With the recent release of 50 Shades of Grey, the topic of BDSM is popular, and sometimes, rather charged. I have read terms such as abuse, domestic violence and non-consent being thrown around. What you need to know is that BDSM is not abuse and here is why… because it is consensual. In fact, some people may even go so far as to say that they would feel more distressed if their partner refused to play with them.

So what exactly is BDSM? It stands for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism. It is the sexual preference of approximately 2 per cent of the Australian population, though this figure may have risen exponentially over the last few years. BDSM can vary tremendously depending on who is participating and their preferences. It can be as simple as a blindfold and handcuffs and become as extreme as flogging and knife play. Just as we are all individual, so are our tastes when it comes to our preferences sexually.

The reason why BDSM is not abuse, but a consensual sexual preference is for a few reasons, one of which being that there is always a safe word. The person in the role of the submissive literally calls the shots, because they have control of the safe word and when they use it, the dominant stops what they are doing. Add to this that the submissive has actively chosen to participate in that role and that both have communicated extensively about what is acceptable and what is not within the role-play, then it makes sense that BDSM is a safe and consensual form of sex play.

There are many different ways that BDSM can be executed. Here are a few of the ways that some people play with BDSM:

  • Bondage: this can range from even very tame hand tying with household items to extreme scenarios where one is restrained in an intricate artwork of ropes.
  • Discipline: this includes any kind of “punishment” enactment from spanking, whipping, flogging, pouring candle wax or even knife play. The level of pain that is inflicted is usually extensively discussed beforehand so that the dominant has a good idea of what the submissive is willing to handle.
  • Submission: this is where one party role-plays to being the party who takes orders from the dominant. This role is very often sought out by the individual and they are very clear in their desire to become submissive. Submissives may ordinarily be men or women, and includes those who may hold powerful positions in everyday life.
  • Domination: this is where one party takes control within the sexual role-play. For submissives, having a dom may feel safe, comforting and nurturing. The dom makes all the decisions as to what and when sex role-play will occur (bearing in mind that the sub has control of the safe word at all times, which leaves a question mark around who really holds the power in such scenarios.)

What is surprising to me is that so many people think they can have an opinion about those who practice BDSM (previous case about calling it abuse in point.) It is like telling someone they are wrong for preferring chocolate milk. Our society, particularly with the popularity of social media, seems to believe that we can dictate to others what they should think or feel, which is ridiculous, particularly when it comes to a sexual preference. As long at there is adult mutual consent and personal responsibility, who are we to judge?