BDSM – An Acronym of Acronyms

Lots of people have heard the expression, “BDSM” over the last several years, as the media romanticizes the occasional

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Dominatrix here and there, and suggest scary looking, dark, steamy dungeon scenes in TV dramas. It seems pretty exciting, doesn’t it? Actually, it is – for a lot of folks!

When a couple says, “We’re into BDSM,” what do they mean exactly? Well, as it turns out, the acronym of “BDSM” is really comprised of three acronyms combined into one – symbolizing how closely related the three often are.

The letters B-D-S-M actually separate out into three primary acronyms, BDDS, and SM.

Here is how the larger acronym breaks down:

  • B-D stands for Bondage & Discipline.
  • D-S stands for Dominance & Submission
  • S-M stands for Sadism & Masochism

So, what do each of these areas describe, and what are the differences between them? Well, the first important thing to grasp is that they almost always overlap each other! Although it is possible for someone to only be interested in one specific form of play fulfilling just one of the acronyms, it’s much more common for these areas to exist together during playtime to varying degrees, depending upon the desires and consents of the play partners involved. (Yes, even in BDSM, consent is what makes it all work! Any activity performed without consent is abuse. It’s only with consent that it gets to be called ‘play’!)

Each of the three areas described below are referred to as a “power-exchange-based” types of play, and it is important to understand how the two aspects of each acronym polarize each other. This is where the dynamics that build into sexual/sensual psychodrama come from, bringing with it passion and the potential for extended pleasure and incredible flights of ecstasy! So, it’s worth looking at each one of these a little closer:

Bondage & Discipline (B&D) –

The power exchange here is between the one doing the bondage (the person tying somebody up, restraining them) and the one being tied up (the person on the receiving end of this). Discipline here doesn’t mean getting a good spanking (that is in the S&M section!), though it does relate with other kinds of discipline often experienced as kids – for instance being made to sit in a chair in a corner, or being “grounded” to our room.

Rope bondage and other forms commonly associated with “bondage” are not the only forms of discipline in the “toy bag” of B&D play techniques by any means. Being instructed to use specific postures, having eye contact be disallowed (like an averted gaze), sitting positions, food restrictions, language restrictions, and yes, even sitting in the corner are all “sexualized” by lovers of this kind of power exchange play.

So, B&D takes many forms, but the “bond” between the two players is established and strengthened by the part one willingly agrees to play and the connection with the other person in their own role. It can intensify to become a psychologically powerful connection, and a very exciting one for both players.

Dominant and Submissive (D&S) –

The most clearly psychological power exchange of the three, this type of play involves clearly delineated roles, where one person takes on the position of being the submissive to the other person’s role as the dominant. This means the submissive does whatever the dominant asks of them — period! But besides that, the submissive also generally looks to the dominant for complete and utter control, as the dominant looks to the submissive to be a subject to their complete and utter control. The two need each other to exist.

One should take into account the strength of will it takes to be willing to submit to another — that it is not a ‘weak’ person who does this. Also, consider the freedom that comes out of following another’s commands that frees up the ego of being ‘responsible’ for actions, sometimes allowing one to relax and enjoy doing something that otherwise would be resisted and not enjoyed at all.

There is deep respect of and for the submissive by the dominant for giving of themselves so entirely to the dominant. The dominant recognizes how much they themselves need the submissive, and how much the submissive also needs to be dominated for fulfillment. Similarly, there is immense intensity of focus and of commitment towards the dominant by the submissive. This psychological intensity, a sense of devotion bordering on worship towards the dominant, has been known to bring about an ecstatic state known as “flying” for submissives. The dominant partner, of course, enjoys seeing the submissive enter such states. A wonderful time is had for all!

Sadism and Masochism (S&M) –

What some people consider the “darkest” aspect of BDSM, this involves the giving and receiving/experiencing of pain – pain that the masochist transforms into pleasure, while the sadist allows the administering of pain to produce its own forms of pleasure that pleases them in fulfilling ways. Well, that sounds pretty intense, and it can be.

Masochists tap into the deepest chemistry of the body, the glands producing adrenalin and its near opposite, endorphins. Adrenalin is the body’s own super-energizer, fueling the fight-or-flight instincts, while the endorphins are the human mammal’s outstanding pain killers and are agents capable of producing near mystical levels of euphoria. Adrenalin lasts a short time, and if there is enough endorphin build up in the body, after the adrenalin burns away an intense sensation of euphoria remains. Both or either provide the amazing conversion of pain into awesome sensations of pleasure. Masochists, or “bottoms” as they are often called, make up half of a very complex whole. To experience the masochist’s highs, the help of a facilitator called a “sadist” is needed!

