Taking it seriously

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I take BDSM very seriously.

It's true that it can be exciting, stimulating, arousing and even a lot of fun. But there can come a time in BDSM play and in BDSM relationships where the stakes rise to a very high level.

For example, if your BDSM play is limited to silk scarves and simple bondage games in bed then you probably don't need to think too much about safety or long-term consequences. On the other hand, if you have progressed to doing heavy impact play such as with canes or whips then you do need to think about safety and long-term consequences. You need to take steps to reduce the risks of infection. You need to make sure you have topical antiseptics to hand during and after play, and you probably need to disinfect the whips and so on after use.

When serious attention to usually-covered body parts is intended then you also need to consider who might see the affected body parts later on: Is a visit to the doctor planned in the next few days and might the doctor see the bruises or weals? Are you planning on going to the beach?

A point I'd like to make here is that this change from light BDSM - such as with silk stockings and fluffy handcuffs - to more intense play can creep up on us. And while our play itself can change, mature and become more intense, sometimes the necessary attitude change in regards to safety and forward planning can lag behind.

I suppose as a parallel you could think about driving: If you're driving a little old car around slow country roads with a friend then the stakes and risks might be low. But when you move to a vehicle with a bit more oomph on the highway then the stakes are not so low any more.

Zooming around on four wheels can be awesome - even more awesome than arriving at your actual, planned destination. The journeys can be profound, funny, intense, satisfying, thought-provoking and life-changing.

But you're in a car and cars are dangerous beasts. If you're not serious about driving then you can have a bad or even deadly accident. The people who are your passengers can pick up on your attitude towards driving and instead of being relaxed and open could be metaphorically clinging to the dashboard with both hands waiting for a slow corner where they can open the door, throw themselves out and leave you hurtling to your doom.

BDSM can be very much like this.

BDSM doesn't just mean physical play such as bondage or wax play or impact play. It also includes psychological play - such as mind fucks - and emotional involvements and relationships. It's just as important to takes these aspects of BDSM seriously as it is the physical aspects.

There are many people, on both sides of the dominant/submissive divide, who have entered the world of BDSM, explored a little, been hurt and then have left, never to return again. It's rarely the physical side of BDSM which causes them to leave. It's usually the psychological or emotional hurt or harm which does it.

The physical side of BDSM is often easy to manage. You can see it, touch it and put a bandage on it. These sorts of risks are things we know well.

The psychological side of BDSM is not so obvious. The injuries and harms which can occur are outcomes which we don't know so well. We might not recognise them, and when we do we might not realise how serious they are. Someone might be left confused, afraid, traumatised or bitter - sometimes without even realising themselves the extent of their own reactions. These are things which are not so straightforward to bandage.

It's easy to progress from the initial stages of BDSM of light bondage, spanking and kinky sex - which don't require much attention - to the more intense, risky and serious activities and relationships without realising that a change of approach is needed to make sure that they're done well, safely and productively for all concerned. This is because there's an often-stealthy evolution of our BDSM play from where it's light and purely physical, to where its effect on us and our partners is emotionally, psychologically and even spiritually profound.

Our planning and consideration of what we do with our BDSM partners shouldn't just be limited to having clean towels and antiseptic to hand. Nor should it be limited to simply knowing how to whack or how to tie and untie knots. Once we move beyond the fluffy handcuff stage of BDSM it's rarely the case that what we do is solely physical. We need to recognise that taking care of each other emotionally and spiritually becomes part of the package as well.

Instead of just looking for marks on the outside we need to also look for them on the inside. And not just with our partners. Questions we should ask include:

  • Do I feel happy with what happened? Does my partner?
  • Did I get closure? In other words, did everything get said and done which needed to be said and done so that I can move on? Or is there something lingering which needs attending to? Did my partner get closure as well?
  • Did things go the way they were planned? Were there any surprises?

The most important thing with BDSM (or anything, really) is that we are happy. Not necessarily that we had a great time or got some excellent jollies, but that we feel happy, really happy.

Anything lingering, or anything that feels not quite right, can mean that things went awry or that doors got opened somewhere in our minds without being properly closed again.

The above questions are worth revisiting on a regular basis for as long as we do BDSM because as what we do evolves, so do the answers, and so does our understanding of what BDSM means to us and how it effects us.