5 Myths About BDSM Debunked

 

The recent release of 50 Shades of Grey in cinemas last month has had the internet up in arms about the film and its portrayal of BDSM. Many BDSM advocates have, and quite rightly so, critiqued the film, expressing concern that its depiction of BDSM – an acronym that encompasses the terms Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, Sadism and Masochism – is inaccurate and damaging to the kink community.

Now, forgive me for saying this, but I’m just a bit bored by all the focus on a piece of Twilight fan fiction. Yeah, it’s not a good portrayal of BDSM, whatever. I get it. Films aren’t always accurate (in fact, they rarely are), and while I more so than anyone do not want to see the BDSM community misrepresented, I’d prefer to dispel some other problematic views that people hold about the scene rather than rehashing points about 50 Shades of Grey that have been gone over a million times.

You see, BDSM is a very misunderstood practice. People have all kinds of misconceptions about the community that have existed way before E. L. James put pen to paper, and the BDSM community has been having to defend itself for years. So, with that in mind, I present to you five of the most common myths surrounding BDSM:

  1. Being into BDSM ‘means something.’

Many people believe that if, for example, you are a female submissive, that you somehow have to divorce yourself from feminism and get back into the kitchen because equal rights are not for you. Not so! Being sexually submissive as a woman does not mean that you consent to be dominated in any other area of your life. In real life, a woman cannot simply say a safeword and become free of the patriarchy: in BDSM, she can stop submitting any time she wants. Many women submit because they are simply tired of having to constantly resist the domination that the patriarchy imposes on them, and so find it relaxing to just let go and give up the control that they have to fight to hard to keep a hold of in everyday life.

And it isn’t just the case for women. Men who like to dress in women’s clothing in the bedroom (a famous example being cage fighter Alex Reid) are constantly having to explain to ignorant people that they are heterosexual and cisgender and have absolutely no desire to actually become a woman, and they shouldn’t have to! Male cross dressers (or ‘sissies’ as they are sometimes known in the scene), are often totally cisgender, totally heterosexual, and totally fine with that! Just because they have a certain kink does not somehow mean that their whole gender or sexual orientation need to be thrown into question at every available opportunity.The same goes for pretty much anybody with a certain kink or fetish. Female dominants do not hate men, men who fantasise about rape are not rapists, and somebody that likes to be spat on in the bedroom does not necessarily like to be spat at by random people in the street! What people like in the bedroom is a sexual preference and nothing more. Their politics, moral character or anything else about their being do not need to be involved.

  1. BDSM is abusive

The BDSM mantra is ‘safe, sane and consensual’ and it is important to acknowledge that few activities, sexual or otherwise, are as ethical as BDSM. The consent of all parties is an absolute must and that consent must be able to be withdrawn at any time by use of a ‘safeword’ or gesture that signifies that the individual is no longer comfortable with the proceedings and wants to stop. Not only that but all desires and limits are always worked out before a scene in detail, sometimes even with written checklists and contracts to establish just what is and isn’t okay. To assert that BDSM is abusive is undermining the mental capacity of the submissive to consent to whatever he or she is experiencing. People must be physically and mentally able to give enthusiastic and informed consent to any BDSM practice, and if such consent is given then the activities that then take place are not abuse.

Look at it this way – a mother holding a toddler down to change its dirty nappy is entirely different to a mother holding a toddler down to sexually assault it. It is all about context, and this is one of the most important things to take into consideration when discussing BDSM. An analogy to bring what I am saying into a more kinky context is that of a woman who enjoys being tied down and restrained during sexual encounters but who obviously does not enjoy or consent to being tied up as she is raped or sexually assaulted.

  1. Enjoying BDSM means that you are messed up

A common misconception about BDSM is that those who enjoy dominating or being dominated are somehow ‘messed up’ or that they are survivors or past sexual abuse. Now, while it is true that there are people in the scene who have been abused, that does not mean that abuse causes somebody to enjoy BDSM. It just means that unfortunately, a lot of people in society are victims of abuse. The largest study to investigate this was a telephone survey in Australia, that studied 19,000 people and found that people who enjoy BDSM are no more likely to have been victims of abuse (sexual or otherwise) than anyone else.

Most people in the scene are educated, financially secure, physically and mentally healthy, and have no problems making friends or holding down relationships. Actually, those that are involved in the scene tend to be totally at peace with themselves, having come to terms with themselves and their sexuality and finding the freedom that BDSM can bring. Far from being something that emotionally damaged people gravitate to because they feel that they are deserving of pain, BDSM is a legitimate sexual preference to which approximately 2% of the population subscribe.

  1. BDSM is all about pain

Pop culture would have us believe that BDSM is all about whips and chains and scary women wearing latex but that is SO far removed from the truth! The thrill of BDSM is not about administering or receiving pain, but from taking control or giving up that control to another person. It is all about the power exchange, and many people feel extremely relaxed and liberated when they surrender their power to another person and allow themselves the freedom to focus on nothing except their own physical and mental pleasure.Of course, for some, pain can be involved, and there are many different avenues to go down if that’s what you’re into.

However, BDSM can be anything from role playing as a puppy or adult baby, to being tied up and tickled with a feather, to having a woman in lingerie tease you before ultimately saying ‘no’ and denying you your sexual release. Pain is very much the tip of the iceberg when it comes to BDSM, and many people involved never experience pain at all.

  1. Dominants are abusive

People against BDSM often like to attack those who veer toward the dominant end of the spectrum when practicing BDSM. They claim that Dom/mes are sadists who lack empathy and enjoy inflicting pain on others. Not true. Any good Dominant knows that the safety and pleasure of the submissive is the number one priority. Dominants care deeply about their submissives, and have to be extremely careful and responsible when orchestrating a scene to ensure that the submissive is comfortable and satisfied throughout. They will often have a lengthy debrief after a scene or session to discuss how the submissive felt, what elements they enjoyed the most, any parts that they didn’t enjoy etc. in order to ensure that sessions remain safe and satisfying for both parties.

  1. The Dominant knows that ultimately, the submissive is the one in control. It is the submissive who can choose to end the session at any point, the submissive who dictates what can and can’t be done during a session, and the submissive whose pleasure is the priority. The Dominant will never do anything that the submissive has not given s/he permission to do, and as soon as that line is crossed, the activity ceases being BDSM and crosses over into abuse.

Image Credits:

US Magazine

The Sun

Morticia Knight

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