Sadists both revel in watching the transformation of their subjects into deeper and deeper states of ecstasy, and experience intense adrenalin flashes as well. There is also said by many sadists to be a “top space” that seems to boast some of the euphoric qualities of the endorphin high – perhaps a contact high or empathic effect produced by the very intense bonding that takes place between the two partners. Whatever its source, the enjoyment derived from producing so much pleasure in the masochist subject is quite profound, and is for many first-time “tops” a big surprise that often brings up at least a little bit of somewhat guilty soul searching!

Many people do not understand this dynamic. It is extremely important to keep in mind that this is a sensitive and powerfully close bond between two consenting people. Before any actions take place, all participants will have talked extensively as to limits and boundaries, desires, and directions they would both enjoy. It is the very fact that the masochist willingly consents to be the subject of the sadist’s attentions that makes this form of “power exchange” so deeply intimate for both parties.The feedback loop is immediate, the energy of the connection is intense and grows in intensity. The trust-bond is incredibly strong and fuels everything. Communication, giving and receiving, and satisfaction on deeply intimate levels are the rewards.

Who’s in Control?

What all three of these areas have in common (aside from vast amounts of trust built between the partners) is a giving and receiving of Control from one partner to the other. But what the casual observer often doesn’t expect is that it’s usually the bound, submissive participant, who is on the receiving end of the flogger (for example) that holds ultimate control. The dominate active partner is doing to the submissive passive partner exactly what that submissive wants to happen, or what the dominant wants to do that the submissive is willing to go along with. Usually they will have talked about it extensively before anything starts to happen. The action is carefully moderated to build up the excitement and intensity without exceeding their limits. For example, a flogging starts off slow and light, allowing the recipient to build up their endorphins and get lost in the sensation of the moment. The dominant will constantly check in with the submissive to be sure they are OK, and before they started anything they will have established a safe word, which if uttered, will immediately end the scene, stopping the action until communication between the two players can establish where to go next with the scene, or whether this is a satisfactory place to end it. The Sadist who just grabs a whip and starts flailing away like a medieval torturer will not only not have anyone to play with in the future, they might even be arrested and brought up on charges!

The odds are good you’ve already experienced all of this!

You may have read that and said “Oh no, not me! I haven’t done anything even remotely like what is written above.”but keep in mind that we’ve been describing the extreme versions of each type of play. Forget the handcuffs and rope — B&D could consist simply of one lover holding their partners wrists tightly to the bed, not letting them move around as they make love. How many times has someone agreed to do whatever their lover wanted for the evening and let them call the shots? Well, that’s a form of D&S. And if you’ve ever raked your fingernails down someones back knowing that they’d love the mild pain or had your nipples pinched to the point that the pleasure and pain mingle into one glorious sensation, then you’ve already toyed with S&M. The important thing isn’t how far you go with it, or how ‘extreme’ you get, but is rather in learning what you are comfortable with — and in everyone involved having fun!

Now, Mix and Match!

For example: Bondage play mixed with Domination and Submission, with a bit of S&M added for spice.  The Submissive “topping” the Dominant — out of obedience, mastering a skill-set to please that Dominant. The Masochist being bound tightly while cleaning the house, wearing a tight corset. Etc, etc. These three acronyms canplay into each other in various ways, through various role-play situations and various exchanges. The options are as endless and varied as the mind and desire can invent.

– – –

We hope this has been a handy overview of the key ideas behind BDSM, but continued reading and research is essential to understanding your own “comfort zones” as well as the comfort zones of those you play with, and for learning how to communicate carefully and completely so that all your play of this type remains consensual and loving. Move slowly through this terrain. There is much to gain here for the intrepid yet careful explorer!

Jon the nudist

Jon the nudist

Well, my name is Jon the Owner of You Only Wetter a 34-year-old, Poly practicing, Dom with two great kids. I am a happy busy internet geek with a love of all things Google and I love spending time sitting on the sofa watching the latest Dr. Who, Mythbusters or a movie. I am a nudist mostly at home but do like to go down to the beach and bare all or go for a little walk around some hidden woodland really would like to do the whole nudist holiday :)

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BDSM – An Acronym of Acronyms

by Jon the nudist time to read: 12 min
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