SPICING UP A VANILLA LIFE: MY JOURNEY INTO BDSM & ITS IMPACT ON MY SEX LIFE

With October being the spookiest of months, it felt relevant to explore a part of sexuality that is considered taboo. Let’s talk about sex (again I know), although let’s talk about an aspect of sex that is both historically and culturally rich; diverse in a spectrum of ways whilst being a great source of information and structure when exploring sex or sexual psychology. But let’s get an understanding of what this is before I force-feed you this information and tell you my journey. We are talking about BDSM, which stands for “Bondage and Discipline/Dominance and Submission/Sadism and Masochism” (1).

Yes, that’s right, we are jumping in the deep end of the scarier side of sex. Only because when someone thinks of BDSM they think chains, whips, gimp masks and low-lit dungeons. But we aren’t going to tread water on that side of the pool; I can’t scare you away already. We are going to doggy paddle in the shallows and discuss a more vanilla approach. Something a bit more Fifty Shades of Grey, but without the emotional manipulation, questionable story plot and red flags.

I feel the need to clear up a few things surrounding BDSM, such as earlier theories believed that prior childhood abuse might account for adult participation. A multitude of empirical studies shows that BDSM practices cannot be explained in psychopathology. Also, in contrast, some studies point to the psychological benefits for those who engage in BDSM. (1)

BDSM spectrum?
So, on that note, it’s time to discuss the spectrums of BDSM. I’ll touch base on a majority of the positions and play styles but I plan on getting into more detail on a few in particular. So, there are two positions between play partners, simply put a ‘top’ (someone in physical control and therefore responsible for the scene) and a ‘bottom’ (someone who has consensually given the other person physical control). In saying that, there’s also the option for a ‘switch’ (someone who indulges in both depending on circumstances and play partners). The ‘bottom’ would always have the power, they should always have the option to stop a scene & have their boundaries respected at all times. Without informed consent (or enthusiastic consent) nothing should progress although that is where the traffic light system would be helpful. Utilising ‘Green’, ‘Orange’ & ‘Red’ to indicate how the ‘bottom’ is feeling.

Stepping up the intensity, we take a ‘top’ to a ‘dominant’, or a ‘dom’ (male-identifying)/‘domme’ (female-identifying) which is established when the dominant does not take commands and instead, utilise psychological or physical techniques of control to instruct their submissive.
This type of intensity is paired up with ‘submissives’ rather than ‘bottoms’, referred to as ‘subs’. The difference is that submissives do not give instructions but do set limits on what their dominant counterpart can do. It is always their decision to follow the role that is commanded from them by the dominant.

This can be taken another step further by identifying masters/ mistresses and slaves/ servants, but that is a level of a power exchange that I don’t practice and also don’t know much about other than it is a lifestyle of practising BDSM within a relationship or in a professional sense.

In saying that, these roles can change titles depending on the spectrum of play and depending on what people enjoy engaging in, either sexually or for fun. Rope play can give titles such as ‘riggers’ (tops who enjoy tying) and ‘rope bunny’ (bottoms who enjoy being tied up). Shibari is a Japanese style of rope play with a massive cultural practice to it, so I won’t go into it now but it is really cool if you’re going down that avenue of curiosity.

Back to the spectrum of play, where we have the Fifty Shades package of bondage: impact and vanilla. There’s sensory deprivation play, breathe play, primal play, wax play, ice play, power exchange and role play. There’s many more and with the right communication, you should be able to explore these in a gradual sense with the right person.

Safety with communication and consent?
An essential part of BDSM play is communication, especially prior to & during a scene, especially when playing with someone new. There’s an overt problem within the community that attracts abusive people with an aversion to discussing boundaries, limits, safety protocols or even consent. This is where things get dangerous and where I have witnessed cautious approaches not only towards myself, as a new person to the scene, but from my submissive friends towards other self-proclaimed dominants.

Say a sexually submissive person enters into a kink community looking for a dominant to take control and play out their darker fantasies with. Then, they find someone who doesn’t communicate boundaries and review safety procedures: how are they supposed to be trusting them with the most vulnerable version of themself? It is one hard limit or boundary away from turning to trauma or even sexual assault. All the responsibility is in the hands of the dominant, in accordance with what the submissive agrees to, and therefore if it is exploited then that is at risk of the dominant.

This is where you can see how vulnerable submissive types can be coerced into a dynamic or scene that is intended to breach their boundaries and be an avenue for sexually/ psychologically abusive people to find a loophole. It was made very public in the community recently with self-proclaimed BDSM practitioners not adhering to the safety protocols and were nationally identified for abuse, slavery and grooming.

It is a shame it got to that calibre and shook the kink community around the country with the only constructive aspect being an educational opportunity to talk about expectations, boundaries, triggers, pleasures, consent and aftercare.

