Bondage, S&M and BDSM are all terms that get thrown around with ever-increasing regularity but what does any of it really mean? In recent years this ‘alternative’ lifestyle has been thrust into pop culture limelight without any real discussion of what it actually is. Suddenly, activities that were previously only conducted in secret corners have been wailed about in pop songs and misrepresented in works of fiction. As such, maybe the best place to begin getting a feel for BDSM is to figure out what it’s not.
BDSM is an acronym for bondage, discipline , sadism and masochism. It’s also where many of the misconceptions originate. More often than not when people are first exposed to BDSM, they focus on the B, S, and M and misconstrue or completely ignore the D. The most common misunderstanding is that the discipline aspect is contained within the physical punishment of the bottom. In reality, it’s the top who must first learn a high degree of personal discipline before ropes or floggers ever enter the picture. When taking a ‘top’ position, most of us enter a place somewhere deep inside us where darker desires are allowed to come to the fore. It’s a secret place where we revel in the reactions of our bottom as we administer various tortuous sensations not only into their flesh, but into their minds.
This, I think, is where BDSM gets much of its stigma. Monsters who’ve committed horrific crimes of rape and the most brutal of murders are plastered across mainstream media and labeled as sadists. While no one can argue that these criminals are not sadists, no one really makes the effort to distinguish between criminals and the rest of us. Hi, my name is Drea, and I’m a sadist. I’m also lots of other things. I’m a mother, a sister, a friend, an activist, a writer, a vocalist, a caregiver et cetera ad nauseum. I cannot in good conscience pretend there aren’t predators who use the umbrella of BDSM to abuse, rape and murder. It’s sad but it does happen and there’s no punishment great enough for such a gross misuse of trust.
If I could impart anything to the public at large, it would be the difference between the two manifestations. Those who find their way to the attention of the media aren’t merely sadistic, they’re deeply disturbed individuals. For most practitioners of BDSM, those of us for whom this lifestyle flows in our veins, the safety of our play partners is of the utmost importance. Rather than having a harmful agenda, our activities are intensely intimate and loving… even spiritual. The release we feel, the space our psyche finds in a BDSM session is quite sacred.
As a top, I revere the gift of submission offered to me by those who choose to be under my control. As a bottom, I honor the trust engendered by the one who has me under their power and, in order to meet a mutual need, takes on the monumental responsibility of having my very life in their hands. Far from being a frightening experience, bondage in all its many forms creates, for participants on both sides of the whip, a sense of safety and freedom. One of the very hardest things for anyone to do is to be true to themselves, to hold up a mirror before oneself and examine all the parts that make us who we are – good, bad or ugly.
When approached from the proper place and explored in the proper context, immersion in the bondage lifestyle allows us to do just that and to celebrate every part of ourselves without the shame of judgment or misunderstanding. Experiencing freedom of self on such a level relieves a massive burden of feeling ‘flawed’ or ‘weird’ for enjoying things that have been labeled as ‘wrong’. For anyone to toy with so sacrosanct an exploration of ourselves or to use it for devious ends is an affront to who we all are as human animals. Above all else, we need to know that trust exists. In the realm of BDSM, as in life, when trust is abused and destroyed, it is an entirely needless tragedy. With so many people out there who respect and cherish the lifestyle we have embraced, who have a willingness to share our experience and knowledge with those just discovering BDSM, it’s a tragedy that need never occur.