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What Is: BDSM?

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In a Nutshell 

BDSM is a variety of often erotic practices or role-playing involving bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadomasochism, and other related interpersonal dynamics. An umbrella term for certain kinds of erotic behavior, between consenting adults.

There are distinct subcultures under this umbrella term. Terminology for roles varies widely among the subcultures, given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture is usually dependent upon self-identification and shared experience.

 

 

Where Did This Begin?

The term "BDSM" is first recorded in a Usenet posting from 1991, and is interpreted as a combination of the abbreviations B/D (Bondage and Discipline), D/s (Dominance and submission), and S/M (Sadism and Masochism). BDSM is now used as a catch-all phrase covering a wide range of activities, forms of interpersonal relationships, and distinct subcultures.

Activities and relationships within a BDSM context are often characterized by the participants taking on complementary, but unequal roles; thus, the idea of informed consent of both the partners is essential.

 

More Detail:

The terms "submissive" and "dominant" are often used to distinguish these roles: the dominant partner ("dom") takes psychological control over the submissive ("sub"). The terms "top" and "bottom" are also used: the top is the instigator of an action while the bottom is the receiver of the action.

The two sets of terms are subtly different: for example, someone may choose to act as bottom to another person, for example, by being whipped, purely recreationally, without any implication of being psychologically dominated by them, or a submissive may be ordered to massage their dominant partner. Despite the bottom performing the action and the top receiving they have not necessarily switched roles.

The abbreviations "sub" and "dom" are frequently used instead of "submissive" and "dominant". Sometimes the female-specific terms "mistress", "domme" or "dominatrix" are used to describe a dominant woman, instead of the gender-neutral term "dom".

Individuals who can change between top/dominant and bottom/submissive roles—whether from relationship to relationship or within a given relationship—are known as switches. The precise definition of roles and self-identification is a common subject of debate within the community.

 

 

The Psychology:

On a physical level, BDSM is commonly misconceived to be "all about pain". Most often, though, BDSM practitioners are primarily concerned with power, humiliation, and pleasure.

Of the three categories of BDSM, only sadomasochism specifically requires pain, but this is typically a means to an end, as a vehicle for feelings of humiliation, dominance, etc. The aspects of D/S and B/D may not include physical suffering at all, but include the sensations experienced by different emotions of the mind.

Dominance & submission of power is an entirely different experience, and is not always psychologically associated with physical pain. Many BDSM activities might not involve any kind of pain or humiliation, but just the exchange of power and control.

During the activities, the practitioners may feel endorphins comparable to the so-called "runner's high" or to the afterglow of orgasm. The corresponding trance-like mental state is also known as "subspace" for the submissive, or "topspace" for the dominant. Some use the term "body stress" to describe this physiological sensation.

This experience of algolagnia is important, but is not the only motivation for many BDSM practitioners. The philosopher Edmund Burke defines this sensation of pleasure derived from pain by the word sublime. Research has shown that couples engaging in consensual BDSM tend to show hormonal changes that indicate decreases in stress and increases in emotional bonding.

 

 

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