BDSM Basics

BDSM is any of a number of related patterns of human sexual behavior. The major subgroupings are described in the abbreviation "BDSM" itself:

  • Bondage & discipline (B&D)
  • Domination & submission (D&S)
  • Sadism and masochism (or sadomasochism) (S&M)

Many of the specific practices in BDSM are those which, if performed in neutral or nonsexual contexts, could be considered unpleasant, undesirable or abusive. For example, while pain, physical restraint and servitude are traditionally inflicted on persons against their will and to their detriment, in BDSM, these activities are engaged in with the mutual consent of the participants, and typically for mutual enjoyment. Any "consent" may or may not amount to legal consent and represent a defense to criminal liability for any injuries caused.

This emphasis on informed consent and safety is also known as SSC (safe, sane and consensual), though others prefer the term RACK (risk-aware consensual kink), believing that it places more emphasis on acknowledging the fact that all activities are potentially risky. There is discussion and dispute about the meaning or intent of the terms, but in essence, both terms refer to all participants acknowledging and accepting some level of risk.

  • BDSM may or may not involve sex of any kind.
  • BDSM may or may not involve sexual roleplaying.
  • How dominant or submissive a person may be in their regular life does not necessarily indicate which role they will play in a scene. Some might opine that there is roughly an inverse relationship.
  • Some BDSM players are polyandrous or sexually monogamous but engage in non-sexual play with others.
  • A couple may engage in BDSM sexuality with an otherwise non-Dominant/submissive relationship dynamic.

BDSM may encompass the following practices:

  • erotic spanking,
  • bastinado,
  • flagellation such as flogging (see cat o' nine tails),
  • whipping 
  • paddling,
  • sensory deprivation,
  • movement restriction,
  • suspension,
  • sensation play (i.e. the use of such objects as fur, ice, Wartenberg wheels, TENS devices, etc to induce desired sensations in the bottom),
  • medical submission (i.e. a submissive partner that submits to medical procedures which may or may not be humiliating and/or painful).

BDSM activities are practised by people of all sexualities. Many practise their BDSM activities exclusively in private, and do not share their predilections with others. Others socialize with other BDSM practitioners. One relatively new phenomenon is the practice of BDSM within the MMO Red Light Center in which users of the virtual reality software make use of avatars in the fully equiped dungeon and BDSM rooms to practice the activities on other live users in a virtual way.

The BDSM community can be regarded as a subculture within mainstream society. Being involved in a local BDSM community is referred to as being "in the lifestyle." There are BDSM communities with varying degrees of organization in all parts of the world. Large cities and small town alike have organizations where BDSM participants meet to learn, share and practice. These groups are often underground and can be hard to find, but as society becomes more and more accepting, the groups are coming out of the closet. In the United States, some of these communities have even applied for and been granted 501C status as educational and community support groups.

A 1990 Kinsey Institute report stated that 5% to 10% of Americans occasionally engage in sexual activities related to BDSM. This was based on the 1983 "Playboy Readers Sex Survey" by Walter Lowe. There has been an explosive growth in the BDSM community since the 1983 study, which raises the possibility that the 1983 figures are unrepresentative of current behavior.


There are a few basic Principles

Based on Jay Wiseman

1) BDSM play should be safe, sane and consensual or risk aware consensual kink. 

2) Know your SM players. Do not have BDSM play with strangers.

3) Always inform a friend that you are having BDSM play: where, when and with whom.  Use safe calls.

4) Always use safe words, i.e., 911 or red (STOP), yellow (slow down) and/or safe gestures (tap foot three times).

5) Negotiate the scene before you start. Communicate your limits, medical conditions, medications, experience and desires.

6) "No limits" is fantasy. Every sane player has limits. Do not be embarrassed to express them to the dominant player(s).

7) Do not have BDSM play while intoxicated or seriously stoned.

8) Expect the unexpected (fire, power failure, medical emergency, etc.) and be prepared. Another manís life is in your hands.

9) Always have a first aid kit nearby.

10) Donít play with a person unless you feel absolutely safe!