BDSM 101

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BDSM 101

By Jawn's Doll Jenn

What is BDSM?

BDSM is a compound acronym for Bondage, Discipline, Dominance/submission, and Sadomasochism. Generally, it is used as an umbrella term for a consenting adult relationship that has some inherent inequality. For example, in a Dominant/submissive relationship, the Dominant person holds authority over the submissive person. Because of the inequality of these roles, 

it is important that both adults have discussed, negotiated, and consented to their roles.

BDSM Rights Flag

What do I call someone who is into BDSM?

There are many different honorifics people will take on within the BDSM community, and you’ll often find that different groups within BDSM will use the same title to mean different things. In general, the active person within the relationship, that is, the person who is doing something to someone else is called a Dominant or Top. The person on the receiving end would be a submissive or bottom. Someone who moves between both roles is called a Switch. When in doubt, you can always ask how the person would like to be identified.

What is a Scene? What is The Scene?

A Scene is a short-term interaction between two or more people to practice some kind of BDSM. Prior to a scene, the people involved will have a negotiation to discuss what they would like to have happen during the scene, their respective limits (things they absolutely will not do), and what will happen to end the scene. This negotiation could take place just before the scene, as would happen with people meeting for the first time at a “play party,” though negotiations could take place far in advance of a scene. For example, a kidnapping scene requires some element of surprise for the person being kidnapped, so the negotiation for this scene could take place days before the scene, and would involve some restrictions on when the scene could and couldn't begin.

 

When people talk of “The Scene,” they are referring to the overall BDSM Community, not a specific event. Most of the time, The Scene encompasses a general geographic area, as different regions may have slight  variations on their customs. If you are entering a new area and are unsure of how to approach the local scene, it is helpful to go to a Munch to get the feel of the area.

How does the Triskelion represent BDSM?

A Triskelion is a  symbol with three interlocking  motifs, which represents a  symmetrical relation between three things. In  the BDSM community, this symbol represents the Dominant/Top, the submissive/bottom, and the switch.

 

What is a munch?

 

A Munch is a regular meeting of people who are interested in meeting other people who are interested in BDSM, usually taking place at a restaurant or some other public place. Munches are casual, meaning that you don’t need to get dressed in fetish attire. This is a great opportunity to meet new friends or partners in a low stress environment. Some Munches are open to all, while some are restricted to specific groups, like a TNG Munch - open to those who are 35 or under (The Next Generation of BDSM). 

What are SSC and RACK?

As BDSM roles are complementary, though unequal, there is a strong emphasis within the community on negotiation and consent. Nearly all relationships, whether they are for an hour or a lifetime, begin with some discussion where both parties

are on an equal footing so they can discuss what they are looking to get out of the relationship. One or both may have limits, that is, things they are absolutely not going to do (a hard limit) or don’t want to try right now (a soft limit), and through

negotiation they will find out in advance what is and is not going to happen when they go into their unequal roles.

 

SSC stands for “Safe, Sane, and Consensual.” These words reinforce that BDSM relationships are entered into by responsible people, of the own volition, and are practiced in a safe way. RACK stands for “Risk Aware Consensual Kink,” and recognizes that some activities under the BDSM umbrella are by definition unsafe, but both parties are aware of the risk and enter into the activity of their own volition.

What is a safe word?

A Safe Word is used when someone would like the action in a scene to slow down or stop. Safe words are generally words that wouldn’t normally be used in a BDSM conversation, like “banana”, and private play parties or dungeons could have specific House Safe Words. Some universal safe words are Red (all play must stop now) or Yellow (please slow down, and I may be ok to continue soon). In a scene, a Top may use Red/Yellow/Green to check in on their bottom to see how they are doing, or the bottom may use them at any time. “Safe word” is also a commonly accepted safe word to get play to stop. In instances where the bottom might be gagged or otherwise unable to speak, they could also be given a squeaky toy or something else to hold, so they can still communicate their safe word by squeaking or dropping the object.

BDSM Facts

  • The term sadomasochist is the combination of the title of Donatien Alphonse Francois, the Marquis de Sade, author of several fictions and commentaries in the late 18th century that combined erotocism and violence and the name of Leopold von Sacher-Macoch the author of “Venus in Furs”  in the mid 19th century, an autobiographical fiction depicting the service of a slave to his cruel mistress.
  • Mutual consent is what distinguishes BDSM from abuse and assault, just as consent distinguishes sex from rape.
  • 5-10% of the U.S. engages in SM for sexual pleasure on at least an occasional basis.
  • Only 14% of the community is between 18 and 25. The group between 26 and 40 make up the biggest percentage (47%). Between the ages 41 and 59 make up approximately 37% of the demographic. Respondents in the survey used as a basis for these statistics indicated that at least 57% of them had at least some college education or had a college degree. A further 20% have post-graduate education as opposed to only 12% of the respondents that had no education above high school level. Not that education is the only indicator of intelligence but this shows a level of curiosity and accomplishment in many members of this community.
  • 14% of men and 11% of women have had some sexual experience with sadomasochism.
  • The historical origins of BDSM are obscure. During the ninth century BC, ritual flagellations were performed in Artemis Orthia, one of the most important religious areas of ancient Sparta, where the Cult of Orthia, a preolympic religion, was practiced. Here ritual flagellation called diamastigosis took place on a regular basis.

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