Authors: Tristan Taormino
People do BDSM for the same wide variety of reasons people have sex, including for pleasure and connection. Just as some people love oral sex and others love sex in the woods, some love BDSM. Plenty of folks have told me they believe it’s just how they’re wired. I’ve heard countless stories of the first time a lover held her down, the first time a woman put a collar on him, the first time she got spanked. Many experienced a visceral reaction to these experiences before they had language to describe what they were doing or knew there were other people out there doing similar things. For some, BDSM does not have to focus on or even involve genital stimulation to be pleasurable and even orgasmic. For others, a good flogging and a good fucking is the perfect combination—BDSM enhances the sexual experience.
In sidebars throughout this chapter, you’ll find examples of different kinds of BDSM as well as popular practices and tools. I hope they illustrate the extraordinary diversity within BDSM, provide you with a list of possibilities, and whet your appetite for the chapters to come.
is a common term used to describe the practice of BDSM, as in: “I want to play with a bondage expert so I can learn more about it.” It can also be used as an adjective: “My play partner caned me really well at Susan’s play party. I’m glad I set up that play date!”
is where two or more people come together to do BDSM. People may also use
to describe the BDSM community (“Is she in the scene?”). You can do a scene anywhere, but often people do them in a play space or dungeon. These spaces may be private, such as a room in someone’s home, or public, like a large club; they often have different stations that feature various types of equipment for BDSM play: for example, a St. Andrew’s Cross (a large
usually made of wood), a bondage bed, a spanking bench, a sling, a medical exam table, and a cage.
When I feel the pounding of a heavy flogger (or anything with a heavy thud) against my ass or thighs, I feel this amazing connection to life and to my partner. I also feel this huge thick chunk of energy making contact with my body and then dissipating from that point of contact throughout the rest of my body.
spanking, caning, slapping, flogging, Florentine flogging, and whipping
hands, paddles, canes, slappers, crops, floggers, quirts, singletail whips
EXPLORE DIFFERENT SENSATIONS
I stood over her as she lay on the massage table. I stared intently into her eyes. I pinched a section of flesh of her inner thigh, pressed firmly, then tugged a little. She squirmed, so I pinched harder. She gasped, then giggled. One by one, I put bright red plastic clothespins in a line until she had a dozen, six on each side. Then I pulled out a special pair: shiny silver magnetic clothespins. My mom put them in my stocking for Christmas. “Won’t those be useful?” she said, imagining me clipping important documents to the filing cabinet in my office. “Oh, yes they will,” I smirked. I saved them for a very sensitive spot: right where the leg meets the crotch, an inch away from her wet pussy.
After the initial pain when a clip first goes on, the circulation stops and you just feel pressure. I could tell she was proud of herself, probably thinking, This isn’t so bad. She had no idea what was in store for her when the clips came off: a searing pain that can be pleasurable for some, almost intolerable for others, and intense no matter what. I tugged at the first one, squeezed the end, and released her skin. She breathed in sharply, then exhaled deeply.
clips and clamps, pinching, hot wax, knife play (without breaking the skin), electricity play, tickle torture, cupping, fire cupping, fire play
nipple clamps, clothespins, zippers (clothespins or clips strung together) clips, candles, vampire gloves, knives, TENS unit, violet wand, cups
Tops, Bottoms, and Switches
During a scene, a
is the “doer,” the person who is in charge, initiates activities and actions, and does things to the bottom. A
follows the top’s lead, receives stimulation from the top, and has things done to him or her. For example, in a spanking scene, the top is the spanker and the bottom gets spanked. Top and bottom can also be used as verbs, as in “I topped my girlfriend last night.” A switch is someone who enjoys playing both roles. Whether a switch becomes a top or a bottom can change from one scene to the next; switches may take on a particular role based on the partner they play with or the activity. They can also switch between both roles within one scene.
is the enjoyment of giving or receiving pain or discomfort. A
is one who derives pleasure from inflicting pain, intense sensations, and discomfort on someone else. That pain or discomfort can be physical (like during a spanking), emotional and psychological (as in an interrogation scene), or both. This is just a brief definition; Chapter 16, Inside the Mind of a Sadist, by FifthAngel, is a thorough, thoughtful look at sadism. A
is someone who enjoys receiving pain or intense sensations, being made uncomfortable, or being “forced” to do something they don’t enjoy. Remember that sadists and masochists experience these desires and pleasures in the context of consensual BDSM scenes.
I enjoy being restrained but my preference is to be held down by human force; I like the feeling of hands squeezing my wrists and a knee on my chest, a hard palm pushing on my face. I also enjoy being called names and told that I am only good for fucking and for giving the other person pleasure. Something about being used makes me feel really hot and confident and empowered. Feeling out of control when there is trust and desire involved takes me to a transcendent place that I don’t get to on my own or during non-BDSM sex.
