Q: What is BDSM?

A: BDSM stands for “Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism”. The term is broadly used to cover any sexual activity that involves one partner being in control and one partner being controlled.

Often, BDSM activities include one of three elements:

  • Role play (Example: one partner is the “master” or “mistress”, and one partner is the “slave”, who does whatever the master/mistress commands.)
  • Control play (Example: one partner is blindfolded or tied up.)
  • Pain play (Example: one partner spanks the other.)

Most BDSM “scenes” will involve a combination of some of these elements.

It’s important to understand that BDSM activity always involves consent. That is, both partners in a BDSM interaction actively want to participate, and both partners have the ability to stop the activity at any time — this usually involves using a pre-arranged signal, or “safeword”.

There are many theories about why people are interested in BDSM, but no one has a definite answer. People who do BDSM (both as “tops” and “bottoms”, indicating power or status, not necessarily actual positions) find it enjoyable and exciting. There is no evidence that interest or participation in BDSM activities is associated with any psychological problems or that BDSM leads to abusive behavior outside the bedroom.

Beginners need to keep in mind the “Golden Rule” of SM: start slow. If you and your partner are ready to start experimenting, start out doing something simple and mild, rather than jumping right in to something like complicated bondage or intense sensation. You might want to begin with something like the bottom being tied to the bed during sex or a light spanking. See if this works for both of you before going further.

Both top and bottom need to be able to communicate their needs and limits. Negotiate a safword before every scene, so that when either of you need to stop, you have a clear, unambiguous signal. Common safewords are “Safeword” (you can”t misinterpret that one!) or “Red” for “Stop right now!”, “Yellow” for “Slow down a little bit…”, and “Green” for “That”s great, keep going!” never ignore a safeword, nor assume that your partner isn”t serious.

Always play within your ability. If you don’t know how to do something safely, learn how before you try it out on your partner.

For more information…

  • Bondage.com
    BDSM online personals and matchmaking
  • Society of Janus
    BDSM education, support, social group, and classes (also maintains a community event calendar on their website)

Q: Where can I find educational (non-pornographic) information about fisting?

A: There’s a great book about vaginal fisting titled A Hand in the Bush, by Deborah Addington.

As far as non-pornographic web sites, it’s more difficult. You’ll probably find that most sites are either geared toward gay men (anal fisting), pornographic and commercial, or both.

You’ll find additional references to vaginal fisting on Sexuality.org. That is the University of Washington’s human sexuality site, a good general sexuality resource.