There are viable procedures that can be referred to in this instance and if you’re unaware of a construct to base them off, here are a few acronyms that my dear friend Amity Rose got me onto.
SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual)
RACK (Risk-aware, Consensual, Kink)
PRICK (Personal Responsibility, Informed, Consensual Kink)

As you can tell consent is a massive aspect of kink that should be identified and noted before any play commences. There are other concepts to review before anything gets a green light, such as the risks that you’re putting yourself or someone else in. Have your own safety words or actions. There’s always that awkward moment when trying to come up with a safety word and my mind goes to the cliche: red and pineapple. But when one’s mouth is full of toys or appendages and they’re bound to a bed, how are they supposed to signal a check-in? Safety actions are just as important and utilising hand tapping or kicking a surface or clicking fingers. These are great to start with, but there’s no one method that fits all, so keeping communication open throughout is essential.

Once everything is said and done, the aftercare comes and that is often one of my favourite parts. Covered in sweat/marks, panting to catch your breath and heart racing for different reasons. The last part of an intense session is to find one’s comforts that appeal to their love language. Stock up on everything you need, whether it’s a bath bomb, ice cream, incense or massage oil. There are so many ways to care and to build on the concept of aftercare. Once someone has given over their control and explored their own physical and psychological boundaries, it would be catastrophic to them to just leave and call it a day. They have been made to feel helpless and endure the lack of power. To then not rebuild them as a person, then their dominant partner has most definitely failed them. There’s a term called ‘sub-drop’ which is where all the excitement and intensity from a scene ends suddenly and their headspace goes from one extreme to the next. They’re left to believe they were the powerless person, alone and used – a similar term for dominants is ‘dom-drop’ where they would go from running on a high of power to then nothing.

It’s equally important to both participants to consider their own variants of aftercare, identifying between each other what they did and didn’t enjoy. That is a basic explanation of how I feel kink should be explored but these aren’t exactly do’s and don’ts but rather parts that I have taken from my own research and knowledge. But how I experienced my first event was a massive eye-opener and a story in itself.

First BDSM event and how I got into it.

My first BDSM event was about a year ago at a venue that has since changed hands and cancelled all their events due to the struggle of COVID, which is really unfortunate.

They hosted monthly events for kinksters to explore themselves and each other and each event was themed and attracted approximately 50 participants for the evening.

This particular party was themed with fantasy characters from memory, and my goodness, it did not disappoint. There was such a diverse crowd of all adults, ages, sexualities and ethnicities enjoying the company of each other and the scenes that were put on display were eye-opening.

There were a few performances on the communal stage that captured everyone’s attention to start the night, then participants split into their respective groups to go to their desired playrooms. The venue itself had a variety of rooms from old antique furniture with four-post beds with bondage attachments, to a room set like a classroom with chalkboard, canes and all.

One room was specialised for bondage which had a constructed spinning wall where you could strap someone in and orientate them for varying degrees of pleasure. As well as that, they had an impact area, in which you could strap someone up for a good old fashioned spanking and these were just a few of the extremely immersive rooms at this event.

As the night progressed, you’d see couples and groups lurk away to a room to have their fun while a few voyeurs stood in admiration from the doorway or window. With this being my first event, I just wanted to absorb the experience and meet some like-minded people that I could learn more about. It was obvious that being the new male in at the event I was particularly avoided, but I preferred it that way, as I only wanted to be a fly on the wall of a room full of sexual debauchery.

A few things that were notable were the fact that it was so inclusive of all people and practices, there was no social, financial or aesthetic hierarchy. It was an event of people enjoying people; their beautiful, vulnerable, ugly and destructive selves. It was impressive to witness such raw chemistry between couples and then have them allow someone else into their space.

My curiosity and social anxieties did get the best of me as I wasn’t so much aroused by what was going on around me. I felt more of a sense of imposter syndrome – in a space of so much individuality and diversity, I was too self-aware of how I was being witnessed as a voyeur that I found myself feeling somewhat dirty or shameful for watching – yet I couldn’t look away.

What did I enjoy and took from the experience?
I learnt so much from this event and was so grateful that I went out of my comfort zone to explore it. To see everything that I had read up on and learned from talking to more experienced friends, watching it be implemented in a safe and exciting environment was a blessing.

They each had their pre-discussions for their scenes by reviewing their expectations, consent, boundaries, safety protocols and aftercare procedures. Then seeing the scenes play out with such charismatic intensity and passion, to seeing them in the soft room with handfuls of food and drink as their aftercare consisted of deconstructing what they had experienced together with fluffy blankets, laughs and cuddling was inspiring.

Summary.
This took me a while to write but also something that I am passionate about on a personal level, so I wanted to get it right and show you all that BDSM isn’t as scary as or taboo expression of self if you don’t want it to be. I’m a firm believer in ‘knowledge is power’ and therefore I aim to educate and inspire others to explore sex for themselves.

There is a fun Kink Quiz to express some guidelines on types of BDSM positions and play with explanations for your results, so jump on and explore it yourself.

If you’re feeling a little lost or sexually underwhelmed lately, by all means, I recommend taking the BDSM test and enjoying the rabbit hole of all the articles I have referenced below.

Rhys x

Reference:
1. “BDSM, becoming and the flows of desire” – Culture, Health and Sexuality, An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care. Vol21, 2019 – Issue 4.
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13691058.2018.1485969
2. https://bdsmtest.org/select-mode
3.https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-sex/bdsm/
4. Photos with Lahnee (Instagram @lahneeland) Shot by Pablo (Instagram @ninesquaremedia)