BDSM: The Hidden Faces of Sex

BDSM is a term often thrown around in discussions about many different sexual practises. It is somewhat unfortunate then, that it has such a vague definition. For some of the practitioners, the phrase can have quite different meanings, and what one-person views as quite extreme sexual activity others might view as fairly tame or normal. In a situation that finds so many things thrown in the same bucket, how do we actually clarify what is BDSM and what isn’t?

What is BDSM?

At it’s core, BDSM has evolved into a catch all phrase to encompass a huge range of sexual acts or relationships. Two things are consistent through almost all kinds of BDSM though:

  • Participants engage in and enjoy experiencing sensations which would usually be unpleasant if experienced in a non-erotic setting.
  • Participants need to trust and care for each other, as the acts performed can be quite dangerous and need full cooperation to be successful.

The term itself derives from some older abbreviations. B and D stand for bondage and submission. D and S stand for domination and submission. S and M stand for sadism and masochism. BDSM encompasses all of these and more.

BDSM activities can be loosely grouped into two categories: Physical and Mental. Physical activities such as flogging and bondage are very popular, and aim to illicit emotions and feelings through physical contact. Mental activities such as hypnosis aim to induce an altered state of mind, experiencing things that wouldn’t normally be felt.

Types of BDSM

As BDSM covers such a large range of activities, the types of play people engage in can be loosely grouped into categories. These include:

  • Sensory Deprivation: By removing one of the five senses from a person, you cause all of their other senses to become magnified. The most common example of this in BDSM will be the removal of sight. Loss of sight creates a sense of mystery in sexual activity, as the person won’t know what is coming or what to expect, and will have their other senses (particularly touch) amplified to make activities more impactful.
  • Sensation Play: A type of play where the entire focus is on making someone feel things, usually more unusual feelings. Opposites are particularly common in sensation play, such as alternating between hot and cold objects or firm and light touches. Combining sensation play and sensory deprivation can make these sensations much more intense.
  • Impact Play: Many people out there enjoy impact play without even realising it. The simple slapping of a butt during sex is the most basic form of this. Feeling pain in some way can release endorphins making your sexual activity more pleasurable overall. This type of play links strongly with the sadism and masochism parts of BDSM. The more sadistic or masochistic the couple, the more extreme the play can get. Impact Play is never intended to hurt or damage someone in ways they don’t enjoy.
  • Bondage: Bondage can range from the simple act of tying a partner’s hands with a scarf, right up to elaborate rope rigging and fully suspending a partner in the air. Whatever the level you play at, bondage is all about the restriction of movement for a partner.
  • Humiliation Play: One of the more extreme parts of BDSM, humiliation play involves (unsurprisingly) one partner humiliating the other. This can range from dirty talk in the bedroom right up to public displays of humiliation. With this kind of play it’s important to know a partner’s limits ahead of time.
  • Sadism/Masochism: When a partner or couple enjoys sadistic or masochistic play, it will undoubtedly bleed into their sexual activities. Ranging anywhere from scratching and biting during sex to using paddles and whips to inflict pain and pleasure on each other. Again, it’s important to know a partner’s limits, and a safe word is usually a good idea with any kind of pain play.
  • Wax Play: A sure hit to spice up your bedroom, bringing in wax engages the touch sensation to a high degree. Being blindfolded can heighten the sensations, particularly that of heat. It’s important to have the right kind of candles for this, as traditional household candles often burn too hot and can burn your partner.

All of these types of BDSM play has their own risks and dangers associated with them. It’s important that you are completely sure what you are doing when engaging in this kind of play. There are many classes available if you want to learn more, so it's a good idea to spend some time learning the proper way to do things before beginning any BDSM experiments.

BDSM Scenes

Scenes are the other way BDSM play can be categorised. A scene is essentially a situation that you are playing out through your chosen BDSM play. Scenes can be hugely varied, but many of them involve exploring a relationship between the two parties. Examples include:

  • Dominant/Submissive Scenes: These scenes often take the form of a master and slave, or owner and pet. The submissive partner puts their trust fully into the dominant and follows whatever instructions they are given. The dominant partner must respect their submissive throughout the experience, never causing them any harm. Some couples will also engage in switches, where the power levels between the partners swaps, changing up the roleplay completely.
  • Kinky Roleplay: Kinky roleplay is a favourite the world over. Whether it’s a sexy nurse and their patient, a teacher and their student, a religious scenario, or anything else you can think of. Engaging in roleplay is one of the lighter styles of BDSM play, but still involves transferring trust to your partner to obey and perform in the scenario.
  • Ageplay: Ageplay involves participants adopting personas of a different age to their own, most often younger. Much of ageplay has a parental theme to it, which players adopting fatherly or motherly roles, or becoming ‘littles', in which they enjoy being taken care of and looked after.
  • Bondage: While still a style of BDSM, bondage scenes are also common. These may involve some level of escapism or freedom roleplay, with one partner trying to keep the other in place through ropes or other tying methods.
  • Petplay: Not all forms of petplay will involve BDSM. For some it is simply a way to get into the headspace of the chosen animal, and enjoying some time in a different persona. Some people will add various toys or equipment to help make the experience much more authentic, leaning more towards BDSM than simple sexual play.

Scenes in BDSM don’t necessarily need to involve roleplay. For some people, the relationship of being a slave or a younger human is much more serious. They take on the role for more extended periods of time, or in some cases even permanently.

Whichever level you choose to take your BDSM to, it’s important to be aware of any risks or dangers in your chosen type of play. Almost all BDSM practises involve some level of indulging in quite negative emotions, and it can be easy to push a little too far. Each party going to be involved in the play should have an honest, open conversation, in which they can lay out what they want to gain from the sessions, and how far they are willing to go. You might want to put this into a written contract, or keep it verbal, but each party needs to respect the agreement fully and trust in each other.

With clear ground rules established, and a plan for what happens if someone wants to stop, BDSM can be great fun. You shouldn’t be afraid of trying these things, as they can be completely tailored to your own desires, and you can always find someone who wants the same things as you.

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