Understanding Pain and Bondage

In recent years, more people have been looking into ways of making their sex lives more interesting. Of necessity, this means reading or experimenting in areas once considered “taboo”. Today, we have largely become more open to the discussion of various subjects and practices. Within limits, of course.

One area which has gained a lot more curiosity, interest and experimentation is the practice of bondage and pain. This practice was once called S&M;, which stands for either “Sadism and Masochism” or “Slave and Master/Mistress”. Today, the term used has become BDSM, for “Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism or Slave, Master/Mistress”. While more people have been looking into this practice, it is still largely misunderstood.

Many images about this practice are false. Clothing is popular which indicate people practice BDSM, yet many who wear such clothing do not truly practice it. Images, sets and scenes in movies allude to various aspects of BDSM, yet are most commonly written and designed by people who know little or nothing of the subject. Simply put, you cannot tell if a person practices BDSM by the clothes they wear, what movies they watch, how their home is decorated, what religion they do or do not belong to or because they have tattoos or piercings.

One of the first things to understand about BDSM is that there are many different levels to the practice. Just stating one practices BDSM is actually very little information. It’s like someone saying they like spicy food. That doesn’t say if they like Mexican, Cajun, Italian, Moroccan or just how hot or mild they may like their food. Some may say they like spicy foods but draw the line at anything hotter than Taco Bell, while others like food so spicy it will strip the paint from your car!

To make things clear and understandable, some myths must be dealt with. Let’s take a look at some of these myths.

Myth: BDSM is all about one person having power over another.

Fact: The power dynamics in BDSM are complex. However, those dynamics tend to be more defined than the average “normal” relationship. Virtually nothing occurs in BDSM without some level of discussion and consent. Then, there is the practice of using “safe words” which can be called by either person at any time to call a complete stop to whatever is happening. A safe word is a way of saying something is beyond comfort (physically or emotionally).

Another thing making BDSM so complex is that, while it may seem one person is in command of the other, the external view can be completely inaccurate. While one person may be deemed “dominant”, in practice they do not do anything the “submissive” does not agree to. A submissive partner is only that way because they agree to it. It can stop at any time, for any reason. While the dominant partner remains in control of the situation and ensures the physical and emotional well-being of the submissive partner. Many times, the dynamics may mean the dominant partner is doing more to serve the submissive partner more than the other way around. In any case, neither partner can be either dominant or submissive if the other does not agree to the opposite role. One thing to keep in mind is that trying to dominate a person who does not agree to being dominated is illegal.

Myth: All people into BDSM are swingers.

Fact: Many people who practice BDSM are completely monogamous. While some people may combine swinging and BDSM, there are actually fewer who do this than there are “vanilla” swingers.

Myth: Practicing BDSM means you have to live that way all the time.

Fact: While some people live in what is termed a “24/7” relationship, it is much more common that BDSM is only used in the bedroom as an enhancement to a normal sex life.

Myth: Once you start practicing BDSM, you can’t have normal “vanilla” sex again.

Fact: That is up to you and your partner. Some people only enjoy the role playing and power structure in their sex lives and cannot enjoy sex without it. Others alternate back and forth between vanilla and BDSM.

Myth: Practicing BDSM means I have to live by someone else’s rules and limits.

Fact: You set your own limits and discuss them with your partner. If your partner does not respect your limits, you are being abused. This is the same in any relationship. BTW, remember that the dominant partner can have limits, as well.

Basics.

A special note here. If you have any medical conditions which require consideration, be sure to let your partner know about this. Also be certain they understand just what signs to look for if you are in any form of distress. This can be very important if you are diabetic or have any form of respiratory difficulty, anxiety disorder, etc.

Trust.

Trust in this area can reach far beyond the bedroom and negotiation can extend to other areas of a relationship, as well. Safe words have been known to be used outside of formal play in extreme circumstances. In any case, this can ideally lead to better communication and more trust in a relationship than average.

Something to note is that many people who practice BDSM will refuse to do anything which will cause any form of actual damage or scarring to themselves or others.

Intensity.

Pain?

Reasons?

Abuse.

Explore.

Acceptance.

Last Word.

