Sexponent: Halloween guide to BDSM

As we prepare to enter the world of sweet treats, disguises and darkness that is offered by Halloween, we are reminded of our fantasies. While some may take on the skin tight black cat costume or the tiny schoolgirl outfit for fun, others will take them on as pleasures and personalities for sex. Halloween began as a way to ward off dark creatures of the night; this week, we have conversation of what many see as a darker topic: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism (BDSM).

Bondage is easily enough defined as being tied with such materials as rope, silk and leather, but may also include the idea of being bound to someone, whether the relationship is intimate or merely sexual. Discipline is training someone to obey certain rules through a system of punishment and reward. Dominance and submission imply a relationship of control, where one person is in charge of another, who is subservient to them. This relationship may be set in stone, or partner may switch roles according to the day or mood. Sadism is to derive pleasure from inflicting pain or humiliation upon others; masochism is the partner to this, deriving pleasure from one’s own pain and humiliation. These various aspects of BDSM may include such extreme items as whips, canes and ball gags, or such common sexual paraphernalia as blindfolds and fuzzy handcuffs.

BDSM relationships are often compared to violent and abusive relationships, but there is a line between the two, which can be defined simply as consent. The Bozeman Civitas Society, a social and educational group, defines BDSM as “the use of bodily sensations to elicit pleasure” and as a “form of consensual power exchange where both participants are empowered.”

When participating in BDSM, partners must establish a set of rules and agreements concerning the activities to follow. This includes coming up with a safe word, which will allow the partners to know when it is okay to continue, and when they should stop the activity. BDSM also creates, builds and heavily relies upon the trust between partners, and uses this trust to fulfill the desires of each partner in a safe environment. This trust is built through communication about everything, from what sexually pleases each partner to the emotions experienced during each sexual act. The rules, limits and boundaries established must be respected and obeyed at all times for the sake of the comfort of each participant.

Abuse, on the other hand, is when the actions are not consented to. Limits are not established, and boundaries are ignored, leading to physical, mental and emotional damage and endangerment. While BDSM serves to empower partners, abuse serves to take away any and all power from a partner by force. There is no safe word, and trust is destroyed. Communicate with your partner about what is and is not okay. Consent and communication make up the road to a happy and healthy life.

Bozeman Civitas Society maintains a communication, information, education and support network for members of the BDSM community and supports the right of all adults to engage in safe, sane and consensual sexual expression. For more information, email bozemancivitas@gmail.com.