Intro to BDSM

Safe, Sane, Consensual: Intro to BDSM

 

Researchers Ali Hebert and Angela Weber define BDSM as "a range of sexual preferences that generally relate to emjoyment of physical control, psychological control and/or pain (Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, August 2014). Healthy BDSM play is always based on consent, respect and clear communication. A wide range of demographics of people engage in BDSM play, though because of negative views of BDSM practices, many people may not feel comfortable or safe talking openly about their desires and practices. 

 

Why do some people practice BDSM?

Some people find BDSM practices to be very erotic and sensual. BDSM covers a wide range of sexual practices, and may include but are not limited to bondage, pain-provoking activities and roleplays. BDSM practices can play a large part of someone's healthy expression of sexuality. 

What are the "rules" of BDSM?

The BDSM community often refer to the principles of Safe, Sane and Consensual to guide their activities

  • Safe means that, though activities may be pain-inducing, that no unintentional physical harm will be inflicted, and that safety practices are in place. BDSM acts are strictly negotiated between each person involved in the scene, and the limits of every person are respected. All participants are able to end the scene at any time. Emotional care is also generally understood as a principal of safety in BDSM.
  • Sane means that all activities will be performed in a way which makes sense to the participants before, during and after the scene. All participants need to be in control of their actions at all times and be able to stop at any time when requested. There is an understanding that if things do not feel right that the scene will stop.
  • Consensual means that everybody involved in the scene is fully informed, clear-headed, and continually enthusiastic of the activities. If at any time a participant becomes uncomfortable they can withdraw consent at anytime and the scene will be ended immedietly.  

What is aftercare?

Aftercare is considered by many to be an essential part of the BDSM scene. Participants check in with themselves and with the other participants to ensure that everybody is feeling safe and has their basic needs attended to. Community accountability is considered an important part of BDSM relationships, and often partipaints in a scene will check-in with other community members who were not involved in a scene in order to maintain this community accountability. 

Is BDSM abusive?

It is important to remember the principles of safe, sane and consensual. When BDSM is conducted in a healthy way, sexual play is done between adults who consent to the activities. Everyone involved is bound by safety negotiations and other ethical limitations. Consent can always be removed at any time in a BDSM scene or relationship. 

Abuse is physical, sexual, or emotional acts performed on a person without their consent. When consent is present in a BDSM relationship, everyone involved agrees to the activity, so this is not abuse.

If consent is not given within a BDSM relationship, or consent is withdrawn within a scene and not respected, then the activities are considered abusive and are against the law. 

 

How can we reduce risk in BDSM relationships and scenes?

Respecting the limits set out by the participants in the scene is an important part of physical and emotional safety. Make sure everyone is clear clear on the use and meaning of safe words and safety signals during the scenes. 

Regular safety measures should be in place in order to reduce the risk of STI transmission or pregnancy (if the scene or relationship involves these risks). Regular STI testing, use of lubricants, and use of barriers such as condoms can reduce these risks.

Make sure equipment used is clean, and safety materials including a first-aid kit, cell phone, and safety scissors are available. If needles or other sharps are used, make sure there is a box available to dispose of them safely. The particular components of a scene will dictate what other safety measures should be in place.

When applicable, use lubricant in order to reduce risk of tearing.

As consent is only possible when participants are clear-minded, never engage in BDSM or any other sexual activities while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

As mentioned, community accountability is important in many BDSM relationships. Regular check-ins and safety agreements with other BDSM members who are not involved in the particular reltionship or scene may be an important safety measure.