fbpx BDSM: Myths & Misconceptions

Sex - Exploration | February 10, 2021, 6:35 CST

BDSM: Myths & Misconceptions
Let's clear the air and reframe some of the most common misconceptions about BDSM.
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The world hasn't always been kind to kinky people. Though much of the damaging rhetoric from psychologists on the subject of BDSM has since been disproved, a lot of the stigma still remains.

On top of that, pop culture fails to depict healthy kinky relationships, leaving the uninformed with a far-from-accurate idea of BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism).

Long sequestered to the dark recesses of sex dungeons and kink clubs, it's time to bring BDSM into the light.

Let's clear the air on the most widespread misconceptions about kink, and reframe how we look at them.

Myth: Kink is a result of abuse or trauma.

Reality: Are there people in the BDSM community who have experienced some form of abuse or trauma? Sure. Are they drawn to kink as a result of it? Absolutely not. Piles of sex research suggest fetishism is more "normal" than our puritanical society would lead us to believe.

In a 2016 study, the Journal of Sex Research found that nearly 20 percent of participants said they had an interest in masochism, and those with masochistic tendencies reported having a well-rounded, satisfying sex life. That sounds nice.

Further, people are sometimes drawn to a kinky lifestyle because certain activities under the umbrella of BDSM can lead to a tremendous amount of healing. For example, the tightness of bondage can trigger a parasympathetic response, relaxing the body, placing the bound person in a state of mind suited for processing painful emotions, and bringing somatic stress release.

Myth: BDSM is domestic violence.

Reality: At first glance, kinky behavior may appear abusive or dangerous to the average person. This perception couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, kinky relationships can be highly nurturing and rewarding because of the high level of communication that goes into practicing BDSM.

Many kinksters have adopted the adage RACK, or risk-aware consensual kink. RACK is a philosophy, a mindset held by many kinksters when participating in potentially harmful activities, and it differentiates BDSM from domestic violence. Practitioners are very aware of the risks involved with their desired kinky play, and they enthusiastically consent to them.

From an onlooker's perspective, a submissive participant may appear to have no control over the situation and is at the mercy of their dominant participant. They aren't aware of the thorough negotiation beforehand in which the participants established personal limits and a safe word. The real power remains in the submissive's hands, as they can stop the roleplay at any time with this verbal eject button.

In this context, what might be perceived as physical abuse is, in reality, partners connecting deeply to one another in an unconventionally intimate way.

Myth: BDSM is sexist.

Reality: When I think of the most well-known BDSM narratives in popular culture, they're usually ones that objectify women, placing them in sexually submissive roles. As problematic as that sounds, the sexual objectification of women was taking place long before kink became a part of our zeitgeist.

Media interprets BDSM with that lens because it most closely focuses on the narratives it has grown accustomed to, disregarding and delegitimizing the diverse expressions of kink outside the boundaries of cis-heteronormativity. The general public will more willingly accept representations of kink that objectify women over ones that empower them. Don't blame BDSM; blame the patriarchy.

Nonetheless, it's possible to be a feminist and also love to be sexually objectified; there's enough space for both of those traits within one's character. Freedom of choice is one of the core tenants of the feminist movement. Therefore, women can choose to be treated this way and still be feminists.

Considering all of this, let's view BDSM as empowering, not sexist.

Clearing the air

I'm not saying that the BDSM community does not include the presence of sexism or misogyny. It's all too common for some older men to prey on younger, submissive women, taking advantage of their naivete to push limits during play and, in some cases, even violating consent.

Unfortunately, this sort of behavior exists everywhere, not just within the BDSM community. If anything, through community care and open communication, BDSM community leaders and practitioners are theoretically more proactive against misogyny than the rest of the population.

In the end, I hope by reframing these common misconceptions, you gain a newfound perspective on BDSM. Not all kinksters are perverts with daddy complexes and anger issues. Kink is fairly mainstream these days, so it's time to leave the stereotypes at the door.

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