BDSM 101: What does BDSM actually stand for? #BDSM101

What is this BDSM thing anyway?

bdsm

You have probably heard the acronym so much that it has become a ‘thing’ without knowing what it is. So let’s discuss what BDSM is.

First off, BDSM is an acronym. It covers a wide range of activities settled under three distinct banners.

BD=Bondage & Discipline

DS=Domination & Submission

SM=Sadomasochism (Sadism & Masochism)

BD+DS+SM=BDSM

I will go into each of those sections in later posts, but for this post, I want to stress that using the term BDSM is actually a misnomer. Why? Because people tend to affix that banner to what scares them the most. It has become a dangerous thing. “I cannot associate what I do with BDSM because everyone knows BDSM is…[insert your word here: kinky, scary, bad, evil, the coming of the apocalypse]

Now don’t get me wrong. There are some pretty extreme activities within the BDSM banner. But that doesn’t mean everything is to be shunned. For one thing, what is extreme to one person is a normal Friday night to another.

I like to say BDSM is a safe way to live out your fantasies. Or, let me rephrase, BDSM should be a safe way to live out your fantasies. Never believe that just because someone is into BDSM that means they are looking out for your best interests. The only one doing that is you. However, in the right context, one can live out their fantasy in a safe environment.

SSC vs RACK

Two subsections you will hear about in the BDSM realm are SSC and RACK. So what do those mean?

SSC

Safe, Sane, & Consensual (Or SSC as it is more commonly referred) is a practice of playing with those three things being paramount. The type of play must be safe. It must be sane. And it must be consensual.

Now, be aware that what is safe and sane to one person may be freaky and ‘get the fuck out’ to another. However, the underlying concept is that a top and bottom will come out of the scene without harm. Notice I said harm and not hurt. there are a lot of activities that do cause some sort of pain. Pain can be beneficial and a way to ramp up those endorphins. But harm is a whole other thing entirely.

RACK

Now that brings us to RACK or Risk-Aware Consensual Kink. People who play under the RACK banner are saying “Yes, we know this activity isn’t safe. But we’re making the choice to understand that and do it anyway.” And that’s totally their right. RACK includes quite a bit of what’s called Edge play. (More on that in a later post)

Which is better: SSC or RACK?

There is no way to make that kind of decision for anyone except you. People who practice SSC are fine and people who practice RACK are fine. If they have chosen, it is not up to anyone else to tell them they are wrong. (And that is unfortunately a problem within the BDSM subtext but more on that in a later post.)

Who can practice BDSM?

As a caveat to this and other BDSM posts, let me state that BDSM as practiced by two consenting adults is between them. As long as they both consented to the play (and even that has caveats – more on that in another post), nobody has the right to tell them what they do is wrong. By adults, I’m talking about people who are a legal adult where they live (In the US it’s 18.) I’m also talking about legal adults who have the mental acuity to make their own decisions, reason things out, and come to conclusions.

If a person is mentally disabled, should they play? I can’t answer that as it’s taking their right of choice away. I do think the further they are mentally disabled, the less likely it is they can make an informed choice. And at that point, I would consider that non-consensual as how can someone consent who doesn’t ‘get it’?

But once again, I cannot make that choice for them. And I won’t. Thankfully I don’t have to.

Language

In learning BDSM, you’re taking on a whole new language. Who are the people involved? Dom. Sub. Top. Bottom…. You may have heard Dom and Sub but Top and Bottom might be new to you if you’ve only ever read BDSM stuff online or through erotic novels.

Dom- a person who is a dominant within a BDSM context

Sub – a person who is submissive within a BDSM context

Top – a person who controls a BDSM scene

Bottom – a person who submits during a BDSM scene

Mental vs. Physical

I like to think of it as the mental vs physical within BDSM, but others may disagree. A Dom is a person who is in mental control. It’s part of who they are. A Sub is a person who enjoys giving up mental control. A Top enjoys controlling a physical scene. A Bottom enjoys giving up control in a physical scene.

In a lot of erotic lit, there’s this assumption that a Dom is naturally a Top and a Sub is naturally a Bottom. Not so. You can have:

  • Dominant Tops
  • Submissive Tops
  • Dominant Bottoms
  • Submissive Bottoms

And don’t forget Switches who can switch between the Top and Bottom role at will.

Power Exchange

At its core, BDSM is about the give and take of control. The energy bond that can pop up between a dom and sub because of what they are doing has to be emphasized. When a top and bottom scene and there’s an electrical current in the air. If it’s intense, you can tell the two are completely and utterly hooked into the other. It’s like they can practically feel each other’s emotions. It’s a high. It’s an energy exchange. Now let me state that energy is also exchanged in a dom/sub relationship outside of a scene as well. And once that connection is forged can become a constant buzz between the two.

Warning: When engaging in anything remotely dangerous (And BDSM can be dangerous), always do your research. Study. Talk to people. Learn. Never take one person’s word for anything. If twenty different people who don’t know one another say the same thing, you should listen. But always trust your gut.

If you want to engage in a certain type of play, read about it – and I’m not talking about erotic novels or stories. Read books on BDSM. Talk to people at BDSM clubs – email works if you are too scared to go to a club at first. Learn from someone who knows, damn it. I’ve seen the results of edge play from people who didn’t have all the facts. It’s not pretty. And it can be deadly.

Would you go diving off a cliff without learning to swim? Would you do intense weight-lifting without warming up?

Learn. Study. Practice. Then indulge.

Coming up

Coming next week, I’ll dive into: Bondage & Discipline

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Or Contact me about something you would like to see in a future post.

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