BDSM Builds Tools for Ecstasy and Intimacy in BDSMers. Here’s How.

I’ve asked thousands of people this question: “What is it about BDSM that keeps you wanting more?”

It’s a more difficult question than my other coy conversation starter, “Why do you think you’re a BDSMer?” People have tons of theories about WHY they are into BDSM in the first place. They were born that way, or they grew that way or they stumbled across it somewhere or somewhen. Then there’s the circle of Community. For some people, once they step in, they never leave. The Community embraces kink-friendly people, including people who travel through, who leave once they meet someone and those who remain involved in BDSM Community long after they stopped doing BDSM sex in their private lives. Even though the Community contains a core population of people who do a whole lot of BDSM, there are untold numbers who don’t do BDSM in private. And then there is a third group: people who do a lot of BDSM at home but never become involved in the BDSM community. These fluid boundaries between BDSM as a Community experience and BDSM as a private experience mean that we can choose to define BDSM in our own unique ways.

To me, the reasons why people keep coming back for more BDSM sex play seem most cohesive. When you dig down into the biology of it, a complex but clear process emerges. Unlike most impulsive, spontaneous sex acts (intercourse, blowjobs, etc.), BDSM factors in an almost infinite array of conscious and unconscious micro-decisions. It’s not just “see dick, suck dick” (well, ok, ymmv, you hedonist), it’s about what you’ll wear, what toys you’ll use, what words or tone of voice you’ll use, what internal library of twisted fantasies you’re drawing on, what precise (down to the type of shoe or boot) elements you want to include, and what positions you want to be in. This is further nuanced by individual differences in the people who are about to have that BDSM together. Each person in a BDSM encounter brings their own personal energy into it. Not only does the flesh (both dom and sub) need to be willing and able to endure intense BDSM play, but your spirit, imagination, creativity and rational mind all need to be on board, too. Really, regardless of your role, every part of you has to be fully engaged to create blissful BDSM.

That is a lot of energy to bring to eroticism, but it’s exactly what BDSMers naturally and necessarily bring to hot scenes and fetishes of every possible type. And when we’re really deep in it, the energies — whether sub or dom — are so positively radiant within us, it feels like an altered state. It makes BDSM feel a super-high inside a BDSMers brain, a high that can last for days, weeks, even months.

Even more interesting about this is that the very passion that defines the personal journey into BDSM seems to be opaque to the vanilla eye, which may read a top or bottom’s stoicism as disinterest instead of a display of courage or an intense internal focus — as well as to a vanilla ear which mistakes screams and groans as the sounds of oppression instead of a person’s primality unleashed. Outsiders tend to judge us by how BDSM looks and sounds. They see whips and paddles and crosses and attach their fears and preconceptions to their use, not realizing that those toys are visceral triggers for mind-blowing experiences in people like us. Our toys, our fetish clothes, these all put a material face on BDSMers to non-BDSMers. It’s true we may wear leather for solidarity or fetish outfits for sensuality, but more important to BDSMers as human beings are the internal realities that the whole BDSM experience evokes. This includes not just the arousal and hotness of power relationships and bondage sessions and fetish play, but the sudden spiritual awakenings, the psychological transformations and the psychosexual ecstasy that we experience in the grip of BDSM passions. Those are the hidden realities of BDSM, things that non-BDSMers don’t seem capable of perceiving because, simply, it isn’t their sexual orientation. It’s like hetero people defining gay male couples as people who do buttsex, even though 2/3s of bi and gay men don’t even have buttsex. What you do doesn’t actually define your sexuality. What you get out of your intimacy with a partner is a better measure of authentic sexual identity.

To illustrate this point, I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, a kink-curious acquaintance sent me an unsolicited photo of herself in bondage. She bragged about how easy it was to get tied up so she looked like a rope-loving BDSMer. She found a Shibari expert to do it, so the knots were pretty, but you could tell by her smirk on her face in the photo that the experience for her was on a par with winning a pie-eating contest. It was a physical challenge she undertook to shock her friends and make her YouTube followers think she was a sex radical. It didn’t make her feel submissive or even to go into a different headspace. Her goal was to be able to claim she’d done BDSM, so she now could voice expert opinions about it, including the opinion it was “no big deal.” I’ve met other people like that — who think that if they can endure a whipping or play the role of a slave for a short period of time, it means they “tried BDSM” and understand what it’s all about — even when the experience held no deeper meaning to them.

Anyone can do BDSM as a sport or a challenge, anyone can treat it as a thing they did, not as something that proved integral to them. Sexual identity is funny that way. It’s easy to mimic and mirror other people’s sexual interests, especially if you think it will gain you social currency. People can use all the right buzzwords, they can use all the right toys and wear all the right clothes and go to all the hippest kink events. They just will not get what BDSM is about if they don’t fully emotionally connect with it.

