Sep 052011
 

By Sea

This article is third 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, and those into BDSM who are looking for ideas for how to explain it to others.

Here is a fictional conversation with a woman unfamiliar with BDSM after she read the first two articles:

Woman: Ok, so now I understand terms. I’m still baffled why people do it!

Me: The answer remains somewhat a mystery. I used to think an interest in BDSM stemmed from childhood experiences. Over time I have met too many people who shared genes and an interest in BDSM, leading me to believe in a nature and nurture component.

The nurture component is a formative experience(s) leading to an interest in BDSM in response to a given stimulus. The nature component—genetics—makes one more inclined to respond to such stimuli.

Woman: What would be a formative experience? Abuse?

Me: While some into BDSM may have experienced abuse, I think what creates the interest is an erotic experience wrapped around power or an activity that one might see in BDSMF, leaving a lasting impression on that person’s psyche and sexuality. For example, I read about a man’s childhood punishment by a teacher who had him kneel under her desk in front of class. Being by her legs was erotic for him, which caused being under female authority (and humiliated) to become intertwined with his sexual response.

Similarly, I have read accounts of foot fetishists who recall being rocked on a foot by a babysitter. One theory about an origin of a foot fetish is that the first body part a crawling infant encounters upon reaching a caregiver is feet. The comfort associated with such moments might somehow acquire sexual significance.

With the seed sown, new branches can grow. For instance, for the man put underneath the desk, the fundamental attraction is to female authority. Over time mainstream media, porn, or life experiences might expose him to other forms of authority expression, which he may thereon begin to seek. Maybe he sees a film where a woman has a man tied to a chair and slaps him and spits on him, or pees on him, or pushes him to the floor and stands with her foot on his face. He may then want to experience authority or lesser status in these ways.

Woman:I still don’t get it. That’s horrible, degrading and disrespectful! Why would anyone wish for it?

Me: The most obvious motivation for BDSM enthusiasts is the same motivation you have for sexual activities you enjoy: sexual pleasure and gratification. It might create a conflict in them, they might worry about how others will judge them, but what they feel is similar to what you feel when you do whichever generally acceptable sexual expression you enjoy. The arousal is due to what I say earlier about sexual response becoming intertwined with some formative experience, the mechanism for which is unclear. For our purposes, this answer is sufficient: sexual arousal is a powerful motivator.

Furthemore, some respond spiritually, feeling grounded and at peace when they are engaging in BDSM. Some acquire altered states of mind—it’s like getting a buzz from the bodies’ natural drugs, similar to the exhilaration one might feel from a runner’s high or bungee jumping. And some people simply consider BDSM acts to be part of their sexual and romantic expression—when attracted to someone, they wish to express this attraction through these acts for the same reasons you want to hold hands.

Holding hands is a relationship expression and BDSM simply brings additional relationship expressions. In addition to holding hands, couples might engage in biting. In addition to dancing, they might go to a BDSM party where others like them are socializing or playing. These are ways of expressing attraction to their BDSM partner.

At its foundation, BDSM is similar to other social expressions but simply takes different forms. These actions are understood to not be disrespectful but instead positive relationship expressions to express attraction.

Woman: So hitting someone is expressing attraction?

Me: Absolutely. It’s okay for a 180 lbs guy to smack a 350 lbs guy on the butt on the football field because the intention and spirit behind it are known to be friendly. The meaning of the act would be entirely different if done by stranger and it was uninvited. Similarly, an act that may at face seem hostile can instead be a positive gesture that comes from a place of respect, compassion, and fondness. It is not the act but the spirit and intention surrounding the act that define it.

Woman: [Slap]

Me: What was that for?

Woman: I’m trying to tell you I like you.

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