Rough body play:
slapping, face slapping, hair pulling, spitting, punching, pushing, wrestling, biting, scratching
hands, mouths, bodies, boxing and other gloves
Let’s talk about pain, since it’s part of SM and comes to mind when people think of activities like flogging, caning, or piercing. When people experience pain, adrenaline, endorphins, and natural painkillers flood their nervous system. People get off on this chemical rush, which many describe as feeling energized, high, or transcendent. Pain is not just a physical event; like many things in our culture, it is also socially constructed and reinforced. When we see a person slap someone’s face, we think, That hurt, that was unpleasant. But, in the context of a sexually charged scene, some people, when they are aroused (and their pain tolerance is much higher), process a face slap in a different way: it feels
. They like how their flesh responds and their pulse quickens. It may feel shocking, intimate, stinging; add the taboo of dominance, punishment, humiliation—whatever that slap signifies for the two people—and you’ve got a recipe for an intense experience. In certain contexts, one person’s pain can be another person’s pleasure. Or, as Patrick Califia writes in Chapter 15, Enhancing Masochism: How to Expand Limits and Increase Desire, which delves much deeper into this subject, “Euphoria and agony are next-door neighbors.”
Dominance and Submission
runs the show, exerts control over a submissive, and may direct him or her to complete tasks, behave a certain way, follow rules, or submit to various kinds of SM. A
gives up control and surrenders to the Dominant, complies with a Dominant’s wishes, follows orders, and has an investment in pleasing his or her Dominant.
A power exchange of some kind is nearly always present in human relationships. There are people all around us in power exchange relationships who don’t acknowledge the dynamic or call it anything: A husband who gives his wife an allowance but no credit card in her own name. A woman who controls her coworkers, making them eager to please her even though she’s not their boss. That’s right: there are plenty of people wearing collars and others tugging at their leashes, but the gear is invisible and the dynamic unexamined. Kinky people do the opposite: they consciously
create and name
a power dynamic in order to eroticize it. By making the power exchange explicit, they get to act on it, play with it, and let it drive the erotic interaction. That exchange is what fuels their desire and pleasure. Think about the mistress who forces her slave to be sexually available to her at all times. Or the submissive who strives to please her Dominant, putting his needs above her own.
is one kind of D/s dynamic or relationship where the submissive serves the Dominant; the Dominant may direct the submissive to do household chores, provide sexual stimulation, or complete projects. In fact, ordinary activities that most people take for granted—making coffee, drawing a bath, folding laundry—can be imbued with a different meaning and become symbols of submission and service. Service is most often equated with submissives (slaves, boys, girls, etc.), but there are also self-identified
, who enjoy doing things to bottoms at the bottom’s request.
D/s roles and relationships are explored throughout the book, most extensively by Laura Antoniou (Chapter 3), Midori (Chapter 13), and Madison Young (Chapter 14).
Some people take on the role of Dominant or submissive expressly for a scene, like top or bottom, and shed that role when the scene ends. For others, being dominant or submissive is not about role playing, but is a much bigger part of their identity and relationships. For example, some Dominants can’t turn their desire to dominate on and off at will, and they describe dominance as very similar to how people define sexual orientation: they are attracted to and interested in submissives, they see the world through their dominant lens, their dominance is a constant in their sexual and BDSM interactions.
PLAY WITH YOUR BITS
It gets me off better than anything else. You just can’t be any fuller than when you have someone’s entire hand inside you. It’s emotional, even spiritual for me. It’s the only act that can actually move me to tears, but they are good tears.
Genitals, sex, and bodily fluids:
vaginal fisting, anal fisting, rough sex, cock and ball play, genital play and genitorture, sounds, enemas, watersports/golden showers
hands, clips and clamps, menthol rub, rope, cock rings, gloves, lube, sex toys, needles
Many tops are dominant—their needs and wishes come first—and many bottoms are submissive—their desire is to please and serve their top. However, that is not always the case. For example, if a dominant master orders his submissive to flog him, then the master is the flogging bottom and the submissive is the flogging top; the master is still the one in charge, he’s just having something done to him. The roles of sadist and masochist overlap with the others and many people identify with different elements of more than one. Sometimes the overlap is easily recognized, like a submissive masochist bottom who enjoys being flogged to experience both the pain and the submission to his Dominant’s flogger. But there could also be a sadistic submissive who enjoys piercing masochist bottoms.
EROTIC ROLE PLAY
When you engage in erotic role play (also called fantasy role play), you and a partner (or partners) create characters and scenarios to act out fantasies with a sexual component. Erotic role play is a chance to become someone else, channel your inner drama geek, explore a particular dynamic, and have some fun. For some people, role play is part of their BDSM. It makes sense: most of the common role play scenarios—doctor/patient, teacher/student, cop/civilian, prostitute/client—have a power dynamic built right into them, and so much of BDSM is about power. Often these scenes revolve around one person submitting to another, being forced to do something, or feeling vulnerable. Think of a naughty student spanked by a ruler-wielding nun, a dominatrix humiliating her client, or a drill sergeant putting a private through his paces.