This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series lexicon

Defining BDSM

There are many things that can draw a person to explore BDSM and the joy of kink.  For one group of folks it’s a specific fetish desire.  For some it’s an experimental nature leading them to kink.  Others are attracted exclusively to things that are taboo.  For me, it was an inescapable attraction to games of power and control, which along with the uses of sensation, are the foundations of BDSM play.  When looking at the wide variety of kink expressed by the human animal, we find that BDSM is one of the most important elements, a central pillar (to use a construction metaphor) of the world of kink.

Kink is the wider classification.  All of the many and varied protocols and play associated with BDSM are part of the world of kink.  But, not all kink is BDSM.  To my mind, BDSM is a sub-category of kink for that very reason.  All things BDSM fit inside the kink umbrella, while some kink activities aren’t considered part of BDSM.

Wikipedia actually defines BDSM this way:

“A continuum of erotic practice and expression involving the consensual use of restraint, intense sensory stimulation, and fantasy power role-play.”

When viewing things from a relativistic view, I figure that all human behavior is really part of a continuum.  So, only the last half of the definition seems very useful to my eyes.  The consensual use of restraint, intense sensory stimulation, and fantasy power role-play defines BDSM.  That covers activities ranging from playful restraint and light sensation play (like tickling) – to spanking and role-playing – and from there on to more intense activities like suspension, mummification, flogging, and whipping.

Some fantasies go still further still to the extreme.  For instance, there are entire online communities devoted to people who fantasize about being crushed.  Other groups are devoted to rape and force fantasies.  If you join FetLife, you may very well encounter men who dream of being castrated.  Another group dreams of being subjected to some sort of real medieval torture. I tend to view those sorts of fantasies as being a sub-set of the BDSM world. But, it could be argued that they would be better categorized instead simply as part of the world of kink, as they may not perfectly fit into any of the three subcategories melded together as BDSM.

Odd acronym

BDSM is an odd acronym, in that it is actually three other acronyms joined together. Wikipedia calls such an invention a compound acronym.

B/D or B&D stands for bondage and discipline. Individuals who take part in B/D derive erotic pleasure from activities like being restrained (bondage) and/or being spanked (discipline.)
D/s or D&S stands for dominance and submission. Individuals who practice D/s derive erotic pleasure from activities where one individual relinquishes authority or control to another.
S/M or S&M stands for sadism and masochism or sadomasochism. Individuals who practice S/M derive erotic pleasure from the giving and receiving of strong stimuli, sensations most of us might otherwise consider to be painful or intense.

These days, I prefer to identify with, and place myself under the larger umbrella of “kink”, but when I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I would certainly have told you I was into B&D (not to be confused with D&D, which I was geeky enough to play too) as well as S&M.  Language is a transient thing, and because of that, the way we define ourselves changes and evolves over time. I’ve also found that as a kinky person, my identity and interests are evolving right along with language, at the very same time, seemingly together, and I have no way of really knowing how one affects the other’s development.

When it is all said and done, the term BDSM encompasses a very wide range of activities and subcultures under a single banner. The term kink encompasses and even wider range of cultures and activities under an even larger umbrella. Because these artificial groupings are a relatively recent phenomenon, only time will tell whether such encompassing terms remains useful or meaningful a decade or two in the future.

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Michael's Musings what is BDSM?
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