“BDSM” aims to cover a wide range of behaviors in as short an acronym as possible (because we need something else to tack on to LGBTQ?) Some terminology will be helpful here:
Top and bottomTop refers to the person directing the scene, sensation and/or role play. The bottom, correlatively, is the directed person. This dynamic is incredibly complex and has many more layers than one sees on the surface. Hence, concepts in the BDSM community such as: the Top is in control but the bottom is in charge, appreciation for masochist courage, admiration for the vulnerability of Tops.
Bondage and DisciplineThe BD stands for bondage and discipline. This casts a huge net of behavioral and psychological options, including: physical restraint (cuffs, ropes, saran wrap in a whole host of possible positions); psychological restraint (you may not come until I say so). Discipline can also be: physical (you will receive 10 spanks for every minute you are late); and psychological (you will NOT receive a spanking until you can perform the given task as instructed).
Dominant and SubmissiveThe D/s means Dominant and submissive. This is about playing with power. The play could include character role play (you be the society matron and I’ll be the plumber). It could be that the D/s itself is the role play without characters, and can range from one scene to 24/7. A scene can be crafted to be anywhere on a continuum from light and thrilling through to profound and cathartic. It’s a big world.
SMSM points to the most well known term, sadomasochism. This is the one that makes some people say “How can pain be erotic?” Which is akin to asking “How can you like coconut?” I don’t know, I just do. That said, there is again a huge menu available from light sensation play to heavy pain. It’s up to you.
Just to hit ‘frappe’ on the options blender, all of the above dynamics can be mixed and matched to your taste (one can enjoy submission but not be a masochist or vice versa) and sex, of all types, may, or may not, be woven as well. The bottom line on everything is consent.
Why do People Like BDSM?Let’s talk briefly about the “why?” At its core BDSM is a form of psychodrama. I mean that in the literal (dramatizing parts of our psyches), not the slang sense (a psycho drama queen). Take a look at kids playing, and remember your own childhood games. Children do not, of their own volition, play Collaborative Compost Collective. No! Kids play Pirates, Queens & Kings, and Captured! Why? Because it’s fun to be dramatic.
BDSM can access very deep aspects of our inner world, like therapeutic psychodrama, it can also and simultaneously be fun. No one should be asked to justify what turns them on, but it is interesting and complex and very worthy of our attention. So whether or not BDSM is your cup of tea, I invite you to throw the doors open on your erotic life. It deserves our respect and appreciation, whatever the flavor.