BDSM or Abuse?

There’s a pervasive idea in society that sex is dirty. That sex is something that should be locked away and never talked about because it isn’t “polite” to do so. Obviously, I don’t exactly agree with this or I wouldn’t be doing any of these letters. The regular amount of aversion to talking about sex PALES in comparison to the reaction to what I and my partner have deemed “kinky fuckery”. There is not a faster way to stop a conversation dead than to hint at the possibility that you could consider something other than just sex with your sex.

Dear Mr. Promiscuous

On TV/films/books, BDSM is always portrayed in something that is borderline abusive rather than a specific form of physical or psychological intimacy, e.g. the behaviour shown in the Fifty Shades films. It seems like we’ve associated BDSM with almost legitimised domestic abuse. Do you worry about this as a societal trend? Is it the result of a stereotype taken out of proportion? (As in, BDSM relationships only exist where one or both parties are severely psychologically damaged and rationalising abuse is the only coping mechanism, and loving, stable relationship units where BDSM plays a real involvement don’t exist)

Signed, Tied Up In Knots (he/him pronouns)

Let’s start with a little bit of a baseline before I go into the question. BDSM is the practice of several kinds of activities that are commonly used for sexual gratification. The phrase BDSM actually comes from a combination of three acronyms: B/D or Bondage and Domination, D/s or Dominate and Submissive, and S/M or Sadism and Masochism. BDSM is more an umbrella term for a lot of smaller subsets, kinda like LGBTQ+ is an umbrella term for several different kinds of orientation.

What does that mean? That there’s a lot of ways for BDSM to look outside of the traditional leather and whips, but for the sake of the question, we’ll stick with that one. As a whole, BDSM is NOT legitimized domestic abuse. It is a practice that two (or more) consenting adults partake in because it’s fun. That’s not to say that Fifty Shades doesn’t have elements of BDSM, but there is a LOT that is wrong, manipulative, or borderline domestic abuse. borderline domestic abuse at best, and downright manipulative and wrong at worst. It’s not a fair, balanced, or even good example of BDSM as a whole and I would very much hope that people would consider finding more than one source before passing judgement on the whole of BDSM.

That said, I am glad that it became mainstream, if only so that people would honestly start talking about it as something people you know could do and not something people had no exposure to. If people are asking about BDSM, then that means they can be corrected on their assumptions. They can do their own internet searches and research and find the multitude of ways that people use BDSM. They can even talk to people (like myself for instance) and get someone’s personal experience, giving a chance to destigmatize the whole thing. As long as Fifty Shades isn’t the ONLY example of BDSM someone has, things can still end well later down the line.

For some better ways to introduce someone to BDSM I’d suggest The New Topping book and The New Bottoming book as a nice introduction to the topics and ideas for BDSM from either the position of being tied up and the ones doing the tying. Also, you can usually find online or local groups that are filled with people that are more than willing to give advice to newcomers as well as people practicing for years.

Hopefully I’ve given you a good idea why, while bad, the fact that the conversation is happening now is worth the pain of having to explain the differences in what is and isn’t abuse.

-Mr. Promiscuous

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