The only way to understand it is by understanding it on the inside, and it’s a hard damn experience to articulate in words precisely because it’s buried within layers of complex emotions and inchoate inner realities. Again, compare it to gayness. You may not be able to explain why same-sex partners are the only ones who give you a deep sense of complete emotional connection during sex. But a gay person will feel it, will recognize that a same-sex partner brings them a degree of joy they don’t experience from an opposite-sex partner. A hetero-only person can have a gay body experience, but will they ever know what it feels like to be gay? Not internally, they won’t.

That’s why BDSM works best for BDSMers. I know. DUH, right? It should be obvious that if you aren’t wired for BDSM or fetish, you may never emotionally understand the feelings it gives BDSMers or the near-magical emotional intelligence it builds in our lives. There’s even a handful of studies to support the physiological reasons why. Like any other profound pleasure — the satisfaction of eating something super-delicious, the emotional comfort of being able to fully trust someone, and the enormous psychic relief of being fully naked and safe — BDSM triggers a reaction in our brain chemistry. The sense of completeness a BDSMer feels doing BDSM makes our brains crave that ecstatic and transcendent result over and over again.

I know a lot of moralists seem to believe we shouldn’t mess with erotic ecstasy. They believe sex is innately dangerous and if you “like it too much” you will spiral out of control and become a crazy person with insatiable urges. I think the opposite: every human was BORN to strive for ecstasy. Transcendence is a primal erotic power within us, a legacy most humans inherit from birth. Some humans bundle it and channel it all into religious or spiritual practices. Some throw it into sports or scientific study. That’s where they feel their highest highs and their truest truths. Cool for them. BDSM is another thing humans do in the eternal search for meaning, purpose, self-redemption and, of course, the hope or promise of some kind of enlightenment. For us, enlightenment may also include exhilarating orgasms. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, is there?

Anyway, to try and make sense of the BDSM process, I’ve organized it into five integral stages. Consciously and (maybe mostly) unconsciously, these processes seem to be universal to all whose sexual identity is BDSM/fetish.

 

Five Psychosexual Stages of BDSM Pleasure

 

Primality

Intense sensations can unleash primal journeys. Anything that stings, spanks, thuds, pinches, constricts, compresses, weights, scratches, cuts or otherwise could make someone squeal, along with intense emotional experiences (surrendering all power, assuming all power, humiliation, head-trips and anything else that alters your mental state temporarily), combine to strip off the civilized suit and lay bare the erotic human animal within us. All the little noises you would politely hold back suddenly flow out of you uncontrollably — the moans and whimpers, the screams and shouts, the curses and growling, even belches and farts. You are NAKED. Inside your head you go to the deepest understanding of yourself, often surprising yourself with the naked being you’ve become. The magic of it is intoxicating to all who are with you on this journey. It’s that magical intoxication, by the way, that can make it so difficult for people to remember their safe words or abide by other people’s limits. It takes time, practice and BDSM morality (SSC, RACK) to learn how to maintain a rational center during times of massive intoxication.

Once naked, exposing that raw primal energy to another, it follows that the next experience is intimacy.

 

Intimacy

The power of a BDSM dynamic is that you have two truly naked primal beings joined in one purpose: to explore the limits of their minds and bodies. We all know this requires deep trust. We don’t choose to let ourselves go (or perhaps we simply can’t) when we don’t fully trust our partners. But if the trust is there, the BDSM process takes over and makes you a psychosexual unit, similar to two non-kinky lovers when they’re having a great fuck. Indeed, for most BDSMers, intercourse and oral sex are not as emotionally engaging as BDSM dynamics. It’s only BDSM or fetish that can unlock us fully, and open doors to a profound and often lasting intimacy. I’ve observed that most of us will never forget a play partner who took us right into the core of our nakedness and gave us a true experience of nakedness. While outsiders may see toys and rituals they think create distances, for the BDSMers actually engaged with toys and rituals, these are all tools to increase intimacy. For BDSMers as much as any other orientation — straight, gay, bi –BDSM is a joining together of two (or more) people in a profound experience that grows like fire with every caress, every sensation, every kiss, and every fetish or implement you use to get each other even more turned on. BDSM intimacy, like any great sexual intimacy, is the proverbial “beast with two backs,” a complete joining of two spirits in one overpowering urge to stimulate joy through physical contact.

Once the intimacy feels real, once you feel completely relaxed to merge in common purpose with your BDSM partners, it follows that the next experience is an unparalleled intensity of emotional bonding.

 

