The word lifestyle is a term that I never truly liked. Nevertheless, it is fitting in the sense that it denotes those people who have a deeper commitment to this way of life than just scening. When I look at BDSM, it is not a lifestyle I chose as much as it is my life. This is what I live each day. I do not awaken and opt for a dominant role but, rather, simply fall into it. Interacting with one who is submissive is natural to me because of what is within me. This is not something that is created or developed as much as it is uncovered. It took a while and was a bit of a process. And it is something that most who pursue this path deeply undergo.
To me, those who choose this as a lifestyle have a power exchange relationship at the core of their lives (or desire one). This is a distinction from those who want to add a little spice to their lives. Many are perfectly content with a relationship based upon equality. However, those of us who found our way here realized at some point that was not for us. A dominant wishes to have the power tilted in his/her favor while a submissive is desiring that same dynamic. While the areas that power exchange pertains to varied from each person, the common ground with all is that it exists.
Another thing that I noticed is the level of commitment that people have to this way of life. Now, I will admit that not everyone is an advocate nor willing to engage in behavior that promotes the lifestyle as a whole. However, because of the Internet, we seem more and more people voicing their opinions about matters that are important to them. There are now patches of people all over the world who hold BDSM in high regard and are willing to defend it against the nitwits out there. More of the abusers are being challenged and brought to light by those who take things seriously. This is a positive sign.
BDSM is about respect. It matters little whether one is hard core into the lifestyle or just one who likes some light bondage. Every person has a place as long as they are respectful of others and what we are about. Sadly, this is not the case for many in the online world. Yet as time passes, people are learning the tricks of these nitwits. With information and knowledge comes protection. This is a positive sign for the genre overall. So, if you are interested, enter into our world and explore whatever strikes you. It is an open arena for anyone to try.