Did You Know? BDSM

Though much-maligned, S & M is actually based on mutual consent and trust. It is one of the many diverse ways in which people express their fantasies and sexuality.


S&M is a popular term for a range of activities that fall under the category of BDSM. BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline (B&D), Dominance and Submission (D&S) and Sado-masochism (S&M). The term is used for any consensual activities that adults engage in that involve the exchange of sexual power. It may involve enhanced sensations, erotic games or role playing, or more extreme sensations of pain.

Many people mistakenly believe that BDSM is abusive and that only sick, cruel or ‘perverted’ people engage in it. The fact is that BDSM is not abusive because it is based on consent. Also, it requires a very high degree of trust and sexual intimacy between partners. The partners in a BDSM scenario typically agree on the nature and range of what they will and will not do, decide on a ‘safe word’ to indicate when they want to stop a particular activity, and commit to pleasuring each other. What about this is sick, cruel or ‘perverted’? In fact, many people who condemn BDSM are themselves unknowingly engaging in milder forms of it if they run ice cubes along their partner’s body, rub silk or a feather duster on their skin, use blindfolds during sex, and so on.

Let’s look at each of the terms now. Bondage refers to the practice of either tying a person’s limbs with silk scarves or handcuffs or ropes or by tying them to an object such as a bed. Discipline uses rules and ‘punishments’ to control the partner’s behaviour. These can take the form of sexual acts or even everyday household chores. Remember, that the rules are set beforehand by both partners consenting to them.

Dominance and Submission relate to the giving and acceptance of dominance of one person over the other. The one doing the giving here is the Dominant or Dom and the receiver is the Submissive or Sub. Dominance and Submission do not necessarily involve any physical contact and frequently are the enactments of fantasy scenarios such as a Mistress-Slave relationship. Doms and Subs can be of either gender. Female doms are also called Dommes, and a woman who does this for money is called a Dominatrix or Prodomme. A prodomme is not a prostitute; she provides domination services, not sexual ones, through dealing with clients’ fetishes and fantasies. The situation does not have to be sexual, but the enjoyment of it is. Interestingly, many more men than women like to play the role of a Sub.

Sadomasochism, commonly known as S&M, S/M or SM, refers to being sexually aroused or gratified by inflicting (sadism) or receiving (masochism) pain. Pain here is not just any type of pain, but enhanced sensations in a sexual context. So, a masochist might enjoy pain during sex but not like it all if he accidentally bangs his elbow on a table edge. Similarly, sadists are not ‘cruel people who like torturing others’; they are in fact keenly attuned to their partner’s desires, responses and pleasure. Tickling, scratching, biting also include elements of S&M. In slang, sadists are Tops and masochists are Bottoms.

BDSM practitioners may prefer to adopt a particular role (that of Top or Bottom, or Dom or Sub) or may prefer to switch between roles. BDSM is practised by men, women, transgender, transsexual, heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual people. It is one of the many diverse ways in which people express their fantasies and sexuality.