BDSM Basic: What is BDSM?

A pair of handcuffs and black flogger lay on a pink background. The text is BDSM Basics: What is BDSM?

This is the first post in a new series where I’ll be discussing the basics of topics such as BDSM, power exchange, service, and more. While Queer Courtesan is not a 101 blog, I do want to share some basic information in case you are new or you’re curious about how I use certain language. The great thing about BDSM is that everything is customizable and two people may have variations in their definitions for one word. I hope this series both teaches you a little something and shows you what language I use and why I use it.

BDSM: It’s an Acronym

To make it simple, BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, Sadism and Masochism.

It’s essentially used as a catchall phrase to describe a wide variety of activities from bondage to impact play to kinks and fetishes to pup play and power exchange relationships. What one person means by saying “I’m into BDSM” is often different than another person who says that they’re into BDSM. There are some activities that are more popular or common than others but there isn’t one narrow definition that everyone uses.

Let’s talk about what each part of the acronym can cover.

Bondage and Discipline

Perhaps the most common element of BDSM, I believe it’s the first area most people explore. Bondage is the act of physical restraint. This can range from simply tying up a lover with a tie to elaborate forms of rope tying. There’s also mental bondage in which one person has ordered the other to hold a certain position or stay still without applying any physical items to maintain the bondage. Both forms range from simple to complicated. Many people have preferences about what they use to restrain or are restrained with.

Discipline is essentially the use of rules and structure to guide behavior. This falls closely to Domination and Submission but can be used on its own. There are agreed upon rules and punishments that are given to one party. Punishments are designed to correct behavior, not surpass the bottom’s limits, and encourage the bottom to perform better the next time. Discipline acts can range from spanking to writing lines to caning to privilege denials.

Domination and Submission

Put simply, Domination and Submission is a relationship in which one party has more power and authority over the second party. There are a wide variety of ways that these relationships can be structured and can range from existing for a short period of time to lifetime. There is also a wide variety of language used by people to describe their relationships beside Dominant/Submissive – Master/slave, Owner/property, Mistress/slave, Handler/pony, Owner/puppy, Caretaker/little, and more.

Each of these relationships have different levels of control and authority, observe different rules and guidelines, and have different expectations. No two relationships look alike, even if the same language is used to describe them.

I’ll explore D/s and power exchange in future BDSM Basics posts.

Sadism and Masochism

Sometimes also written as sadomasochism. These terms are used to encompass a wide variety of activities including impact play, medical play, humiliation, degradation, etc. Not all of these activities are done to the point of inflicting or experiencing play – spanking, for example, can include a wide range of sensations and intensities. However, some people do identify as sadists and masochists and do enjoy playing to more extreme levels of pain and sensations. In my opinion, this is one area that you should definitely make sure you are on the same page with a potential partner. Not understanding what kind or level of play a partner wants can be damaging and dangerous.

Mix and Match

When it comes to exploring BDSM, it’s normal to explore one area after another and deciding something isn’t for you. If you like it, cool, if not, don’t worry about it. There are some people who may say you aren’t “really” into BDSM unless you do XYZ but this isn’t true. Whatever activities that you find interesting, enjoyable, and entertaining are the ones you should be doing. BDSM is about exploration, expanding your mind and trying new things. And if you know you won’t like something (I don’t like anything to do with feet! Many people don’t like needles or belts or bondage), then don’t try it. No pressure.

I’ve found in-person communities to be valuable and have learned a great deal from people. It’s also how I’ve been able to try a wide variety of things that I either don’t want to buy (or can’t afford) or don’t have the skill level to do. Check out this post of mine if you’re interested in finding a community, in-person or online. It can help to get to know other people to realize that you’re not weird for liking this kind of thing. There are lots of people out there who like BDSM in some shape or form.

What do you think of BDSM? Do you think my definitions are spot on or do you have different opinions? Let me know in the comments!

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