4Men - Style

From toys to furniture, sneakers to hairdo's. Everything that makes a South African gay man's life interesting

Gay BDSM Culture Explained

Gay BDSM Culture Explained

By Alex James

BDSM is a complex acronym derived from the terms bondage and discipline (B&D, B/D, or BD), dominance and submission (D&S, D/S, or DS), sadism and masochism (S&M, S/M, or SM).

BDSM includes a wide spectrum of activities and forms of interpersonal relationships. While not always overtly sexual in nature, the activities and relationships within a BDSM context are almost always eroticized by the participants in some fashion. Many of these practices fall outside of conventional sexual activities and human relationships.

BDSM encompasses many activities, including - but are not limited to - forms of dominance, submission, discipline, punishment, bondage, sexual roleplaying, sexual fetishism, sadomasochism, and power exchange, as well as the full spectrum of mainstream personal and sexual interactions.

An important distinction is that BDSM is not a form of sexual abuse - although some BDSM activities may appear to be violent or coercive, such activities are conducted with the consent of all partners involved. BDSM relationships and practices are exercised under the philosophy of 'safe, sane and consensual' (SSC), or the somewhat more permissive philosophy of 'risk-aware consensual kink' (RACK).

Activities and relationships within a BDSM context are characterized by the fact that the participants usually take on complementary, but unequal, roles. Typically, participants who are active - applying the activity or exercising control over others - are known as tops or Dominants. Those participants who are recipients of the activities, or who are controlled by their partners, are typically known as bottoms or submissives. Individuals who move between top/dominant roles and bottom/submissive roles - either periodically within a relationship, or from relationship to relationship - are known as S/switches.

BDSM is often practiced within the context of a limited and defined encounter known as a BDSM scene. Such scenes often have ritualistic aspects, complete with modes of behavior, forms of address, codes of conduct, dress codes, and many other aspects of theater and role playing. As such encounters are often, but not always, at least partly sexual in nature, people outside of BDSM have a tendency to view it as a form of 'kinky sex'.

Some participants incorporate aspects of BDSM into their everyday relationship(s) with their partner(s), especially those who practice dominance and submission or power exchange (especially Total Power Exchange). For these individuals, BDSM is part of their lifestyle and in some discussions is referred to as 'The Lifestyle'.

BDSM typically involves one partner voluntarily giving up control. The submissive partner gives control to the dominant partner in a ritualized interaction known as power exchange. The dominant partner is referred to as the 'Dom', 'Domme', 'Dominant', 'Top' 'Master' or 'Mistress' and the submissive partner is called 'sub', 'thrall', 'submissive', 'bottom' or 'slave'. In accordance with the commonly-used nomenclature in issue-related discussions among the practitioners, this article will use the terms Top and bottom to describe the particular role-playing partner.

BDSM actions often take place during a specific period of time agreed to by both parties, referred to as 'play,' 'a scene' or 'a session.' All parties involved usually derive pleasure from this, even though many of the practices that are performed, such as inflicting pain, humiliation or being restrained would be considered unpleasant under normal circumstances. Sexual intercourse, be it oral, anal or vaginal, may occur within a session, but is not essential.

The fundamental principles for the exercise of BDSM require that it should be performed by mature and responsible partners, of their own volition, and in a safe way. Since the 1980s these basic principles have been condensed into the motto 'Safe, sane and consensual', abbreviated as SSC, which means that everything is based on safe, sane and consenting behavior of all involved parties. This mutual consent makes a clear legal and ethical distinction between BDSM and crimes such as sexual assault or domestic violence.

Some BDSM practitioners prefer a code of behavior that differs from 'SSC' and described as 'Risk Aware Consensual Kink' (RACK), indicating a preference of a style in which the individual responsibility of the involved parties is emphasized more strongly, with each participant being responsible for his or her own well-being. RACK focuses primarily upon awareness and informed consent, rather than accepted safe practices. Consent is the most important criterion here. The consent and compliance for a sadomasochistic situation can be granted only by people who are able to judge the potential results. For their consent, they must have all relevant information at hand and the necessary mental capacity to judge. The resulting consent and understanding is often summarized in a 'contract', an agreement of what can and cannot take place.

In general, it must be possible for the consenting partner to withdraw his or her consent at any given time; for example, by using a safeword that was agreed on in advance. Failure to honor a safeword is considered the most serious misconduct that can take place in BDSM and can even change the sexual consent situation into a crime, depending on the relevant law, since the bottom has explicitly revoked his or her consent to any actions which follow the use of the safeword.

Aside from the general advice related to safer sex, BDSM sessions often require a much wider array of safety precautions than typical vanilla sex (sexual behavior without BDSM elements). To keep all acts within the framework agreed upon by all participants, a commonly accepted set of rules and safety measures has emerged within the BDSM community.

To ensure consensus related to BDSM activity, pre-play negotiations are commonplace, especially among partners who do not know each other very well. These negotiations concern the interests and fantasies of each partner and establish a framework. This kind of discussion is a typical 'unique selling proposition' of BDSM sessions and quite commonplace. Additionally, safewords are often arranged to provide for an immediate stop of any activity if any participant should so desire. Quick and reliable response to safewords is an imperative for safe BDSM. In case of voice constraints of the bottom, eye contact or hand signs might be the only means of communication and are therefore of very high importance for safety.

Practical safety aspects are of tremendous importance. It is highly important during bondage sessions to understand which parts of the human body have a risk of damage to nerves and blood vessels by contusion or have a high risk of scar development. Using crops, whips or floggers, the top's fine motor skills and anatomical knowledge can make the difference between a satisfying session for the bottom and a highly unpleasant experience, possibly including severe physical harm. The very broad range of different BDSM 'toys' and physical and psychological control techniques often requires a far-reaching knowledge of details related to the requirements of the individual session, such as anatomy, physics, and psychology.

It is necessary to be able to identify a bottom's psychological 'freakouts' in advance in order to avoid it. Such losses of emotional balance due to sensory or emotional overload are the most common SM emergency. It is extremely important to follow his or her reactions empathically and continue or stop accordingly.

Join us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Keep up with us on Pinterest Join our Google Plus circle Join us on Tumblr