The Top 10 Myths About BDSM
and the People Who Practice It 

- By Mistress Ren Ó 2002


1) People Who Engage In BDSM Like To Hurt Each Other

BDSM is s form of alternative sexuality that is high in drama and theater and, when practiced correctly, somewhat low in danger, despite appearances to the contrary.  BDSM activities are regulated between partners by means of intense negotiation, the setting of limits (activities partners will not engage in), and the use of ‘safewords’ (words to signify that one partner needs to slow down or stop an activity).

Part of the allure of BDSM is the appearance of danger and non-consentuality - Partners may be bound, wicked looking implements are utilized, and emotions may run high.  However, BDSM practices are performed in such a way that the element of danger, while still present in appearance, is practically eliminated, and all activities are consensual.  People who practice BDSM either attend classes to learn to use items such as whips, floggers, and other menacing devices in a safe manner, or are trained by Mentors.  For many individuals, who do not have access to formal classes or other trained players, there is a plethora of excellent instructional books and videos. Partners - even casual partners - have respect and care for each other, and work diligently to avoid physical and emotional trauma.

While the use of a BDSM ‘toy’ (device) may look painful, pain is perceived differently from person to person.  A light flogging may be too intense for one person; a heavy flogging may be paradise for another!  Some people who practice BDSM are truly into pain - and are classified as sadomasochists - but the majority of practitioners utilize increasing doses of strong physical sensation through BDSM activities to accomplish a higher goal - the production of endorphins (naturally occurring hormone that mask pain and produce a sense of euphoria) within the body!  The intensity of the sensations are carefully controlled by communication between partners in order to assure the submissive partner's comfort and to prevent the experience of unwanted pain.

BDSM is about enjoyment, stimulation, pleasure, and most of all, trust.  It is about eliciting emotions through activities that appear harmful but are actually carefully orchestrated.  BDSM is never done with the intent to harm or endanger, and never done in anger or times of stress.


2) We Are All People Who Live On The ‘Fringes’ Of Society

We are lawyers, doctors, politicians, and businessmen.  We are students, housewives, members of the PTA and that nice teller at the bank.  We go to church - we spend holidays with our families.  We cry at patriotic songs - we laugh at silly comedies.  We have probably treated you at your local hospital…and we have probably walked past you in the street as you headed out to lunch today.  We are just like everyone else…the only difference is our sexuality.


3) Submissve Women Are Really ‘Victims’ Of Domestic Abuse.

The majority of women who engage in BDSM in a submissive role are strong, self-sufficient women who know what they want and participate of their own free will.  They negotiate their play with their Dominant partners, and are capable of stopping any play they do not like with a safeword.  They role-play the ‘helpless victim’ in a sexual manner with their partner, but in real life, are very different!

As with all societies, there ARE people involved in BDSM who ARE being abused.  Abuse of an individual within the BDSM community is NOT tolerated in any form, or under any excuse, by experienced players!  Like the non-kink communities, abusers are reported to the authorities and victims are assisted.  Remember….BDSM is a Safe, Sane, and CONSENSUAL form of sexual expression…..ABUSE is NEVER consensual.


4) People Who Engage In BDSM Were All Abused As Children

While this seems to be the assumption mostly of psychologists or counselors, there seems to be no documented proof that BDSM activities, or the desire to engage in them, are born out of childhood abuse or trauma.  The author has posed this question at many BDSM meetings, and found that, like all communities, there is usually a small percentage of individuals for whom this may be true…but for the majority, it is not, and sweeping generalizations tend to further stigmatize our diverse sexuality..

One issue that does seem true is that there are a fairly large percentage of individuals, mostly women, involved in BDSM who have been victims of domestic abuse or rape.  Feminists in our society claim that, by engaging in BDSM, they are allowing themselves to be victimized again.  However, quite the opposite seems to be true.  Former victims of non-consensual crimes seem to find strength in being involved in a form of power based sexuality where they can control the outcome with negotiation and a safeword.  Many former victims have reported a sense of personal power from consensual and caring BDSM play with an informed and caring partner.