Intensity

With nakedness and intimacy comes the holy grail of BDSM: total intensity. How you define it, how you express it, even how you feel it is unique, not just because you are unique but because you are joined now with another unique person or persons on their own journeys. Each of you is now feeding energy into your exchange, whether it’s the tops getting off on their own power and command of a bottom’s body or the bottoms getting off on their own surrender and vulnerability to tops. When doms talk about playing their subs like musical instruments, it’s that about their ability to control both your journey and theirs, whether as sadist, guide, or playful instigator pushing the sub to take more and more. When we talk about “subspace” and “dom space,” what we mean is a level of emotional energy that takes us out of ourselves and turns us into the creatures we become when we play together. These creatures are the externalized expression of our internal journeys. It is so intense that we may, in the moment, literally forget the person we are in the rest of our lives and feel as if this is the only important reality, the truest expression of our core selves. How intense can it get? Those limits are set by the people doing the play, and it isn’t just about how tight you screwed the nipple clamp or how tightly someone tied you up. Those are techniques to make a sub get to lose themselves in their secret core reality. Toys and fetish gear are tools to get inside someone’s head by pushing the body to accept a level of intensity they would not gladly endure in vanilla situations. (Even masochists don’t usually enjoy going to the dentist or getting injections from their doctors.) It’s also interesting to note that some BDSMers don’t need more than a look or some words or a squeeze to push them into sub or dom space. While for others, getting fully engaged with their BDSM side requires direct contact with particular toys or garb, or means a hard-core scene involving things that make non-BDSMers awfully uneasy. However a BDSM plays it, it’s all BDSM/fetish, regardless of how an individual person/couple/group manifests their desires. BDSMers know when they have ascended to that state of believing completely in the authenticity of their scene or dynamic. This belief fuels the intensity and pushes them to squeeze every ounce of eroticism out of their play.

With intensity comes passion.

 

Passion

The bad news first: some people are so overwhelmed by the passion and primality of BDSM they get hooked on the person who can get them there, whether or not that person is actually someone who can sustain a loving relationship. I’ve known tons of people who’ve fallen in love with their prodoms or crushed hard on someone they believe could give them the intensity they crave, but who couldn’t get through a dinner or social event without feeling angry or hurt at their partner’s inability to satisfy their non-BDSM needs, like affirmation, loyalty or intellectual compatibility.

The good news is that when people who are compatible outside of their BDSM dynamic — whether as friends or lovers — the potential for passion is virtually unlimited. No fake inhibitions, no phony social constructs around who should do what, how they should dress, or whether they follow protocols outside of their BDSM dynamic. All the typical fake boundaries fly out the window, replaced by the truth of individuality. Instead of treating ourselves as widgets who are “supposed” to feel and act in certain ways, primality, intensity, and intimacy free us to define ourselves according to the truths of our inner lives, truths that reveal themselves in the fire of BDSM passions. I think one reason long-lasting BDSM relationships often prove more successful and satisfying than conventional (vanilla) ones is that people get to know each other on such a deeply naked level, that when they fall in love, they fall in love with the real naked person their partner is. It’s a kind of love that seems rare in more conventional, rule-abiding relationships where partners can maintain secrets, get away with lies, or suddenly reveal that who they really are is nothing like the person they were pretending to be. It’s a kind of love that builds passion instead of destroying it (as so often happens with long-time married vanilla couples who never push the boundaries of psychological and physical experiences). It evolves from our freedom to feel naked, to act naked, to break taboos together and to come out of it not just feeling whole but actually more complete as human beings than when the journey began. BDSMers don’t seem to get bored with each other the way vanilla people do. We share something so deep and real in BDSM relationships that most of us still harbor love and affection for former partners and people we played with decades ago, precisely because we had such deeply emotional experiences with them that they left a lasting memory of closeness. In my experience, it’s fairly common for subs to stay in touch with their former doms, even when the relationship went up in flames, and for doms to continue to keep an eye on former subs, out of an abiding sense of loyalty and caring. Most of it based primarily on who we became when we were doing BDSM together and how powerful our connection once was.

Passion makes us feel more alive, more vibrant, and freer than ever before. With that new-found strength comes healing.

 

Healing

If you’d known me in my 20s, you’d have known a neurotic, dysfunctional person. I could have gone on pretending the problem was that all the people I had met and slept were flawed, or I could accept full responsibility for my own emotional instability and take action. I tried therapy for years but it was BDSM which supplied the specific healing tools I needed. BDSM woke my spirit and calmed my brain. BDSM made me mentally healthier. BDSM gave me a soothing, positive channel for my sadistic impulses and a moral framework that helped heal some of my emotional problems. It gave me new ways to see people, it gave me rational guidelines for tolerance and acceptance, it broke my own destructive cycle of keeping secrets, helped me deal with childhood abuse, and beat back the demons of low self-esteem that troubled me all the way into my 40s. I’m not alone: there are many abuse-survivors in the BDSM community who know that a solid, loving BDSM relationship has restored their sense of self and provided therapeutic relief of the highest order. Voyaging into extreme erotic experiences and coming out on the other side feeling loved, respected, even adored, is in itself a reparative act. You don’t have to be traumatized or abused to feel the power of reparative joy. BDSM can heal shame. It can heal anger. It can mitigate chronic depression. BDSM is like a balm to BDSMers. It makes us feel stronger and more alive. The only dark side is that people who are wired for BDSM but never find affirming, consensual outlets for their needs are at risk of destroying their inner lives. BDSM is a BDSMer’s best natural medicine in life. BDSMers need BDSM to achieve their true potential for personal happiness.

 

These five stages are why BDSMers keep coming back for more. It’s what makes us who we are, and who we are is a beautiful group of erotic explorers who know what we want and go after what we need with pride.

 

Whether you see yourself in the above, or if you do not, feel free to tell me about your experience of BDSM on my FaceBook fan page.