5 Things a Love of BDSM Says About You and Your Relationship

The History of BDSM and a Look Into Its Psychology

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I realized I had a thing for bondage when I was roughly 14 or 15 years old. Like many people who discover bondage in the same way, porn was my introduction to restraints, ropes, and of course, leather. From the first time I saw BDSM, I knew I was into it. But you know what?

That kind of scared me.

I wasn’t exactly sure why I felt drawn to something that seemed just so… kinky. I considered myself a pretty normal person and to think that I could be excited by something that seemed so abnormal disturbed me at first. As I came to learn later in life, it shouldn’t have.

BDSM and a love for bondage are actually surprisingly common things, especially in the United States. In fact, according to a 2005 survey by Durex (yes, the condom brand), 36 percent of adults in the United States use masks, blindfolds, and bondage tools during sex. Worldwide, on the other hand, that number is only 20 percent.

So what do we Americans love so much about bondage? Further, what does a love of bondage suggest about us and our relationships? For a long time, someone who had an interest in bondage was considered to be a pervert, someone with abnormal (and even dangerous) sexual interests. After all, BDSM tends to revolve around dark (and disturbing, to some) imagery. Critics use this imagery as evidence to support their claims that BDSM is anti-woman, for example.

Today, I want to talk about the history of BDSM as well as 5 things that those of us with a love of bondage tend to share in common. In doing so, I hope to take this taboo subject (which luckily has become far less taboo in recent years) and represent it as it really is: something that can even be healthy for those involved.

I love BDSM. I believe that BDSM acts are built upon trust between partners and can even strengthen a relationship. The trust required in BDSM can strengthen the bond between two partners and is powerfully sensual and even exciting. That being said, everyone involved should always make it their priority to communicate thoroughly, always holding safety and mutual comfort above sexual gratification.

Unlike popular (inaccurate) depictions of BDSM such as Fifty Shades of Grey, true BDSM relationships are built upon love and trust. As I think you’ll see upon reading this, this is what makes it (contrary to popular belief) a healthy and powerful communication of your love for your partner and their love for you.

With that out of the way, let’s take a dive into the history of BDSM and what an interest in BDSM and bondage says about you and your relationships.

The History of BDSM

Although many critics of BDSM have long suggested that it is anti-woman, the history of BDSM is both complicated and revolutionary, filled with strong men and women alike. Its history also involves exposing the creation of gender and the questioning of social normativity.

For many, BDSM has become a lifestyle while, for others, it is something enjoyed on special occasions but enjoyed greatly nonetheless. For those who view BDSM as a lifestyle, there are clearly defined rules and orders that keep everything running smoothly and comfortably for all parties involved.

Further, BDSM’s history is all about figuring ourselves out, learning to take responsibility, and a passion for simply not caring what others think. So what is the real history of BDSM? How did it start and what does it represent?

According to historian Anne O’ Nomis, BDSM (standing for Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism) began in Ancient Mesopotamia. In Mesopotamian culture, it was thought that gods and monsters ruled over their human subjects. One particular example of this was the goddess Inanna.

The goddess Inanna would induce her followers to perform a dance for her and, as the dance intensified, Inanna was known for whipping her followers into a sexual frenzy of sorts. Aside from creating pleasure, the sexual intercourse that would follow ensured the continuation of Mesopotamia’s population, in the eyes of Mesopotamians.

BDSM also holds its roots in Ancient Greek culture. We can see examples of BDSM in this culture everywhere from The Tomb of Whipping, a room known for whipping for sexual pleasure, as well as ritual flagellation of both the men and women of Sparta. There is, however, a problem with historical depictions of BDSM and sex in Ancient Greece: they focus mostly on the physical act of sex. In his book, The History of Sexuality, Michael Foucault explains that:

“In Greece, truth and sex were linked, in the form of pedagogy, by the transmission of a precious knowledge from one body to another; sex served as a medium for initiations into learning.”- Michael Foucault

This transmission of “precious knowledge” was different from one couple to the next. While one couple’s knowledge may be a student/teacher relationship, one couple’s knowledge could be just about sex. The study of sexuality and sexual practices in Ancient Greece has a tendency to focus too narrowly on sex in our modern sense. Historians haven’t focused enough on the discourse of these particular relationships, either for their complexity or what they were.

