BDSM Culture Explained
The BDSM craze and culture has been growing in popularity over the last ten years. There has surely been a lot of influence by popular stories and smut novels out there which have been written to pique the interest of a specific demographic of females. I am of course speaking about Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades is, in reality, an example of an abusive fantasy where the female is degraded and used. While the intimacy and sexual aspect of the story may have been intense, there were other aspects (like aftercare) which were missing. This, in turn, did more harm to the BDSM community in the long run.
BDSM is a community made up of varying cultures. As I discussed in a previous posts, BDSM is generally a very generic label which is more useful for describing a specific genre of pornography, than it is in describing a specific person and their interests. Typically, if someone describes themselves as being 'into' BDSM, they typically have some kinks which go beyond 'vanilla' bedroom activities. How the person maintains and handles a relationship involving these kinks is what differentiates people in the BDSM community.
The BDSM community is often misunderstood. Typically those involved in BDSM are very mature, and experienced people, looking to explore the enjoyment of their lives, and the ability to give others pleasure, to its fullest. But, due to its nature, there will always be bad eggs involved in BDSM. People who seek to manipulate, betray, control and harm others. People like this are abusers, and in my opinion should always be exposed and shamed. Always be wary, and seek some references or others opinions on a new relationship, before agreeing to anything.
A Kinkster is the most popular culture in the BDSM community at the moment. Often fueled by popular culture references to BDSM, kinksters are often looking for good sex, and to experience and give others pleasure and push limits. Typically kinksters will have open relationships, and will seek many partners. Often this lifestyle is only in effect in the bedroom, or in private locations or clubs where they can engage in kinky activities with other like minded people.
Kinksters will usually assign themselves a title, something they feel comfortable in preferring. Dom or submissive; pet or little; Master or slave... It really isn't too important long term, as these relationships are typically only limited in their scope. In many cases it is more like a way to roleplay and enjoy some very kinky sex. But their titles or roles become less important outside of the bedroom or sexual environment.
Many people involved in BDSM will engage themselves in more long term D/s relationships. In many cases these are relationships which have been chosen based upon a D/s dynamic and with a sexual focus. There is no super clear line on what differs between a typical D/s relationship and a full Lifestyle based relationship. It is really up to the dynamic in terms of how they classify. In my opinion tho, is that Lifestyle is more relationship based where Domination and submissive behavior occur during day to day activities (in addition to sexual situations); where as D/s is more sexually focused in terms of Domination and submission only happening in a sexual situation.
Typically, in a D/s or lifestyle situation, there is a need to improve ones self. The partners will work to invoke positive change in each other.
Update: The Internet and online communities have a bad habit of redefining things, to fit current culture. This is tiresome, and frustrating. In this case, the term "Lifestyler" or Lifestyle" in reference to the BDSM world has been shifted in recent years to refer to couples who engage in open, non-monogamous kinky sex. Apparently these people do not understand what a Swinger is, or just don't like the negative vibes associated with the word Swinger, so they have decided to hijack another term. Annoying... anyhow, this article deals with the older use of the term, which tends to be more monogamous focused.
The D/s Lifestyler is typically seeking a long term, more committed relationship. The relationship focuses more on love, respect, affection, honesty, commitment, and maturity than it does on sexual kinks. While, indeed often kinks come into play, this relationship is more focused on having a Dom / sub dynamic outside the bedroom. A good example of how this plays out in modern society, is seen in the movie "Secretary".
The lifestyle has an old world component as well. The European style of the Lifestyle can include some sort of selection and training ritual, as seen in the movie "The Story of O". While the movie is very cheesy and has some poor acting and poor english dubbing, it is still a fairly accurate view into the more traditional type of Old World Lifestyle.
In the Modern world, outside of the bedroom, many D/s lifestyle couples are only distinguishable out in public, often by those who are also involved in the lifestyle. It isn't usually a showy or obvious change from a traditional relationship, other than the added intimacy and passion which can be seen sometimes being exchanged in public. i.e. small caresses, and glancing looks of affection. Or maybe even a playful spank in the grocery store.
Typically the Dom/sub aspect of such a relationship is such that they inspire each other to make each day an adventure. The submissive usually tempts the Dom into chasing her in some manner, or even punishing her. The Dom lovingly plays along and chases or punishes her. Aftercare is always in play, and after any intense session, time is spent loving, cuddling and caring for each other. This constant daily chase is what helps fuel a very passionate and long term relationship. While the time needed to invest into such a relationship is usually great, the health benefits from staying active and being kept on your toes in a way, can be greatly beneficial.
Lifestyle roles or titles:
The titles of Dom or sub are typically only valid within the relationship that they are earned or granted. Just because someone was a Dom in one relationship, doesn't automatically give them the right to claim to be a Dom in any other scenario. They must earn that right. Same for a submissive. A submissive must grant the gift of submission to someone they wish to submit to. If they haven't submit to someone, they are not a submissive to that person - and trying to force them to be is similar to rape. I discuss more about titles in another post.
Hedonism is a sub-culture involved with exploring all the pleasures of life, in its more intense form. Typically (from what I am told), hedonists prefer to reach heightened levels of pleasure for themselves, but will gladly work to help their partners reach the same levels. Hedonists tend to either take on a submissive that they have total power over (Total Power Exchange, or TPE), so that the submissive can work to please them; or they will form relationships with other hedonists and switch roles.
Hedonism is more about enjoying your body and achieving heightened pleasure, than about enduring and inflicting pain. However, if a Hedonists kink involves inflicting pain, then there is nothing that says they can't include pain in their sessions.
The Gorean 'lifestyle' is based upon a fictional world created by John Norman. It is a sub-culture which is mostly focused in fantasy roleplay, and it's basis in reality is not overly legal or practical in its literal understanding. Gorean RP usually has males which are automatically Dominant over females which automatically must be submissive. Often females are led around with leashes, and wearing very revealing clothing. While most typically only explore this in role-play settings, some do try to live this life in the real world in a modified manner.
Some people who participate in this, are definitely abusers and see this as an excuse to excerpt a form of control or power over others. Quoting from www.goreanliving.com: "Then you have your literalists. These people, even more so than the role players, are the ones primarily responsible for the label of "extremists", "fanatics", abusers, wackos, ets, that get attached to Goreans as a whole."
Whether or not Gor belongs within the BDSM sphere, is a debated issue. Many do not believe that Gor falls within the aspect of SSC. But others argue that since it is mostly engaged in a manner focused on fantasy and roleplaying, that participants are consenting to engage in that world, even if they may not be fully consenting about what happens to them during the roleplaying.
Slave / human ownership:
Human trafficking and slave trading for sexual purposes isn't really a recognized honorable part of the BDSM world. Typically one of the guiding principles of the BDSM community is "SSC" which means Safe, Sane, and Consensual. Human trafficking or slave trading is not in any way consensual.