Beyond Whips and Chains: An Exploration of BDSM and Sexuality
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I like to point out the intersectionality between being a birth worker and being a dominatrix in the work that I do. It’s a comparison that might seen surprising to some, unfamiliar to others, or it might make complete sense right off the bat. It’s a comparison I make because I strongly believe that being honed into your personal needs, understanding that different types of touch can impact your emotions, that pressure can cause a direct reaction and what it takes for you to feel safe in your body has a direct link to advocating for birthing people, especially in birth rooms. I’m not talking about orgasmic birth (though, there are plenty of resources out there for that and I support that path if it is for you), I’m talking about understanding the strength that intimacy, both wanted and unwanted, has on our body’s fight or flight reaction. I’m talking about navigating power dynamics and stepping into your own voice - demanding what you need, when you need it. I’m talking about the process of setting up boundaries and safe words in an incredibly intense physical event. To read more about this, check out my feature on hypebae.
I was introduced to the BDSM world by my friend, a submissive. I didn’t connect with the idea of submission until I met her Dominant. Once I met her Dominant, all of the pieces came together for me. Her Dominant gave me some books to read and connected me to others in the community and I fell in love!
Ways to Explore Your Sexuality
Liberation is at the core of everything I talk about, care about, work for, and dream of. Sexuality, and specifically exploring and expressing sexuality, are important ways that I embody liberation. As someone who practices BDSM and holds space for other folks to explore power, autonomy, and choice (in their businesses, in their personal lives, and so on), I am an advocate for playing with and exploring sexuality, both individually and in relationship.
As a tool to navigate this space, you might like to refer to this list of different labels for sexualities that folks may use. This is not an exhaustive list, and definitions will be unique to each person. But it’s a helpful place to start.
Next, below is a list of a few activities that may help you to begin exploring or re-inspire your sexuality:
1. Write, draw, and/or create art. Sometimes we just need to let our right brain take the lead and stop logic-ing our way through things! Take time to free-write or create art (without an agenda in mind) and see what comes up. Consider prompts like: What does my sexuality mean to me? How do I express my sexuality? How do I relate and connect to my body?
2. Find resources that resonate with you. From books to podcasts to IG accounts to classes, there are TONS of different resources to explore. Sometimes it’s helpful to access content that makes you just a little uncomfortable or feels like a little stretch. I’ve highlighted a few below to get you started.
3. Visualize, fantasize, and/or masturbate. These things do not need to go hand in hand. Visualizing, fantasizing, and imagining yourself experiencing pleasure can open up new ideas or new awareness about your sexual self. If or when touching yourself or playing with toys feels exciting or interesting, you may add this in.
4. Talk with supportive folks– a therapist, coach, friend, or support group. Having safe spaces to process, hear from others, and connect around the topics of sex and sexuality is important. You may do this in more structured ways, like therapy or a support group, as well as less formal ways, such as chats with friends.
5. Date/play with others! You may bring any of the ideas and content you explored in #1-4 above into the ways you date and/or play with others. For example, you may share fantasies with a partner, get on sex-positive apps to find a play partner who you can try new types of touch with, or try dating different people that align with the ways you are exploring your own sexuality. Reminder, these interactions can be with any consenting adult - romantic or platonic!
BDSM Considerations for Folks Who are BIPOC
Playing with power can be both fun and triggering. It may feel best to seek a BIPOC only community, especially when becoming active in play spaces. Sometimes that may not be possible so it’s important to name the important intersections of your identity to anyone you are playing with, BIPOC or non-BIPOC. Be sure to create safe words and safety precautions. Become aware of what race play is and how it can be acted on subconsciously and consciously. Be clear about your boundaries around race play. Remember, this experience is for you to enjoy and should be an experience of liberation.
BDSM Language Library
Below you will find a handful of terms that you may find in BDSM spaces. Once again, this is not a complete list, but it offers a starting point. Find many, many more terms here!
Aftercare: Time and attention spent tending to one’s (or one another’s) emotional and physical needs after playtime or a scene.
BDSM: Bondage Discipline Sadism Masochism This term is used to describe a wide range of sexual practices that involve the use of control, power, and/or pain.
Bondage and Discipline: Sexual practices that involve bondage (tying, binding, or restraining someone) and/or discipline (punishment– typically directed towards a submissive partner).
Consent: Explicit agreement to specific acts and/or roles in a BDSM scene or relationship.
Dom/domme: A dominant person, person who is in control, or person of authority in a scene or relationship.
Kink: Unconventional sexual acts, roles, and/or practices (including BDSM)
Play: Any of the wide variety of "kinky" activities. This includes both physical and mental activities, sexual and nonsexual.
Sadism and Masochism: This aspect of BDSM involves inflicting pain or humiliation on another for sexual pleasure.
Safe Word: A word or phrase that is agreed upon by all parties. A bottom, sub, or slave can say this word to stop a scene, activity, or session immediately.
Submissive/Sub: A person or role who submits or surrenders to a dominant person(s) in a relationship or scene. Boundaries are typically negotiated before a scene or the start of a relationship.
Switch: Someone who may play a dominant and/or submissive role in a scene.
Some of My Go-To Sex-Positive Creators and Resources
Bianca I. Laureano, Sexologist
Dr. Ashley, Body Education + Sexuality + Pelvic Floor/Women’s Health + Life Coaching
Erica Smith, Sex Educator
Rachel Wright, therapist
Tuck Malloy, Coach and Holistic Sex Educator
Cory Bush, sex-positive doula and relationship coach
Let’s Keep Talking
If this topic was a stretch for you, I appreciate you being here! If this topic makes you feel seen, I am so glad! If this topic makes you curious, I hope you let yourself explore a bit more. I’m here to support you and the families you work with feel strong, powerful, and capable of taking up space. I’d love to stay in conversation about BDSM and beyond.