Another important part of BDSM in history is found in the fluidity of both sexuality and gender. It should be noted that BDSM-like practices have existed in nearly every culture around the world. Let’s look at the famous Kamasutra, as an example. When looking at the Kamasutra, one may view its illustrations of a variety of sexual positions as nothing more than a sex manual. Looking deeper, however, one can see that the purpose of the Kamasutra is not to be a guide for sex but, rather, a guide to enlightenment.

As a guide to enlightenment, the Kamasutra is meant to be a guide for both men and women in bettering their lives by acquiring a better understanding of themselves, their partner(s), and the world around them as a whole. A primary goal of the Kamasutra is to teach men to respect women and women to respect men in pursuit of liberation from this world, a concept referred to as moksha.

While moksha is a complex idea, for many, the use of BDSM in the Kamasutra is meant to be a practice of liberating both sex and gender conformities and is based on consent, communication, and trust. Regardless of this, the focus of BDSM in many cultures became more centered around self-gratification and control.

Let’s look to 16th through 19th century Germany, England, and France next. In these cultures, we begin to see BDSM as we know it today beginning to blossom. Erotic literature and art such as John Cleland’s Fanny Hill and Thomas Shadwell’s The Virtuoso became especially popular. Further, stories of chambermaids whipping their masters and young servants whipping their mistresses became tantalizing, embodying a power dynamic turned on its head. Publications such as Justine and 120 Days of Sodom, by The Marquis De Sade (graphic erotica published in the late 1700s), depicted the sexual pleasure of beatings, rope play, humiliation, and group sex.

Although Sade’s work is responsible for introducing much of the world to the concept of BDSM, it really found its way to the global stage in the twentieth century. After World War I, for example, Germany found itself decimated, leaving men and women alike frustrated with their day-to-day lives, yearning for a new way of life. For this reason, many took up the reins to liberate themselves sexually by creating clubs where they could freely express their transsexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality and to have the fun that they so badly craved. While Hitler and the uprise of fascism would later destroy these clubs, it did not destroy the people’s passion for sexual liberation. For this reason, it was simply forced underground.

With the underground publication of “sex” magazines in the 1940s and 1950s in America, BDSM became more popular. These magazines are mostly responsible for what we now view BDSM to be today on an aesthetic level: leather, corsets, and bondage. In these magazines, such as the popular magazine Bizarre, women were depicted in high heels, bound, and wearing leather. One of the most popular models in such magazines was Bettie Page, who was responsible for revolutionizing female sexuality. Considered the Queen of BDSM by many, Page says in her own words:

“They claimed I opened up the sexual revolution but I was just doing my job and I’d loved every moment of it.”- Bettie Page

While Bettie Page would go on to have a troubled future, she is responsible, in part, for influencing the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the relaxing of censorship, and the urging of women all over the country to embrace and express their sexuality freely- whether they preferred to be a dominatrix or a submissive.

Today, BDSM is more widely accepted than in any other period in history. While there are still critics who simply don’t understand those who have an interest in anything other than purely vanilla sex, there seem to be many more people that no longer view BDSM as deviant, cruel, or dangerous.

But what does a love for bondage and BDSM overall suggest about those that enjoy it?

What a Love For BDSM Says About You

As I’ve highlighted, an interest in BDSM is surprisingly common. Along with the survey from Durex that I mentioned, there are a few more studies that suggest BDSM is a common interest for many.

A group of Canadian researchers, for example, completed a survey surrounding just how many people often practice kinky sex. As it turns out, just about half of the individuals they surveyed admitted that they were into it. Those with an interest in BDSM were a particularly large group.

Nearly 60 percent of men surveyed and 47 percent of women said that they had fantasized about dominating someone sexually. At the same time, slightly more women, and slightly fewer men, were into the idea of being dominated sexually.

In a study by the Kinsey Institute, it was found that nearly 30 percent of American adults are interested in the act of spanking, 20 percent like to play with restraints, and 13 percent of those surveyed have dabbled with floggers and whips.

So, clearly, it can’t be argued that BDSM is pretty common.

But why? Why are we interested in BDSM? What does it say about us?

To answer these questions, I look to those who enjoy BDSM.

