What is BDSM
This article is scheduled to be printed in THE S & M NEWS vol 6/#6 (Feb 2000)
What is BDSM
By Carter Stevens
Copyright Carter Stevens 1999 All rights reserved.
As a public figure, I am constantly bombarded by letter, e-mails
and phone calls from people asking questions about the BDSM
scene. There are a lot of people out there who think it is their
right to have me drop everything to recommend a support group or
a Pro dome in East Bum Fuck, Utah. Being a lovable person I try
to help them out as much as I can. but many times the answer
SHOULD be "look it up." However, there is one question that
never fails to annoy me because I've spent 30 years trying to
find the answer myself. The question (or perhaps I should say
just, the quest) is simply put...What is BDSM? It sounds like a
simple question but hundreds of people have written thousands of
words about it and still there is no good answer.
What is "B" "D" "S" "M".
In order to define BDSM we have to first agree on what BDSM
stands for. After all, according to many sources at least 10% of
the population have played with one or another aspect of BDSM and
up to 50% of the population have some interest in it. If so
many people are interested, why can't anyone define what they
are interested in? Some people say it is a combination of B&D
and S&M. Some add D/s to the middle and say it stands for BD DS
SM. So, now we have to define 3 terms instead of one. Let us start
with B&D. B&D is rather universally agreed to stand for Bondage &
Discipline OR Bondage & Dominance. D/s is Dominance & Submission.
And last, but far from least, is S&M which stands for Sadism &
Masochism or Slave & Master. (If I missed your favorite please
do not write to tell me. I have enough dealing with 6 different
definitions for one small 4 letter "word"). To make it even more
interesting the ampersand (&) is often interchangable with a
slash (/) or dropped entirely to change S&M to S/m or just SM and
then given a totally different definition such as SM = Sexual
Since it is the most commonly heard (and probably the oldest)
let's start with S&M. S&M gets it's primary definition from the
famous Austrian psychiatrist R. Krafft-Ebing who, over a hundred
years ago, named two mental aberrations after several famous
authors the Marquis De Sade and von Sacher-Masoch. Krafft-Ebing
was NOT talking about casual kinky sex play, he was talking
about deep seated mental disease(s) which caused it's sufferers
to be unable to function in a normal way in "polite" society.
However, the general public, being either unable or unwilling to
differentiate between someone who gets a sexual thrill from
spanking a willing partner on the backside during sex play and a
Ted Bundy like serial killer have over the last hundred years
usually lumped all erotic power exchange sex play (more on that
definition later) in with mental disease. To avoid the stigma
attached to Sado/Masochism many "Scene" people have invented the
Slave/Master definition for S/M. Since Erotic Power Play doesn't
always (or even mostly) involve pain many people prefer B/D, as
their erotic exchange of power often involves Bondage and Domi-
nance (or discipline). To some however, bondage doesn't enter
into erotic play at all (perhaps because they don't find it
erotic?) so they subscribe to the D/s definition, pure dominance
and submission. By combining many of these definitions and acro-
nyms we come up with BDSM, which in modern day serves as a gener-
al label, but doesn't even touch on sexual fetishes (leather,
rubber, et al). Confused yet?, don't worry, you will be by the
time I get finished.
The problem is that sexual needs and channels of fulfillment for
mankind are so diverse and morals are so segmented that what a
single couple find to be sexually exciting and/or fulfilling
might not be the same as any other couple on the face of the
earth find it to be.
So how can we define BDSM or even "Kinky" if everyone has a
different, built in, definition? We can't really. What we can
do is define a general all encompassing term that will give the
average person some idea what we are talking about. A "scene"
friend of mine (although we have never met) in the Netherlands is
a great champion of the term EPE (erotic power exchange) with the
"ultimate" EPE being TPE ("total power exchange") which does work
for many of the offshoots of BDSM but totally overlooks fetish
play which may not involve any exchange of power at all. A very
popular term that has grown up with the internet that is used by
many members of the "BDSM Scene (or community)" is WIITWD. WIITWD
is short for "What It Is That We Do." WIITWD is about as generic
a term as one could ever use to try to tie together this broad
spectrum of humanity as any. But, what about those NOT into the
"scene"? WIITWD doesn't include them.
But does it really matter what you call it?
Remember the true definition of perversion is "Anything I would-
n't do!" so no matter what you call it, the 50% of the population
NOT interested in BDSM will still call it "sick". So, until some-
thing better comes along, I believe BDSM is as good a label as
any to lump in all sorts of "kinky" (or as I call it "fun")
sexual actions and orientations. Alright class, so what does BDSM
stand for? You still have no idea? Glad I could be of help.
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