Above all else, if you explore this and find it is not for you, leave it behind. The emotional scars and potential resentment would not be worth trying to continue the practice if you do not enjoy it. In all cases, be safe. Do not accept abuse. Discuss anything before it happens. If you encounter a person who does not respect you limits, stay away from them. If you define yourself as submissive, that does not mean you automatically agree to submit to anyone defining them self as dominant. If you have not agreed to be submissive to a particular person and they attempt to dominate you, stay away from them because they do not respect your consent or limits. If you are dominant, be aware of your own limits. If you are submissive, understand a dominant partner has limits, also. Don’t be afraid to explore the opposite side. Some people “switch”, meaning they are dominant at some times and submissive at other times. If you explore with a partner whom you have been with but have only begun to explore this, discussion may be more necessary. Leave judgment out of the picture on both sides. That may take a far more gradual approach than exploring with a new partner, with whom no past exists. Take your time and be open and honest with each other. Interest in BDSM was once considered an aberrant form of sexual behavior (even if it did not involve sex). This is far less likely to be true today and there are psychologists who specialize in the treatment of those who practice BDSM without judgment or discouragement. There are discussion groups in nearly every major city who hold meetings, discuss issues and have opportunities for education on the safe practice of BDSM. Numerous books are available which are good, valid sources of information. Pay attention to reader reviews before purchasing any books on the subject. Don’t accept the Marquis De Sade as a valid source of instruction, as his writings were primarily fictional fantasy. The interest in BDSM has grown considerably in recent years and some estimates state that as much as 10% of the population at least occasionally include some form of BDSM in their sex lives. Those estimates are nearly 15 years old and I am sure are understated at this time. The point here being that this practice is more normal and common than you may think. Accept this side of yourself and do not let others make you feel there is something wrong with you for having such an interest. Many times, those who try to make you feel badly about yourself may be emotionally abusive but that can only be defined from patterns of behavior. If you have an interest in BDSM, I do encourage you to explore this side of yourself. The exploration of your own physical and emotional limits, along with various levels of control (including releasing control) is more than a sexual experience and actually does not need to involve sex at all. Instead, it is an exploration of yourself as a person. If you have this interest, it is rather unlikely it will simply go away. It may increase or decrease but will remain with you at some level, at least until you do explore that side of yourself.The absolute biggest issue in the practice of BDSM is consent. Consent defines the difference between activities agreed on by partners and true abuse. If you have any desire to inflict force or harm on a person who does not agree to it, you are an abuser. In this case, I urge you to seek professional help before you do something which will damage another person’s life or health and send you to jail for a long time. Different people have different motivations for exploring BDSM. Some may have been in the same relationship for many years and feel their sex life has become too predictable or even boring. So they try to find ways to regain some of the interest and intensity of earlier years. Some may choose to be submissive because they feel too much pressure to be in charge in their everyday lives. Some may choose to be dominant because they feel little control in their everyday lives. Or reasons can be far more complex than these. Some may feel that it is not appropriate to become involved in BDSM above a certain age. The truth is that the most common age range for people becoming openly interested in BDSM seems to be in their 30’s to 40’s. I have known some submissives who became involved in BDSM after realizing this side of their personality and that it had led them to previous damaging choices in their lives, such as truly abusive relationships. After realizing that intensity and being submissive was what they really wanted, they never tolerated abusive relationships again. Whatever your own reasons, only you can define them. Or not. The rationale for this interest does not truly need to be defined. Why do you have a favorite color above another? While some practices in BDSM involve what some may see as painful, the reality can be quite different. Most common is the use of beginning with little force and increasing force gradually. In this process, the body adapts to the force. If spanking or similar activity is involved, body tissue compresses and can tolerate more force than if more intense force is used from the beginning. The most interesting fact is that the brain begins producing more endorphins in this process as well. My own belief is that this is the major attraction to BDSM. Higher endorphin levels increase the intensity of our emotions and allow us to endure more physically while perceiving the higher stimuli as pleasurable, as opposed to painful. This is the same phenomenon which is experienced by athletes and allows them to endure more physical activity than the average person. Some people may experience something similar to a “runner’s high”. Another key point in the practice of BDSM is physical, sensual and/or emotional intensity. The simple fact is that BDSM tends to have the potential to involve more intense feelings than many things we experience in modern life. Of course, this can have it’s negatives. Sometimes a person can experience emotions they did not expect. Other times, your limits may not be as high as you believed. (Good reasons for safe words.) In such cases, it’s really best to be with a partner whom you trust to know or at least care about how to deal with such a reaction. Some may see BDSM as nothing more than physical or emotional abuse. Yet in truth, the most important element of this practice is trust. It takes a strong level of trust to be on either side of being tied up or tying another person up. The submissive trusts the dominant to do no serious injury. The dominant trusts the submissive to not make it seem as though abuse occurred, when nothing happened without consent and agreement. A written or recorded agreement is actually a wise choice.The common term for actually engaging in bondage or enacting a role in BDSM is “playing”. As in playing a role in theatre or playing a game. Role playing is fairly common in BDSM. Yet, before playing that role or playing a game, it is important to define the roles and set the rules. Each person must be able to state their known or expected limits. Never be afraid to state your own limits, whether dominating or submitting. Discussing this is typically referred to as “negotiation”. In negotiations, a “safe word” should be chosen and agreed on. This is a word that either person can use at any time to bring a complete stop to anything happening at the time. It should be a word which is out of context of the role play or situation. One of the most common safe words is “red light”. (While “yellow light” can mean slow down or use less force and “green light” can mean keep going, go faster or use more force.) Some people prefer not using a safe word. Personally, I find this an unwise choice and refuse to play with anyone who will not use a safe word. Agreeing on a safe word does not mean it has to be used but should always be there as an option. If play involves using a gag of some kind, a non-verbal signal should be agreed on, such as the bound person holding a bell or other object which they can throw or drop as a sign to stop. Safe words or signs can be used for something as simple as needing to use the bathroom.

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