Sadism and Sexual Masochism were
included as "paraphilias" in the DSM-IV-TR. It has been
suggested these diagnostic listings may have resulted in pathologizing and
harm to healthy clients who identify as sadists or masochists.
Therapists are encouraged to learn more about the BDSM community and to make an effort to understand that BDSM is a practice, a lifestyle, and an identity. The mental health profession needs to recognize that the subculture of BDSM requires special knowledge, skills, and sensitivity. Unfortunately, BDSM clients are often left to rely on professionals who know very little about BDSM practices and who may not possess the specialized knowledge that is necessary to work with BDSM clients. Efforts need to be made to identify counselors and therapists who are "kink aware," "kink positive," or "kink friendly."
According to research (Kolmes et al. 2006), major themes of biased and inadequate care to BDSM clients are:
--Considering BDSM to be
--Requiring a client to give up BDSM activities in order to continue in treatment.
--Confusing BDSM with abuse.
--Having to educate the therapist about BDSM.
--Assuming that BDSM interests are indicative of past family/spousal abuse.
--Therapists misrepresenting their expertise by stating that they are BDSM-positive when they are not actually knowledgeable about BDSM practices.
These same researchers suggested that therapists should be open to learning more about the BDSM communities, to show comfort in talking about BDSM issues, and to understand and promote "safe, sane, consensual" BDSM practices.
The paraphilic disorders that are listed in the new DSM-5 include Voyeuristic, Exhibitionist, Frotteuristic, Pedophilic, Fetishistic, and Transvestic. There is no doubt these activities are accurately described as "disorders." But, also included in this category are Sexual Masochism and Sexual Sadism.
The BDSM community would suggest that Sexual Masochism and Sexual Sadism should be considered within the context of a "controlled environment" and whether these activities are "associated with significant distress or disability in social, occupational, or other important activities."
BDSM is mostly about the "dominant" partner getting his/her way with a passive, exploited "submissive"
BDSM community emphasizes the use
of negotiation and the creation of scripts. This view fails to
recognize that submissive individuals consent for pleasure. It
also fails to recognize the simple metaphysics that 'fulfilling
the masochists needs" is central to finding and keeping the
submissive partner. Frequently one hears of Topping from the
Bottom, where the submissive partner manipulates the
relationship, while appearing passive, submissive and obedient.
BDSM is about physical pain
Kinky preferences are highly variable and not all forms induce pain. Although pain can be involved, it is in a sexual nature. Pain is experienced in the context of love, trust, and arousal.
BDSM activities inevitably escalate to extremes and/or become addictive
We see a "making up for lost time"
phenomenon with some individuals who are late in coming out.
However, this high level of activity usually levels off, though
this level may be "occasional" for some and "24 / 7" for others.
BDSM is self-destructive
This is simply inaccurate and not
supported by any evidence. Self-destructive behaviours are
experienced no more frequently by BDSM practitioners than the
general public. On that note, anything pleasurable is subject to
abuse and BDSM is no exception.
BDSM stems from childhood abuse
There is no evidence for this claim, and it has been disproven by various articles.
BDSM is an avoidance of intimacy
BDSM is no more or less prone to
intimacy amplification or aversion than more standard sexual
BDSM is separate from "vanilla" sex
For most practitioners, BDSM
activities and "regular" intercourse are often combined or
intertwined in one way or another.
Sexual fetishism or erotic
fetishism is a sexual focus on a nonliving object or nongenital
body part. The object of interest is called the fetish.
The person who has a fetish for that object is a fetishist. A
sexual fetish may be regarded as a non-pathological aid to
sexual excitement, or as a mental disorder if it causes
significant psychosocial distress for the person or has
detrimental effects on important areas of their life. Sexual
arousal from a particular body part can be further classified as
While medical definitions restrict the term sexual fetishism to objects or body parts, fetish can also refer to sexual interest in specific activities in common discourse.
In common parlance, the word
fetish is used to refer to any sexually arousing stimuli, not
all of which meet the medical criteria for fetishism. This
broader usage of fetish covers parts or features of the body
(including obesity and body modifications), objects, situations
and activities (such as smoking or BDSM). Paraphilias such as
urophilia, necrophilia and coprophilia have been described as
Originally, most medical sources defined fetishism as a sexual interest in non-living objects, body parts or secretions. The publication of the DSM-III in 1980 changed that by excluding arousal from body parts in its diagnostic criteria for fetishism. In 1987, a revised edition of the DSM-III (DSM-III-R) introduced a new diagnosis for body part arousal, called partialism. The DSM-IV retained this distinction. Martin Kafka argued that partialism should be merged into fetishism because of overlap between the two conditions, and the DSM-5 subsequently did so in 2013. The ICD-10 definition is still limited to non-living objects.
