As you can probably imagine, here at Montecito we get asked a multitude of questions regarding all aspects of the sex industry. People seem to have a fascination with the ins and outs of prostitution and escorting, and a genuine curiosity about some of the less tame fantasies and fetishes, for example, BDSM. The purpose of this blog is to lift the veil on what BDSM actually entails and whether it is really as portrayed in the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. As always, this is purely informative and for entertainment purposes and should not be construed in any way as pertaining to the services offered at Montecito.
According to an Australian study conducted in 2008, 2.2% of men and 1.3% of females were actively pursuing a BDSM lifestyle (Faccio, Casini & Cipolletta, 2014). BDSM is an acronym for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism, and includes a diverse range of practices such as games involving role-play (Faccio, Casini & Cipolletta, 2014). Breaking down the individual components that comprise BDSM allows us to further define and understand the concept. Bondage can be defined as the use of restraints during sexual activity to submit oneself to the dominating partner (Reynolds, 2007). Dominance is the use of control, within pre-determined rules, during sex play, the antithesis being submission, which involves the acceptance of being controlled (Reynolds, 2007). Sadism is the deriving of sexual pleasure through the infliction of pain and suffering on another person (Reynolds, 2007). Lastly, masochism can be defined as possessing sexual urges or fantasies that involve being humiliated, bound or essentially made to suffer from which sexual gratification is achieved (Reynolds, 2007).
Despite stereotypical perceptions of BDSM participants being maladjusted, having a psychological condition or compensating for sexual difficulties, a trial conducted in 2013 by Wismeijer and VanAssen found otherwise (McGreal, 2013). They compared BDSM practitioners and non-practitioners and discovered that, on average, those that practised BDSM in their sex lives were more extroverted, conscientious, less neurotic and less sensitive to rejection (McGreal, 2013). BDSM participants are also more willing to engage in a trait called “sexual sensation-seeking”, essentially the desire to experiment in new and unique sexual experiences and to be sexually uninhibited (McGreal, 2013).
Bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism attracts a diverse range of people from all walks of life, including people living with a disability. Bob Flanagan, an active practitioner of BDSM who lived with Cystic Fibrosis [CF], was an advocate for the normalisation of the lifestyle (Reynolds, 2007). He stated that it was a way in which people with CF could regain control of a body that was frequently out of control (Reynolds, 2007). With his performance art, Flanagan was a proponent of demonstrating that just because one was living with CF, or any disability, they were still sexual beings with healthy sexual appetites (Reynolds, 2007). The beauty of BDSM, according to Flanagan, was that it acted as an almost therapeutic response to the pain and humiliation that came with living with CF (Reynolds, 2007).
A professional dominatrix, also called a “pro-domme”, engages in BDSM practices with their clients within the boundaries of safe, sane and consensual interaction (Lindemann, 2011). These boundaries may include the use of safe words, limits and flexibility of roles (Faccio, Casini & Cipolletto, 2014). Sessions in the “dominatrix dungeon” are not necessarily about inflicting pain, rather it is often more about domination and/or submission (Lindemann, 2011). Examples of non-sadomasochistic practices include “dressing male clients in womens clothing, golden showers and foot worship” (Lindemann, 2011). Pro-dommes view their services as being “erotic labor” as opposed to sex work, and in fact very few engage in what they call “extras” (eg. handjobs or oral sex) during their erotic play (Lindemann, 2011).
We hope this has answered a few questions you may have had about what BDSM is truly about. It is so much more than what is portrayed in film where it seems to be focused on spanking, whipping etc. BDSM has enormous psychological benefits and is practised by so many societal groups. Any other burning questions about this topic or any other….feel free to reach out via the contact form on our website
McGreal, S. A. (2013). BDSM, personality and mental health. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/unique-everybody-else/201307/bdsm-personality-and-mental-health
Lindemann, D. (2011). BDSM as therapy?. Sexualities, 14(2), 151-172. doi:10.1177/1363460711399038
Faccio, E., Casini, C., & Cipolletta, S. (2014). Forbidden games: The construction of sexuality and sexual pleasure by BDSM ‘players’. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 16(7), 752-764. doi:10.1080/13691058.2014.909531
Reynolds, D. (2007). Disability and BDSM: Bob Flanagan and the case for sexual rights. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 4(1), 40-52. doi:10.1525/srsp.2007.4.1.40