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BDSM & Kink

Some forms of sexuality involve playing with power, sensation, or fetish. This type of sexuality is often referred to as kink. Other terms for this kind of play include ‘BDSM’, ‘fetish’, ‘leather,’ ‘kinky sex’, ‘the scene’ or ‘the lifestyle.’.

The term BDSM stands for ‘bondage’, ‘discipline’, ‘domination,’ ‘submission,’ ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’. It is a broad term that includes many ways for people to use dominance and submission, bondage, pain and other activities for erotic arousal or personal growth.

While kink may involve sex play including oral, genital and anal sex, not all kink involves having sex. Kinky activity is often called ‘playing’, and a session of play is called a ‘scene’. People may experiment with, or act out, roles that are different than how they live their day-to-day lives. Kink play with a partner often involves two general roles:

  • One player takes a role guiding the activity, or giving sensation. This partner can be called a top or a Dominant.
  • The second player follows the direction given by their partner, or receives the sensation. This partner is usually called a bottom or submissive.

These roles are agreed upon by all people involved, and both the top and bottom are involved in setting limits on their activities.

There are also many ways that people can enjoy solo kink play, including dressing in fetish clothing, doing solo bondage, or playing with sensation.

Types of kink play

There are many different types of kink play, including fantasy and role play, fetish and giving or receiving sensation. During kink play, the body may produce chemicals that can lower a person’s sensitivity to pain. A person can also have feelings of euphoria or intense focus. Other people may enjoy the vulnerability they feel during play. 

Some kink play activities include:

  • Bondage: A partner is tied-up or restrained by ropes, cuffs, bondage tape or other types of restraints.
  • Fantasy role play: Acting out roles such as guard / prisoner, teacher / student or doctor / patient to explore fantasies.
  • Impact play: Can include spanking, paddling, flogging or whipping.
  • Sensation play: May involve using different tools to create unique sensations on the body, such as stroking with soft fur, or scratching with fingernails. Sometimes more intense sensations may be involved, like carefully controlled fire or electricity.
  • Temperature play: May involve warm wax or cold ice, or heating / cooling kink toys or sex toys.
  • Sensory deprivation: Wearing items like blindfolds, earplugs, masks, or hoods.
  • Piercing play: Involves temporary piercing of the body with sterile needles.
  • Genital play: Involves sensation, bondage or impact play on or around the genitals.
  • Watersports or golden showers: Playing with urine.
  • Scat play: Playing with feces (poop).
  • Wearing costumes or fetish clothing, such as leather, PVC and latex.
  • Fetish play using specific objects or materials, such as silk, nylons, rubber, leather, uniforms, shoes or boots.

Some people may find the different types of possible play a bit overwhelming. Others may want to try it all at once. It is recommended that each person take time to learn about the types of play that interest them.

Communication and Consent

Communication and consent are at the heart of kink play. Players can stop a scene at any moment if they want or need to. This may be through verbal or non-verbal feedback, such as saying “no” or shaking the head. Some players may choose to use a safeword instead.

A safeword is a word or signal that the players agree will stop a scene right away. The safeword should be agreed on before starting a scene. If a player can’t speak (for example, if a gag or ball gag is used), then a visual signal should be chosen before play. Using a safeword also lets resistance be a part of play. For example, a bottom could ask for a scene where they can say “no” and the play will still continue, with the understanding that the safeword will stop the scene if the bottom uses it.

While communication and consent can take many forms, some players use known rules to negotiate play.  For example, Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK), or Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC), or Personal Responsibility Informed Consensual Kink (PRICK). These frameworks focus on safety, consent, and awareness among players.

When playing, bottoms or submissives can be affected by strong emotions, or body chemicals like endorphins and adrenalin. This can affect a person’s ability to make the best choices or communicate clearly. The word subspace or bottomspace is sometimes used to describe the state a submissive or bottom may be in during a scene.  Because of this state, it is important to talk about limits and a safeword before starting to play. 

Tops or Dominants can also be affected by these intense feelings. While they don’t usually get to an emotional state where they can’t make decisions or communicate, some tops may feel more vulnerable or emotionally present. Some people use the word topspace to describe the state a top can be in during play.

After an intense scene, a bottom may feel depressed or vulnerable for a while. This is sometimes called subdrop. It is recommended that play partners talk before about what aftercare might be needed. Aftercare can range from cuddling, massage or having sex, to talking about how the scene went, or having a snack and rehydrating.

Health considerations

Unless BDSM involves skin-to-skin sexual contact, or contact between body fluids (such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids) and mucous membrane or broken skin, there is not a high chance of getting or passing on an STI.

When sexual contact or body fluids are part of kink play, using barriers such as condoms, dams or gloves reduces the chances of passing an STI. The types of sex and the number of people involved in sex play may also increase the chances of getting an STI.

Some things that can lower the chances of getting an STI with BDSM play:

  • Use a new condom each time you have oral, anal or vaginal sex. If you are having sex with multiple partners, use a fresh condom each time.
  • Make sure you use a new condom on a toy or penis if you are going from anal to oral or vaginal penetration.
  • Talk about STIs and testing with all of your play partners.
  • Get tested for STIs on a regular basis.
  • Use new condoms on sex toys if you are sharing them with partners.
  • Do not share porous BDSM toys (like plastic toys) with different partners if they have come into direct contact with fresh blood or other body fluids.
  • Wash sex toys and equipment after use and between partners.
  • When doing needle play, always use new sterile needles or sharp tools, use alcohol swabs on the skin first, do not reuse needles, and discard sharps safely in a sharps container.
  • Take care when doing needle play, knife play, or other activities that may break the skin. Coming into direct skin contact with blood may increase the chances of passing blood-borne infections (like hepatitis C). Latex or nitrile gloves can help lower the chances.
  • Be aware that urine can come into contact with bacteria while leaving the body, and so can potentially pass on an STI.
  • Feces can carry bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. If you are doing scat play, consider using gloves and other barriers to minimize the possibility of direct skin contact with feces.

Resources

Organizations

Sagacity Alternative Lifestyle Society – Victoria-based organization that hosts BDSM play parties.
Metro Vancouver Kink – A community-based BDSM organization that holds play, social and educational events for kinky people.
Rascals Club – Vancouver-based pansexual BDSM Play Party and Fetish Club.

Books

The New Topping Book (Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy)
The New Bottoming Book (Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy)
Playing Well With Others (Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams)
The Ultimate Guide to Kink (edited by Tristan Taormino)
Safer Kinky Sex – Brochure by ACT Toronto with best practices and guidelines for reducing the risk of STIs in BDSM play.

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