Caring about BDSM

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There are some people, including myself, who call BDSM a lifestyle. It's something which we can integrate into most aspects of our lives and relationships. For other people this side of BDSM is not obvious. For these other people this side of BDSM may not even be believable because they can see BDSM only in terms of shiny black clothing, exotic furniture, predispositions towards rope or unusual attractions to the leather goods more typically found in stables or on racetracks.

In fact, BDSM can exist without all of these external manifestations. It can quite happily play out between two people who are wearing jeans and T-shirts or who are doing something quite innocuous such as having lunch in a restaurant, and it need not require special implements or any proximity to a dungeon. It can be a way of life and it can actually go on ALL DAY!

For lifestyle BDSM folk it is as much, or more, about attitude than it is about activity.

And this is where it gets interesting.

A lot of the time the people who are more into the activity side of BDSM see it as primarily sexual. It often gets tied (no pun intended) to ideas of free sexual expression, libertarianism and then to gay-ism and lesbianism because these latter two isms, at least superficially for many people, seem concerned with what you do rather than the actuality of who you do it with.

This is perhaps a little unfortunate because having an interest in BDSM actually doesn't automatically switch your gender preferences around and make someone who once was straight, for example, into someone gay or bisexual the moment they pick up a flogger.

This jumbling of perceptions about BDSM creates a situation where we have people who care about BDSM and people who don't.

People who see BDSM in terms of sex or activities are often only temporary vistors to BDSM land. They see BDSM land as a sort of holiday resort where they can get a bit of slap and tickle, a bit of a laugh, a bit of grunting and then go home. At best they see it as a stamp in their passport of life experiences.

Lifestylers, on the other hand, live in BDSM land. They are residents. More to the point, because they live there they care about it a lot more than the occasional BDSM tourist. They care a lot more about how it is perceived by others and want it to be seen as a proper country rather than merely a destination for holiday rowdies.

This is a very different situation to the sexuality or gender-based lifestyle preferences made manifest when someone is homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. No one is recreationally gay or lesbian, however you can be into recreational BDSM and not be a lifestyle BDSMer.

I certainly wouldn't expect people whose BDSM involvement is limited to occasional dalliances with fluffy handcuffs to become advocates for BDSM. I do wonder though, is there a point where people realise that for them BDSM is something to be taken more seriously than a sex aid or boredom alleviator, where it is not something which can simply be slipped back into a drawer until next time?