Shutterstock

10 Misconceptions About BDSM, Clarified By 6 Sexperts

If Hollywood made a blockbuster film about all the common misconceptions about BDSM, it would be called 50 Shades of Grey Area. From outdated ideas to complete misrepresentations, there is no shortage of faulty information out there about BDSM. And while experimenting with kink may not be everyone's cup of tea, listening to experts spill the tea about BDSM can help everyone stay informed.

"BDSM is something that the general population doesn’t know much about," Kayna Cassard, sex therapist and founder of Intuitive Sensuality, tells Elite Daily. "So, they make up stories about what it means for people who engage in it." According to Cassard, the lack of accurate information about BDSM often leads people to stigmatize the practice. "Our stories are often informed by [outdated or limited] belief systems," Cassard says. "When you have those systems filling in the blanks on something like BDSM, there is a lot of negative judgment about it." Whether you're just starting to dip your toe in the kink world or you're a BDSM babe that's tired of correcting all the misinformed stereotypes, knowing the real tea about the kink community can be super helpful.

Here are 10 common misunderstandings about BDSM, cleared up by experts.

Shutterstock

1. Myth: BDSM isn't consensual.

Like any sexual encounter, engaging in BDSM requires talking about consent and intentions before getting down to business. "BDSM is 100% consensual and the result of explicit, thorough communication," Brianne McGuire, host of the Sex Communication podcast, tells Elite Daily. "Activities may include physical contact that appears violent, but really, it’s the manifestation of an agreed-upon dynamic." As McGuire shares, BDSM is a completely consensual practice that demands transparency from all partners. "BDSM emphasizes consensual play and teaches us tools to communicate our erotic and sexual needs more effectively," Cassard says.

2. Myth: BDSM isn't feminist.

For sex educator and "24/7 Sub" Lina Dune, a huge BDSM misconception is that the practice is not feminist. "As a submissive, I have been told all manner of things about why my role in BDSM is not feminist," Dune says. "But BDSM is the coming together of equals to participate in consensual power exchange. Any way you slice it, that’s feminist to me."

As Dune shares, BDSM can create space a particularly special space for women, femmes, and assigned female at birth (AFAB) people to reclaim their sexuality and sexual power. "And if there are some spanking, name-calling or ball gags thrown in there? All the better," Dune says.

3. Myth: BDSM only involves penetrative sex.

Though penetrative sex can be a large part of BDSM, McGuire and Cassard both share that BDSM isn't only about sex. "BDSM activities often involve no penetration," McGuire says. "The nature of sharing energy and power in a highly communicated, consensual way goes far beyond sexual release." Cassard agrees that BDSM can be a "tool in your relationship and sexual arsenal," helping you and your partner communicate more effectively.

"BDSM is a practice that can offer so many opportunities for growth, fun, and deeper intimacy — and it doesn’t even have to do with sex," Cassard says. "It provides experiences that address so many things that are important to a relationship and personal well-being such as mental stimulation, sensation play, control and power dynamics, and fantasy exploration."

4. Myth: BDSM is expensive.

"There's a misunderstanding that BDSM isn't accessible because there is a big commitment involved in buying proper equipment," Gigi Engle, sex coach, sexologist, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life, tells Elite Daily. "You can use anything around the house. A wooden spoon can be a paddle; a scarf can be handcuffs or a blindfold." As Engle shares, while some may want to build a dungeon or shell out for a special whip, BDSM can just about communicating and exchanging with your partner(s). You can get creative together and have fun along the way.

5. Myth: BDSM is all leather and bondage.

While pop culture may depict BDSM as all leather and bondage, Dr. Christopher Ryan Jones, relationship and sex therapist, shares that the practice is actually incredibly versatile and multifaceted. "The biggest misconception is that BDSM is one particular thing," Dr. Jones tells Elite Daily. "BDSM can be entirely different from one scenario to another."