BDSM Interests Those Who Crave Giving Up Control

For many who enjoy BDSM and bondage, this enjoyment is based around an opportunity to give up control completely. For many of us, life is full of situations that we feel we have to constantly control, constantly have a grip on. This can get pretty tiresome. In a life where keeping control of any given situation is often so challenging, many of us crave the opportunity to give up all sense of control over anything for even just a short period of time. This is particularly true of those who prefer to be submissive in the bedroom.

According to one Reddit user:

“I try very hard to have a lot of control in my life and there is something about being submissive in the bedroom that is foreign and exciting, in a way. I wouldn’t live the lifestyle that goes with it, but just the intimate part of it can really be fun.”- u/Albimau

For many submissives, this giving up of control is also sensual and meaningful. As a submissive, it is important that they have complete trust in their partner. BDSM, after all, is all about trust, communication, and consent. In order for it to be a fun, enjoyable, and comfortable experience for everyone involved, there must be nothing but trust between a submissive and a dominant. When that trust is there and the submissive feels completely comfortable giving up control completely, it’s actually a meaningful and beautiful thing that can strengthen the bond between partners. This is thoroughly explained by another social media user who says:

“For me, it’s being at someone else’s complete control that knows you and you trust them. It can be absolutely thrilling. I’ve had other people tell me that they control everything else in their life, so they want someone else to take control in this area of their life.”- dontcallmevicki

BDSM is For Creative-Minded Individuals

When it comes to sexual expression, many of us crave a way to express our sexuality that is exciting, thrilling, and unique. That’s exactly what BDSM offers so many who enjoy it. Overall, BDSM is for creative-minded individuals who crave exploration, newness, and adrenaline. This is a huge reason that role-playing is such a popular component of BDSM; it allows those involved to fully explore another side of themselves and express their sexuality in a way that they are unable to using less creative methods.

As one person explains, these acts can even spark creativity in those who partake in them:

“The most exciting perk of enjoying BDSM is the role playing. When done safely, the bondage and roles become a total escape from reality. For gays & lesbians, BDSM tends to be an extension of reality, since in many cases our regular sex lives have surprising parallels to bondage, particularly the dominance and submission.

Another unexpected benefit whilst partaking in bondage: It’s quite a creative form of expression, and it sparks creativity within us, giving us a rich source of material for writing, acting, art, film production, and even video game development!”- Daniel

If you consider yourself an especially creative person, BDSM and acts of bondage allow both fun and safe ways to express that creativity sexually. That’s why so many of us tend to find ourselves drawn to it.

BDSM is For Those Who Enjoy Experimentation and Exploration

Another reason that so many people gravitate towards BDSM and bondage is found in the fact that it allows for a safe environment to try out new things, especially those new things we’ve been dying to try but may have been reluctant to admit in the past. This, again, is something that expresses just how important trust is between partners who engage in BDSM acts.

BDSM is all about experimentation and exploration, finding what we like and don’t like, and giving things a try that tells us more about ourselves and our partner. To engage in this type of behavior, trust is key. For so many who enjoy BDSM and bondage, however, the fun that can be had experimenting and exploring is unrivaled when we find a partner we can trust completely.

People that enjoy BDSM tend to be people that crave new discoveries, are inherently curious, and always looking to learn more about the world that we live in. For these types of people, BDSM offers the perfect way to get to know ourselves, our partners, and the world around us better.

As one Redditor explains:

“There’s something about exploring and trying things with someone I trust that’s just a lot of fun.” — u/molly-ofcourse

BDSM is Perfect For Those Looking For a Temporary Escape From Reality

If you’re someone familiar with BDSM, you’re probably accustomed to the sense of reality-shattering sensory stimulation that is so common to the experience.

For submissives, BDSM allows them to fully give up control and enjoy an overload of sensory stimulation that acts as a temporary break from reality in many cases.

For dominants, on the other hand, BDSM offers them the chance to become a different person, living a different life for a short period of time.

During these acts, everything we know seems to change. This is especially powerful for those of us who are prone to overthinking in our day-to-day lives. Constantly second-guessing everything we do and say can be exhausting and the act of sex set under specific rules, terms, and goals allows us the freedom to simply enjoy sex without having to overthink.

Often, we find ourselves so wrapped up in sensation that we don’t have the time to allow those negative thoughts and feelings in. These moments allow us to almost rise out of our bodies and find ourselves encapsulated in the current moment. In this way, this feeling is almost like a meditation. For those of us looking for a temporary escape from reality, BDSM and bondage certainly have their perks.

