BDSM Explained: Let’s Role. (Roles)

 Posted by on August 7, 2011
Aug 072011
 

By Sea

This article is second of a three-series article that explains what BDSM is, and why people enjoy it. It would be helpful to those with or without an interest in BDSM who wish to know more about the terms and origins of interest, and those into BDSM who are looking for ideas for how to explain it to others.

In BDSM one can speak of different roles, which is what I discuss next. I see these terms and roles to suggest a general ballpark, which can then be used to facilitate discussions about understanding or compatibility; I do not see the terms to be absolutes that define limits. Also, there is not universal agreement about how the terms are defined, which makes it important for two people using these terms to calibrate their terminology.

Dominance and submission implies the following roles: submissive, switch, dominant.

A submissive is a person who likes to have the lesser authority status. A dominant is a person who likes to have a greater authority status. A switch is a person who can enjoy either status.

The Kinsey scale describes a continuum between homosexuality at one end and heterosexuality at the other end and per Kinsey, a sexuality researcher from the 1950s, each person falls somewhere on this continuum.

I refer to a series of continuums, which I call KinSea scales!

The first of these continuums describes an interest in BDSM. At one end you have those who will have nothing to do it with it, to those on the other end who must have it constantly, and all spots in between.

Another of these scales describes a continuum between dominance at one end and submission at the other end. Each person falls somewhere on this continuum. I credit Jack Rinella, a well known BDSM author and educator, for adding to my perspective that where one falls on this continuum depends on the other person.

A given dominant or submissive will have subjective default ranges in this continuum on their respective sides of the midpoint, and the other person influences where they fall within this default range. The range in which switches can fall is much broader and spans past the midpoint.

Some switches may have their default range lie closer to dominance and identify as dominant-leaning switches, and vice versa. For some switches, where they fall on this continuum may be a function of sex or gender; they might seek submission with one sex and dominance with the other. Some switches can switch roles with the same person, while some must assume the different roles across different persons.

A sadist is a person who enjoys inflicting physical or mental discomfort, and a masochist is a person who likes to receive the same. While generally sadism and masochism occur alongside their intuitive counterparts in D/s (sadism aligning with dominance, and masochism aligning with submission), it is not always the case. SM may be done simply for sake of the effect the activity (versus the authority role) has on the body. Thus, you might have a person, who identifies as a dominant, seek to be flogged simply to experience the natural chemical flight the release of endorphins and the like creates.

When the focus is on the activity and not on authority, I also use terms Top and Bottom, with Top being the person administering the activity and bottom being the person receiving the activity. Top and bottom are synonymous to sadist and masochist, respectively. However, I associate a greater emphasis on sensation (not necessarily uncomfortable), altered state of mind, and the chemical flight with Top and Bottom, and an added greater emphasis on discomfort when speaking of sadists and masochists.

In s-types—a term used to broadly include submissives, slaves, bottoms, masochists, property—one can speak of yet another continuum. At one end of continuum is bottom where the emphasis is on the activity and there is no authority exchange. As authority exchange enters the picture, one begins to move across the continuum in the submission area. The degree of authority exchange across those who identify as submissives varies. As the degree of authority exchange continues to increase, one moves to the slave portion of the continuum leading up to the property end of the continuum. There is a corresponding continnum for D-types (encompassing tops, sadists, dominants, masters, owners). There is no value judgment attached to any point on this continuum—the significance of these distinctions is for sake of understanding and discussing compatibility.

Okay. So we have discussed the terms. But that still leaves much to be said. Why do people like bondage, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism? What’s all this stuff about?

I answer those questions in my next column. Please watch for BDSM Explained: The Story Paints the Words.

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