According to Dr. Jones, while some people are into more extreme BDSM activities, like suspension bondage or masochism, others may be more into moderate or light BDSM, like wearing blindfolds or roleplaying. Whatever the case, BDSM means something different to everyone who engaged with it. "A major misconception is that there is 'one way' to do something or that BDSM has to be this strict, regimented thing," sex educator and mental health professional Lola Jean tells Elite Daily. "There isn’t one 'right' style or method or right or wrong. It’s about finding and tailoring what is right for you regardless of the role that you’re in."

6. Myth: BDSM is only for dominatrices.

The truth is, there no one "type" of person that is into BDSM. While some people are more public about their kinks and interests, others may be into BDSM on the down-low. Whatever the case, Dr. Jones emphasizes that anyone can practice BDSM.

"There are people from all walks of life, various racial, cultural, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds, who take part in BDSM sexual practices," Dr. Jones says.

7. Myth: You're either a Dom or a Sub.

Binaries are over, baby. While some people who partake in BDSM may be a full Dominant or a total submissive (or a full-on sadist or masochist), BDSM is not an "either-or" situation.

"Some couples switch positions," Dr. Jones says. "Others are interested in BDSM, not because they are masochist, but because they enjoy giving pleasure, or depending on what the BDSM includes, they enjoy their partner’s uncontrollable passion."

Jean agrees that stereotypes about what certain roles look like can prevent people from really understanding how BDSM functions. "These stereotypes are so limiting, and they prevent us from getting to know the other person as well as ourselves," Jeans says. "BDSM can look completely different from person to person or pairing to pairing."

8. Myth: BDSM is all about power.

Jean shares that while some people may engage in power-play or enjoy being dominant or submissive, BDSM isn't always about the exchange of power. "There is a misconception of power and where that comes from, which leads to individuals wielding that power irresponsibly," Jean says. "BDSM is not about power exchange for everyone. Fetishes and lighter play can fit within here too."

While some couples may prefer to keep their experiences more intense, Jean says that others may enjoy being silly and having fun together. "BDSM is entirely individual and intricate and nuanced," Jeans says.

9. Myth: BDSM should be kept private.

If you grew up in a more conservative area or you carry a lot of internalized shame around sex, Cassard shares that it can be easy to feel like BDSM is "wrong" or "dirty." While you never need to do anything you're not into, Cassard attests that being into BDSM doesn't make you a "bad" or "shameful" person — it's just another thing that you're into. "[Practicing BDSM] is normal, and there have been studies showing that there are pretty high levels of mental wellness in the BDSM communities," Cassard says. There's no reason to keep BDSM a secret if you don't want to, as there is nothing shameful about partaking in it.

10. Myth: BDSM is all about pain.

"You can have BDSM without any pain at all, and you can have it where you walk away with bruises all over your body. Each experience is carefully crafted and curated by those participating in the play," Engle says. While some people are into BDSM with more physical contact, Engle shares that BDSM isn't innately violent or about pain.

Additionally, Dune emphasizes the importance of aftercare and cuddling, as well as checking in afterward. "A crucial component of any BDSM practice is aftercare so that the partners can reset their nervous system and emotionally get on the same page," Dune says. "BDSM is a structured way of playing with more intense sexual themes and sensation play, but the ritual of it is meant to safeguard against bad outcomes like trauma, abuse, or triggers."

From ropes and paddles to feathers and ice cubes, BDSM can look different to everyone. Of course, no matter what you're into, active consent is the most important part of any BDSM practice. And whether you're suspended in the sky or laid out on the floor, consensual kinky sex means leaving no room for grey areas.

Sources:

Kayna Cassard, sex therapist and founder of Intuitive Sensuality

Brianne McGuire, host of the Sex Communication

Lola Jean, sex educator and mental health professional

Gigi Engle, sex coach, sexologist, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A guide to Sex, Love, and Life,

Dr. Christopher Ryan Jones, relationship and sex therapist

Lina Dune, sex educator