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BDSM Lifestyles: A World of Sensual Etiquette and Restraint

by Alicia R. Norman

  BDSM Lifestyles

BDSM, which stands for Bondage & Discipline / Domination & Submission / Sadism & Masochism, was for a long while considered a sexually deviant lifestyle by the psychiatric profession. Indeed, the long misunderstood practitioners of the BDSM arts were even prescribed therapies that include medication to get them past what was considered unwholesome fixations.

Interestingly enough, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM, (the American handbook for mental health professionals), once considered interracial dating deviant too. Although multicultural mixing is becoming more mainstream and thereby socially acceptable, consenting adults who find enjoyment in sexual practices that others may not understand can still be labeled as psychologically disturbed.

Popular media also contributed to the notion that BDSM lifestylers were maladjusted, playing up the fetish for laughs, or portraying those who indulge in it as rabid sex fiends. Along with this came the pervasive idea that Dominants seek after hapless partners, and will engage them against their will in sadomasochistic games.

These stereotypes and misconceptions lead to the mainstream perception that BDSM is all about whips, chains and pain.

It may surprise many to discover that BDSM is primarily psychological; in fact, I'd say ninety percent of BDSM is mental.

The fact of the matter is BDSM is a lot more contained that people would have you believe. There is a subtle dark beauty to this world, a world of complex etiquette and ritual, where men and woman know the rules and obey them, not because they are forced to, but because they want to, a sort of willing slavery.

For instance, a dominant, also known as a Top or a Master (Domme or Mistress in the feminine), cannot be approached outright by a submissive. There are complex procedures that govern approach, and due respect has to be observed. A submissive (also called pet or slave) that minds these rituals is often awarded with favour.

Within BDSM organizations and societies, the rights of all are respected, with special care be given to the treatment of submissives. Individuals who do not abide by established codes are often ostracized.

One of the primary rules that is recognized without exception is encapsulated in the motto, "Keep it safe, sane and consensual"!

In other words, no self-respecting Domme is going to chase a man around a room with a whip to get her jollies if the attention is unsolicited, as is often portrayed in movies.

As one Domme plainly put it to me, the pet is in absolute control at all times. In fact, in most D/s relationships, play scenes as they are called, are discussed prior to their occurrence, with designated safe words being used to let the Dom know what the pet or sub doesn't like without disrupting the scene.

Safe words can be personalized, but sometime utilize the well known signals of red, yellow and green for stop, pause or keep going. Safe words are always honoured, and those who do not heed them have been excommunicated from many of the underground clubs and meeting rooms where lifestylers gather.

The high regard for decorum coupled with sexual exploration puts one in mind of a time where words like honour meant something and passion could be unbridled and furious. I will admit that the more romantic aspects of this lifestyle lured me in, and I had occasion to meet many wonderful people therein, although I didn't indulge in play myself. I am not sure if timidity or a fear or realizing some of my fantasies was the culprit for my hesitancy. After all, BDSM is about power exchange, and I think I like to be in control far too much…didn’t' mean it wasn't alluring.

I suppose this was in part to the fact that human beings often tend to crave and desire the very things we cannot have, which is a part of the fascination. This idea is a key component of bondage and domination lifestyles as well, as this dynamic can create a powerful rush of emotion and arousal. For instance, a man or woman may be erotically bound by leather straps or ropes so they cannot touch their lover or please themselves in any way, all the while, their Dominant or Master titillates them with gentle touches or a firm hand.

This increases stimulation, both mentally and physically, culminating in a release so profound, that the submissive individual is literally left trembling and in want.

Pain comes in as something of an enhancer, and isn't often introduced right away. It is supplied at the height of arousal, when the pain and pleasure receptors are hard to differentiate from chemically speaking.

The best Doms know how to blend the exquisite lines between pleasure and pain making it a decadent experience that is unparalleled in the sensual realms.

Even those who live in the "vanilla" world could learn something about their own innate sexual natures if they were to give understanding to this aspect of human sexuality. They may also find, far from being deviants, BDSM enthusiasts are simply more in touch with their own sensuality and therefore, more in touch with themselves.

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