What Does BDSM Mean?

Posted by Andrew Schroeder on

The first piece of advice for newcomers — don’t believe everything you hear about kinky play. Even the people who make up this community often argue about what “the real thing” is, what is ethical and what is not, and what being into BDSM even means.

Not to mention the explanations given by more vanilla individuals. “That sex thing that involves whips and chains!” — that doesn’t tell you anything except that the person who said that has no clue about BDSM!

Also, always keep in mind that BDSM means different things to different people. We’re talking about something that’s pretty relative. People get involved in it for various reasons, they practice it in different ways, and it means something special to everyone. So, whatever you hear, take it with a grain of salt.

The second piece of advice is — before doing anything, do your research. Even though the concept of BDSM can easily be misinterpreted, the acronym itself is a good place to start. So, let’s get started!

The Origins of the Acronym

BDSM is divided into three parts, all of them representing different aspects of kink — a big range of sexual activities, dynamics, and types of relationships. The acronym covers pretty much everything that BDSM involves:

  • BD — bondage and discipline
  • DS — dominance and submission
  • SM — sadism and masochism

The first time the term BDSM was used publicly was in 1991 on Usenet, a network similar to the Internet we know today.

However, the acronym was taken from the novel “The Story of O” by Jean-Jacques Pauvert. The book describes the relationship between a submissive woman and a dominant man and her journey to becoming a sex slave.

Did BDSM Exist Before That?

Of course, the history of BDSM is much longer than the history of the term itself. We can easily say that BDSM is as old as humanity. In ancient times, BDSM activities were part of religious and cultural rituals often practiced in a sexual context.

So, a long time ago, people understood the connection between BDSM activities and sexual pleasure. However, BDSM isn’t just about sex. It’s more about the psychological aspects of play and relationships. Sexual and physical aspects usually come later, once you’ve established a setting and context.

Of course, some people prefer to practice BDSM strictly in the bedroom. In those cases, BDSM activities are limited to a sexual context. We call those types of play “sessions,” and they consist of different “scenes” with the goal of sexual arousal.

But there’s also a lot of people who take part in relationships based on power exchange dynamics. In these relationships, one partner is taking the dominant role and the other one adopts a submissive role. Usually, the exchange of power is an essential aspect of their relationship.

Almost nothing is unusual in BDSM, meaning that the whole idea behind it is that anyone can practice it and enjoy it in any way they want to. But there’s one golden BDSM rule that should always be respected, no matter what — SSC, i.e., safe, sane, and consensual.

B/D

The first part of the acronym stands for bondage and discipline. These are types of BDSM activities that can be performed in various ways, using different tools, and for different reasons. Even though these are quite popular and fun, performing such activities can be risky.

Bondage

Bondage is the act of restraining someone and limiting or disabling their movements and/or senses. When performing it, you can use a variety of tools: duct tape, handcuffs, leather restraints, gags, blindfolds, rope, etc. Even a scarf or a belt can be of use.

Also, you can try out mental bondage. Performing it doesn’t require using any tool or material, and it can be quite interesting. What you need to do is to order the submissive partner to take a position that’s not harmful, but not very comfortable either (for example, standing on toes) and keep them in that position for a specific, but not too long, period of time.

However, the most popular form of this BDSM activity is rope bondage. Some people even like doing it because it can look very beautiful in an artistic way, and it’s the only part of BDSM they take an interest in. These people are called rope tops or riggers and rope bottoms or rope bunnies.

Even though rope bondage brings tons of different possibilities, it’s much riskier than it seems, especially if you want to try more difficult things, like suspension. Practicing rope bondage without getting prepared for it can result in nerve damage, blood circulation restriction, soft tissue damage, etc.

Learn the Ropes

So, the whole point is — be careful with bondage, especially rope bondage. Look for tutorials, articles, and pieces of advice on the internet, and in case you’re interested in more difficult stuff, take it easy.

That doesn’t mean that you should be terrified of it, or that you should give up if it doesn’t go the way you planned right away. When performed with safety, bondage can be fun. And the best part is that you can easily combine it with other types of BDSM play and activities, and there’s more than enough room to get as creative as you can.

Discipline

Now that we covered bondage basics let’s move to the next part — discipline. When you hear that word, the first thing that comes across your mind is probably spanking, belting, or whipping. But discipline doesn’t necessarily involve inflicting pain.

It’s important to distinguish discipline from sadism. While a sadistic act in BDSM has an objective of making someone suffer in a consensual way, discipline has to do with changing the sub’s behavior. It’s beneficial when the sub crosses a line, breaks a rule, or when they are simply in training and still learning how to play their role.

So, spanking, belting, and whipping can be disciplinary methods, but the punishment doesn’t have to be painful at all. Sometimes it’s more effective to subject your partner to a specific kind of disciplinary measure, one that would make them feel bored or frustrated. Examples include calling them humiliating nicknames or assigning them chores.

The punishment isn’t something the sub should enjoy. The whole point of discipline is to teach your sub how to behave. So, in some cases, even a simple thing like explaining to them what they did wrong and why it was wrong can be effective.

