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BDSM – Beyond vanilla!

What BDSM is all about by Stephen Laverack – Counselling Psychologist

When you mention BDSM at a dinner party, one is often met with some judgements or a bit of a giggle, often stemming from misconceptions that ‘it’s all about inflicting pain’, that it’s abusive, or that individuals who participate are somehow sexually deviant. However, over the last few years there has been a growing curiosity about what BDSM is all about, with more and more people from all walks of life engaging with ‘other’ forms of sexual expression.

What Light Bondage and BDSM is all about with Desir

BDSM are umbrella terms that cover a multitude of forms of sexual expression that are deemed outside of the ‘normal’ or ‘vanilla’ expressions of sexuality. The acronym BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline on the one hand, and Sadomasochism (or Sadism and Masochism) on the other. Part of these terms includes the more common understanding of BDSM, D and S, or Dominance and Submission. There are some interesting aspects of BDSM which make it a fascinating field that warrants more curiosity and experimentation.

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Keep things fun with light BDSM

Most importantly, BDSM is not a psychological pathology, and it’s now understood and classified as one aspect of normal expressions of sexuality. This means that it appears to have become a catch-all term for certain kinds of erotic behaviour between consenting adults. The BDSM community seems to welcome anyone with a non-normative streak who identifies with this community and by engaging with this community enables you to examine aspects of your sexual fantasies.

Keep things safe

Personal safely is paramount and scenes (sex or play sessions are called ‘scenes’ in the BDSM world) need to be carried out in a professional environment in a structured and safe way. Not only is the use of safer sex practices encouraged to protect against HIV and STIs, but also include strict rules against the use of recreational drugs and alcohol intoxication.

Safety should also feature as part of a pre-scene interview, as it’s important to identify each person’s psychological ‘squicks’ or triggers in advance, in order to avoid them. Such losses of emotional balance due to sensory or emotional overload are commonly discussed during these pre-scene chats. Throughout the scenes, it is really important to follow participants’ reactions empathetically and continue or stop accordingly. For some, however, sparking ‘freakouts’ or deliberately using triggers may be a desired outcome.

However, for most safe words or safe symbols are one way for BDSM practices to protect both parties. For example, the use of traffic light colours, such as green meaning okay, orange meaning slight discomfort, and red meaning stop are used to prevent ‘freakouts’, and these are common methods to ensure participants’ safety. However, before the scene starts partners should be aware of each other’s psychological states and behaviours in order to prevent instances where the ‘freakouts’ occur and the use of safewords or safe symbols are recommended. Another great idea for scenes safety was the use of after scene de-briefing sessions to discuss what worked, what didn’t work and whether psychological support is required for participants.

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We also need to be mindful of some the psychological challenges arising from society’s moral difficulties with BDSM. These largely come from the individual trying to make sense of their personal journey with BDSM and the phase of ‘coming-out’, in terms of the self-questioning related to one’s own sexuality quite common.

Researchers have suggested that the discovery of BDSM preferences whilst in an intimate relationship can result in challenges if one of the partners is not ‘turned on’ by this sexual expression. This, combined with the fear of discrimination in everyday life, leads in some cases to a double life which can be challenging. At the same time, the denial of BDSM preferences can induce stress and dissatisfaction with one’s own vanilla lifestyle, feeding the apprehension of finding a partner. Recent research also suggests that BDSM practitioners may have problems finding BDSM partners because clubs and societies are few, which can be quite isolating.

Overall, the coverage in media and in popular culture has had a positive impact in being able to dispel many myths and remove the mysteriousness about BDSM. This has helped people feel more comfortable to be curious, to ask questions and to experiment with their own sexuality. To have some fun with handcuffs; leather; lycra; straps; whips; feathers; candle wax; ropes; harnesses and so on. And to learn that the possibilities are endless in that you can allow your imagination to take you on a sexual journey. Thankfully, and contrary to what has been portrayed in some films, researchers seem to agree that individuals who are BDSM practitioners seldom commit violent crimes, and are not violent outside of a scene.

What Do You Think?

Thank you for reading our post, we hope you found it educational! In the spirit of our mission we have one more thing to ask you. Have you ever tried a weird kink and found it quite fun? Tell us about it!

Be bold, and leave your comment below.

About Stephen Laverack

Stephen Laverack

Stephen works as a counselling psychologist in Fairland, Johannesburg specialising in individual and couple/relationship clinical counselling and psychotherapy. His special interest is sex therapy, particularly amongst men and the LGBT+ community. He has worked with sexual health and wellness issues, particularly HIV/Aids activism, treatment programme design and corporate consulting and counselling since 1993. With qualifications in a BA (Hons) Psychosocial Studies with professional studies (UEL, UK) as well as MA Community-based Counselling Psychology (MACC)(Wits), Stephen has also qualified in numerous additional fields such as Sexual Pain and History, Vestibulodynia, Vaginismus, Sexual Dysfunction, Polyamory, Mindfulness and Sex Therapy as Sexuality in Disability and Disease.

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