Brianne McGuire, host of the Sex Communication podcast explains this feeling perfectly saying:

“I am most often acting as a receiver in a BDSM exchange (or scene) and being overpowered, restrained, struck or yelled [at] takes me out of myself and allows me to be so overcome with sensory stimulation that I am utterly lost in the moment. To experience such complete surrender is disorienting and emotional and I come out of it feeling spiritually cleansed. When such an exchange or scene is done for the purpose of orgasm and not just play, the orgasms are extremely intense and the level of intimacy felt with my partner is unparalleled in those moments.

“Losing myself” through BDSM play is so appealing because I overthink constantly and it’s awful. It’s especially awful when it happens in sex and so engaging with a partner under specific terms with specific roles, takes all of that away. There’s simply no capacity left to think when I’m so fully consumed by physical sensation and mental assault. To that end, being yelled at, insulted, etc., is probably the most effective method of achieving the escape and surrender I seek.

I only engage in such exchanges with people I have a real connection with, who fully understand that what is allowed to happen in the specific moments of exchange are sacred and don’t carry over to any other area. I ALLOW them to do and say the things they do, with absolute trust and knowledge that we respect each other and our boundaries.”- Brianne McGuire

BDSM Inspires a Greater Sense of Well-Being

According to a Psychology Today article entitled The Surprising Psychology of BDSM by Brad Sagarin, Ph.D., BDSM and bondage can actually lead to a greater sense of well-being in our day to day lives. While Sigmund Freud famously suggested that anyone interested in BDSM was in need of psychological treatment, recent research tells a much different story of those who find themselves drawn to BDSM.

According to researcher Pamela Connolly who compared BDSM practitioners to published norms on 10 psychological disorders, BDSM practitioners actually reported “lower levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychological sadism, psychological masochism, borderline pathology, and paranoia.” While it should be noted that they “showed equal levels of obsessive-compulsive disorder and higher levels of dissociation and narcissism”, another study also supports that those who engage in BDSM have a greater sense of well-being overall.

In this second study, Andreas Wismeijer and Marcel van Assen compared non-BDSM practitioners to BDSM practitioners on major personality traits. The results showed that, in comparison to non-practitioners, BDSM practitioners “exhibited higher levels of extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and subjective well-being. Practitioners also showed lower levels of neuroticism and rejection sensitivity.” That being said, the one negative trait that emerged from the study was agreeableness, which was lower in BDSM practitioners than non-practitioners.

An Interest in BDSM Does Not Make You “Sick”

When I first realized my interest in BDSM and bondage, I immediately assumed that there must be something wrong with me. In fact, many of us go through this kind of self-analyzation process upon noticing our interest in BDSM. At the end of the day, however, substantial research literature shows that BDSM-practitioners are no more likely than the general population to suffer psychiatric problems. Further, research also shows that those who engage in BDSM practices have no psychological disorders unique to their kinky proclivities.

As another article by Psychology Today entitled What Kind of People Enjoy BDSM? by Michael Castleman M.A. states,BDSM players are as sexually and emotionally healthy as the general population”. The article goes on to say:

“BDSM players are a cross-section of the population, the people next door, mentally healthy and typical in every respect — except that they find vanilla sex unfulfilling and want something more exciting and intimate.”- Michael Castleman M.A.

It’s as simple as that.

Along with being a perfectly healthy way of life for two (or more) consenting partners, BDSM and bondage also create a stronger bond in romantic relationships. In my own relationships where my partner was comfortable engaging in BDSM and bondage, I noticed an elevated sense of respect and love for them.

As a dominant, I knew that they trusted me to take care of them, trusted me to communicate with them, and to respect their boundaries. In relationships where BDSM is frequently practiced, opportunities to actively practice communication (one of the most important parts of any relationship) are utilized constantly. How many other romantic relationships can say that?

What do you think about BSDM and bondage? Is it mentally healthy? If you consider yourself someone who enjoys BDSM and bondage from time to time, do you notice some of the qualities I have outlined above in yourself? Do you feel that BDSM and bondage have strengthened your relationship with your partner?

Leave me a response and let me know!

Written by

Freelance Writer. Blogger. UFO enthusiast and lover of space. Email me at: reneerosefreelancing@gmail.com

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