BDSM_WEB

An outline of the responsibilities and rules of a misunderstood practice

Photo by Jennifer Vo

“Will I have to be naked?” I asked. My friend shook his head. “It isn’t necessary. Wear whatever you’re comfortable in. You can even wear what you’re wearing right now, jeans and a sweater.” We talked for another two hours on topics like floggers and rope rigs, me taking notes the whole time.

We might have talked longer if I didn’t have an early class the next day. Talking about sex was normal for us; me as the curious student and he as the experienced guide who was more than happy to answer any of my questions. After all, it was through BDSM that he and I had first become acquainted.

At the mention of BDSM, people tend to imagine punishment fetishists. That isn’t too far off, but it doesn’t begin to cover the diversity of the BDSM subculture.

The initials of BDSM stand for bondage and discipline (BD), dominance and submission (DS), and sadism and masochism (SM). It’s a subculture built around instruments of torture and taboo pleasures, but it emphasizes open communication, honesty, and trust. The types of play involved in the subculture include but are not limited to bondage, sexual role-play, suspension, and torture.

Drawing the line

There’s a distinct line between BDSM and abuse. It’s a clichéd mantra but remains prevalent when practising: safe, sane, and consensual. Those three words cover the basics that everything must be done with both partners’ knowledge and understanding of the risks and limits. Any and all boundaries of both partners must be respected and never compromised.

Red flags of abuse include but are not limited to partners taking complete control that has not been agreed upon, manipulating the partner to do more than what was agreed upon, and intentionally causing physical or emotional harm. “You’re not a good dom if you can’t make me bleed” or ”You’re not a good sub if you don’t let me do whatever I want to you” is not part of safe or usual practice.

When someone cannot respect another and tries to use the role of the dominant master or the submissive slave to justify disrespect or physical harm, that’s abuse.

Planning it out

Before sessions involve hours, sometimes months, of meticulous planning between partners. Just like any relationship, time and work has to be put in for it to function well. Prior to actually playing, partners will meet and discuss general information such as fetishes, medical and physical concerns, soft and hard limits, and thoughts on various punishments and services.

Nothing is undisclosed. Nothing that has not been discussed in the play sessions will ever occur during sessions. The negotiations must always be adhered to, even when the submissive partner argues that more can be done during the session.

Adrenaline can be dangerous during a session since it clouds judgment. As much as it is the submissive partner’s responsibility to always communicate any concerns and discomfort, it’s also important for the dominant partner to always observe and make sure that the submissive partner is in a good state and in good health and to never let the activities in the session go farther than what was agreed upon beforehand. Even if the safe word has not been said or the safe signal has not been done, it’s still the dominant partner’s responsibility to end it when he or she sees that the submissive partner is being overexerted.

A word on rope play

It’s imperative to understand the pros and cons of bondage and different knots before thinking about BDSM. Most learn rope first to actually learn the ropes— pardon the pun—of the subculture.

It’s an inconspicuous tool that has boundless possibilities for decoration, function, restriction, and suspension. It can be practised alone or with partners.  Cotton rope is easy to find and buy, hemp has a rough texture but holds knots well, and nylon is smooth but can’t hold knots well.

Open communication is extremely important. While a safe word can be used to end the session immediately, it’s also important to tell the person tying you up any of your concerns before or during the process to avoid getting hurt. Scissors should always be within reach in case of accidents. To maintain circulation, the ropes should not be too tight, and two fingers should be able to slide between the ropes and the body.

The most important thing to remember is that while there are some rules and practices common in the BDSM community, each partnership is different. Make sure to continuously check in with your partner to ensure they feel comfortable and safe.