5) People Who Practice BDSM Are All Promiscuous

Like all communities, there are some members of the kink community who are a bit freer with their bodies and will engage in any type of activity with just about anyone…but the majority of people within the BDSM community, especially those who are married or in long term relationships, are monogamous in one way or another.

Some partners are completely monogamous - they do not play with any other people.  Other partners practice ‘fluid monogamy’, meaning they will engage in physical play, like flogging, spanking, or teasing with others, but will not engage in intercourse or oral sex.


6) Submissive Men Are Weak And Effeminate

The majority of men involved in BDSM as submissives are strong, virile men, who have very intense and high-pressure occupations.  They feel compelled to practice the submissive role because it is a means of ‘escape’ for them from having to make decisions - even if the decisions are sexual in nature!  It is not uncommon to find lawyers, doctors, and politicians who practice the submissive role.

Men who submit are emotionally strong and secure in their masculinity.  They recognize that some men don’t understand the dynamics of submission, and that non-kink society perceives male submission to be a weakness - the opposite is true.  It takes a very strong man to buck society's preconceived notions


7) People Who Take Dominant Roles Are All Control Freaks Who Like To Control Others.

People who take on a Dominant role like to engage in CONSENSUAL control of a partner for the partner’s pleasure.  Dominants negotiate with their partners, and then engage in the type of ‘control’ their partner desires.

Let’s not make the mistake of confusing Dominant with Domineering - a domineering person is somebody overbearing who like to control others all the time, whether the other person likes it or not.


8) If You Tie Somebody Up With Rope And Leather, It’s BDSM, But If You Use Scarves, It’s Just ‘Wild Sex.’

This myth is especially prominent in non-kink society.  Couples or individuals who use ‘non-threatening’ items, such as silk scarves, to engage in kinky activities seem to believe that the lack of leather, rope, or chains makes all the difference in how the activity is classified!

They are incorrect.  Any time you practice consensual power exchange over another, it is BDSM….and the types of implements you use to practice that control don’t make a whit of difference!

Whether it’s rope, scarves, leather thongs, nylon stockings, or even your favorite pair of knee-hi Mickey Mouse socks….if you use them to consensually tie somebody up, and consensually exchange power, it’s still BDSM.

By the way - the same line of thinking also applies in the non-kink community to hair pulling, biting, and holding a partner down by the wrists or arms.  Again…no matter how you consensually ‘control’ your partner, it’s still BDSM.


9) We Have This Type Of Sex Because We Are ‘Unable’ To Do Regular Intercourse Or Engage in Conventional Sexual Practices.

Not true…in fact, some BDSMers, especially married and long term partners, do incorporate intercourse and conventional sexuality into their BDSM play.  Other partners feel that conventional sex ‘lessens’ the BDSM experience and makes it just another ‘routine sex act.’  Opinions differ from couple to couple, and everyone practices the activities that they feel best express their personal desires.

So why not just do conventional sex?  The majority of BDSMers feel ‘compelled’ to engage in this type of sexuality.  Like members of the gay and lesbian communities, many BDSMers have always felt that this was the sexual path they were born to follow.  Many had these strong feelings develop when they were children or teens.

Many sexuality experts are currently exploring the possibility that being compelled to practice BDSM is hereditary.  In your average BDSMer’s family, it is not uncommon to find other family members who are also inclined to practice alternative sexuality!


10) Only Young People Engage In BDSM.

BDSMers come in all shapes, sizes, AND ages.  While the majority of current BDSMers are either of the ‘Baby Boomer’ or Generation X’ decades, the pioneers of the modern BDSM movement in America are still going strong!

In the CUFSmaine group alone, we have members in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Some have been involved in BDSM for most of their lives; some have just discovered their kinkiness!  So it’s never too late to get involved and explore!



Copyright Mistress Ren 2002.  May not be reproduced or distributed without permission - for further information, please contact


  Page Updated 08/27/05


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