Types of Fetishisms
In a review of 48 cases of clinical fetishism, fetishes included clothing (58.3%), rubber and rubber items (22.9%), footwear (14.6%), body parts (14.6%), leather (10.4%), and soft materials or fabrics (6.3%). A 2007 study counted members of Internet discussion groups with the word "fetish" in their name. Of the groups about body parts or features, 47% belonged to groups about feet (foot fetishism), 9% about body fluids, 9% about body size, 7% about hair (hair fetish), and 5% about muscles (muscle worship). Less popular groups focused on navels (navel fetishism), legs, body hair, mouth, and nails, among other things. Of the groups about objects, 33% belonged to groups about clothes worn on the legs or buttocks (such as stockings or skirts), 32% about footwear (shoe fetishism), 12% about underwear (underwear fetishism), and 9% about whole-body wear such as jackets. Less popular object groups focused on headwear, stethoscopes, wristwear, and diapers (diaper fetishism).
The ICD-10 defines fetishism as a reliance on non-living objects for sexual arousal and satisfaction. It is only considered a disorder when fetishistic activities are the foremost source of sexual satisfaction, and become so compelling or unacceptable as to cause distress or interfere with normal sexual intercourse. The ICD's research guidelines require that the preference persists for at least six months, and is markedly distressing or acted on.
Under the DSM-5, fetishism is sexual arousal from nonliving objects or specific nongenital body parts, excluding clothes used for cross-dressing (as that falls under transvestic disorder) and sex toys that are designed for genital stimulation. In order to be diagnosed as fetishistic disorder, the arousal must persist for at least six months and cause significant psychosocial distress or impairment in important areas of their life. In the DSM-IV, sexual interest in body parts was distinguished from fetishism under the name partialism (diagnosed as Paraphilia NOS), but it was merged with fetishistic disorder for the DSM-5.
The ReviseF65 project has campaigned for the ICD diagnosis to be abolished completely to avoid stigmatizing fetishists. Sexologist Odd Reiersøl argues that distress associated with fetishism is often caused by shame, and that being subject to diagnosis only exacerbates that. He suggests that, in cases where the individual fails to control harmful behavior, they instead be diagnosed with a personality or impulse control disorder.
According to the World Health Organization, fetishistic fantasies are common and should only be treated as a disorder when they impair normal functioning or cause distress. Goals of treatment can include elimination of criminal activity, reduction in reliance on the fetish for sexual satisfaction, improving relationship skills, or attempting to remove deviant arousal altogether. The evidence for treatment efficacy is limited and largely based on case studies, and no research on treatment for female fetishists exists.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one popular approach. Cognitive behavioral therapists teach clients to identify and avoid antecedents to fetishistic behavior, and substitute non-fetishistic fantasies for ones involving the fetish. Aversion therapy can reduce fetishistic arousal in the short term, but is unlikely to have any permanent effect.
Antiandrogens and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed to lower sex drive. Cyproterone acetate is the most commonly used antiandrogen, except in the United States, where it may not be available. A large body of literature has shown that it reduces general sexual fantasies. Side effects may include osteoporosis, liver dysfunction, and feminization. Case studies have found that the antiandrogen medroxyprogesterone acetate is successful in reducing sexual interest, but can have side effects including osteoporosis, diabetes, deep vein thrombosis, feminization, and weight gain. Some hospitals use leuprolide acetate and goserelin acetate to reduce libido, and while there is presently little evidence for their efficacy, they have fewer side effects than other antiandrogens. A number of studies support the use of SSRIs, which may be preferable over antiandrogens because of their relatively benign side effects. None of these drugs cure sexual fetishism, but they can make it easier to manage.
Relationship counselers may attempt to reduce dependence on the fetish and improve partner communication using techniques like sensate focusing. Partners may agree to incorporate the fetish into their activities in a controlled, time-limited manner, or set aside only certain days to practice the fetishism. If the fetishist cannot sustain an erection without the fetish object, the therapist might recommend orgasmic reconditioning or covert sensitization to increase arousal to normal stimuli (although the evidence base for these techniques is weak).
Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama