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What Is BDSM? Why Whips and Chains Excite You

What is BDSM? The range of definitions is as wide as a pair of legs in a spreader bar. Here are all the rules, lingo, and safety precautions you’ll need.
Grindr
&
Editorial team
July 15, 2024
8
min. read
Table of Contents

We come to this place for magic.  

We come to our local BDSM club to whip, to blindfold, to pee on our partner. Because we need that — all of us. That erotic feeling we get when the lights begin to dim and an anal spreader clamps onto our bussy. Not just bound and disciplined, but somehow dominated and submitted to — together. Shiny dildos in a huge, hairy ass; degradation that you can feel — somehow, whips and gags feel good in a place like this. Our sexual fantasies feel perfect and powerful. Because in our local BDSM club, they are.

Ask people what BDSM is, and you’ll receive a lot of different responses delivered with all the emotional gravitas Nicole Kidman squeezed into her minute-long AMC masterpiece. 

In the simplest of terms, BDSM covers a variety of paraphilias involving power exchange between submissive and dominant parties. Consenting partners play out that exchange through myriad activities and dynamics.

Vague, much? Don’t fret, pig boy. We’re here to whip you into shape — if you’re into that kind of thing. Let’s dive into different types of BDSM, common terminology, and safe practices.

What does BDSM stand for? 

BDSM is a term to describe sexual activity that revolves around dominance, submission, and control. The acronym originally stood for “bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism,” but today, the meaning of BDSM is more expansive. What does submissive mean, and do you really need a master? Here’s the breakdown:

  • (BD) Bondage and discipline: The bread and butter of BDSM. It typically involves punishment, restraints, and other sensation play, from pain to tickling. 
  • (D/s) Dominance and submission: BDSM boils down to a consensual power imbalance. Power dynamics may involve psychological or physical control, including giving and taking orders.
  • (SM) Sadism and masochism: Sometimes combined as sadomasochism, it’s the pleasure you get from giving or receiving intense sensations. Although many associate sadomasochism with physical pain, it also refers to prolonged sensation play, like sensory deprivation, temperature play, or body squashing.
  • (M/s) Master and slave: This is a more extreme version of dominance and submission. In a master and slave dynamic, the slave gives full control to their Master in one or more areas of the relationship. 

Although BDSM is often portrayed as a deviant behavior, power dynamics are a natural part of our relationships. It’s a common fantasy or sexual practice for many people and nothing to feel ashamed of (as long as you practice safe, consensual sex).

BDSM pop quiz: Common terms

Before we dive into the varied BDSM practices, let’s get you up to speed on standard vocabulary: 

  • Scene: Like a sub who’s into French maid role-play, this word serves multiple functions. “The Scene” refers to the larger BDSM community. Kink is often a communal act, and participants form their own subcultures. “A scene” is any activity that incorporates BDSM dynamics, which may or may not involve sexual acts. It could take place privately or in public. Think of it like a scene in a play, demanding a little suspension of disbelief for everyone to get invested. (Except it’s a production of A Midsummer Night’s Cream.)
  • Drop: The sensory, physical, or emotional charge you get from BDSM is as exhausting as it is exhilarating. The drop is the feeling of being physically or emotionally spent after a BDSM scene.
  • Fetish: Whether it’s spanking or verbal humiliation, a fetish elicits intense sexual pleasure regarding a specific body part, object, or sexual practice. Some people may have difficulty becoming aroused without thinking about or acting out their fetish.
  • Kink: Sexual practices that fall outside of conventional sex, like blindfolding, binding, or role-play. Unlike fetishism, kinks are more of a treat than a necessity. 
  • Hard limit: These are the things a participant will not do during a BDSM scene under any condition. 
  • Soft limit: These are acts a participant is unsure about or will only agree to under specific circumstances.
  • Protocol: Christian Grey calls it a lust contract. We just call it a protocol, or the rules everyone mutually agrees to follow.

BDSM for beginners

We all have different limits. But if you’re curious about exploring BDSM, you may want to start with a cute feather duster and work your way up to more hardcore domination and submission. Here are some soft BDSM practices to dip your toes in:

  • Hair pulling
  • Gentle scratching
  • Restraints, including handcuffs, scarfs, and ties
  • Blindfolds
  • Light spanking
  • Teasing or edging your partner’s orgasm
  • Role-play, including common power dynamics (e.g., boss and secretary or man of the house and butler) or more “dangerous” roles (like an intruder fantasy)
  • Service, like bathing or massaging a partner
  • Sensation play, including bodily exploration with feathers, silk scarves, or ice cubes
  • Power exchange games, like letting one partner make decisions during a set period

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Impact, age, and edging play — oh my! 4 types of BDSM play

BDSM fantasies are meant to take us out of our real lives and catapult us into the sexually surreal. If you’re an angel in the streets, BDSM lets you be a sadistic freak in the sheets. 

Here are a few different role-play situations and scenes to explore domination, control, and power play:

  1. Impact play

Impact play is a broad term that describes getting sexual pleasure from hitting a partner or being hit. You can use your hands or experiment with paddles, floggers, and objects found around the house.

Impact play is just the tip of the sadomasochistic iceberg, but you should still explore it in small, gradual steps to protect your safety. You aren’t going to win a paraphilia medal for inflicting the toughest slap or receiving the most buttcheek abuse.

Play with different sensations, slowly increase intensity, and start with the squishy bits. A fat ass is built for a hard pounding. Conversely, the stomach, face, cock and balls, and other sensitive parts will yield more intense reactions (and an increased risk of injury).

  1. Age play

You don’t have to be an AARP card carrier to be a grown man’s daddy. Age play lets you pretend to be a different age to reinforce a power dynamic. Much of the excitement comes from the taboo, even if the act itself isn’t sexual.

Some common scenarios might be a daddy Dom punishing his little brat or an adult baby feeding from a bottle and using a diaper.

  1. Gender play

Gender? I hardly know ’er! For men, gender-bending scenes often involve sissification, aka sexualized feminization. However, gender play isn’t about pretending to be a heterosexual couple or cosplaying straight intercourse. It’s an exciting way for gay men to explore their feminine energy or play around with “traditional” dominant and submissive power exchange roles. (No shade to the ladies; we’re just playing pretend here.)

Dressing up in sexy lingerie, heels, and dresses is an easy way to switch into your role. If you want to go full Method, you can get extra cunty by covering your penis with a vagina prosthesis. Let your partner catch you playing with your clit before he lets you know who the man of the house is.

  1. Edge play

Edge play involves potentially dangerous activities that push the bounds of BDSM’s “safe, sane, and consensual” mantra. It may include needle play, rope bondage, or bloodletting. The danger is part of the appeal, but things can (and do) go wrong, so these activities are best practiced with the help of experts or professionals (or not at all, TBH). Be sure everyone involved is fully aware and consents to potential risks.

Pro-tip: Do not confuse edge play with edging. Edging is when someone is brought to the edge of orgasm before stopping and starting over. The only danger posed by edging is the risk of having a massive orgasm… eventually.

Safety is sexy

Consent is always crucial to a positive experience, whether you’re a first-time Sally Sadist or a seasoned master of masochism. Here are a few simple ways to ensure everyone feels safe and protected:

The first rule of engagement: Talk it out

Spontaneity can spice up your sex life, but you should always set boundaries beforehand. Talk about the experience you want to have, including fantasies, limits, and protocols. Is it OK to call them a cum slut or leave a bruise? You won’t know unless you ask. 

Set safe words

If your scene involves intense play or pretend coercion, words like “stop” or “no” won’t cut it. Choose unusual words like “apple butter” or “picture frame” that won’t come up naturally, so everyone knows when you really mean it.

You can also opt for a traffic light system, wherein “yellow light” means “slow down and check in,” and “red light” means “stop immediately; playtime is over.” If your mouth is otherwise occupied, try snapping your fingers or tapping on your partner.

Start slow and avoid surprises

It’s not a race to the finish line. Start slow, keep it light-hearted, and gradually boost the intensity, always following the established rules.

An intense BDSM scene isn’t the time to spring a surprise on your partner. If you didn’t talk about choking, don’t randomly ask in the heat of the moment. You and your partner are in a vulnerable headspace, and you might coerce them into an activity they wouldn’t have otherwise agreed to. 

Invest in aftercare

BDSM takes you to the limits. After a scene, give yourself and your partner the space and grace to come back down to Earth.

Aftercare gently transitions participants out of the scene, reaffirming their care for one another and softening the blow of a potential drop. Doms typically pamper their subs after a session, but the care can go both ways.

Negotiate what you want out of aftercare before beginning a scene. Cuddling, gentle kisses, and words of affirmation — maybe a nap and a pizza — are great ways to ensure the experience is enjoyable and safe. 

Who’s your dirty boy? 

If you’re ready to go to that place and experience the magic, Grindr is teeming with friendly freaks who will take you there. The Grindr app is your key to a dimly lit sex dungeon and a collar with your name on it!

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