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There's no doubt that there's a bit of a learning curve involved in BDSM. I'm not talking about the physical side of BDSM here, though it's true that learning how to flog or be flogged, or tie or be tied, have their own challenges and can take considerable time to... um, master. No, what I'm talking about is what we have to learn about ourselves.
For many of us, BDSM is quite unlike anything we've done before and it can be very difficult to work out where we belong or how we fit in. Someone who enters the world of BDSM convinced that their place is as a dominant might easily discover a couple of years later that they really are better suited to being a slave.
We might attribute this relatively sudden switching from one role to its opposite to personal growth, but can personal growth account for this, and so quickly? I wonder if it can. I wonder if it's not something else.
Many people get into BDSM because of deep wants or needs which they can't meet elsewhere.
But what happened before they discovered BDSM? If they have wants or needs which are best met in a BDSM relationship such as dominance and submission, or through some BDSM activity such as flogging, how did they manage?
The answer is that they sublimated, which basically means they made do with what was available.
Of course, making do is not always enough. "Making do" is typically the poor cousin to profound satisfaction.
A problem here is that before we discover BDSM, "vanilla" life gives us tantalising hints of what might be. A particularly shapely and keen-to-serve shop assistant can stir things up for dominants [Is my heterosexuality leaking out here?] and a strong authority figure can stir things up for submissives. The hunger is awoken and brought into focus but there isn't anything to really satisfy it.
When we do come face to face with BDSM, say through a partner willing to experiment or by encountering "the scene", it can be a bit like a kid in a candy shop. Things inside us, the wants and needs which have never been fully or properly met, can suddenly burst out like, "Hey! Hey! Hey! It's party time!"
Here, even some strange dude with a pair of fluffy handcuffs, or someone who's happy to kneel for a bit with their clothes off, can be the most exciting thing since sliced bread.
Can you remember your first BDSM explorations? Were they exciting? Were they as sophisticated back then as they are now? Are you even still on the same "side" now as you were then?
Once we make any sort of commitment to BDSM the floggings occur more often, the chances to serve are more frequent, the kneeling becomes more serious and we quickly move beyond the fluffy handcuff stage. Instead of experiencing unsatisfied hunger, we become used to being "fed". At the same time, this freedom from hunger lets us begin to look deeper into what we really need because we're no longer distracted by the hunger.
We start looking for something more refined. And each time we find it, we start looking for something even more refined.
And I think that word: "refined", is the key to this.
I suspect that the changes in what we look for BDSM-wise are a matter of our personal taste becoming more refined. Or, perhaps I should say that we uncover what our tastes are. And I think it's an iterative process, one which we need to keep repeating as we discover each new layer.
We don't really learn that much about BDSM. Instead we learn about ourselves.
But maybe this is personal growth. Maybe it's not so much about changing, but about uncovering and discovering what's already there.