However, some subs like breaking the rules on purpose, usually because they like pain and want to be punished in a painful way. They are called brats. When dealing with them, the dominant partner has to come up with more effective measures.

Also, some can’t stand the pain and don’t want to get involved in any painful activities. Making them write lines, stand in the corner, eat food they don’t like, or ruining their orgasms are some of the examples of effective but painless punishments.

D/S

D/S means domination and submission. It usually refers to a type of relationship in which one partner (a dom) rules as the dominant, and the other (a sub) the submissive role. D/S is a BDSM relationship based on power dynamics. Therefore, it’s not just roleplaying — it’s a core aspect of the relationship.

Domination

Domination in a D/S relationship isn’t about hurting or humiliating a submissive partner. It’s much more than that. Both dominant and submissive roles are difficult to play, and building this type of relationship and learning how to play your role takes time and patience.

So, what does it mean to play the dominant in D/S relationship? It means taking the leading role, setting rules, and making sure that sub is following them, taking control over some aspects of their life, and teaching them how to play their role correctly.

In a typical D/S relationship, a variety of different rules can be set. Here are some examples of how it works:

  • Making a healthy habit — e.g., eating fruit and vegetable every day
  • Setting an everyday routine — e.g., going to bed before 11 pm and waking up at 8 am
  • Pleasing a Dom — e.g., the dom chooses clothes the sub is to wear when they go out together
  • Taking control over the sub’s sex life — e.g., the sub has to ask for permission before masturbating

But, before entering this type of relationship, both partners need to have a conversation about their needs and wishes and set soft and hard limits. Maybe the sub doesn’t want their dom to take control over certain aspects of their life, and they need to point out what is acceptable for them and what isn’t.

Submission

The need for domination is something that almost every person can understand. Everyone has experienced it at some point, be it at school or work, or even in a relationship with a romantic partner. But, what about submission?

For some reason, people don’t really get the need for submission as easily as they get the need for domination. There’s a lot of prejudices and accusations that subs often have to deal with, like having low self-esteem and self-respect.

Of course, some subs can have low self-esteem, but that’s not the point at all. They simply love submitting, and they love it for different reasons. And since the role of a dominant is to lead, the submissive is someone who wants to follow.

Sometimes, it’s about opening up to someone, showing them the parts of yourself people say you should be ashamed of. Sometimes, it’s about enjoying the feeling of being vulnerable and exposed or needing to work hard to please someone you love. And of course, most subs have a powerful need to feel that they belong to someone else.

At the core of a healthy D/S relationship is mutual trust and respect. It’s all about emotional connection, sexual pleasure, and the freedom to be who you are. Furthermore, it’s important to point out that as long as you respect the SSC rule, BDSM has nothing to do with abuse or exploitation.

S/M

We’re all familiar with the concepts of sadism and masochism. In most cases, it’s a form of sexual activity that involves humiliation and physical or emotional pain. It can be very risky, so it’s crucial to be careful and responsible when engaging in this kind of play.

Sadism

The word “sadism” comes from the name of an 18-century French author and philosopher, Marquis de Sade. As you can imagine, his books feature descriptions of sadomasochistic sexual activities and behaviors.

If you dare to read his work, you’ll see that the descriptions he gives are often quite extreme. However, sadistic activities don’t necessarily have to involve cutting someone’s skin, making them bleed, or brutally torturing them.

However, a sadist does enjoy seeing someone suffer. They receive pleasure from it. But, it’s important to point out that a sadist doesn’t have to be a dom, and that not every dom is sadistic.

The activities a sadist would normally enjoy include impact play: inflicting pain with whips, canes, belts, paddles, etc. Sometimes, they may also be into risk-aware consensual kink, meaning blood play, knife play, etc.

BDSM sessions that involve a lot of sadomasochistic activities are often quite intense and edgy. Sadists usually like to take things far and keep a scene going until they hear a safe word. So, playing with a sadist isn’t for everyone.

Masochism

The word “masochism” is based on the name of the Austrian writer, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. He is famous for the book “Venus in Furs” that describes the sadomasochistic relationship between a man, who plays the role of a slave, and a woman, who takes the role of a mistress.

But why would anyone want to take part in painful activities? Psychology does offer some explanations, but we can find other, more precise answers in biology. Even though it’s probable that the mind plays a big role, masochism has to do with the certain way our bodies naturally respond to pain.

When we endure pain, our body produces a significant amount of hormones called endorphins. In this case, the function of endorphins is to help us to handle pain, and it can even cause a state of mind similar to euphoria.

Of course, we can experience an endorphin rush in other situations too, like during sex, or when we eat chocolate or drink coffee. When this hormone hits us hard, we may even feel as if we are experiencing a natural high. So, in other words, masochists are endorphin addicts.

Masochists enjoy engaging in activities that are almost unbearable and highly overwhelming. However, it’s essential to mention that pain tolerance can get very high very fast. In case you’re interested in sadomasochism, you should decide how far you want to go and to keep track of how fast your pain tolerance is growing.


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