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BDSM Definition and History

BDSM Definition and History

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Published by: academicpapers on Feb 16, 2010
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Desautels 1Copyright Desautels 2009The Psychology of BDSM18 December 2009The Psychology of BDSM: Part OneDefining BDSMAndThe History of BDSMBDSM is a sexual practice that, although it continues to gain visibility and popularitytoday, remains a largely misunderstood, negatively perceived, and taboo expression of sexuality.In this series of papers, I hope to give the reader a more honest and thorough understanding of what, exactly, constitutes BDSM, and the psychology of this play: I will assist the “vanilla”reader in understanding why BDSM participants are able to eroticize pain, how they do so, andto what end. I believe that psychology is perhaps the most important facet from which both themainstream and BDSM participants can understand the practice, especially since psychology has both failed to produce a mainstream description of healthy BDSM practice, and often providedconfusing descriptions of BDSM as a pathology (DSM 572-573.) This perspective is, in themajority of cases, far from the truth. In these papers, I will explain BDSM as experienced byhealthy, consensual, adult participants. In this first paper, I will both define BDSM as a practice,and describe the history of the practice we today identify as BDSM.There are many definitions of BDSM, and many interpretations of those definitionswithin the BDSM community, and it is important to remember that while the term BDSMencompasses many diverse experiences, very few of these are inherent to the definition of 
 
Desautels 2BDSM. BDSM is a flexible term and culture, representing different things to different participants and therefore difficult to satisfactorily define by non-participants.BDSM is an acronym for bondage and discipline (BD); domination and submission (DS);and sadism and masochism (SM). The meanings of even these terms are debated within BDSMcommunities (Easton and Hardy iv.) Sado-masochism is a part of BDSM, but is most oftenisolated by psychologists who ignore or have no agenda for studying bondage and discipline.This is understandable, since bondage and discipline describe actions more than psychological phenomena (like sado-masochism), and are behaviors that can be plausibly absorbed into thedefinition of sado-masochism. Weinberg defines sadomasochism as “a combined term that hastraditionally been used for the giving and receiving of pain for erotic gratification” (Weinberg15.) However, since bondage and discipline share similarities with but are not mutually exclusiveto sadomasochism, I will focus on a full inclusion of all BDSM elements.BDSM is a cooperative construction by participants of both a scenario (“fantasy” or other context) and psychological openness for self-exploratory or recreational manipulation of  physical, mental, or emotional pain, restraint, or power imbalance, most often in an eroticcontext. It may or may not include any form of sex. Like sex, and as a form of sex, BDSM hasimmense potential for healing and positive reinforcement as well as for harm. Some psychologists, including Richard von Krafft-Ebing, have theorized that BDSM sex is a result or symptom of psychological unhealthiness (Krafft-Ebind 25.) Unfortunately, there are doubtlesslycases where this is true, and BDSM is used unsafely, self-destructively, or maliciously. However,it is vital to note that these same phenomena exist even in relationships as conventional asheterosexual marriage. And like more conventional sex, BDSM in the correct context is a positive, enriching aspect of the lives of many healthy persons. It can be argued that BDSM not
 
Desautels 3only can, but should be considered a healthy and positive component (or entirety of) aconsensual adult sex life, and because of this, BDSM will be discussed from a sex-positive perspective. BDSM in relation to psychological unhealthiness is an important area of study thatwill be addressed later in this paper, and discussed in-depth in my next stage of research.Another defining component of BDSM is the multifaceted complexity of created,imagined, latent, and simulated experiences. One of the primary oppositions to BDSM sex ishow distasteful it appears on the surface. The context vital to BDSM is far less visible than themotions of play, so to the inexperienced eye, BDSM may easily be perceived as a physicalmanifestation of psychological malady: a simple transfer of internal illness to surface level. It iseasy to view taking pleasure from pain as sickness of perversion, and to confuse desire for violent BDSM play with desire for real world abuses, or to view the desire for BDSM play asgenuine cruelty or self-destruction. While these can be found in incorrect use of BDSM. healthyBDSM play is far more rich, complex, and nuanced, and it is impossible to fully interpret theemotional workings or desires of any persons in a BDSM scene, relationship, or lifestyle fromobserving visible rituals. That BDSM is complex and multi-layered, carrying internalsignificance that is not always an active element of play, is fundamental to BDSM play.This complexity is, first and foremost, contextual. In their book 
The New Bottoming  Book 
, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy describe a masochist as “someone who has the ability toeroticize or otherwise enjoy some sensations or emotions—such as pain, helplessness, powerlessness and humiliation—that would be unpleasant in another context” (Eastman 3.) Theauthors cite the example that any given BDSM participant does not enjoy accidental pain, suchas stubbing a toe; or emotions that are painful in the real world. The relationships, rules,understandings, and contexts of BDSM are what make otherwise painful stimuli erotic and

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I couldn't have wrote this any better :) This is very well written
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Well done article

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