Iowa State University Cuffs

About Kink


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The Basics of Kink, Fetish, and BDSM

What is BDSM?

BDSM is a contraction of three abbreviations: B&D, D&S, and S&M. B&D stands for Bondage & Discipline, which refers to play involving someone being tied up or otherwise restrained and/or spanked. B&D players are often classified as “Top” or “Bottom”, depending on who is doing the tying/spanking. D&S is Dominance & Submission, which involves role playing where one person plays a dominant character and another plays a more submissive role. D&S players are known as “Dom” (Male Dominant), “Domme” (Female Dominant, pronounced the same as the male version), or “Sub”, depending on who is in charge. S&M stands for Sadism & Masochism, which is play involving the giving or receiving of non-harmful pain. Most people in the BDSM “scene” practice all three types of play to some extent, but may favor one type of play over the others. “Vanilla” is a term used to describe things not related to BDSM/fetish issues.

What is a fetish?

A fetish is a sexual responsiveness to specific parts of the body, types of clothing, or certain objects. The most common fetish is being aroused by leather or latex clothing or shoes.

Why do people enjoy kink?

No one knows the answer to this question for sure. It is thought to be a combination of genetic factors and the environment in which a person is raised. However, very little honest, unbiased research exists in this area.

Are people into BDSM mentally ill?

No! BDSM is a normal variation and extension of sexual play. There are mental disorders that involve the need to inflict or receive serious physical or mental damage, but safe, consensual, and non-exploitative play among adults clearly does not fall into that category.

Are fetishes O.K.?

Of course! If you feel aroused by something that’s safe, consensual, and non-exploitative, then don’t be ashamed to like that feeling. Be proud! It can be a lot of fun to dress up in exotic leather clothes, worship your partner’s feet, or just coat your whole body with liquid latex. A healthy fetish is fundamentally different from the disordered variety that occasionally ends up on the evening news, which may involve a person stealing the object of the fetish or having difficulty functioning in normal relationships.

What about bondage?

Bondage is the art of restraint, either with rope, leather cuffs, or other means. Bondage is by far the most common kinky practice, but it is also among the most difficult things to do without causing harm. There are many delicate nerves and tissues in the wrists and other places, and great care must be taken not to damage them. Metal handcuffs are notorious for causing such injuries, so most players buy wider leather restraints. If you want to try bondage with a partner, please see a knowledgeable person to learn about the safety considerations. Restraining one’s self with no one else around, however, is VERY UNSAFE! Many people die each year in the U.S. from restraining themselves while playing alone, usually due to something around their throats or in their mouths that causes suffocation. Don’t do bondage by yourself! (There are plenty of people out there who would be happy to do the honors.)

Is BDSM dangerous?

Not any more than other contact sports. However, there are some risks involved. The single most important decision in BDSM is whom to play with. There are some very ill people out there who wish to do serious harm to others. There are also good-hearted people that are almost as dangerous because they attempt to do things they haven’t yet learned to do properly. For these reasons, the BDSM community has very strict protocols on how to meet a play partner, and how to negotiate and actually play a scene. A person new to BDSM should learn these safety protocols from someone before attempting to meet a play partner!!! Predators tend to stay away from the organized BDSM community, because they know they are very likely to be quickly found out and reported to police. There is strength and safety in numbers.

Are people into BDSM promiscuous?

Everyone in the scene is different, so there is no appropriate generalization. However, there is a distinction between a play partner and lover. Many players in the scene have many play partners concurrently, with whom they do not have sexual intercourse of any kind. (Although most people who are in the scene and are lovers are also play partners.) BDSM is certainly based on sexual energy, but not necessarily the act of sex. Even with all the wild things people can do with each other, the single most common item on people’s limit lists is sexual intercourse.

How is BDSM different than abuse?

First, BDSM relationships are based on real equality and pretend inequality, and the pretending can be ended at any time by either partner. Abuse is based on real dominance, and the victim cannot easily and instantly stop it. Second, BDSM is firmly based on consent, while victims of abuse are not given a choice in what their attackers do to them. Third, BDSM players spend years learning how to practice their art in a way that will cause intense sensation, but not harm, their partners. Abusers do not care about their victim’s welfare. Yes, there are cases of abuse happening within BDSM relationships, but it is not caused by kink. Rather, it is a case of abuse that happens to be in a BDSM context. That is one reason why careful partner selection is so important. BDSM is made up of trust, respect, and tolerance. Abuse is made up of fear, jealousy, and contempt. The two could not be any more different.